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Posts Tagged ‘garden’

September is sneaky. Winterize now.

by | September 22nd, 2015

In September, weather is even more unpredictable than usual. By the end of the month, average temperatures will have dropped 12 degrees. And while temperatures typically soar into the 90s for a day or two, snow shovels can make their first appearance.

If you’re new to BackCountry or Colorado, you’ll want to check out the winterizing tips below. Your beautiful new home and yard require just a little bit of attention this month. Then you can relax, knowing that everything is shipshape for the chilly season that lies ahead.

1) Tidy up your perennials. Colorado’s extreme temperature fluctuations and dry winds can brutalize many of our commonly planted perennials. And, as any long-suffering vegetable gardener will tell you, our first hard frost can land in September—which means that the foliage of most perennials starts to wither this month. If you prefer to remove dead foliage right away, gently apply mulch to protect the plant from the winter elements. (Always remove diseased foliage to avoid the spread of leaf-spot diseases and fungal problems.) Alternatively, you can wait to remove dead foliage in the spring.

2) Keep your plants hydrated. Our winter snows can be heavy and frequent…or irregular and insufficient. Make sure your landscape has the moisture it needs with a layer of mulch that’s several inches thick. Mulch should be coarse and loose, such as shredded leaves, to permit air movement to the roots. Become a mulch expert here. Also, water at least monthly under dry winter conditions. Apply water mid-day, and only when it’s 40 degrees or warmer.

flower bed mulch winterize

3) That goes for your trees, too. If you’re a new BackCountry owner, you should know that new trees are more susceptible to winter drought. Your trees will absorb water best with a slow soak into the soil to a depth of 12 inches. Apply water to many locations under the drip line and beyond, ideally with a deep-root fork or needle. Read the how-tos of tree and shrub watering here.

4) Replace your furnace filter. Even if you’re not turning on the heat yet, you will soon. Be ready for the chill with a nice, clean furnace filter so you can breathe easier and improve energy efficiency. By the way, you should do this every month, since a clean filter minimizes wear and tear on your furnace. Buy a bundle, so you have them ready. Mark the date on each new filter as you install it.

5) Unclog your gutters and downspouts. Naturally you’ll want to do a touch-up after all the autumn leaves have fallen, but cleaning out gutters and downspouts prevents serious damage from trapped rain, snow, and ice. Do it yourself if you’re comfortable, or play it safe and leave the climbing to a pro.

Clear out rain gutters for winter

6) Flush the water heater. Over time, particles and sediment can collect in the bottom of your water heater, hindering the unit’s efficiency. Flush the water through the drain valve to clear out the material and keep your heater healthy and long-lived. Because who wants a frigid shower on a cold morning? Watch this how-to video.

7) Rotate ceiling fans clockwise. And you thought ceiling fans were just for summer. Use these smart energy-savers year-round by reversing them in a clockwise direction. That way, fans will push the hot air near the ceiling down towards the floor.

8) Inspect your chimney. New Colorado fireplaces are gas-burning, but that doesn’t mean you can forget about the chimney altogether. Critters sometimes move in—which can spell disaster. Call a chimney sweep to inspect your chimney and clean out any hazardous debris.

9) Protect your pipes. Temperatures can get ugly around here fast, so don’t leave your pipes vulnerable to the freeze, thaw, and burst cycle—which can create a world of water damage and icky mold growing.  Weatherproof your plumbing by shutting off the supply of water to outdoor spigots and sprinkler systems, and then drain them. (Depending on your irrigation system, you may also need a contractor to blow out any excess moisture with compressed air.) Read more about how to protect your pipes while you’re away from home.

Water heater maintenance

10) Just say no to CO. That is, carbon monoxide. Before winter hits, make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are working properly and replace old batteries. If you cook on a gas range, use the fan on your stove hood to vent to the outside and reduce your carbon monoxide exposure. Adjust your burners so you get a nice blue flame; a yellow-tipped flame produces more emissions.

What’s blooming at BackCountry, summer edition

by | August 25th, 2014

Between the crocuses, daffodils, and tulips, spring was a delightful time to wander through BackCountry. Come visit now, and you’ll discover that late summer has plenty to offer, too. Spring plantings of wild roses in reds, yellows, and oranges are going strong, as are all the other perennials thriving from the summer sun and rain. Here are a few photos of the flowers and grasses you’ll encounter as you walk the trails of BackCountry.

Parks in Highlands Ranch Colorado

Sit on the rock ledge beside Discovery Pond and listen to wind rustling through the wild grasses, cottonwoods, and cattails. Look closely and you might spy a carp munching on weeds; one of BackCountry’s many environmentally savvy practices.

 

Walk the pathway through Discovery Park, especially next month after a few cooler days, and discover how the wild grasses change from summery green to rich, deep tones of red and orange.

Walk the pathway through Discovery Park, especially next month after a few cooler days, and discover how the wild grasses change from summery green to rich, deep tones of red and orange.

 

Mountains are always in the backdrop at BackCountry. In the foreground, a sweep of red Himalayan border jewel and purple midnight salvia.

Mountains are always in the backdrop at BackCountry. In the foreground, a sweep of red Himalayan border jewel and purple midnight salvia.

 

Himalayan border jewel is apparently as tasty as it is beautiful.

Himalayan border jewel is apparently as tasty as it is beautiful.

 

Cattails offer nature’s ultimate aquatic filtering system. Found beside BackCountry’s many ponds, they effectively filter stormwater runoff and herbicides, while providing a cozy habitat for wildlife.

Cattails offer nature’s ultimate aquatic filtering system. Found beside BackCountry’s many ponds, they effectively filter stormwater runoff and herbicides, while providing a cozy habitat for wildlife.

 

A prairie shortgrass mix ties together the neighborhood’s many open spaces and contributes to BackCountry’s native Colorado feel.

A prairie shortgrass mix ties together the neighborhood’s many open spaces and contributes to BackCountry’s native Colorado feel.

 

Purple sage and yarrow bloom all summer long, and bring vibrant color to many of the common areas in BackCountry.

Purple sage and yarrow bloom all summer long, and bring vibrant color to many of the common areas in BackCountry.

 

Native to Colorado, red and yellow yarrow are water-wise and attract butterflies, too.

Native to Colorado, red and yellow yarrow are water-wise and attract butterflies, too.

 

Native to Colorado, red and yellow yarrow are water-wise and attract butterflies, too.

Native to Colorado, red and yellow yarrow are water-wise and attract butterflies, too.

Taming your thirsty yard

by | July 11th, 2014

It was a wet winter for Colorado snowpack (as in 170% of normal), but that’s no reason to squander this precious resource. In our semi-arid climate, water-wise practices are a good habit to keep from year to year, especially as our population keeps growing.
Green wet grass with dew on a blades

Like everyone in Highlands Ranch, BackCountry residents are fortunate to have not one but two water supply sources—the South Platte River and a massive underground aquifer. By having the river as a secondary source, Highlands Ranch has been able to annually recharge its aquifer for more than 10 years. Centennial Water, provider to Highlands Ranch, offers these tips and restrictions to help us keep our water usage (and budgets) in check while maintaining a healthy lawn and robust aquifer.

  • Water only when your grass shows signs of needing water, such as when footprints remain after 30 minutes. Continually wet soils are deprived of oxygen, which is needed for proper root growth.
  • Adjust irrigation controllers weekly throughout the season and as the weather changes. Perform regular inspections of your sprinkler system, checking for leaks, broken heads, and efficient coverage.
  • Water in the late evening to early morning hours. No outdoor irrigation is allowed from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. from April 1 until Oct. 15. Hand-watering trees and shrubs is allowed anytime, if a hose is held and equipped with a shut-off device.
  • Washing cars is allowed anytime. However, a hose-end shut-off device must be used.
  • Wasteful water practices are prohibited. This includes allowing excess water to flow into gutters or neglecting to repair leaks. When needed, apply water using multiple short cycles to avoid water running across sidewalks and into the gutter.
  • Rain sensors are required on all non-residential irrigation systems.
  • Customers who install new landscaping or make major repairs may be eligible to receive an increased water budget and a daytime watering permit. Permits are available during April, May, September, and October. Permits may be approved only once per calendar year. Applications are available online at www.centennialwater.org/landscapeform.
  • About half of the water we use at home is applied to lawns and gardens. When landscaping, use plants in your yard that don’t need very much water and be sure cluster similar types of plants for efficiency. Learn more by watching this two-minute video, “Right Plants, Right Place” from Centennial Water.

When it comes to gardening, go native.

by | April 23rd, 2014

As you’ve probably noticed, the landscaping philosophy at BackCountry is one that works with nature, instead of fighting against it. In the common areas you’ll see lots of native flowers, like blanket flower and yarrow, that require less water—instead of thirsty, East Coast interlopers like hydrangeas or gardenias.

While not necessarily native to Colorado, daffodils are extremely drought tolerant. You'll find them throughout the common areas of BackCountry this spring.

While not necessarily native to Colorado, daffodils are extremely drought tolerant. You’ll find them throughout the common areas of BackCountry this spring.

Native plants (and compatible, low-water imports) aren’t just an eco-friendly and budget-friendly choice, they’re gorgeous and perfectly complement our natural foothills-close setting.

So when it comes to planting your own Colorado-inspired garden, you might want to consider going with water-savvy choices, too.

Perennials
If you have a new home and are seeking the long-term relationship of perennials, you might consider a native groundcover like the butterfly-attracting silver lupine, or the abundantly blooming prairie yellow primrose. The choices are many, and here’s a descriptive list of them all, including bloom time, moisture requirements, and planting tips from the Colorado State University Extension. Find more suggestions and great photos at Plant Select.

Annuals
Think of annuals as casual dating. No commitment after fall’s first frost—just a summertime fling where you can play with color combinations, heights, textures, and densities. If you have a hot, dry exposure, consider vibrant California poppies and zinnias, and the perky and practically un-killable moss roses. If you have a bit of shade, try pansies and lobelia. Get more ideas here.

Another variety of the daffodils you'll see bloom each spring in the common areas of BackCountry.

Another variety of the daffodils you’ll see bloom each spring in the common areas of BackCountry.


Tips for planting

Besides their natural beauty and economy, another reason to try native plants is that they create a fantastic habitat for birds, butterflies, bees, and other helpful insects. Also, you’re simply not going to have to work as hard to keep them thriving because they’re in a naturally supportive environment. Here are some more tips from the CSU Extension:

  1. Get your weeds under control before planting.
  2. If you plant from seeds, you’ll need supplemental watering until the plants are established. Seeds can be planted from early to late spring or early fall.
  3. If transplanting nursery purchases, a spring or early fall planting is best.
  4. Native plants may not need amended soil—in fact, nutrient-rich soil can be harmful. Some plants will, however. So read up on each plant or seek advice from your gardening center on the soil, water, and fertilizer needed.
  5. If you need to amend a clay soil (which clumps together and doesn’t drain well), add 10 percent compost and 15 percent small aggregate (i.e., pea gravel) by volume and incorporate into the root zone.
  6. To amend sandy (overly fast-draining) or rocky soils, add 3 percent compost by volume.

Want more information? If you live in BackCountry, there’s a lot of help right at hand. Before heading over to nearby garden centers, be sure to check out planting guidelines at backcountrylife.org. You’ll also find information on tree zones listed there.

Residents are welcome to chat with Maintenance Manager Paul Mennigan—whose office is at the Sundial House—as he can provide valuable information to homeowners or their landscapers before they submit their plans to the Architectural Review Committee (ARC). The ARC meets every Friday throughout the year to review submitted residential landscape plans.

Stayin’ Alive

by | February 27th, 2014

A BackCountry primer to winter-proofing your landscape.

Thankfully, Colorado winters give us a nice, long break from weeding or mowing. But that doesn’t mean we get off scot-free in the landscape department.

Colorado winters can be a tough on non-indigenous plants — which is what we typically grow in our yards. Our climate’s whiplash changes in temperature can be especially harmful. As can our not-infrequent dry spells. For those of you who recently moved to our beautiful state, Colorado is considered a high plains desert area. So, because our landscaping choices (thankfully) venture far afield from hardy, but not-very-flashy natives like sagebrush and sandcherry, we need to provide a fair amount of care for them all year around.

Photo from rrockyard.net

Photo from rrockyard.net

Watering plants

Winter watering is vital to the longevity of our plants. Keep in mind that it takes one foot of snow to give one inch of water to turf and plants. And much of the water that comes from snowmelt will never even make it to the soil in your yard. As it melts, it flows off of the landscape and downstream into our ponds, and then offsite. So it’s very important to properly water your grass and plants and to deep root water trees and shrubs during extended periods when we don’t get any snowfall. This is particularly critical when your landscaping is less than three years old. Remember the 1-2-3 rule for plant survival in Colorado:

  1. The first year is survival. Winter watering is very important during the first winter.
  2. The second year is establishment and root growth.
  3. The third year is when you will notice the most top growth.
Photo from plantsgalore.com

Photo from plantsgalore.com

Tree trimming

February and March can be a great time to prune your deciduous trees. Without leaves in the way, it’s easier to see what you’re doing. There are few insects and disease spores to infest pruning cuts. And wounds close more rapidly when pruning is done just prior to the emergence of new shoots.

What should you prune? Cut off any crossing branches that might rub and cause bark damage. These scars allow for places for insects and disease to infect your trees. You should also look for branches broken by snow. Prune lower-hanging branches off now so they are not in your way when mowing next summer. If you have fruiting trees such as crabapples, it’s best to leave the trimming of these species to a professional. They often get a disease known as fire blight. If this disease is not identified and pruned off correctly, it can spread through the host tree and onto other trees. Learn the basics of tree pruning here.

bc feb blog-4 aspenvalley services

Photo from aspenvalleyservices.com

Grass care

If your decorative grasses are looking a bit ragged due to high winds and snow, you can begin to cut them back also. A general rule is to take off two-thirds of the top growth. Also, if you have turf grass in the shady areas around your home, look for white or pink mildew on the blades of grass. This is called “snow mold,” which often happens when snow or leaves remain on the grass for long periods of time. Snow mold can cause unsightly dead patches in your lawn. Catch it early by cleaning off any leaf material and then rake the grass to fluff it and allow air to flow around the grass blades. When you mow for the first time in the spring, cut the grass short, bag your clippings, and dispose of them with your trash.

New to Colorado? The Colorado State University Extension (online and in-person at various county offices) is a truly amazing resource where you can find answers to all your burning questions about everything from choosing water-wise trees to growing tasty tomatoes during our challenging summers.

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