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Dig in for spring

M.G. Gallagher

I get my revenge with this year’s spring-winter. Remember, “Summer’s nice, but winter’s why we live here.” Actually, it’s a nice respite for the plants and home gardeners. And the transition to green is one of the best this year. It’s not too fun for landscape companies and crews, though. It dampens their business. Early season work here is not complex. Keep it simple and realistic, but do it right. Soil prep is very important if needed. Weed control is essential. You can work planting in from now to whenever as time allows.It is also a good time for planning, but it’s flexible, too. Weeds and soil are ASAP essentials. I’ve said it many times before. Liberal soil amendment is worth the initial effort. It cuts work right away and from then on by a whole lot. I know first hand, and devoted time to trying different mixes here. So what do we do when the sun comes out? We get to lay around in the sun for a day or more. Most beds must dry out some. Tilling and planting in soggy soil is not good. You want to loosen soil, not compact it. The bulk of the plantings in the county prefer a drained soil. The obvious upvalley-to-downvalley climate differences and sun and so on apply. Compost or other organic matter alone is not good. In soggy soil, roots die. Simply adding ample drainage material to the mix counters this, and works great. I prefer river sand and river “squeegee,” pea gravel and sand mixed, to crushed sand. But both work well as the soil addition to blend with compost and dirt. I’ve used mixes that include a surprising percentage of organic matter and drainage(!), with excellent results, and with many different plants. I’ve used the compost, originally called something like “Waft beyond Wolcott,” since the last year of the pilot stage, before it was released to the public. It was produced by the water district from the early ’90s until recently. An article by itself on how to use it and its few and fragrant quirks is worth writing. The stuff is worth using. Of course, for various reasons, planting in the different native soils here may be what is what. And that is that. Sometimes it’s for a good reason. Way too often it’s not. We’ll go into the details of growing in our native dirt in another article soon. Laurel Potts, our CSU Eagle County extension agent, will contribute to the Vail Daily this season, with plenty of relevant Rocky Mountain topics. Her background and education include a bunch of native plant knowledge. M.G. Gallaghr has written gardening and landscaping columns for the Vail Trail and Vail Daily for years.Vail, Colorado


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