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 maximumyield.com
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.