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With mild temps, it’s time to think about watering

By Roberta Tolan
PREVIEW Columnist

Every day I look at the five-day forecast hoping for snow. As of this writing, there are still no major storms headed our way and the little snow cover we have here in town continues to melt away.

But, there is still a lot of winter ahead and a good chance of some strong Pagosa snowstorms. In the meantime, if our daytime temperatures stay above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it might be time to think about watering some of your trees, shrubs and perennials.

Dry air, low precipitation, little soil moisture and fluctuating temperatures are characteristics of fall and winter in many areas of Colorado. Trees, shrubs and perennials under these conditions may be damaged if they do not receive supplemental water.

The result of long, dry periods during fall and winter is injury or death to parts of plant root systems. Affected plants may appear perfectly normal and resume growth in the spring using stored food energy. Plants may be weakened and all or parts may die in late spring or summer when temperatures rise. Weakened plants also may be subject to insect and disease problems.

Here in Archuleta County, most of our trees are native to the area and are less sensitive to these dry conditions. Woody plants with shallow root systems, however, require watering during extended dry fall and winter periods. These include aspen and spruce, which prefer more moisture and could benefit from some supplemental watering. In addition, any herbaceous perennials and ground covers in exposed sites are more subject to winter freezing and thawing. This opens cracks in soil that expose roots to cold and drying. Winter watering combined with mulching can prevent this damage.

Trees, shrubs and perennials planted within the past three years are most susceptible to winter drought injury. Trees generally take a minimum of one year to establish for each inch of trunk diameter. For example, a two-inch diameter tree takes a minimum of two years to establish under normal conditions.

So, to be on the safe side, trees planted within the past three years should receive some additional moisture. Trees obtain water best when it is allowed to soak into the soil slowly. Water only when air temperatures are above 40 F, applying water at mid-day so it will have time to soak in before possible freezing at night.

Apply water to many locations under the dripline and beyond if possible. As a general survival rule, apply 10 gallons of water for each diameter inch of the tree. For example, a two-inch diameter tree needs 20 gallons per watering. Use a ruler to measure your tree’s diameter at six inches above the ground level. Remember to water slowly to allow the water to soak into the soil.

Newly planted shrubs require more water than established plants. The following recommendations assume shrubs are mulched to retain moisture. Apply five gallons two times per month for a newly planted shrub. Small established shrubs (less than three feet tall) should receive five gallons monthly. Large, established shrubs (more than six feet) require 18 gallons on a monthly basis. Decrease amounts to account for precipitation. Water within the dripline of the shrub and around the base.

Herbaceous perennial establishment periods vary by plant. Winter watering is advisable for herbaceous plants that were planted during the past year and perennials located in windy or southwest exposures.

Beef symposium 

The San Juan Basin Extension Beef Cattle Symposium is being held this year in Pagosa Springs on Tuesday, Feb. 4, from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the Archuleta County fairgrounds. The topics covered at this year’s symposium include animal health and nutrition, managing pastures at high altitudes, poisonous plants, economic livestock trends and restocking the herd after a drought. There will be something for everyone who is involved or planning to be involved in beef production, so don’t miss this opportunity to hear some of the most knowledgeable professionals from Colorado and New Mexico.

The cost of the symposium is $20 per person if your registration is received prior to Jan. 30, and $25 per person after Jan. 30. The price includes workshop materials, lunch and snacks. No lunch or materials are guaranteed for late registration. For questions or to register, contact the Archuleta County Extension office at 264-5931.

Radon presentations

Free presentations about radon detection and mitigation will be offered at the CSU Extension office in Pagosa Springs on Jan. 28 at 4 p.m. and again on Feb. 25 at 1 p.m.

Those attending a radon presentation can pick up a free radon testing kit while supplies last.

CPR and first aid classes

CPR and first aid certification classes are now being offered monthly by the CSU Extension office on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6-10 p.m. Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the Extension office at 264-5931.

We will also attempt to schedule classes on additional dates with five or more registrations. Cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid and $55 for CPR, first aid or recertification. The type of first aid information provided will vary by the needs of the audience.

Food preservation classes

The CSU Extension office in Archuleta County is offering a series of classes on basic food preservation. Each class will cover basics of food spoilage, food-borne illnesses, high-altitude adjustments and canning. Please contact 264-5931 or coopext_archuleta@mail.colostate.edu to register. Space is limited, so reservations will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

Cost for the entire class series is $45 if paid in advance. Each individual class is $10 if paid in advance or $15 at the door. Each person will get to take home one jar filled with what was made and class handouts.

Pagosa class schedule:

Jan. 27 — Jams and Jellies, 1 or 6 p.m.

Feb. 10 and 24 — Whole Fruit Canned, 1 or 6 p.m.

March 10 and 24 — Pickling/Freezing/Drying, 1 or 6 p.m.

April 14 and 28 — Tomatoes and Salsa-Canned, 1 or 6 p.m.

May 5 and 19 — Vegetables/Pressure Canning, 1 or 6 p.m.

Arboles class schedule:

Feb. 11 — Whole Fruit Canned, 1 p.m.

March 11 — Pickling/Freezing/Drying, 1 p.m.

April 15 — Tomatoes and Salsa-Canned, 1 p.m.

May 6 — Vegetables/Pressure Canning, 1 p.m.

This story was posted on January 23, 2014.