Thursday, October 1, 2015

Spiders in the House by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy
You’ve probably noticed an increase in spiders in the house. I know I have – I’m greeted most mornings by a spider trapped on the shower floor or in the sink. Spiders start wandering indoors in the early fall when cooler outdoor temperatures force them to find shelter. Before you panic, remember that most Colorado spiders are harmless.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Native Asters for Early Fall Color by Joyce D'Agostino

Now that fall is here, the flowers that can tolerate the cooler weather and shorter days may be few. But if you want to continue to enjoy flowers and color for a few more weeks asters make a great choice. 
Like chrysanthemums, asters bloom in late summer into early fall and have been a seasonal favorite for decades. They are a welcome addition of color when the annual flowers that need the warmth and more sun are winding down. Asters are great cut flowers for bouquets as well. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

It's Time to Plant Spring-blooming Bulbs by Donna Duffy

When your garden takes on its “fall-ish” look, it’s time to start thinking about planting bulbs for spring bloom. In Jefferson County, late September and early October are the best times for planting bulbs. This allows the bulbs to grow a healthy root system before the ground freezes.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Why Leaves Change Colors and the Autumnal Equinox by Carol King

Today is  the Autumnal Equinox and the leaves are  “changing colors”.    According to Plantalk Colorado in actuality, leaves don’t change color, they just quit producing chlorophyll, the substance that makes them green.

This happens for a variety of reasons: shorter days, falling temperatures, available water.  These are all signals to the plant to go into energy saving mode and quit producing chlorophyll:  winter is coming!

When chlorophyll breaks down, what’s left is the color that was already there:  Yellow/ carotenoids, and red /anthocyanin. These pigments are masked by chlorophyll but help protect the leaves from sunlight. After the equinox shorter and shorter days become the norm. The chlorophyll will totally disappear leaving us with beautiful colors for a short while and then dead leaves to deal with!

So just what is the equinox? There are two equinoxes every year (September and March) when the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is nearly equal. It occurs the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator – from north to south. This happens either on September 22, 23, or 24 every year. The September Equinox in Denver is today, Wednesday, September 23, 2015 at 6:21 a.m. MDT.

As you watch the leaves slowly change color and fall from the trees, you know the equinox is partly to blame.
Happy Autumnal Equinox and happy leaf peeping!. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Preventing Animal Damage in your Garden By Joyce D’Agostino

Squirrel damage photo Missouri Botanical Gardens
Few things are as disappointing to a gardener as to find a vegetable or fruit you were looking forward to harvesting has been destroyed by an animal. 
Depending on your area, the animals that can invade your garden can be as large as deer or small like voles, chipmunks and small rabbits. All of these animals are used to foraging plants and welcome any readily accessible source of edibles. These edibles often include many of your favorite plants including lettuce, greens, fruit and even tomatoes.
I first noticed few weeks ago that the squirrels seemed to be nipping off the heads of the sunflowers. Then shortly after, I found some tomatoes and peppers that had been pulled from the plants, a bite or two taken out of it and then left to rot.  This was especially disappointing when these animals seemed to be doing this on a regular basis and actually starting to thin out the fruit on the plants.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bumblebees in Your Late Summer Garden By Joyce D’Agostino

Bombus huntii photo
There have been many articles written about the plight of the honeybees and the decline in their numbers. This is definitely a concern for all of us who love to see these bees active in our garden and pollinating the plants.
I read a recent article that stated now Bumblebees may be on the decline. Learning more about any pollinator will help us all have a more inviting and supportive environment for them to grow and thrive may help reverse this trend.
Bumblebees are very active pollinators and move fast through any plant where they are foraging.  It was difficult to snap a picture quickly enough to capture them in action because these bees can move fast in their effort to get the nectar and pollen before another competitor comes along. Like honeybees, they are social bees. Bumblebees have annual nests and they do make wax but they don’t produce honey and their value as a pollinator is still very important. 
You can hear a bumblebee active at work because they actually do make a noticeable buzz sound. They feed on nectar and gather pollen like other bees, but they are “buzz pollinators” and use their strong jaws to vibrate plants that other bees and pollinators may not be able to manage.  They are larger and fuzzier than honeybees and stand out with their yellow and black stripes and some have colorful markings. Colorado is home to a number of native bumblebees.
The attached articles give some great tips on which plants that certain pollinators like Bumblebees will be attracted to and ones that are not. By adding just a few more of these plants each year to your landscape, you can make a significant difference in the number of pollinators that visit your garden. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

When to Harvest Vegetables by Carol King

It is the time of year to harvest those vegetables you have been growing all season. Picking them at the optimum time will guarantee maximum nutrition and flavor.  CSU Extension offers these tips:  
  • WINTER SQUASH AND PUMPKINS: Harvest when these vegetables have reached their full ripe color and when it is difficult to penetrate the skin with a thumbnail. Pick before a frost and store in a cool, dark place that will not reach freezing temperatures. Leave stems on to prevent disease invasion.
  • POTATOES: For "new" potatoes, harvest any time and use for cooking. For storing, wait until the vines die down and store the same as squash.
  • ROOT CROPS (beets, turnips, rutabagas, winter radishes and kohlrabi): They store best where grown until there's a danger of soil freezing. You can delay harvesting by hilling soil over the shoulders of carrots and beets; To further protect from freezing, you can pile straw and soil over the rows, thus delaying harvesting even longer. This group of vegetables store best at home in an area of near freezing with a high relative humidity.
  • ONIONS: Harvest as soon as the tops fall; this will prevent basal rot. Pull, remove tops and store onions in mesh bags until the necks have dried down. During this drying time, hang the bags outside in a protected area where they'll get good air circulation. When the onions rustle while handling, they are ready to move into indoor, protected storage where it is cool and dry.
  • PARSNIPS: They will withstand freezing which means you can leave part of the crop in the ground to be dug in the spring when the flavor will be greatly improved.
  • CELERY AND LATE CABBAGE: Harvest after the frost has stopped their growth. Pull celery with roots attached; cut cabbage and remove loose outer leaves.Store celery by packing into a trench in an upright position; backfill with soil to cover the celery; place paper, boards and more soil on top of this. The celery will root, bleach, tenderize and develop a nutty flavor when removed at Christmas time. Pack the cabbage in a pit upside down so the covering soil doesn't work its way into the head.
  • TOMATOES: Harvest tomatoes if they've started to turn light green or blush. If they are a dead green, they probably won't ripen. Wrap individually in newspapers, place in a box in a cool place and check periodically. The tomatoes probably will ripen within 2 weeks depending upon the temperature of the storage area and the maturity of the tomato.
  • GREEN BEANS: Harvest snap beans when there's a slight bulge to the seed, but before it becomes firm. If they get lumpy, they've gone too far. The bean will be too firm and tough and the pod will be stringy.
  • SHELL BEANS: Let them go all the way. They are specific varieties that are meant to be left until the pods dry on the vine. If you pick them too green, they'll begin to mold and will be difficult to dry.

Store only top-quality vegetables. Don’t store vegetables that show deterioration froma disease, bruising or insect damage; such damage coud spread and cause, not only the loss of one vegetable, but the loss of adjacent veggies.  

For more information about proper vegetable harvesting, check out the following: 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pruning Tomatoes Does Help Ripening! By Joyce D’Agostino

As noted in the recent article on this blog   Need to Ripen Green Tomatoes? Let's Party! by Carol King” dated 9/10/15,  the methods suggested are excellent ones to help you speed some last minute ripening.  

After a cool spring which slowed down the tomatoes and other warm weather vegetables, and then very hot and dry weather, the tomatoes ib my garden seemed to be taking their time ripening. I had heard about pruning your tomatoes to give the plants a break from trying to keep producing and turn their energy into ripening.
I did some light pruning, mostly to the tops of the tomatoes where there was new growth, blooms and some tiny tomatoes. Knowing that these little tomatoes would probably not reach maturity at this point in the season, I pruned them off along with the blossoms and some of the stems and hoped that this would help focus this energy into the ripening process.
It took about 10 days – 2 weeks, but I was surprised and happy to find that the full sized tomatoes, which seemed to be turning color all too slowly, finally ripening much faster. The daytime weather staying warm helped as well even though the nights are beginning to cool. 

It’s hard to see an end to summer and the tomato season, but when you do get well into August and you have full sized tomatoes that are taking their time to ripen, doing some pruning really does help to speed the process. My attached pictures showing the plants just two weeks apart show that it works and I can recommend this process to anyone who wants some last minute tomatoes from their garden. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Need to Ripen Green Tomatoes? Let's Party! by Carol King

Perhaps, dear gardener, you have a plethora of unripe tomatoes in your garden. I do not. I got perhaps 50 tomatoes from my “Sweet 100s” (thinking of changing its name to “Sweet Tens”), exactly two “roma” tomatoes, and four “early girls”. I have one plant that did not set one single tomato. That is it; failure of great magnitude. If you were more successful than I, here are a few tips on dealing with 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.    For more information, try these Fact Sheets:

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Fall Cleanup Tips – Chapter II: The Annuals Ornamental Garden by Peter Drake

Photo courtesy
Beautiful to look at through the summer season, whether as a border to your house or walkway, or as an island on your lawn space, there is no need to despair when your annual ornamentals start wilting, browning and showing other signs of setting seeds and finishing out their life cycle.  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fall Landscape Cleanup Tips – Chapter I: The Vegetable Garden by Peter Drake

Photo courtesy CSU Extension
Whether you have made a vegetable garden in a raised bed, an in-ground bed, or a container, now is a very good time to plan for how you can clean up your garden, and put it in order for the winter months to better ensure that, come next year’s planting, your garden will possess good health and balanced nutrition.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Fall is the Time to Manage Dandelions by Rebecca Anderson

Everyone recognizes a dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) by its bright yellow flower that transitions to a white puff ball in a matter of days. Most homeowners consider the dandelion an enemy of the perfect lawn.   A single plant can produce 15,000 seeds and those seeds can travel 100 miles with the proper gust of wind.  The plant is a perennial, meaning it will come back year after year once it is established.  This can make controlling dandelions a difficult task.