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.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Recommended Fruit Tree Varieties for Colorado Front Range by Carol King

Photo CSU Extension
Growing fruit trees along the Front Range in Colorado can be challenging but also satisfying.  Late frosts, heavy spring snows, and several pests and diseases make this interesting to say the least!  However, in successful years, the gardener can be blessed with bumper crops of apples, cherries, plums, and often peaches and apricots.

Here are some varieties that are considered among the best for success in Colorado  recommended by Curtis Utley, Jefferson County CSU Extension.

The more reliable varieties are:
  • Cox Orange. Aromatic dessert apple. Yellow flesh.
  • Red Delicious. A good winter apple and very resistant to fire blight.
  • Golden Delicious. A fall apple of good flavor that bears sooner than most varieties.  Also a good variety to plant with other apple trees to ensure good pollination.
  • McIntosh.  An all-purpose red apple.
  • Johnathan.  A popular apple but fairly susceptible to fire blight.
  • Fameuse.  Old variety similar to McIntosh.
  • Goldrush, Pristine, Liberty, Empire, Honeycrisp, Arkansas Black, Sweet 16, Hazen, Winecrisp, Pixie Crunch, Sir Prize, Williams Pride, Fireside, and Jonafree are also recommended by Mr Utley.

Monday, April 17, 2017

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.

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:

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!