Wednesday, October 2, 2019

When Frost Threatens – Take Action by Patti O'Neal

Frost can signal that the end of the gardening season is near – but not necessarily over.
I have a good friend who recently said “I am sick of the garden – I just want it to be over.”  If this is you, then when frost threatens, by all means do a final harvest of the tenders and call it done.  If it’s not you, there are many measures you can take to protect your crops from a killing frost incident, as more times than not, such an incident is followed here by an Indian Summer and at least another month of flower and vegetable enjoyment and harvest.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Fall Gardening Tips Video

Colorado State University Horticulture faculty and graduate students share their best inside information you can use in your garden.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Facts, Traditions and Folklore of the Autumnal Equinox

Photo courtesy
Facts about the autumnal equinox: 

  • This year's autumnal equinox is on Monday, September 23, 2019 at 1:50 am MDT in Colorado, marking the first day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • The sun crosses the Earth's equator at the time of the equinox, from the Northern Hemisphere into the Southern Hemisphere.
  • During the autumnal equinox, day and night are balanced to about 12 hours each all across the world.
  • In the far north, the autumnal equinox signals peak viewing of the aurora borealis or northern lights.The celestial display of brilliantly colored lights happens when charged particles from the sun strike atoms in Earth’s atmosphere, causing them to light up. These light displays peak around the fall and spring equinox. That’s because disturbances in Earth’s atmosphere—known as geomagnetic storms—are strongest at these times.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Time to Plan and Plant the Fall Vegetable Garden by Patti O'Neal

Swiss Chard by Carol King
Colorado is well suited to fall gardening and winter harvest. While weather often dictates the length of the season, eleven months is not out of the question for Front Range gardeners. Imagine harvesting spinach for a great salad in November!

If you’ve never tried fall gardening, here are 5 reasons why you should.

1.  Gardens can be any size – So anybody can do it.
Fall crops are primarily greens and root crops, so they are very well adapted to container gardening, table top raised beds, and raised beds of all kinds.  Start with one container of spinach this year, you’ll catch the bug and increase it next year.

2.  There are many vegetables that thrive in fall Front Range gardens and can be planted now.
Beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, kale and chard can all be planted now.  August is the best time to plant arugula, cabbage, endive, spinach, cilantro and in September you can plant bush peas, radishes, Chinese greens, more spinach and lettuce and the list goes on. My fall garden has no fewer than 5 varieties of spinach, 10 varieties of lettuce and 4 Chinese vegetables, like Pac Choi and Bok Choi  and 3 kales to name a few. September or October is the time to plant garlic.

3.  Fall crops thrive in cooler weather and many fall crops are frost tolerant.
Cool crop vegetables develop their prime flavors when the ambient temperatures are cooler.  Get them germinated and up now so it is cooler when they begin to mature. 

4. Fall crops do not need a full 8 hours of sun each day.
Crops still require sun to photosynthesize these leafy vegetables are designed to thrive in less than 8 hours of full sun.  If you did not have the right place for tomatoes, you may have the perfect place for a pot of spinach, lettuce or chard which all will do well with 5-6 hours of light.

5.  Season protection is easy to obtain and apply.
There are many ways to protect your crops whether they are in containers or raised beds or even in ground that can be left on and removed for harvest or quickly applied if a frost happens.  These can be frost blankets, horticultural fabrics, cloches and even having a supply of old sheets handy if applied correctly. 

Why not try your hand at fall gardening? Having a fresh organic salad grown in your own garden for Thanksgiving will be a real treat! 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Five Things to Know For a Successful Fall Vegetable Garden by Patti O’Neal

Plant Lettuce now for Fall Harvest photo CSU Extension
Front Range weather has been especially challenging to gardeners this season.  After a fairly dry winter, spring presented with cold nights, freak snow storms, scorching heat and pounding rain and hail – and all of a sudden it’s mid July and we have had scorching heat!  But take heart.  One of the nicest growing seasons is yet to come; fall. 

There are many vegetables that will happily germinate from seed in the warm summer soil and thrive in the cooler temperatures of fall once they mature, and even taste better after a cold snap. This includes about 20 varieties of leaf and head lettuce, Swiss chard, radishes, kale, about 6 varieties of spinach, many oriental greens, onions, cilantro, peas, beets, turnips, arugula, carrots, kohlrabi and collards.  Even better news is that thinnings of all of these vegetables can be used in salads or soups.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Gardening Power to the People: Insect Hotels Pt. 1-Getting Started (Video)

Insect hotels are all the rage in gardening now in honor of National Pollinator Week. don't you want to make one? Jefferson County CSU Extension Colorado Master gardeners show you how! Here's a link to part two:

Happy Summer Solstice 2019! by Carol King

Photo Paintless Dog
Welcome to the longest day of the year!  Friday, June 21, 2019 at 9:54 am in Denver. In terms of daylight, this day is 5 hours, 38 minutes longer than on December Solstice. In most locations north of Equator, the longest day of the year is around this date. The Summer Solstice is an astronomical event that happens when the sun is directly above the Tropic of Cancer. This day has more hours of daylight than any other day of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere, Solstices occur on June 20th or 21st each year.

 It is also known as Midsummer’s Day as it occurs in the middle of our summer. Summer Solstice is considered to be halfway through the growing season for gardeners above the Equator. It marks the 1st day of summer and is celebrated by various cultures, and customs around the world. Celebrating Summer Solstice dates backs thousands of years. It was celebrated by the Ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and the Celts. Summer Solstice is associated it with good harvests and fertility, and abundance in your garden. 

Happy Summer Solstice to one an all and here’s to an abundant harvest! Here’s more information: Astronomy Facts About June.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Gardening Power to the People: Insect Puddles (Video)

In honor National Pollinator Week, Here's how to attract beneficial insects to your garden by providing a water source.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Host Plants for Butterflies by Joyce D'Agostino

Painted Lady

We are all aware of the need to support pollinators in our gardens and this includes butterflies. Butterflies are part of the ecosystem of beneficial insects that helps promote a healthy and balanced environment. Providing the necessary food, shelter and water for these insects helps attract more into your yard.
Often butterfly gardens focus on growing the plants that provide nectar for butterflies. While these plants are important food sources, it is essential that host plants are also included. A host plant is one that will allow the mature adult to lay eggs which emerge into caterpillars. These caterpillars use the host plants for food and shelter as they develop. 
Many host plants are native plants but some are readily found in garden centers as transplants or easy to grow from seed. For example, black swallowtail butterflies will use common kitchen herbs such as parsley, dill and fennel as hosts for their caterpillars. 
Providing both the host and nectar plants that are available in succession over the season will help bring more butterflies (and other pollinators) into your yard and garden.  Recording which butterflies visit your garden will also help you know the host and nectar plants that each need. 
The fact sheet and link below provide an excellent chart and detailed information to help you know what to plant to attract butterflies and support them all summer. 

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Rose: The Official Flower of Father's Day by Carol King

Father's Day Patio Rose
The rose is the official flower for Father’s Day and became so because of one of the founders of Father’s Day in the United States.  In 1910, Sonora Smart Dodd, from Washington State,  recognized the need for a Father’s Day after hearing a Mother’s Day sermon in church. She lost her mother at the age of 16, was reared by her father and became very passionate about the need for a Father’s Day. At the first Father's Day celebration, young women handed out roses at church, with attendees encouraged to pin on a rose in honor of their fathers– red for the living and white in memory of the deceased. Hence the rose became the official flower of Father’s Day. 
It wasn’t until 1972, during the Nixon administration, that Father’s Day was officially recognized as a national holiday.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Pollinator of the Week: Monarch Butterflies by Caroline Reardon

Monarch migration, photo courtesy
In mid March, the Monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus, who’ve overwintered in temperate central Mexico and southern California, mate and then begin their migration northward. Most fly either on a Midwest/Eastern path or along the Pacific coast, but some “strays” do fly through Colorado. 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

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

What is that buzzing around my head and food? This video will help you identify helpful pollinators and troublesome pests.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Pollinator of the Week: Squash Bees

Squash bee, photo courtesy Holly Prendeville, University of Nebraska

This article is reprinted  from “Squash Bees” by Jim Cane, USDA ARS, Bee Biology and Systematics Lab, Logan, Utah. 

Got squash? If so, you have the chance to see the most important floral specialists in agriculture, native solitary bees of two genera, Peponapis and Xenoglossa, the so-called “squash bees”. Look at your squash’s flowers during the first few hours after sunrise. Male squash bees will be darting between flowers, searching for mates. By noon, they will be fast asleep in the withered flowers.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Spring-planted Bulbs, Corms and Roots

Photo courtesy

As you are thinking about your summer flower garden, don’t forget to include spring-planted bulbs, corms and roots. Some examples include gladiolus, dahlias, canna, lilies and tuberous begonias.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Pollinator of the Week: Flower Flies

Tachinid fly, photo courtesy of Beatriz Moisset
The two-winged insects (flies, gnats, mosquitos) is a very large and varied group. Many of them specifically visit flowers, such as the Syrphid flies or flower flies. They are not as hairy as bees nor as efficient at carrying pollen, but some are still good pollinators. The USDA Forest Service provides the following information about Fly Pollination.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Hardening Off and Transplanting Seedlings

Seedling Photo by Brooke Coburn
It is time to begin to transplant tender seedlings outdoors, and seedlings that have grown indoors up to this point need special treatment before being planted outdoors. These seedlings are used to lower light levels, protection from the elements, and ample water. So they will need to adjust gradually to the outdoor environment, a process called hardening off.
Hardening Off
Photo Brooke Coburn
Shade for new seedlings by Brooke Coburn
About a week before transplanting, begin placing the seedlings outdoors for a few hours each day. Place the plants in a location with light shade and protection from the wind so as to avoid scalding and wilting. A shade cloth, tree, or trellis can provide adequate shade. Each day, gradually increase the amount of time the seedlings spend outdoors until they can be left out even overnight. Keep a careful watch on the weather forecast, however, and be sure to bring the seedlings inside if temperatures are going to dip near to freezing.
Transplant seedlings on an overcast, cool day, if possible, after the danger of frost has passed. Loosen the soil and dig a hole for the transplant. Carefully remove the seedling from the pot, keeping as many of the roots intact as possible. Place the roots in the hole and move loose dirt back around to support the stem of the plant. Water right away with a solution of half strength fertilizer. Keep newly transplanted seedlings well-watered for the first three to four weeks after transplanting until they develop a larger root system.
Gradually acclimate seedlings to the outdoor environment by providing protection from sun and wind. Transplant on a cool, overcast day, and continue to provide sufficient water until the root system has developed. See the links below for more information and to find your local frost dates.
Buying and Hardening Seedlings

Monday, May 13, 2019

Pollinator of the Week: Leaf Cutting Bees

A female leafcutter bee collecting pollen. Image courtesy of Jim McCulloch.
This article is excerpted from Leaf Cutting Bees (Megachile spp.) by Beatriz Moisset, USDA Forest Service.
There are about 242 species of Megachile bees or leaf cutting bees in North America. They belong to a larger group that includes also other leaf cutting as well as mason bees; these are all very good pollinators with very interesting habits.
Megachile bees are black and furry. They vary in size, on average about the same size as a honeybee. Most bees carry pollen in baskets on their legs. However, Megachile is different; the underside of the female’s abdomen is particularly furry and is used for this purpose. If you see a black bee, about the size of a honeybee, with a yellow belly, you probably saw a Megachile.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Dealing with Hail By Joyce D’Agostino

Hail, photo by Joyce D'Agostino

For many of us, having to deal with hailstorms is a reality. In this area of Colorado, we are in a hail zone meaning that we can experience more than the average hail events, and some of them can wipe out your garden in minutes.

In 2009, the Denver area had a very devastating hailstorm that included powerful winds. This occurred in late July, after about 9 PM and my mature garden was shredded. Not only was this very upsetting, but it told me that in order to try to successfully garden here, that weather protection, especially from hail is a must. Just recently we had a very powerful hailstorm in this area that including very large hail so there was not only damage to cars, roofs and siding but also damaged anything that was unprotected in gardens and landscapes. Hail can happen in any season so finding some permanent solutions that can stay up year-round will help.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Pollinator of the Week: Halictid Bees

Sweat bee on wild rose,  photo courtesy LuRay Parker, Wyoming Wildlife

In honor of the upcoming National Pollinator Week (June 19-25), we are highlighting a different pollinator every week. This week's pollinator is the Halictid bee, commonly known as sweat bees.  Thanks to Vince Tepidino, USDA ARS, Bee Biology and Systematics Lab in Logan Utah for the following information.

Pollinators have distinct foraging characteristics – some are specialists that collect pollen from flowers of just a few kinds of plants. Others, like the Halictidae (sweat bees), seem to be "anti-specialists". To paraphrase the early 20th century humorist Will Rogers, they have never met a flower they did not like, and they rarely find one whose pollen or nectar is unyielding. Such generalists visit a wide variety of flowers and often seem to do so indiscriminately. Variety seems to be the spice of their foraging lives. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the Garden by Carol King

Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for "Fifth of May") is an annual celebration in Mexico held to commemorate the Mexican Army's difficult victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862. In the United States the date has become associated with the celebration of Mexican-American culture. To commemorate this fun holiday, expand your celebration to include Cinco de Mayo gardening!
Here are some ideas for plantings in your Cinco De Mayo garden:

Cinco de Mayo Shrub Rose: (Rosa WEDcobeju’) Flowers are a blend of smoked lavender & rusty red-orange, the festive shrub provides a variety of color in a single bouquet! Its clean, round habit is ideal for use as a hedge or in a border. CSU Fact sheet on planting roses in Colorado: Growing Roses in Colorado

Photo Hosta Photo Library
Guacamole Hosta: (Hosta x ‘Guacamole’) The apple green foliage in the center is bordered by dark green margins creating a dazzling effect. These large hostas grow two feet tall and over four feet across. It has a magnificent fragrance that comes from the large white flowers in late summer. Nebraska Extension Fact sheet for growing hostas: Growing hostas.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Pollinator of the Week: Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird, photo courtesy Pollinator Partnership

This article is excerpted from The Rufous Hummingbird: Small But Feisty Long-distance Migrant by Stephen Buchmann, Pollinator Partnership. 

 Many western and southwestern gardeners know the Rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) as a delightful often-unexpected visitor to colorful garden wildflowers or hummingbird feeders. These amazing small but feisty birds (only 3” long) weigh merely three or four grams; for comparison, a United States penny weighs about 2.5 grams. These birds are amazing aerialists, darting in and out, and can be relentless attackers of other birds and insects at feeders and flowers. They have long slender nearly straight bills. Their wings are relatively short and do not reach the end of the tail when the birds are perched on a feeder or nearby branches. They are also one of the few North American hummingbirds to migrate long distances. Rufous hummingbirds are a western species, rarely straying into the eastern United States.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter Lily Lore and Care by Carol King

Photo Tufts University
It’s Easter time and the ubiquitous Easter Lily is every where.  Did you ever wonder why we purchase these flowers at Easter time?  Historically speaking Easter lilies don’t have much to do with the Easter holiday.  They are not native to the Holy Land.  In Biblical lore, however, the lily is mentioned numerous times. One of the most famous Biblical references is in the Sermon on the Mount: Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matt. 6:28-29). Often called the "white-robed apostles of hope," lilies were found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane after Christ's agony. Tradition has it that the beautiful white lilies sprung up where drops of Christ's sweat fell to the ground in his final hours of sorrow and deep distress.

Earth Day is Wednesday, April 22! by Audrey Stokes

Each year, Earth Day marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement which began in 1970. At the time, Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. “Environment” was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news.

Pollinator of the Week: The Colorado State Insect!

Colorado Hairstreak Butterfly, photo courtesy

Did you know that Colorado has a state insect? The Colorado Hairstreak butterfly (Hypaurotis crysalus) was designated the official state insect  in 1996 due to the steady lobbying of 4th graders from Wheeling Elementary in Aurora, Colorado (led by teacher Melinda Terry).

The Colorado Hairstreak is a small to medium sized butterfly with a wingspan of about 1.25-1.5 inches. The upperside of the wings is purple, with a darker border; coloration is brighter in the males. Small orange spots mark the lower outside edge of each wing. The underside of the wings is light blue with faint dark bands and orange spots at the base of the hind wing. Typical of other hairstreak butterflies, a delicate “tail” protrudes from the hind wings.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Pollinator of the Week: Hawk (Sphinx) Moth

A giant hawk moth (Eumorpha typhon) adult. Image by Alfred University artist Joseph Scheer.

This information is excerpted from an article by Steve Buchman, The Bee Works. You can read the entire article here.

Moths live in a wide variety of habitats around the world. They usually go unnoticed, except when flying erratically around your porch light, a streetlight, or other light source in the darkness of night. Most moths work the night shift, unlike their “respectable cousins” the butterflies. Moths represent a biological storehouse of interesting, dramatic, and unusual behaviors, some with roles as pollinators, others as food sources.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Get A Head Start on Yellowjacket Control by Carol King

Yellowjacket photo by Whitney Cranshaw
I noticed wasps are waking up from their winter naps, which made me think of that old meanie, the yellowjacket.  Yellowjackets can be controlled to some extent if we start early, rather than waiting until they are buzzing around our barbecues. The traps will catch the queens before they can find a place to nest.

Whitney Cranshaw, Entomology Professor and Extension Specialist from CSU tells us that the western yellowjacket (V. pensylvanica) is, by far, the most important stinging insect in Colorado. Late in the season, when colonies may include up to 200 individuals, they become serious nuisance pests around outdoor sources of food or garbage. The western yellowjacket is estimated to cause at least 90 percent of the “bee stings” in the state. Yellowjackets (Vespula spp.) are banded yellow or orange and black and are commonly mistaken for honey bees, but they lack the hairy body and are more intensely colored. Yellowjackets typically nest underground using existing hollows. Occasionally nests can be found in dark, enclosed areas of a building, such as crawl spaces or wall voids.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Japanese Beetles in Colorado by Joyce D'Agostino

Photo courtesy
As gardeners, we often struggle with the unwelcome visitors to our garden, whether it be a disease, an invasive plant or an insect pest that causes damage. The Japanese Beetle is now present in Colorado and can do significant damage to landscapes and lawns. This insect is not native to the US and came to the East Coast about 1912. Because it is not a native species, it has no natural predators that help control it.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Coffee Grounds and Gardening

Coffee grounds are a great addition to the garden and compost pile. Help to recycle this great organic resource and reduce the amount of organics going to the landfill! Thanks to our colleagues at Oregon State University Extension for the following information.

Some information about coffee grounds:
  • Coffee grounds are about 2% nitrogen by volume.
  • Grounds are not acidic; the acid in coffee is water-soluble so the acid is mostly in the coffee.
  • Coffee grounds are close to pH neutral (between 6.5 - 6.8 pH).
  • Coffee grounds improve soil tilth or structure.
  • Coffee grounds are an excellent nitrogen source for composting. They have a C/N ratio of 20/1. In informal trials with OSU/Lane County Extension Service, Compost Specialists sustained temperatures of 140 O-160 OF have been recorded for up to two weeks (when coffee grounds were 25% of the material in the compost pile by volume).
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests coffee grounds repel slugs and snails in the garden.

Monday, April 1, 2019

April Fools’ Day Garden Hoaxes

Photo courtesy
From the early 1900s to the present, gardeners have swapped April Fools hoaxes and photos. It just goes to show that we DO have a sense of humor about this serious subject of gardening. Even Denver made the list in 1958 when an unknown prankster transformed stop signs into giant flowers. It was suspected to be the work of "a recent arrival from neighboring Kansas, the sunflower state." [Spokane Daily Chronicle - Apr 2, 1958]

Check out some of the best gardening hoaxes in the last 100 years or so!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Colorado's Native Bees

 Leaf-cutting bee, Megachile fidelis, photo courtesy CSU Extension

The following information on native bees is provided by The Bees Needs, a citizen science project about native bees and wasps in the Boulder area. Take a look at the website for more information.

What is a “native bee”?
A native bee is a bee that occurs naturally in a region. Colorado has over 950 species of bees, and all but a handful of these are native. Most of the few introduced (i.e. non-native) species that now call Colorado home were brought in accidentally. The most well-known non-native bee is the honey bee. Honey bees were intentionally brought to North America. Today, honey bees are important pollinators of many of our agricultural crops, especially those that are also non-native.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Bumble Bee Identification Guide for Colorado

Bombus variabilis, Colorado's rarest bumble bee
Bumble bees have long fascinated humankind, at least since Carl Linneaus described six species in 1758 (Integrated Taxonomic Information System). Bumble bees are effective pollinators in urban, natural, and agricultural systems.The genus Bombus includes 250 bumble bee species worldwide, with 46 species present in North America, north of Mexico. Half of these—24 species total—occur in Colorado. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Benefits of Core Aeration

Photo courtesy

Aeration, or core cultivation, is standard lawn care. Aerating a lawn means supplying the soil with air, usually by poking holes in the ground throughout the lawn using an aerator. It reduces soil compaction and helps control thatch in lawns while helping water and fertilizer move into the root zone. A lawn can be aerated at any time the ground is not frozen, but should not be done when it is extremely hot and dry. Spring and fall are considered the best times for aeration. Heavy traffic areas will require aeration more frequently. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Spring Equinox in Colorado 2019 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 Wednesday, March 20, 2018 at 3:58pm 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.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Gardening Power to the People: Raised Bed Gardening

Gardening in Colorado's clay soil can be difficult, and raised beds are an alternative. Barbara LaRowe, Jefferson County Colorado Master Gardener, provides helpful information about gardening in raised beds. March is a good time to get those raised beds constructed!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A to Z: Gardening Vocabulary for Beginners

Photo courtesy Donna Duffy
New to gardening? Here’s a cheat sheet of definitions to help you understand what those experienced gardeners are talking about!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

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 10, 2019 to observe Daylight Savings time. This month the “Vernal Equinox” or the first day of spring also occurs in March on March 20, 2019. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Forcing Shrub or Tree Branches to Bloom Indoors by Bonnie Griffith

Photo kids
This time of year can be difficult for Colorado gardeners.  The weather can be absolutely beautiful, and we want to go outside and garden, but we know it’s much too early to remove our rose collars or plant annuals!  So here’s an activity for midwinter days when you want to hurry spring—cut flowering branches and bring them inside to flower.
Just about any flowering shrub or tree can be forced to flower early.  Here is a list of some of the most commonly available in Colorado gardens:
  • Apple and Crabapple (Malus spp)
  • Cherry and Plum (Prunus spp)
  • Dogwood (Cornus florida)
  • Forsythia (Forsythis spp)
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp)
  • Lilac (Syringa spp)
  • Pussy willow (Salix caprea)
  • Quince (Chaenomeles spp)
  • Redbud (Cercis Canadensis)
  • Spirea (Spiraea spp)
  • Viburnum (Viburnum spp)
Cut one to two-foot long branches or twigs from the shrub or tree, choosing pieces with as many plump buds as you can find.  Keep in mind what the shrub will look like later in the year—you don’t want to damage its beauty when it is leafed out.  
Use a sharp pruning tool to make the cuts.  After you’ve brought your branches inside, carefully split the cut ends about an inch with a sharp knife.  Then place them in a vase half-filled with warm water.  Set the vase in a warm, sunny location and be sure and change the water every few days. 

You will be rewarded with blooms in one or more weeks.  Voila!  Enjoy your early spring!
Here's an article from Purdue University Extension for more information:

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Time to Prune Apple Trees in Front Range Colorado by Carol O'Meara

Carol O'Meara from Boulder County Extension gives us a hands on look at the proper way to prune an apple tree.  The time for pruning is now before bud break!

Here's a fact sheet also.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

It’s National Floral Design Day!

Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show Winners

Who knew that February 28th was such an auspicious day? In addition to being National Floral Design Day, it’s also National Chili Day, National Chocolate Souffle Day and National Public Sleeping Day, my favorite. 

Floral Design Day was created as a unique way to celebrate a special birthday of Carl Rittner, the founder of the Rittners School of Floral Design in Boston over 60 years ago. Mr. Rittner is a pioneer in floral art education, and the people at Rittners felt that the idea of a holiday that celebrates floral design as an art form is a wonderful one whose time had come.  In 1995, Governor William F. Weld of Massachusetts, proclaimed this day as Floral Design Day. Carl Rittner will turn 105 this year.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Terminology for New Flower Gardeners

Mixed bed of perennials and annuals, photo by Beth Bonnicksen
If you are a newcomer to the world of flower gardening, welcome! Prepare to have a new addiction in your life. Getting familiar with some of the terminology will help you navigate the wonderful world of annuals, perennials, bulbs and more. Here’s a start.

Friday, February 22, 2019

George Washington and Planting Cherry Trees by Carol King

It’s George Washington’s birthday, (February 22, 1732) and it’s hard to think of our first president without the phrase “I cannot tell a lie” popping up.  The cherry tree myth is the most well-known and longest enduring legend about our first president. It was invented by one of Washington’s very first biographers, Mason Locke Weems. In the original story, when Washington was six years old he received a hatchet as a gift and damaged his father’s cherry tree. When his father discovered what he had done, he became angry and confronted him. Young George bravely said, “I cannot tell a lie…I did cut it with my hatchet.” Washington’s father embraced him and rejoiced that his son’s honesty was worth more than a thousand trees.1

Weems wanted to present Washington as the perfect role model, especially for young Americans. The cherry tree myth and other stories showed readers that Washington’s public greatness was due to his private virtues. William Holmes McGuffey, author of the McGuffey’s Readers, created a version of the cherry tree myth that appeared in his Eclectic Second Reader. This helped entrench the cherry tree myth in American culture. The myth has endured for more than two hundred years and has become an important part of Americans' cultural heritage.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

10 "Essential" Garden Tools

Photo courtesy Zac's Garden

Search the internet, and there are numerous lists of “essential” garden tools. Of course, your list will differ from others, based on the size and scope of your gardening efforts, your experience, the growing conditions in your landscape and your gardening goals. Following are ten of the most common tools that seasoned gardeners have in their shed.

Monday, February 18, 2019

New to Colorado? Five Gardening Tips for Success

Photo courtesy Colorado Dept. of Tourism

Welcome to Colorado! Regardless where you came from, you are likely to find gardening in Colorado different than it was in your home state - both rewarding and challenging. It's not too early to start thinking about your Colorado landscape. Following are five tips to help you get started on the right foot. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Check Soil Temperature Before Planting Vegetable Seeds

Photo courtesy vegetable

More important than moon signs and more predictable than weather is another variable which drastically affects how seeds and transplants grow - soil temperature. Soil temperature is a factor which few of us consider important enough to check before planting yet it is probably the most important factor affecting seed germination, stand establishment and seedling growth. The following guidelines are provided by Dr. Jerry Parsons, Extension Horticulturist at Texas Agricultural Extension Service.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Happy Valentine's Day! by Carol King

Photo courtesy
Legends and lore abound on why we celebrate Valentine’s day by giving flowers to our loved ones.  Here’s one of my favorites. This one involves the lore of forbidden love and has been favored over other stories by hopeless romantics.

Emperor Claudius II issued an edict forbidding marriage because he felt that married men did not make good, loyal soldiers to fight in his army. They were weak because of the attachment to their wives and family. St. Valentine was a priest who defied Claudius and married couples secretly because he believed so deeply in love. Valentine was found out, put in prison, and later executed.

The law of irony then came into play, as St. Valentine fell in love with the daughter of the Emperor. Prior to his beheading, St. Valentine handed the lady a written note and a single red rose - the very first valentine and the very first fresh flower.  From this, the gifting of flowers for Valentine's day began.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Gardening Trends for 2019

Photo by Donna Duffy

February is a good time to start thinking seriously about your landscape and gardening wishes for the coming season.  Every year, top gardening trends are listed from a number of sources. Following are five that might be interesting for Jefferson County gardeners. Check out the linked resources for more information and ideas.

Friday, February 8, 2019

How to Make a Cold Frame for Early Seed Start by Carol King

A cold frame is a simple structure that uses the sun's energy and insulation to create a microclimate within your garden. You can harvest and eat a salad in March! Cold frames allow starting plants as much as six weeks before planting-out time.

S.E. Newman, Colorado State University Extension greenhouse crop specialist has this to say:

Cold Frames
For an early start, sow seed in a cold frame and transplant it into the garden later. Seed may be started as much as six weeks earlier than outdoors. Locate the cold frame on the south side of a garage or dwelling. If built with a tight-fitting lid, the cold frame will hold sufficient heat from the sun to keep seed and seedlings warm at night. On warm, sunny days (50F or warmer), prop the lid open to prevent buildup of excessive heat. Close the lid in the late afternoon to trap enough heat for cold evenings.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Pruning the Trees in Your Landscape by Peter Drake

Photo courtesy
Accustomed, as we are, to regard trees as an integral part of our home landscape, we would do well to remember that the trees we commonly enjoy usually need our help to continue their life here.

Beyond the willows and cottonwoods that have found homes along the rivers, streams and irrigation ditches, our Colorado Front Range foothills region is not generally hospitable to the varieties of shade and ornamental trees we’ve come to enjoy so much.  This broader climate zone still wants to be what it was before Euro-American colonization and settlement: a high plains desert, covered with durable grasses and low shrubs, and intensely vulnerable to climatic extremes which can split bark and easily kill top-growth, both new and old.