Frequently Asked Questions
We love helping our customers with all of their gardening needs. Here are a few of the most common questions our customers ask.
How do I water my plants and lawn in the winter months?
Think about it, our driest months are November through February. Doesn’t it make sense that we should water our landscaping in the winter? YES! Once you turn off your irrigation system, usually in October, it is very important that your keep some moisture in the ground. As a general rule of thumb you should apply 1/2″ of precipitation per month. Here are some guidelines that will help keep your plants happy and ready for next spring.
Newly planted Trees and Shrubs:
Deciduous Trees/Shrubs (they loose their leaves in the fall) don’t use much water once their leaves have fallen off for the winter. They still however can dry up.Using a garden hose let a slow drip soak on the rootball for 3 to 4 hours.Try to do this once a month as weather allows.
Evergreen Trees/Shrubs (hold their needles/leaves through the winter) do transpire moisture all year long through the stomata on the needle/leaf. Rather than focus on the soil moisture, mist the needles 3 times per month. Try to imitate a slow rain or drizzle. Enough water will run down the trunk and drip from the branches to moisten the ground. This will go a long way to keeping your evergreens from getting the brown needles at the ends of its branches.
Lawn Using a garden hose and sprinkler (I like the oscillating type that puts water on at a slow rate) try to soak your lawn 1 time per month. Put a cup in the area where the sprinkler is and water until you have about 1/2″ in the cup. This will prevent winter die back and also keep mites away.
Once in a while in Colorado we do get a wet winter… If we have a snow event with over 5″ of snow that should suffice for the month. However, if the snow is very light and airy it won’t have much moisture like our fall and spring storms. Also, when was the last time we had snow without wind. I know in my yard some trees get buried, and some don’t have a flake on them. Keep track of which trees might need a little extra water as they just don’t get the snow cover. You can also do like me and shovel snow around your plants. It will melt and best of all you don’t have to pay for that water!
Oh one last thing.UNHOOK YOUR HOSE FROM THE HOUSE WHEN YOU ARE DONE (I learned this the hard way), and also if you want to use your hose right away next time walk/drain your hoses so they aren’t full of ice.
A little TLC now will go a long way in keeping your landscape healthy and looking good next spring. Be sure to let us know if you have any questions. -Levi
How do I properly water trees and shrubs?
How to water Trees, Shrubs, Perennials, etc:
Do not keep plants saturated with frequent sprinklings, and do not allow drought to wither the foliage. The correct method falls between these two extremes. It is important that trees and shrubs receive water only when needed to prevent oxygen deprivation caused by water displacing air in the soil. This is critical as plants need for oxygen is as important as its need for water. The correct method of watering is a slow application using a hose, drip system, or deep root waterer. If water runs off of the root ball it is being applied at to fast of a rate. If there is a higher side of the root ball, this is where the hose or dripper should be applied. Remember that prolonged intervals between watering, short of desiccation, gives the maximum encouragement for growth, as well as helping the tree or shrub to establish a root system that will tolerate harsh drought conditions.
We cannot tell you how often to water your trees and shrubs. We can tell you when it is time to water. Trees and shrubs need water when the soil 6-8 inches deep at the edge of the root ball is dry. To check this you must perform a hand soil moisture test. Dig 6-8 inches deep at the outside edge of the root ball (by hand or with a small trowel). Squeeze the soil from that depth. If it makes a moist ball there is enough moisture in the soil. Do not water. If it crumbles and breaks apart, then it is time to water. Do not concern yourself with the top inch or so of soil.
The tree on the right was too dry, while the tree on the left was just right.
Do remember to check each tree. We have many micro-climates and many types of soils. A sandier soil will allow water to move through it faster, thus drying quicker. Clay soils will hold the water tightly making drainage a problem. The soil at one spot can be completely different from a spot only a few feet away. You should check each individual tree to determine its watering needs. Mark these intervals on a calendar so you get an idea of how long it takes to dry out the soil. Pay special attention to weather conditions. If we get moisture it may be even longer before you have to water. Just check your soil.
NOTE: Soil in the containers of potted trees and shrubs is very light to promote drainage and prevent root damage in plastic containers. The light soil will likely dry much faster than surrounding planting site soil and will likely need more frequent, lighter watering that B&B plants. Once roots grow out into their “new home”, then regular checking of the soil as described above determines watering intervals.
How do I plant my new trees and shrubs?
For three generations we have carefully studied many thousands of plantings and then fine tuned our planting techniques because we have seen that how a plant is introduced to its new environment profoundly affects the success of that plant.Over time our methods have become the industry standard.See below for simplified instructions and illustration.The professionals who plant for us are trained to use all the skills we have learned over the years and are eager to serve you!
Download Our Planting Guide PDF
What is Mycorrhizae?
Mycorrhizal fungi usually occurs naturally in the soil. Forming a close symbiotic relationship with plant roots. They are called mycorrhizae (from the Greek “mukés”, meaning fungus, and “rhiza,” meaning roots). However, in most soils that have been disturbed by residential construction, or intensive cropping practices with applications of fertilizers containing pesticides and other chemical products, the mycorrhizae content has considerably diminished, and has become insufficient to significantly enhance plant growth. When mycorrhizal fungi colonize the plant’s root system, they create a network that increases the plant’s capacity to absorb more water and nutrients such as phosphorus, copper, iron, and zinc. This process in turn enhances growth and favors rapid development of roots and more vigorous plants.
A great link with more info. Click Here
The root on the left is uncolonized while the root on the right has been colonized by Mycorrhizae.
How long should I leave my newly planted trees staked for?
B&B vs. Container
B&B Trees are those grown in fields that are then dug by hand or with tree spades (ours are dug with tree spades so that we can dig a larger rootball), then balled in a burlap sack inside a wire basket. The burlap is pinned tightly and then twine is laced on top of the basket to hold the package together. A container grown tree is exactly what it sounds like, a seedling or smaller sized container tree is potted in a plastic container where it is grown until it is sold, or moved up to a larger container to grow as a bigger tree/shrub.
Pros: B&B trees that are grown correctly have very little chance of girdling roots (these are roots that grow in a circular pattern and can choke/kill a tree). A wide range of sizes are available anywhere from 1.5” caliper up to 5” plus if you want a really big tree. There is not a soil barrier created when transplanting a B&B soil rootball compared to planting a rootball that is all soilless media used in container grown trees. There is a much better selection of B&B trees compared to container grown trees. Usually B&B trees have more mature looking branch structures vs their container grown counterparts. B&B trees need watered less frequently initially. Basically, it is a better system. We see a higher success rate with B&B trees vs. container grown trees. We spend countless hours finding the best growers and reviewing their growing practices to ensure you are getting the highest quality.
Cons: They are heavier than container grown trees, but we offer full service delivery/planting so you won’t hurt your back. Usually the smallest you can dig are 1.5” caliper or 3’ tall. Little saplings and very young deciduous trees are usually in containers.
Myths: The burlap sack will negatively affect the way roots grow and how water reaches the root zone. NOT TRUE. Roots will grow through the burlap very quickly. Trees that were dug in the spring may have up to 3’ of new roots by the end of the summer. We see this regularly when pulling spring dug trees for customers in the late summer/fall. When planting, we will make sure the burlap is not wrapped around the trunk of the tree.
When the tree was dug the tap root was cut and the tree won’t live. NOT TRUE. Many trees don’t even have a tap root. Yes, all the roots were cut, but by digging the proper sized rootball based on the current size of the tree, we expect to have over a 98% success rate. B&B trees that are grown and dug correctly have a very, very good chance of survival.
Pros: Conatiner trees are lighter weight and easier to carry/handle than larger B&B trees. They are available in smaller sizes.
Cons: Trees grown in containers have a much higher chance of girdling roots, especially those that sit in containers too long. We try to avoid this by turning our inventory quickly, and using growers who monitor the conditions of their crops. Also with proper planting techniques you can avoid girdling roots. They take more water to get established because of the light soilless media used to grow trees in containers. They usually have a very immature looking branch structure compared to a B&B tree of the same size. There is not near the variety available when compared to B&B trees, especially when trying to buy trees grown in or near Colorado.
Myths: A Container tree will establish faster than a B&B tree. NOT TRUE. Honestly it will take about the same time. If both trees are equal in terms of health and vigor, your soil type will affect growing speed more. If the container tree is being planted in a heavy hard soil, there will be a soil barrier. The soil in the pot is much different that your native soil. Also, there is more risk with root issues with a container tree.
Big Tree vs. Small Tree
In our opinion and many others, staking your newly planted tree is a must in our windy climate. Yes, if the straps are left on for more than a year you can begin to damage the tree, but the most important aspect is making sure the new fine roots are allowed to grow without being damaged from the tree moving in our windy climate. Only leave the stakes/straps on for one year, no more. DO NOT USE wire or garden hose around the trunk; use a tree strap that will protect the trunk. We like metal T Posts for stakes, at least 5’ tall. The wood ones look nicer but just don’t hold as well. We recycle used metal T Posts, or if you can’t get them out of the ground call the company that planted them, they can come and remove them for you.
Truth about wire baskets
99% of all B&B trees are placed in a wire basket during the digging/harvesting process. The wire basket is important as it gives the rootball structure so that it can be handled prior to being planted. The issue arises in that we live in an arid climate, and metal takes much longer to decompose compared to a wetter climate. We hear from other nurseries all the time that “we’ve planted thousands of trees and most of them live, the wire baskets don’t hurt anything.” We also plant thousands of trees a year and think it’s easier, and better for the trees to remove the wire basket. Once in a while a rootball won’t allow it, but we try to remove it on every tree we plant. There is a special technique, so please ask before you try it yourself. The wire won’t degrade fast enough, so roots become entangled and girdle causing long term issues. Leaving the wire on won’t kill your tree quickly, but with the high winds we get, every root that can grow un-obstructed is key. In short, it’s better for the tree and isn’t hard to remove, so why not do it?
Mulch vs. Rock
We live in an arid climate, that during most years is considered a high elevation or alpine desert. Everyone is trying to save water for that sole purpose and to save money. We’ve seen a trend of folks who rock their yards to replace grass. This may save you water in terms of not having to water a lawn, but your trees and shrubs will need more water as a result of the rock. Rock is very hot and retains heat. You will spend more money on cooling and heating costs as a result of using rock too.You may also add heat stress to your plants.Big shade trees will help cool the rock, so trees will still be an asset.Also if you put fabric under the rock to prevent weeds you will affect how water and oxygen move through the soil, also having a negative effect on plants.
Mulch on the other hand is an asset to your landscape as long as it’s not applied too deep. It will cool the soil, prevent it from drying too fast, and as it decomposes it adds organic material to the soil. Don’t put more than 2” down. You will need to top dress every 3-5 years. Try to avoid putting mulch on weed barrier. Mulch will blow away easier if sitting ona smooth surface, and as stated above, weed barrier has a negative effect on your soil. If you have the choice, mulch is a much better option.
Why Plant High
Most trees/plants die as a result of being planted too deep. Dad always said “you burry dead things, you plant trees,” and boy was he right. Planting 2-4” above grade ensures that your new tree/shrub will have enough oxygen to thrive. Also in a wet area or sprinklered lawn this method prevents trees from staying too wet. Customer often ask or comment that their tree will “freeze” or “dry out too fast” when planted high. In Colorado the freeze line is 5’ deep. If you plant it that deep you might as well use a coffin. The plants we sell will tolerate frozen ground with no problem. If the water is running off and not soaking in, you are watering at too fast a rate, slow it down so the water soaks in. Trees/shrubs just do better when slightly above grade. This has become the industry standard over the past decade.
What is Xeriscape
7 Steps to a xeric, water efficient landscape.
- Plan a Xeriscape Design. Build a plan so the landscape can be phased as time an money permits. Identify sunny and shady locations. Consider the needs of those people who will use the landscape.
- Evaluate and improve the soil. Good soil is very important, and soil conditions is one of our most limiting factors in Colorado Springs. A good soil should absorb and retain some water, but should provide good drainage to allow for oxygen to reach the roots. Soil amendments should be tilled into the existing soils when planting. Recommended soil amendments include sphagnum peat moss, partly decomposed wood mulch or humus, or coarse partially decomposed compost. All of these soil amendments are available in our community. Avoid using; 3 way mix/tri mix, top soils, native sedge, and fresh manure.
- Create practical turf areas of manageable sizes, shapes and appropriate grasses. Turf grass does in fact require more water than xeric shrubs and trees. However, if planted with soil amendments and watered deeply, not as frequently, a turf grass lawn can be sustained during drought conditions. When xeric plants are established they will require less water than turf grass. Turf grass should be limited to areas where it serves a purpose, and unused areas of turf grass should be replaced with xeric plantings. Avoid turf grass on sloped areas where it is hard to water, or low-use, narrow or oddly-shaped areas. Mulches can be used along sidewalks and streets instead of turf grass. Pinon Pine
- Select plants adapted to our climate and soils, and group them according to water needs. This is the fun part! There are many, many varieties of trees and shrubs that are considered xeric and do very well in our area. We will provide those plants to you along with all the information that you need to complete your xeric oasis. To get to our plants click here and read the plant descriptions to see its water needs. When selecting plants for your xericscape consider the following; water needs, sun and shade, size of area, and flower or fall colors, and don’t forget to think of your needs and wants as well. You can choose plants with different heights, flower colors, fall colors, berries, unusual bark, seeds, and beautiful winter forms. WATER DEEPLY AND INFREQUENTLY
- Water efficiently. Group plants with similar water needs together. Choose an irrigation method (drip system, hose, bubbler, or hand held container). We recommend a system you can control so some plants aren’t over watered, and some aren’t under watered. It is not recommended an automatic system is used to water trees and shrubs. This is because watering conditions will vary from tree to tree, even if they are just a few feet apart. If you have to use an automatic system reprogram it as the seasons change. Don’t let it run if we have had sufficient moisture. If you use a drip system try to water from 9pm to 9am when it is cooler. This will eliminate evaporation and save water allowing more water to reach the roots. It does take some time to get even xeric trees and shrubs to establish. They will need a little more water the first couple of years until they establish their root systems, which makes them so tuff. YOU CAN STILL PLANT THESE TREES DURING A PROLONGED DROUGHT. IT DOESN’T TAKE AS MUCH WATER AS YOU THINK!
- Use mulches to reduce evaporation. Organic mulch (wood chips) can help trees and shrubs establish and grow in all conditions. Organic mulch helps to provide a buffer between temperature changes. Organic mulch helps to retain moisture as well as retaining weeds. Organic mulch decomposes over time, in turn improving the soil. Mulch around 2″ deep and never put mulch against the trunk of a tree or shrub. Decomposing matter against a trunk will do just that, DECOMPOSE! Make the largest ring of mulch that you can. The larger the area you mulch the more you will affect the soil and the roots of that tree. Remember, not deeper, but wider.
- Maintain according to good horticultural practices. This includes proper fertilization, watering, and weeding. Initially, a xeric plant will need care similar to that of a traditional landscape, but in a year or two they are much more water efficient, and in most cases look as good or better. Apply these 7 steps and enjoy a beautiful landscape that will look good, improve your investment, and conserve our most valuable natural resource.
How not to xeriscape