Monday, August 28, 2017

The Benefits of Planting a Fall Cover Crop by Jennifer Verprauskus

Hairy Vetch cover crop, photo courtesy Urban Farmer Seeds
When Fall rolls around and everyone starts to put their gardens to bed, there are a few things to consider before you say good bye to the garden until next spring. It’s during this time of year that we have the choice to either plant a fall garden or a fall cover crop. 
The fall garden is typically started at the end of July or early August but it can be planted into September and October. In early to mid-October, we can replant spinach, cilantro, arugula, asian greens, kale, and other fast growing semi-cold hardy crops. However, when I plan on planting this late into the Fall, I think about using a season extender, which is a structure that captures heat from solar radiation and warms the plants and soil inside the covering, such as low hoops, heavy weight Reemay, cold frames and much more.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Cicadas: The Sounds of Summer's Close by Carol King

Dog Day Cicada (Tibicen dorsatus, T. dealbatus) photo by BugGuide.Net
Nothing signals that August is here like the sound of cicadas singing: they can be counted on to sing until frost. In fact, according to folklore, it's six weeks after the first song that a frost is possible. Here are some other interesting facts about cicadas:

Cicadas are essentially tiny violins with wings. The body of a cicada is similar to that of a violin or a guitar, in that much of it consists of empty, air-filled spaces that act like a resonating chamber and amplify the sound they generate. The loud noise we hear is the male's mating call—females are silent.

Cicadas are the loudest insects in the Southwest. Their mating call and response can reach over 90 decibels. That is as loud as a gas lawnmower or a motorcycle. 

Cicadas are super sneaky. Ever tried to locate a cicada you are hearing, only to find nothing there? Once you start walking to a tree they stop calling as soon as you get too close, making it even more difficult to find them.

Cicadas have enemies that are the stuff of nightmares. The female cicada killer wasp flies around,  finds a cicada, stings and paralyzes it, and carries it to a burrow, lays one egg on it, and then closes the burrow up where the larva proceeds to feed on the victim.

There are 26 species of cicadas native to Colorado. The most common one along the Front Range is the Dog day cicadas (Tibicen dorsatus, T. dealbatus), the largest cicadas found in Colorado. They may be upward of two inches long. Their common name is derived from the males’ piercing call, which is often heard in the so-called “dog days” of mid-summer.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Harvesting and Enjoying Sunflower Seeds By Joyce D’Agostino

Photo courtesy Donna Duffy

Sunflowers are one of the most popular and recognized parts of American gardens. In addition to their bright beauty, they attract beneficial insects. Some species produce seeds that are not only a great snack but have good nutritional value.

This time of year, most sunflowers are in bloom and some are already producing their dried discs of seeds. There are several varieties of sunflowers now available to the home gardener. These include pollenless flowers that have been developed for cutting bouquets. This type does not shed the yellow pollen onto furniture or cause issues for those with pollen allergies. There are dwarf varieties, also preferred for flower bouquets, as well as specialty color combinations.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Proper Soil Drainage Helps During Monsoon Season By Joyce D’Agostino


Gardening in the rain! Photo courtesy i.telegraph.co.uk

Gardeners in the front range of Colorado often find themselves during the summer growing season with hot temperatures and little rainfall or watering restrictions. This month we experienced the opposite effect with monsoon effect storms. While the moisture is welcome, often these storms produce very heavy rain in short periods of time supersaturating the soils and can include high winds and hail. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Celebration of the Solar Eclipse by Donna Duffy

Yes, there’s lots of hub bub about the solar eclipse, and rightly so! What might surprise you is how often the name “eclipse” shows up in the world of flowers and vegetables. Here are a few examples. And the good news is, you don't have to wear special glasses to enjoy these beauties!



Eclipse Hybrid Tea Rose, photo courtesy plants.gardensupply.com


Chocolate Cosmos Eclipse, photo courtesy mr-fothergills.co.uk


Rudbeckia Solar Eclipse, photo courtesy Cheryl's Unique Flower Seeds


Green Eclipse Zucchini, photo courtesy speedway.com


Eclipse Beet, photo courtesy Maule's Seed Catalogue

And my favorite...

Cosmic Eclipse Tomato, photo courtesy rareseeds.com

Happy Solar Eclipse!!





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.