Monday, June 26, 2017

Transplanting: how, why, when?

Posted by: Deryn Davidson, Boulder County Extension

As gardeners we're always trying out new plants to see what works and what doesn't. Sometimes you score and that plant that didn't work over here, works perfectly in that tough spot in the corner of the yard that you've never been able to get anything to grow. Sometimes...not so much. But, that's the nature of gardening! Lots of trial and error and experimenting.

Depending on what plant you're transplanting, the proper technique will vary slightly, but there are general concepts that hold true no matter what. Typically you want to transplant early or late in the season when the temps are cooler. You want as little disturbance to the root-ball of the plant as possible. You want the soil that you're moving the plant into to be pre-moistened and ready to receive the plant. I've seen folks drop transplants into dry, dusty holes...not very hospitable. And once you have the plant planted, water in thoroughly to get rid of any air pockets left in the soil and to settle the plant in.

Sometimes, the reason for transplanting is that you planted something years ago that has done really well, it loved the spot, is super healthy, but it's outgrown that spot. Then what do you?? Well, check out this example of one such scenario:

100 year old Giant Sequoia being moved/transplanted to a new location

An amazing feat for an amazing tree!!! I hope that it's a success, time will tell.

Happy gardening!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Growing Opportunities and Feeding the Community

Posted by:  Amy Lentz, Weld County Extension

Last week, a group of Extension agents and specialists met in Durango, located in La Plata County, for a horticulture meeting followed by tours of horticultural sites in the area. One of those tours took place at the Manna Soup Kitchen, a charitable organization that has a unique approach to provide nourishing meals and support services by teaching gardening, culinary and other useful skills to those who need a helping hand. Although it is difficult to put into words the impact that this organization has had on the community, it was such an inspiring example of community gardening that I thought I would share the experience with you.

The Manna Soup Kitchen and Culinary Training Center

Entrance to the Manna Garden in Durango
The organization started in the mid 1990’s and has since grown to include a soup kitchen, culinary training center and a large garden and orchard onsite. They use these facilities to provide chores and a sense of responsibility and community to those who use their services. 

Manna community members and volunteers work together to weave a large (and durable) rug by re-purposing plastic grocery bags.
During our visit, we toured the large dining facility where people can get a nutritious meal and gather together to work on projects such as making rugs by reusing grocery bags. We then toured the food storage facilities and the culinary training center before heading outside.
The culinary training center was established in 2015 and has since graduated 12 students into the workplace through the help of a job placement program.
On to the garden…
The Manna Garden started in 2005 adjacent to the original soup kitchen and expanded into a much large area on the property in 2010. After only a few years, the Culinary Arts Building and a free produce market, the Manna Market, were established to create a complete ‘farm to table’ system. With this arrangement, the Manna Market has helped serve over 1,000 people more than 6,000 pounds of produce last year through the garden and donations! The garden produced over 1,300 pounds of produce in 2016, a 450 pound increase from the year before. This was accomplished by over 350 volunteers and almost 1,000 volunteer hours contributed. The garden also hosted youth volunteers from across the county, who donated over 500 volunteer and educational hours to the garden.
Our tour started just inside the entrance to the garden where chard, red Russian kale, starbor kale, tiny bok choy, kohlrabi, dill, broccoli, peas, lettuce, green beans, and herbs are grown in a whimsical labyrinth garden. 
Labrynth garden at the Manna Soup Kitchen
After passing by the orchard area containing wide array of fruit trees and shrubs (apples, pears, cherries, plums, serviceberries, raspberries, marionberries, peaches and apricots), we made our way over to three beehives established last year to help pollinate the large number of crops growing in the garden. 

 Our tour guide, Jason Cloudt (garden manager and volunteer coordinator) demonstrated how the bees make honey and brood. Jason also let us have a taste of the bees' hard work!

The hives were recently split so the bees are still working on building up their numbers (brood) and honey supply to help sustain the hive before providing honey for the soup kitchen. However, we were given a ‘sneak peak’ taste test of the bees’ hard work. 

Raised beds covered for frost protection
Several varieties of hardneck garlic
Long in-ground beds used for leafy greens and other vegetables
We than passed by an area with several raised beds of root vegetables and small leafy greens and large in-ground bed containing seven different varieties of hardneck garlic on our way to their compost area and worm farm.

Vermicomposting area at the Manna Garden

The worm castings are located under these cardboard pieces

The gardeners harvest worm castings by encouraging the worms to move back and forth across the compost bed by feeding them in different locations, collecting the castings without killing the worms.

High tunnel used to produce seedling plants

Enjoying the beautiful day at the Manna Garden

Thanks to a donated high tunnel two years ago, the Manna Garden has a nice area to start new plants and transition them into the full sun of the garden. Once all of the seedlings are out of the high tunnel, it is used to grow a wide variety of peppers, tomatoes, and herbs. 

Perennials tucked between rocks and a small strawberry patch and grapevine growing along the fence
Throughout the garden, there are perennials planted to help support the bees, trellised areas of crops like grapes and peas, and multiple garden beds tucked into every corner of the space. There is such a demand for more garden space, they have recently expanded to install several plots terraced into the hillside to provide spaces for Manna clients to become empowered by producing their own food for the 2018 gardening season.

Newly installed 'half-moon' garden beds terraced into the hillside provide a space for future garden plots
The Manna Garden is an inspirational place that serves over 60,000 meals per year! And, their mission of "Growing Opportunities. Feeding Community." is reflective of the impact they are making by contributing to the overall health and economic vitality of the region.

The Manna Soup Kitchen and Manna Garden are located at 1100 Avenida Del Sol, Durango, CO  81301 in La Plata County and can be found on the internet at

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Tribute to Kermit the Frog: Loving Green

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

Are you a Muppets fan like me? I grew up watching the Muppets and Kermit the Frog was always my favorite character. Well, I had two favorites: Kermit and Slimey the Worm. Kermit's song, "It's Not Easy Being Green" was always so touching, especially when he says, " could be nicer being yellow or red or gold...or something colorful like that." To me, green is absolutely beautiful.
A look across the creek at my dad's backyard north of the Twin Cities. Spectacular!
I'm spending some time back in my home state of Minnesota and it always amazes me how green everything is! Colorado is gorgeous, no doubt, but there's something about green vegetation that makes it easier to take a deep breath and truly enjoy nature.

In my mom's backyard...a bird bath surrounded by hosta, sedum and iris.
When planning your garden, don't overlook the multiple hues of green. Green is considered a neutral and pairs well with any color, but greens on their own are stunning. Mix and match varying green shades to brighten or subdue your landscape. Use variegated foliage to add a spark of interest.
Hosta in my mom's backyard outside St. Paul.
My mom's backyard is pretty shady since she has several large mature oaks (another wonderful green!). Over the years she's converted it to a shade plant haven with many hosta. Some of her favorites include 'Striptease', 'Guacamole' and 'St. Paul'. Unfortunately, she didn't label them, but together they create a masterful shade garden. (Like mother, like daughter, since I didn't label my collection of Heuchera.)
One of mom's hosta gardens.
While Colorado has its challenges growing hosta, with the proper site and water, they can do really well. I think the trouble lies where people may place them in a too-sunny location, leading them to foliage burn.
Our beloved family dog, Bosley, has long since passed, but mom uses his house in her garden. Magenta peonies stand out against the green foliage of lamb's ear.
So take a moment and appreciate the green. It gives the phrase "Go Green" another fun perspective. There are many green options for your garden (no matter where you live). Just like using greens in floral design, use hardy vegetation to balance and round out your favorite spaces.
A pop of color from a blue chicken (soon to be in my garden!) offsets the green hues of hosta and fern.
Finally, I have to end with one of my favorite flowers--the bleeding heart. This was one of my Grandma Dorothy's favorite plants and it can have a tough time in Colorado due to the intense summer heat. But in my dad's Zone 3A garden, it performs beautifully. After the heart-shaped blooms fade, the foliage remains (unlike in Colorado), adding another dainty green element to his landscape.
Bleeding heart in full bloom in my dad's garden.
Remember what Kermit says, "Green's the color of the spring...and green and be cool and friendly-like." Indeed Kermit! It is.

P.S. We really aren't kidding when we say the mosquitoes are the size of dogs in Minnesota. It's true! All that water...

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Tool Shed

Posted by: Darrin Parmenter, La Plata County Extension

We all have our favorites – favorite pet, favorite car, and heck even your favorite child (don’t worry Elena and Asher I love you both the same. Sort of…). In the kitchen, I would hard-pressed to think of utensil I use more of than my Spyderco paring knife. Or in the garage, I’m not sure what I haven’t tried to cut with a circular saw. The thing must be 20 years old - rusty and heavy - but I feel pretty confident that I can cut almost any angle without severing a finger. Heck, even as a baseball coach for my son’s travelling team, I can put my faith in a tee and a bag of Wiffle balls and know that I can probably teach somebody something.

But in the garden…that’s where one can find all sorts of tools for all sorts of chores: tilling, planting, weeding, harvesting, and the ever-increasing list for the endless number of tasks. Just take a look at the back of a seed catalog, or walk down the aisles at your local nursery and you will find tools that are probably so specific that you could have an entire quiver of metal and wood to just kill weeds. And if you ask any gardener what their favorite tool is, you could probably get as varied responses as you would if you asked them their favorite tomato variety.

My three favorites:
    photo courtesy of Gardener's Supply
    (NEVER take a photo of yourself
    with a hori hori in hand. And notice that is probably
    not my garden beverage of choice.)
  • The hori hori knife. Loosely translated as ‘dig dig’ in Japanese, this tool has the ability to do almost anything (including popping the cap off of a beer at the end of a hot day in the garden) that you could ask of it. I first learned of this tool when working at the Montana State University teaching farm and I haven’t been without one since. If you keep it sharp, it can cut through almost anything; if you use the other side, the serrated blade can rip through roots or small branches, or even a tin can. Many have a ruler for planting bulbs and all should come in a sturdy sheath.

  • A dibble board. Now, there’s an off-chance that the dibble board is way too big and way too unruly to fit in your garden’s toolbox. But if you are a relatively organized gardener like me, it is the calming force when trying to seed carrots or lettuce every spring. I made a couple boards about 10 years ago and use them every year. I even loan them out to the school gardens because nothing says uneasiness like watching 1st graders try to sow small seeds (ok, I’m a bit OCD in the veggie garden. I like order.). Mine are 12” x 12”, have a handle, and have 2” dowels equally spaced at either 2” or 3”. One of the best benefits of the tool is that it has greatly decreased my least favorite gardening chore: thinning. I feel much more confident when I can where the seeds are going so the need to place multiple seeds in each hole has been virtually eliminated.
  • The hula (or stirrup) hoe. Think of it as Crossfit for the garden – just plug in the headphones and start shaking! With these types of hoes – those that are essentially oscillating back and forth, rather than chopping and lifting like the traditional garden hoe – you can really get your heartbeat up as you hustle your way through the plants or in the row middles. If you have decent tilth in your garden, the semi-sharp blade can easily move right below the soil surface, cutting weeds below the soil line. You’re not digging them up, but you are also not disturbing the soil surface like you would with other weeding implements.
    photo courtesy of 

What are your favorites???

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Quiet, Solitary

The Quiet, Solitary Pocket Gopher

By Linda Langelo, CSU Horticulture Program Associate

According to G.W. Witmer and R.M. Engeman of the USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, pocket gophers are efficient "digging machines".  They spend the majority of their lives as a subterranean rodent quietly living its life in a closed burrow system until mating season, rearing their young or biting into buried cables while seeking roots as their main food source.  Without communication cables or electrical cables where would be?  In the same silence that pocket gophers enjoy before they conflicted with our world.  Since we live among lots of wildlife, it helps to be aware of the wildlife around us and their life cycles.

The damage a pocket gopher can do extends way beyond communication or electrical cables as if that were not enough.  Here is a brief list of some of the types of damage they can do: 

  1. Pocket gophers are one of the most serious pests and threat to reforestation in North America according to Engeman and Witmer (2000).
  2. In rangeland, their preferred diet is annual forbs or wildflowers and annual grasses.
  3. Root gnawing and basal girdling according to Sullivan and Hogue (1987) damage fruit trees such as apple, cherry, and pear trees in the Pacific Northwest.
  4. In Nebraska yields declined in alfalfa as an economic loss of around $10 million per year.  Other crops that suffered economic loss were alfalfa hay, late successional perennial grasses and clovers.
  5. Increases in invasive plant establishment and dispersal.

Photo Credit: Orlando Pest Control Solutions

I am sure that before our world became so civilized, populated and with so much dependence on technology the pocket gopher still continued to do damage, but was not so intrusive.   There are solutions to lessening the conflict of pocket gophers in our world.  One of those is burying those communication and electrical cables deeper than a foot since most of the damage occurs 10-30 centimeters within the rooting zone.  Their tunnels can cause irrigation loss and erosion according to UC Davis. 

Other solutions for managing pocket gophers as follows:

  1. use less palatable species of plants
  2. crop rotation
  3. alteration of planting and harvesting dates
  4. flood irrigation
  5. using barriers made of small mesh wire or plastic tubes for trees
  6. selective removal of forbs/flowers with herbicide 2,4-D has reduced gopher densities
  7. encouragement of natural predation
According to UC Davis, the biological options of natural predators are as follows:

  1. Snakes
  2. Owls -depends on environmental sites
  3. Weasals
  4. Badgers
  5. Foxes

To leave you on a positive note with pocket gophers; here are some good facts from

  1. Pocket gophers bring two and a quarter tons of soil to the surface each year.
  2. Some species are excellent swimmers.
  3. The Plains Pocket Gopher is agile.   (Just a side note: And maybe that is how they got into the tunnel that houses our phone and internet which has dropped our service in Sedgwick and Phillips County over the last 2 weeks.)  

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Don't Bug Out! Educate Yourself!
Posted by: Sherie Caffey, Horticulture Coordinator, CSU Extension-Pueblo County

I’m sure at some time in most of our lives, we have reached for a pesticide to help us out with a yard or garden pest. Being a new homeowner, I found that I had a lot to learn about the proper use of pesticides. Here’s some of the most important things I have discovered:

The new EPA advisory box
 Most people think of pesticides to be insecticides, but the actual definition of a pesticide is any chemical that controls a pest, whether it is an insect, a weed, a fungus, a rodent, or any other thing that is “pest”ering you.

There are many categories that pesticides fall into. One of the broadest is natural or synthetic. Natural pesticides are derived from biological ingredients, and synthetics are man made. If keeping your garden organic is important to you, look for an OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) label on the product you are using, this means it is certified to be used in organic production. Even though a product may be natural or organic, it may still be harmful to humans and beneficial critters in high concentrations, which brings me to the most important point about using pesticides, ALWAYS read the label! We will come back to this…

Too late for pre-emergents on this guy
There are a couple of other categories that pesticides are separated into. For herbicides in particular, they may be pre-emergent, meaning they can only control weeds before they germinate, or post-emergent, meaning you use them after the weeds have sprouted. Broad spectrum products are not picky, they kill everything, whereas selective products are meant to control one certain pest. Some pesticides are soil applied, and others need to be applied to the actual plant. Finally, protective pesticides prevent the pest of interest, and eradicants get rid of pests that are already present.

Signal words
The most important information that you can get about safely and properly using a pesticide is on the label. It is against the law to use any pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. There are many things that you will generally find on the product label. First of all, there will be the product name. There is usually a brand name (e.g. Roundup), and a common name (e.g. Glyphosate).

The next thing you should look for is the signal word, which tells you how hazardous the product is. These are the signal words you will see, in order from least toxic to most: Caution, Warning, and Danger/Poison. 1 to 3 drops of a product labeled Danger/Poison can kill an adult. You should also pay attention to any hazard or precautionary statements. These statements are meant to protect the applicator and the environment.

Last but not least, you will see the directions for use. You must use the product as directed on the label. The directions will tell you which plants it can be used on, which pests it is for, application rates, re-application times, and how long to wait until you harvest if you are using it in a vegetable garden.

So next time you reach for a pesticide to control a pesky garden problem, educate yourself before you use it, and remember, the label is the law!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Ascochyta Leaf Blight on Lawns – 2017 Version

Mowing drought-stressed lawns can make
Ascochyta worse. Notice no disease at top
of photo - shadier and no drought stress here!
Tony Koski
Extension Turf Specialist

The appearance of Ascochyta Leaf Blight has become an annual springtime event on lawns in Colorado. We have written about Ascochyta before: see our 2013, 2015 and 2016 blogs on this lawn disease. For more detailed information on Ascochyta in lawns, read those blogs because I’m not going to repeat everything that we've already written about it.

What I do want to talk about is WHY the Ascochyta disease appeared so suddenly over the last week. We’ve been inundated with calls, emails and texts with a common theme: “My lawn was perfectly green, and now you should see it! What happened?”. The explanation of why – that the disease is incited by drought stress –  doesn’t make sense to people because it appeared after the very wet (2 plus inches of water) snowy/rainy storm that came on May 16-18. That abundance of moisture (here’s what people DON’T remember) was preceded by two WEEKS of above-normal temperatures and very dry weather (red flag weather, if you recall?). And while everyone who has seen this happen to their lawns claims they were watering, I saw a lot of drought-stressed turf in the week before the storm. All it takes to turn Ascochyta on is a day or two of drought stress and heat during the spring – which this graph clearly shows was probable in home lawns this May. Those who REALLY were watering their lawns (or have shady lawns, or north exposure lawns) are not seeing Ascochyta. 

Much of first half of May was warmer (red line) than average (green line).And there was almost no precipitation May 1-16. This is a perfect "recipe"for Ascochyta on lawns that aren't irrigated enough during warm springs.The disease cycle began BEFORE the wet storm, with the symptoms appearing immediately after the storm. The moisture came a couple of days too late!

Here are some pics of what we’ve seen the past week.

In these 2 photos, there is less/no Ascochyta in parts of the lawn that are shaded or receiving a little more water from gutter downspouts. Ascochyta is turned on by heat and drought stress in the spring

Some quick bullets on the disease (go here for more details):

  • As bad as it looks, it isn’t dead!
  • Affected turf will take 1-3 weeks to recover, depending on severity and turf species.
  • It is NOT spread by mowing equipment – so there is no need to sanitize your mower.
  • Fungicides are NOT EFFECTIVE for preventing or curing the disease – so don’t apply them!
  • Adjust watering (and fix sprinkler coverage issues) to maintain consistent soil moisture, but not so that it is swampy (which will slow down recovery).
  • This appears to be a disease that occurs when cool weather turns into hot weather (hence a spring disease), so it will pretty much disappear as we become consistently warm in the summer.
Ascochyta doesn't kill the grass plant. You will see new growth
under the dead leaves almost immediately following an outbreak
of this disease. Recovery can take 1-3 weeks, depending on
severity and grass species.

While you can see mowing patterns with Ascochyta, mowing and the mower
doesn't spread the fungus. The mowing is an additional stress when turf is
heat and drought-stressed - so the Ascochyta and mower stress combine to
cause the browning of the turf.