The first spring we lived here, the winds were so strong that I thought half of our backyard was sure to end up in Kansas! I soon learned that if you live in Colorado, spring winds are a fact of life. Living with our high winds can be a challenge and for gardeners they can be a nightmare as planting season gets underway.
Wind does have some beneficial purposes. It is the original method of spreading seeds, especially for some plants like dandelions, milkweed and maple seeds. However, when these seeds are blown into flower beds, driveways and other areas, they take root and grow as weeds that have to be pulled later.
It serves as the original pollinator for vegetables, fruit trees, flowers, and other plants. If you’ve ever wondered how and why some of your veggies have thrived without the presence of bees, then wind is your answer. We don’t have bees in the greenhouses but are able to successfully grow our winter vegetables because large fans move the pollen around to fertilize the plants.
Wind can help to strengthen weak plant stems. Exposure to the wind means they’ll usually grow in a shorter, but stronger way. This is especially good for tomatoes where thick stems to support the fruit is desirable. Putting your plants outside on breezy days before you are ready to plant them in the ground is a good way to build up their resistance to the wind and help them begin to grow these strong stems.
The biggest problem with wind in our area is having it dry out your plants. Although you may have watered the plant, the wind can pull the moisture from the leaves faster than the plant can take it up from the roots. You’ll want to be sure your plants are well watered, preferably a day or so before the wind arrives, if you have that much warning. This will allow them to take up as much water as possible into their leaves ahead of time.
You can also protect them by constructing some kind of a barrier. Use fencing material or construct a shelter using poles and burlap, weed barrier or other protective cloth to form a box around your plants. The goal is to block as much wind as possible while still giving them the sunlight they need.
There are several places in the world where trees and shrubs actually grow bent over from the constant winds that blow there. While that doesn’t happen in our area, installing supports around your trees and shrubs when you plant can help greatly to keep a plant that has not rooted in yet upright and straight.
If your plants do sustain wind damage, deal with it as quickly as possible. Wind can do damage by snapping, shredding, or breaking small plants, but also tree and shrub limbs. When this happens, prune them quickly to remove damaged branches. Leaving a branch dangling will open up the tree for the introduction of pests or disease and a clean cut will go a long way to protecting it and helping it to heal.
Wind is a constant in the high desert region and mountains of Colorado but knowing how to deal with it will go a long way in making your gardening experience more enjoyable. Just don’t get blown away in the meantime!