Thursday, September 29, 2011

How Hot Is Hot: The Bhut Jolokia AKA the Ghost Chili by Jim Rohling

The Bhut Jolokia chili originates from Nagaland and Assam in northeastern India and was named by the Naga people after the most venomous snake in the region. The Assamese word “jolokia” means the Capsicum pepper and the word naga means” King Cobra” in Sanskrit. The peppers’ fierce “bite” is akin to the venom of a King Cobra. One farmer described it as “so hot you can’t even imagine. When you eat it, it’s like dying,” hence the name “ghost chili.” It’s also been referred to as “the equivalent of a gastronomic mugging.” At over 1,000,000 Scoville units (SHUs) one can see why.

In 2005, New Mexico State University’s Chili Pepper Institute (yes, there is a chili pepper institute) found the Bhut Jolokia to have a Scoville rating of 1,001,304 SHUs. Although there are other peppers that are hotter, like the Naga Viper at 1,382,118 SHUs and the Trinidad Scorpion at 1,463,700 SHUs, because of their hybrid nature they are unable to produce offspring exactly like the parent. So, at 855,000–1,050,000 SHUs, the Bhut Jolokia is the hottest “naturally grown” pepper.  For comparison, a bell pepper registers zero SHUs, a Jalapeno comes in at roughly 3,500, and a Habanero is approximately 100,000–350,000.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Word on Hypertufa by Judy Huckaby

When a hypertufa class was offered through the Jefferson County Master Gardener program, I immediately signed up to become an instructor.   I learned that tufa is compressed volcanic ash that has been mined for centuries in order to be carved into watering troughs and sinks.  Gardeners began to covet these containers for their rugged looks and soon the troughs became expensive and rare.
Somebody somewhere down the line had a flash of brilliance and came up with a recipe to make garden containers that look and are waterproof like tufa, but are lighter in weight.  Called hypertufa, the prefix “hyper”  can mean excess, exaggeration or above and beyond.  Regardless of the meaning, hypertufa containers are usually planted with “alpine gardens” because they leech alkalinity and these plants can take it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wintering-Over Mandevilla Vines by Gardener Dave

Have you ever tried to winter-over a Mandevilla vine  (Mandevilla spp.) indoors?  I am trying it this year and would like to pass on information and tips I have (recently) researched on the Internet. The info below is a compendium of that information. Since they can be quite expensive, it may be worth your while to try it.

Mandevilla vines are sold by nurseries and “big box” stores throughout the summer. They are showy plants with trumpet-like flowers in many attractive colors. They are a tropical plant, only hardy to Zone 9 and above. If they are grown in hanging containers or in medium sized pots on the patio, they can be cut or pinched back to maintain the desired size. However, if it is happy in your location, i.e. sunny and warm, it will vine, and will need a large pot and some sort of trellis. It will thrive outside with regular, even watering, being careful to not let the soil get soggy. It needs well drained soil and light fertilizing at regular intervals when actively growing. They are moody if temps drop much below 60 degrees, and will NOT tolerate temps much below 45-50 deg. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What to Do With Green Tomatoes by Carol King

Lakewood Gardener, Jose Lara with his bounty of vegetables! Photo by Diana Roca.

This is the time of year when gardeners have a plethora of unripe tomatoes in their gardens.  If your garden is no exception, here are a few tips on dealing with all those green tomatoes.

To speed-ripen on the vine try these:
  • Stop watering. This encourages ripening.
  • Root prune the plant. Dig into the soil 6-8” deep and cut around a circle 12” from the stem. Shake the plant but don’t dig it up. This will stress the plant and the fruit will ripen faster.
  • Pinch off any flowers, small fruit, new shoots, and suckers. It’s too late for them to become anything. Do this now and all the plants energy will go toward ripening.

When frost is expected, try these
  • Cover the plant completely and anchor so the wind doesn’t blow it off. Use old blankets, thick plastic, or anything similar and make sure it goes all the way to the ground providing the plant with trapped warmth.
  • Harvest the tomatoes by pulling the plant from the ground and hanging it upside down in a garage or other shelter. Check often for ripe ones. 
  • Pick the pink ones and put them on the counter to ripen
  • Pick the green tomatoes and store them in a shallow tray lined with newspaper. They need 60-70 degrees and no light. The warmth ripens them not light.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Green Manuring By Grace Olson

    Once when I was in early high school my mother asked me to take my old Toyota pickup and drive to a local dairy farmer to buy some manure for her garden. I dutifully chugged over to the quiet farm, where the owner’s teenage son helped me load several tractor buckets full of fresh, steaming slop into my truck bed. I puttered on home and began shoveling it out onto her beautifully maintained plot, eyes watering with the stench and wondering how anyone could stand using the stuff. A half-hour later, my mother came home, took one breath of the chaos ensuing in her yard, and explained to me in some very heated language all about the term “composted.” In the end, her garden recovered and we now laugh about how that was some really “green manure.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Grass is Greener by Gail Wilson

..Or at least I certainly hope so!  I decided in 2010 that it was time to do some thing with my lawn.  I had only owned the property for 10 years but the lawn was 40 years old.  My decision was to over seed with Reveille, a Hybrid Blue Grass that claims to be more drought resistant.  Saving water is really important to me so I did some research and everything I read indicated that it was worth a try.

In the spring of 2010 I aerated (2 inch centers) my existing lawn, applied seed, (1 lb per 1000 square feet) and covered the seed with approximately 1/8 inch of compost.  I watered three times a day until the seeds germinated and continued watering an average of three times a week during the summer.  In the beginning of August I repeated the procedure, Reveille is started in early August no later.  I had a beautiful lawn that year.  Well of course I did with all that care and water.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Autumn Beauty for Your Garden By Joyce D’Agostino

For those of us who garden in the Front Range, it seems we find that our growing season is just not long enough. Our late and early frosts often challenge us to find plants that can produce quickly and will sustain as long as possible.

Some of these plants such as tomatoes are warm weather plants and begin to decline as the cool temperatures begin to arrive. One way to extend your garden enjoyment is to add plants that often do their best toward the end of the summer season, such as sunflowers, pumpkins and gourds.
This year, I chose a sunflower variety called ‘Autumn Beauty’.  Autumn Beauty features both bi-color and solid colors in the mix.  This morning (08-31-11) the first flower of this batch opened and it was a lovely bi-color of bronze and deep orange yellow. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

High and Dry: Gardening with Cold-Hardy Dryland Plants; Book Review by Liz Swiech

Nold, Robert.  High and Dry: Gardening with Cold-Hardy Dryland Plants. Portland, Or. : Timber Press, 2008.

Okay, whoever put the hold on this book at the library – you are forcing me to return it after renewing it twice and I may just have to go out and buy it for my own library. This is like a huge plant catalog specifically for our region with heaps of additional information, including the personal experience and opinion of a tried and true Colorado gardener.

Nold’s relaxed writing style and wry sense of humor kept me browsing through 400 pages of detailed plant descriptions and color photos. For example, in the commentary about Cercocarpus intricatus (little-leaf mountain mahogany) Nold says, “True, life would be good if C. intricatus came with bright red flowers the size of Frisbees lasting all year, but this is a really beautiful shrub even without the flowers.”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Successfully Growing Tomatillos by Elizabeth Buckingham

As a professional chef and an avid gardener, I am always interested in trying new vegetables in my garden. Each growing season I set a goal to grow at least five new vegetables or herbs that I’ve never grown before, and this year the tomatillo made that list. I know that the tomatillo is probably not considered particularly exotic here in Colorado; our Mexican influences and love of Mexican cuisine means that many local gardeners grow this vegetable every season. Although I’d used tomatillos numerous times in my professional life I had not yet grown my own, and I was excited to try it out.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Dealing with Disappointment – Garden Style by Sue Bloomquist

This summer has been a time of great success . . and great disappointment.  The joys have included my first attempt to raise LOTS of seedlings.  I planted four varieties of tomatoes and, out of three full bedding plant trays, only three seeds did not sprout.  I also built not one but two raised bed gardens – something I have been promising myself I would do for three years.  As usual, my lettuce, which reseeds itself, has been delicious.

Tomatoes With Spotted Wilt Virus
    However, in the midst of all this bounty, I came face to face with THE ENEMY.  I am talking about tomato spotted wilt virus, TSWV.  Several weeks ago, I began to notice a couple of tomato plants just looking, well, sickly.  After Internet searches led me to several possibilities, I took samples to the Jeffco Extension diagnostic clinic.  The search narrowed, but a simple chemical test delivered the final blow.  TSWV!  Time to yank out the plants – no treating, babying or otherwise trying to save them. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Joys of the Common Colorado High Country Gardener by Nancy R White

The summer gardening season is winding down.  As each year passes, I find that I learn new things and once again this year is no exception.
Elk Damage on Viburnum

 Living up in elevation at about 7,000 ft. makes gardening a challenge.  One of the biggest challenges is the wildlife that I love to see when I am hiking, but have gotten a bit frustrated with in my own yard.  When I got home from a short trip to the mountains recently, I found that some animal had eaten half of the leaves off of my small Black Haw Viburnum Tree right by my front door!  My husband said that a large male elk had been hanging around.  I wish I had seen the majestic creature!  I have learned to share in order to enjoy these beautiful creatures in my neighborhood, but I sure hope my tree will live.