Saturday, May 26, 2018

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 24, 2018

Low Water Stresses Urban Trees

Hot Wings Tatarian Maple, photo courtesy Denver Post

Information excerpted from: Lack of Water is Key Stressor for Urban Trees, North Carolina State University. Click on the link for the article in its entirety.

A recent study found that urban trees can survive increased heat and insect pests fairly well - unless they are thirsty. Insufficient water not only harms trees, but allows other problems to have an outsized effect on trees in urban environments.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Gardening Power to the People: Insect Hotels Pt. 2: More Details (Video)

Here is part two for making your very own insect hotel. Here's a link to part one:

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Gardening Power to the People: Insect Hotels Pt. 1-Getting Started (Video)

Insect hotels are all the rage in gardening now. Do you want to make one? Jefferson County CSU Extension Colorado Master gardeners show you how! Here's a link to part two:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Raised Bed Gardening in Colorado: (Video)

Explore the advantages of elevated, or raised bed, gardening. See if this gardening method might be best for your garden.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Japanese Beetle Facts and Resources

Japanese beetle on roses, photo courtesy Whitney Cranshaw, CSU
For close to a century, the Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) has been one of the most seriously damaging insect pests of both turfgrass and landscape plants over a broad area of the eastern US. Recently, there have become a few permanent, reproducing populations in some communities along the Front Range of Colorado. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Carnation, The First Mother's Day Flower by Carol King

Photo Colorado State University
Carnations were the very first Mother’s Day flower given when Anna Jarvis, Mother’s Day founder, distributed her mother’s favorite flowers, white carnations in 1907, during the first Mother’s Day memorial service.

"The Carnation Gold Rush" is a term used by Denver locals, historians and preservationists to represent the period between the 1880s and 1930s when the floriculture industry developed and thrived in Colorado.  Denver was once called The Carnation Capitol of the World, there were so many grown here!

Here are some interesting links about the carnation connection to Colorado history:

Carnations are members of the dianthus family and there are several hardy periennal varieties that work well in Colorado. They also called “pinks” from the Latin word pinct, which means pinked or scalloped, referring to the jagged edges of the flower petals. Here is a fact sheet on growing the “Darling Dianthus.”

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. ~Marcel Proust

Happy Mother’s Day! 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

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.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

For the Love of Flowers by Carrie Garczynski

Photo courtesy Carrie Garczynski
Who doesn’t love flowers?! Especially now in spring! The first sign that Mother Nature is dancing in the streets…errr...gardens, parks, flower beds, and tiny little crevices that will grow a seed. Here in Colorado we have many kinds of spring flowers: tulips, iris, daffodil, hyacinth, pansies, snapdragon, and alyssum, to name a few. And the great part is that you can help Mother Nature out a bit by planting your own colorful party. (Of course, keeping in mind, our wonderful critters – large and small – also love our flowers, and you may have to safeguard your plantings with fences, etc.).

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Plant Tags Can Educate Garden Shoppers by Paula Hamm

Photo by Donna Duffy
It’s that time of the year when many of us have the impulse to rush to our favorite garden center.  When you go, take a good look at the plant tags.  Take the time to examine them and learn about the specific requirements of the plants they accompany.  Using symbols and pictures, growers pack many facts and details to help you successfully grow and nurture your plants.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the Garden by Carol King

Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for "Fifth of May") is an annual celebration in Mexico held to commemorate the Mexican Army's difficult victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862. In the United States the date has become associated with the celebration of Mexican-American culture. To commemorate this fun holiday, expand your celebration to include Cinco de Mayo gardening!
Here are some ideas for plantings in your Cinco De Mayo garden:

Cinco de Mayo Shrub Rose: (Rosa WEDcobeju’) Flowers are a blend of smoked lavender & rusty red-orange, the festive shrub provides a variety of color in a single bouquet! Its clean, round habit is ideal for use as a hedge or in a border. CSU Fact sheet on planting roses in Colorado: Growing Roses in Colorado

Photo Hosta Photo Library
Guacamole Hosta: (Hosta x ‘Guacamole’) The apple green foliage in the center is bordered by dark green margins creating a dazzling effect. These large hostas grow two feet tall and over four feet across. It has a magnificent fragrance that comes from the large white flowers in late summer. Nebraska Extension Fact sheet for growing hostas: Growing hostas.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Thigmomorphogenesis: May Word of the Month

Wind direction from the right creates an asymmetric hedge, photo courtesy The Garden Professors

Excerpted from: Your new word for the day – thigmomorphogenesis, Linda Chalker-Scott, The Garden Professors

 Thigmomorphogenesis: this is a great word for those who enjoy figuring out word meanings by deciphering the (usually) Greek or Latin roots. (This exercise also helps you figure out how to pronounce it.) We have “thigmo-” which means touch, “-morpho-” which means appearance, and “-genesis” which means beginning. String them all together and you get the phenomenon seen when plants respond to mechanical stimulation by changing their growth pattern and hence the way they look.

You can easily see examples of thigmomorphogenesis in everyday life. Look at a line of hedge plants where the plants on the end are more susceptible to wind movement and brushing by people, animals or vehicles. They are always shorter, aren’t they? Plants subjected to chronic thigmomorphogenic forces are generally shorter than their neighbors and thicker in girth.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Be a Habitat Hero!

Does your garden supply habitat for songbirds and pollinators? If so, you can apply for Habitat Hero designation. A Habitat Hero garden meets these five objectives:
  • Creates diverse layers, plus shelter and nesting opportunities for wildlife
  • Is waterwise, energy-efficient, and uses few or no pesticides
  • Provides natural food in different seasons, based at least partly on native plants
  • Offers water for drinking and bathing
  • Controls invasive species

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Square Foot Gardening by Vicky Spelman

Square Foot Gardening photo University of Florida
As gardeners, we often see the term "square foot gardening". Unsure as to what it means? It is actually an excellent way to arrange a garden bed and can solve a number of problems. The University of Florida explains it this way:

Square foot gardening is the practice of dividing the growing area into small square sections (typically 12" on a side, hence the name). The aim is to assist the planning and creating of a small but intensively planted vegetable garden. It results in a simple and orderly gardening system, from which it draws much of its appeal. Since the beds are typically small, making covers or cages to protect plants from pests, cold, or sun is more practical than with larger gardens.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Orchids are Easy to Grow!

Phalaenopsis orchid, photo courtesy natural

Contrary to what you may have heard, orchids are not difficult to grow. With the proper amount of light, water, humidity, temperature and fertilizer, orchids can thrive! Some types of orchids such as Phalaenopsis or Cattleya can be easier to care for.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Go Green(er) on Earth Day!

It's Earth Day - what better time to consider ways to go green(er) in your own landscape? Here are six simple steps to get started. 

Plant a tree. Trees help purify the air, give wildlife a home, and planting them isn't as difficult as you might think. Read CSU’s Tree Planting Steps to ensure your tree is planted correctly.

Friday, April 20, 2018

It's Arbor Day in Colorado by Carol King

The first celebration of an Arbor Day was organized by the mayor in the Spanish village of Mondoñedo in 1594. The first “modern day” Arbor Day happened in Spain in 1805 in the village of Villanueva de la Sierra and was organized by a local priest, Don Ramón Vacas Roxo. According to author and professor Miguel Herrero Uceda, Don Ramón was “convinced of the importance of trees for health, hygiene, decoration, nature, environment and customs” and decided “to plant trees and give a festive air.” After celebrating Mass on Carnival Tuesday, Roxo, accompanied by other clergy, teachers, and villagers, planted a poplar tree. The celebration and plantings lasted three days. The priest was so moved by the importance of trees that he wrote a manifesto in their defense and sent it to neighboring towns to encourage people to protect nature and establish tree plantations. From the Smithsonian.

The very first Arbor Day in the United States was celebrated in Nebraska in 1872 and was inaugurated by planting over a million trees in just one day. It was the idea of J. Sterling Morton, who promoted tree planting while employed for the Nebraska Territory. In Colorado, the third Friday in April each year is “set apart and known as "Arbor Day," to be observed by the people of this state in the planting of forest trees for the benefit and adornment of public and private grounds, places, and ways in such other efforts and undertakings as shall in harmony with the general character of the day established.”Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S. 24-11-104)”

Celebrate this Arbor Day by planting a tree of course! Here’s a video on “doing it properly.”

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Guttation: April Word of the Month

Photo courtesy Noahelhardt/wikimedia commons
Have you ever noticed tiny water droplets uniformly spaced around the margins of a leaf on a dewy morning? If so, you might have wondered what would cause dewdrops to form in such a regular pattern. In fact, you have observed a phenomenon called “guttation.”

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Money Plants to Soothe Your Tax Day Blues

It’s tax day again, meaning that many of us have money on our minds. Did you know that from 1918 to 1954, March 15 used to be tax day? In 1954 the IRS  moved it to its current date of April 15th. Because the tax covered more of the middle class, the IRS needed to issue more refunds. Pushing back the date allowed the Feds to hang on your money longer (

If you have the tax day blues, here are two “money plants” that might brighten your spirits though they won’t fatten your wallet.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Variegated Tulips: Beauty From a Virus By Olivia Tracy

Variegated Tulip (Tulipa), likely “Tulip Yellow Spring Green.” Photo courtesy of Olivia Tracy.

Have you ever seen tulips like these, tulips that look like they’ve been ‘painted’ with multiple colors? Many people love the look of these variegated tulips, and they’ve been popular since the 1600s, when Holland went mad for variegated tulip varieties and tulip speculation (and tulip prices) skyrocketed.1 While we don’t have this mania today, we can still buy varieties like Rembrandt, Princess Irene, Kaufmanniana and many others that promise beautifully variegated tulips. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

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!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Front Range Tree Recommendations by Carol King

Spring is typically tree and shrub planting time in Colorado.  The garden centers and big box stores  offer a huge assortment to choose from.  How does one know which tree to choose?  Choosing the right tree is essential to tree health and success. Don’t just go to the garden center and take whatever you can find.  Put some study into it.  

Ask yourself some questions. What is growing well in your neighborhood? What varieties are suited to Front Range Colorado and are most resistant to common insect and disease pests? What is the purpose of my tree?  Shade? Fruit? Windbreak?  This can be a daunting decision so here are some resources to help:

Front Range Tree Recommendation List, from Colorado Nursery Grower's Association, American Society of Landscape Architects Colorado, the Colorado Tree Coalition, and Colorado State UniversityExtension.
Recommended Trees for Colorado Front Range Communities, from Colorado State Forest Service,
Read more: Colorado tough: Great trees for your Western garden - The Denver Post 

Recommended Fruit Tree Varieties for Front Range Colorado

Saturday, April 7, 2018

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

Growing blueberries in Colorado is a challenge at best. Knowledge of soils and best planting practices will help you succeed. Patti O'Neal, Horticulture Assistant at the Jeffco Extension Office gives you growing advice in this useful video.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Spring Lawn Management Checklist for Colorado Lawns by Dr. Tony Koski

Photo Lawn Institute

Dr. Tony Koski, Extension Turf Specialist, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension offers  this advice for lawn management of bluegrass and other turf grasses.

Fertilizing the Lawn
  • Fertilization of lawns this spring (March-June) is a highly recommended practice. 
  • The ideal fertilizer will contain a mixture of quickly and slowly available nitrogen sources. Most lawn care companies use these type of fertilizer blends. 
  • Excellent fertilizer blends are available to the homeowner from local nurseries and garden centers. 
  • Fertilizer applied before watering is allowed will not cause a problem for lawns; adequate moisture from spring precipitation and irrigation (once it is allowed) will cause nutrients to be released to the turf. 
    Photo CSU

Aerating (Cultivating) the Lawn
  • Lawn aeration is a highly recommended spring lawn care practice. 
  • While deeper (2-3 inches) core holes provide the greatest benefit to the lawn, even shallow (1 inch) core holes will help to enhance water infiltration for the spring and summer watering periods. 
  • Overseeding may be done in conjunction with lawn aeration; this may especially benefit those lawns thinned by drought conditions or winter mite activity (avoid using crabgrass preemergent herbicides at the time of overseeding). 
  • Lawn aeration will help to control thatch, an organic layer that often impedes proper water movement into the soil. 
  • Lawn aeration, fertilization, and overseeding all can be done at the same time. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

April Fools’ Day Garden Hoaxes

Photo courtesy
From the early 1900s to the present, gardeners have swapped April Fools hoaxes and photos. It just goes to show that we DO have a sense of humor about this serious subject of gardening. Even Denver made the list in 1958 when an unknown prankster transformed stop signs into giant flowers. It was suspected to be the work of "a recent arrival from neighboring Kansas, the sunflower state." [Spokane Daily Chronicle - Apr 2, 1958]

Check out some of the best gardening hoaxes in the last 100 years or so!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Time to Start Tomato Seeds Indoors Along the Front Range Colorado

Quick to germinate and grow, tomato seeds are best sown indoors about six weeks before the average last frost date. People in the Denver metropolitan area normally use Mothers' Day as a guide for when to plant. However, Denver had its last spring freeze on April 5 in 1977 and on June 8 in 2007. The average over the last ten years is May 5. Using May 13, 2018 Mothers' Day as a planting date, tomato seeds can be started indoors the first week of April.

Here's a great guide on starting tomato seeds indoors from Modern Farmer: 
Colorado State University Vegetable Planting Guide. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Best Practices for Starting Seeds

Photo Ft. Collins Nursery

IIt’s the time of year when many gardeners begin to start seeds indoors for their vegetable gardens. John Porter with Nebraska Extension and Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture has this advise about starting seeds indoors:

Be economical. Use low-cost or recycled items such as takeout containers or shallow disposable aluminum baking pans to start your plants.  Sterilization is key in reducing disease.  Thoroughly wash containers, then dip in a solution of 10% household bleach (1 part bleach : 9 parts water) to disinfect.

Start seeds in clean, sterile seed-starting mix. Don’t skimp. Use a sterile mix that is primarily made of peat or coconut coir.

Transfer the seedling to an individual container/cell/pot with regular potting soil (when its first set of true leaves (the second leaves appear).

Place newly sown seeds in a warm (around 70 degrees F) place to help
them germinate faster. Heat is the most important factor in seeds
germinating: Move the seedlings to a cooler place (around 65 degrees) as
they will grow sturdier and not get thin and leggy.

Light is necessary for good plant growth. A good, sunny (usually south 
facing) window with plenty of light is one option. Otherwise invest in some lighting.

Don’t get started too early.  Read the packet for the number of days/weeks before last frost to start your seeds.

What about fertilizer? Seedlings don’t need much in the way of 
fertilizing when they’re put in a good potting mix.

For the complete article, check here: Starting Seeds with Success: Best Practices.

Plant Talk Colorado Starting Seeds Indoors.

Colorado State University Vegetable Planting Guide.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Photoperiodism: March Word of the Month

Photo courtesy
Photoperiodism: the amount of light and darkness a plant is exposed to.

This is the time of year when we make the transition from more darkness to more light in the Northern Hemisphere (the spring equinox). The spring equinox brings the transition of seasons, as the balance of light shifts to make for longer days, shorter nights, and a shift in photoperiodism for plants.

Photoperiodism causes a biological response to a change in the proportions of light and dark in a 24‐hour daily cycle. Plants use it to measure the seasons and to coordinate seasonal events such as flowering. Photoperiodism is important for plants as the amount of uninterrupted darkness is what determines the formation of flowers on most types of plants!

"Short day" (long night) plant requires a long period of darkness. They form flowers only when day length is less than about 12 hours. Many spring and fall flowering plants are short day plants. Examples are: chrysanthemums, poinsettias, Easter lilies, and some soybeans

"Long day" plants require only a short night to flower. These bloom only when they receive more than 12 hours of light. Many of our summer blooming flowers and garden vegetables are long day plants. Examples include: spinach, radishes, lettuce, and irises.

"Day neutral" plants form flowers regardless of day length. Tomatoes, corn, cucumbers and some strawberries are examples.

For more information about photoperiodism and its effects on plants, check out these links:

Thursday, March 22, 2018

March is the Time to Plant Pansies by Carol King

March is the perfect time to plant pansies. Pansies and violas or Johnny jump-ups can be staples of the spring garden. These plants, both from the genus Viola, prefer cooler weather and can survive temperatures into the 20s, and don’t mind spring snows!

Pansies have a colorful past with lots of folklore about them.  One of my favorites is this one about why they have no odor: “A German fable tells of how the pansy lost its perfume. Originally pansies would have been very fragrant, growing wild in fields and forests.  It was said that people would trample the grass completely in eagerness to pick pansies. Unfortunately, the people’s cows were starving due to the ruined fields, so the pansy prayed to give up her perfume. Her prayer was answered, and without her perfumed scent, the fields grew tall, and the cows grew fat on the fresh green grass.”  {from Wikipedia).

Monday, March 19, 2018

Spring Equinox in Colorado 2018 by Carol King

Photo by Carol King
The first day of spring brings joy to every gardener’s heart marking the beginning of the gardening season in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the unofficial time to start our gardens and regardless of the weather, we’re ready! Spring arrives here along the Front Range of Colorado on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 at 10:15 am MDT. This is also called the vernal equinox.

There are two equinoxes every year –  March and September – when the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of the night and day are nearly equal. (In reality equinoxes don't have exactly 12 hours of daylight, but close enough.) 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.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Irish Shamrock and Saint Patrick by Carol King

The Irish shamrock is the most recognized symbol of St. Patrick’s Day. The word (Irish: seamrog) means a young sprig in Irish. Saint Patrick is said to have used it as a symbol for the Christian Holy Trinity to help convert the Irish people from Druidism to Christianity in the 5th century. The Druids were said to hold the shamrock in special regard because its leaves formed a triad, and three is a mystical number in Celtic religion. 

In Ireland, all shamrocks are considered lucky and are worn and given as gifts on St. Patrick's Day. There is some disagreement among the Irish as to which exact plant is the shamrock. Two detailed investigations to settle the matter were carried out in two separate botanical surveys in Ireland, one in 1893 and the other in 1988. The results show that there is no one "true" species of shamrock, but that Trifolium dubium (Lesser clover) is considered to be the shamrock by roughly half of Irish people, and Trifolium repens (White clover) by another third, with the remaining fifth is split between various other species of Trifolium and Oxalis.

White clover (Trifolium repens), the common lawn weed, is found in Colorado.  This Irish shamrock is growing in our lawns, in prairies, pastures and foothills all around us!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Soil Testing: CSU Extension or DIY?

Photo by Donna Duffy

One of the first recommendations that we make as master gardeners is to have your soil tested before you add any amendments, plant anything or take any action at all in your home garden. This is probably the most important step any gardener can take before planting that first seed. The "blue chip" soil test is done at a Cooperative Extension soil testing lab such as the one at CSU.

However, we know that realistically, many home gardeners utilize a "do it yourself" soil testing product from their local garden centers.

So how do those testing kits stand up against the "real deal" at the Soil, Water and Plant Testing Laboratory at CSU? 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Winter Desiccation of Evergreens

Winter desiccation, photo courtesy Purdue University
It’s been a typical Jefferson County winter with periods of warm, windy, low-humidity days with no snow cover and extended dry periods. This contributes to “winter desiccation” on needled and broadleaved evergreens. Last year’s transplants are especially prone to winter desiccation (also called winter burn) under these conditions.  As the plants hold their leaves, they continue to transpire which becomes difficult during warm, dry winter periods. Below ground, small “hair roots” may die in dry soils leaving roots unable to replace lost leaf moisture.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Spring Forward With Your Gardening By Joyce D’Agostino

It’s March, and for gardeners this means that Spring is quickly approaching. For most of us in the US, we will observe the “spring forward” by setting our clocks an hour of daylight ahead on March 11, 2018 to observe Daylight Savings time. This month the “Vernal Equinox” or the first day of spring also occurs in March on March 20, 2018. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

How to Read a Seed Packet by Paula Hamm

Photo by Paula Hamm
Growing plants from seed is incredibly rewarding and fascinating but there are a few things you need to know before you get started.  You can find nearly everything you need to know on the seed packet itself.  

First, every seed packet should list the common and Latin name of the seed inside the envelope.  It is not uncommon for more than one plant to have the same common name;  the Latin name can help you figure out whether the seed packet you are holding has the seeds you want.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

What Happens to Insects During the Winter?

Lady beetle on Asclepias speciosa, photo by Donna Duffy
Do you ever wonder what happens to insects over the winter months? What conditions allow them to survive? Why do some die and some overwinter? What beneficial and pesky insects will show up in my landscape this spring? Planttalk Colorado offers the following information on Insect Overwintering to help you answer these perplexing questions. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Not So Fast! Gardening Tips for Late Winter

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.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A to Z: Gardening Vocabulary for Beginners

Photo courtesy Donna Duffy
New to gardening? Here’s a cheat sheet of definitions to help you understand what those experienced gardeners are talking about!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Care for African Violets by Vicky Spelman

Photo Elaine Lockey
African violets can be a great indoor plant for Colorado. Their care is fairly simple and they will bless you with beautiful blooms. Here are tips for their care:
  • Light: Moderate to bright, indirect, indoor light.
  • Water: In general, African Violets need just enough water to keep the soil moist, but never soggy and should be room temperature. They have self-watering pots - a smaller pot with the violet sits in a larger pot that has a water fill line and when nearly empty refill.
  • Fertilizer: Your fertilization practices can also impact how well African violets bloom. Unlike plants that grow outdoors, houseplants are totally dependent on the grower to apply sufficient nutrients without overdoing it. The small pots these plants are typically grown in do not maintain a large reserve of nutrients. If you do not fertilize them on a regular basis, they may not have the necessary nutrients to spend on flowers. On the other hand, too much fertilizer with high nitrogen content can lead to lush foliage at the expense of flowers.
  • Other tips: Pinch off spent blossoms and blossom stems to encourage development of new blooms. Place plants away from floor vents, fans, or entrance doors to avoid air drafts and bursts of cold air.
For additional information: 

Why Isn’t my African Violet Blooming.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

George Washington and Planting Cherry Trees by Carol King

It’s George Washington’s birthday, (February 22, 1732) and it’s hard to think of our first president without the phrase “I cannot tell a lie” popping up.  The cherry tree myth is the most well-known and longest enduring legend about our first president. It was invented by one of Washington’s very first biographers, Mason Locke Weems. In the original story, when Washington was six years old he received a hatchet as a gift and damaged his father’s cherry tree. When his father discovered what he had done, he became angry and confronted him. Young George bravely said, “I cannot tell a lie…I did cut it with my hatchet.” Washington’s father embraced him and rejoiced that his son’s honesty was worth more than a thousand trees.1

Weems wanted to present Washington as the perfect role model, especially for young Americans. The cherry tree myth and other stories showed readers that Washington’s public greatness was due to his private virtues. William Holmes McGuffey, author of the McGuffey’s Readers, created a version of the cherry tree myth that appeared in his Eclectic Second Reader. This helped entrench the cherry tree myth in American culture. The myth has endured for more than two hundred years and has become an important part of Americans' cultural heritage.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Low Humidity in House Plants by Carol King

Plants on Pebble Tray. Photo
This time of year, Colorado gardeners turn to indoor plants to soothe our gardening souls.  However the indoor environment in our homes can be very harsh for many plants. Many house plants are native to humid, tropical rain forests and require special consideration when they reside in Colorado homes. While lighting and temperatures need to be monitored for successful indoor gardening, humidity is the big issue during colder months.  Heating systems common in Colorado circulate dry, warm air throughout the house. Our indoor environment often has less than 10 percent humidity. This is a drastic reduction from the 70 to 90 percent relative humidity levels found in the native climates of most tropical plants.

Why does this matter? Humidity is the level of moisture in the air and can affect a plant's need for water.  Plants grown indoors with low humidity lose more water through transpiration, so their root systems require more water. In addition, plants located near heating or cooling vents may develop leaf spots or brown tips.
Here are a few tips to help alleviate low humidity problems:
  • Misting plants may help alleviate this condition, however, it must be done frequently to be effective, and it may promote some foliar diseases. 
  • Place several plants together on a tray filled with gravel. Filling the tray with water provides the humidity many plants need. Make sure the bottom of the container does not stand in water; the soil will become water-logged and cause root damage. 
  • Use a humidifier around your plants. 
  • For house plants with moderate humidity needs, group them together during the heating season. Each plant gives off humidity through transpiration. Clusters of plants will create very good humidity in the surrounding air.