Monday, December 5, 2016

Pamper Your Poinsettias! by Donna Duffy

Photo CSU Co-Horts
Many of us will adorn our homes with poinsettias this holiday season. You’ll have several colors (pink, white, variegated, even hand painted) to choose from in addition to the traditional deep red. Regardless of color, look for dark green foliage, and richly colored bracts (the modified, colorful leaves). Poinsettias are tender plants, and will drop their leaves very quickly if chilled. Be sure to protect the plant with a plastic sleeve as you leave the store or nursery.
Follow these tips to keep your poinsettia healthy and colorful.

Light: Find a location with very bright, indirect light. Don’t put it in a hot, sunny window.

Water: Apply water thoroughly whenever the pot feels light, or the soil is dry to the touch. If the leaves are wilting, water immediately. If your plant came in a basket, discard any standing water. If it is wrapped in foil, cut a hole in the bottom and put a saucer under the pot.

Fertilizer: Use an all-purpose indoor plant fertilizer until the poinsettia is in full color, then cut back and fertilize at ½ strength every third or fourth watering.

Temperature: Poinsettias don’t like cold, but they will appreciate a cool room (60-70°). Avoid hot or cold drafts from heaters, fans, fireplaces or ventilating ducts.

Poinsettias are native to Mexico and Central America. They came to the U.S. by way of our first ambassador to Mexico, Joel Robert Poinsett in 1825. Contrary to popular belief, the poinsettia is not poisonous. Even so, they should be kept out of reach of pets and small children.

For more information check this Poinsettia Fact Sheet.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Choosing a Fresh Christmas Tree by Carol King

Photo CSU Extension
Are you thinking of getting a fresh Christmas tree this year? It seems that there are tree lots on every street corner and the choices can be overwhelming. Here are a few simple steps that will ensure you get the freshest tree and keep it that way.

At the tree lot:
  • Check that the needles bend rather than break with gentle pressure; 
  • Shake it carefully to look for needle loss; 
  • Check the cut end: it should be sticky with sap. 
If these conditions exist, buy the tree and take it home.

At home:
  • Make a new cut at the end of the trunk about an inch above the old one.
  • Keep the cut end standing in water, whether you decorate the tree immediately or not. This allows a fresh route for water to travel into the trunk. 
  • Check the tree's water level frequently, and refill as necessary. Fresh evergreen trees can take up an amazing amount of water. You may have to fill the reservoir several times a day. Don’t let the water level drop below the trunk, as a seal will formant prevent the tree from absorbing water.
  • Keep your tree away from heat sources such as a heating duct or television set. A fresh tree that receives good care should remain in safe condition indoors for ten days to two weeks.
You can also cut your Christmas tree at several U. S. Forest Service locations near the Front Range, provided you have a permit.  The USDA Forest Service web site , (Rocky Mountain Region Regional Christmas Tree Program) has information on where and when to get a permit, cutting dates and times, tips on caring for your tree including a recipe for a fireproofing mixture, and other details. There are also Christmas tree farms along the Front Range that allow you to “cut your own.” 

For more information on selecting the perfect tree check this CSU fact sheet: http://www.colostate.edu/Dept/CoopExt/4dmg/Garden/chritmas.htm

Enjoy that fresh tree! 


Monday, November 28, 2016

Forcing Paperwhite Narcissus Bulbs by Carol King



Photo brighter blooms.com
Paperwhite narcissus are classic holiday flowers that display the spirit of Christmas. They are available to purchase everywhere during this season. Classical mythology states that a young man named Narcissus was vainly staring at his own reflection in a pond and he fell in and drowned, then legend says that the first narcissus plant came up where he had lost his life. They’re sold this time of year to give us something pretty to grow during the darkness of winter. 

Planttalk Colorado has this advice for planting these lovely bulbs:

"Paperwhite narcissus (Narcissus papyraceus) are one of the easiest bulbs to force for cut flowers or ornamental displays in the home from December to March. They are a form of daffodil that can be forced without a chilling period.To force paperwhites, fill a bulb pan with about one to two inches of potting soil, then position the bulbs in the soil so they are nearly touching each other with pointed end up. Add enough potting soil so that only the top half of the bulbs remain exposed, then water well.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Cornucopia: Origins by Carol King

Cornucopia Photo publicdomainpictures.net
The cornucopia is the symbol of abundant harvest and is most often associated with Thanksgiving in the United States. It is a horned shaped vessel filled with an abundance of the earth's harvest. 

Cornucopia became an English word in 1508 when it first appeared in the dictionary. Its origins are from two Latin words; Cornu meaning "horn" and Copia meaning "plenty". 

The cornucopia has been a symbol of a great harvest for centuries and was probably first referred to in Greek and Roman myths and dates back to the 5th century B.C. My favorite is the Greek version: “ Almathea was a goat who nursed and raised Zeus. While playing one day, Zeus accidentally broke one of her horns. He was so saddened by this that he used his godly powers to fill the broken horn with whatever Almathea wanted so it became the horn of plenty. Zeus also put the goat's image in the sky and that is our constellation Capricorn.”

The symbol of the cornucopia was also used, along with rolling fields of grain, to lure new settlers to come to the New World. It is now in our national consciousness as a symbol for bountiful garden harvest and the sharing of food that has become our American Thanksgiving.  

Wishing you and yours a harvest of good food and good fortune! Happy Thanksgiving.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Fall Invaders: Insects in the Home by Mary Small

Box Elder Bug Photo clemson.edu

When days shorten and temperatures become chilly, folks often find uninvited guests – insects and their relatives- sharing indoor quarters. Although annoying and even startling, these creatures are just trying to hunker down for winter. They need to find shelter where temperatures hover between 40 and 50 degrees F. The west and south sides of a home can provide warm places to hang out as they search for prime real estate. They don’t need much of an opening on the home exterior to find it, either.  Many can squeeze into quarters using an opening the width of a credit card!
The best way to manage the intruders is to keep them out in the first place.  Look for exterior openings around windows, doors, etc., and caulk them. Examine door sweeps. Can you see light underneath the door? It’s time to replace the sweeps.  These steps will help keep the unwanted critters out and you’ll be increasing energy conservation, too!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Battling Fruit Flies by C J Clawson

Photo Counsel & Heal News
Fruit flies are quite common this time of year. The Drosophila (meaning dew-loving) species of the insect world– also called vinegar flies or pomace flies for their characteristic of being found near over ripe or rotting fruit.  If you have a problem with them in your kitchen, here's some strategy:
  1. Wash any salvageable fruit and store in the refrigerator, if possible.  This goes for all future fruit purchases too – no need to import fruit flies from the grocery store.
  2. If using a kitchen scrap composter place the compost in the counter composting crock and take it outside until temperatures fall sufficiently to kill off larvae.
  3. Thoroughly clean kitchen garbage bin and disposal; wipe down counters.  Check floors for juice spills and toss out any questionable sponges or cloths.  Don’t let things like wine glasses sit with residue in them – remember, sweet and/or fermented moisture is what drew the fruit flies in the first place.
  4. Throw out all the over ripe fruit on the counter.  This means tight bagging and immediate transfer to the outdoor garbage bin – don’t just toss it in your kitchen garbage can. 
  5. Set some traps.  They can be purchased at a hardware store or make your own using cider vinegar or wine, a jar, and either a plastic bag or paper funnel. Place an inch or so of liquid in the bottom of the jar.  Make a funnel with a piece of paper or cut a small hole in one corner of the bag and place over the jar so the small end of the funnel is close to but not touching the fluid.  Replace the trap every seven to ten days.
Here are some interesting facts about fruit flies. The 1933 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Thomas Hunt Morgan whose work with Drosophila led to the identification of chromosomes as the vector for genes in heredity.  Currently, fruit flies feature prominently in research on diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. Fruit fly wings beat around 220 times per second compared to hummingbird wings that beat at about 70 times per second in normal flight. Fruit flies only live eight to ten days but a female will lay approximately 500 eggs during that time. 

Here's a fact sheet with more information: Fruit Flies in the Home

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Protecting Trees and Shrubs from Extreme Temperature Drop by Carol King

Image wallpaperscraft.com
Our first round of really cold weather is headed this way.  Although it is in the 70’s today and tomorrow, Thursday and Friday night are predicted to be in the teens and twenties.  What comes to mind is September 2014 when we experienced a dramatic drop in temperature that destroyed many trees and shrubs. Could this weather event be a repeat of that one?

I spoke with Patti O’Neal, CSU Jefferson County Extension and she gave me this advice:
  1. We have been watching, and trees have begun their dormancy process now, whereas in 2014, they had not. 
  2. The temperature won’t drop like it did overnight in 2014.  This will happen more gradually over a two day period so the element of “sudden-ness” will not hit the way it did previously. 
  3. The way things have been predicted lately and the difference between 2014 and what has actually happened have been pretty disparate. Some areas of the metroplex have hit 32 degrees, while Arvada, for instance,  has not been below 39 yet. 
So what to do?
In the event the meteorologists are actually correct this time, make sure you water well; trees in particular if you have not already done so this past week.  Roots go into a freeze much sturdier moist than dry and whatever the plant can take up tonight and tomorrow is just that much better.

Use a hose and sprinkler if your system has been turned off already and make sure you place the sprinkler to the best advantage of the feeder roots of the tree (at the drip line) and not the trunk of the tree.  Then make sure to unhook the hose from the bib after you finish to prevent freezing and damage to your pipes.

It is also predicted that temperatures will go back up again next week.  Stay vigilant and water during the warmest part of the day into next week if you can as the ground will not have frozen yet. 
The fact that the trees have begun their dormancy process should protect them as well.  That was an issue in 2014 when they had not.  Where we expect we might see some further damage is on trees that were damaged in 2014 and are still struggling to recover.  Ornamental pears with bark damage from the 2014 freeze that are still trying to put on new bark, for example, might be candidates for issues.  Wrapping with paper will not help at this point.  Additional protection such as insulation, a campers freeze blanket or a hot water blanket would be a far better choice. 

In summary, the event should not be as brusque as the 2014 event on the whole, but weather is unpredictable and we should prepare as best we can at this point. 


Pines Shedding Needles is Normal by Carol King

Photo by Carol King
Are your pine trees dropping their needles? There is no cause for alarm; they are probably naturally losing their needles. Everyone knows that deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall, but fewer people learn that evergreen trees also lose their old needles in the late summer and  fall. Evergreens normally do shed previous years' needles on a regular basis. Often there can be a "heavy" needle drop on Front Range landscape pines, spruces and firs. The most common causes of excessive needle drop are too-wet and too-dry soils. It has been very dry this summer and fall.

There may be a problem if there is yellowing or dieback on the tips of branches. Consider drought, salts, root damage, spray damage, soil compaction, conifer aphids, mountain pine beetle and other factors. Occasionally, "deciduous conifers" such as bald cypress, larch and dawn redwood are found in Colorado landscapes. These conifers lose all their needles every autumn, to be replaced the following spring.

For more information, check out these articles at Planttalk Colorado™.




Friday, November 11, 2016

Overwinter Your Container Plants by Donna Duffy


Photo courtesy Pinterest

It’s the time of year to start thinking about how to overwinter perennial plants that have been happily growing in containers this summer. Containerized trees, shrubs and perennials are subject to Colorado’s winter temperature fluctuations, drying winds and freeze-thaw cycles. Planttalk Colorado provides the following suggestions to get your plants ready when the first hard freeze arrives.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

All Those Leaves! What to Do? by Donna Duffy


Leaves, leaves, leaves!! Photo courtesy Donna Duffy

Special thanks to Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension agent,  for sharing the following article.

Ugh. Dealing with leaves in the fall. It’s almost like nature mocks us. We work hard all summer to grow tomatoes, mow the lawn religiously and fend our garden from insects and disease. Just as we want to take a break and watch some football, the trees decide to drop their leaves and landscape maintenance continues.

I’ve been asked this question a lot—What should I do with all the leaves that drop? There’s a lot of great ways to use them, including composting, tucking them around newly planted plants, throwing them in the veggie garden to till in next spring or mulching them into your lawn.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Jefferson County Master Gardener Calendars for Sale by Bill Orchard


Need a calendar for 2017? Want to get a unique and distinctive holiday gift? The Jefferson County Gardeners are conducting a fund raiser with their calendar sale.  The calendars are available at the Extension Office for $12 each or by mail for $15 (quantities of five or more are sent free). The calendar consists of beautiful pictures taken by Jeffco Master Gardeners and Native Plant Masters and features some of their beautiful gardens. Included with the picture of the month are a second complementary garden picture, the monthly garden "to do list", and either a Plant Select or Native Plant selection.  The native plants were selected by the Native Plant Masters as plants they recommend for use in the home landscape. This aligns with the Plant Selects, which are chosen because they are plants that do well in our environment. Both common and botanical names of all plants are provided.
The money raised will go into the Master Gardener Fund which awards scholarships to horticultural students from any Jefferson County High School, Junior College or any State College or University.
For a copy of this beautiful calendar, please visit the CSU Extension Office in Jefferson County, 303-271-6620, 15200 West Sixth Ave, Unit #C, Golden, CO 80401, 8am to 5pm weekdays.  Checks made out to “Master Gardener Fund” can also be mailed to Calendar Sales, c/o Stan Ames, 15855 W Ellsworth Pl, Golden, CO 80401.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Master Gardeners Celebrate 40 years of Service in Jefferson County by Amy Bubar



This year, Jefferson County CSU Extension’s Master Gardeners are proud to be celebrating their 40th anniversary of service to Jefferson County residents. Jefferson County has one of the largest cadres of Master Gardeners in the state. These volunteers utilize research-based information to foster successful gardeners, develop partnerships and build strong communities.