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.