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?

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Holiday Plant Lore: Christmas Tree

Photo courtesy
Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Holiday Plant Lore: Wreaths by Carol King

Photo by Echter's Garden Center
Hanging a circular wreath of evergreens during mid winter is a tradition that goes back to ancient Greece and Rome.

In Roman times wreaths were hung on doors as a sign of victory and rich Roman women wore them as headdresses at special occasions. Roman emperors wore Laurel Wreaths. 

In Ancient Greece, wreaths were used at funerals to represent the circle of eternal life. They were also given to the winners of events in the original Olympic Games in Greece.

In early Christendom,  evergreen wreaths were laid at the burial place of early Christian virgin martyrs in Europe, the evergreen representing the victory of the eternal spirit over death.

Modern Christmas wreaths transcended from Celtic Kissing Boughs and the German and Eastern European custom of Advent Wreaths.

The word 'wreath' comes from the Old English word 'writhen' which means to writhe or twist. The circular ring shape of the wreath signifies eternity, and the evergreens represent growth and the everlasting. As the wreath is made of plants that remain green throughout the winter, it represents life in the dead of winter.

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. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Holiday Plant Lore: Mistletoe

Photo courtesy Botanical Accuracy
Where did the ritual of kissing under the mistletoe at Christmas time come from and what's so special about it? 

Before there were any Christmas trees, the custom to kiss beneath it most likely originated in pre-Christian Europe where it was believed that mistletoe possessed life bestowing properties and was associated with fertility. Along this line of thinking, mistletoe was also used as an aphrodisiac and, if that were not enough, it was used as an antidote to poison and to witchcraft as well. Hence, the custom of hanging mistletoe over a doorway to ward off evil spirits from crossing your threshold.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Choosing and Caring for Your Poinsettia By Olivia Tracy

Poinsettia Plants (Euphorbia pulcherrima) Photo courtesy of Olivia Tracy

In the first weeks of December, many people buy poinsettia plants (Euphorbia pulcherrima) to decorate their homes for the holiday season. While the vibrant red and pink leaves of the poinsettia are often referred to as “flowers,” they are actually called bracts; the true poinsettia flower sits at the center of those bracts. 

Here are a few tips for selecting healthy poinsettia plants and caring for them in your home. 
  • Choose plants with dark green leaves; if the cultivar has lighter or mottled bracts, then the foliage may be lighter as well. Avoid plants with pale green and yellow leaves; this often indicates that the plant has been given too little or too much water. 
  • If it’s cold outside (around or below 35 degrees Farenheit), be sure your poinsettia is carefully wrapped before you transport it. Once it’s in your home, remove the plastic sleeve immediately; leaving the plant in the sleeve can damage the bracts. 
  • Be sure your poinsettias receive indirect sunlight for at least six hours a day; avoid direct sunlight, which can fade the bracts, and protect your poinsettia from extreme temperatures by not placing it near drafts or heating vents. 
  • Water the poinsettia whenever the top of the soil feels dry to the touch. When watering, be sure to either remove foil wrapping or cut a hole in the bottom of the wrapping so that water can drain out of the pot; too much water can suffocate the root system.

For more information about poinsettias, including how to fertilize your plant after the holidays and help your poinsettia re-flower next year, please see the CSU Fact Sheet 7.412, “Poinsettias”  

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Holiday Plant Lore: Holly

Holly with berries, photo courtesy

Christmas brings with it many traditions, and it may be the one time many of us still practice a few old customs from folklore from around the world.

Though holly doubtless was, and still is, brought into the house for its shiny green leaves and berries, which reflect the light and add colour to the dark days of Yule, it has another significance as well. Christian symbolism connected the prickly leaves with Jesus' crown of thorns and the berries with the drops of blood shed for humanity's salvation, as is related, for example, in the Christmas carol, 'The Holly and the Ivy'. Yet even here the reference to these two plants refers to a pre-Christian celebration, where a boy would be dressed in a suit of holly leaves and a girl similarly in ivy, to parade around the village, bringing Nature through the darkest part of the year to re-emerge for another year's fertility.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Choosing a Fresh Christmas Tree by Carol King

Photo CSU Extension
Are you thinking of getting a fresh Christmas tree this year? It seems that there are tree lots on every street corner and the choices can be overwhelming. Here are a few simple steps that will ensure you get the freshest tree and keep it that way.

At the tree lot:
  • Check that the needles bend rather than break with gentle pressure; 
  • Shake it carefully to look for needle loss; 
  • Check the cut end: it should be sticky with sap. 
If these conditions exist, buy the tree and take it home.

At home:
  • Make a new cut at the end of the trunk about an inch above the old one.
  • Keep the cut end standing in water, whether you decorate the tree immediately or not. This allows a fresh route for water to travel into the trunk. 
  • Check the tree's water level frequently, and refill as necessary. Fresh evergreen trees can take up an amazing amount of water. You may have to fill the reservoir several times a day. Don’t let the water level drop below the trunk, as a seal will formant prevent the tree from absorbing water.
  • Keep your tree away from heat sources such as a heating duct or television set. A fresh tree that receives good care should remain in safe condition indoors for ten days to two weeks.
You can also cut your Christmas tree at several U. S. Forest Service locations near the Front Range, provided you have a permit.  The USDA Forest Service web site , (Rocky Mountain Region Regional Christmas Tree Program) has information on where and when to get a permit, cutting dates and times, tips on caring for your tree including a recipe for a fireproofing mixture, and other details. There are also Christmas tree farms along the Front Range that allow you to “cut your own.” 

For more information on selecting the perfect tree check this CSU fact sheet:

Enjoy that fresh tree! 

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:

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Cornucopia: Origins by Carol King

Cornucopia Photo
The cornucopia is the symbol of abundant harvest and is most often associated with Thanksgiving in the United States. It is a horned shaped vessel filled with an abundance of the earth's harvest. 

Cornucopia became an English word in 1508 when it first appeared in the dictionary. Its origins are from two Latin words; Cornu meaning "horn" and Copia meaning "plenty". 

The cornucopia has been a symbol of a great harvest for centuries and was probably first referred to in Greek and Roman myths and dates back to the 5th century B.C. My favorite is the Greek version: “ Almathea was a goat who nursed and raised Zeus. While playing one day, Zeus accidentally broke one of her horns. He was so saddened by this that he used his godly powers to fill the broken horn with whatever Almathea wanted so it became the horn of plenty. Zeus also put the goat's image in the sky and that is our constellation Capricorn.”

The symbol of the cornucopia was also used, along with rolling fields of grain, to lure new settlers to come to the New World. It is now in our national consciousness as a symbol for bountiful garden harvest and the sharing of food that has become our American Thanksgiving.  

Wishing you and yours a harvest of good food and good fortune! Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Amaryllis: The Joy That Keeps on Giving by Patti O'Neal

Samba Amaryllis, photo courtesy Donna Duffy

Amaryllis is a rare gift to a gardener, providing near instant gratification producing a magnificent spectacle in 4-6 weeks. It’s a gift of growing something and making it bloom right in the middle of snow and freezing temperatures. The trick for many is to get them to do it again the following year. 

Amaryllis is a tender bulb, meaning it does not require a chilling period to bloom.  These beauties originate in the temperate climates of South America where they grow and bloom outdoors.  Here in the chilly Rocky Mountains we enjoy them “forced” during the holidays of December and on into January and even February.

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.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Prevent Floppy Paperwhites: Give Them a Stiff Drink by Carol King

Cornell University Bulb Experiment

Have you heard that drinking alcohol will stunt your growth?  Well this is certainly true with narcissus and amaryllis bulbs.

We bulb lovers love to force bulbs to bloom during the winter holidays.  They brighten an otherwise dark time in gardening. Narcissus (also known as paper whites) and amaryllis are notorious for getting tall and leggy and flopping over.  To combat this problem look no further than the liquor cabinet.

The Flower Bulb Research Program at Cornell University conducted experiments using various kinds of alcohol and discovered that plant height will be reduced by one third thus stopping the “flop over”. Alcohol interferes with water uptake, thus less cell stretching and shorter stems. Here are their recommendations:

“Start your bulbs in plain water. When roots have formed and the green shoot is 1 to 2 inches long, pour off the water and replace with a solution of 4 to 6 percent alcohol. If you are using 80 proof liquor (40 percent alcohol), that works out to one part gin (or the like) to 7 parts water.

Rubbing alcohol (either 70 or 100 percent isopropyl alcohol) can be substituted; just remember to dilute it more. Keep the beer and wine for yourself; their sugars damage plants.” 

Distilled spirits are watered down at a rate of 1 part to 7 parts water. Rubbing alcohol needs more dilution at a rate of 1 to 11.

So enjoy a glass of wine while you give the bulbs a good stiff drink of the hard stuff! Enjoy your beautiful shorter flowers.

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: