Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sixty Second Secrets for Gardening Success: Hanging Baskets!

Today on Sixty-Second Secrets for Gardening Success: Hanging Baskets!

Before you hang out your “welcome to spring” hanging basket, here are a few tips to ensure you have beautiful hanging baskets that will last the entire season.

Plan ahead! Know the exposure of the location where you intend to hang the basket. Will it receive full shade, partial shade, filtered sun all day, or will it receive morning sun, afternoon sun or full sun all day? Knowing this, select baskets with flowers that will perform well in their respective environments.

Another thing to consider is wind. Remember, baskets that receive more sun and more wind will dry out faster and may need to be watered more than once a day.

When you take your baskets down to water, inspect them for disease and other potential problems. Remove any dead or spent blooms and fertilize your baskets regularly to keep them looking beautiful all season.

For more information on gardening, contact your local CSU Extension Office.

Sixty-Second Secrets for Gardening Success is a production of Colorado State University Extension.
CSU Extension: Extending knowledge, changing lives.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Herbicide Carryover

Herbicide Carryover

Posted by: Darrin Parmenter, County Director, CSU Extension in La Plata County

For many gardeners, an application of livestock manure to the compost pile is a rite of autumn. Manures add organic matter and nitrogen to improve soil quality and vegetable production. There are good reasons to be cautious about routine manure use.  Heavy applications lead to salt and phosphorous buildup and fresh manures (less than 100 days old) may contain dangerous e. coli bacteria.

A new concern has emerged. It resembles a childhood poem and begins, “This is the garden that Jack made.” The final stanza goes, “This is the herbicide sprayed on the field that grew the hay ate by the horse that dropped the manure that lay in the garden that Jack made.” Picture Jack with a dead tomato plant.

Selective herbicides, such as the aminopyralids (brand name Milestone), clopyralids (Redeem and others), and picloram (Tordon),  used for the control of broadleaf weeds in grass-hay production and pastures, have the ability to survive cutting, baling, storage, and feeding, as well as time spent in piles of manure and compost. When these are applied to the garden, the herbicides may still be active and adversely affect subsequently planted broadleaf plants. Unfortunately, most of our important food crops are broadleaf plants. Symptoms of herbicide carryover damage to sensitive crops (beans, peas, tomatoes, potatoes, and others) are twisting, curling, and rolling of the leaves, especially the younger ones.

Manufacturers inform users of the problem on their product labels. The herbicides do not harm grass or animals that feed on them, and aged manures can be safely returned to grassy fields. But because the chemicals can persist for extended amounts of time, hay producers should disclose their herbicide selection to livestock owners. In turn livestock owners should disclose herbicide residues in manures given or sold to farmers and gardeners. The alternative, crop failure, is a liability risk for all.

If you cannot confirm their source of manure is free of this chemical, look for another source or improve your garden soil without any manure at all.Or if you are set on using manure in your garden, then performing a simple bioassay may be the easiest, cheapest, and even most effective way to determine the presence of herbicides: 
  • Materials include: test material (compost, manure, topsoil), potting mix (compost-free), washed plastic pots and pea seeds.
  1. Set up control pots by filling 3 pots with potting mix.
  2. Prepare test pots and label pots. Use material in question and fill 3 pots. If manure needs to be tested use a 2:1 manure:soil ratio.
  3. Plant 3 seeds in each prepared and labeled pot.
  4. Space plants in a random order with plastic saucers under each one. Space the pots far enough apart to avoid splashing when watering. 
  5. Maintain consistent growing conditions.
  6. Evaluate plant growth. If twisting, curling, rolling, or death of the leaves is witnessed, it would be advisable to NOT use that product. 
For more information, go to


Saturday, April 12, 2014

What is happening with these trees....and turf?

Posted by: Tony Koski, CSU Extension

I was driving through Windsor this afternoon and spied these trees... and spots. Who can tell me what is happening? I may have a prize for the correct answer.... or a drawing if there are a bunch of correct answers. Of course, you have to be brave and leave your name along with the guess. No worries... there are no bad answers (but only one correct one....hehe...).

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sixty Second Secrets for Gardening Success: Frost Dates!

Today on Sixty-Second Secrets for Gardening Success: Frost Dates!

Because frosts kill tender plants and seedlings, knowing the average frost free date in your community is an important tool for aiding in successful gardening. 

As a rule of thumb for Colorado, the average last frost free date is around Mother’s Day. It is important to note that this is an average date. In some years, the last frost can be as early as April, or as late as June.

In the autumn, the average first frost usually occurs around the first week of October. Again this is only an average, and some frost can occur as early as mid September or late October around Halloween.

You can extend your growing season by placing a hoop house or covering your plants with a sheet of clear plastic to protect against light frosts.

For more information on gardening, contact your local
CSU Extension Office.

Sixty-Second Secrets for Gardening Success is a production of
Colorado State University Extension.
CSU Extension: Extending knowledge, changing lives.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Patience Is a Virtue When It Comes to Wet Soil

Posted by: Micaela Truslove
CSU Extension, Broomfield County

Longer, warmer days - check. Incredibly large seed order that will require some creative planning in order to get it all shoehorned into the garden - check. Gardening tools cleaned, sharpened and ready for the gardening season - check. Making sure the soil isn't too wet to work before you dig in? Uh oh.

Being an exuberant gardener is a good thing, but when it comes to soil, patience is certainly a virtue. It takes years to improve garden soil, and one wrong move may undo all of the hard work and hours spent loosening, turning and amending. That wrong move is often working the soil while it is too wet.

Ideally soil is made up of four different components: about 45% mineral content from degraded rocks, about 25% water and 25% air, and about 5% organic matter. Notice that the ideal soil has water and air in equal measures. Roots require oxygen to survive and thrive, and they will only grow where oxygen is present in sufficient quantities.

Photo credit:
Along with water, air is held in a soil's pore space; this is the space between soil particles and within soil aggregates (small clumps of soil glued together by chemical and biological processes). When we add organic matter and loosen the soil, we make more room for water, air and roots.

When wet soil is worked, whether it is walking on the soil surface, digging a hole to plant some seeds or tilling in organic matter, the air is pushed out as those pore spaces are pressed together and compacted, damaging the soil's structure. If you've ever tried to dig in clay soil that has become compacted and baked solid, you know that it is not unlike trying to dig into your concrete driveway.

To avoid this, wait until the soil has dried sufficiently before you begin to work in the garden this spring. There is a simple way to test whether or not the soil has dried down enough to work: take a small handful of soil from a depth of about 3". Squeeze the soil into a ball. If water runs between your fingers when you do this, it is definitely too wet. If the soil forms a ball, drop the ball on the sidewalk, or if you are more coordinated than I am, throw it up in the air and let it land on your palm. If the ball shatters, the soil is dry enough to work; if it doesn't, give it a few more days of dry weather and test it again.

Read more about soil texture, structure and pore space here, and remember to protect those pores by waiting until the soil is dry enough to work this spring!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sixty Second Secrets for Gardening Success

Today on Sixty-Second Secrets for Gardening Success: Starting Seeds!
Starting seeds is a fun and inexpensive way to get your garden started for the season.
To start your seeds indoors, purchase trays or pots and potting soil specially designed for staring seed from your local garden center or hardware store.
Start seeds about 4-8 weeks before the last frost in your area. Read the seed packet carefully to determine how much time seeds need to germinate.  Avoid starting seeds indoors too early as this will result in crowded spindly looking plants.
Sow seeds according to package instructions and water in with a fine mist sprayer and cover with a plastic dome or bag.

Place the seeds in a warm location out of direct sunlight until seeds germinate.  About 2 weeks prior to planting out, gradually move your seedlings outside and reduce the amount of water they receive to harden them off.

For more information on gardening, contact your local 
CSU Extension Office.

Sixty-Second Secrets for Gardening Success is a production of 
Colorado State University Extension. 
CSU Extension: Extending knowledge, changing lives.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Harbinger of spring

Posted by Linda McMulkin, CSU Extension-Pueblo County

Each plant lover probably has that one plant species that says “Finally, spring is here”.  It may be forsythia or crocus or red-stem filaree or any number of other plants.  For me, the plant that cries spring the loudest is our foothills native, Claytonia rosea, or spring beauty. 

Spring beauty is a close relative of moss rose and purslane, all members of the Portulacaceae family.  Unlike its relatives, spring beauty blooms early, sometimes as early as late January in parts of Pueblo County.  The tiny plants grow from a small corm with the above ground parts consisting of one or two basal leaves, a pair of stem leaves, and four or five white to pink blossoms.  A synonym, Claytonia lanceolata, describes the strap-like shape of the leaves.  The plant reproduces by seed and corm offshoots.  Spring beauty will grow in dry, rocky soil, but thrives in the moisture found under needle litter. 
Spring beauty are a common part of the Ponderosa pine forest, but since they bloom so early, I often miss their short season.  I’d been looking for them in the Pueblo County foothills for the past 6 weeks and finally found a few  growing under mountain mahogany on the side of a gorge near Colorado City, about 20 miles south of Pueblo.  I was pleased to find it for the first time in several years.  Little did I know the treat that awaited me closer to home.

The flower of Claytonia rosea has 5 white to pink petals, often with darker veins, 5 stamens and a 3 styled pistil. 
I moved from the prairie to the foothills this winter and intend to spend the summer learning what I have before making changes in the yard.  While I’ve been waiting for spring growth, I picked up some ponderosa cones to use in a new insect hotel, pulled some noxious weeds growing in the front yard, and cut down some encroaching scrub oak.  But I resisted the urge to do more than walk across the layer of oak leaves and pine needles in the back yard. 

The pay off for my neglect came last week, when a carpet of spring beauty opened in the needle litter.  Typically the blossoms open after I leave for work in the morning, but this weekend I got to enjoy the view.  I took pictures from the deck, standing on the edge of the carpet, and laying flat on the ground in the sun with pine cones poking me in the ribs. So much fun!

The back yard slopes a bit, so I was looking uphill through hundreds of tiny blossoms.   
The Colorado Plant Database reports that Native Americans ate the corms, which taste like
water chestnuts  when fresh and like potatoes when boiled.  That's a lot of gathering for a meal! 

I’ve seen my personal harbinger of spring and expect that there are other treasures and surprises in store for me in my new yard.  And I know now what I’ll do with that section of the back yard-nothing.  Nature planted a garden that I can never beat.