Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Growing Bromeliads by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy recycledh2o.net

The bromeliad is a member of a large plant family native to the warmer climates of America. Bromeliads grow in trees, attach themselves to rocks, and live on the forest floor. They vary in size from one inch to 35-feet high. In Colorado, they are easy-to-grow flowering houseplants. Planttalk Colorado offers the following tips for growing Bromeliads successfully.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Caring for Orchids by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy urbangardensweb.com

Help! I got an orchid for Christmas! If that sounds like you, relax. That beautiful orchid is relatively easy to care for if you attend to its light, humidity and watering needs. Planttalk Colorado provides in-depth information on four orchids commonly grown indoors in Colorado. Another great resource is the Denver Orchid Society.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Norfolk Island Pine as a Holiday Tree by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy thedirtdiaries.com
You may be seeing Norfolk Island pines in the garden centers and big box stores, marketed as an alternative to a typical Christmas tree. Planttalk Colorado offers the following tips for keeping your Norfolk Island pine alive and healthy during the holiday season and beyond.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

'Tis the Season for Ice Melt by Rebecca Anderson

Photo by Beckie Anderson

Winter is here, along with the snow and ice we don’t have to worry about during the warmer months. Although the snow brings moisture that will help our plants flourish next spring, it does make getting around in the winter tricky and even dangerous at times. Ice melting products help clear away the slick surfaces, but with more products available every season it can be difficult to choose which is right for your situation. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Providing for Birds in the Winter by Donna Duffy

Black-capped Chickadee, photo courtesy birds gallery.net

Many different kinds of birds make their home along the Front Range of Colorado, and it doesn't take much cost or effort to attract and feed them. Joe Julian, CSU Horticulture, offers the following tips for winter feeding of birds in Colorado.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Poinsettias Bring Holiday Color and Cheer By Joyce D’Agostino

Photo CSU Co-Hort
Outside of the Christmas tree, there are few other plants that are recognized as part of the holiday season than the bright Poinsettias.
These cheerful plants originated with the Aztecs in Mexico and are now loved worldwide for bringing bright color to the dark days of winter.  At one time, only the red and some pink colors were primarily available but now due to extensive experimentation and breeding, you can find poinsettias in many sizes and colors.  Their botanical name is Euphorbia pulcherrima.a p
What is often called the petals are actually “bracts” which are actually leaves with a bright pigment.  The true flowers on the poinsettias are found in the center of the bracts. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Caring for Your Christmas Tree by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy nj.com
What’s your vision of a perfect Christmas tree? Some would say it needs to be full and symmetrical. Others look for well-spaced limbs strong enough to support lots of lights and ornaments. Some like natural trees, others like artificial trees. Me? I tend to gravitate toward the “Charlie Brown” trees hiding at the edges of the lot. Regardless of your preference, caring for your tree properly will keep it healthy and fresh for the longest possible time after purchase.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Protecting Trees From Heavy Snow by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy tree boss.net
Winter weather has arrived and the snow is falling! Take precautions to avoid this kind of tree damage.  Here are some suggestions on protecting your trees from the weight of heavy snow from Curtis Utley, Jefferson County CSU Extension Research Associate.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My Houseplants Have the Winter Yellows by Rebecca Anderson

Peace Lily, Spathiphyllum sp., with a yellow sun leaf

I take most of my houseplants outside every summer.  They seem to enjoy a few months on the patio, growing a multitude of lush leaves in the more direct sunlight.  Then in the fall as the nights cool off, I bring them back in the house.  After the transition, I notice several of the leaves become yellow and dry up.  I'd like to think they're mourning the passing of another summer, but really they are going through a normal physiologic process to streamline their metabolism for the lower light conditions inside the house.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Wayward Weeds or Red Root Pig Weed by Ann Moore

Amaranths retroflorus photo from Wikipedia.org
       The term weed is sometimes slang for marijuana but since that chapter is not finished yet, we will just accept Merriam Webster’s definition:  a weed is a plant not valued in the place is is growing and is usually of vigorous growth, especially one that tends to choke out more desirable plants.

This covers lots and lots of plant growth (a lovely little petunia in an onion patch?).  But the one we really should hope to find a good use for soon is Red Root Pigweed, scientific name Amaranths retroflexus.

Amaranth is a lovely nourishing seed that has been around for literally hundreds of years.  There are recipes for all kinds of delicious sounding things made with amaranth seeds.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Gardening Power to the People:Wrapping Trees for Winter Protection Video

It's time to wrap your newly planted and young trees to prevent sun scald and to keep that valuable tree healthy through the winter.  Here's how:

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Checklist for Preparing Trees for Winter by Donna Duffy

Photo by Carol King

This article is provided courtesy of Aaron Bergdahl, Forest Health Specialist with the NDSU/North Dakota Forest Service. Minor adaptations have been made for Colorado readers.

With fall fading, it is important to remember to prepare your trees for a potentially tough Colorado winter. The following checklist serves as a reminder of the most important considerations for fall tree care and proper tree winterization.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sow Native Plant Seeds Now! By Donna Duffy

You still have time to sow native plant seeds in your garden. Mid to late fall is a good time to sow native seeds because subsequent winter cold and snow will promote seed germination next spring. If you are unsure where to purchase native plant seeds, check out the Colorado Native Plant Society’s publication: Native Plant Vendor List.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!!

Jefferson County CSU Extension Master Gardener bloggers wish you all a very Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Gardening Power to the People: Insect Puddles Video

Here is the third in our series about attracting pollinators into the garden, produced by our JeffCo Gardener Video Team.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Gardening Power to the People: Insect Hotels Video Part 2

Here is the second in the series about bringing pollinators into your garden presented by the JeffCo Gardener Video Team.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Gardening Power to the People: Insect Hotels Video Part 1

Here is the first in a series of three new videos from our JeffCo Gardener Video Team about making your garden pollinator friendly.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Plant Amaryllis Now for Holiday Blooms by Donna Duffy

Amaryllis is one of the easiest bulbs to grow and will generally bloom 6-10 weeks after planting. Bloom time varies a bit among varieties, so be sure to check the label on the bulb you are considering. If you want a blooming Amaryllis for Thanksgiving, now is the time to plant!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Recording Your Yearly Garden Notes By Joyce D’Agostino

Photo Joyce D'Agostino
You don’t have to be a skilled writer to benefit from the practice of keeping good garden notes. I found that recording important information about your garden each year helps a great deal to learn which varieties are ones you enjoy to grow and work best in your garden. 
Start in the spring and begin recording basic information such as the weather, which seeds you are starting, which seeds emerged first and then eventually which plants were the hardiest and produced the best. Make it a point to regularly go to your journal and add notes as the season goes on. You can also print out articles or blogs that contain information that you want to try next year too.
If this is your first year to record notes and you didn’t start in the spring, there is still time to record your notes. Begin now and add as you think of other information to add so you have recorded as much important information as possible.
If you enjoy computer programs, there are also programs designed just for your garden note information. If you keep your notes on your computer, be sure to print out a copy from time to time or save it to disc so you have a backed up copy in the event of a computer problem. You don’t want to spend hours recording important data and then have it lost. You can also buy a bound journal or even a spiral notebook and record your information as you go along. 

You will find that doing this is a great practice to help you remember both the successes and the things you want to change for your next seasonal garden. I also keep dated pictures of much of what I grow each year. Not only is it fun to view the pictures, but it also can help you get an idea of when a fruit or vegetable is likely to be ready for harvest.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fall Cleanup Tips – Chapter III – Perennials – Trees, Woody Shrubs and Tender Plantings by Peter Drake

To both the dedicated perennial landscape gardener, and the more casual observer of trees, shrubs and groundcovers, it has shown itself to be a very hard, strange season for perennial plantings here in Colorado.
First, there was the November, 2014 freeze that struck at our Front Range landscapes before trees and shrubs had a chance to harden off fully for the winter.  Following this, another sudden freeze on Mother’s Day, 2015 interrupted the budding stages of a number of plants; and then, there was a cooler, wetter-than-normal spring period.  This was followed by a period of intense, dry heat through July and most of August.
These climatic factors conduce to intense plant stress.  Whole trees, woody shrubs and tender perennials, or significant sections of them, have shown signs of withering and browning much earlier in the season than usual—or have not leafed out, or otherwise bloomed, at all, presenting bare patches along the borders of house lots, and in the trees lining local streets.
The good news is that all of this can be managed proactively, and gradually repaired.  

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Roasting Sunflower Seeds by Donna Duffy

All around town the sunflower heads are nodding, heavy with seeds ready to harvest. If you've managed to rescue your seeds from the birds and squirrels, here's a recipe for roasting seeds in the shell from the National Sunflower Association.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Native Asters for Early Fall Color by Joyce D'Agostino

Now that fall is here, the flowers that can tolerate the cooler weather and shorter days may be few. But if you want to continue to enjoy flowers and color for a few more weeks asters make a great choice. 
Like chrysanthemums, asters bloom in late summer into early fall and have been a seasonal favorite for decades. They are a welcome addition of color when the annual flowers that need the warmth and more sun are winding down. Asters are great cut flowers for bouquets as well. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

It's Time to Plant Spring-blooming Bulbs by Donna Duffy

When your garden takes on its “fall-ish” look, it’s time to start thinking about planting bulbs for spring bloom. In Jefferson County, late September and early October are the best times for planting bulbs. This allows the bulbs to grow a healthy root system before the ground freezes.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Preventing Animal Damage in your Garden By Joyce D’Agostino

Squirrel damage photo Missouri Botanical Gardens
Few things are as disappointing to a gardener as to find a vegetable or fruit you were looking forward to harvesting has been destroyed by an animal. 
Depending on your area, the animals that can invade your garden can be as large as deer or small like voles, chipmunks and small rabbits. All of these animals are used to foraging plants and welcome any readily accessible source of edibles. These edibles often include many of your favorite plants including lettuce, greens, fruit and even tomatoes.
I first noticed few weeks ago that the squirrels seemed to be nipping off the heads of the sunflowers. Then shortly after, I found some tomatoes and peppers that had been pulled from the plants, a bite or two taken out of it and then left to rot.  This was especially disappointing when these animals seemed to be doing this on a regular basis and actually starting to thin out the fruit on the plants.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bumblebees in Your Late Summer Garden By Joyce D’Agostino

Bombus huntii photo bugGuide.net
There have been many articles written about the plight of the honeybees and the decline in their numbers. This is definitely a concern for all of us who love to see these bees active in our garden and pollinating the plants.
I read a recent article that stated now Bumblebees may be on the decline. Learning more about any pollinator will help us all have a more inviting and supportive environment for them to grow and thrive may help reverse this trend.
Bumblebees are very active pollinators and move fast through any plant where they are foraging.  It was difficult to snap a picture quickly enough to capture them in action because these bees can move fast in their effort to get the nectar and pollen before another competitor comes along. Like honeybees, they are social bees. Bumblebees have annual nests and they do make wax but they don’t produce honey and their value as a pollinator is still very important. 
You can hear a bumblebee active at work because they actually do make a noticeable buzz sound. They feed on nectar and gather pollen like other bees, but they are “buzz pollinators” and use their strong jaws to vibrate plants that other bees and pollinators may not be able to manage.  They are larger and fuzzier than honeybees and stand out with their yellow and black stripes and some have colorful markings. Colorado is home to a number of native bumblebees.
The attached articles give some great tips on which plants that certain pollinators like Bumblebees will be attracted to and ones that are not. By adding just a few more of these plants each year to your landscape, you can make a significant difference in the number of pollinators that visit your garden. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

When to Harvest Vegetables by Carol King

Photo JungSeed.com
It is the time of year to harvest those vegetables you have been growing all season. Picking them at the optimum time will guarantee maximum nutrition and flavor.  CSU Extension offers these tips:  
  • WINTER SQUASH AND PUMPKINS: Harvest when these vegetables have reached their full ripe color and when it is difficult to penetrate the skin with a thumbnail. Pick before a frost and store in a cool, dark place that will not reach freezing temperatures. Leave stems on to prevent disease invasion.
  • POTATOES: For "new" potatoes, harvest any time and use for cooking. For storing, wait until the vines die down and store the same as squash.
  • ROOT CROPS (beets, turnips, rutabagas, winter radishes and kohlrabi): They store best where grown until there's a danger of soil freezing. You can delay harvesting by hilling soil over the shoulders of carrots and beets; To further protect from freezing, you can pile straw and soil over the rows, thus delaying harvesting even longer. This group of vegetables store best at home in an area of near freezing with a high relative humidity.
  • ONIONS: Harvest as soon as the tops fall; this will prevent basal rot. Pull, remove tops and store onions in mesh bags until the necks have dried down. During this drying time, hang the bags outside in a protected area where they'll get good air circulation. When the onions rustle while handling, they are ready to move into indoor, protected storage where it is cool and dry.
  • PARSNIPS: They will withstand freezing which means you can leave part of the crop in the ground to be dug in the spring when the flavor will be greatly improved.
  • CELERY AND LATE CABBAGE: Harvest after the frost has stopped their growth. Pull celery with roots attached; cut cabbage and remove loose outer leaves.Store celery by packing into a trench in an upright position; backfill with soil to cover the celery; place paper, boards and more soil on top of this. The celery will root, bleach, tenderize and develop a nutty flavor when removed at Christmas time. Pack the cabbage in a pit upside down so the covering soil doesn't work its way into the head.
  • TOMATOES: Harvest tomatoes if they've started to turn light green or blush. If they are a dead green, they probably won't ripen. Wrap individually in newspapers, place in a box in a cool place and check periodically. The tomatoes probably will ripen within 2 weeks depending upon the temperature of the storage area and the maturity of the tomato.
  • GREEN BEANS: Harvest snap beans when there's a slight bulge to the seed, but before it becomes firm. If they get lumpy, they've gone too far. The bean will be too firm and tough and the pod will be stringy.
  • SHELL BEANS: Let them go all the way. They are specific varieties that are meant to be left until the pods dry on the vine. If you pick them too green, they'll begin to mold and will be difficult to dry.

Store only top-quality vegetables. Don’t store vegetables that show deterioration froma disease, bruising or insect damage; such damage coud spread and cause, not only the loss of one vegetable, but the loss of adjacent veggies.  

For more information about proper vegetable harvesting, check out the following: 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pruning Tomatoes Does Help Ripening! By Joyce D’Agostino

As noted in the recent article on this blog   Need to Ripen Green Tomatoes? Let's Party! by Carol King” dated 9/10/15,  the methods suggested are excellent ones to help you speed some last minute ripening.  

After a cool spring which slowed down the tomatoes and other warm weather vegetables, and then very hot and dry weather, the tomatoes ib my garden seemed to be taking their time ripening. I had heard about pruning your tomatoes to give the plants a break from trying to keep producing and turn their energy into ripening.
I did some light pruning, mostly to the tops of the tomatoes where there was new growth, blooms and some tiny tomatoes. Knowing that these little tomatoes would probably not reach maturity at this point in the season, I pruned them off along with the blossoms and some of the stems and hoped that this would help focus this energy into the ripening process.
It took about 10 days – 2 weeks, but I was surprised and happy to find that the full sized tomatoes, which seemed to be turning color all too slowly, finally ripening much faster. The daytime weather staying warm helped as well even though the nights are beginning to cool. 

It’s hard to see an end to summer and the tomato season, but when you do get well into August and you have full sized tomatoes that are taking their time to ripen, doing some pruning really does help to speed the process. My attached pictures showing the plants just two weeks apart show that it works and I can recommend this process to anyone who wants some last minute tomatoes from their garden. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Need to Ripen Green Tomatoes? Let's Party! by Carol King

Perhaps, dear gardener, you have a plethora of unripe tomatoes in your garden. I do not. I got perhaps 50 tomatoes from my “Sweet 100s” (thinking of changing its name to “Sweet Tens”), exactly two “roma” tomatoes, and four “early girls”. I have one plant that did not set one single tomato. That is it; failure of great magnitude. If you were more successful than I, here are a few tips on dealing with 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.    For more information, try these Fact Sheets:  http://www.ext.colostate.edu/ptlk/1832.htmlhttp://www.colostate.edu/Dept/CoopExt/4dmg/VegFruit/ripening.htmhttp://www.ext.colostate.edu/ptlk/1831.html

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Fall Cleanup Tips – Chapter II: The Annuals Ornamental Garden by Peter Drake

Photo courtesy colorthegarden.com
Beautiful to look at through the summer season, whether as a border to your house or walkway, or as an island on your lawn space, there is no need to despair when your annual ornamentals start wilting, browning and showing other signs of setting seeds and finishing out their life cycle.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Common Garden Diseases and Solutions by Mary Small

POWDERY MILDEW- White or gray, flour-like substance on leaves, stems, flowers. Thin plant if growth is dense. Keep water out of plant canopy or apply it when it will dry fast. Apply sulfur or potassium bicarbonate or horticultural oils at first sign of mildew.

EARLY BLIGHT(tomato)- Lower leaves yellow; spots of concentric rings found on lower leaves. Keep water off foliage, or apply when it will dry fast. Chlorothalanil fungicide may be applied at first sign of infection.

FIREBLIGHT(crabapple)- Stem tips brown, bend over like shepherd’s crook and shrivel. Drops of bacterial ooze on branches. Prune branch 6-12 inches below visible signs of infection. Treat pruning tool between cuts with 1:9 bleach mixture or rubbing alcohol. (Clean tools when done.) Thin tree branches. Avoid over-fertilization.

CYSTOSPORA CANKER(aspen, cottonwood)-Sunken discolored areas on trunk and/or branches. Dark “pimples” found in cankered area. Branch dieback. Prune out affected branches below visible signs of infection. Keep tree healthy.

LEAF SCORTCH-Leaves brown on edges and in between veins. Often found in hot dry weather. Apply water to plant’s root zone during hot dry weather or when scorch appears.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Noises of August by Donna Duffy

Cicada, photo courtesy CSU Extension

You’ve probably noticed that it's a noisy place out in the backyard with all that insect racket going on. Interestingly, only a few groups of insects communicate by rubbing their body parts together. What you are hearing are most likely cicadas, crickets and katydids. As you might suspect, it’s the males making all that commotion!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Aphids on Shade Trees By Joyce D’Agostino

Aphids photo by Joyce D'agostina
This summer I noticed some distinctive leaf curling on one of our shade trees. In checking it confirmed that there were aphids (lots of them) infesting this tree. The leaf curling in one sign of the damage that these insects can do. It is not only unsightly but left unchecked it can do damage to your tree.
Fortunately there are some solutions to reducing or ridding these insects from your plants. Aphids are very small, soft bodied insects. Using your hose on a hard stream, you can target the areas with a strong blast of water. This is very effective and if used regularly will reduce the population of these insects on your trees and plants. Check an area first with the water hose setting to ensure that you don’t damage the plant.  I noticed when I used this method that it did help remove a lot of the aphids from the curled leaves.  
Ladybeetles and Green Lacewings are also great natural predators of aphids. If you see these insects in your garden, moving them to the aphid area is very helpful.  Both of these insects are known to be able to eat a large amount of aphids, so make them a great non chemical use to help with aphid control.
Refer to these bulletins for more information on identifying and controlling the aphids.

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.

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.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Aphids Abound by Carol King


Aphid Honeydew on Ivy

 Sitting in my backyard has become an unpleasant experience.  I have lots of deciduous  trees and they all seem to have a large crop of aphids.  One evening as I looked toward the sun, I could see the aphid “honeydew”  (poop actually) pouring down like a gentle rain! When I come in from outside, I feel as if I am covered with aphids!  Is there a variety that feeds on humans?

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.

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.


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.