Thursday, August 25, 2016

Debunking Gardening Myths By Joyce D’Agostino

Photo by Carol King
Most of us have limited time and money to spend on gardening. Any tip or advice that is correct and timely is valuable so that we can enjoy the best success each gardening season.
We read information in publications or online, and know that there are many sources that post gardening and growing information that is based on information handed down, "old wives tales", made up, or advice from  books, magazines or "so called" garden gurus on television. Sometimes applying that information to your own garden can prove to be disappointing.
To bypass spending your efforts on the wrong information, a wise tip is to always seek out research based information. Even people well known in the gardening world may be passing along information that is partially or sometimes totally incorrect. Research based information which comes from institutions like Colorado State University, are based on proving or disproving information using scientific methods. This helps you know the information is based on fact.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Giants of Summer by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy Donna Duffy and Cassie Wilborn
One of the more fun aspects of gardening is growing something that is really big! This time of summer, the garden giants are in their prime, adding exceptional size and wonder to the landscape. Following are four easy “giants” to grow in your gardens.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Top Ten Reasons Everyone Should Plant a Fall Vegetable Garden – And the Time Is Now! by Patti O'Neal

Many people are just beginning to see production on their tomatoes.  So it may be hard to think about what you will eat in October and November when your tomatoes are gone, but now is the time to think about that.  Colorado is well suited to fall gardening and winter harvest and it can be done successfully almost anywhere.  If you’ve never tried it, here are 10 reasons why you should.

Winter Hardy Rainbow Swiss Chard

1.  Gardens can be any size – So anybody can do it.
Fall crops are primarily greens and root crops, so they are very well adapted to container gardening, table top raised beds, raised beds of all kinds.  They are also well suited for intensive planting, so you really can get a big bang in a small space.  So even if you start with one container of spinach this year – do it.  You’ll catch the bug and increase it next year.

2.  There are many vegetables that thrive in fall front range gardens and can be planted NOW!
Beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, kale and chard can all be planted now.  August is the best time to plant arugula, cabbage, endive, spinach, cilantro and September you can plant bush peas, radishes, Chinese greens, more spinach and lettuce and the list goes on. Where it gets really interesting is in the varieties of each crop that is possible to try.  My fall garden has no fewer than 5 varieties of spinach, 10 varieties of lettuce and 4 Chinese vegetables, like Pac Choi and Bok Choi  and 3 kales to name a few.  Salads and stir fries are never the same. September or October is the time to plant garlic.

3.  Fall crops thrive in cooler weather and many fall crops are frost tolerant.
All these vegetables actually develop their prime flavors when the ambient temperatures are cooler.  So getting them germinated and up now so it is cooler when they begin to mature is the goal. 

4. Fall crops do not need a full 8 hours of sun each day.
Although all these crops still require sun to photosynthesize – they are mostly leafy – most of these crops are designed to thrive in less than 8 hours of full sun.  So if you did not have the right place for tomatoes, say, you may have the perfect place for a pot of spinach, lettuce or chard which all will do well with 5-6 hours of light.

5.  Season protection is easy to obtain and apply.
There are many ways to protect your crops whether they are in containers or raised beds or even in ground that can be left on and removed for harvest or quickly applied if a frost happens.  These can be frost blankets, horticultural fabrics, cloches and even having a supply of old sheets handy if applied correctly. 

6.  Transplants for the fall garden are on sale now – but most like to be direct sown.
Garden centers are slashing prices on transplants now, so they aren’t stuck with plants later.  Don’t buy tomatoes; it’s too late for those unless they are 50-55 day varieties.   Look carefully at days to maturity of other vegetables.  The shorter the season, (days to maturity) the better.  And at half price, try them; especially the broccoli and cauliflower. The best thing about most of these fall crops is that they do well when planted from seed; in particular the greens such as spinach, lettuces and many herbs.  Seeds are still readily available if you do not already have them.

7. You can have your beloved cilantro again.
You plant it in the spring, it bolts in June and you wonder how you will ever have a great homemade salsa.  Plant again in August and you will have it when your tomatoes come in (providing Mother Nature cooperates in the tomato department!).  Cilantro thrives in the cooler temperatures and is a great fall herb.

8.  You can try some interesting greens you may have never tried.
Pac Choi
There are many gorgeous and delicious Chinese greens that are nutritious, beautiful to look at and delicious to eat and very well adapted to our climate to grow.  Many are in the brassica family.  Wonderful mustards and cabbages with great names like Pac Choi, Ip Ssam Hong, or Dragon Tongue.  Many of our local small growers are providing these wonderful greens at the Farmers Markets now, so give them a try and then plant some of your own.  You can let them grow full size or harvest as baby vegetables which cost a small fortune in the stores.  Many are cut and come again when grown this way. 

9.  You can walk out of your back door and have your own fresh produce for 11 months out of the year.
I enjoyed wonderful fresh produce for 12 months last year.  Weather often dictates the length of the season, but 11 months is not out of the question for Front Range gardeners.

10.  You know the provenance of your food and grew fresh, organic, clean salad.
There is no substitute for knowing where your food comes from – really – and to know that is clean and pesticide free.  Becoming acquainted with our local small farmers, visiting the farm itself and seeing for yourself that their food is grown organically, and then supporting them by joining a CSA (several of which are growing nearly year round as well) and supplementing by growing your own is the safest way to eat. And it is easily done.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Celebrate the Games of the XXXI Olympiad Rio 2016 With Roses by Carol King

"Olympiad" photo
The first Olympics is dated to 776 BC; similarly, ornamental roses have been cultivated, dating to 500 BC in Mediterranean countries, Persia, and China. Since the 1950’s roses have taken their names from many sources, from well-known public figures to seasonal occurrences and even the Olympics.

In the spirit of the Games of the XXXI  Olympiad and to celebrate our USA team gold medals and all the beautiful roses in the world, I give you these: 

"Olympic Gold" photo

"Golden Celebration" photo David Austin Roses
"Gold Medal" photo
"Rejoice" photo

"Touch of Class" photo

"Festival Fanfare" photo

Here are some facts about the process of rose naming:
  • It takes about 10 years to research, develop, and introduce a rose.
  • There are presently over 30,000 varieties of roses.
  • In trial fields there are tens of thousands of rose bushes growing, labeled with numbers or codes. 
  • According to the rules set out by the registration committee of the American Rose Society, the breeder of a rose gets to name it.
  • Northern Ireland’s Dickson Nurseries, owned by the world’s oldest rose-breeding family, reports that roughly one in 100,000 rose crosses actually results in a marketable rose.
For more information about growing roses in Colorado go to the Denver Rose Society's page.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Colorado Cicadas by Rebecca Anderson

Dog Day Cicada (Tibicen dorsatus), photo courtesy CSU Extension

I've seen some news articles lately about 2016 being the year of the cicada in parts of the eastern United States.  Brood V of the 17-year cicada, made up of the species Magicicada cassini, M. septendecim and M. septendecula will emerge when the soil temperature reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit and grace a six-state region with their song.  The emergence is expected to occur in May.  The last time this particular group of cicadas emerged was in 1999. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Blossom End Rot in Tomatoes by Carol King

Photo by Carol King

It seems that all the tomato conversation lately has been about blossom end rot. The Plant Clinic reports that numerous examples have come in concerning it in tomatoes, squash, eggplant, and peppers. The gardening hotline at the Extension Office is buzzing with rot questions. There’s obviously a lot of rot going around.

So what is this nasty sounding ailment? It starts at the end where the blossom was and begins turning tan, then a dry sunken decay sets in. The lesion enlarges, turns to dark brown to black and becomes leathery. Thus the blossom end begins to rot.

It shows up especially in the first fruit of the season and after the fruit is well on its way to development. In severe cases, it may completely cover the lower half of the fruit. Both green and red fruit develop it. It’s not a pest, parasite or disease process but is a physiological problem caused by a low level of calcium in the fruit itself. In other words, dear gardener, IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Providing Water for Pollinators by Donna Duffy

Swallowtail drinking from a mud puddle, photo courtesy
Creating a pollinator-friendly garden goes beyond providing pollinator-friendly plants. Pollinators need sources of water for many purposes, including drinking and reproduction.  Butterflies, for example, will gather and sip at shallow pools, mud puddles or even birdbaths.  

Monday, August 1, 2016

Transpiration-Vegetables Wilting in the Sun by Joyce D'Agostino

Photo by Carol King

Have you ever hurried home after work, looking forward to some quality gardening time only to find some of your pumpkins and squash look like they have died?
If the wilt is not caused by insects, then chances are what you are observing is called Transpiration. This process is normal and your plants will likely bounce back later to their former healthy appearance once the temperatures cool down. 
Transpiration is the loss of water vapor through the stomata of the leaves. The stomata is the outer layer of the leaf’s outer “skin” layer. 
Plants that often show dramatic transpiration are ones like pumpkins, squash and gourds which may develop very large leaves. Transpiration actually is a very effective process for the plant to move minerals up from the root, to help cool the plant and for the “turgor pressure” which helps non-woody plants have their form and shape. 
Help your plants handle their transpiration efficiently by keeping them well hydrated, watering in the cool time of the morning. Once your hot day cools down, you can recheck your plant and the soil area. Chances are that your plant has sprung back up to its normal shape and will continue on with healthy growth and production. If your area seems especially hot and dry, using some light shade cloth may help protect your plant from sunburn as well.
For more information on transpiration and other related processes, refer to this GardenNotes publication:

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Do Plants Repel Mosquitos? by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy

 Ask any gardener – they will tell you that it’s a buggy year. The mosquitos seem especially ferocious this summer, which made me wonder if there are any plants that will repel mosquitos. Here’s what I learned from CSU’s research.

Photo courtesy
Rumors and misinformation abound regarding plants that will repel mosquitoes in home landscapes. Common plants purported to repel mosquitoes include catnip, peppermint, rosemary, marigolds, Eucalyptus and Artemisia species, to name a few. None of them will repel mosquitoes by merely growing in a landscape. The volatile oils purported to have repellent properties are released when plants are crushed or burned. No data exists to support their effectiveness as repellents. Check out Plantalk’s publication Do Plants Repel Mosquitos for more information. 

Since we can’t depend on landscape plantings to repel mosquitos, the next best thing is to try to repel them by other means. To keep mosquitoes away during outdoor gatherings, burn Citronella candles. Lemon grass, Cymbopogan nardus, a course grass-like plant, contains Citronella oils. Burning candles with wicks saturated with the herb, myrrh is also quite effective at keeping many insects away. In fact, ancient Egyptians used myrrh as a fumigant.

If insects such as mosquitoes have already become a problem, many herbs can be used directly on the skin as repellents. Infusions of 50% Chamomile and 50% Elder leaves dubbed on skin are effective for up to 20 minutes. Infusions are much like making tea, boiling water is poured over the herb and the herb/water mixture is then left to steep for 10 to 15 minutes. The remaining liquid is strained and used as the repellant.

As well as infusion, other properties of herbs such as their essential oils can be used as repellents. Essential oils such as Lavender, Tea tree oil and Citronella from the stone root, Collinsonia canadensis can be worn on the skin and in hair to effectively keep mosquitoes away. It is best to dilute these powerful essential oils in a little olive oil and test this new mixture on a patch of skin before applying to ones entire body. More information can be found in CSU’s publication Plants Help Keep Mosquitos Away.

Don’t let the mosquitos chase you indoors – grab a repellant and make your stand!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Preserving Herbs by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy herb
One of the joys of summer cuisine is the addition of fresh herbs. Fresh herbs are showing up at the Farmers Markets, and many are ready to harvest in home gardens. As a general rule, herbs grown for their leaves should be harvested before they flower. For most herbs, the best time to pick is early in the morning just as the dew evaporates, but before the heat of the day.  Herbs can be used fresh from the garden or dried and enjoyed later. Following are tips for preserving and storing herbs.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Do You Have Ripe Tomatoes Yet? By Joyce D’Agostino

Photo by Joyce D'Agostino

Do you have the best tomatoes on your block – but they’re still green? Are you wondering when you will get that first ripe tomato?

You’re not alone with these concerns. It seems many of us work hard to get our tomatoes started so that they are strong healthy plants when you are ready to set them outside, with the hope of early and abundant harvest only to find that they are slowed down by weather issues.  It seems we get by the cold and wet springs only to suddenly be exposed to the hot and dry late spring and summer weather.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Deadhead Flowers for More Blooms by Carol King

July can be an exciting month in the garden. The results of all the hard labor in the spring are beginning to be evident: lots of blooms, especially monarda, black eyed susan, shasta daisy, day lilies, lavender, Russian sage and yarrow; the annuals are looking great and the grass is still green enough!

I spent Sunday deadheading, pinching, cutting back, and disbudding. I know this sounds like torture techniques performed on some poor wretch in a medieval novel, but these actions are just what most blooming flowers need. These methods will increase and provide continuous blooms throughout the season. They also help to keep the garden tidy; flowers compact and help you get that special blossom you want to win the prize in the county fair!