Caring for your Colorado Landscape: for Beginners

The first step to caring for your landscape is to understand the type of landscape you are working with. Especially if you have recently moved here, or just relocated within the state, the Colorado climate, temperatures, and soil characteristics change the way you tend to your yard. 

Here, we will walk you through a few helpful tips on caring for your Colorado Landscape, but our experts in the Nursery are always available for more guidance. 


Colorado landscapes tend to look like many Midwest landscapes. Don’t let this fool you; they only look that way because of the extra care and attention that their owners are giving them. Whether that’s watering cycles, special fertilizers, or accurate mowing and pruning, Colorado care is no joke. It’s completely manageable, even for beginners, but requires the right knowledge and attention. 

On average, Fort Collins usually receives up to 14 inches of precipitation per year. (In comparison, Chicago receives over 52 inches per year.) Most of our water is in the form of snow or thunderstorms that drop two inches of rainwater at one time. In other words, many times our natural precipitation rarely comes when our plants need it most. This is why we have to add most of the water to our landscapes instead of solely relying on natural sources.

Many Colorado homes are being built with underground irrigation systems. You should start operating these from late April until early November. If you have an above-ground watering system, turn on the sprinkler systems in the springtime and closely monitor that they are operating correctly. Temperatures can drastically and rapidly change in our area, so be careful to insulate any pipes that are exposed to air during sudden temperature shifts in April, May, September, October, and November. 

The ‘who, what, when, where, why, how’ of watering 

  • Who? You! The best way to care for your landscape is to be the one caring for it. 
  • What? We’re talking H2O!
  • When? In Colorado summers, we suggest watering between 8 p.m.- 8 a.m. to limit the amount of evaporation and transpiration. During the wintertime, hand water your trees and shrubs, and south-facing plants of all kinds once a month with your hose. Make sure to disconnect the hose after watering. 
  • Where? Outdoors. Your indoor plants also need individualized watering schedules and our experts can talk you through this. 
  • Why? Your plants are thirsty, of course. Especially during the summer heat, they will need a little bit more water than you may be used to. 
  • For how long? How often? This depends on what you are watering, what kind of sprinkler heads you have, the soil type, and the slope of your landscape. Sprinkler systems should be checked once a month during the season and then have their run times adjusted. If you have a steep slope, watch the zone run time and take note of when water runoff starts to occur.
    • Set multiple start times so that the accumulated time adds up to the recommended run times. Our maximum run times are usually from June 10th until roughly August 10th.  You can adjust your watering times, frequencies, and zones usually starting in mid-August. 

Fertilizing & Weeding

Soils in Colorado tend to be low in organic matter and high in pH. In other words, let our Fossil Creek Nursery experts give you some simple recommendations. 

  • Fertilize your turf lawn four times per year- May, late June, early August, and October. Use a fertilizer that has iron and sulfur in it and use an organic fertilizer when you can, to help build up your soil’s nutrients. 
  • Woody trees and shrubs should be fertilized with a granular fertilizer once a year in mid-April.
  • Annuals and perennials? Fertilize them once a month from May through August with a fertilizer high in phosphate, low in nitrogen. 
  • Specialty plants tend to be tricky and require a bit more info. Hydrangeas, blueberries, and plants that like acid soil should be fertilized once a month with aluminum sulfate products.  


The best way to get individualized attention for your pruning needs is to come to one of our Pruning 101 seminars. Here we will walk you through the basics from tool types, to tricks and tips. 

  • Trees: light pruning every year 
  • Shrubs: dependent on plant, but usually pruned every year after the first three years. 
  • Grasses and perennials: most need to be cut back to 6-8 inches in March 

Mowing & Aeration  

Mow, mow, mow your mower gently across your lawn.  Depending on the type of turf you have, mowing techniques may vary. The majority of Colorado lawns use some type of Bluegrass. Set your mower to 3 inches high, as measured from the surface of your garage floor to the bottom of your mower deck. 

We recommend using mulching decks as much as possible in the spring. Set your deck to two inches and only mow one time to cut the brown blades of grass off.  

During the fall, make sure to keep most of your leaves picked up off your lawn to keep them from smothering your lawn. Usually, around November, grab a blower to get the leaves out of beds and then pick them up with your mower. 

Aerate your lawn once a year in early springtime. Give our professionals a call to help you out with this. 

Happy Gardening! 

These are just some of the basics. Give us a call or stop by our store for more information on your specific landscape. 

Fossil Creek Nursery is located at 7029 S. College Avenue, Fort Collins, Colorado | 970-226-4924