Saturday, November 15, 2008

Jefferson County Master Gardener Achievements

Ceci Droll, Friend of Extension Award Recipient

Jefferson County Extension Office celebrated Master Gardener Achievement Night on Thursday, November 13, 2008, at the Jeffco Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall. Approximately 100 master gardeners and their guests attended the event.

Rusty Collins, Extension Director and Heather Hodgin, Horticulture Agent commended the group on their outstanding service to the Jefferson County community. During the past year, the gardeners volunteered more than 3700 hours toward helping Jefferson County CSU Extension reach its goal of empowering county citizens and enhancing their quality of life through education, innovation and excellence in service. Jeffco Master Gardeners answered gardening questions at the hotline, office walk-ins, plant clinic, e-mails and house calls. They staffed booths at the farmers’ markets, fairs garden shows, etc. The gardeners wrote newspaper articles worked in class rooms and with the green industry. They also presented educational programs and assisted in community greening projects such as Habitat for Humanity, the Courage Garden, and various school garden projects. All in all, Master Gardeners provided Jefferson County residents with $76,000 worth of free gardening advice during 2007-2008.

The highlight of the evening was the Friend of Extension Award presented to Cecilia Droll by Jefferson County Commissioner, Kathy Hartman. Ceci is the oldest master gardener certified in Jefferson County. She graduated in 1976, the second year of the program. Her devotion to the program is paramount. She has written newspaper articles, taught senior citizens gardening at the Jeffco County Health Department, engaged in outreach efforts at malls, planned, administered and judged at the Harvest Shows. At 95, Ms. Droll continues to be a dynamic force in the Master Gardener’s program. And she has a hug waiting for you as well!

Certificates of recognition were given to two year, ten year, and fifteen year gardeners and peer honors.

For more information about the Jefferson County Master Gardener’s program or for gardening advice, please call the Extension Office at 303-271-6620.

Achievement Night Highlights

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Over-Wintering Perennials

Winter survival of our precious perennials is always a major concern. Keeping a few things in mind will help them come though the cold season. Remember that our chief winter enemies on the Front Range are: soil dryness, drying winds, fluctuating temperatures, and “false springs”. Plants in containers are especially vulnerable. If you want to experiment with over-wintering perennials in containers, the bigger the container the better. Barrel-size containers can work if they are somewhat protected from our drying winds and temperature extremes. I would not consider trying this with clay pots, even large ones, because damp soil can expand and crack them when they freeze. Thick wooden containers, or “closed-cell foam” plastic containers do provide some measure of insulation during temperature fluctuations.

Soils with a large amount of air space; sandy/gravelly soil, or soil with an over-abundance of organic or moisture-retaining materials, can actually let cold air penetrate more deeply, thus damaging plant roots. Nursery plants that have been rooted in very light “soil” material are susceptible to cold penetration even if they have been planted (sunk into) your regular garden soil. Winter soil moisture is critical. If we have little or no snow cover, water every 3-4 weeks on warmer days that will allow water to penetrate before it freezes. Keep the (dead) topgrowth on perennials as much as possible in winter. If we do have snow, any remaining topgrowth will catch snow that will add to soil moisture when it melts. Mulching around perennials is extremely important. It helps to retain soil moisture and reduces soil temperature fluctuations. A layer of shredded bark, pine needles, or other insulating material 3” deep or more will help greatly. Avoid using fallen leaves, these can mat down and mold.

Putting your perennials “to bed” properly during their “hibernation” season will let you sleep easier too. Then you can relax, read your garden catalogs and anticipate our next real spring!

Posted by Jeffco Master Gardener Dave

Monday, November 3, 2008

Frost Tolerant Perennials

For some of us “Tree Hugging, Dirt Loving” gardeners here on the Front Range, the floral growing season is all too short. If it were up to us, we would like at least another month! Maybe we don’t want to fly south with the birds, or live in Florida, but we would like to eke out a few more days or weeks at the end of the season when some flowers are still blooming. Please?

There are a few annuals and perennials that do have tolerance for light frosts – other than the tough, ubiquitous Pansy we see in all the nurseries in fall and spring. Here are a few more to consider (nothing exotic): Bells of Ireland, Black-eyed Susan, Calendula, Callibrachoa, Coreopsis, Cornflower, Chrysanthemum, Dianthus, Ornamental Cabbage, Primrose, Roses, Rudbeckia, Snapdragon, Stock, Sweet Pea, and Violet. These will generally give us 2-3 weeks after the fall average (light) frost dates. If we have been diligent at deadheading during the summer, even the perennials in this group may still be blooming. These can be good little troopers in the fall, unlike Begonias, Impatience, and Portulaca, etc. that turn to mush or straw at the very mention of the word frost!

When planting, we also need to keep our little microclimates in mind – hillsides where cold air flows off, protected areas next to the house, or near heat-trapping brick or stone walls – the little “Zone 6” areas that are the exception to our Front Range Denver normal Zone 5 climate. Take advantage of any warmer areas you might have, and remember to harden off greenhouse-grown plants by exposing them gradually to our bright sunlight, wind and variable temperatures in early spring before planting them in your garden.

Posted by Jeffco Master Gardener Dave.