Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hügelkultur – Who knew? Composting Process Using Raised Beds! By Audrey Stokes

Raised bed gardening using hugelkultur photo Open Hand Foundation
Used for centuries in Eastern Europe and Germany, (in German it translates roughly as “mound or hill culture”) hügelkultur (pronounced ‘hoo-gul-culture’) is a gardening and farming technique where woody debris (branches and/or logs) are used as a resource (
Often employed in permaculture systems, hügelkultur allows gardeners and farmers to mimic the nutrient cycling found in natural woodlands to realize several benefits. Woody debris (and other matter) that falls to the forest floor can readily become sponge like, soaking up rainfall and releasing it slowly into the surrounding soil, thus making this moisture available to nearby plants.
Hügelkultur is a composting process that uses no-dig raised planting beds constructed on top of decaying wood debris and other compostable biomass plant materials.  Hügelkultur farmers believe this process helps to improve soil fertility, water retention and soil warming, benefiting plants grown on or near the mounds. providing great spaces for growing fruit, vegetables and herbs.
The hügelkultur process is bleived to work well anywhere.  On a sod lawn Sepp Holzer, ( hugelkultur expert, recommends cutting out the sod, digging a one foot deep trench and filling the trench with logs and branches. Then cover the logs with the upside down turf. On top of the turf add grass clippings, seaweed, compost, aged manure, straw, green leaves, mulch, etc... In most situations, the bed may only have to be watered the first year.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Why Fresh Flowers on Valentine's Day? by Carol King

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.

If you receive a gift of fresh flowers from your valentine, here are some tips to make the sentiment last longer.

Cut flowers
Cut the stems of boxed flowers, such as roses or carnations, under water.  Remove leaves and foliage that would be under water. Place the flowers in warm water with a floral preservative added.  Keep flowers in a cool spot away from the sun. Add water every day and every fourth day, change the water completely.

Spring bulbs
Colorful containers of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and crocus are popular Valentine's Day gifts.  Keep them as cool as practical to prolong bloom. Water when soil dries out.

Red, pink and white flowers make azaleas a natural Valentine's Day gift. Under diffused sunlight and with frequent waterings, the showy blooms can remain in good condition for several weeks if they are kept at 55 to 60 degrees. Never let your gift azalea totally dry out. Because they are woody plants, azaleas can be kept growing from year to year, but getting them to bloom again can be tricky.


Calceolarias and cinerarias
These are popular gift plants because of their vibrant colors. The former also is known as pocketbook plant, because it has pouch-like blooms resembling a purse. Blooms will last longer if you keep the plants at 50 to 60 degrees and if you water frequently.  Water when the soil surface just begins to feel dry.
Here is complete information on keeping Valentine flowers fresh.

Valentine lore Article Source:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Legos and Scarecrows in the Garden By Joyce D’Agostino

Last fall, we went to San Antonio and as part of our trip, we went to the San Antonio Botanical Gardens.  The highlight of this visit was not only viewing the beautiful plants throughout this site, but a fun display of plant, animal and insect sculptures made from nearly 500,000 Lego bricks. There are 14 displays placed throughout the Garden, the displays range in size from 6 inches to nearly 8 feet. The largest sculpture is a mother bison, made from 45,143 bricks.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Winter Identification of Deciduous Trees by Audrey Stokes

For most of us, tree identification begins with leaves. Typically, it is the only characteristic of the tree that we ‘dabbling foresters’ examine. Identification of deciduous trees in the winter can be more of a challenge but not impossible when other characteristics are considered.

To make matters easier keep in mind that in one forest location in Colorado you will generally find only five or ten types of trees. There are only some fifty kinds of trees native to all of Colorado, or even less if you do not count those which often grow as large shrubs - low diversity for such a large forested region, some 25,000 square miles, with many habitats.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Seed Saving and Seed Saving Methods by Ed Powers

Tempting though it may be to ignore everything else but the delicious flavor of our home produce, it is important to bear in mind that all living things – which means, to a greater or lesser extent, pretty much all of our food – follow a cycle in their growth patterns. With crops which are annuals, such as most commercial crops and many salads and vegetables, if we harvest the food but not the seed we are breaking this cycle. 

In order to create an even more efficient system, we can harvest the seeds from our vegetable plots and re-seed them next year, ensuring prolonged biodiversity and more economically liable growing for us, as we don’t have to keep buying seeds. 

When you save seeds for planting and legacy from year to year you should plant only heirloom seeds. There are some useful resources out there to help decide which vegetables will be most successful.  I have researched many sources including universities.   Here are some tips on seed saving from experienced gardeners and knowledgeable  individuals and organizations.

However tempting it might be to fill your garden with a blossoming diversity of different types of vegetables, in terms of actually being able to save that diversity for coming generations it may be more helpful to grow just one variety of each different crop at a time. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Welcome New Jefferson County Master Gardeners! by Donna Duffy

Back row: Barb Donahue,  Jack Mellon, Kelli Marko, Mariska Hamstra, Keith Rabin. Front row: Lorrie Redman, Lynn Leventhal, Michelle Loudis, Cherie Luke, Dustin Foster. Not pictured: Audrey Stokes, Brooke Colburn.

On January 15th, twelve individuals were honored as Jefferson County’s newest Master Gardeners. To earn this designation, they went through a comprehensive application process and interview through Jefferson County CSU Extension. Once accepted as an apprentice, these dedicated volunteers completed a minimum of 60 hours of college-level classroom instruction (including lectures, small group activities, and lab activities) focused on home gardening. On top of that, each volunteer contributed at least 50 hours of service in 2014. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Brown Needles on Pines May be Due to November's Cold Snap by Mary Small

Photo by CJ Clawson
We are starting to see the first damage to plants caused by the unseasonably cold weather in November. Many evergreens, particularly pine, are now showing injury from the rapid and sustained drop in temperature. Needles are turning a straw to red brown color, depending on the species and location.  Warmer, southern sides of trees are especially hard hit, since those areas had not yet developed complete winter hardiness. 

Photo by  CJ Clawson
Plants develop the ability to withstand cold winter temperatures in response to decreasing daylight and other signals. One of the signals includes exposure to gradually decreasing temperatures. And November’s cold spell was anything but gradual. We descended from early fall temperatures into mid January ones! The temperature dropped 50 degrees in a few hours.

 What can be done now? Water all evergreen root systems monthly in the absence of rainfall or snowmelt.  It won’t reverse the process – the brown needles won’t turn green again- but it will keep healthier portions of the plant hydrated. 

It will likely be mid-spring 2015 before we can begin to assess the true damage from the cold. And like a similar Halloween freeze of 1991, injury may continue to appear for a couple of years. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Use De-icing Salts With Care by Donna Duffy

Winter is in full swing in Jefferson County! In addition to shoveling all that snow, many people also apply de-icing salts to make the walkways safe and passable. While these products can certainly help ensure safe footing in treacherous conditions, they can also damage the landscape plantings that they contact. So – what to do? Protect your footing or protect your plants? It’s possible to do both.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Starting Seeds Indoors by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy
Starting seeds indoors gives you earlier vegetables and flowers, and your cultivar choices will be endless. Relax, the  task of seed planting is reassuringly simple. Just take it step-by-step, and you’ll soon be marveling over a healthy crop of seedlings. Planttalk Colorado offers the following tips for successful seed starting.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Houseplant Problems: Spider Mites by Donna Duffy

Two-spotted spider mite, photo courtesy Iowa State University
Spider mites are among the most serious houseplant pests. Left untreated they can multiply rapidly, causing injury, defoliation and plant death. They’re not true insects, but are more closely related to spiders and ticks. The University of Minnesota Extension provides the following information to identify and manage these pesky mites.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

House Plant Problems: Rosemary and Powdery Mildew by Carol King

I received a nice little rosemary Christmas tree as a gift.  I was cooking chicken and decided to add some when I noticed it was covered with some white powdery dust.  It seems that my little tree had powdery mildew.  Rosemary grown indoors is very prone to this and the little Christmas trees especially so.  I investigated the cure and found that potassium bicarbonate products and neem oils can be used  to control this disease.  However, I was cautioned to make sure the product of choice can be used both indoors and on edible crops. Read the directions on the label and follow them perfectly since it is being used for cooking. There has been some success reported with baking soda and water: spray with a solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda dissolved in 1 quart of water.  Repeat if necessary.  Here's a link to the Missouri Botanic Gardens helpful information. 
I personally  just tossed the plant in the dust bin and put it out of its misery!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Houseplant Problems: Fungus Gnats by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy Organic Gardening
What are those annoying tiny black insects that hang out in your houseplants and fly around when disturbed? Most likely, you have fungus gnats.