Saturday, December 31, 2011

Welcome 2012!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Get the Dirt on Dirt by Jim Rohling

Jim Rohling Demonstrates Soil Gathering for Soil Test to Lakewood resident, Ted Struzeski
January is not too early to start thinking about your 2012 vegetable garden. A lot of thought, planning, and work goes into a successful productive garden.  Did you know that in Colorado, 80 percent of plant problems are due to soil problems?

CSU Extension recommends a  soil test as the best way to check the growing potential of your garden. You can bring home the best looking and attractive plants from the garden center or order the best seeds, but they won’t give the best results if your soil lacks the proper nutrition or qualities the soil should have.   A soil test gives you a baseline to work from to improve your soil nutrition, soil texture, and soil tilth. Over-fertilizing is a common problem. It is expensive and may harm your garden’s production and our environment.

The soil test is just one part of the soils class being taught as one of the six classes at the Jefferson County Master Gardeners 2012 Spring Gardening Symposium. We will also cover a good soil profile, soil compaction/tilth, soil amendments, soil and plant nutrition, and compost and mulching.

Join us at the Spring Gardening Symposium on January 28, 2012, Vegetable Gardening A –Z: Hitting the Basics.  It is a full day of six classes and covers Soil Preparation & Amendments, Vegetable Basics, Starting your Garden from Seed or Transplants, Tomatoes, Container Vegetable Gardening and Mountain Vegetable Gardening.  All this plus handouts, seeds and lunch for $70.  There is an optional lunch and learn class on Basic Flower Gardening for an additional $10.  Spend the day Colorado Master Gardeners who have access to the best research based gardening information, and in addition learn how the Jefferson County Master Gardeners can assist you with your gardening adventures all year long.  Call the Master Gardener line (303-271-6632) for more information.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Holiday Gift to You: Wings of Life!

Pollination: it's vital to life on Earth, but largely unseen by the human eye.  As  gardeners,  we know the importance of this feat of nature. Filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg shows us the intricate world of pollen and pollinators with gorgeous high-speed images. Here's his film "Wings of Life," inspired by the vanishing of one of nature's primary pollinators, the honeybee.

Enjoy the film and Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Real Christmas Tree Industry Needled by Growing Artificial Tree Sales by Elaine Lockey

Christmas tree farm
There has been a downward trend in real Christmas tree sales in the US, from 40% of homes purchasing one in 1991 to just 23% last year (National Christmas Tree Association). The main reason? More people are buying artificial trees. In the recent Wall Street Journal article, "Fir Real? Christmas Trees in Crisis", changing demographics are contributing to the decline - baby boomers are less inclined to buy real trees as they get older. Buyers of real trees are buying smaller trees now which are less profitable. The economy is also playing a role as tree growers planted a surplus of trees when the economy was doing well but now there is an oversupply of trees with fewer buyers.

Real Christmas trees have a long and illustrious history.  The first known decorated tree was in Latvia in 1510.  Since then, Christmas trees have held a place in countless homes and outdoor displays. A Christmas tree has been displayed in the White House annually since 1914, when President Franklin Pierce began the tradition.

There are over 21,000 Christmas tree growers in the US that employ 100,000 people.  Almost half a million acres of land are grown for Christmas tree production. So what is the industry doing about the decline in sales? 

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Science Behind Your Christmas Tree by Elaine Lockey

photo courtesy of
Going to pick out a Christmas tree is always an exciting holiday tradition.  It’s one my family never really took to though.  My father preferred the variety of tree that didn’t drop needles or require watering.  Once I had a home of my own, I decided that I wanted a “real” tree from then on – I sought the fresh smells and natural beauty that an artificial tree just can’t provide. 

As I perused the tree lots looking for the right tree, I have to admit, it never crossed my mind to think about why the choices are Douglas Fir, White Fir and Scotch Pine for the most part. What makes them the tree of choice to adorn my living room?  And once I brought the tree home, what can I do to keep it greener longer?

It turns out, there is an incredible amount of research behind the selection of trees specific for growing as a Christmas tree, and another whole body of research into how trees can behave more to our liking when growing in a tree stand - way more than the time that it takes me to pick out the perfect tree.  Just who is doing the research?  One such place of research is the Christmas Tree Research Center at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College.  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Best Gifts for Gardeners by Patti O'Neal

What do I get for the gardener or my favorite new “wanna be” gardener on my list this year?  Most of my friends are seasoned gardeners and they are the hardest to buy for – they already have all the basics.  So I have been “shopping” the best websites and catalogues and nurseries to find unusual items, the most sustainable items or just things that I might not have thought of.  I am sharing them with you in hopes that you will find the perfect item to surprise and delight that gardener in your life.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Poinsettia Sale at CSU!

CSU Horticulture Students With Poinsettias
For four months, students in Colorado State University's fall floriculture practicum have nursed hundreds of poinsettias from tiny rooted cuttings into vivid holiday plants.  They are for sale at the 18th annual holiday sale running Dec. 5-9 and Dec. 12-16.

Read about the project here!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fertilizer Safety by Joyce D'Agostino

I recently received a call on the Master Gardener hotline from a consumer in Jefferson County who wanted to know which fertilizer that we could recommend to him that was “pet safe”. He planned to use fertilizer on his lawn and garden in the future and wanted to be sure that his pets would not be harmed should they be exposed to the fertilizer when it was applied.

While the Master Gardeners do not typically endorse or promote a specific product, my first suggestion to him was to be sure that he bought his fertilizer from a reputable source and carefully read the label.  Some consumers may not be aware that the label information on products like fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides are actually legal statements. The companies that make these products are obligated to outline on their label the components of their product, how it should be used and any safety guidelines that the person must use to handle and apply their product. In addition it should tell what to do if a person or animal is exposed to their product.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tomatoes for Thanksgiving by Duane Davidson

I've volunteered to provide the salad for this year's Thanksgiving dinner. I plan to show off my fresh home-grown tomatoes. I always try to have a taste of my own tomatoes as late as the beginning of December. You could, too. Here's how.

I grow tomatoes mostly in containers these days. A couple of the containers are lightweight pots of manageable size. (Mine are made of a foam material, but sturdy plastic would do.) They spend the summer in my backyard. At the end of the season I bring them inside when an overnight freeze is expected. But they go back out into the sunshine every time the temperature reaches 50 degrees. I don't expect the plants to continue blooming and setting fruit, but this is a good way to let existing fruit ripen – more or less naturally.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Denver Urban Gardens Wins Grant!

Congratulations to Denver Urban Gardens!

RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

From the Denver Post:

" More than 25 years' experience with community gardens helped Denver Urban Gardens win a $70,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's People's Garden Grant Program.  The money will be used to develop 14 new gardens in the next two years, adding to Denver Urban Gardens' network of 114 community gardens, which produce more than 294 tons of food each year. "

Read the whole story here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Aconitum - A Plant with a Dark Side

“Even those who are pure of heart, and say their prayers at night, can become a wolf, when the wolfsbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” 

You might remember hearing that popular rhyme while watching the old werewolf movie “The Wolfman”.  Wolfsbane, also known as monkshood, is a member of the Aconitum genus of over 250 plants.  Aconitum species are popular and attractive ornamental perennials that enjoy shady moist garden sites, but beware, they are also considered some of the deadliest plants in the world.

The myths and fear surrounding Aconitum are based on real-life danger.  Every part of the plant is poisonous especially the leaves, roots and seeds. The principal alkaloids are aconite and aconitine.  Aconitine is thought to be the main toxin causing severe gastrointestinal upset, followed by cardiac symptoms and eventually death if enough has been taken in. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How Did Your Garden Grow? by Donna Duffy

Autumn is the perfect season to step back and reflect on the successes and challenges you experienced in your garden this summer. Grab your garden journal and take a walk around your yard. Jot down detailed notes – your memory may fade over the long winter months. Consider the following:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Help For Storm Damaged Trees by Carol King

CSU Extension
Many Front Range residents awoke on Wednesday to find that their trees had been further damaged by Colorado's second major fall snowstorm of 2011. It seems that we are not catching a break this year!  Perhaps you are wondering just what to do about it.

The Colorado State Forest Service offers these first aid tips for dealing with damage.

Read about it here.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

World's Largest Pumpkin Becomes a Zombie!

Photo by Lorna King
Here's the world's largest pumpkin now a zombie sculpture!  The New York Botanical Gardens commissioned Ray Villafane  to create this work of art from it. 

Here's a link to more pictures of the actual carving:

Ray Villafane Carves the World’s Largest Pumpkin into an Intricate Spine-Tingling Sculpture

Enjoy and Happy Halloween!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sustainable Pets by Amanda Dowdy

Labbit the Rabbit!
There are many joys involved with pet ownership, but I was overjoyed this summer when I realized one of my pets can pull his own weight (and more) around here. Pictured above is Labbit, a one and a half pound black otter mini rex, and my family's newest addition. Rabbit leavings are a great addition to any compost pile, as it is very high in nitrogen. Also most natural shavings used in litter pans can also be composted, it complements the droppings with a carbon source. I use recycled newspaper in ours. Rabbits are herbivoures, their diets consist mainly of field grasses like timothy hay or orchard grass.  Dandylions are his favorite treat, that were grown in a pot for him on my deck. These little guys have great personalities, and now he has been recognized for his "contributions" around the house too! So next time you clean out the that hamster, chinchilla or mouse cage, chuck it in the compost bin!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Recipe for Christmas Compost by Mari Hackbarth

Think you can’t compost in winter?  Think again.  Vermicomposting (worm composting) can be done year ‘round, even at the North Pole.  Worm composting can be used to convert kitchen waste (and garden waste in summer) into a nutritious amendment for the garden and house plants, known by gardeners as “black gold”.  All that’s needed is a non-transparent plastic storage bin with lid, room temperature between 55 – 77 degrees F.; air, bedding, water and food.

According to Brenda Sherman, of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, using worms to decompose food waste offers several advantages:
It reduces household garbage disposal costs;
It produces less odor and attracts fewer pests than putting food wastes into a garbage container, or than traditional compost piles;
It saves the water and electricity that kitchen sink garbage disposal units consume;
It produces a free, high-quality soil amendment (compost);
It requires little space, labor, or maintenance;
It spawns free worms for fishing.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Moving Houseplants Indoors by Sharon Routa

What to do now!  No more daily watering or constant deadheading.

One of the projects I’ll be doing this fall is moving house plants indoors.  Before I move them back indoors, I put them in a shadier part of the yard.   This helps them make an easier adjustment to the change in light and environment they are going to undergo.

I cut them back, getting rid of damaged growth; this also helps to control the size of plant, and encourages new growth.  Fertilize one last time before you bring plants into the house.  Do all of this before the weather turns cool or they may go into shock.  One symptom of shock is leaf drop.  Plants will usually survive this with regular watering.   It’s difficult for plants to deal with changes in light and temperature.  Check the foliage and soil thoroughly for pests before you bring them indoors.  If an insecticide is needed, read the label carefully before applying.  Be certain you check the drainage holes on containers for slugs or bugs, which you can manually remove. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A 2011 “Summery” of My Garden and Other Random Observations by Gardener Dave

Sometimes a summary report is useful only to the one who writes it. I hope this one is a bit more informative and even somewhat entertaining. I have used common plant names in most cases. Here goes…

Annuals:  I like bright color all summer. It’s not that I look for more work to do – I let the perennials show their stuff, each in their own short season. But when it comes to providing color and consistent bloom, annuals still are the way to go. In addition to choosing bright colors, I go for the ones that require less maintenance.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Simple Food for the Good Life; Book Review by Grace Olson

Nearing, Helen. Simple Food for the Good Life. White River Junction, VT. : Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1990.

    When the air turns crisp and evening walks begin smelling like wood smoke and fallen leaves, gardeners reap the harvest of their season-long labors. Tomatoes travel from vine to kitchen. Onions are braided and hung. Potatoes and carrots are transformed into breads and soups. It is a part of gardening that is cherished and looked forward to throughout the sun-soaked days of summer spent weeding, watering and whining about rabbits and deer.

    In Simple Food for the Good Life, Helen Nearing captures the joy of cooking with one’s own, bountiful harvest. Her extremely simple recipes focus on the wholesome nourishment of the fruit or vegetable itself. She takes her “random acts of cooking and pithy quotations” and boils them down into a quick, easy celebration of the land’s offerings that many a JeffCo gardener will be able to relate to.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Belmar Farmers Market: the Last Hurrah by Grace Olson

    Sunday, September 25th, marked the final day of the Belmar Farmers Market. Families came out (many in the Broncos orange and blue), seeking one last chance to purchase fresh baked breads, organic clothing, or a bouquet of flowers for that evening’s dinner party. Amid the aromatic stalls and colorful displays, the Colorado Master Gardeners (CMGs) flew their flag, making themselves available for any last-minute questions about Jefferson County gardening.

    There were many. September and October may be the gardening season’s last hurrah, but it also poses unique challenges to those not quite daunted by the cooling weather. Some elect to transport potted herbs inside, harvesting mint and thyme all winter long. Others choose to erect hoop houses and cold frames, seeking an extended season—if only until Thanksgiving. With flyers and fact sheets, CMG volunteers stepped up to the plate.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cover Crops by Amanda Dowdy

Its a safe bet that those veggie plots and annual beds have worked hard this year, and even if they haven't, it may be a good idea to give them some TLC! The Autumn harvest brings many chores, but this one may prove to be so beneficial, you'll be happy to add it to your clean up routine. Cover crops, or green manure, are grasses or legumes like winter rye, crimson clover and hairy vetch, that can be planted in early spring or fall. 
Winter Rye in Raised Bed
Higher altitudes should plant sooner as some varieties will winter kill faster than others, yet others like winter rye may show growth throughout the winter season. These crops protect the soil from erosion and suppress weed growth. Also tilling the crop into the earth in spring improves the soil structure and may fix extra nitrogen.  Its a small step that has a great payoff, so start thinking about next year's bounty and give your garden a boost! Check out Plant Talk 1607 and 1616 as well as some great literature out there. Good luck and happy harvesting!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Scan Away by Patricia Barry Levy

Many of us enjoy taking pictures of our flowers and gardens. But have you ever considered recording the beauty of your plants using something besides a camera?

Your typical flatbed scanner can show off botanicals in a really interesting way. When selecting pieces to scan bear in mind the coverage area of your scanner. Letter size, or 8.5 x 11 is common and plenty large enough for many leaves, flowers, grasses, etc. Use a high enough resolution to allow you to print onto some nice paper, and voila, you’ve made art. Leaving the top of the scanner open in a dark room will give you a dramatic black background. Or try propping a white or colored sheet above your plant material – I’ve even seen fabric prints used to add pattern to the background.

In this example, I scanned peonies at different stages, using a small box to surround and support the flower head. Now’s the time to visually preserve that last perfect tomato, seedpods, leaves as they turn colors – you get the idea.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Precocious Pre-Schoolers put Classroom Concepts to the Test by Amy Bubar

Remember the first time you felt the joy of digging in the dirt, making a home for a tiny plant and nurturing it into a full-grown leafy donor of juicy, delicious veggies?  A group of children at the Mount Saint Vincent Home is doing just that.  Though they range from only 3 to 5 years old, as pre-schoolers they’ve already been taught the basics. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

How Hot Is Hot: The Bhut Jolokia AKA the Ghost Chili by Jim Rohling

The Bhut Jolokia chili originates from Nagaland and Assam in northeastern India and was named by the Naga people after the most venomous snake in the region. The Assamese word “jolokia” means the Capsicum pepper and the word naga means” King Cobra” in Sanskrit. The peppers’ fierce “bite” is akin to the venom of a King Cobra. One farmer described it as “so hot you can’t even imagine. When you eat it, it’s like dying,” hence the name “ghost chili.” It’s also been referred to as “the equivalent of a gastronomic mugging.” At over 1,000,000 Scoville units (SHUs) one can see why.

In 2005, New Mexico State University’s Chili Pepper Institute (yes, there is a chili pepper institute) found the Bhut Jolokia to have a Scoville rating of 1,001,304 SHUs. Although there are other peppers that are hotter, like the Naga Viper at 1,382,118 SHUs and the Trinidad Scorpion at 1,463,700 SHUs, because of their hybrid nature they are unable to produce offspring exactly like the parent. So, at 855,000–1,050,000 SHUs, the Bhut Jolokia is the hottest “naturally grown” pepper.  For comparison, a bell pepper registers zero SHUs, a Jalapeno comes in at roughly 3,500, and a Habanero is approximately 100,000–350,000.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Word on Hypertufa by Judy Huckaby

When a hypertufa class was offered through the Jefferson County Master Gardener program, I immediately signed up to become an instructor.   I learned that tufa is compressed volcanic ash that has been mined for centuries in order to be carved into watering troughs and sinks.  Gardeners began to covet these containers for their rugged looks and soon the troughs became expensive and rare.
Somebody somewhere down the line had a flash of brilliance and came up with a recipe to make garden containers that look and are waterproof like tufa, but are lighter in weight.  Called hypertufa, the prefix “hyper”  can mean excess, exaggeration or above and beyond.  Regardless of the meaning, hypertufa containers are usually planted with “alpine gardens” because they leech alkalinity and these plants can take it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wintering-Over Mandevilla Vines by Gardener Dave

Have you ever tried to winter-over a Mandevilla vine  (Mandevilla spp.) indoors?  I am trying it this year and would like to pass on information and tips I have (recently) researched on the Internet. The info below is a compendium of that information. Since they can be quite expensive, it may be worth your while to try it.

Mandevilla vines are sold by nurseries and “big box” stores throughout the summer. They are showy plants with trumpet-like flowers in many attractive colors. They are a tropical plant, only hardy to Zone 9 and above. If they are grown in hanging containers or in medium sized pots on the patio, they can be cut or pinched back to maintain the desired size. However, if it is happy in your location, i.e. sunny and warm, it will vine, and will need a large pot and some sort of trellis. It will thrive outside with regular, even watering, being careful to not let the soil get soggy. It needs well drained soil and light fertilizing at regular intervals when actively growing. They are moody if temps drop much below 60 degrees, and will NOT tolerate temps much below 45-50 deg. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What to Do With Green Tomatoes by Carol King

Lakewood Gardener, Jose Lara with his bounty of vegetables! Photo by Diana Roca.

This is the time of year when gardeners have a plethora of unripe tomatoes in their gardens.  If your garden is no exception, here are a few tips on dealing with all those green tomatoes.

To speed-ripen on the vine try these:
  • Stop watering. This encourages ripening.
  • Root prune the plant. Dig into the soil 6-8” deep and cut around a circle 12” from the stem. Shake the plant but don’t dig it up. This will stress the plant and the fruit will ripen faster.
  • Pinch off any flowers, small fruit, new shoots, and suckers. It’s too late for them to become anything. Do this now and all the plants energy will go toward ripening.

When frost is expected, try these
  • Cover the plant completely and anchor so the wind doesn’t blow it off. Use old blankets, thick plastic, or anything similar and make sure it goes all the way to the ground providing the plant with trapped warmth.
  • Harvest the tomatoes by pulling the plant from the ground and hanging it upside down in a garage or other shelter. Check often for ripe ones. 
  • Pick the pink ones and put them on the counter to ripen
  • Pick the green tomatoes and store them in a shallow tray lined with newspaper. They need 60-70 degrees and no light. The warmth ripens them not light.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Green Manuring By Grace Olson

    Once when I was in early high school my mother asked me to take my old Toyota pickup and drive to a local dairy farmer to buy some manure for her garden. I dutifully chugged over to the quiet farm, where the owner’s teenage son helped me load several tractor buckets full of fresh, steaming slop into my truck bed. I puttered on home and began shoveling it out onto her beautifully maintained plot, eyes watering with the stench and wondering how anyone could stand using the stuff. A half-hour later, my mother came home, took one breath of the chaos ensuing in her yard, and explained to me in some very heated language all about the term “composted.” In the end, her garden recovered and we now laugh about how that was some really “green manure.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Grass is Greener by Gail Wilson

..Or at least I certainly hope so!  I decided in 2010 that it was time to do some thing with my lawn.  I had only owned the property for 10 years but the lawn was 40 years old.  My decision was to over seed with Reveille, a Hybrid Blue Grass that claims to be more drought resistant.  Saving water is really important to me so I did some research and everything I read indicated that it was worth a try.

In the spring of 2010 I aerated (2 inch centers) my existing lawn, applied seed, (1 lb per 1000 square feet) and covered the seed with approximately 1/8 inch of compost.  I watered three times a day until the seeds germinated and continued watering an average of three times a week during the summer.  In the beginning of August I repeated the procedure, Reveille is started in early August no later.  I had a beautiful lawn that year.  Well of course I did with all that care and water.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Autumn Beauty for Your Garden By Joyce D’Agostino

For those of us who garden in the Front Range, it seems we find that our growing season is just not long enough. Our late and early frosts often challenge us to find plants that can produce quickly and will sustain as long as possible.

Some of these plants such as tomatoes are warm weather plants and begin to decline as the cool temperatures begin to arrive. One way to extend your garden enjoyment is to add plants that often do their best toward the end of the summer season, such as sunflowers, pumpkins and gourds.
This year, I chose a sunflower variety called ‘Autumn Beauty’.  Autumn Beauty features both bi-color and solid colors in the mix.  This morning (08-31-11) the first flower of this batch opened and it was a lovely bi-color of bronze and deep orange yellow. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

High and Dry: Gardening with Cold-Hardy Dryland Plants; Book Review by Liz Swiech

Nold, Robert.  High and Dry: Gardening with Cold-Hardy Dryland Plants. Portland, Or. : Timber Press, 2008.

Okay, whoever put the hold on this book at the library – you are forcing me to return it after renewing it twice and I may just have to go out and buy it for my own library. This is like a huge plant catalog specifically for our region with heaps of additional information, including the personal experience and opinion of a tried and true Colorado gardener.

Nold’s relaxed writing style and wry sense of humor kept me browsing through 400 pages of detailed plant descriptions and color photos. For example, in the commentary about Cercocarpus intricatus (little-leaf mountain mahogany) Nold says, “True, life would be good if C. intricatus came with bright red flowers the size of Frisbees lasting all year, but this is a really beautiful shrub even without the flowers.”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Successfully Growing Tomatillos by Elizabeth Buckingham

As a professional chef and an avid gardener, I am always interested in trying new vegetables in my garden. Each growing season I set a goal to grow at least five new vegetables or herbs that I’ve never grown before, and this year the tomatillo made that list. I know that the tomatillo is probably not considered particularly exotic here in Colorado; our Mexican influences and love of Mexican cuisine means that many local gardeners grow this vegetable every season. Although I’d used tomatillos numerous times in my professional life I had not yet grown my own, and I was excited to try it out.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Dealing with Disappointment – Garden Style by Sue Bloomquist

This summer has been a time of great success . . and great disappointment.  The joys have included my first attempt to raise LOTS of seedlings.  I planted four varieties of tomatoes and, out of three full bedding plant trays, only three seeds did not sprout.  I also built not one but two raised bed gardens – something I have been promising myself I would do for three years.  As usual, my lettuce, which reseeds itself, has been delicious.

Tomatoes With Spotted Wilt Virus
    However, in the midst of all this bounty, I came face to face with THE ENEMY.  I am talking about tomato spotted wilt virus, TSWV.  Several weeks ago, I began to notice a couple of tomato plants just looking, well, sickly.  After Internet searches led me to several possibilities, I took samples to the Jeffco Extension diagnostic clinic.  The search narrowed, but a simple chemical test delivered the final blow.  TSWV!  Time to yank out the plants – no treating, babying or otherwise trying to save them. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Joys of the Common Colorado High Country Gardener by Nancy R White

The summer gardening season is winding down.  As each year passes, I find that I learn new things and once again this year is no exception.
Elk Damage on Viburnum

 Living up in elevation at about 7,000 ft. makes gardening a challenge.  One of the biggest challenges is the wildlife that I love to see when I am hiking, but have gotten a bit frustrated with in my own yard.  When I got home from a short trip to the mountains recently, I found that some animal had eaten half of the leaves off of my small Black Haw Viburnum Tree right by my front door!  My husband said that a large male elk had been hanging around.  I wish I had seen the majestic creature!  I have learned to share in order to enjoy these beautiful creatures in my neighborhood, but I sure hope my tree will live.

Monday, August 29, 2011

2011 Master Gardener Garden Tour: Home Grown by Georgina Kokinda

Photo by Janet Shangraw
It was the last day of July, a perfect commonly sunny summer day with temperatures hovering close to the century mark, when the Jefferson County (Jeffco) Colorado Master Gardeners (CMG’s) held the HOMEGROWN TOUR. The event, which focused on home/community food production, was organized and orchestrated by a team of Jeffco CMG’s led by Janet Shangraw. Featured were six luscious gardens, including: a community garden in Golden; the home garden of CSU Extension Research Associate, Curtis Utley; three home gardens of Jeffco CMG’s; and the Horticulture Research and Demonstration Garden at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kim Bone, 2011 Plant Select Photo Winner!

Our very own Jefferson County CSU Colorado Master Gardener, Kim Bone, has won the 2011 Plant Select Photo Contest in the Great Groupings Category!

See all the winners here.

Congratulations Kim.  It is a great photo!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mountain Pine Beetle Spreads to Front Range

Photo Courtesy of University of Wyoming
The Denver Post reports that the mountain pine beetle has spread to Colorado's Front Range cities, but forestry experts and city arborists do not expect losses on the scale seen in Rocky Mountain forests.

Read the whole story here!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Herbicide Imprelis Recalled by the EPA

After reviewing thousands of complaints of damage to evergreens and other trees, the Enviornmental Protection Agency has ordered a recall of DuPont's new herbicide Imprelis.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Garden Weed Management: Using Pulled Weeds for Mulch

Pile of Bindweed. Use as Mulch? Think Again!
Andrea Cummins, Extension Agent at neighboring CSU Douglas County Extension, has this to say about using your weeds as mulch.  Be careful. You might be making your weed problem worse!

“Afternoon July thunderstorms have brought an onslaught of weeds in gardens and open space all along the Front Range. Soils too dry for seed germination this spring now have enough moisture to sprout weeds. Weeding practices may actually worsen the problem. Leaving pulled weeds on the soil surface is advocated by some as a way of mulching. Weeds dry out and die and the debris forms a mulch.

It is important to identify the weeds pulled for mulch. Some weeds can be pulled prior to setting seed and left in place with no danger of returning.Examples include: salsify, annual sowthistle, groundsel, and prickly lettuce.

Weeds such as bindweed, purslane, prostrate spurge and prostrate knotweed can root from a very small piece of stem or root. Gardeners should not leave these weeds on the soil for mulch, instead dispose of them in the trash.”

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Herbicide Carryover: From Digestive Tract to Your Garden

Herbicide Carryover Injury
Considering getting manure from your local farmer for your garden?  Dear gardener, you might want to be cautious about this!

Dr. Tony Koski, CSU Extension Turf Specialist, recently informed staff about an excellent publication from North Carolina on the topic of herbicide carryover. 

North Carolina State University received reports from organic farmers and home gardeners of damage to vegetables following application of aged and composted horse and cattle manure to the soil. The symptoms exhibited on the crops are twisted, cupped, and elongated leaves; misshapen fruit; reduced yield; death of young plants; and poor seed germination. They found that one source of this crop injury is the presence of certain herbicides in manure and compost. With so many folks using composts and manures to improve soil, there have been increasing cases of contaminated amendments.  Unfortunately certain herbicides can pass through the digestive tract of grazing animals and into their manure.  Some straw products can contain herbicide residues used to manage weeds growing in the crop. 

Read more about the problem, recommendations and how to conduct a bioassay – a test for determining if that manure you’re going to buy from a local farmer is such a good idea!  Read the report here: Herbicide Carryover Injury

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

2011 Annual Flower Trials at CSU

Salvia 'Summer Jewel Red'
Dr. James E. Klett,  CSU professor and Extension Landscape Horticulture Specialist,  invites us to come view the 2011 Annual Flower Trials conducted by the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture in Fort Collins. The trial garden consists of approximately 1100 varieties of annual bedding plants, both in the ground and in containers. Twenty-five plant and seed companies are participating in the 2011 trials.  The site, located at 1401 Remington Street, in Ft. Collins, Colorado, is also an official All American Selection Test and Display Garden.

Compare many new bedding plant varieties against some of the standards. The best viewing time is now through mid-September or first killing frost. Visit the website for photos of last year’s winners and other updates:

Here's the 2011 AAS Winners.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Violets and Ground Ivy in the Lawn by Elaine Lockey

Common blue violet
 Is it a flower or a weed?  Well that answer is truly in the eye of the beholder. The common blue violet, Viola species, seems to be such an innocent little plant when first appearing in your lawn but can become a very difficult plant to control if allowed to spread.  It can make a stunning ground cover with its pretty blooms in early spring and heart-shaped green leaves. It is generally found in woodlands and enjoys shady to partly sunny moist areas. However, it can also adapt to dry areas once established.

Ground ivy, also known as creeping Charlie, Glechoma hederacea, offers lush dark green leaves that are rounded with toothed edges and small funnel-shaped purplish-blue flowers in the spring.  This perennial belongs to the mint family and has square stems and a pungent odor when the leaves are crushed.  Ground ivy and wild violets can sometimes be confused when flowers are not present.

Both plants spread via seed from blossoms, branching rhizomes, and creeping roots.  With so many options to expand their range, it’s easy to see how they do so very easily.  These plants will simply spread out of your landscape beds and into your lawn.  Removal of them is a little more complicated.  Hand-pulling often just results in a lot of time and effort and broken off plants as they have extensive root systems.  Herbicides are usually recommended.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Blossom End Rot in Tomatoes by Stan Ames

Are some or all of your recently set tomatoes, squash, watermelons, peppers or eggplant developing dark, leathery features on their bottoms?

With the abnormal amounts of rain we have enjoyed we need to be alert to this condition and take steps to prevent its onset.  Once a fruit has been damaged it cannot be cured!

The technical term for this condition is “Blossom End Rot” and in some areas it is just referred to as “BER”. This condition is a result of the plant’s need for calcium not being satisfied.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Become a Citizen Scientist by Shelly Taylor

Gardening appeals to people for various reasons.  Some like the idea of producing their own food, some appreciate the beauty of flowers and well-planned landscapes, some find it relaxing.  Because gardening necessarily involves watching plants grow, well or not so well, and observing the weather (and who isn't interested in the weather, especially recently), many gardeners sooner or later become interested in the underlying science of botany, and/or  horticulture, or meteorology.  That is one of the reasons some people become master gardeners, who receive training and can then share what they have learned.  Others begin to read about science on their own, or take classes, or research on the Internet.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What Does Grow Under Pine Trees? By Nancy Szilagyi

Everyone has seen those bare spots under pine trees.  Do you wonder why?  Perhaps you have heard that nothing likes to grow in such acidic soil.  The needles are thick under these trees. They must just make the soil too acidic for anything to want to live there. That’s what I thought.

Recently, I took an on-line class given by Dr. Tony Koski, professor at CSU and Extension Turfgrass Specialist.  I learned that our soil here in Colorado is very high pH--free lime.  Although pine needles fall in abundance, there could never be enough pine needles to lower the pH. Fallen needles may SLOWLY make the soil more acidic, but more likely for the better since it neutralizes the lime. It takes decades to change pH and will not decrease by more than .5 units. There goes that myth!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Patti Douglas – Gardening and Giving by Ellen Goodnight

Patti Douglas "Raised Bed Queen"
Patti Douglas, a Jefferson County CSU Colorado Master Gardener for seven years, could easily hold the moniker of 'Raised Bed Queen' as she tends 20 raised beds in her Wheat Ridge garden. Yet there is much more to this inquisitive and giving gardener.
Born and bred in Michigan, Patti was raised on fresh fruits and vegetables from her mother's cooking to produce from an aunt and uncle's farm within biking distance. The seeds of her appreciation for good food and how to grow it were obviously sown in her childhood years.

In 1973, Patti moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado to ski and lived the mountain life which always included gardening. She moved to the Denver metro area in 1983, attended massage school, got married and had a “darling daughter”, gardening all the while.  Today, Patti still maintains an active Lymphatic Massage practice and teaches Yoga and Tai Chi.   If that's not enough, she is also an artist and a rug braider.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How To Make a Worm Farm With Your Kids by Jill Knussmann

Jeffco Extension 4H Cloverbuds  Show Off Wormerys!

In the dog days of summer, take a step into the cool shade to do a project with the kids.  Fact: Kids love worms.  Therefore, what could be better than making a worm farm? Benefits include knowledge gained about nature’s recycling process, nutrient rich worm castings to be used as a soil enhancer, and time shared with your kids. Let’s get started. 

Monday, July 18, 2011