Sunday, April 14, 2019

Pollinator of the Week: Hawk (Sphinx) Moth

A giant hawk moth (Eumorpha typhon) adult. Image by Alfred University artist Joseph Scheer.

This information is excerpted from an article by Steve Buchman, The Bee Works. You can read the entire article here.

Moths live in a wide variety of habitats around the world. They usually go unnoticed, except when flying erratically around your porch light, a streetlight, or other light source in the darkness of night. Most moths work the night shift, unlike their “respectable cousins” the butterflies. Moths represent a biological storehouse of interesting, dramatic, and unusual behaviors, some with roles as pollinators, others as food sources.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Get A Head Start on Yellowjacket Control by Carol King

Yellowjacket photo by Whitney Cranshaw
I noticed wasps are waking up from their winter naps, which made me think of that old meanie, the yellowjacket.  Yellowjackets can be controlled to some extent if we start early, rather than waiting until they are buzzing around our barbecues. The traps will catch the queens before they can find a place to nest.

Whitney Cranshaw, Entomology Professor and Extension Specialist from CSU tells us that the western yellowjacket (V. pensylvanica) is, by far, the most important stinging insect in Colorado. Late in the season, when colonies may include up to 200 individuals, they become serious nuisance pests around outdoor sources of food or garbage. The western yellowjacket is estimated to cause at least 90 percent of the “bee stings” in the state. Yellowjackets (Vespula spp.) are banded yellow or orange and black and are commonly mistaken for honey bees, but they lack the hairy body and are more intensely colored. Yellowjackets typically nest underground using existing hollows. Occasionally nests can be found in dark, enclosed areas of a building, such as crawl spaces or wall voids.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Japanese Beetles in Colorado by Joyce D'Agostino

Photo courtesy
As gardeners, we often struggle with the unwelcome visitors to our garden, whether it be a disease, an invasive plant or an insect pest that causes damage. The Japanese Beetle is now present in Colorado and can do significant damage to landscapes and lawns. This insect is not native to the US and came to the East Coast about 1912. Because it is not a native species, it has no natural predators that help control it.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Coffee Grounds and Gardening

Coffee grounds are a great addition to the garden and compost pile. Help to recycle this great organic resource and reduce the amount of organics going to the landfill! Thanks to our colleagues at Oregon State University Extension for the following information.

Some information about coffee grounds:
  • Coffee grounds are about 2% nitrogen by volume.
  • Grounds are not acidic; the acid in coffee is water-soluble so the acid is mostly in the coffee.
  • Coffee grounds are close to pH neutral (between 6.5 - 6.8 pH).
  • Coffee grounds improve soil tilth or structure.
  • Coffee grounds are an excellent nitrogen source for composting. They have a C/N ratio of 20/1. In informal trials with OSU/Lane County Extension Service, Compost Specialists sustained temperatures of 140 O-160 OF have been recorded for up to two weeks (when coffee grounds were 25% of the material in the compost pile by volume).
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests coffee grounds repel slugs and snails in the garden.

Monday, April 1, 2019

April Fools’ Day Garden Hoaxes

Photo courtesy
From the early 1900s to the present, gardeners have swapped April Fools hoaxes and photos. It just goes to show that we DO have a sense of humor about this serious subject of gardening. Even Denver made the list in 1958 when an unknown prankster transformed stop signs into giant flowers. It was suspected to be the work of "a recent arrival from neighboring Kansas, the sunflower state." [Spokane Daily Chronicle - Apr 2, 1958]

Check out some of the best gardening hoaxes in the last 100 years or so!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Colorado's Native Bees

 Leaf-cutting bee, Megachile fidelis, photo courtesy CSU Extension

The following information on native bees is provided by The Bees Needs, a citizen science project about native bees and wasps in the Boulder area. Take a look at the website for more information.

What is a “native bee”?
A native bee is a bee that occurs naturally in a region. Colorado has over 950 species of bees, and all but a handful of these are native. Most of the few introduced (i.e. non-native) species that now call Colorado home were brought in accidentally. The most well-known non-native bee is the honey bee. Honey bees were intentionally brought to North America. Today, honey bees are important pollinators of many of our agricultural crops, especially those that are also non-native.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Bumble Bee Identification Guide for Colorado

Bombus variabilis, Colorado's rarest bumble bee
Bumble bees have long fascinated humankind, at least since Carl Linneaus described six species in 1758 (Integrated Taxonomic Information System). Bumble bees are effective pollinators in urban, natural, and agricultural systems.The genus Bombus includes 250 bumble bee species worldwide, with 46 species present in North America, north of Mexico. Half of these—24 species total—occur in Colorado. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Benefits of Core Aeration

Photo courtesy

Aeration, or core cultivation, is standard lawn care. Aerating a lawn means supplying the soil with air, usually by poking holes in the ground throughout the lawn using an aerator. It reduces soil compaction and helps control thatch in lawns while helping water and fertilizer move into the root zone. A lawn can be aerated at any time the ground is not frozen, but should not be done when it is extremely hot and dry. Spring and fall are considered the best times for aeration. Heavy traffic areas will require aeration more frequently. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Spring Equinox in Colorado 2019 by Carol King

Photo by Carol King
The first day of spring brings joy to every gardener’s heart marking the beginning of the gardening season in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the unofficial time to start our gardens and regardless of the weather, we’re ready! Spring arrives here along the Front Range of Colorado on Wednesday, March 20, 2018 at 3:58pm MDT. This is also called the vernal equinox.

There are two equinoxes every year –  March and September – when the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of the night and day are nearly equal. (In reality equinoxes don't have exactly 12 hours of daylight, but close enough.) The March equinox marks the moment the sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator – from south to north. This happens on March 19, 20 or 21 every year.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Irish Shamrock and Saint Patrick by Carol King

The Irish shamrock is the most recognized symbol of St. Patrick’s Day. The word (Irish: seamrog) means a young sprig in Irish. Saint Patrick is said to have used it as a symbol for the Christian Holy Trinity to help convert the Irish people from Druidism to Christianity in the 5th century. The Druids were said to hold the shamrock in special regard because its leaves formed a triad, and three is a mystical number in Celtic religion. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Gardening Power to the People: Raised Bed Gardening

Gardening in Colorado's clay soil can be difficult, and raised beds are an alternative. Barbara LaRowe, Jefferson County Colorado Master Gardener, provides helpful information about gardening in raised beds. March is a good time to get those raised beds constructed!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A to Z: Gardening Vocabulary for Beginners

Photo courtesy Donna Duffy
New to gardening? Here’s a cheat sheet of definitions to help you understand what those experienced gardeners are talking about!