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Saturday - March 03, 2012

From: Glenwood Springs, CO
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Planting, Soils
Title: High water table in Glewood Springs CO
Answered by: Anne Ruggles


We are considering the purchase of a home in Glenwood Springs, CO (elev. Approximately 5,000 ft) and find it strange that while neighboring properties in the subdivision have beautiful landscaping with evergreens and Aspens, not one tree or shrub has survived on this property (there are several that are dead) over the past 6 years the current homeowner has lived here. We've discovered that the property has a high water table. Is it possible to landscape the property (we would love some trees!) with anything other than native grasses? Might landscaping require soil berms? Grateful for your help, Waterlogged in CO


Dear Waterlogged in Colorado;

It sounds like you might have several things to consider. The property might be in a swale so that even if there isn’t a stream, water is channeled into and collects in this area. If this is a site that merely has wet soils you will need to consider trees that like their feet wet. There are a variety of species including willows that are native to the Western Slope of Colorado and that like wet locations. Go to our Native Plant Data Base and fill in the questionnaire to generate a list of species (with photos and descriptions) that might grow on this site.

However, geologically, Glenwood Springs is also an area with many mineral and hotsprings (lucky you), thus the water may carry a variety of mineral salts that evaporate into the soil and pose a challenge to plants. You will need to find out what type of soils are present and what their condition is. 

Microsite habitat conditions can vary dramatically and will determine what will grow on a site. Knowing the slope, and aspect as well as the moisture level, soil type and condition of the soil on the site will help you to determine what native plants will grow best.

1. A good place to start is the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) which provides technical assistance to help folks care for their land. They conduct soil surveys, conservation needs assessments, and the National Resources Inventory to provide a basis for resource conservation planning activities on private lands. There is an office in Glenwood Springs.

Glenwood Springs FSC
401 23rd Street, Suite 106
Glenwood Springs, CO. 81601
(970) 945-5494
Serves Garfield and Pitkin Counties

NRCS has a web site, Web Soil Survey, that allows you to access soil surveys that have been completed.

The NRSC publication, Colorado's Soil Problems and How to Handle Them by John Pohly, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension agent, may also be helpful. It includes a section that sounds similar to your situation, “Alkali or soluble salts are another problem. This situation occurs where the water table is near the soil surface. . . . . . . “

Should you purchase this property, NRSC has online tools to help you assess the quality (soil quality is an assessment of how well soil performs all of its functions) of the soil. These tools include a series of information sheets for physical, chemical and biological indicators including a guide that will help you select appropriate soil quality indicators to assess.

2. The Colorado Extension Service  can also help with soil testing. Soil testing is a great way to evaluate salts, nutrient availability and the effects of adding composts or other amendments to the soil. Soil test kits are available at a number of sites around the state.

3.  With the information about your soils in hand then you can begin to plan what you want to plant. We have a number of tools to help. Go to the Plant Database link on our website, enter the appropriate criteria in the questionnaire and generate a list of native plants (with links to photos and information about each) that will grow in the conditions of your site.

 If you go to the Special Collections link on our web sitew you will find a list of species (with links to photos and information about each) native to Colorado. On the right side of the page you can specify a variety of criteria to narrow your search.

The Colorado Native Plant Society has compiled a list of nurseries that reliably carry native plants.  If you go to the Suppliers link on our web page you will find a listing of nurseries in your area that carry native plants.

4. Many of the articles on our How To page  will help you to plant and care for your new native plants.


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