Gardening — how hard can it be, right? Wrong. Gardening is so much more than simply sticking plants into the ground and hoping for the best.
And with Colorado’s dry climate and clay soils, you should be paying even closer attention to the plants in your yard and garden. Whether this is your first summer in Colorado or you’ve been gardening for years, here are seven mistakes you might be making.
You aren’t gardening with native plants
Not all plants are created equal. And when you’re gardening in Boulder, it’s important to take into account the region’s unique climate, soil conditions and heritage when it comes to plants. Not only are native plants beautiful, but they’re also hardy and can withstand anything nature throws at them. They often require very little water and almost no maintenance. Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks division notes that native plants will also set your garden apart from the boring annuals the rest of your neighborhood is planting. These native plants will also help local birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife survive, since they can serve as a source of food and habitat.
You aren’t taking advantage of classes and workshops
Even if you feel like you’re an expert gardener, we’d be willing to bet you could learn at least one new thing by taking a workshop or class related to gardening. Resource Central offers an array of free seminars through its Waterwise program, covering topics like xeriscaping and creating a water-efficient landscape. CSU Extension – Boulder County has an entire gardening series, covering topics ranging from terrariums to xeric gardening. You can even become a certified Colorado master gardener!
Your sprinklers are out of whack
Sprinklers are great. Don’t want to worry about watering? Simply set it and forget it. But sprinklers can also be wildly inefficient, which means you might be unintentionally wasting water. Thanks to Resource Central, you can get a free “Slow the Flow” sprinkler consultation, during which a trained technician will come to your home and assess your entire sprinkler system. The tech will spend about an hour inspecting your yard, gathering data and evaluating your sprinkler system. Then, he or she will put together a list of recommendations for reducing your water use, without sacrificing your green lawn. How cool is that?
You aren’t giving your plants the right amount of light
Those sunlight recommendations that come with your plants aren’t really negotiable. If your plants aren’t getting the right amount of light, they simply won’t thrive or, worse, they’ll die. If you’re planting a vegetable garden, be sure to spend a few weeks observing your intended gardening spot so you can see how many hours of direct sunlight it gets every day. Better yet, observe a few different spots around your yard, then pick the one that best suits the veggies and herbs you want to plant.
You still have lots of grass
We all know that grass uses way too much water and that there are some truly gorgeous non-grass yards out there. Why not take the plunge? If you live in Boulder, Lafayette, Louisville or Westminster, you can get a little help ripping out your grass. Resource Central’s “Grass to Garden” program includes a free Garden In A Box landscaping kit, as well as tons of landscape resources and information. Even if you only replace 200 square feet of grass with xeric plants, you’re helping to conserve 2,000 gallons of water a year. And that’s a win for everyone.
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You’re using herbicides to kill weeds
Herbicides like RoundUp may seem great — they kill weeds almost instantly. But these seemingly harmful bottles are full of toxic chemicals that are not only awful for the environment, but also for you, your pets and your family. Throw away that bottle of herbicide and consider getting rid of weeds the old fashioned way — pulling them up by the roots, by hand (or with a gardening spade). This process is much easier if the soil is moist, so consider spraying the area with your garden hose first before you get to work.
You aren’t taking advantage of free and recycled gardening materials
Why pay top dollar for landscaping materials when you can get them for cheap or, better yet, free? Many cities in and around Boulder offer free or affordable mulch and compost, which is great for DIY landscaping projects. You can also get recycled landscaping materials at places like Resource Central or Habitat for Humanity Restores. Doing a little painting? Be sure to check the “oops” paint shelf at your local home improvement store. This is where paints and stains that have been returned are sold for rock-bottom prices. Also check NextDoor, Craigslist and Facebook marketplace for neighbors who are giving away free or affordable pavers, landscaping materials and other helpful items.