Plant Smart This Winter; Travel Freely Next Summer


by Barb Bourscheidt
roundup gardening columnist
This is the time of year that most of us sit by the fire and peruse the proliferation of seed catalogs that clog our mailboxes. Some of us have the good sense to pack our bags and head for warmer climes, but then we worry about the lack of rain and what will happen to our landscapes without water.

I'm the type who wants her cake and the chance to eat it, too. I want to travel whenever possible, but I'm also passionate about developing an interesting landscape on our property. Careful consideration of this dilemma has brought me to the conclusion that landscaping with drought-resistant native plants might be the answer.

Although the ground is terribly dry at this time of year, transplanting native woody shrubs gives us some gardening activity to keep us busy, which will pay off beautifully when the hot weather comes. Most woody shrubs are dormant at this time, so they can tolerate rougher handling than during the growing season. The cool weather gives them a chance to establish their root systems before new growth begins, and they don't suffer the setback that occurs with many spring plantings.

Now is an excellent time to move natives such as manzanita, pi, juniper, ceanothus, and yucca.

Dig a shallow well from the trunk of the plant out to the drip line. Fill well with water and let it soak into the soil two or three times. Gently dig straight down around the drip line until the plant is loosened and can be removed with soil intact.

If you hit dry soil, and the plant doesn't want to budge, continue watering, a little at a time and allow the water to seep as deeply as possible. This technique takes patience, but pays off by allowing you to remove the root system intact.

This also is an excellent time to buy and transplant nursery plants. Dig a hole just a little deeper but twice as wide as the container the plant is growing in. Loosen the soil about a foot on each side of the hole and 6 inches to 12 inches deeper than the hole.

Remove the plant from the container and gently loosen roots if tangled and growing around the inside of the pot. Set plant in hole and gently tamp soil around roots. Refill hole with soil to about one inch from the top, leaving a shallow depression.

Give the plant a good watering, filling well two or three times, allowing water to seep slowly and deeply into root zone. Mulch to hold in moisture and discourage weeds. Water deeply about every two weeks if there is no rain or snow, and give plant regular water the first summer. Once established, these plants require no additional water, except that which Mother Nature provides.

Among the many plants available for planting at this time are: cliff rose; sumac; yucca; manzanita; chamisa; bear grass; Apache plume; mountain mahogany; ceanothus; pi; and the ubiquitous juniper. Happy winter and water-wise gardening.

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