Friday, December 29, 2017

Keeping Your Poinsettia Alive for Another Christmas

Keeping your poinsettia alive for next season is actually pretty easy. Here are three great tips for doing just that from Organic Life Magazine.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas Tree Disposal by Carol King

Bottle Tree photo by Carol King
If you used a cut tree for your Christmas tree, chances are you are now trying to deal with disposal! There’s always the landfill of course; most trash companies pick them up without a thought. However, there are several options for your tree other than the landfill. 
Humane Society

Consider these:
  • Recycle your tree. Most municipalities in the Denver area have recycling available. Contact your own city or county; many use chippers to convert trees to landscape or garden mulch. Never burn your Christmas tree in the fireplace (the pitch content in the bark and needles can cause them to burst into flames from the intense heat).
  • Do something whimsical: right after Christmas, move the tree outside and decorate it with popcorn, fresh cranberries, peanuts in the shell, pine cones with suet and birdseed; apples, rice cakes, dried corn bundles. Use natural string, ribbon and raffia for hanging. The birds will use this material for nesting in the spring, after the food is gone. 
  • Call your favorite conservation group. They often will place trees in gullies and arroyos to slow soil erosion.
  • Trim off the branches, mulch those in the garden and use the frame of the tree to create a bottle tree. Place colored bottles of all kinds on the stub ends of your tree. Put in a location to glisten in the sun and enjoy! Tradition says that bottle trees protect the home from evil spirits by trapping spirits inside the bottles, where they do no harm. 
With a little imagination, dear gardener, your tree can provide enjoyment all year: the traditional tree at Christmas; a home for birds to gather and feed, garden mulch and finally a wonderful piece of folk art created by your family.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas 2017!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter Solstice 2017!

Photo Sage Goddess
It feels like the days just can’t get any shorter, and it’s true. Today we celebrate the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. 

The 2017 December Solstice (Winter Solstice) will arrive at 9:27 am in Denver, today December 21, marking the moment that the sun shines at its most southern point (in case you are counting, the sun is about 91.473 million miles from earth today).  This day is 5 hours, 38 minutes shorter than on June Solstice. In most locations north of Equator, the shortest day of the year is around this date. To the delight of many of us, this means that the days will start getting longer, however incrementally.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

United States' First Christmas Tree Farm

Ever wonder where the first "farmed Christmas tree" came from?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Gardening Power to the People: Avoiding Critter Damage to Your Trees in Winter Video

Rabbits and voles love to snack on the trunks of small trees in winter. This video explains four easy methods to protect your trees from their destructive nibbling.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Holiday Plant Lore: Amaryllis by Carol King

Photo by Carol King
Amaryllis bulbs are everywhere during the holiday season. As one of the easiest bulbs to force and bloom, the United States imports more than 10 million bulbs from Holland and South Africa every year to keep up with demands.  We think of amaryllis as being a winter flower because they are commonplace during the holidays but in nature the amaryllis blooms in spring and summer.

Amaryllis is the perfect gift for a gardener in your life. Greek lore tells us the flower is named after a shepherdess, Amaryllis, who was madly in love with a gardener named Alteo.  As it would be, Amaryllis’s love was unrequited.  Alteo would not love her and said that he would only love a maiden who brought him a unique flower that he had never seen before.

Amaryllis went to the Oracle of Delphi for help in winning Alteo’s heart.  She followed his advice and appeared at Alteo’s door for thirty nights, dressed in white and piercing her heart each night with a golden arrow.  Alteo did not open the door until the thirtieth night and before him stood Amaryllis with a crimson flower that had sprung from the blood of her heart. When at last he opened his door, Alteo fell in love with the maiden surrounded by beautiful Amaryllis flowers.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Easy Tricks for Pretty Treats by Carrie Garczynski

Photo by Carrie Garczynski
We all have pumpkins this time of year – either for decoration or degustation. Instead of tossing or before composting, there are a few tricks you can do to elongate your autumnal enjoyment. Not only do you have luscious pumpkin flesh to create a tasty treat, you have a perfect decorative vase for the center of your table. Decor like this can also be composted when the season is over. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Brighten Your Space with Indoor Citrus By Olivia Tracy

Etrog Citron (Citrus medica); photo courtesy of Olivia Tracy

This winter, if you’re hoping to cheer up your indoor space, why not incorporate the bright color and invigorating scent of a citrus tree? While some citrus varieties are too large to grow indoors, there are dwarf cultivars of lime, lemon, orange and tangerine that can grow in containers, including the ancient Etrog Citron (Citrus medica; pictured); sour citrus does particularly well, as it requires less heat to ripen.3 While many nurseries are now closed for the season, you can still mail-order dwarf citrus trees from reputable seed and plant distributors. 

Some Indoor Citrus Varieties Include:1,2,3 
Bearss Lime (Citrus latifolia)
Kaffir Lime (Citrus hystrix), grown mostly for the leaves

Meyer lemon (Citrus x meyeri)
Variegated Pink Lemon (Citrus x limon)

Mandarin/Satsuma Oranges (Citrus reticulata); actually a tangerine, with fragrant flowers and the familiar ‘orange.’
Calamondin Orange (Citrofortunella mitis), a small, sour orange; often grown as an ornamental.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Forcing Paperwhite Narcissus Bulbs by Carol King

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

Planttalk Colorado has this advice for planting these lovely bulbs:

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

Sunday, November 26, 2017

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

Protect trees from winter sun scald by wrapping them now! Here's how:

Friday, November 24, 2017

Feeding Birds in the Fall and Winter By Joyce D’Agostino

Photo by Joyce D'Agostino

Like most outdoor wildlife, birds depend on the natural surroundings for food, water and shelter. Often some areas have little open space for wildlife to thrive and providing supplemental nutrition during the fall and winter can help birds survive and cope with the changing weather.

In a previous blog (10/19/2017: Love Birds and Pollinators? Don't Clean the Fall Garden by Carol King) we discussed how not removing some of your flower seed heads can provide a good source of seeds for the birds.  So instead of doing a full scale clean up of your landscape to remove dried seeds and pods, leave some for the wildlife to enjoy. 
Providing seed and suet blocks for the birds throughout the cold weather months is also a good and acceptable way to give birds an extra source of nutrition.  

There has been some discussion as to whether filling your birdfeeder with seeds is good for the birds or if they should depend solely on natural foraging and finding open water sources. Research shows that providing food for the birds is acceptable and focusing on the right seed such as the black sunflower seeds which is high in nutrition, plus fresh water, provides an important and healthy supplement to the bird’s diets. 

For water, you don’t need to invest in an expensive birdbath, a shallow durable dish will work just as well. Change the water often so that it doesn’t freeze and remains clean is important. Electric or solar water heaters can also be purchased to keep the water from freezing. 

When it comes to choosing the best food, before investing in a large amount of certain seed, first start with the black sunflower seed. If you then want to test another type of seed, start with a small amount.  

Choosing the right bushes and trees to add to your landscape also is very important to provide shelter from the weather and predators. The bulletins below provide good research based information on feeding your birds and other wildlife and suggestions for shelter plants:

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Gardening Power to the People: Planting Bulbs Video

It's not too late to plant spring blooming bulbs! Gardener Gail will show you how.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Senior Gardening 5 – Tools by Carol Russell and Nance Tucker

Photo courtesy

The most important tool in the garden is either a mobile phone or an alert system. If you were to fall in the garden and couldn’t get up, a tool for communication would be essential.  Having a communication device will ensure that you can get the necessary assistance if needed.

There are a number of specially designed gloves that can improve your grip and protect your hands while you work. Some gloves have extra padding in the palm and finger joints that can improve grip, and cause fewer calluses and blisters.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Tips for Senior Gardening 4 - Raised Beds, Trellises, and Container Gardens by Carol Russell and Nance Tucker

Raised bed, Clear Creek Path in Golden, photo by Carol Russell

Raised garden beds, trellises, and container gardening are easier ways to grow plants and flowers because it brings the garden to you, eliminating most stooping, squatting and kneeling. They are also adaptable for gardening in a small backyard, an apartment patio, or on the grounds of a retirement home.

Raised Beds
To eliminate bending and kneeling entirely, think about raising your garden a few feet above the ground. Raised garden beds are great for seniors as the garden planters have legs bringing the gardens up to your level. Table beds are elevated and offer a shallow bed of 6” - 12” at a raised height and can be tended while sitting down. These beds are especially good for the chair-bound individual who wants to be able to get his legs underneath the bench so that he can work comfortably. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Tips for Senior Gardening 3 – Pathways, Don’t Fall this Fall by Carol Russell and Nance Tucker

Concrete pathway, photo by Donna Duffy
After being diagnosed with a degenerative disease that affects balance, my first question was “How will I be able to continue gardening without falling?”  I found that garden accessibility starts with paths. Accessible paths allow for increased mobility and safety of movement throughout the garden. I went to the garden and wandered down a path: my typical walkabout. Was the path easy to walk on or was I paying more attention to where I placed my feet rather than smelling the roses? Edges in the garden are hazardous. A flagstone pathway is much more treacherous than a flat cement path.  

Also, places to pause are an integral part of pathways.  Did I need to sit down to appreciate a beautiful flower or a combination of great perennials? I should consider this location for a bench. Is the pathway cool as a result of shading? 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Tips for Senior Gardening 2 - How to Design and Modify Your Garden by Carol Russell and Nance Tucker

Benches provide places to rest, photo by Donna Duffy
When I found out I had a degenerative disease I also learned I was part of a large group:  nearly 20% of Americans have disabilities. Although not everyone is handicapped, we all age. We need gardens that can take care of themselves as we mature.  My garden, like yours, needs to be easy to access, reasonably low maintenance but still beautiful. Following are a few design elements I learned, with advice from some experts, on transforming your gardening from a daunting list of chores into a rewarding, joy-filled activity. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Tips for Senior Gardening 1 – Maturing Gracefully with Your Garden by Carol Russell and Nance Tucker

Nance Tucker in the Jeffco PlantSelect Garden,  photo by Carol Russell
Many of us from the baby boom era are approaching retirement thrilled to finally have time to play in the garden but also with angst because our bodies just don’t function as they once did. After I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, I thought my gardening days were over - not so. I continue to garden and continue to learn. However, I needed some inspirational tips and science-based knowledge to improve my long-term, quality-of-life in the garden.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Fall Rose Care by Donna Duffy

The arrival of fall brings the realization that winter really will be here soon. Among all of your other fall garden chores, be sure to plan some time to get your roses “tucked in” and ready to brave whatever winter may bring. According to the Denver Rose Society’s publication “Growing Roses in Colorado,” there are five basic steps to remember.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Stratification and Vernalization of Seeds for Fall Planting By Joyce D’Agostino

With the arrival of fall, typically most gardeners feel that their work is done, other than possibly pulling vegetable plants that are finished and raking leaves. 

But if you would like to get a head start on planting some great flowers for next season, fall is a good time. There are actually some plants whose seeds need to have a certain amount of cold and darkness in order to germinate and establish. We are all familiar with planting flowers and vegetables in the spring, but all plants have different preferences for reseeding and growing. For example, some perennials and biennial plants are best sown in the fall to allow them to develop a strong root system. This method is called Stratification and Vernalization.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Fertilize Bluegrass in the Fall for a Green Spring Lawn by Carol King

Photo Carol King
Did you know that fall is the best time of year to fertilize Colorado's bluegrass lawns and you still have lots of time to do this?  If you fertilize now, you won't have to do anything in the spring but watch your lawn turn green.

Planttalk Colorado give us the advice to "simply fertilize with nitrogen sometime during late September to early November at lower altitudes, and earlier in the mountains." 

The benefits of fall fertilizing include a healthier turf before winter, a healthier root system, and stimulating a turf that greens up earlier in the spring without excessive top growth. 

Fall fertilization produces dense, green spring lawns and should be a part of every good lawn care program.

For more information including how much nitrogen to put on your lawn see this fact sheet:

Monday, October 16, 2017

Go Hug a Tree by Carrie Garczynski

Photo by Carrie Garczynski

Trees around Colorado are abundant, and we love them! We love them for their beauty, their shade, and their ability hold that wooden swing with the long rope handles that we adore in the summer. Trees are necessary for life, and not just ours. Animals rely on trees for food, shelter from predators, and as a jungle gym; the soil depends on them to reduce erosion, hold it in place and to pass nutrients; plants use trees as a food source, shade from the sun, protection from the wind, and a trellis to climb upon. And this is just to name a few benefits.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Fall is the Time to Manage Dandelions by Rebecca Anderson

Everyone recognizes a dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) by its bright yellow flower that transitions to a white puff ball in a matter of days. Most homeowners consider the dandelion an enemy of the perfect lawn.   A single plant can produce 15,000 seeds and those seeds can travel 100 miles with the proper gust of wind.  The plant is a perennial, meaning it will come back year after year once it is established.  This can make controlling dandelions a difficult task.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Become a Colorado Master Gardener in Jefferson County Colorado by Bruce Ide

Colorado Master Gardeners at Farmers' Market
Colorado State University and Jefferson County CSU Extension will be offering Colorado Master Gardener and Colorado Gardener Certificate classes starting January 2018.
If you have an interest in increasing your gardening knowledge and in helping your friends and neighbors become better gardeners and in protecting the environment, one of these programs might be for you.
The Colorado Master Gardener Program is for people who have the interest and time available to provide research based information to the community through volunteer service with the Jefferson County Extension. 
The Colorado Gardener Certificate is for people who want to learn to be better gardeners, protect the environment and share information with their friends and neighbors without the volunteer requirement of the Colorado Master Gardenersm  program.
Jefferson County CSU Extension is taking applications for the Colorado Master Gardenersm or Colorado Gardener Certificate programs.  More information and applications can be found at:
Deadline for applying to the Colorado Master Gardener program is Gardener Applications October 27, 2017. Deadline for Garden Certificates is December 8, 2017.  For additional information please call 303-271-6620.

Spiders in the House by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy
You’ve probably noticed an increase in spiders in the house. I know I have – I’m greeted most mornings by a spider trapped on the shower floor or in the sink. Spiders start wandering indoors in the early fall when cooler outdoor temperatures force them to find shelter. Before you panic, remember that most Colorado spiders are harmless.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Five Tips for Fall Lawn Care by Donna Duffy

Autumn is definitely in the air and you know what that means – winter is just around the corner. Here are five actions you can take to get your lawn in top shape for spring.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Love Birds and Pollinators? Don't Clean the Fall Garden by Carol King

Most gardeners love having birds and pollinators visit their gardens. Many of us are actively planting pollinator habitats, while feeding the birds just goes with the territority! As the garden season ends, most of us think fall is the time to tidy the garden. Recent science tells us this is not the case if we want to promote both pollinators and bird habitat.  Here are several things you don’t need to do in the fall:

Don’t Rake the leaves.

  • Leaves rot and enrich the soil and they can act as mulch in your perennial beds. Mulch helps to protect the roots and maintains much needed moisture for winter survival.
  • Birds forage for food in leaves because they harbor insects and their eggs and larvae. A healthy layer of undisturbed soil and leaf litter means more moths which in their caterpillar phase are a crucial food source for birds. Birds feed their young almost exclusively on caterpillars regardless of the bird species. They consume thousands of caterpillars and other pest insects as they raise their young every gardening season. Did you know the more insect-nurturing habitat you have, the greater the bird population will be?
  • Leaves provide home for praying mantises, spiders, ladybugs, many butterfly species, and countless species of beneficial insects. Cleaning up causes casualties in these insects who eat the bad guys.
  • Using a mulching mower on leaves and leaving them on the lawn will nourish your grass providing free fertilizer.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Harvesting and Storing Vegetables by Donna Duffy

The seasons are certainly changing in Jefferson County, Colorado. It's time to harvest the  vegetables still growing in your garden.  Following are several tips to prolong your harvest of root crops, squash, pumpkins, cabbage, celery, kale and collard greens.

  • Root Crops can remain where they are grown until there is a danger of soil freezing. Postpone harvesting by hilling the soil over the shoulders of carrots and beets to protect from freezing. If straw and soil are piled over the row as insulation, harvest may be delayed even longer.
  • Harvest onions soon after the tops fall over. Pull the onions, remove the tops, and cure the onions in mesh bags or crates where they have good air circulation until the necks dry down. When they rustle upon handling, they are ready to move to a cool, dry storage area.
  • Do not harvest winter squash and pumpkins until the vines are frost-killed and the skin is hard to the thumbnail. Leave stems on the fruit to protect against disease invasion.
  • Celery and late cabbage may be harvested after the frost has stopped their growth. Pull celery with its roots attached. Cut cabbage and remove the loose outer leaves.
  • Kale and collards can be left in the garden long after the first fall frost. Harvest as needed until the foliage finally succumbs to cold weather.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Fall Vegetable Garden Cleanup by Audrey Stokes

Photo by Audrey Stokes
You and your fall garden benefit when you give your plants the same TLC in fall as you do in spring and summer. A vegetable garden left unattended through winter provides a cover for pests and disease. 
Plant disease agents such as bacteria, fungi and viruses all remain alive, though dormant, during the winter months. By recognizing the places where these organisms hide, gardeners can often destroy them and prevent disease outbreaks the following spring. Many fungi spend the winter on or in old leaves, fruit and other garden refuse. These fungi often form spores or other reproductive structures that remain alive even after the host plant has died. Cucumber and squash vines, cabbages, and the dried remains of tomato and bean plants are all likely to harbor fungi if left in the garden over the winter.
Insects, too, survive quite nicely over the winter months. Cucumber beetle, Colorado potato beetle and Mexican bean beetle all overwinter as adults. In spring they migrate to young plants where they feed and lay eggs for a new generation. Insects and plant pathogens survive on weeds as well as on garden plants. Many weeds serve as alternate hosts for insects and fungi, helping them to complete their life cycle. Destruction of these weeds removes a source of future troubles.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Planting and Growing Fall Bulbs by Carol King
The gardening season is winding down but remember how beautiful those tulips and daffodils were in April and May? Fall bulb planting is an easy way to jump-start the spring gardening season. September and October are the best months for planting those spring blooming bulbs. Planting now will allow ample time for the bulbs to become well rooted before the ground freezes.

Here are a few simple tips for successful bulb planting:
  • Plant the bulbs at a depth consistent with the level indicated on the planting chart. As a general rule, this depth is four times the height of the bulb between the soil surface and the tip of the bulb. 
  • Plant the bulbs with the growing tip up.
  • After the ground freezes, cover the bed with a 3-inch mulch to prevent alternate freezing and thawing that breaks roots and damages bulbs
  • Purchase bulbs in early for best selection and variety. Choose bulbs that are large and free from disease or decay. To ensure higher quality, pick out bulbs individually.
  • Select a variety of bulbs that will provide a long-lasting show in spring. Many suppliers will indicate the bloom time (early, mid or late) and mature height. Choose bulbs of varying heights for each bloom time to prolong color and add interest to the spring garden.
Planting now will ensure your  spring garden is beautiful!  Here is further information:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Why Leaves Change Colors and the Autumnal Equinox by Carol King

Photo by Carol King
The Autumnal Equinox in Denver is Friday, September 22, 2017 at 2:02 p.m. MDT.  So just what is the equinox? There are two equinoxes every year (September and March) when the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is nearly equal. It occurs the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator – from north to south. This happens either on September 22, 23, or 24 every year. 

Days are becoming “shorter”and the leaves are  “changing colors”.    According to Plantalk Colorado in actuality, leaves don’t change color, they just quit producing chlorophyll, the substance that makes them green.

This happens for a variety of reasons: shorter days, falling temperatures, available water.  These are all signals to the plant to go into energy saving mode and quit producing chlorophyll:  Winter is coming!

When chlorophyll breaks down, what’s left is the color that was already there:  Yellow/ carotenoids, and red /anthocyanin. These pigments are masked by chlorophyll but help protect the leaves from sunlight. After the equinox shorter and shorter days become the norm. The chlorophyll will totally disappear leaving us with beautiful colors for a short while and then dead leaves to deal with!

As you watch the leaves slowly change color and fall from the trees, you know the equinox is partly to blame.

Happy Autumnal Equinox and Happy Leaf Peeping!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Visit from the Painted Ladies By Joyce D’Agostino

Photo by Joyce D'Agostino
Recently I noticed a large group of colorful butterflies on my fall aster plants. These butterflies are Vanessa cardui more commonly known as the Painted Ladies.
Due to favorable spring conditions in California, which helped these butterflies find the right host plants to lay their eggs, and then favorable weather and host plant conditions during the summer to aid in their nutrition, these colorful insects are numerous this year.  

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Browning Evergreen Needles Normal by Mary Small

Photo by Carol King
Are your evergreens showing some browning and losing needles? Never fear! This is normal evergreen behavior.  It is not unusual for conifers to shed interior needles beginning in late summer and continuing well into fall.   In fact, all conifers (“evergreens”) including spruce, pine, fir, juniper and arborvitae lose their oldest needles every year. Contrary to what the name implies, “evergreens” are not really green forever. Their needles generally have a 2–4 year life span, although spruce trees live about 5-7 years. 

While needle loss occurs every year, the process is usually gradual, over a period of several weeks or even months, depending on species and weather. It’s so gradual, that you might not even notice the needle drop. Some species can shed needles in a fairly short period of time, making it look as though they’re in serious trouble. There is no need to treat evergreens for the condition.  

This fall and winter, ensure all evergreens are irrigated monthly in the absence of rain or snowmelt. Apply water so it reaches the absorbing roots.  For established plants, these are located a distance of two to three times the height of the plant away from it. For newly planted trees, apply water to the planting hole and just outside it. Always irrigate when the soil is unfrozen and able to absorb the water.  Studies show that fall-applied water has great benefit.  Roots are still active and can absorb water as long as soil temperatures stay above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  

For more information about winter evergreen care check here.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Harvesting Amaranth by Donna Duffy

Amaranth ready to harvest, photo by Donna Duffy

You can begin harvesting amaranth plants for greens almost immediately. Young greens are perfect for salads, while older greens are better when cooked like spinach. Seeds ripen about three months after planting, usually in the mid- to late summer, depending on when you planted. They are ready to harvest when they begin to fall from the flower head (tassel). Give the tassel a gentle shake. If you see seeds falling from the tassel, it’s amaranth harvest time.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

It's Grape Harvesting Time by Donna Duffy

Candice grapes ready to harvest, photo courtesy John Crawford

Grape growers anticipate this time of year all season long. If Mother Nature has been cooperative, it’s finally time to take off the nets and harvest grapes. John Crawford, my neighbor in NE Lakewood, has been growing grapes and making wine for over three decades.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Got Milkweed? by Donna Duffy

Asclepias speciosa seeds about to disperse, photo by Donna Duffy

If you have  native Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) plants in your landscape, now is the time to decide how many more you want. Milkweed seed pods are bursting open and each one releases numerous seeds that love to drift to other parts of your yard and take root. That’s great if you want more Milkweed plants! But if you don’t, now is the time to take action.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Bee Flies in Colorado By Joyce D’Agostino

Bee fly on Lobelia, photo by Joyce D'Agostino

This summer while I was observing some bee activity on my flowers, I noticed an unusually fuzzy insect that was foraging for nectar. I was curious what it was so I sent a picture of this ‘bee’ to Mario Padilla, Entomologist at the Butterfly Pavilion. Mario specializes in bees but is also widely knowledgeable in the genus and species of many native and exotic insects.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Benefits of Planting a Fall Cover Crop by Jennifer Verprauskus

Hairy Vetch cover crop, photo courtesy Urban Farmer Seeds
When Fall rolls around and everyone starts to put their gardens to bed, there are a few things to consider before you say good bye to the garden until next spring. It’s during this time of year that we have the choice to either plant a fall garden or a fall cover crop. 
The fall garden is typically started at the end of July or early August but it can be planted into September and October. In early to mid-October, we can replant spinach, cilantro, arugula, asian greens, kale, and other fast growing semi-cold hardy crops. However, when I plan on planting this late into the Fall, I think about using a season extender, which is a structure that captures heat from solar radiation and warms the plants and soil inside the covering, such as low hoops, heavy weight Reemay, cold frames and much more.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Cicadas: The Sounds of Summer's Close by Carol King

Dog Day Cicada (Tibicen dorsatus, T. dealbatus) photo by BugGuide.Net
Nothing signals that August is here like the sound of cicadas singing: they can be counted on to sing until frost. In fact, according to folklore, it's six weeks after the first song that a frost is possible. Here are some other interesting facts about cicadas:

Cicadas are essentially tiny violins with wings. The body of a cicada is similar to that of a violin or a guitar, in that much of it consists of empty, air-filled spaces that act like a resonating chamber and amplify the sound they generate. The loud noise we hear is the male's mating call—females are silent.

Cicadas are the loudest insects in the Southwest. Their mating call and response can reach over 90 decibels. That is as loud as a gas lawnmower or a motorcycle. 

Cicadas are super sneaky. Ever tried to locate a cicada you are hearing, only to find nothing there? Once you start walking to a tree they stop calling as soon as you get too close, making it even more difficult to find them.

Cicadas have enemies that are the stuff of nightmares. The female cicada killer wasp flies around,  finds a cicada, stings and paralyzes it, and carries it to a burrow, lays one egg on it, and then closes the burrow up where the larva proceeds to feed on the victim.

There are 26 species of cicadas native to Colorado. The most common one along the Front Range is the Dog day cicadas (Tibicen dorsatus, T. dealbatus), the largest cicadas found in Colorado. They may be upward of two inches long. Their common name is derived from the males’ piercing call, which is often heard in the so-called “dog days” of mid-summer.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Harvesting and Enjoying Sunflower Seeds By Joyce D’Agostino

Photo courtesy Donna Duffy

Sunflowers are one of the most popular and recognized parts of American gardens. In addition to their bright beauty, they attract beneficial insects. Some species produce seeds that are not only a great snack but have good nutritional value.

This time of year, most sunflowers are in bloom and some are already producing their dried discs of seeds. There are several varieties of sunflowers now available to the home gardener. These include pollenless flowers that have been developed for cutting bouquets. This type does not shed the yellow pollen onto furniture or cause issues for those with pollen allergies. There are dwarf varieties, also preferred for flower bouquets, as well as specialty color combinations.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Proper Soil Drainage Helps During Monsoon Season By Joyce D’Agostino

Gardening in the rain! Photo courtesy

Gardeners in the front range of Colorado often find themselves during the summer growing season with hot temperatures and little rainfall or watering restrictions. This month we experienced the opposite effect with monsoon effect storms. While the moisture is welcome, often these storms produce very heavy rain in short periods of time supersaturating the soils and can include high winds and hail. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Celebration of the Solar Eclipse by Donna Duffy

Yes, there’s lots of hub bub about the solar eclipse, and rightly so! What might surprise you is how often the name “eclipse” shows up in the world of flowers and vegetables. Here are a few examples. And the good news is, you don't have to wear special glasses to enjoy these beauties!

Eclipse Hybrid Tea Rose, photo courtesy

Chocolate Cosmos Eclipse, photo courtesy

Rudbeckia Solar Eclipse, photo courtesy Cheryl's Unique Flower Seeds

Green Eclipse Zucchini, photo courtesy

Eclipse Beet, photo courtesy Maule's Seed Catalogue

And my favorite...

Cosmic Eclipse Tomato, photo courtesy

Happy Solar Eclipse!!