Vail Landscape Logic column: How to cope with wishy-washy spring
May 22, 2017
Last week, we were dodging golfball hail stones along the Front Range. This week has brought a change-up from sandals to snow boots. This latest weather extravaganza has left people and plants confused over whether spring will ever arrive. The same scenario could also play itself out in the high country before spring gets firmly established.
When Mother Nature gets wishy-washy in the springtime, what should we expect?
Fruit trees will likely not have peaches, apples or apricots following a freeze or two in early spring.
Since crabapples bloom over time, some may set fruit and survive. Others may be questionable for fruiting. Successful fruit production depends on the size of the fruit at the time of the freeze.
Ash, maple and honey locust whose leaves froze and browned out in an earlier freeze will likely come back with expanding secondary leaves. Make sure these trees receive adequate water to avoid drought stress and provide appropriate fertilizer.
Perennials that have not yet flowered should move into the season with few effects. Flowers on early-blooming plants, such as lilacs and forsythia, may have been lost to the freeze. The weight of the snow may have pushed blossoms and petals off many blooming plants. Peonies may have broken stems. Late-blooming stiff-stem iris should survive. While it's painful to lose showy blooms, the plants themselves should recover and rebound.
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Tender annual veggies — tomatoes, green peppers and emerging seedlings — are likely lost unless protected from the freeze. Whenever temps hover near freezing, keep freeze protection in place and monitor the forecast.
What will plants need when the weather roller-coaster ends?
Tender veggies that did not survive need to be replanted.
Trees and shrubs may need selective pruning to remove storm damage. Splayed upright plants may need bundling to restore their shape.
Perennials are tough, snow storm survivors and will likely recover with some pruning and TLC. Provide adequate water and fertilizer and monitor for pest infestations
The consolation prize from this latest weather event is that there will be fewer ash seeds falling and sprouting in beds and lawns. There will also be less cottonwood cotton blowing in the air.
The best plant health plan is to keep plants healthy and not drought-stressed. Healthy plants are more resistant to insects and diseases. If you must replace some of your plants, then select varieties most likely to survive in Colorado's challenging climate.
Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.
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