Extension Viewpoints: Diverse native populations make for healthy landscapes

By Ethan Proud
PREVIEW Columnist

Healthy environments are less susceptible to non-native plant invasions. But what does it take to make a healthy landscape? While many factors contribute, the bottom line is diverse populations of native plant species. A single species leaves resources on the table which weeds can take advantage of. A variety of plant species will offer seedlings shade, take up more space in the soil and will result in changing scenery with each season.

In Archuleta County, we have a variety of microclimates and which plant species will do well is somewhat subjective. The cheap and easy way to plant native species on your property is to collect seed heads and broadcast spread them on bare patches of your property. Seedling plants cannot tolerate very much herbicide and, in freshly reseeded plots, mechanical control of weeds is the best option.

In areas with dense infestations that have persisted for five or more years, the native seed bank is likely a fraction of the noxious seed bank and most of the perennial root systems of native plants will have been starved out. This leaves a community of noxious weeds that will persist until some management is performed. In areas like this, purchasing native seed is the best bet. Grasses will compete sooner, but mixing wildflower and grass seed can help increase the diversity. 

Seeding should be done in increments, so that more aggressive control can be done on the property until the weeds are under control. As mentioned above, seedling plants cannot tolerate herbicide or disturbance and landowners should be mindful of their investments.

Revegetation is considered a cultural control and is one of the best methods to prevent new weed infestations and to compete against current infestations. To help landowners control weeds on their property, Archuleta County Weed and Pest partnered on a Department of Agriculture grant with the San Juan Conservation District and Colorado State University Extension to offer a cost-share program that reimburses landowners receiving herbicide or weed control services with free native grass and wildflower seed mixes. Replanting native species will decrease the cost of treatment in successive years if done correctly.

Archuleta County Weed and Pest is your local resource for managing noxious weed populations and controlling other pests.

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This story was posted on June 29, 2020.