Monday, August 13, 2018

Zucchini perfect porch packages

By Carol O’Meara, Boulder County Extension

  If you live near a gardener, the time for checking your porch for green, cylindrical squash has arrived. Generous by nature, gardeners love to spirit zucchini onto stoops and porches, and announce it with a merry ringing of the doorbell as we scurry away.

For us, the joy is in the giving, for our zucchini plants are overflowing with squash.  So much so that the family has learned to dread the words: “zucchini is ready for harvesting.”  Could it be the result of zucchini for breakfast, lunch and dinner day after day? 

Overabundance - and thus over consumption - of this summer squash is but one reason why people duck for cover during zucchini season.  Too much of a good thing usually results in needing a break from that particular food.  Coupled with the fact that many people have zucchini coming to them from several friends, any sane person would hide. 

There could be other reasons for our aversion, based on plant physiology.  When young, plant energy is at its peak and the fruits may be slightly more tender and delicious than from an older plant that has been producing for a while.  Speaking as an older person I am less than enamored of this theory, which is not scientifically researched and can only be considered an interesting possibility. 

A more likely reason for ‘zucchiniphobia’ may rest with a well-known fungus called powdery mildew.  Powdery mildew attacks the leaves of most cucurbits – the plant family that squash, cucumbers, and melons are in – later in the season and can reduce the plant’s production of sugar in the fruit, leaving a less than delicious squash.  It’s true that as we lose our enthusiasm for zucchini, it loses flavor and delicacy.

But gardeners don’t call it quits and pull the plant from the ground when powdery mildew strikes.  No, the obsessed gardener will struggle on, doggedly harvesting fruit and finding new ways to use it and new friends to bestow it upon.  For those die-hards, here are few tips for using that squash – none of which are research-based. 

Zucchini is an excellent vegetable to use in the Spiralizer machines. Turning the squash into long, spaghetti-like strands, the machine is one way to hide the fact that you’re serving zucchini every meal for the fifth week in a row. That the ‘zoodles’ are an odd green can be covered up with a bit of pesto.

It makes a tasty bread, and those with an abundant supply could get an early start on holiday gifts.  Imagine how simpler December will be by baking all of your holiday loaves and freezing them in August.  When the holidays roll around you simply pull the loaves from the freezer and voila!  Planning ahead pays off.

How convenient that school starts up in August, just the right time for a special ‘welcome back’ gift squash for teachers.  Of course, the student may have to work for months to get back into the teacher’s good graces, but hey, you have less zucchini to deal with.  Gift squash can be handled anonymously, with the ‘ring and run’ technique on neighbor’s doorsteps, or as a special 10 lb. box for your mother-in-law.  There’s always camouflage gifting – dressing the zucchini up with a prettily printed recipe card, some sparkling rhinestones and ribbon.

Please the kids with zucchini-boat carving and float them in a pond, or carve boat-themed centerpieces for summer parties. Slap some wheels on them and have zucchini races. However you choose to celebrate the squash, make August special.


Monday, August 6, 2018

My Favorite Plant Select Plants

My Favorite Plant Select Plants
By CSU Horticulture Program Associate, Linda Langelo

I have four of my favorite Plant Select Plants that happen to all be good pollinators, drought tolerant and xeric.  In a semi-arid desert, I place a higher value on all those attributes.  

Photo Credit: Linda Langelo   

PlatinumⓇ Sage,   Salvia daghestanica

This salvia is an early summer perennial.  It is xeric and prefers loam or sandy soil.  I have used this as an edging plant in the landscape bed nearby a sidewalk.  It does quite well.  This salvia is drought tolerant and can take the summer heat.  Plants with silver leaves are very drought tolerant.  To be clear, a plant can be tolerant of drought for a significant period.  However, when the plant starts doing poorly that is the end of its tolerance.  Here is a brief list of plant characteristics that allow a plant to be drought tolerant:
  • Reduced surface area
  • Thick waxy cuticle
  • Reduced number of stomata
  • Water storage tissues in the roots or leaves
  • Pubescence or lots of hairs called trichomes on the leaves reduces evaporation by reflecting light 

Photo Credit:  

Kannah CreekⓇ buckwheat,  Eriogonum umbellatum var. aureum 'Psdowns'
I love this groundcover because it is a long flowering perennial that blooms from May through July.  It is xeric and does well in loam, sand or clay soils.  In addition, this plant is a great pollinator plant for those interested in helping pollinators.  In the fall the leaves turn a reddish color.  I use it as another edging plant.  But it can be used in mass as well.  It is a native plant of Colorado.  If you are into dried flowers, the flowers are great to cut and use in dried arrangements.  
Photo Credit: Linda Langelo

Sonoran SunsetⓇ hyssop,  Agastache cana 'Sinning' PP 13,673

Agastache is great for dry landscapes.  The picture above is the front of the Julesburg Elementary School.  We used Plant Select Plants to reduce water use by creating this drier landscape.  This perennial is another long season bloomer.  It blooms from midsummer to frost.  This is a good pollinator plant.  Agastache is also another native.  With most of these Plant Select perennials there is little maintenance to do.  With agastache, prune back the spent flowers in the spring.  

  Photo Credit: Linda Langelo  Phillips County Extension Plant Select Garden

You can tell hyssop is a favorite among favorites because I have two pictures in two different landscapes.  Not really,  I just happened to have a really decent camera to get a good quality picture when it was in bloom.  

Photo Credit: 

Colorado Desert Blue Star,  Amsonia jonesii

Amsonia is a wonderful spring plant.  This light, cool blue flower color for early spring bloom in April and lasting through June.  As the plant sets seeds, you will have lots of seedlings.  But I would not consider this plant to be aggressive.  This is a native plant of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.  It grows in clay, loam or sandy soil.  It is also a good pollinator plant.  

I hope you try some of these plants in your landscape, if you haven't already.  All these plants need No fertilizing, little to no maintenance other than some supplemental water unless we suffer an extended drought, and grow in a variety of soils.  My kind of gardening.  Plant, water initially, keep the weeds away and sit back and enjoy the view!  

Friday, August 3, 2018

Time for planting late season crops

Can you believe August is here already?  Summer always seems to fly by.  I’ll admit this summer has not been a good year for my vegetable garden.  I first got a late start.  At my Fruita home we have had 16 days over 100 just in July compiled the extreme drought and now days that appear so cloudy but it is actually smoke from all the wildfires from the east and west of us.  Rain always perks up the garden and there has just been none.  Many warm season vegetables do best when nights are above 50 and days are 90 are less, so the high 90s and 100s are rough on these plants. They can actually abort their buds in these conditions.  I frequently see clients with greenhouses that have plants do this due to the greenhouse being too warm.  Cooling systems are important to keep temperatures under 90 degrees F.
CSU Greenhouses

Then add in my husband that tends to do frequent light watering with the veggies, definitely not the best thing to do.  Even Agents husbands' sometimes don't listen.  Watering frequently develops shallow rooted plants as plants need oxygen as well as water.  So now that days are starting to get shorter, even though our temperatures are in the 90s, it is for a shorter period of the day.  So my point is even the best of us sometimes have rough garden years.  Luckily my fruit trees are doing well.  They get infrequent deep watering and hubby has done a great job of treating for codling moth and other insects so there are very few worms in the apples and my red haven peaches look perfect.  I shortly will start my annual preserving.
Apple Cobbler-2017- Susan Carter

So, I am starting over with the vegetable garden.  Right now is a great time to start the cool season vegetables with plenty of time for fall picking.  A little later in the season, you can also plant garlic and seeds like spinach and lettuce for early spring picking, but still a little early for that.  Some of the cool season plants germinate readily such as lettuce which is usually 7-10 days and can be picked from 28 days to 55 depending on the type of lettuce.

Note: Soil Temperature, NOT air temp.  From Johnny's Seed

Lettuce Mix- Johnny's Seed- 28 days
 Below is the soil temperature chart obtained from CoAgMet captured at the Fruita Research Station that is just a few miles from my house.  Note that temperatures peaked in July and are starting to slowly decrease due to shorter day length.  Forecasts predict air temperatures will drop into the 80s for the later half of August.  Soil temperatures deeper than a  few inches will cool off slower.

CoAgmet is a site by Colorado State University that uses weather stations across the state to track all kinds of meterological data.  Check it out.  Maybe a futute blog just about CoAgMet and how to use should be on the horizon.

CoAgMet Soil Temperatures from Fruita Research Station

Cool season vegetable information. 
Within the above link to vegetable is a document that contains a chart to help you decide which crops you can plant now.  Look for short season and that can tolerate cooler soil and air temperatures.  You may not have enough time to grow a beet, but you could grow the greens.  You could also use methods to extend your season from as simple as frost covers to a cold frame to a low tunnel.  Using mulch and straw to insulate the soil to hold in the warmth can extend your growing season as well.

Season Extension -CSU Extension San Miquel County

As I finish writing this blog, we finally had about 5-10 minutes of rain.  Not a lot, but at least something.  Check with your local Master Gardeners or Agents in your county to find out what you can plant in your area for fall harvest.  Hopefully we will have a long autumn with some moisture for our dry areas of the state. And if you cannot grow it, support your local farmers.

By Susan Carter, CSU Extension Tri River Area Horticulture Agent

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Is there hope for the landscape after hail?

by Amy Lentz

If you live along the Front Range in Colorado and have not had your yard ravaged by hail this year, you should count yourself lucky! I've been in the vicinity of four hailstorms around Weld and Larimer counties this year...and that's four too many! Hail can wreak havoc on one's landscape and garden. After hail, you might be wondering if your garden is toast or if there is something you can do to save the landscape. Depending on the time of year and the severity of the storm, there may be hope...

Hail forms within strong updrafts of some thunderstorms. As the air in the storm rises, it cools due to drops in pressure and temperature creating a colder air mass at the top of the storm. Ice particles can move upward due to the updraft and collect water as they rise, causing them to grow in size. The newly formed hail stones will swirl around in the upper layers of the storm. However, eventually the storm cannot hold onto the heavy hailstone, gravity takes over and it falls to the ground.

The organization Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS for short) has a list of hail facts on their website along with a ton of other great weather information. Here are a few interesting facts about Colorado's affinity for these falling ice balls (you can find the complete list here):
  • Colorado is one of the most hail-prone states in the U.S.
  • The Colorado hail season is April 15 to September 15.
  • Hail occurs more frequently in the lee of the Rockies than anywhere else in North America.
  • Hail also occurs very frequently in the high Colorado mountains during the summer. These stones, however, tend to be small and soft and rarely do damage.
CoCoRaHS also has a database to track the number of hail storms in your area, including the size and location of hail reports. For example, both Larimer and Weld counties have had hail reported on 13 separate dates so far this year. The hail reported ranged in size from that of rice (less than 1/4 inch) to hen egg size (two inches in diameter). The most recent storm occurred just two days ago on July 29th. 

Check hail reports for your county here.

So what should you do if your garden or landscape gets hit by hail? Your trees will show the most damage toward the tops as this is where it takes the most beating. Any leaf area still on the tree will continue to photosynthesize and will likely keep the tree going through the rest of the growing season. The tree should leaf out okay the following year. if the damage was not too great. However, keep in mind that the hail can also do damage to the branches and open up the tree to disease, so hail damaged trees should be monitored for additional stress throughout the season. Similar monitoring should be done with perennials, as well.

The Weld County Extension Demonstration Garden after the June19th hail storm, up to dime-size hail.
The Weld County Extension Demonstration Garden 1 month after the hail storm, recovering nicely.

Depending on the time of year that hail hits your annual flowers, they might have enough time to recover and look nice. In early June, I had several containers of annuals damaged by a severe hail storm (up to quarter sized hail for an extended period of time). Needless to say the plants were shredded, with just a few leaf pieces hanging on for dear life. Upon further inspection, I noticed that there were a few new growth points that looked to be spared. So I waited. It's a good idea to wait a few days (up to a week or so) after hail has damaged you plants before you prune them back. This way you can see where there is hope for regrowth, allowing you to leave that growth on the plant when pruning off dead plant parts.

Quarter-size hail from the June 19th near north Fort Collins.

My lovely containers of petunias, zinnias and coleus after hail on June 19th.

Even though this coleus was shredded, a few growing points are still in tact.

After about a week, I removed the dead portions from these annuals and made sure to keep them well watered and as stress-free as possible over the next month to help them recover. After about 5 weeks, the annuals are recovering well. 

Five weeks after hail damage. If you look close, you can see that the coleus from the last picture is growing again.

Vegetables are tricky, as some will not recover at all after a hail storm, while others might be salvageable. Give it a week and see how they respond. You may need to replant if it's early enough in the season. Row covers and hoop houses can be helpful, along with hard structures to protect the plants. The University of Wyoming has an article with additional tips on how to protect the vegetable garden from hail. That article can be found here.

So don't loose all hope! If it's early enough in the season to get regrowth and if the severity of the hail left some leaf tissue in tact, the plants may be able to recover with time and a little TLC.

 Click here to find more information on how to deal with hail damage in this Planttalk Colorado™ article regarding hail.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Lawn and Order: Special Horticulture Unit

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

"Ripped from the headlines...."

In the landscape management system, irrigation-based offenses are considered especially heinous. Low heads, titled sprinklers and inefficient control clocks are all violations we see on a daily basis. The horticulturists who investigate these vicious landscape crimes work hard to keep water waste to a minimum. These are their stories, as told by compelling photos and video.... [BOM BOM]

Episode 1: The Rock
Episode 1: Putting in new landscaping is a great idea! It adds to your personal enjoyment and should increase your home's value. But putting in new landscaping without taking inventory of where your sprinkler heads are located is a sure way to waste water and get brown spots in your lawn.
Episode 2: The Low Head
Green circles = sprinkler heads!
Episode 2: Low heads are a great way to water a very small circular area in your lawn! The smushed, flattened turf is a great piece of evidence to find a low head as the culprit. Raise 'em up! Make sure the head is up above the surface of the turf.
Episode 3: Drip irrigation springs a leak. I think everyone can agree that while drip irrigation is one of the best ways to use water wisely, when the line breaks or emitters pop off, it's a great way to waste water. Check your drip lines often!
Episode 4: Clogged heads lead to brown spots. Sometimes the cause of the crime seems so obvious, especially when you turn on the sprinklers. The last sprinkler in this video is clogged and spitting out water, leading to the brown spot. Just like drip irrigation, check your heads at least once a month, especially if you run them at night.
Episode 5: The Stuck Head.
Maple the beagle knew it was an irrigation problem!
Episode 5: Seeing green and brown stripes in your lawn? Check to make sure your rotor heads are moving! I had a head in my backyard that would work until it reached one side (see photo with Maple, above). Then it would get stuck and not move again during the cycle. And this horticulturist wondered why the giant brown spot in the turf resulted. (Sometimes even horties need help.)
Episode 6: The Geyser
Episode 6: The geyser. Yeah, sprinklers shouldn't shoot 20 feet straight up in the air. Plus, think of how this completely ruins your water pressure! (Short episode.)
Episode 7: Tilted Heads.
Episode 7: I'm not the best person at understanding physics, but a head pointed at this angle will lead to overspraying and will leave a brown spot directly in front. Heads need to come up perpendicular to the surface of the turf at a 90 degree angle. Making sure your heads pop straight up and down will greatly improve your irrigation efficiency!
Episode 8: While we are all supporters of wildlife, your lawn shouldn't tag-team as a duck pond. Fix the heads!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Spiders in the Garden

Posted by: Jessica Wong, Master Gardener Coordinator, Broomfield County Extension

Spiders may be one of the most important and abundant biological control agents in our gardens. They are generalist predators that feed almost exclusively on arthropods, including many we consider pests. Spiders will kill as many as 50 times the number of prey they actually eat. And, relax, they are not at all interested in biting humans.
This female wolf spider (Tigrosa helluo) was recently brought into our office by a Broomfield employee. She was about 3 inches long! I released her into our Xeriscape Demonstration Garden where, I'm sure, she is providing effective pest control. Photo credit: Jessica Wong 
Dysdera crocata, commonly known as sowbug killer, woodlouse hunter, and “roly-poly killer.” Photo credit:

Spiders provide pest control, day and night, on the ground, on all above-ground parts of a plant, and even in the air. Wolf spiders (Lycosidae) are excellent hunters of pests on the ground, including ants, earwigs, and caterpillars and grubs found at the soil surface. Sowbug killers (Dysdera crocata) are another ground hunting spider that prey on, you guessed it, sowbugs and pillbugs.
This spider is aptly named bold jumper Phidippus audax. Photo credit: Jessica Wong

Jumping spiders (Salticidae) are small hunters can be found in a variety of habitats, from tree trunks to leaves to under rocks. These small spiders hunt for small prey like mosquitoes, aphids, and midges. Crab spiders (Thomisidae) are ambush predators that can be found waiting for prey on flowers. Orbweavers (Araneidae) are the spiders that spin the familiar vertical webs with concentric rings. They catch anything that flies by, such as winged aphids, wasps, and moths.
Goldenrod crab spiders Misumena vatia can change from white to yellow and back to white for better camouflage. Photo credit: Charley Eiseman, Ohio State University Extension
Banded orb weaver Argiope trifasciata. Photo credit: David Cappaert, Michigan State University,

Spiders can provide the most effective pest control when there are many species present in your garden. To support spiders in your garden you will need to provide habitats for them. Apply a layer of mulch or leaf litter for the ground spiders. Reduce tilling to prevent the disturbance of spider nests and burrows. Intercrop varying height plants to create microclimates and web anchor points. Diversifying your landscape can increase the diversity and abundance of spiders in your garden, which will increase the potential for pest control. By creating abundant habitat for spiders in your garden you will also make it more attractive for them to stay outside rather than come inside your house.
Various groups of spiders occupy different parts of a tree. Figure from Patrick Marc & Alain Canard 1997 “Maintaining spider biodiversity in agroecosystems as a tool in pest control.” Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 62:229-235.

I love spiders. Spiders are always welcomed in my garden. I don’t even mind them in my house since they are doing a great job of killing flies and ants. I don’t expect you to love spiders now too, but I hope you at least have a greater appreciation for them in your garden.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Plants of Summer

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

Co-workers and friends often joke about my landscape. By now you realize that I adore my lawn, but the landscape plants don't get much attention. My gardening philosophy is that you have to be tough to survive in my landscape. If you need a lot of attention, water or regular pruning, forget it. I've killed A LOT of plants in my tenure in Colorado, but those that have survived have my greatest respect.

And right now, it's tough to be a plant. It's hot, dry and everyone just feels sluggish--including the gardener. But a few are standing up to neglect and thriving. Let's review them:

False indigo (Baptisia australis)
False indigo: Awesome on every level! This has been planted for about six years and this is the first time I really noticed it bloom. Pale lavender flowers on pea-like foliage. The great thing about this plant is it's right where Maple the beagle stalks the squirrels who are trying to eat from the bird feeder, so it gets a lot of paw traffic and abuse. The flowers fade to hardened chocolate brown "pea pods." I cut it back to the ground in the spring.

Sedums: I have many sedums in my garden, but I couldn't tell you any of their names, except for the lime green 'Angelina' (not pictured) and 'Autumn Joy' (not pictured). But ground cover sedums are tough as nails, love it hot and dry and fill in gaps. I call them "gentle creepers" and are not at all invasive. I don't really like the flowers, so sometimes I clip them off.

Above and Beyond rose
Roses: For those who don't grow roses because of the myth they are too much work, you should try them! Roses are one of the easiest garden plants, especially the shrub types--a spring pruning job and occasional clipping in the summer. There are several introductions that you can try. 'Above and Beyond' (pictured) is a climbing rose from the Bailey Nurseries First Editions series. It had incredible blooms just a few weeks ago and is ready for another flush. It also has clean foliage and sparse thorns. Other roses I love are 'Paint the Town' and 'Sunrise Sunset'. Some of the shrub roses have great fragrance, so be sure to stop and smell them!

Hopflower oregano (Origanum libanoticum)
Hopflower oregano: This is a wonderful ornamental that can serve as a ground cover or a trailing plant over a ledge. I love the unique flowers tipped in purple. It's in full bloom right now and the flowers will persist through most of the fall and winter, turning a straw color. The foliage is dainty, held on wiry stems.

Smoketree (Cotinus coggygria)
Smoketree: These large shrubs/small trees are very noticeable when in full bloom (pictured above). The flowers look like plumes of smoke. It's versatile, as it can be left as a multi-stem shrub, pruned to a single-stem tree or cut back to maintain the height you want. The first few seasons it died back almost to the ground in winter. I also love the obovate leaves, which are slightly waxy. The best purple color will occur in full sun. Mine is planted under a honeylocust.

Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) and threadleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata)
Lavender and coreopsis: I have seen a lot of lavender in landscapes, which is great, since it's a wonderfully fragrant, bee-attracting perennial. It also does very well in dry, high pH soils. Whack it back to the ground in the spring and watch it re-grow. There's a new introduction called 'Wee One' that is pretty much the cutest lavender you've ever seen. As for the threadleaf coreopsis, also called tickseed, it's a reliable bloomer and I love the purple-yellow combination. Tickseed is a no-brainer. After it blooms, cut it back for a second flush.

A world record prickly lettuce plant?
Check out this record-setting prickly lettuce that was growing up through the lilacs! It was nearly five feet tall. It's amazing how I can wear blinders in the garden and not notice these things...

Maple the beagle is off to investigate other summer-blooming plants for the garden!