VALLEY — The San Luis Valley’s climate is considered semiarid. This means that periods of drought are common. At some places in the Valley there hasn’t been any rain since May 12th. My house, west of Alamosa, is one of these. Are we in a drought? I believe we are, at least a short-term drought.
June is often our driest month of the year, so not having any rain for a while this time of year is common. This is a time for homeowners and land managers to take care of their landscapes in a responsible, water-wise way. Healthy landscapes may include trees, shrubs, flowers, gardens and lawns. Putting these things together will have several positive influences on our quality of life and the environment.
Taking care of landscapes now will mean that they have a better chance of surviving through a drought is much better. Landscapes are expensive and time consuming to develop, therefore, it is important to take steps to preserve them as much as possible during a drought. This means working with the climate conditions we live in.
We have high intensity sunlight, low humidity, temperature extremes, windy conditions, and soil conditions that are difficult at best. In normal times, having a healthy landscape can be hard. During a drought it is that much harder.
Water conservation practices can help conserve water during dry times. Some keys to good water conservation are: Hand water trees and shrubs, water lawns and gardens between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. Irrigate plants materials only, not hardscapes like concrete or rocks, apply irrigation at low rates to avoid overwater or waste, plant drought tolerant plants, do not irrigate during high winds or rain events, and always check with local water providers for rules and regulations.
Before each irrigation check the soil to see how much moisture it present. It is important to check the soil moisture because of the clay content that might be present. The clay soils hold moisture longer than the loam or sandy soils in many areas of the San Luis Valley. Clay soils may appear dry on the surface but can be soaking wet underneath.
One way to check soil moisture is to take a 6-inch screwdriver and probe the soil. If it comes out wet, then you might wait to water again. In sandy soils it may be best to use a soil moisture meter. You can also measure the amount of moisture applied to determine how often and how long to run an irrigation system on each setting.
Prioritize your water needs. Young or newly transplanted trees need water since they have limited root systems. Trees in restricted areas such as parking lots or along streets will need water more often. Smaller planters also have limited root structure area.
Watering in dry times takes more thought, care and attention. They pay off in the long term because you keep the plants you have and have fewer needs to replace plants. If you want more information on watering or taking care of your landscape contact the Colorado State University Extension Office at 719-852-7381.
Extension programs are available to all without discrimination, Colorado State University Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado counties cooperating.
Marvin Reynolds is the Area Extension Director for the San Luis Valley Area.
Caption: This is an example of dry conditions on a lawn during the summer.