From the Denver PostDenver and the west

It wasn’t frosty in Denver, but that’s still a snowman that Harper Grace Elmini, 2 1/2, has her hands on Thursday. Harper and her parents traveled from Florida to Denver to visit her grandfather, Vin Elmini, for Christmas, and he was determined that it would be a white one. So he went to great lengths to find some snow for his front yard. Harper accessorized the snowman they made and up with a name: Joe. Read Bill Johnson’s column on how Vin brought a snowman to snow-starved Denver. (Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post)

Travis Ireland of Denver Parks and Recreation waters trees Thursday at Observatory Park. (Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post)

Although mountains are blanketed in heavy snow, the Front Range is bone dry, suffering through what the Federal Climate Center designates as a moderate drought. So while you’re planning your holiday fêtes, serve up one of your drinks with a hose, instead of a glass.

“In my memory, this is as dry as I’ve ever seen between October and mid-December,” says Carl Wilson, Colorado State University Extension horticulturist. “It’s been pitiful. I’ve dug down 12 inches in several places without finding moisture.”

Denver has received 1 inch of precipitation since October, making it one of the driest fall seasons on record. That, coupled with warm temperatures and wind, has created conditions that have experts urging us to water landscapes.

“Basically, all landscape plants need water to keep them from drying out,” says Kelly Gouge, manager with Swingle Lawn, Tree & Landscape Care. “A lack of moisture means twigs or branches die and trees get brittle. Instead of bending or being flexible, they break.”

Drought conditions have landscapers scrambling to give trees a drink. City of Denver forestry workers have quenched nearly 800 trees with 37,500 gallons of water over the past two weeks.

“Trees need watering, but because most of their roots are in the top 6 to 12 inches of the soil, you don’t have to water to China,” said Gouge, a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, adding that efficient watering starts in the grass.

“Water your lawn, and you’re watering trees too,” says Tony Koski, Colorado State University Extension turf specialist. “Lawns will come out of winter healthier, with fewer weed problems. But the critical ones needing moisture are those that are new. If it was sodded or seeded-in after early September, water it.”

Yards with lawn mites also need water, says Koski, especially now. “On these warm days, mites get active and pretty frisky. This means their populations start rising. Watering now helps break that reproduction cycle, preventing disaster later.”

Water monthly through March if the weather stays dry. In general, landscapes need an inch of water per month, so people should record snowfall at their residence and add it up every four weeks. Anything less than 12 inches of snow means extra water is required.

Tips for winter watering

• Water when temperatures are above 45 degrees and there’s no snow on the ground.

• Apply water slowly. Use a timer to remind you when to move the hose. To water shrubs and trees, using a 5-gallon bucket with holes punched near the bottom can help you gauge the amount of water.

• Give trees 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter. To determine diameter, measure across the trunk at about chest height.

• Soak an area 2 to 3 feet wide on either side of the dripline of trees.

• Shrubs planted less than a year ago need 5 gallons twice monthly; established shrubs need less.

Read more: Time to quench landscape’s thirst on Colorado’s dry Front Range – The Denver Post
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