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Winter Watering on the Front Range

Our often dry, windy winters here on the Front Range can be especially tough on landscaping plants such as perennials, trees, shrubs, and lawns. Most plants need moisture throughout the winter to prevent root damage, so developing a winter watering schedule can help to protect your landscaping.

If roots are damaged over the winter, the “winter kill” is not obvious until summer. A plant or lawn may green up nicely in the spring, but in the first hot days of summer, a plant with damaged roots will struggle to take up enough water. This affects the health of the entire plant and can result in the browning of foliage (especially in evergreens and lawns). A weakened plant is more susceptible to pest and disease damage, and in severe cases, the entire plant may die from winter kill. Because our winters often lack consistent precipitation, many plants will benefit from supplemental winter watering.

What plants benefit from winter watering?

Nearly all plants will benefit from winter watering. However, the following plants are especially sensitive to drought injury throughout the winter.

  • Recent Transplants
    • Plants that are less established have smaller root systems and need more supplemental water to thrive.
    • According to Colorado State University Extension, trees take one year to establish for each inch of trunk diameter at planting.
    • Bare root plants take longer to establish than container plants.
    • Plants transplanted later in the season take longer to establish.
  • Evergreens
    • Because evergreens retain their needles, they still transpire throughout the winter. Without adequate soil moisture to replace this water loss, evergreens are at a higher risk for winter burn.
    • Evergreens at highest risk include arborvitae, boxwood, fir, Manhattan euonymus, non-native pines, Oregon grape-holly, spruce, and yew.
    • To help limit desiccation, some evergreens can be treated with a product such as Wilt Pruf® or Bonide Wilt-Stop®. Read the product label for uses and instructions.
  • Deciduous Trees and Shrubs with shallow root systems
    • Woody plants with shallow root systems are more likely to dry out because they cannot pull water from deep in the ground.
    • These include alders, European white and paper birches, dogwoods, hornbeams, lindens, mountain ashes, willows and several varieties of maple including Norway, silver, red, Rocky Mountain, and hybrid maples.
  • Herbaceous Perennials and Ground Covers
    • Even established perennials and ground covers can suffer from winter kill, especially those without wind protection and those with south or west exposures that experience more freezing and thawing.
  • Lawns
    • Newly established lawns are especially at risk for winter kill as well as those with south or west exposures.
When should I winter water?

Most plants will benefit from winter watering from October through March.

According to Colorado State University Extension, water one to two times per month during dry periods without snow cover. Windy or sunny sites (those with south or west exposures) dry out quicker and will require more water.

Only water when air temperatures are above 40°F and the soil is not frozen or covered in snow.

Water mid-day or earlier to ensure the water has time to fully soak in before freezing at night. Test soil moisture before watering by inserting a probe or screwdriver into the soil. If the screwdriver goes in easily, watering is not necessary. However, if it is difficult to push the screwdriver in after a few inches, watering is necessary.

What is the best way to apply water during winter?

While water can be applied by hand, typically it is most efficient to water with a soaker hose, drip hose or sprinkler that attaches to a hose. (Do not use an in-ground sprinkler system as these should stay winterized until spring.)

Trees can also be watered using a deep-root fork or needle that is inserted no deeper than eight inches into the soil in multiple locations throughout the dripline and outside of it. As with watering in the summer, it is important to allow water to slowly soak into the soil. This results in deeper penetration and prevents runoff. For trees, water should penetrate to a depth of 12 inches.

How much water do my plants need?

Mulch is crucial to helping soil retain moisture. The following recommendations assume that all plants have at least two inches of mulch. Keep in mind that most sprinklers deliver approximately 2 gallons of water per minute.

Trees

  • Apply at least 5 gallons of water for each diameter inch of the tree
  • Water once a month (twice a month for newly planted trees)
  • Water from the edge of the branches halfway to the trunk, and then two to three times that distance from the edge of the branches outward

Shrubs

  • Newly Planted: Apply at least 3 gallons of water twice a month
  • Small, established (less than 3 feet tall): Apply at least 3 gallons of water once a month
  • Large, established (more than 6 feet tall): Apply at least 10 gallons of water once a month
  • Water within the dripline and around the base

Herbaceous Perennials

  • Water requirements vary based on level of establishment and size of the plant
  • As a general guideline, apply half the amount of water that would be applied in a typical summer watering session once a month

Lawns

  • Water lawns if there has been no precipitation for three weeks and the lawn has a south or west exposure
  • Apply half the amount of water that would be applied in a typical summer watering session
Resources

https://water.unl.edu/article/lawns-gardens-landscapes/winter-watering

Forcing Paperwhite Narcissus Bulbs

Paperwhites bulbs in a dishFlowering bulbs can be forced to bloom indoors, creating a beautiful display of color and fragrance even on the coldest days of winter. Some bulbs require a period of cold treatment to bloom, which can be a little tricky. If you’re new to forcing bulbs, we recommend starting with Paperwhite Narcissus. Paperwhite bulbs do not require a cold treatment and are super easy to bloom in water.Planting – A Simple Hydroponic Method
  1. Find a decorative bowl or dish that is 3 to 4 inches deep and holds water
  2. Fill the dish with about 2 to 3 inches of clean decorative rock, pebbles, pea gravel, perlite, or other very porous substrate leaving about 1 inch of head space at the top of the dish
  3. Add water until it is just slightly below the surface of the rock
  4. Set the bulbs on top of the rock with the basal plate (root end) facing down
  5. Use a little more gravel to cover the bottom quarter of the bulb
Maintaining
  1. Keep the water level just at the level of the basal plate (too much water will cause the bulb to rot)
  2. Bulbs typically do best if they are kept in a cooler location (50 to 60 degrees F) in low light for the first 2 to 3 weeks
  3. Once the bulbs are rooted and shoots appear, bring into direct sunlight and warmer temperatures
  4. When the flower buds begin to show their color, move the plants into indirect sunlight to prolong the flowers
Pro Tips
  1. Plant new pots every two weeks starting in mid-October to have blooms from Thanksgiving into March.
  2. Keep bulbs out of reach of pets and children as these plants are toxic if ingested.
  3. Forced paperwhites will not likely rebloom, so it is best to toss out spent bulbs.
References:https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/forcing-bulbs-indoors/https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/hort-home-landscape/2016-11-30-forcing-paperwhites-holiday-decor

Growing Garlic in the Pikes Peak Region

Garlic is a crop that is fun to grow and does best when planted in the fall. There are many interesting varieties, so take your time choosing a variety that suits your taste and cooking preferences.When to Plant GarlicGarlic grows best in the Pikes Peak Region when planted in the fall – typically in late October – when the soil temperatures are too cool to cause the garlic to sprout but still warm enough to allow the bulb to establish some roots before going dormant for the winter.Choosing a Garlic Variety to PlantThere are two main subspecies of garlic: hardneck and softneck.Hardneck varieties are most similar to wild garlic and also produce a delicious flowering stalk, known as a scape, that can be eaten raw or cooked. Hardneck varieties tend to be more flavorful, have larger cloves, and are easier to peel. Hardneck varieties may be purple, purple striped or white. Each cultivar has a distinctive flavor ranging from mild to very hot.Softneck varieties do not produce a flowering stalk, but they can be braided. These varieties typically produce bulbs with 10 to 40 smaller cloves. Softnecks have a longer shelf life than the hardneck varieties, making them popular with grocery stores.Soil PreparationGarlic is best grown in a well-drained soil as it won’t tolerate wet feet. Garlic thrives in soil that is high in organic matter, so a raised bed is an ideal location for growing it. Be sure to amend the soil with well-rotted manure or preferably a quality compost. If possible, spread 1 to 2 inches of compost over the entire planting area and work it into the first few inches of soil. As with most garden crops, garlic grows best when the soil pH is between 6 and 7. If you amend the soil with manure or compost before planting, no further fertilizer is needed until spring. Garlic should not be planted in the same spot year to year; the crop should be rotated.How to Plant, Harvest & Store Garlic
  • Garlic cloves are best planted between November and April, although you will generally get a bigger and better crop if you plant in the autumn. If planted between October 1 and November 15, the clove will have a chance to develop some roots before it goes dormant for the winter. Here at Rick’s, we think the ideal time to plant is at the end of October.
  • Separate cloves from the bulb and plant root side down (pointed side up) about 2-4 inches deep, 6-8 inches apart in the row and 12-18 inches between rows. A bulb planter used for tulips and daffodils is an excellent tool to get several cloves planted quickly.
  • Mulching 6-12 inches of straw or mulch in mid to late November, when the ground begins to freeze, will ensure the garlic will survive the cold temperatures.
  • In early spring as the ground thaws, look for the green tips beginning to emerge underneath the you mulch.
  • Fertilize in spring with a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 (3 lb per 100 sq. feet), or an organic complete fertilizer at roughly twice the rate, as usually they contain roughly half the nitrogen as chemical fertilizers.
  • As half of the leaves begin to die-back in July, harvest the garlic by gently pulling on the stalk while prying beneath the bulb with a trowel. The clove you planted last fall will have turned into a multi-cloved bulb. Gently shake off the dirt but do not wash before storage. Don’t wait until all the leaves have died-back or your bulbs will not store well.
  • Cure the garlic by hanging in a warm, dry, well ventilated place.
  • Give the bulbs another shake after two weeks of curing to remove more soil, cut off the stalks of hardneck varieties and store them in a cool, dry place. For softneck varieties, you can leave the stalks attached if you wish to braid and hang them for ease of use and aesthetics in the kitchen – but you may also cut off the stalks and store them with the hardneck varieties.
  • Save some of your biggest bulbs for planting next fall.
Varieties Available at Rick’s for Fall 2020 PlantingAll of our seed garlic is locally grown in Avondale, CO and is certified organic.Metechi garlic is a hardneck with a robust flavor and sharp bite. One of the hottest garlics raw, cooking tones down heat while keeping tons of flavor. One of the best garlics for roasting.  Easy to peel, long-storing.Peñasco Blue garlic is an heirloom rocambole hardneck variety, mild but rich flavored. This garlic has been grown for generations in the higher elevations of Taos County, NM. Ideal for eating raw, pressed into salads or pestos. Skins are deep purple to deep brown, and external skins usually have quite a bit of pink streaking. Mid-season harvest.Pueblo Early garlic is an artichoke variety softneck derived from California Early. Medium tame flavor, very large heads, good all-purpose garlic. Very adaptable. Stores until spring under cool, dry storage conditions.Inchelium Red garlic is a softneck artichoke variety, once the softneck variety winner for best flavor. Mild buttery flavor at harvest, flavor increases with storage to mild heat. Properly cured, may store up to 10 months..Silverwhite garlic is a softneck variety, typically the last to mature each season and stores the longest. Richly garlic flavor. High yields of large, mild-flavored bulbs. Popular softneck in grocery stores and for braiding.
Garlic Bulbs

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