Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants Conference

Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants Conference
February 10, 2018 at the Denver Botanic Gardens
Registration for the 3rd Annual LWCNP Conference NOW OPEN!

Our keynote speaker will be Panayoti Kelaidis: Native Plants in the Garden: a Problem or Panacea?
This talk will present a few of the challenges encountered establishing native plants at Denver Botanic Gardens (and similar institutions) such as the difficulty of procuring germplasm, how hard they can be to establish and maintain and the often negative reaction to poorly designed native plantings. Panayoti will then show solutions to each of these challenges that intelligent design and proper maintenance can obviate: a successfully established native garden can be a panacea in our urban spaces—minimizing irrigation and runoff and reaffirming our connection to Nature in every sense.

Topics for the ‘New to natives’ breakout session will include planting for habitat, planting for year-round interest, adding natives to an existing landscape (including replacing your lawn), and “plant this, not that”.  Topics for the ‘Knows the natives’ breakout sessions will include maintenance,  rock/crevice gardening (including bare-root planting), soils for native plants, and water conservation through passive water harvesting.  We will end the day with panel with a grower’s perspective on natives.

We will also have many wonderful vendors to check out before and after the conference, and during breaks.

The Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants Conference promotes the inclusion of native plants in our landscaping to benefit pollinators and songbirds, save water, and restore the beauty and health of nature in the places we live, work and play. 

While we recommend the use of straight species and local ecotypes wherever possible, we support the use of varieties and cultivars of native species as long as their breeding doesn’t interfere with their ability to function in nature and maintain key relationships with pollinators and other lives.

Monday, November 20, 2017

NJC and Extension Demonstration Hydroponic Project

By CSU Linda Langelo, Horticulture Program Associate

Hydroponic systems seem to be cropping up in different locations and in different venues throughout Colorado.  In Northeast Colorado, a cooperative venture between Northeastern Junior College (NJC) and Colorado State University (CSU) Extension was designed by Dr. Brent Young to “explore the possibility of using intensive, high value, vegetable production as a means to bring the next generation back to the family farm.  In turn, this would also allow for the creation of profitable small farms and provide locally produced, healthy food for our community.”  In this greenhouse, in order to keep this hydroponic demonstration operation running smoothly, Dr. Young and Brian Kailey with CSU Extension train and oversee three work study students from NJC.
There are two systems that makeup the fresh food production in this NJC greenhouse hydroponic demonstration.  The first system called Nutrient Film Technology (NFT) is a system, where the nutrient solution constantly recirculates through the system.  The trays slope slightly allowing a film of liquid to travel down the tray to feed the plants.  In the NFT system, they chose to start growing lettuce.  Why lettuce?  Lettuce is a crop that requires lowlight and low temperatures and for some lettuce types such as Bibb lettuce has a quicker turn around time for fresh food production.  The down side is that lettuce is a perishable crop.  The best types of lettuce for hydroponic systems are Butterhead, Loose Leaf, Leaf and Cutting.  The four varieties of Salanova used in the greenhouse are listed as follows:
  1. Salanova Red Sweet
  2. Salanova Green Butter
  3. Salanova Red Butter
  4. Salanova Summer Crisp
According to Johnny's Seeds, "Salanova® is higher yielding than traditional salad mix even though it is grown as single heads, the same way that head lettuce is grown.  It's unique core structure allows fully mature heads to be easily cut into uniform leaves once harvested, increasing efficiency."  There are many different varieties of Salanova which include both red and green, flat (oak) or frilly, crisp or butterleaf.  This lettuce has more leaves than a standard head all uniformly sized and growing in a rosette pattern.
At this time, the NJC cafeteria has all their lettuce needs met for their current menu.  This NFT system produces 72 heads a week.
NFT system, top left and plant nursery; Photo Credit: Young and Kailey
NFT system. Photo Credit: Young and Kailey
 NFT system with Salanova Lettuce. Photo Credit: Young and Kailey
Finished lettuce. Photo credit Young and Kailey.
The second system is called a Bato or "Dutch" Bucket system.  Vine crops are grown in these Bato Buckets.  It is known as a "feed to drain" system.  The delivery of nutrients is set on a timer for several times a day at short three to five minutes.  In a Bato Bucket system, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers are grown.  The varieties used are listed below:
  1. Vertina F1
  2. Corito F1
  1. Golden Sweet F1
  2. Rebelski F1
  1. Sympathy F1
  2. Sprinter F1
Currently with a 24 Bato Bucket system, they are projecting 10 lbs of tomatoes, 14 cucumbers and 12 peppers per week of fresh produce. 
Bato buckets ready for planting. Photo credit Young and Kailey.
Bato bucket system. Photo credit Young and Kailey.
If you would like more information on this project please contact Brent or Brian as listed below:
Dr. Brent Young @ (970)491-4425
Brian Kailey @ (970)522-3200 ext. 3

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bring Cheer to your Holiday Plants

By: Sherie Caffey, Horticulture Coordinator, CSU Extension-Pueblo County

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite parts of the holiday season are the traditional holiday houseplants that I always end up getting and giving as gifts. For most of us, this time of year is crazy busy and more often than not, those cheerful plants end up as cheerful compost food long before their time. Here are some tips for making your holiday houseplants last to their full potential:

Generally speaking, large houseplants in small pots dry out pretty quickly, so you should check the moisture level of your plants daily. The soil should be moist but never soggy. If your plant is wrapped in decorative foil, you should either remove it or poke holes in the bottom of it so you have good drainage.

Good lighting will extend the life of your holiday plants as well. Find a place for them that is well lit, but not in direct sunlight. If you don’t have a place with nice natural light, a grow light or a cool white fluorescent bulb combined with an incandescent bulb can work as well.

Household temperatures can also have an impact on the lifespan of your plants. Avoid places where the plants will be exposed to hot or cold drafts. 60° F to 75° F is usually a good temperature for most houseplants. Our dry Colorado air can make our holiday plants lose cheer as well. You can use a humidifier, or place the plant on a tray with pebbles and water. Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the pot.

Poinsettias are the epitome of the holiday houseplant. To keep those colorful bracts looking great for months, bright indirect light and frequent watering is key (but don’t overwater!). You can keep a poinsettia all year and re-bloom it next season, but it is quite the process and a different blog in itself. If you want to give it a shot, you can find detailed instructions in CSU Extension Fact Sheet #7.412.  And one more thing, don’t believe the myth that they are poisonous, they aren’t!
         Christmas cacti are from a group of jungle cacti and don’t look like our native cacti at all. These plants can be very long lived when cared for properly. Let the top inch of soil dry out between waterings. They can go outdoors in the summertime, but they should be in part shade and should be brought inside when temperatures start to drop. Fertilizing can be done in the spring and summer with a standard houseplant fertilizer. You can help your cactus to re-bloom starting in September by controlling temperature and the amount of light it gets. You can find more information on this process here.

Amaryllis are beautiful additions to the home during the holiday season. Provide them with bright but indirect light, and keep the soil evenly moist. A cooler room temperature will prolong flowering. Once the blooms die, remove them. Keep the leaves actively growing through the summer. In the fall, you will want to cut water back until the leaves die, and then you will store it in a cool dark location for a couple of months. You can then resume watering and you will have buds in a few weeks! Click here for some detailed information on the process.

Norfolk Island pine trees are nice houseplants and can be used in place of a traditional large Christmas tree. They will appreciate a sunny bright location, and will respond well to being rotated weekly. Water when the top inch of soil is dry, and try to keep the humidity up. These trees ideally like 50% humidity. Daytime temperatures of 60° F to 72° F are optimal, with nighttime temperatures being just a bit lower. With good care, this plant can last all year long. Keep in mind, these are not true pines and are not cold hardy in Colorado.

I hope you have been inspired to be a great holiday plant parent, and maybe even to try and keep some of this year’s plants for 2018. Happy Holidays to everyone.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Lessons From A Fruit Fly Infestation

Posted by: Mary Small
Colorado Master Gardener State
Are tiny flies driving you buggy? Several kinds are common indoors, so it’s really important to capture and identify them. It helps you figure out why they are there in the first place, how long they might stay and most important - how to manage them.

The Small household recently had the un-delightful company of fruit flies. I knew they were fruit flies because I’d captured a couple and identified them.  The insects are attracted to fermentation odors, such as that found with over- ripe or decaying fruit, beer, wine and sugary drinks. Fruit flies are quite small (1/16”), often have red eyes and are very annoying!

I observed they seemed to be concentrated around the ripening bananas on the kitchen counter. “Okay,” I thought, “once the bananas are gone, they will be too.” I even took the peels outside immediately after eating the fruit, thinking that would quickly decrease the fruit fly population. Nope! Bananas gone, still finding fruit flies. 

Next I constructed a funnel trap. This consists of a jar with either cider vinegar or a piece of ripe fruit in the bottom.  Set a funnel (metal, plastic or one made from a small piece of paper) over the opening to the jar, narrow side down. Make sure the outer edge of the funnel fits the opening of the jar fairly well. Then tape the funnel to the jar along the junction where the two met. You don’t want anybody escaping!
By Downtowngal (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
 Fruit flies are attracted to the fermenting fruit/vinegar and crawl or fly down the funnel to get to the prize. But then they can’t get out and die, falling to the bottom of the jar. My trap worked like a dream – I was trapping quite a few every day. My hope was that the trap would collect the remaining flies (assuming they arrived on the bananas) and the infestation would be over. 

While the trap was in place, I checked for and wiped up anything that looked like a spill from the pantry shelves, counter tops and refrigerator. I was also fanatical about taking empty drink bottles outside to the recycle bin right after consumption. I hoped this would reduce potential food sources, but instead I had an annoyed family along with the fruit flies!

One day while hunting up a particular spice, I noticed an odd smell coming out of a cupboard that I apparently hadn’t searched very well.  I’d caught a whiff a couple of times before, but it was very faint. This time, it was stronger and so a more thorough search ensued. Shoved into the far back corner in a plastic bag, I found three small rotting potatoes. In addition to being disgusting, they turned out to be the source of the fruit flies. After disposing of the culprits, it only took one trap refresh to take out the remaining flies.  

And now, there’s a new location to store and readily observe the condition of potatoes so we don’t have unwanted company again. So far, so good!