Winterkill may become evident in your landscape this spring as drought conditions continue to plague the southwestern United States. According to data from the U.S. Drought Portal, much of the Southwest experienced moderate to extreme drought conditions in the first months of 2013.
These conditions combined with the low precipitation during 2012, will result in yet another difficult growing season for farmers as well as gardeners. Many areas are already implementing water restrictions, and encouraging citizens to voluntarily engage in water conservation.
If you failed to water during the long winter, you will experience winter die out in your lawn, trees, shrubs and perennials. Some plants with deeper root systems such as trees and shrubs will tend to fair better than perennial plants and some types of grasses.
You can help your plants recover from winterkill and survive the summer by following these four steps:
1. Ensure you have nutrient-rich soils. Amend your soil with good well-aged compost. The compost will not only improve the overall quality of your soil, but it will encourage earthworms and beneficial bacteria. A good dose of cow manure (or chicken, llamas manure) will give your lawn and garden a great boost of nutrients. I usually mix it with a good soil mix and till it in about 4 - 6 inches. If you have lawn or trees which may have had winter kill - go ahead and spread some on your lawn or dig it in around the soil of your trees and shrubs. Good soils will help hold in moisture and help develop healthier root systems.
2. Plant drought-tolerant plants. If you find you have to replant, be sure to pick out a drought-tolerant plant suitable to your growing zone, soil type and the amount of sunlight in the planting area. Drought-tolerant plants do not mean you have to purchase a cactus or a succulent (although many are fabulous); there is a tremendous selection of drought-tolerant plants. Take a look at the varieties presented by Colorado Springs Utilities to get some idea of the many beautiful plants available.
3. Start watering early. Take advantage of warmer days this spring and give your plants some water. If you did not do any winter watering, you can help your landscape out by giving them water now. Your lawn, trees, and perennials have gone dormant during the winter months. You can still help them by providing some earlier doses of water that will help them absorb nutrients from the soil as they begin coming back to life this spring.
4. Use mulch generously. Provide 4 - 6 inches of mulch around your plants. The mulch will help conserve water and release it to the plants at a slower rate and help protect roots from the heat of the day.
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