Sunday, August 13, 2017

Preserving Herbs by Donna Duffy


Photo courtesy herb gardening.com
One of the joys of summer cuisine is the addition of fresh herbs. Fresh herbs are showing up at the Farmers Markets, and many are ready to harvest in home gardens. As a general rule, herbs grown for their leaves should be harvested before they flower. For most herbs, the best time to pick is early in the morning just as the dew evaporates, but before the heat of the day.  Herbs can be used fresh from the garden or dried and enjoyed later. Following are tips for preserving and storing herbs.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Tips for Saving Seeds By Joyce D’Agostino

Seed saving, photo courtesy modern farmer.org
Many of us enjoy starting our plants from seed. Some of these seeds may have been shared by friends or have been handed down through family members, which give them a special legacy of their own. Now that we are in mid-summer, there are many garden favorites that are producing and those that you may want to grow again next year.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Growing Your “Third Season” Crops By Joyce D’Agostino

Leafy Green Vegetables photo Colorado State University
By now, many gardeners are enjoying the bounty of their warm season vegetables such as tomatoes, green beans and cucumbers. However we do know that these vegetables do not tolerate frosts well and their production will be done in the fall.

If you would like to continue to harvest into the fall, there is still time to plant a few hardy garden crops. Many of these vegetables are very nutritious and will help extend your garden harvests even after some frosts.

Kale and collard greens are very cold tolerant and can be planted now. Be sure to review the attached bulletins for suggested varieties. You will want to choose those that do not take more than about 60 days to maturity, to allow them to produce before the killing frosts. For the best results, choose those that have been tested in our area for best production, hardiness and flavor.

Many cold season tolerant plants such as the brassicas and collards tolerate light frosts and in fact the flavors are enhanced when they are exposed to a light frost. As you can see in the kale bulletin below, it is recommended to plant kale in the front range area in the fall rather than in the spring to get the sweetest flavor and texture. There are a few other favorites such as radishes, carrots, lettuce, spinach and turnips that also tolerate cooler weather and in fact with some protection may continue to produce well into the late fall.

For more information about growing cold tolerant vegetables and extending your garden production, see the bulletins below:


Friday, August 4, 2017

Time to Plan and Plant the Fall Vegetable Garden by Patti O'Neal

Swiss Chard by Carol King
Colorado is well suited to fall gardening and winter harvest. While weather often dictates the length of the season, eleven months is not out of the question for Front Range gardeners. Imagine harvesting spinach for a great salad in November!

If you’ve never tried fall gardening, here are 5 reasons why you should.

1.  Gardens can be any size – So anybody can do it.
Fall crops are primarily greens and root crops, so they are very well adapted to container gardening, table top raised beds, and raised beds of all kinds.  Start with one container of spinach this year, you’ll catch the bug and increase it next year.

2.  There are many vegetables that thrive in fall Front Range gardens and can be planted now.
Beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, kale and chard can all be planted now.  August is the best time to plant arugula, cabbage, endive, spinach, cilantro and in September you can plant bush peas, radishes, Chinese greens, more spinach and lettuce and the list goes on. My fall garden has no fewer than 5 varieties of spinach, 10 varieties of lettuce and 4 Chinese vegetables, like Pac Choi and Bok Choi  and 3 kales to name a few. September or October is the time to plant garlic.

3.  Fall crops thrive in cooler weather and many fall crops are frost tolerant.
Cool crop vegetables develop their prime flavors when the ambient temperatures are cooler.  Get them germinated and up now so it is cooler when they begin to mature. 

4. Fall crops do not need a full 8 hours of sun each day.
Crops still require sun to photosynthesize these leafy vegetables are designed to thrive in less than 8 hours of full sun.  If you did not have the right place for tomatoes, you may have the perfect place for a pot of spinach, lettuce or chard which all will do well with 5-6 hours of light.

5.  Season protection is easy to obtain and apply.
There are many ways to protect your crops whether they are in containers or raised beds or even in ground that can be left on and removed for harvest or quickly applied if a frost happens.  These can be frost blankets, horticultural fabrics, cloches and even having a supply of old sheets handy if applied correctly. 

Why not try your hand at fall gardening? Having a fresh organic salad grown in your own garden for Thanksgiving will be a real treat! 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Cheers to Your Plants! by Carrie Garczynski

Photo courtesy Horticulture magazine
Have you experienced hints of raspberry, swirls of lily, or essence of grass? Yes, in your yard, and perhaps in your favorite bottle of wine. Anyone who drinks wine probably has oodles of wine corks! What do you do with all of them? And what do corks have to do with gardening? 

Well, corks are hand-harvested and made from the cork oak trees Quercus suber from Spain and Portugal. They don’t soak up water, do not rot, are impervious to air, and can mold into the contour of any container. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Do You Have Ripe Tomatoes Yet? By Joyce D’Agostino

Photo by Joyce D'Agostino

Do you have the best tomatoes on your block – but they’re still green? Are you wondering when you will get that first ripe tomato?

You’re not alone with these concerns. It seems many of us work hard to get our tomatoes started so that they are strong healthy plants when you are ready to set them outside, with the hope of early and abundant harvest only to find that they are slowed down by weather issues.  It seems we get by the cold and wet springs only to suddenly be exposed to the hot and dry late spring and summer weather.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Tomato Problems: Bacterial Diseases in Tomatoes by Mary Small

Photo by bitkisagligi.net
Photo by flickrhivemind.net
Moist weather in spring and summer can contribute to the development of bacterial diseases on tomatoes, just like it does for fireblight. The two diseases most often seen in moist years are bacterial speck (Pseudomonas syringae pv.tomato) and bacterial spot (Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria).

Leaf symptoms look the same for both diseases. Small water-soaked spots form and grow to about 1/8” in size with yellow halos. The centers are light brown and often tear; yellow halos are common. On more mature plants, infections are concentrated on the older foliage. Spots may also appear on the fruit pedicels.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tomato Problems: Blossom End Rot by Carol King

Blossom end rot, photo courtesy CSU Extension

It seems like there is lots of tomato conversation lately about blossom end rot. So what is this nasty sounding ailment? It starts at the end where the blossom was and begins turning tan, then a dry sunken decay sets in. The lesion enlarges, turns to dark brown to black and becomes leathery. Thus the blossom end begins to rot.

It shows up especially in the first fruit of the season and after the fruit is well on its way to development. In severe cases, it may completely cover the lower half of the fruit. Both green and red fruit develop it. It’s not a pest, parasite or disease process but is a physiological problem caused by a low level of calcium in the fruit itself. In other words, dear gardener, IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Mid-summer Lawn Care: Watering by Donna Duffy


Photo courtesy Donna Duffy
Here we are in the heat of July, and your lawn watering practices may need to be altered from those that were effective in spring and early summer. Following are mid-summer watering tips from Dr. Tony Koski, CSU Extension Turf Specialist.

Follow watering programs encouraged or mandated in your community
  • Water the lawn whenever it is allowed.
  • Disregard for required community watering practices can result in substantial fines and may encourage communities to enact even stricter watering restrictions.
  • Contact your local water utility for information on your local watering restrictions.

Effective lawn irrigation requires an understanding of how the irrigation system operates, as well as ongoing maintenance of sprinkler heads
  • Learn how to program your control clock so that you irrigate according to the schedule mandated for your community.
  • Set the clock so that irrigation occurs between 6PM and 10 AM (or as otherwise mandated).
  • Repair or replace broken irrigation heads.
  • Adjust irrigation heads to avoid throwing water on streets, driveways, and other hardscape.
  • If you find that adjusting or repairing your irrigation system is too time-consuming or challenging, hire an irrigation or landscape management specialist to perform this important work.
  • Your lawn care company professional may be willing to program your irrigation control clock for you.
  • Contact your local water provider for information on conducting an irrigation audit; some lawn care companies, landscape management firms, or irrigation installation firms will conduct an audit of your irrigation system for a modest fee.

Even with unlimited watering per irrigation zone on a twice-weekly basis, lawns often will show signs of stress
  • Summer root stress reduces the ability of root systems to use water.
  • Stress will first appear in areas where irrigation coverage is lacking.

The application of wetting agents specifically developed for use on turf is recommended to reduce the occurrence of water repellent conditions in lawns
  • Wetting agents can benefit lawns subjected to extreme drying over the past few months by promoting better infiltration of water into the soil; summer use may reduce the occurrence and/or severity of dry spots in the lawn (but will NOT totally compensate for poor irrigation coverage).
  • Wetting agents are available in both granular and liquid forms; granular formulations are often easier for homeowners to apply.
  • The use of dishwashing detergents and other soaps in place of turf-type wetting agents is not recommended and may damage heat- and drought-stressed lawns.
  • The incorporation of water-absorbing polymers (sometimes called "hydrogels") into new or existing lawns does NOT reduce lawn water requirements and is not recommended for Colorado lawns.

Curtis Utley, Jefferson County CSU Extension Horticulture Agent, conducting a Lawncheck with a Golden resident
If you need help diagnosing turf problems, schedule a Lawncheck through Jefferson County CSU Extension.
Lawncheck is an on-site, lawn consultation service for a fee. A Colorado State University Extension professional will contact you to make an appointment and discuss cost. Service includes recommendations for improving your lawn and solving insect, disease and other lawn problems. To schedule a Lawncheck appointment, call Jefferson County CSU Extension at 303-271-6620.
  




Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mid-summer Lawn Care: Fertilizing, Aerating and Mowing by Donna Duffy


Mid-summer can be tough on turf. In addition to watering efficiently, give consideration to fertilizing, aerating and mowing practices. Following are tips from Tony Koski, CSU Extension Turf Specialist.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Growing Elderberries in Colorado by Donna Duffy


Elderberries, photo courtesy Plantalk

Elderberry is a remarkable shrub or small tree of several species and many forms and colors of foliage, flowers and berries It has been found in Stone Age and Bronze Age excavations, was one of the sacred trees of the Druids, and has been used as a medicinal herb by early Europeans, native Americans and modern herbalists. However, it has not been popular in landscapes until recently when selections have been made for special leaf colors and textures. And now home-food and food-medicine gardeners want elderberries because scientific research has verified herbal lore that elderberries have health benefits. The Wall Street Journal identified elderberry with seven other berries as “nutritional royalty.”

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Is Plant Fertilizer Safe for Pets and Children? by Joyce D'Agostino

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

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

The label should include the name of the manufacturer and the contact information so consumers can call their customer service department with questions or concerns. If there is no label information that supplies all of these important details, it should be avoided.

Even some products that are organic in nature could be toxic if used in the improper levels or for the wrong application.   All of the information must be carefully reviewed and considered before making your choice.

Taking the time to research the products that are available, read labels, contact the manufacturer with questions or ask for guidance from a reliable garden center will help you choose the product that is both safe and effective.

Here are some Extension Fact Sheets that might be of help:



Monday, July 10, 2017

Leafcutter Bees: Friend or Foe? by Joyce D'Agostino


Photo CSU Extension

Have you noticed curious semicircular cut outs in the leaves of some of your plants? This might mean that the busy Leafcutter 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 Bee Photo CSU Extension

 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.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Mosquitoes in the Home Garden by Carol King

Mosquito photo cdc.gov
While we have not had a lot of rain over the past several weeks, mosquitoes can still become a problem in the garden. The best time to manage mosquitoes is when they are in the larval stage. This stage, called wrigglers, lives in shallow water and feeds on microorganisms. They can be found in used tires, wheelbarrows, birdbaths, saucers under pots, ornamental pools and other places that hold standing water. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Fight the Bite website  recommends the following steps for reducing the mosquito population. 
Mosquitoes lay eggs in still water, which hatch in 7 to 10 days. If standing water is eliminated weekly around the property, many  mosquitoes will be kept from breeding in the first place. Here are some things you can do:
  • Remove standing water in ponds, ditches, clogged rain gutters, flower pots, plant saucers, puddles, buckets, equipment and cans. Empty or flush out containers weekly to reduce or eliminate the larvae.
  • Check for items that might hold water including wheelbarrows, leaky air conditioner hoses, pool covers, tarps, plastic garden sheeting, and trash.
  • Change the water in birdbaths weekly.
  • Use mosquitofish (mosquito-eating fish Gambusia can be released in ponds) or mosquito dunks to prevent mosquito larvae from growing in small areas of standing water.
  • Avoid mosquitoes at dawn and dusk when the bugs are most active. 
  • Wear socks, long-sleeved shirts and long pants while outdoors.
  • Apply insect repellent with DEET. Follow directions carefully.
For more information about complete mosquito management, check these fact sheets:

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Gardening Power to the People: Pollinators (Video)—Bee or Wasp?

Many people confuse bees and wasps. While they are both in the Hymenoptera order of insects they have unique characteristics. This short video will help you distinguish between the two.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Patriotic Roses! by Donna Duffy


The Fourth of July is about all things patriotic: freedom, independence, fireworks! You can celebrate these patriotic roses all summer long.

Many experts consider Fourth of July the best Rose introduced in the past decade. Its climbing canes reach 12 to 14 feet tall, with fresh, healthy foliage. North or south, east or west, it demonstrates uniform vigor and flower color. And it re-blooms beginning the very first year!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

It's Time to Divide Your Bearded Iris by Donna Duffy

Photo by Carol King
Iris are one of the superstars of the spring garden. Keeping them blooming year after year requires some work. Do you have bearded iris that you want to move, or that aren't flowering as well as they did a few years ago? It’s probably time to dig and divide them.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Deadhead Flowers for More Blooms by Carol King

Midsummer can be an exciting time in the garden. The results of all the hard labor in the spring are beginning to be evident: lots of blooms, especially monarda, black eyed susan, shasta daisy, day lilies, lavender, Russian sage and yarrow; the annuals are looking great and the grass is still green enough!

It’s time for deadheading, pinching, cutting back, and disbudding. I know this sounds like torture techniques performed on some poor wretch in a medieval novel, but these actions are just what most blooming flowers need. These methods will increase and provide continuous blooms throughout the season. They also help to keep the garden tidy; flowers compact and help you get that special blossom you want to win the prize in the county fair!

Pinching: Use your fingernails and pinch the plant before blooming. Pinching achieves a bushy, compact, shorter plant; one with lots of blossoms that won’t fall over as readily as an unpinched plant. Flowers that benefit from pinching include: asters, ageratum, browallia, calendula, coleus, annual chrysanthemum, verbena, zinnias, petunias, and chrysanthemums. Pinch fall blooming perennials any time but stop on the Fourth of July so you will have fall blooms.
Deadheading: This is the act of removing spent flowers. Most annual and perennial flowers need to have the old blossoms removed in order for new ones to bloom. Not doing so allows the flower to go to seed and they will soon stop blooming. Flowers that benefit from deadheading include: pansies, day lilies, geraniums, rudbeckia, echinacea, coreopsis, yarrow, veronica, and roses.
Cutting back: Cutting back certain plants after they flower will cause them to bloom one more time later in the season. Cut the flower all the way to the leaf on lady’s mantle, catmint, sages, salvia and sea hollies and the like. You’ll get another session of blooms.
Disbudding: Want a show stopping dahlia or a prize winning rose? Disbudding is the key to those prize flowers. On dahlias, remove the two side buds next to the central bud at the end of each lateral branch. The flower that develops will be larger and will grow a longer and stronger stem. On hybrid teas, remove or pinch the secondary buds by the main bud; on floribundas and grandifloras, remove the terminal buds.
Encourage those blossoms! Pinch, deadhead, cut back, disbud!!

Monday, June 26, 2017

It’s Time to Arm Yourself Against Yellow Jackets - An Update By Joyce D’Agostino


Photo courtesy CSU 
Update: Recently I assisted another Master Garden at an information table at a public event. One of the people attending the event stopped by our table and saw materials about bees. She stated that she didn’t like bees and wanted none of them in her garden. One of her friends told her she was very mistaken, we all need bees to help with pollinating our gardens. This person insisted that the “bees” were very bothersome and she was concerned she could get stung. After talking with her for a few moments and asking her to describe what she was seeing, her description matched the Western Yellowjacket. Despite me telling her it wasn’t a bee, she still felt that it was part of the “bee family” and she wanted no part of any bees around her garden.
It may explain why people do mistake these aggressive hornets with our friendly honey bees and bumble bees and why so many of the beneficial insects are sprayed with insecticide. 
We are repeating this blog from April to help you see what a Yellow Jacket looks like compared to honey bees and bumble bees. Trying to control them earlier in the season is the best way to reduce or eliminate the Yellow Jacket population but proper identification will help so that you don’t use insecticides on the bees visiting your garden. If you have any questions about bees and yellow jackets, contact your local Extension Service office.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Growing Healthy Tomatoes by Joyce D'Agostino



Photo courtesy Old Farmer's Almanac

Tomatoes are one of the most often grown garden vegetables. For the most part, tomatoes can be easy to grow and give you a nice bounty of fresh tomatoes for eating and cooking.

But occasionally problems can occur such as disease, insect issues or growth problems. Having some tips early on may help you avoid problems so you can enjoy your tomato crop throughout the season. Tomatoes benefit from being spaced so that there is good air circulation.  Giving your plants some room and not touching each other if possible helps to avoid the foliage staying damp or transferring diseases. Remember when you plant a small tomato, it can grow into a much larger plant, so refer to the seed packet or the information included if you bought a plant to know how far to space your plants.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Gardening for Pollinators by Donna Duffy

Pollinators on Opuntia bloom, photo by Donna Duffy

June 19th - 25th is National Pollinator Week! It's never too late to add pollinator-friendly plants to your landscape. Following are landscaping tips from the Colorado Native Plant Society and the USDA Forest Service to help you get started.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Summer Solstice 2017 by Carol King

Happy Summer Solstice!


Welcome to the longest day of the year! Sumer Solstice is June 20, 2017 in the northern hemisphere and in Jefferson County, Colorado, arrives at 10:24 p.m. MDT.

The Summer Solstice is an astronomical event that happens when the sun is directly above the Tropic of Cancer. This day has more hours of daylight than any other day of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere, Solstices occur on June 20th or 21st each year.

It is also known as Midsumer’s Day as it occurs in the middle of our summer. Summer Solstice is considered to be halfway throught the growing season for gardeners above the Equator. It marks the 1st day of summer and is celebrated by various cultures, and customs around the world.

Celebrating Summer Solstice dates backs thousands of years. It was celebrated by the Ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and the Celts. Summer Solstice is associated it with good harvests and fertility, and abundance in your garden.

Happy Summer Solstice to one an all and here’s to an abundant harvest!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Save Our Pollinators: What You Can Do by Patti O'Neal

Photo by Donna Duffy
Do you enjoy any of these foods?  Avocados, Blueberries, Apples Cherries, Chocolate, Coffee, Peaches, Vanilla?  What if you did not have them any longer?  What would your world look like then? 
Did you know that insect pollinators – primarily social and solitary bees – are responsible for pollinating 35% of the world’s crop production, increasing outputs of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide as well as many plant-derived medicines.  At least one third of the world’s agricultural crops depends upon pollination provided by insects and other invertebrates.  

Monday, June 12, 2017

Save Our Pollinators Day!


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Spittlebugs in the Garden by Carol King

Image Purdue University
While weeding near my bee balm (Monarda), I saw several patches of  a frothy white substance on the leaves.  Upon further study, I discovered that I have a small infestation of the spittlebug (Cercopidae: spp)  Aptly named, the white froth is what the immature spittlebug or nymphs surround themselves with as they feed on plant tissue.  Adult spittlebugs are inconspicuous, often greenish or brownish insects, about 0.25 inch long. 

While spittlebugs suck plant juices and can distort plant tissue and slow plant growth, they do not seriously harm plants. As they don’t cause significant damage, just wash them off with water if their appearance bothers you.  Otherwise, enjoy yet another fascinating bug in action!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Pollinator of the Week: Monarch Butterflies by Caroline Reardon

Monarch migration, photo courtesy worldwildlife.org
In mid March, the Monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus, who’ve overwintered in temperate central Mexico and southern California, mate and then begin their migration northward. Most fly either on a Midwest/Eastern path or along the Pacific coast, but some “strays” do fly through Colorado. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Pollinator of the Week: Flower Flies by Donna Duffy

Tachinid fly, photo courtesy of Beatriz Moisset
The two-winged insects (flies, gnats, mosquitos) is a very large and varied group. Many of them specifically visit flowers, such as the Syrphid flies or flower flies. They are not as hairy as bees nor as efficient at carrying pollen, but some are still good pollinators. The USDA Forest Service provides the following information about Fly Pollination.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Memorial Day and Poppies by Carol King

Photo by Tina Negus
The Memorial Day Organization tells us that Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service.  Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No.11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
In 1915, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields", Moina Michael conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Thus a tradition was born.

In Flanders Fields
John McCrae, 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Why not plant a poppy bed in honor of Memorial Day?     Poppies are easy to grow in Colorado.  They are drought and pest resistant.  Many varieties grow easily from seed.

Here's an article that will help you have success with your planting. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Adding Flowers To Your Vegetable Garden By Joyce D’Agostino

Photo courtesy veggiegardeningtips.com
The spring temperatures will soon be settled and it will be safe to plant your summer garden. If you have focused mostly on growing tomatoes, peppers and other favorite vegetables, consider adding some flowers to your garden. Not only will flowers add a splash of color and interest, but they can serve a significant role in providing nectar and pollen for pollinating insects, and attracting these insects will in turn help to pollinate your vegetables.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Pollinator of the Week: Squash Bees by Donna Duffy

Squash bee, photo courtesy Holly Prendeville, University of Nebraska

This article is reprinted  from “Squash Bees” by Jim Cane, USDA ARS, Bee Biology and Systematics Lab, Logan, Utah. 

Got squash? If so, you have the chance to see the most important floral specialists in agriculture, native solitary bees of two genera, Peponapis and Xenoglossa, the so-called “squash bees”. Look at your squash’s flowers during the first few hours after sunrise. Male squash bees will be darting between flowers, searching for mates. By noon, they will be fast asleep in the withered flowers.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Transplanting Tomato Seedlings by Donna Duffy

Tomato seedling, photo courtesy Modern Farmer

With spring marching along, it’s almost time to plant your tomato seedlings. It’s always a challenge to figure out exactly when to put them in the ground - Colorado weather is fickle this time of year. Last week’s hail storm wiped out many early planted annuals and seedlings. Once you’ve decided to proceed, follow the steps outlined in “How to Grow Your Own Tomatoes, Part 2: Transplanting, by Brian Barth, Modern Farmer. You can access the article here. Be sure to check out the links to other articles on growing tomatoes.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Pollinator of the Week: Leaf Cutting Bees by Donna Duffy

A female leafcutter bee collecting pollen. Image courtesy of Jim McCulloch.
This article is excerpted from Leaf Cutting Bees (Megachile spp.) by Beatriz Moisset, USDA Forest Service.
There are about 242 species of Megachile bees or leaf cutting bees in North America. They belong to a larger group that includes also other leaf cutting as well as mason bees; these are all very good pollinators with very interesting habits.
Megachile bees are black and furry. They vary in size, on average about the same size as a honeybee. Most bees carry pollen in baskets on their legs. However, Megachile is different; the underside of the female’s abdomen is particularly furry and is used for this purpose. If you see a black bee, about the size of a honeybee, with a yellow belly, you probably saw a Megachile.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dealing with Hail By Joyce D’Agostino


Hail on May 8th, photo by Joyce D'Agostino

For many of us, having to deal with hailstorms is a reality. In this area of Colorado, we are in a hail zone meaning that we can experience more than the average hail events, and some of them can wipe out your garden in minutes.

In 2009, the Denver area had a very devastating hailstorm that included powerful winds. This occurred in late July, after about 9 PM and my mature garden was shredded. Not only was this very upsetting, but it told me that in order to try to successfully garden here, that weather protection, especially from hail is a must. Just recently we had a very powerful hailstorm in this area that including very large hail so there was not only damage to cars, roofs and siding but also damaged anything that was unprotected in gardens and landscapes. Hail can happen in any season so finding some permanent solutions that can stay up year-round will help.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Pollinator of the Week: Rufous Hummingbird by Donna Duffy

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Rufous Hummingbird, photo courtesy Pollinator Partnership

This article is excerpted from The Rufous Hummingbird: Small But Feisty Long-distance Migrant by Stephen Buchmann, Pollinator Partnership. 

 Many western and southwestern gardeners know the Rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) as a delightful often-unexpected visitor to colorful garden wildflowers or hummingbird feeders. These amazing small but feisty birds (only 3” long) weigh merely three or four grams; for comparison, a United States penny weighs about 2.5 grams. These birds are amazing aerialists, darting in and out, and can be relentless attackers of other birds and insects at feeders and flowers. They have long slender nearly straight bills. Their wings are relatively short and do not reach the end of the tail when the birds are perched on a feeder or nearby branches. They are also one of the few North American hummingbirds to migrate long distances. Rufous hummingbirds are a western species, rarely straying into the eastern United States.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Gardening Power to the People (Video): Insect Puddles

Did you know that insects need water to drink? An easy way for you to encourage pollinators in your garden is to make an "Insect Puddle." In this video, Colorado Master Gardener, Cathy Jo shows you just how to do it.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

It's Time to Arm Yourself Against Yellow Jackets by Joyce D'Agostino

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Yellow Jacket in trap, photo by Joyce D'Agostino

Anyone who has tried to have a picnic, work in their yard or go camping has likely encountered the Yellow Jacket. Here in Colorado, we encounter the Western Yellow Jacket, Vespula pennsylvanica, most often. Because they are yellow and black in color, people often mistake them for honeybees, but the Yellow Jacket is much larger and from the wasp family, and can make multiple painful stings when they attack.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Pollinator of the Week: The Colorado State Insect! by Donna Duffy

Colorado Hairstreak Butterfly, photo courtesy statesymbolsusa.org

Did you know that Colorado has a state insect? The Colorado Hairstreak butterfly (Hypaurotis crysalus) was designated the official state insect  in 1996 due to the steady lobbying of 4th graders from Wheeling Elementary in Aurora, Colorado (led by teacher Melinda Terry).

The Colorado Hairstreak is a small to medium sized butterfly with a wingspan of about 1.25-1.5 inches. The upperside of the wings is purple, with a darker border; coloration is brighter in the males. Small orange spots mark the lower outside edge of each wing. The underside of the wings is light blue with faint dark bands and orange spots at the base of the hind wing. Typical of other hairstreak butterflies, a delicate “tail” protrudes from the hind wings.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Providing Water for Pollinators by Donna Duffy

Swallowtail drinking from a mud puddle, photo courtesy offset.com
Creating a pollinator-friendly garden goes beyond providing pollinator-friendly plants. Pollinators need sources of water for many purposes, including drinking and reproduction.  Butterflies, for example, will gather and sip at shallow pools, mud puddles or even birdbaths.  

Monday, April 24, 2017

Pollinator of the Week: Hawk (Sphinx) Moth by Donna Duffy

A giant hawk moth (Eumorpha typhon) adult. Image by Alfred University artist Joseph Scheer.

This information is excerpted from an article by Steve Buchman, The Bee Works. You can read the entire article here.

Moths live in a wide variety of habitats around the world. They usually go unnoticed, except when flying erratically around your porch light, a streetlight, or other light source in the darkness of night. Most moths work the night shift, unlike their “respectable cousins” the butterflies. Moths represent a biological storehouse of interesting, dramatic, and unusual behaviors, some with roles as pollinators, others as food sources.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

On Earth Day, Commit to Protect Pollinators by Donna Duffy


Wool Carder Bee, photo courtesy Whitney Crenshaw
Imagine living in a world without flowers, fruit, coffee or even chocolate for that matter. Thanks to the work of pollinators, much of the food we eat and flowers and plants we enjoy are possible. And it’s not just bees that are doing all the work. Butterflies, birds, beetles, bats, wasps and even flies are important in the pollination process. Worldwide, there is an alarming decline in pollinator populations. Excessive use of pesticides and an ever-expanding conversion of landscapes to human use are the biggest culprits.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Pollinator of the Week: Halictid Bees by Donna Duffy

Sweat bee on wild rose,  photo courtesy LuRay Parker, Wyoming Wildlife

In honor of the upcoming National Pollinator Week (June 19-25), we are highlighting a different pollinator every week. This week's pollinator is the Halictid bee, commonly known as sweat bees.  Thanks to Vince Tepidino, USDA ARS, Bee Biology and Systematics Lab in Logan Utah for the following information.

Pollinators have distinct foraging characteristics – some are specialists that collect pollen from flowers of just a few kinds of plants. Others, like the Halictidae (sweat bees), seem to be "anti-specialists". To paraphrase the early 20th century humorist Will Rogers, they have never met a flower they did not like, and they rarely find one whose pollen or nectar is unyielding. Such generalists visit a wide variety of flowers and often seem to do so indiscriminately. Variety seems to be the spice of their foraging lives. 

Gardening Power to the People (Video) —Myth Buster: Dressing a Wound from Pruning

If you are doing some spring pruning, don't bother with the wound dressings you will find at the garden centers! Save your money for plants! Trees don't need it.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Lily Lore and Care by Carol King

Photo Tufts University
It’s Easter time and the ubiquitous Easter Lily is every where.  Did you ever wonder why we purchase these flowers at Easter time?  Historically speaking Easter lilies don’t have much to do with the Easter holiday.  They are not native to the Holy Land.  In Biblical lore, however, the lily is mentioned numerous times. One of the most famous Biblical references is in the Sermon on the Mount: Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matt. 6:28-29). Often called the "white-robed apostles of hope," lilies were found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane after Christ's agony. Tradition has it that the beautiful white lilies sprung up where drops of Christ's sweat fell to the ground in his final hours of sorrow and deep distress.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Build a Bee Condo! By Donna Duffy

Bee house, photo courtesy National Wildlife  Federation

In anticipation of National Pollinator Week in June, you can invite native bees to your yard by providing a man-made nesting block or "Bee Condo." The Pollinator Partnership, the largest non-profit organization in the world dedicated exclusively to the protection and promotion of pollinators and their ecosystems, provides the following instructions on building a bee condo.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Gardening Power to the People (Video): Growing Blueberries in Colorado

We can grow blueberries in Colorado. Pre-planning and knowledge of our soils will make your endeavor successful.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Challenge of Growing Blueberries in Colorado by Carol King

Photo Carol King

Who doesn't love a blueberry?  They are one of the super foods, filled with antioxidents.  These tiny, round blue-purple berries have long been attributed to the longevity and wellness of indigenous natives.  Blueberries are very low in calories. A cup of fresh berries provide only 57 calories.  Some research studies suggest that these berries help lower blood sugar levels and control blood-glucose levels in type-II diabetes.  Super food indeed. Why not grow them in the Colorado Front Range home garden?

Blueberries will not grow in Colorado soil. Blueberries need acidic soil (and a lot of it).  Our native soils are alkaline; the opposite of what a blueberry needs! Every year at this time, I see the blueberry plants lined up in the big box stores just waiting for some unsuspecting gardener to purchase and take home to complete failure.