Urban Garden Denver Blog

Where is the moisture?

If you are reading this blog, I assume you have at least a casual interest in gardening. But even if you aren’t into gardening, all of us in Colorado need to be concerned about the lack of moisture we are currently experiencing. Colorado is a semi-arid climate, and our moisture is sporadic at best. However, the normal weather pattern includes snow in March that melts into the ground and provides a good start for our gardens. This year we did get snow in February but March is ending up as one of the driest ever. So what? We can just turn our sprinklers on sooner and run them for more months, right? Actually we can, but if you look at the mountain snowpack, where we get most of our water as it melts into reservoirs, moisture is lacking there as well. And just using more water on residential landscape isn’t the best stewardship of our limited water supply. There is a reason why water rights and water law are a big deal in Colorado, because water is our most precious resource. And I have a feeling that my recent visit to Arizona was a glimpse into the future of Colorado. I also visited some of our Colorado water, since the snowmelt from the Colorado mountains is shared across the arid southwest.

When we think about how huge the water problem is, you might wonder what difference you can make. A valid question, but if each of us do a little, collectively it adds up. And if each of us uses a little more, then we collectively have increased the problem. The water department tries to help give us incentives, because some of us need to see the pain of expensive water bills to choose to water less. But it is possible to decide to use less water on your landscape.

Blue-grass lawn is a huge culprit, not naturally suited to a semi-arid climate and each household has to decide how much lawn is enough. For our family, even when there were still kids at home, we decided a small lawn was adequate, and we would walk to the nearby park for large-lawn activities such as soccer and wiffle ball. Maybe some area you currently have in lawn could be converted to shrubs or groundcover. Start with little bits of lawn at the corners and edges of fences, or the parking strip — no one is playing on those pieces of lawn.  When I was working on my overall landscape plan, my husband would joke that I mowed with a shovel, because for me, bits of lawn that weren’t serving a landscape purpose were meant to be torn out. For example, the side of my house used to have a strip of lawn. Now it sports low water perennials and shrubs. If you have a sprinkler system, it doesn’t do any good to dig out lawn and keep the sprinklers going at the same rate, so you have to put your system on zones, some which get more water, and some which get less. I won’t go into excruciating detail on watering less, because such advice is readily available from the water department and other sources. The questions isn’t how to save water, it’s if we each individually and collectively decide that we care about saving water, and then if we match our caring with action. How about a small change like shutting off one sprinkler system section in an area that isn’t visible from your front yard or back patio? If we each do one section, it actually will add up.

As I write this blog, the wind is howling outside, sucking moisture out of our landscape and I can see and smell smoke from wildfires in the foothills — in March, our “snowiest” month. Makes me a bit worried about April through October, the gardening season.

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  1. * Karen Aalund says:

    Agree that the far reaching effects of no March snow proves worse than the substandard spring skiing this week. 😦

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 11 months ago

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