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Plant for Your Zone

Create a Garden to Envy

Gardening can add many things to your life, from health benefits to environmental improvement. For some, it is a small hobby that brings quiet moments of joy. To others, it is a way of life that encompasses many of their daily routines. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, it is no secret that growing a garden in our climate can be challenging. If you don’t want the fruits of your labor to go to waste, there are a few tips and tricks to help you cultivate a thriving garden in Durango’s unique climate. 

1. Location, Location, Location.

Stay close to the house, somewhere you can enjoy the view easily, and keep an eye on it. Start on your home's south/east side, where plants are protected from excessive wind, snow, and heat. 

2 Soil

The first building block of your garden is the soil. While the clay found in Durango gets a bad rap, it is loaded with minerals and is home to good bacteria and worms. When starting a new bed, don’t dig down. Instead, build up and layer in generous amounts of compost. 

Vegetables thrive with composted animal manure. When used in moderation, bird manure is liquid gold, while cow manure works well when used in bulk to build beds. Composted bark builds biomass and is acceptable for starting any perennial garden. Worm castings supply the beneficial fungi and bacteria. 

Lastly, food waste compost has the most long-lasting environmental effects. The key is to use a variety and add continually to create a magic environment where plants thrive.

3. Know Your Zone

Your elevation determines your zone. Zones vary around Durango and surrounding areas between 4a and 7a, with the highest elevation at 1a and the lowest at 13a. The USDA has an interactive map online where you can determine your property’s zone. 

4  Native and Xeric Plants

There are a million reasons to plant native species. They are good for the environment, help bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects, and are more resistant to deer and rodents. These plants are also easier to grow in our local soils and more drought-resistant. 

5. Wildlife

Do not let deer-resistant labels fool you. Durango Deer eats almost anything, and our gophers will make you feel like Bill Murray in Caddyshack. Fences are your best deterrent or blood meal that you can spray on. It soaks into the vascular system and stays for three months. Herb plants with pungent smells also help deter pests, especially those in the salvia family.

Lastly, talk to your neighbors! Take neighborhood walks and look at their gardens. In the summertime, the true gardeners – ones who do it themselves – will be out working. They love talking about their creations.

If you are new to your climate zone, take your time and see what the seasons bring. Start by throwing out some perineal or reseeding native seeds, and see what blooms. Go to the Durango Botanical Gardens, see what they are growing, and get inspired.