January is a month that surprises us. It is one of the driest months of the year, but in many ways it is the most exciting. January 2017 has set many records for both Mountain High and the Pikes Peak region. Record breaking winds peaking over 100 mph hit on January 9 and 10 toppling trees throughout the region. Most of these were large spruce trees notorious for their shallow roots and full evergreen canopies. This wind event kept our crews in emergency mode for two weeks.
These strong powerful winds are not unusual in winter. The Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University explains it this way: “Episodic strong winds are a part of life for all areas in the immediate lee (just east of) the high Rocky Mountain chain. Most of these strong winds are relatively brief but severe and are associated with rapidly descending air cascading over the crest of the Rockies and racing out to the plains. These ‘down slope wind storms’ are most common from late autumn into spring and accompany upper level disturbances in the strong winter-time jet stream. The highest winds ever in Colorado? Longs Peak holds the record at 201 mph set in the winter of 1981. Boulder, one of the nation’s windiest cities, clocked 147 mph in 1971.”
January also offers many other records. The record low for January in Colorado Springs was -26 on January 31, 1951. The record high of 73 was set on January 2, 1997. In January of 1987 a record 28.7 inches of snow fell.
This is what 2 weeks worth of storm damage tree removals looks like – This is a lot of wood!
As winter approaches, dead Scotch and Austrian Pines have been appearing with more frequency in Colorado Springs. The culprit has been found to be the Pinewood nematode, a native to North America. It does not generally cause mortality in native Pines, but in exotic Pines it causes a fatal wilt disease. It can be deadly to the Scotch, Austrian and Mugo Pines planted in our landscapes.
The Pine wilt nematode is transmitted by Pine sawyers or long horned beetles, a group of native wood borers. Infection of Pines by the nematode starts in June or July, but symptoms don’t usually appear until late summer. The tree wilts and browns quickly due to the inability of the vascular system to take up water. Dead needles often stay attached to the tree through the winter. On Scotch Pines, the entire tree usually browns quickly whereas on Austrian Pines it may be restricted to a portion of the tree. Diseased wood becomes very dry and brittle and a blue stain fungi will be present.
Removal of infected trees before May of the following year is important. If other trees nearby are at risk there are a couple inject-able compounds that are recommended for protection from the nematode.
If you are concerned about your Scotch or Austrian Pine please call our Colorado Springs Office at 719-444-8800.
March is the time to start prepping your vegetable gardens for planting in later spring. PPUG offers the following suggestions. Apply a layer of compost now so soil organisms have time to break itdown so it is ready for plants. A general rule is to add a 2-inch layer of compost to the garden beds and work it down 10 inches into the soil. Manures tend to be high in salts and too much salt can damage your plants. If you use a manure, use less and apply only every 3 years.
Also, a good practice is to top dress your beds with dry molasses, which can help feed the beneficial microbes in the soil. Finally, moisten your garden beds and then mulch with a 3 inch layer of straw. This will keep the soil hydrated until you are ready to plant. Your garden beds are now ready until spring finally arrives. Go to Pikes Peak Urban Gardens website at www.ppugardens.org for more great information on gardening in Colorado Springs.