Guest Blogger: Kristen Fefes
Kristen Fefes is the executive director of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado and an executive team member of the Green Industries of Colorado, an umbrella association of green industry associations.
Like most people, come April I’m ready to think about my outdoor life. Away go the paintbrushes and the shelf paper; the winter home projects are done. Make way for spring yard work.
Because Denver Water announced mandatory Stage 2 drought restrictions, this year it’s more important than ever to get your landscape started on the right foot. We can’t waste a drop of water this spring and summer — our plants will need all they can get. Watering your landscape is more complex than just a day of the week, and drought makes it even more so. You need to watch what’s happening in your yard and pay attention to your plants, trees and turf.
A few suggestions for spring watering under mandatory watering restrictions:
Activate your system, but use it wisely. April is the typical time to turn on your sprinkler system, but just because it’s been activated doesn’t mean you have to use it. Spring rain and/or cooler temps (or snow, like we got yesterday!) might mean you only have to water once a week, or maybe just a south- or west-facing area, or maybe not at all. This applies if you’re watering via hose, too.
How to tell if your grass needs water? Use the screwdriver test. Stick a screwdriver or knife in the ground. If there’s enough moisture, the screwdriver will slide in. If you can’t penetrate, you need to water on your assigned day.
When you water plants, make sure to water deeply. One thorough soak is better than 2-3 quick spritze that do not soak deeply into the soil. Heavy clay soils may take additional effort to run several short cycles during one watering day to get water to soak in deeply. If water starts pooling or running off, you’ve watered too much at one time. A thorough soak helps the roots grow deeper and find moisture down in the soil, and deep-rooted plants will survive better than plants with shallow roots. Spring is the best time to get those plants trained and in shape for summer. Sorta like baseball.
Here’s another lawn watering tip until early June: after watering the grass, let the top one-half inch of the soil dry out before watering on your assigned day again. This is when the roots are growing deep, seeking water in the soil. By letting that top one-half inch dry out, you’re building a healthier, drought-tolerant lawn.
Get an audit. Sprinkler audits are simple, quick and inexpensive. Get a professional to help you detect pressure and spray problems, leaks and other issues. Then, get them fixed to give your plants a fighting chance once the heat of the summer hits.
If there ever were a year to upgrade your sprinkler system, this is it. A new irrigation clock, efficient nozzles and rain sensors are examples of terrific technology available on the market. Denver Water is just one of many water providers offering for this technology. Now is the time to get busy and do the things that save water, so see what you can do to upgrade and retrofit your system to make it even more efficient.
If you’re planting, be sure to do it right. Use organic material to improve the soil, install mulch to hold in moisture, group like plants with similar water needs together and zone your irrigation correctly. Having beds and turf on the same sprinkler zones isn’t smart. Separate them and use drip whenever possible in beds and containers.
In April, hardy shrubs and trees can be planted, as well as early season veggies like lettuces, peas and kale. Perennials can be planted later in April and in May. Don’t plant annuals before about May 15 (the usual date of the last frost). Take advantage of cooler soil and daytime temperatures for Spring planting, this will help plants get established before the heat of summer sets in and plants see more stress.
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