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.

Friday, April 7, 2017

How To Plant A Tree (Video) by Carol O'Meara

Spring is the favorite time to plant trees. There are hundreds of trees at garden centers, big boxes, and give aways from cities and other tree planting promotions. Planting a tree is much more than digging a hole and if done improperly, a waste of time. This video with Carol O’Meara, Extension Agent from Boulder County advises us on proper tree planting techniques.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Rain Barrels Now Legal in Colorado

Photo by Carol King

As of Aug. 10, 2016 House Bill 16-1005 became law,  allowing most Colorado  home owners to use up to two 55-gallon barrels to collect rainwater from their rooftop downspouts. This spring appears to be a rainy one, so as a homeowner you might want to try your hand at capturing rainwater.  There are some caveats however so read the bill carefully before deciding to install barrels.

Highlights of the law are as follows:
1. Homeowners may use rain barrels to collect rainwater at single-family households and multi-family households with four (4) or fewer units.

2. A maximum of two (2) rain barrels can be used at each household and the combined storage of the two rain barrels cannot exceed 110 gallons.

3. The captured rainwater must be used on the same property from which the rainwater was captured, for only outdoor purposes, including to water outdoor lawns, plants and/or gardens.

4. Rain barrel water cannot be used for drinking or other indoor water uses.

5. House Bill 16-1005 requires the container to be equipped with a sealable lid.

6. Watering plants in a greenhouse where such a building is specifically dedicated to growing plants is NOT allowed. 

It is important for rain barrel users to understand that the capture and use of rainwater using rain barrels does not constitute a water right. The State Engineer will deliver its first report on rain barrels sometime in 2019 and if a water right holder can prove that those rain barrels have impacted their ability to receive the water that they are entitled to by virtue of their water right, rainwater collection will be curtailed.

Other considerations for the homeowner who choses to capture rainwater and use it in the landscape include the following cautions:
  • Untreated rainwater collected from roofs is not safe to drink, due to concerns surrounding microbial contamination of harvested rainwater. 
  • Because of the infrequency of rainfall there can be an accumulation of bird droppings, dust and other impurities on rooftops between rain events. Roofing materials, pitch, and heavy metals such as cadmium, copper, lead, zinc, and chromium may occur in high concentrations when it does rain. 
  • Acid rain can also cause chemical compounds to be leached from roofing materials.
  • Filtering  and screening out contaminants before they enter the storage container can help to mitigate this problem. Dirty containers may also become a health hazard or a breeding ground for insects and other pests.
For complete information on use of rain barrels in the state of Colorado, please refer to Colorado State University’s Fact Sheet.
The complete House Bill can be found here:

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Catkins Cometh! by Carol King

I  know that spring has “sprung” when the street in front of my house becomes covered with cottonwood catkins. Our neighborhood has many cottonwoods, poplar, willows, birches and aspen trees: all catkin-loaded!  And spring is definitely here.

The catkin is is a strand of tiny unisexual flowers, blooming on many species of trees. The flowers are tiny and inconspicuous, but the blooming catkins are lovely, though very short-lived.  Catkins rely on wind to spread their pollen, and we have certainly had the wind helping out. After the female flowers are fertilized, the male catkins wither and drop.

Each species of tree has its own habits and forms, which are interesting to contemplate. The brief beauty of the catkin-bearing trees hearlds early spring, a welcome sign of greenery to come!

The word catkin is derived from the Dutch katje, meaning "kitten", because it resembles a kitten’s tail. Enjoy this brief display which hints of Springtime!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Spring Planting? Add Some Natives to Your Landscape! by Donna Duffy

Pulsatilla patens, Pasqueflower, blooming on the first day of spring, photo by Donna Duffy
There is a growing trend among Colorado gardeners to incorporate native plants, trees and shrubs into their landscapes. Indeed, in some areas, native plantings may be required by law, covenant or policy. There are so many good reasons to include native plants in the landscape! They attract pollinators, butterflies and birds, they are adaptable to poor soil, and they typically require less water. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Happy April Fools' Day by Carol King
Did you ever wonder where this silly holiday came from?  Also called All Fools’ Day, it has been celebrated for several centuries by different cultures, but its exact origins remain a mystery.

 Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563. People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 and became the butt of jokes and hoaxes. It became a popular holiday in 1700 in England when pranksters begin  playing practical jokes on each other. 

April Fools’ Day has also been linked to ancient festivals such as Hilaria, which was celebrated in Rome at the end of March and involved people dressing up in disguises. 

My favorite speculation and the one that is so appropriate to Colorado is the conjecture that April Fools’ Day was tied to the vernal equinox, or first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, when Mother Nature fooled people with changing, unpredictable weather. We have certainly have had our April Fools’  from Mother Nature!

In any event, if you receive a packet of these, dear gardener, enjoy! 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Colorado's Native Bees by Donna Duffy

Leaf Cutter bee with leaf, photo courtesy

Colorado has over 950 species of bees, and all but a handful of these are native. Most of the few introduced (non-native) species that now call Colorado home were brought in accidentally. The most well-known non-native bee is the honey bee, an important pollinator of many of our agricultural crops, especially those that are also non-native. But our native bees, who for millions of years have co-evolved with our native flowering plants, are much more important, efficient, and effective pollinators for native fruits and vegetables. Many of these, like squash, tomatoes, and eggplants, cannot be pollinated by honey bees at all!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Gardening Power to the People (Video): Starting Seeds Outdoors by Audrey Stokes

It's time to sow cool season vegetable seeds in your garden, along the Front Range! Colorado Master Gardener Audrey explains early crop seed starting in this short video.  The Garden Notes she refers to can be found here:

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Controlling Mullein in Your Landscape By Joyce D’Agostino

Common Mullein, photo courtesy Common Sense Homesteading
Last year I was surprised to find a plant volunteering in one of my raised beds that had some unusual features, including a tall spire that had small yellow flowers. In addition it had thick and very soft fuzzy leaves. I learned that this plant is the Mullein, Verbascum thapsus. This plant goes by several common names including flannel leaf and can be found in fields, pastures, along roadsides and even in your garden. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Pre-Emergent Herbicides by Donna Duffy

Dandelion, photo courtesy
March is the time of year to consider the application of pre-emergent herbicides. Planttalk Colorado provides the following information and guidance. 

A pre-emergent herbicide does not prevent weed seed germination or kill the seed. Instead, the root system development of a young weed seedling is severely limited by the action of the pre-emergent herbicide, killing it before it “emerges” preventing the weed from establishing. Pre-emergents will not control existing weeds, but will, if applied before germination, control seedlings of annual or perennial weeds.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Planting Pansies and Violas by Carol King

It's not too early to start adding color to your yard.  Plant pansies and violas now. They are hardy little flowers and don't mind a late snow! The video talks about planting in the fall, but the same techniques apply for spring planting.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Spring or Vernal Equinox by Carol King

The first day of Spring brings joy to every gardener’s heart marking the beginning of the spring season in the Northern Hemisphere. 

It is the unofficial opening of the new gardening season and regardless of the weather, we’re ready! Spring arrives here along the Front Range of Colorado on Monday, March 20, 2017 at 4:29 am MDT .

There are two equinoxes every year –  March and September – when the sun shines directly on the equator and the length night and day are nearly equal.  (These are not to be confused with the soltice which also occurs twice each year in June and December when the sun is at its closest or furtherest point from the equator.)  The March equinox marks the moment the sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator – from south to north. This happens on March 19, 20 or 21 every year.
This  is called an “equinox”, from Latin (aequinoctium), meaning "equal night” and vernal (vernalis), meaning “spring”.  In reality equinoxes don't have exactly 12 hours of daylight, but close enough.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Get Your Soil Test Before You Start Planting by Donna Duffy

Most of us take our soil for granted, and don’t give too much thought about it until it’s time to plant. Even then, it’s easy to dump a bag of compost on the planting site and walk away thinking that we’ve done our soil a big favor. Not so! Soil is a dynamic living substance in which complex biological and chemical reactions take place every day. Taking time to learn about the soil in your yard is one of the best things you can do to maximize the success of your landscaping efforts.

Before planting that new garden, get a soil test! Photo by Donna Duffy

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Photo courtesy

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

History of the Irish Shamrock by Carol King

Photo courtesy CSU
The Irish shamrock (Irish: seamrog) is the most recognized symbol of the Irish. It has been symbolic of many things through the years. It was considered to be a sacred plant to the Druids of Ireland because its leaves formed a triad, and three is a mystical number in Celtic religion as well as many other religions. Supposedly, St. Patrick used it to illustrate the Holy Trinity to help convert Irish peoples to Christianity. 

In Ireland, all shamrocks are considered lucky and are worn and given as gifts on St. Patrick's Day. However, there is some disagreement among the Irish as to the exact plant, but most Irish growers will tell you that Trifolium repens, White Clover, is the plant most commonly known as a shamrock.   What we consider to be a common lawn weed, is a native of Ireland.  In Colorado, this Irish shamrock grows in our lawns, in prairies, pastures and foothills. If you enjoy clover honey, you can thank this lovely little plant.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Choosing the Best Seed for Your Vegetable and Flower Garden by Joyce D’Agostino

Early Tomato "Glacier",  photo courtesy

By now many of you have been receiving seed and plant catalogues in the mail and the retail stores have racks of seeds beaconing you to bring them home.

Before you make your purchases, here are a few tips to help you choose the best seed for your garden for best results.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Get A Head Start on Yellowjacket Control by Carol King

Yellowjacket photo by Whitney Cranshaw
I noticed wasps are waking up from their winter naps, which made me think of that old meanie, the yellowjacket.  Yellowjackets can be controlled to some extent if we start early, rather than waiting until they are buzzing around our barbecues. The traps will catch the queens before they can find a place to nest.

Whitney Cranshaw, Entomology Professor and Extension Specialist from CSU tells us that the western yellowjacket (V. pensylvanica) is, by far, the most important stinging insect in Colorado. Late in the season, when colonies may include up to 200 individuals, they become serious nuisance pests around outdoor sources of food or garbage. The western yellowjacket is estimated to cause at least 90 percent of the “bee stings” in the state. Yellowjackets (Vespula spp.) are banded yellow or orange and black and are commonly mistaken for honey bees, but they lack the hairy body and are more intensely colored. Yellowjackets typically nest underground using existing hollows. Occasionally nests can be found in dark, enclosed areas of a building, such as crawl spaces or wall voids.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Not So Fast! Gardening Tips for Late Winter by Donna Duffy

Pulsatilla patens (Pasque flower) 

Yes, it does feel a bit like Spring outside. And yes, there are signs of life in your yard and garden. As tempting as it is, don’t go full-force into your gardening mode quite yet. Following are some gardening chores you can start right now, and others that you’ll need to wait to begin.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Create Your Own Apple Tree by Mari Hackbarth

1909 Illustration of a "Colorado Orange" Apple,  USDA

What kind of apple trees do you think Johnny Appleseed planted as he sowed swaths of seeds to establish orchards across the Midwest?  It turns out that every seed he planted grew into a unique apple tree!  Planted apple seeds will not produce a tree or fruit exactly like the original fruit or tree the seed was collected from.  If you grow an apple tree from a Macintosh apple seed, you will have an apple tree, but not a Macintosh apple tree.  Apples are an example of a plant that can only be reproduced exactly by a technique known as “grafting”.  Grafting is the process of joining two plants together.  The upper part of the graft (the scion) becomes the top of the resulting plant, and the lower part provides the root system.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tulips Emerging Early by Donna Duffy

Late season tulips emerging in February, photo by Donna Duffy

This recent surge of warm weather has created conditions for some spring-blooming bulbs to emerge early. You’ve probably noticed crocus blooming, especially if they are near a wall or rock. Crocus are tough, low-growing flowering bulbs, and can tolerate snow and cold. I also noticed that some of my late-season tulips  have just broken ground, and that is more unusual. Here are some tulip tips for late winter from Ron Smith, Horticulturalist at the North Dakota State University Extension Office.

Monday, February 20, 2017

How Insects Overwinter by Mary Small

Bees Huddling to Keep Warm, photo courtesy CSU Extension

All insects have developed strategies for surviving the winter.  Some migrate to warmer climates, but most stick around.  How do they do it? 

Honeybees really do huddle together…in a ball, with those on the outside of the ball (acting as insulators) gradually exchanging places with the bees on the inside of the ball. The bees on the inside of the ball generate heat through shivering. No helmets or jerseys, though.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Do You Have Any Courgettes to Spare? By Joyce D’Agostino

Photo courtesy live
There was some surprising news from the UK recently regarding shortages on some of their favorite produce. One that is in short supply and high demand, the courgette, (otherwise known as zucchini) is becoming harder to find in their supermarkets.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Terminology for New Flower Gardeners by Donna Duffy

Mixed bed of perennials and annuals, photo by Beth Bonnicksen
If you are a newcomer to the world of flower gardening, welcome! Prepare to have a new addiction in your life. Getting familiar with some of the terminology will help you navigate the wonderful world of annuals, perennials, bulbs and more. Here’s a start.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Myth of Paper-based Sheet Mulches by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy
As the days slowly get longer, many of us start thinking about our planting beds for the next growing season. The use of paper-based sheet mulch has gained attention. But is it effective? Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D., Extension Horticulturist and Associate Professor, Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Washington State University, is known for her myth-busting horticultural research. The following is excerpted from her response to the myth: Newspaper and cardboard sheet mulches are excellent ways to reduce weeds and maintain soil health in permanent landscapes. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Farmers' Almanac: Fact or Folklore? by Donna Duffy

Did you know there are two versions of the Farmers’ Almanac? The Old Farmers’ Almanac is celebrating is a whopping 225 years old. The “younger” Farmers’ Almanac is only 200 years old, and has a Special Collector’s Edition to celebrate this milestone. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Try Amaranth in your Garden by Vicky Spelman

Matthew Blair, Researcher at Tennessee State University in a Field of Amaranth

If the popularity of quinoa has taught us anything, it's that people are increasingly open about exploring grains besides the familiar wheat and rice. Now, researchers at Tennessee State University are hoping consumers are ready to give another ancient grain a try: amaranth.

Amaranth was revered by the Aztecs in Mexico. Today in the U.S., it's mostly grown in people's backyards or on research farms, like an experimental field at Tennessee State University.

Some of the amaranth there looks like corn with a colorful, flowery plume on top. Others are more like shrubs. Matthew Blair, an associate professor at TSU, is leading a team of researchers in evaluating dozens of varieties.  Amaranth is a grain that thrives in high temperatures, is largely resistant to drought and is seen as a heartier crop than corn.  "We all know how fast corn grows in the summertime," Blair says. "Well, amaranth can grow equally fast, or faster."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Here They Come...Seed Catalogs! by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy
It's the stuff gardeners' dreams are made of: seed and nursery catalogs that fill our mailboxes in January and put us on the road to planning our next garden. Those catalogs are a lot more than a list of products the seed companies want to sell. They are encyclopedias of information that, among other things, tell us which plants won't grow in Colorado. That keeps us from throwing away money for plants destined to fail with our growing conditions. Dan Jewett, Denver County Master Gardener, offers the following information to get the most out of the seed catalogs that end up in your mailbox. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

URGENT: 2017 Spring Gardening Symposium Change of Location

Join us at the "Taj" for the 2017 Spring Gardening Symposium!
Take note! The 2017 Spring Gardening Symposium "Jump Start Your Garden the Right Way" has a new location. Please join us at the Jefferson County Municipal Courts Building, 100 Jefferson County Parkway (fondly known as the Taj) on Saturday, January 28th.  Check in begins at 7:45am and the exciting, information-packed program begins at 8:45.

It's not too late to register or find a friend to join you! Click here for the registration link. What a great way to spend a cold January day!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Nature's Beauty: Hoarfrost by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy Colleen Hart, The Weather Channel Facebook Page

Sometime this winter, you may be fortunate enough to see hoarfrost in your landscape. But look quickly, because it will disappear with sunlight.

According to the Old English dictionary (c. 1290), hoarfrost is defined as "expressing the resemblance of white feathers of frost to an old man's beard." No, this isn’t frost on performance-enhancing drugs, but it can be quite different from your normal frost! Colleen Hart of The Weather Channel provides the following facts about hoarfrost.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Protecting Perennials in the Winter by Donna Duffy

Rudbeckia, photo by Donna Duffy
Colorado's relatively warm days and cold nights, extreme temperature fluctuations and drying winds can wreak havoc with many of our commonly planted perennials. Planttalk Colorado offers the following suggestions to protect your perennials over the winter.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Symposium Sneak Peak: Companion Planting by Dustin Foster

An example of trap cropping, photo courtesy
Separating the facts from fiction when it comes to companion planting can be tricky.  There are many “old wives tales” and practices learned from grandparents and parents.  Some actually, if not accidentally, have some scientific truth to them and some, not so much.  Once such scientific concept is called trap cropping.  Although it may not have been known as that back in the day, it is a scientifically proven companion concept.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Symposium Sneak Peak: Plentiful Container Vegetable Gardens by Jennifer Verpraskus

Photo courtesy
Container gardening can be a fun and easy way to grow vegetables as well as flowers in the Front Range. Quick and easy access to food, as well as utilizing small spaces and hard surfaces makes growing food in pots desirable. Container vegetable production is somewhat more demanding than growing flowers and other ornamentals, but it can be done following some simple guidelines.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Symposium Sneak Peak: Dreaming of Tomatoes by Sharon Tanaka

Photo courtesy
Here’s a quiz for you. Ask people what vegetable they would grow IF they could only grow one. What do you think they would choose? Eighty percent would say “tomatoes, of course!” And yet, tomatoes are one of the plants that bring the most questions to the Jefferson County Master Gardeners Hotline. Surprisingly, with the right information, tomatoes are one of the easiest and most successful vegetables that the home gardener can grow in Jefferson County. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Symposium Sneak Peak: The 10 Easiest Vegetables to Grow in Colorado by Amy Bubar

Photo courtesy

The vegetable gardening season is over for most of us. And with winter just beginning, it might feel like next season is an eternity away. But the truth is that it’s never too early to start planning next year’s garden. In fact, now’s the prefect time to get started.