Friday, June 29, 2018

Gardening Power to the People: The Power of Mulch

It's time to mulch! In this short video, Jill Knussman, Jeffco Master Gardener, gives you tips for using mulch in your garden.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Are You Unknowingly Harboring a Noxious Weed in Your Garden? by Donna Duffy

It’s easy to get hooked on flowers that are easy to grow, especially those that seem to be refreshingly trouble-free. Unfortunately, some of these qualify as invasive ornamental weeds, and their rapid growth causes a multitude of problems. These undesirable plants reduce native plant habitat, reduce habitat for wildlife, alter riparian areas, and cause problems in agricultural lands. Colorado Noxious Weeds are illegal to grow, even though they may be available on the internet and in some “big box” stores. Following are three Noxious Weeds to watch out for, and native and non-invasive alternatives you can grow instead.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Controlling Slugs in the Garden by Carol King

Photo CSU Extension
The wet spring and continuing storms have provided a banner crop of sugs in gardens along the Front Range of Colorado.  I see their slime trails each morning glistening in the sunshine and see evidence of their voracious eating habits on my hostas in particular.

Slugs are very destructive and difficult to control. Seedlings of many vegetables and flowers are favored foods, and they feed on many fruits and vegetables prior to harvest. Even the slime trails produced by slugs can contaminate garden produce.

Dr. Whitney Cranshaw, Professor and Extension Specialist of Entomology at Colorado State University recommends the following:


Techniques for Slug Control:
Reduce moisture in the garden. Slug populations depend on moisture in the garden to thrive.  Any effort  to reduce the amount of moisture will help with the problem.  Use of drip irrigation and soaker lines and overhead watering early in the day will help reduce the humidity they thrive on.
Remove hiding places for slugs. Removing surface debris,avoiding organic mulches (straw, grass clippings) increasing air movement around plants and using trellises and wider plant spacing will help in reducing slug populations.
Use traps or trap boards to kill or concentrate slugs. Slugs are attracted to chemicals produced by many fermenting materials. Thus pans of beer or sugar-water can attract, trap and drown slugs. Place them throughout the plant to reduce slug populations. Alcohol is not the attractant to slugs; its the yeast fermenting in the beer. Boards and wet newspaper placed on the soil surface will have slugs that seek shelter under them. Check these shelters every morning and kill any slugs found.
Plant trap crops to divert slugs from main crops. Slugs love some plants more than others so planting them will divert slugs from your prized plants. Good trap crops include: green lettuce, cabbage, calendula, marigolds, comfrey leaves, zinnias and beans.
Use repellents or barriers. Slugs don’t like to travel over abrasive materials. Diatomaceous earth, wood ashes and similar materials placed around plants provide some protection. These materials must be kept dry however. 
Apply baits according to label directions. Molluscicides are pesticides effective against slugs and snails, and are offered for sale in most garden centers. Read labels carefully and apply as directed.  Many of these are harmful to pets and other wildlife and cannot be used on vegetables. Metaldehyde is the most commonly used and effective molluscicide. It is sold often in the form of granular baits (Bug-Geta, etc.) or as a paste or gel (Deadline, etc.) It is not to be used in the vegetable garden and is harmful to dogs in particular.  An alternative bait that recently has become available includes iron phosphate (ferric phosphate) as the active ingredient. Trade names include Sluggo, Slug Magic and Escar-Go!, among others. Iron phosphate products can be used around edible crops and do not pose special hazards to dogs. Ammonia sprays make excellent contact molluscicides, but must be applied directly to exposed slugs. Household ammonia, diluted to a 5 percent to 10 percent concentration, is effective for this purpose.
For more information about slug control read this fact sheet:

Friday, June 22, 2018

Gardening Power to the People (Video): Insect Puddles

Did you know that insects need water to drink? An easy way for you to encourage pollinators in your garden is to make an "Insect Puddle." In this video, Colorado Master Gardener, Cathy Jo shows you just how to do it.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Pollinator Week: Providing Water for Pollinators

Swallowtail drinking from a mud puddle, photo courtesy
Creating a pollinator-friendly garden goes beyond providing pollinator-friendly plants. Pollinators need sources of water for many purposes, including drinking and reproduction.  Butterflies, for example, will gather and sip at shallow pools, mud puddles or even birdbaths.  

Aphids in the Garden by Bernadette Costa

Aphid infestation, photo courtesy UMN Extension
As most of us have discovered, aphids are very common in home landscapes.  Sometimes called plant lice, they are small, soft-bodied, pear-shaped insects, generally less than 1/8” long.  Most are green or black but they can also be found in a variety of other colors as well.  A characteristic common to all aphids is the presence of cornicles, or tubes, on the back ends of their bodies, sort of like “tailpipes”.  These cornicles secrete substances that help protect the aphids from predators.  Over winter, aphids exist as eggs on perennial plants and hatch in the spring.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Colorado's Native Bees

Leaf Cutter bee with leaf, photo courtesy

Colorado has over 950 species of bees, and all but a handful of these are native. Most of the few introduced (non-native) species that now call Colorado home were brought in accidentally. The most well-known non-native bee is the honey bee, an important pollinator of many of our agricultural crops, especially those that are also non-native. But our native bees, who for millions of years have co-evolved with our native flowering plants, are much more important, efficient, and effective pollinators for native fruits and vegetables. Many of these, like squash, tomatoes, and eggplants, cannot be pollinated by honey bees at all!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Save Our Pollinators: What You Can Do by Patti O'Neal

Photo by Donna Duffy
Do you enjoy any of these foods?  Avocados, Blueberries, Apples Cherries, Chocolate, Coffee, Peaches, Vanilla?  What if you did not have them any longer?  What would your world look like then? 
Did you know that insect pollinators – primarily social and solitary bees – are responsible for pollinating 35% of the world’s crop production, increasing outputs of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide as well as many plant-derived medicines.  At least one third of the world’s agricultural crops depends upon pollination provided by insects and other invertebrates.  

Monday, June 18, 2018

National Pollinator Week 2018: Gardening for Pollinators

Pollinators on Opuntia bloom, photo by Donna Duffy

June 18-24, 2018 has been designated National Pollinator Week. Now is the time to add pollinator-friendly plants to your landscape. Following are landscaping tips from the Colorado Native Plant Society and the USDA Forest Service to help you get started.

Gardening Power to the People: Trellis / Vertical Gardening (Video)

Trellising can be an important part of your vegetable garden. Not only does it help expand your planting space, it's a great way to grow many vegetables. Here's a video with Colorado Master Gardener Ed explaining may kinds of trellis.

Friday, June 15, 2018

DIY Rain Barrel Installation (Video)

Thinking of installing a rain barrel? This video from PlantTalk Colorado shows you how!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Conglobation (Think Pillbugs): June Word of the Month

Armadillidium vulgate, common pillbug, photo courtesy

Conglobation is a term often associated with the common pillbug because of the way they roll up into a ball. This is called conglobation. Rolling into a ball is why many people call them 'roly-polies'. When pillbugs are threatened or bothered, they roll into a ball, likely to protect their soft inner body. Rolling into a ball could also limit water loss. When moving, they alternate between gradual right and left turns so that they end up moving straight forward.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Gardening Power to the People: Pollinators—Bee or Wasp? (Video)

Not all flying insects are "bees." Here's a video that will help you distinguish between two important pollinators:

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Watch for Codling Moths on Apple and Pear Trees

Adult Codling Moth, photo courtesy CSU Extension
For the first time in several years, we didn't have a late spring freeze in 2018! That's good news for fruit production in Jefferson County. The fruit trees are already showing signs of a banner fruit yield. Watch your apple and pear trees for codling moth - it's the most important insect pest of these trees in North America.  Damage is done by the larvae, which are cream-colored caterpillars that tunnel fruit and produce ‘wormy’ apples.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Tomato Growing Techniques (Video)

Tomatoes are arguably the most popular vegetable grown in the home garden. However, they are not an easy vegetable to grow.  Here are several short videos to help in making your tomato growing efforts successful.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Cottonwoods by Carol King

The cottonwoods are starting to spit cotton. In a few days the skies will be filled with cottonwood snow. It will pile up in the corners of the porch and cover the spirea bush like cotton candy. People’s noses will itch and they will blame the cottonwood. The cotton will stick to your sweaty body as you garden and you will go into the shower looking like a giant spider tried to snare you. Invariably, the call comes in for help. Can’t we do something? Please!

A combination of factors causes these trees to produce abundant seed. Sometimes large seed production is a reaction to stress (drought), while other times it is caused by favorable moisture. In other words, they just do this.
The cottonwood at first glance and without proper study, can easily be dismissed as a "trash tree." It has some personal habits that the urban homeowner can find extremely irritating. Like the male catkins that fall early in the spring looking a little like hundreds of wooly worms on the ground. And the sticky pods that fall after that and stain your pants. Then the female lets loose with this cotton, and then because it self-prunes, there are always twigs and dead leaves beneath the tree.

But before we dismiss the cottonwood let’s consider its place in history. I think a very good case could be made for us not even being here without the cottonwood. It provided the Native people shade, a place to camp for the night, and they used the inner bark for women's skirts; the European settlers used the wood for their cabins and their coffins. The Mexican and Spanish people of the Southwest
used it for fuel, its life-saving shade and its roots for carving religious icons. I like to think that the cottonwoods along our ditch are relatives of the ones the Arapaho Chiefs Little Raven and Left Hand shaded themselves under long before Denver began, when they camped along Cherry Creek near its junction with the South Platte.
The rustle of the leaves of the cottonwood can remind you of lapping or rushing water. And last fall right here in the wilds of north Lakewood, a group of vultures migrating, roosted overnight in the neighbor's cottonwood wowing us all with the sight of those great dark birds perched in the tree.

There are a lot of them in north Lakewood (cottonwoods, not vultures), partly because of the irrigation ditches that continue to meander through parts of Jefferson County from a throw back time when this was farmland. And as the cottonwood chooses its own spots it grows all along the irrigation ditches.
So in answer to that question, what can I do about the cotton from the cottonwood? Well, nothing, short of cutting all the trees; or spraying every tree every year with a growth regulator. Ethephon, sold as Florel™. It is labeled to prevent cotton development in female trees and needs to be applied during flower development.

I would like to propose a new reverence for this tree; an understanding that the benefits outweigh its trashiness. Birds call it their home: the woodpeckers, the owls, the grackles, the magpies and vultures; and it continues to offer us life saving shade and the lovely sound of water when the wind blows. And perhaps we should ponder whether our lives have to be so tidy that we don't allow some messiness to interfere?

I say, consider that cottonwood an embarrassing old aunt of a tree. She dresses all wrong, talks too loudly, but has a heart of gold. Her skirts are too short, she gets drunk at Thanksgiving dinner, but she will give you her last dime and a bed on her couch for as long as you need it. She deserves your love! Celebrate the cottonwood. Gather the cotton and stuff a pillow; the cotton is actually hypoallergenic!
Here’s some more information.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Fall is Not the Only Time to Plant Bulbs by Carol King

As you are planting  your summer flower garden, don’t forget to include bulbs, corms and roots. Some examples include gladiolus, dahlias, canna, lilies and tuberous begonias. Often called summer bulbs, these flowers add an exotic touch to the garden. Here are some of the most popular examples:

Photo Pine Tree Garden Seeds
Gladiolus is a popular corm, coming in nearly every color, including lime green. Plant the corms 3 inches deep and 6 inches apart in the spring, after danger of frost has passed. During the growing season, the original corm withers and a new corm forms on top of it. The cutting of the flowers does not inhibit the development of the new corm, as long as the leaves are left. As soon as the vegetative top of the plant dies down, dig the corms. Remove the withered corm, and store the new corms in a frost-free location over winter. Avoid a storage place with high temperatures and low humidity.

Dahlia Show Everett, Washington
Dahlias come in a wide variety of colors. They usually require support because of their height. Provide support by driving a stake into the ground 12 inches deep and 6 inches behind the root at the time of planting. Dahlias do not tolerate frost, so plant the tuberous roots after all frost possibilities have passed. In the fall when the vegetation is killed by frost, prune back the stalks to 6 inches. Leave the tuberous roots in the ground for two weeks to harden before digging them.  Dry the tuberous roots enough to shake off excess soil, and pack in sawdust, perlite or vermiculite and store in a cool, dry place until spring.