CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Seed Tape: It works!

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

On one of my (many) trips to the garden centers this spring, I came across seed tape. Haven't heard of it? Well, envision paper-thin toilet paper with seeds embedded (and mostly evenly spaced) into the nearly translucent strip of paper.

The seed tape is lengthwise in this photo. You can see the seeds.
Anyway, I always wondered if it worked or if was another horticultural gimmick. Believe me--I love to make gardening as easy as possible and if it saves me the frustration of looking crossed-eyed when sowing teeny tiny seeds or the exertion of having to thin them later, count me in. But I still had my doubts.

My dad has used carrot seed tape for a couple years with good success. But he's a better vegetable gardener and has more patience. So I bought a couple packages. It should be noted that this stuff is not cheap. You could easily buy several packets of seed for what you pay for a single seed tape pack.
Seed tape packaged and ready to plant.
I read the instructions on my packages of basil (purple and green) and lettuce (romaine and bibb) and sowed the strips in containers. I cut them to size (to fit my container) first and lightly covered them with potting media...perhaps with 1/8-1/4". I couldn't see the tape after I planted, but you don't want them too deep either. Follow the instructions for the spacing recommendations between strips.

I watered...and waited....and lo and behold! Lettuce! GOOD lettuce! Beautiful lettuce! My self-seeded lettuce would never look so good or healthy. Or evenly spaced.
Lettuce seed tape a few weeks after planting. Maple the beagle approves.
The basil took a bit longer to germinate, but is also looking good. The basil came in pre-fabricated circles, perfect to fit in a container. No cutting required.
Basil seed tape.
Now, for those who know know that I never eat anything from my garden. I like to grow it just for fun. Yes, I'm aware of how weird this is. So you know who's been enjoying my lettuce? My chickens. It's like an all-you-can eat salad buffet!
Sadie, Lizzy and Madonna enjoying the lettuce buffet.
Sadie can't eat and chew fast enough.
So tell me...what's your experience with seed tape? I know they also make it for flowers and other vegetables. Carrots are next year's list to try. And you can also make it yourself. There are several videos on YouTube that show you how. But for my first experience with it, I give it a green thumb's up!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Mosquitoes and rainstorms and hail, oh, my!

Posted by Carol O'Meara, CSU Extension Boulder County

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the garden, Mother Nature pounds us with severe storms, hail, and tornadoes.  If that weren’t enough, the series of Seattle-like weather has given rise to the scourge of outdoor activity:  mosquitoes.
A gardener’s yard is filled with opportunities for mosquitoes to lay their eggs, since we have pots, buckets, saucers, bird baths, ponds, wheelbarrows, and other accessories stacked around the yard.  If you look at the list many of the health agencies have on common breeding areas, gardeners’ yards appear to be mother ships for these insects.

But there is something you can do to reduce the problem of mosquitoes:  change bird bath water twice per week; dump out water that collects in the dish beneath pots; turn over unused pots, saucers, trays and buckets; and use Bt doughnuts to float in your ponds or water features.  Bt, short for Bacillus thuringiensis, is a natural way to kill off the mosquito larvae in your water.
To protect yourself while working in the garden, cover up or use a mosquito repellent that’s effective against West Nile Virus-carrying mosquitoes. Check with your local health department for suggested repellents. 

Though the gardens love the wet weather, one thing they could do without is the hail that came with it.  If your plants were victims of the savage skies, take heart: it looks bad now but, depending on the plant, its maturity, and time left in the season for recovery, all may not be lost.
Vegetable root crops, such as potatoes or beets, with destroyed leaves could send up new shoots, compromising quality of the crop. In this case the produce may not be worth the growing space.  For leafy vegetables, be patient:  give them at least a week to recuperate after the storm, and if there’s no sign of life, replant.

Flowering annuals stripped of their leaves may not survive, and replanting now will ensure a good display later in summer.  Yes, it’s hard to pull up those babies, so if there are a few bits left on the stem and you’re feeling nurturing, clean them up and a give them a light application of fertilizer.  They might recover.
Severely shredded leaves on smaller perennials should be cut back to the ground, and if the leaves aren’t too damaged, leave them alone.  Bleeding hearts and other perennials with soft stems that look reasonably unharmed should be cut back part way. Generally they'll sprout new leaves along the stem at the junction between the old leaves and the stem.

Work fertilizer in around any damaged perennials that are well established to give them a boost for recovery.  Those with firm stalks should be cut partially back.  If they don't sprout new leaves on existing stems, look for new stems pushing up from their roots.  
Trees and shrubs not pushing new leaves need to be closely monitored; it’s possible they fell victim to the sudden polar plunge we had last November.  Wait until June is almost over before deciding if the plant won’t bounce back from the damage of the freeze.  Examine your woody plants for wounds in the bark or torn limbs; clean up the wound site with a sharp knife and let the plant heal itself. 

Our gardens will recover after this weather, and soon we can relax, enjoying what the dry heat brings:  scorch, blossom drop, and sunburn.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Options for Small Flowering Trees

Options for Smaller Flowering Trees

Posted by: Eric Hammond Adams County Extension

Newport Plumb Damaged by Last November's Sudden Hard Frost

As other bloggers have noted, this last winter was hard on woody plants throughout much of the state.  One of hardest hit groups, at least in Adams County, were the traditional smaller ornamental trees, including many ornamental and tart cherries, plums of all types and, to a lesser degree, some varieties of crabapples.   Many of these trees are dead or have severe die back.  

Damage to Crabapple

Some of the species and selections that were affected had been reliable for years and likely still deserve a place in our landscapes.  However, in the interest of promoting diverse plantings I thought I would highlight a few potential replacements which seem to have come through the challenges we have experienced this past winter.

Damage to Crabapple

Tatarian maple (Acer tataricum)-

Hot Wings Tatarian Maples

This maple is a smaller tree with a spreading to rounded habit which is often somewhat wider than it is tall.  White flowers occur after it leafs out and develop into a double samara fruit by early summer.  This fruit is reddish and persists through the summer providing interest throughout the season.  This fruit is especially showy on selections such as Hot Wings (Acer tataricum 'GarAnn'- a Plant Select introduction).  In the fall the leaves of the tatarian maple turn an eye-catching red-orange. 

Tatarian Maple Flowers
Fruit of Hot Wings Tatarian Maple 

Russian hawthorn (Crataegus ambigua)-

Russian Hawthorn in Bloom

This tree has a rounded habit and attractive gold-yellow bark.  It has white flowers which appear in mid-May in most years and develop into a red fruit.  This fruit persists on the plant into the fall and, at least in our garden, is mostly eaten by birds before it can fall to the ground and become a mess.  The fall color of Russian hawthorn is an attractive yellow with undertones of purple.  Plants will tolerate minimal watering once established.

Russian Hawthorn Late Summer
Russian Hawthorn Fruit

Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata)-

Japanese Tree Lilac Early Summer

This plant is small tree with an oval habit and dark green leaves.  It is related to the more common shrub lilacs but has white flowers which occur after its shrubby relations are done blooming (there is one outside our office which actually still is in bloom).  This tree develops a yellow fall color which varies greatly in quality from year to year depending on the conditions during the fall.   
Japanese Tree Lilac Flower

Monday, June 15, 2015


Posted by Deana Wise, Broomfield County Extension
Vermicomposting simplified: Worms + A box + A bed+ Food= Living compost. Of course we all know very few things are that simple. What kind of worms should we use? What type and size of box works best? Do they prefer a hard or soft mattress? Are they on a vegan, vegetarian, or gluten free diet? This sounds more complicated than I originally thought.

I became interested in vermicomposting due to an article I read in the Small Acreage Newsletter ( This web-site is definitely worth looking at. I digress.

I have had limited experience in composting (sad but true) and even less in raising worms. My grandmother kept a bathtub full of them outside that she used for fishing in the good old days. She fed them coffee grounds and replenished them with “wild” ones she caught in the yard.

After doing a little research, I learned the worms she had were Night crawlers. They are anecic, which means they live in deeper soil and drag OM to permanent burrows. They are the worms responsible for our lumpy lawns.

Brown worms (endogecic) live in temporary burrows in the upper soil. We commonly encounter them every time we turn our garden soil.
The worms that work best for making compost are the epigeic or surface worms. They eat decaying matter and are usually in the top 6-12” of soil. They will not tolerate cold temperatures less than 40 degrees F so they will not survive year round in the garden. Red wigglers (Eisenia foeiteda) are most often used because they reproduce more rapidly than other types (VERMICOMPOSTING: the secret life of compost worms, ).
   Any type of box will do as long as it is not clear. It must have a lid and drainage and air holes on the top and sides. Holes on the side should be ½ to 1” diameter, holes on the bottom should be ½”. The worms will not crawl out of the bottom; they stay in the top few inches of soil and move upwards. A catch tray underneath will be useful to control leachate. This liquid needs to be discarded, it is NOT compost tea. A box 2’ x 2’x 8” with ½ lb. (500) worms is adequate for 2 people.
      Once the box is ventilated, add shredded newspapers or non-pastel colored paper until the container is 2/3rd full. Do not use corrugated cardboard or highly colored inserts or magazines. Spray the paper with water until damp but not wet. Add 1-2 pounds of top soil or peat moss. The worms need the soil because they have a gullet instead of teeth. Do not stir or compact. The worms need to be able to move about freely. Move some of the paper aside, place the worms in the box and re-cover them. It may be necessary to dampen the bedding if it dries out. Keep the box out of direct sun. They prefer temperatures between 40-70 degrees F.

          They like to eat fruit and vegetable scraps and peelings, coffee grounds, used filters, tea leaves, tea bags (pull them open), and crushed eggshells. Use onion and citrus very sparingly. Do not use meat or dairy products, manure of any kind, salts, sauces or dressings. The worms will eat the bedding and the food.

          Feed about 2-3 Cups per week / pound of worms to start. Increase the volume of food every week (up to ~5 pounds). The worms will reproduce 5-6 times in 3 months so you will have to increase the amount of food in the box. If there is inadequate food, the worms will eat their own castings. These are poisonous to the worms. After 3 months, everything in the box will be composted. Feed in a different spot each time to move the herd. (I never knew a bunch of worms are called a herd).
          To harvest the compost after 3 months, feed on one side to move the herd. This may take a few days, they do not move very fast. Remove compost from that side, add new bedding and food. Harvest compost on other side and remove ½ of the worms. Start again. Give remaining worms to friends or start a second box. Fort Collins has a worm recycling program to give your extra worms a good home. Go to to check it out.

          On a small scale, this process will not produce a lot of compost; however, it may be a preferable method in some ways. Vermicomposting is a cool process compared to the heating involved with traditional composting. Beneficial microbes survive and flourish in worm poop, making it a plant super-food. The compost can be steeped in water to make compost tea. The compost is great for starting seeds and potting houseplants. It can also be used in the garden as a soil amendment.

The main drawback that I see is the disposal of the excess worms every 3 months. The worms cannot be forgotten or ignored. A fair amount of care is needed to keep the worms alive. Perhaps I will give it a try. I have friends that might like worms.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Nature Play: the importance of getting outside and getting dirty!

Posted by: Deryn Davidson, Boulder County Extension

This week the City of Boulder hosted a free 2-day symposium on Nature Play. What is nature play? Well, pretty much what it sounds like: being outside, interacting with the natural world and playing. Research shows that in children and adults, it reduces stress, decreases symptoms of ADHD, increases levels of concentration and can boost immune systems. As a gardener, I feel lucky to be someone that gets to play in nature pretty regularly but, a lot of people these days just don’t. The national average for children is 7 minutes per day spent outside playing. Recognizing the benefits I gain from time spent outside, I can confidently say, that is not enough!! 

There is a national movement happening to try to get children back outside and experiencing the natural world more regularly, whether it’s while they’re in school or on the weekends with friends and family. Boulder’s current effort is to redesign part of the Civic Area downtown into a nature play space for children of all ages. By most accounts, Boulder, CO is one of the most outdoorsy places in the country, but even there, with people’s busy schedules sometimes it still takes considerable effort to get outside and play! I think it’s great that the City is responding to the community’s recommendation to enhance these public spaces and create places for kids to have opportunities within an urban context to be “in nature”.

Ideas generated by symposium participants
The first evening was a gathering of community members, City employees and two invited guests,nationally recognized nature play experts Robin Moore and Louise Chawla. The evening was designed to provide guidance and direction to the department as they work to enhance connections to the natural environment within urban park system. We went through different exercises reflecting on our favorite moments spent in nature and then a huge brainstorming session on what we would like to see be included in the final design.The results of the evening were documented and will be considered as the team moves forward.

The following images are some of the ideas generated by the symposium participants. What elements they would like to see implemented and some of their favorite memories of time spent in nature as children.

The second evening was a more formal presentation by Mr. Moore and Ms. Chawla on their research and how we can all work to provide opportunities for children and adults to get outside. The panel discussion that followed included area representatives who are working to create these opportunities through their work in design and with local children. One of the important messages I heard was not only that children benefit by interacting with nature, but that the natural world benefits too. When children learn to appreciate and respect nature, it promotes stewardship later in life.  

Panel discussion
So whether we as adults are helping kids learn about where our food comes from by planting vegetable gardens and letting them help, or teaching them about ecology and natural systems, the research shows it will have great positive impacts. The kids benefit, but we do too!!

For more information on this topic visit:

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Save the date - Native Plant Landscaping Conference

By Irene Shonle, CSU Extension in Gilpin County

OK, so this is for those of you who really plan ahead (like most Extension Agents).  I know - normal people don't even have a calendar for 2016, but for some of you, it's critical to get this on your calendar now, so you can plan your ski vacation around it! :)

Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants Conference
Saturday, March 12, 2016
at The Ranch Events Complex, McKee Building
(5280 Arena Circle, Loveland, CO  80538)
This conference is presented by a partnership of:
§  Wild Ones - Front Range Chapter
§  Butterfly Pavilion
§  Colorado Native Plant Society
§  Colorado State University Extension
§  Denver Botanic Gardens
§  Front Range Sustainable Landscaping Coalition
§  High Plains Environmental Center
More details to follow! 
Check for updates or email for more information.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Low-water native plants for pollinators

 By Irene Shonle,  Gilpin County Extension Agent

Want to know what native plants will help support pollinators? Check out this new information sheet: ( This was a collaborative effort of many groups under the Colorado Native plant society umbrella).