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.

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. http://tinyurl.com/CSU-rainwater
The complete House Bill can be found here: http://tinyURL.com/rainwater-bill





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

punjabigraphics.com
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!