Saturday, November 22, 2014

Protecting Young Trees From Sunscald by Donna Duffy

This young Bigtooth Maple is susceptible to sunscald.

Did you plant new trees in the past couple of years? If so, they may be vulnerable to sunscald this winter. Planttalk Colorado offers this information to help protect young trees from sunscald.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Battling Fruit Flies by C J Clawson

Photo Counsel & Heal News
I returned home from a recent week long trip to discover my kitchen infested with fruit flies!  Of course, I blamed my husband for not eating the bananas in a timely manner and not rinsing out the wine glasses!  And now I am engaged in a battle with the enemy.  No, not my husband (although he did get KP duty)but instead, the Drosophila (meaning dew-loving) species of the insect world– also called vinegar flies or pomace flies for their characteristic of being found near over ripe or rotting fruit.  I’d like to share a bit of my war strategy – in case you are someone who doesn’t eat their bananas quickly enough:
  1. Throw out all the over ripe fruit on the counter.  This means tight bagging and immediate transfer to the outdoor garbage bin – don’t just toss it in your kitchen garbage can. 
  2. Wash any salvageable fruit and store in the refrigerator, if possible.  This goes for all future fruit purchases too – no need to import fruit flies from the grocery store.
  3. I am a kitchen scrap composter so, instead of tossing the over ripe fruit, I placed it all in the counter composting crock.  That crock has been moved to the back deck until temperatures fall sufficiently to kill off any fruit fly larvae.
  4. Thoroughly clean your kitchen garbage bin and disposal; wipe down your counters.  Check your floors for juice spills and toss out any questionable sponges or cloths.  Don’t let things like wine glasses sit with residue in them – remember, sweet and/or fermented moisture is what drew the fruit flies in the first place!
  5. Set some traps.  You can purchase these at a hardware store but you can also make your own using cider vinegar or wine, a jar, and either a plastic bag or paper funnel. Place an inch or so of liquid in the bottom of the jar.  Make a funnel with a piece of paper or cut a small hole in one corner of the bag and place over the jar so the small end of the funnel is close to but not touching the fluid.  Replace the trap every seven to ten days. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Amaryllis: The Joy that Keeps on Giving by Patti O'Neal

Amaryllis is a rare gift to a gardener, providing near instant gratification producing a magnificent spectacle in 4-6 weeks. It’s a gift of growing something and making it bloom right in the middle of snow and freezing temperatures. The trick for many is to get them to do it again the following year. 

Amaryllis is a tender bulb, meaning it does not require a chilling period to bloom.  These beauties originate in the temperate climates of South America where they grow and bloom outdoors.  Here in the chilly Rocky Mountains we enjoy them “forced” during the holidays of December and on into January and even February. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

November Tomatoes?! by E. J. Bennett

Photo taken October 25, 2014
Whether by global warming or just a local climate hiccup, this year’s unusual fall weather has gardeners happily plucking tomatoes from the vine past Halloween.  Most years, however, we have to consider the eventual demise of our tomato production in late September or early October.  October 9 is our average first frost date in Denver, but 1944 holds the record, when frost wasn’t seen until November 15th! (guess it was busy freezing the Ardennes Forest over in Europe that year). 
If you want to maximize your tomato output through first frost, follow these simple steps in late August or early September:
1.  Ruthlessly evaluate and prune your tomato plants.  Vines with only flowers? Out.  Vines with tiny green tomatoes? Out.  Leave only the tomatoes you think have a chance of maturing before first frost.
2.  Shock your tomato plants.  No, this doesn’t mean gardening in your thong.  The act of pruning, above, will stimulate the plant to bring the remaining fruit to maturity.  But you can also use your shovel to cut some of the plant’s roots (dig straight down with your shovel 3-4 places in a circle around the plant, 6+ inches out from the base of the plant) and reduce total water to the plants by a third or more.  
3.  As the weather cools, cut remaining foliage back so the sun strikes the remaining fruit during the day.  The additional solar heat will help them mature. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bringing Herbs in for the Winter by Sheilia Canada

Photo Edmunton Journal
Herbs can be grown successfully indoors if you give them a little extra care.
For gardeners who like to cook, few plants are as rewarding as herbs. When the outdoor growing season ends, you can still enjoy fresh, homegrown herbs in your favorite recipes.

You can simply dig up your healthiest herbs and bring them inside. By taking note of herbs' special growing needs, you can harvest basil, thyme, and more straight through until spring. Here are three steps for successfully bringing herbs inside:

1. Choose the most robust plants to bring indoors. Before the first frost, dig them out of the garden and pot them up in fresh potting soil. Choose pots that allow for at least 1 to 2 inches of space around the root ball. Water thoroughly. Check each plant for insects, and if there's an infestation, treat the leaves with a soap spray.
2. Reverse the hardening-off process. Keep the pots outdoors out of direct sunlight for about a week. This will accustom your plants to being in containers and to the lower light conditions they'll experience inside. Keep them watered. Prune any lanky growth.
3. Bring them inside. To stay flavorful, herbs need at least five hours of direct sun a day. Turn windowsill plants regularly so that every side receives light. Don't let leaves touch the cold window glass. Fluorescent lights, hung 6 inches above the plants and left on for 14 hours per day, give even better results. 
Most indoor herbs prefer temperatures of about 65 to 70 degrees F in the daytime and about 60 degrees F at night. Herbs also need humidity. Provide it by placing the pots on trays filled with gravel and about an inch of water. Protect plants from drafts, but give them good air circulation. Don't crowd pots together. Overwatering will kill most indoor herbs, so between watering's, let the soil surface dry out and use tepid water. Fertilize once a month with diluted fish and seaweed fertilizer.

Why We Should Save Seeds from our Gardens by Ed Powers

I have lived in many climates across the country over the last 40 years and I have tried to save seeds in most of those climates.  A key for me in saving seeds was to research seed saving through universities such as Colorado State University.  What I found was heirloom type seeds produced the same crops year after year whereas hybrid seeds would not produce exactly the same crops the following years.  Heirloom seeds are true to form that comes from open-pollinated plants and some cases have been grown year after year for over 50 years.  These heirloom seeds will adapt too many local areas after being grown in that area for 3 to 5 years.  However Hybrid seeds are across between 2 different plant varieties to get the valued attributes of both. That is done to make stronger plants.  But it holds true only in one year.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fall Pruning “Dos and Don’ts” by Audrey Stokes


Mild fall weather may have you thinking about pruning shrubs and trees but it's better to wait until winter or at least until after deciduous trees’ leaves have fallen. When it comes to fall pruning, procrastination is the way to go.  One exception to any ‘no-pruning’ advice is that dead, diseased and damaged wood should be removed as soon as possible.  Hire a professional arborist to remove big limbs, high branches, and any other tree job that you’re not prepared to do.
Pruning timetables can be broken down according to the type of plant: trees, shrubs, perennials and roses.
Trees
  • In early fall, pruning wounds close more slowly and plants are more at risk for fungal diseases than at other times of year. For most trees, the best time for major pruning is winter to early spring because wounds close faster.
  • Pruning in late summer and early fall may stimulate new growth, which has little time to harden before cold weather comes. The cold can harm this tender new growth, and the tree may need more pruning in spring to remove the damage. 
  • If you want to prune in fall, wait until trees drop their leaves and are dormant—usually late October or November. “With leaves gone, you can see what you are doing and determine where corrective pruning is needed”, says Dr. James Feucht of Colorado State University Cooperative Extension. (http://www.colostate.edu/Dept/CoopExt/4DMG/Trees/fallprun.htm)
  • See this CSU Extension video about pruning trees: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7IdsEJCHdg

Monday, October 20, 2014

Enjoying the Last of the Season’s Tomatoes By Joyce D’Agostino

Are you already missing vine ripened tomatoes? It seems to hit us this time of year that summer is over and even though there might be green tomatoes still on the vine, they will likely not ripen. 
But there are a few ways to enjoy ripened tomatoes for a few more weeks. One solution is very simple. Pick your green tomatoes and then wrap them in newspaper or wax paper. Place them in a box in a single layer and then place in a cool, dry place.
Photo by Joyce D'Agostino
The tomatoes will then ripen over the upcoming weeks and allow you to enjoy a few more fresh tomatoes from the garden.This method works well but does require some regular checking to ensure that the tomatoes are ripening and not drying out or rotting. Each variety of tomato can ripen at different rates, so putting the box so it is accessible and can be regularly checked is advised. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Bulbs 101 by Keith Rabin

Gardenphotos.com
Poet Emily Dickinson referred to herself as a “ Lunatic On Bulbs “ , while referring to her passion for daffodils, hyacinth and spring perennials in general. To Emily Dickinson the bulbs were not just flowers to her but were moral and and personal emblems to her and in her poetry. She was better known in her life time for her gardening expertise than her poetry. For me planting bulbs without reading her poetry without dirt on my hands from planting bulbs just feels wrong somehow...
She slept beneath a tree, 
Remembered but by me,
I touched her cradle mute, 
She recognized the foot. 
Put on her carmine suit, 
And see!*
Its customary to class plants having thickened root stock as bulbous. Botanically there are distinctions between the true bulb, made up of scales or layers like the onion, the tuber which is solid as a potato and the corm which is woody like. In addition to tubers, true bulbs and corms there are other plants containing thickened root stock or rhizomes, (peony, German Iris and flags also known as iris.) These four types comprise an enormous number of species and varieties. Most of these groups all have foreign roots, covering most of the world.
It's time to plant bulbs as soon as the ground is cool and before the ground freezes. Ideal air temps are (not constant) from 50 to 60 degrees. October and early November are prime time along the Front Range.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Garden Journal by Sheilia Canada

Fall is a perfect time to get your garden more organized with a Garden Journal. With the falling of the leaves it is a lot easier to see the structure and dimensions of your garden area. Your plants successes and failures during the growing season are still fresh in your mind.
Mapping out specific annual crops for proper crop rotation is highly important to elimination of a recurrence of disease or insect issues.
Making a record of what happened every growing season will definitely help you get a closer look at all of the interactions going on in your garden.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Preparing Your Yard and Garden for the Winter by Lynn Leventhal

Photo by Lynn Leventhal
The leaves are turning golden and falling to the ground.  The temperature is dropping.  The days are getting shorter.  It is time to think  of putting our gardens to bed.  Here is an overview to get you started.

Before I start I like to take pictures and make notes on my successes and failures.  Then the majority of the work is cleaning up the leaves which have fallen and cutting the lawn for the last time.    

Pruning:  the majority or pruning is done in the winter and spring.  The reasons for pruning are to maintain a shrub’s shape, enhance flowering and reduce pest problems.

Lawns:  fertilize your lawn in the fall and water monthly.

Photo by Lynn Leventhal
Vegetable gardens:  pull up old vines and vegetable plants to reduce insect eggs which can survive in the winter and hatch in the spring.

Annual flowers:  pull up vines and foliage of annual flowers and compost them.

Perennials:  After temperatures hit freezing and the plants die back cut the stems on most perennials to within an inch or two of the ground.  However, there are many exceptions to this so be sure to research recommendations for each plant type you have.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Dreaming of Compost By Joyce D’Agostino

Since keeping our garden soils healthy and amended is always recommended, I had on my wish list a composter. Previously I had done some minor composting of things like fall leaves which worked well but I needed to advance to a better system to produce good quality compost.
Composter photo by Joyce D'Agostino
I was lucky to have recently acquired a tumbler composter from someone who was moving. I have already started adding some good quality kitchen and canning scraps to the composter and giving it a daily turn. It was time for me to get serious about composting since my busy schedule prevented me from amending my soil as well as it should have been and I could see a marked difference between the beds with amendment and the ones that did not receive a good dose of fresh soil and compost.
Composting is not difficult, but there are guidelines for what can and cannot be added to your compost. Often you hear you can add  “kitchen scraps” but not all kitchen waste can do into your compost pile. For example, you cannot add things like meat scraps, bones, etc. Not only do these not break down properly they can attract wildlife to your pile or composter. Also, if you had any plants that had diseases, these should be discarded with your trash and not added to the composter. The reason is that some composters do not get to a high enough temperature to destroy the pathogens and this could result in the compost becoming infected with these diseases and spread the following year if used.
Much of our front range soils are packed clay, so adding compost to the soil not only enriches it with great nutrients, but also helps keep the soil quality high to allow the right balance of oxygen and water.