The Q&A Archives: Poor Soil, High Altitude Challenges

Question: I recently moved into my own house with its own COMPLETELY undeveloped yard. We live at 7,400ft in very dry conditions, but I'm willing to install a sprinkler system. The soil (if one dares to call it soil) is poor, orange to red colored, rocky, and probably poorly drained. Will tilling the soil with a good sized load of aged (about three years old) manure will improve it and what kinds of grass and garden plants will do best in these kinds of conditions?

Answer: Whew, you do have a challenge! However, all soils can be improved, though it won't happen overnight. Yes, the aged manure will help. You may also want to check the pH of the soil to see if you'll need to adjust it. Most plants want a very slightly acidic soil -- a pH of 6.5 to 6.8 -- though some will do fine in a slightly more acidic or alkaline environment.

I suggest you start with some very hardy, durable plants that are adapted to your harsh conditions. Some hardy perennials to try are yarrow, echinacea, and gaillardia. You might also look into native plants.

Here's a web site for the Colorado Extension service that I think you'll find really helpful.

Hope this helps!

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