Surviving the Summer in Colorado’s Dry Climate
After just returning from a family reunion in Kansas, one thing I will not miss is the oppressive humidity. The sticky feeling every time you leave the house and swarms of insects makes you appreciate the joys of living in a dry climate like Denver. As the Denver Post proudly proclaims at the top of every front page, ‘Tis a privilege to live in Colorado.’ However, the dryness presents its own set of problems that have to be overcome. From dry skin to drier grass, the lack of humidity can affect your life in a wide variety of ways. Here’s are some tips to help prepare for the summer in Colorado’s unique environment.
The primary goal for your lawn in Colorado is to have a deep root system. Surprisingly, one of the worst things that you can do for your lawn in dry air is to over water in the summer. Often, homeowners like to set their sprinklers on a timer and not worry about it. Unfortunately, this conditions the grass to expect the regular water and when the extremely dry and hot months of July and August roll around you can expect to see brown grass. This is caused by a shallow root system that develops and is very prevalent in dry, Western states. It’s better to water at longer intervals and try to water only when the grass appears that it needs it. This ‘water stress’ will produce an effect where the grass grows longer roots and will be able to withstand the dry months as well as have a better chance for survival during the winter.
You should also only mow your lawn at a high setting. Some people even swear by only mowing in Colorado at the top height setting on the lawn mower. The higher length grass will be able to grow a deeper root system and stave off the effects of the dry weather. The taller grass also helps to maintain more moisture in the soil. In terms of fertilizer, it’s a good idea to make sure that your soil has plenty of nitrogen. A lack of nitrogen in the soil will result in a shallow root system. Once you’ve conditioned your grass, be prepared to up the amount of watering starting in July. Denver, unfortunately, has been receiving less and less rainfall during the summer months recently. Staying on top of keeping your lawn watered when it gets dry is imperative for later summer.
If you decide that you’ve had enough of watering the lawn, you can also look into xeriscaping options including low-moisture ground cover. Just make sure that if you have an HOA that it adheres to the community rules. There are a variety of options on the market and some of them actually look amazing. Some of the most popular ground cover plants in Colorado include Blue Avena Grass, Wooly Veronica, and White Moss Thyme.
Denver’s dry climate actually brought thousands of people here during the 1800s looking to recuperate from tuberculosis. Fortunately, modern medicine largely cured that disease. The downside for modern-day citizens of Colorado is that the dry air can wreak havoc on your skin, hair, and sinuses. The dry air will also suck moisture directly out of your house resulting in damage to furniture as well as hardwood floors. There are a few simple ways to help alleviate this. Your skin and house will thank you.
One of the easiest ways is to buy a humidifier. These are relatively inexpensive and can really balance out the dryness. Just make sure to get one with a minimum of 10 gallons of water because the smaller units will be largely ineffective. If you don’t feel like a humidifier, putting house plants in every room will greatly balance out the indoor relative humidity of your home. Along with the houseplants, having a water-fountain is a wonderful way to add some ambient noise to the home as well as combat the dry air. You can also try painting the interior and exterior walls lighter shades, which will reduce heat retention and ideally cause less moisture to be lost from the home.
Remember the dry climate is part of life here and actually is really beautiful once you get used to it. So make sure to use plenty of lotion and sunscreen and be prepared for a tough allergy season. But once you’re outside at night grilling in a pristine 75-degree evening with no insects, you’ll be hard-pressed not to fall in love with the dry air.