Thursday, July 30, 2015

Five Things to Know For a Successful Fall Vegetable Garden by Patti O’Neal


Plant Lettuce now for Fall Harvest photo CSU Extension
Front Range weather has been especially challenging to gardeners this season.  After a fairly dry winter, spring presented with cold nights, freak snow storms, scorching heat and pounding rain and hail – and all of a sudden it’s mid July and we have had scorching heat!  But take heart.  One of the nicest growing seasons is yet to come; fall. 

There are many vegetables that will happily germinate from seed in the warm summer soil and thrive in the cooler temperatures of fall once they mature, and even taste better after a cold snap. This includes about 20 varieties of leaf and head lettuce, Swiss chard, radishes, kale, about 6 varieties of spinach, many oriental greens, onions, cilantro, peas, beets, turnips, arugula, carrots, kohlrabi and collards.  Even better news is that thinnings of all of these vegetables can be used in salads or soups.

Monday, July 27, 2015

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, July 22, 2015

Summer Rose Care by Donna Duffy



All around town the roses are finally in bloom! It's been a rough year for roses with an early fall freeze and a late spring freeze. Not all roses were able to survive the extreme weather. For those roses that made it, here are some tips to keep them healthy during the heat of summer. An excellent resource is “Growing Roses in Colorado” published by the Denver Rose Society.  There is a wealth of information on their website as well as a calendar of events.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Dividing Perennials by Donna Duffy



If your garden looks like mine, you probably have lots of overgrown perennials. The abundance of rain during the past couple of months has encouraged lots of plant growth. Take a walk around your garden and make note of plants that are ready to be divided.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ascochyta Leaf Blight Damages Lawns by Mary Small

Aascochyta Leaf Blight in Bluegrass
Cool moist weather followed by hot dry weather often spells Ascochyta leaf blight on turf. The fungal disease kills leaf blades, creating irregular patches of straw colored turf. Fortunately, Ascochyta does not kill the crowns or roots of plants, so they will eventually recover within a couple of weeks.

To manage the disease, mow lawns 3 inches tall, making sure mower blades are sharp. (Dull mower blades create ragged tips on grass plants, providing the fungus more entry points.)

Keep the turf evenly moist. Check sprinkler heads to make sure they are working correctly, are not clogged, tipped or broken. It's better to water deeply and infrequently. Shallow watering encourages shallow rooting which makes plants more susceptible to drying out. Too much water in poorly drained soils can increase disease development. For more information about Ascochyta, see this CSU Extension fact sheet.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

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!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Leafcutter Bees by Joyce D’Agostino


Leaf cutter bee injury
Have you noticed curious semicircular cut outs in the leaves of some of your plants? This might mean that the busy Leaf Cutter bees are at work. 
Recently I noticed these cut out shapes on the leaves of some of my Alpine Strawberry plants. In researching more about them, I found that these bees are a beneficial insect, even though they may be doing some damage to your plants.
Leafcutter bees (Megachile spp.) are considered one of the important native insects here in the Western United States. They are solitary bees, meaning that they don’t live in a hives as do the social honeybees, but they are still very valued as a pollinator. 
When they make the cut and remove the leaf from your plant, it is not for a food source but used to build their nest cells. When they form their cell home, they then line each leaf cell with a mixture of nectar and pollen. The female bee lays an egg into the cell and seals it shut, which produces a secure environment for the eggs to develop. Leafcutter bees make their nests in soft rotted wood but they don’t cause damage to homes or other wooden structures. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Happy Fourth of July!



Plant fireworks from scribal.com
Happy Fourth of July to all our favorite gardeners!  Here's a link to some amazing plant fireworks.

http://scribol.com/environment/10-most-amazing-natural-fireworks-on-earth

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Identifying Poison-Hemlock by Audrey Stokes

Poison-Hemlock (Conium maculatum).
Scientists recommend that you learn to identify and avoid plants that produce dangerous toxins. Your life may depend on it! Each year dozens of people die or are sickened by weeds they didn’t know would cause them harm. Gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts need to be well-informed in order to stay safe. Recently in Larimer County, a dog died from ingesting water hemlock. http://kdvr.com/2015/06/30/dog-eats-poisonous-plant-dies-within-1-hour/

Why are some weeds poisonous?  Most plants produce their own naturally occurring pesticide to deter predators so they won’t be eaten. No plant could survive without producing some defense mechanism. Most lists of Colorado’s toxic weed species that I researched were topped by the very dangerous Poison-hemlock (Conium maculatum). I found this especially alarming due to the fact that I have this weed growing on my property!  Originally imported from Europe as an ornamental plant, it has spread rampantly across North America.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Controlling Slugs in the Garden by Carol King

Photo CSU Extension
The wet spring and continuing storms have provided a banner crop of sugs in gardens along the Front Range of Colorado.  I see their slime trails each morning glistening in the sunshine and see evidence of their voracious eating habits on my hostas in particular.

Slugs are very destructive and difficult to control. Seedlings of many vegetables and flowers are favored foods, and they feed on many fruits and vegetables prior to harvest. Even the slime trails produced by slugs can contaminate garden produce.

Dr. Whitney Cranshaw, Professor and Extension Specialist of Entomology at Colorado State University recommends the following:
Photo gardenmyths.com

Techniques for Slug Control:
Reduce moisture in the garden. Slug populations depend on moisture in the garden to thrive.  Any effort  to reduce the amount of moisture will help with the problem.  Use of drip irrigation and soaker lines and overhead watering early in the day will help reduce the humidity they thrive on.
Remove hiding places for slugs. Removing surface debris,avoiding organic mulches (straw, grass clippings) increasing air movement around plants and using trellises and wider plant spacing will help in reducing slug populations.
Use traps or trap boards to kill or concentrate slugs. Slugs are attracted to chemicals produced by many fermenting materials. Thus pans of beer or sugar-water can attract, trap and drown slugs. Place them throughout the plant to reduce slug populations. Alcohol is not the attractant to slugs; its the yeast fermenting in the beer. Boards and wet newspaper placed on the soil surface will have slugs that seek shelter under them. Check these shelters every morning and kill any slugs found.
Plant trap crops to divert slugs from main crops. Slugs love some plants more than others so planting them will divert slugs from your prized plants. Good trap crops include: green lettuce, cabbage, calendula, marigolds, comfrey leaves, zinnias and beans.
Use repellents or barriers. Slugs don’t like to travel over abrasive materials. Diatomaceous earth, wood ashes and similar materials placed around plants provide some protection. These materials must be kept dry however. 
Apply baits according to label directions. Molluscicides are pesticides effective against slugs and snails, and are offered for sale in most garden centers. Read labels carefully and apply as directed.  Many of these are harmful to pets and other wildlife and cannot be used on vegetables. Metaldehyde is the most commonly used and effective molluscicide. It is sold often in the form of granular baits (Bug-Geta, etc.) or as a paste or gel (Deadline, etc.) It is not to be used in the vegetable garden and is harmful to dogs in particular.  An alternative bait that recently has become available includes iron phosphate (ferric phosphate) as the active ingredient. Trade names include Sluggo, Slug Magic and Escar-Go!, among others. Iron phosphate products can be used around edible crops and do not pose special hazards to dogs. Ammonia sprays make excellent contact molluscicides, but must be applied directly to exposed slugs. Household ammonia, diluted to a 5 percent to 10 percent concentration, is effective for this purpose.
For more information about slug control read this fact sheet: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/05515.html


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Downy Mildew on Sunflowers by Donna Duffy


I always grow a few sunflowers at the edge of my yard every summer. They are a great conversation piece and a delight to the neighborhood kids and birds. Because of the rain, I got the seeds started late this year and they are up about 3" this week. I was checking them out and noticed a white fuzzy substance on the bottom of the leaves on two plants. After some research, I discovered this is Downy Mildew.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Snakes in the Garden by Donna Duffy

Every summer, I am greeted by garter snakes in my garden. I really do like having them there, I just don’t like to be surprised by them. Last year I was on hands and knees, reaching deep into some overgrown perennials, pulling out dead leaves and stems. When I pulled my hand out of the darkness, I discovered my fingers were wrapped around a snake. It wasn’t pretty for either of us: the snake went flying through the air and I ended up on my back. 



It was one of Colorado’s most common snakes, Thanmophis elegans, or the Western Terrestrial Garter Snake. Here are a few facts about this harmless snake from Colorado Herping.