CO-Horts Blog

Friday, April 29, 2016

Turf mite injury

Posted by Robert Cox, CSU Extension - Arapahoe County

So when we have long-lasting snow cover in the winter, we get vole damage and snow molds in our lawns, especially on north and east exposures.   During winters with very little snow cover, we get mite damage to lawns, especially on south and west exposures.

Winter 2015-2016 gave us some of each; see Dr. Tony Koski’s post about vole injury and snow molds March 14, 2016.

Following Jimmy Buffet/Alan Jackson 5 o' clock logic, one could argue that some turf mite injury to lawns - somewhere along the Front Range - could occur just about every winter.         Here in Arapahoe County, it seems that most winter turf mite injury seems to be caused by Banks grass mites rather than clover mites.  This could be in part due to our county politicians’ 2012 ban on clover mites.

Banks grass mites are a little bit like us – they want to reproduce, hang out with the kids, contribute to their 401k, and spend a few winter vacation days in a warm dry spot.   While they can’t get $79 Southwest airfares to San Diego or Phoenix in March, they can choose to thrive and proliferate in the warmest and driest portions of our lawns – on Southwest exposures, especially on slopes.   If these exposures are near the house, rocked landscaping or evergreens, it really adds to the ambiance.

Preventing or minimizing mite injury involves sprinkling prone turfgrass during warm, dry snowless periods – mites dislike water.  Or - miticide application to prone turf areas.   More details at

To renovate or re-sod large dead areas, see more detail at

Here are a few photos of mite injury to turfgrass - often matted and killed.   All are located on South or West exposures.  Can you name the other factors in each photo that contributed to mite injury?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hate vegetables? Or don't have space for a large garden? Try this.....

                                          Photo credit: the
                                          By Linda Langelo, CSU Horticulture Program Associate

Micro greens are the young “seedlings” of any vegetable which are harvested at either the cotyledon and/or first-true-leaf stage of their growth.  The cotyledon are the first leaves that appear after germination once the plant has established its root system.  As the plant continues growing, it sends out leaves which take a distinct shape.  One plant is distinguished between another.  These leaves are called “True Leaves”.   The plant continues growing for one to two weeks and they are called micro greens.  Once past the micro green stage, they are considered baby greens-like spring mix.    

Micro greens are another source of fresh food.  If you don’t like eating a particular vegetable like beets, try beet micro greens.  In ten to fifteen days, you can harvest many different choices of vegetable micro greens.  You can also grow herbs as micro greens but this will take longer than 15 days and up to 25 days or more.  Think of planting a flat of seed of red cabbage and then harvesting the leaves within fifteen days and enjoying a nice mild flavor of the seedling’s leaves.  These seedlings do contain a lot of nutrition, but I am not a doctor, just a gardener.  So do have a discussion with your doctor if you want to use these for supplemental nutrients.  I am just suggesting this might be a way of having a larger palette of greens with a wide array of flavors.

Micro greens can be used as garnish, in soups or salads, for juicing, added to your sandwich and yes, even stir-fried.  For some, this may be a way of gardening because of lack of proper outdoor space or location.  For others, this may be a way of satisfying their need to garden during the winter or during the season because of their busy lifestyle, age or disability.   You can add containers to your kitchen counter or windowsill and within a couple of weeks be enjoying the “fruits of your labor” without much labor.  A windowsill with eastern, western or southern exposure will work.  It is best if the micro greens get up to 4 hours of sunlight.  If not you might want to think about supplemental lighting.
                                                             Photo credit:
My favorite is sunflower micro greens with their nutty flavor.  Pea shoots are another favorite of mine which taste like peas without eating peas. Both sunflower and peas as micro greens, you can only take one cutting.  You can take any vegetable seed and grow it in a flat.  Cover the flat with seed; spacing the seed from ¼ to ½ inch apart and cover lightly with the soil mix.  Then make sure the seeds have a soil temperature of 75 degree Fahrenheit.  Once they germinate, reduce the temperature to 60 degree Fahrenheit for the soil temperature.  Keep the sowing mix moist at all times by watering from the bottom and not splashing water on the leaves of the seedlings.  These seedlings have such a short-life span that they rarely acquire any diseases or pests.  You can reuse the flat if you choose.  After cutting the stems of the current micro greens in the flat, leave the roots and plant more seed on top of the soil and lightly cover again with soil. 
For fertilizing your seedlings, you can start out with fertilizer in the soil mix or you can add fertilizer when watering, also from the bottom. 
When you are thinking about choosing micro greens to grow together in a flat, be sure they all have the same or similar growth rates.  All fast-growing varieties should be sown in separate rows or sections in the same flat as you would sow all slow-growing varieties in separate rows or sections in the same flat.  You could just grow one variety, if you end up picking a favorite you could not live without. 
If you are thinking of using just one flat for your favorite micro greens, you can divide the flat into sections.   As many sections as you like.  For fast-growing vegetable seedlings you could plant separate sections of red cabbage, radishes, mustard and kale.  For slow-growing vegetable seedlings which take from 16-25 days, you could plant separate sections for beet, chard, carrot and amaranth.  For herbs there are slow-growing choices such as fennel, basil, cilantro, parsley, dill, shiso, sorrel and salad burnet.
                                              Photo credit: Linda Langelo, Will Allen's Growing Power,
                                              Pea shoots in flats lining the bench.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Ole? Olla!! Low-Tech, Efficient Irrigation Method

Posted by: Deryn Davidson, Horticulture Agent, Boulder County

In Colorado, water has been in the news a lot recently (and the CO-Horts blog). Most notably, we have the new bill that was passed and is soon to be signed into law, which will legalize rain water harvesting on residential properties (for more information see the previous blog post). So now we all have to figure out how we are going to use this captured rain water. Well, one option I’d like to introduce is the OLLA!! Maybe some of you are familiar with this ancient, low-tech, low-cost, high-efficiency irrigation method, but it was new to me.
I first learned about this ancient irrigation technique in the book “Gardening with Less Water” by David A. Bainbridge. Bainbridge writes that he discovered the olla when reading excerpts from, what he called, “a 2,000  year old Chinese agriculture extension book”. He is referring to the “Book of Fan Shengzhi” which is a collective of agricultural masterpieces written at the end of the Han Dynasty (206BC-8AD) by an important agronomist and scientist of the time, Fan Shengzhi. It was written at the request of the Emperor with the intention of helping farmers who had limited resources learn the best techniques for farming in the Yellow River drainage area. The olla, by its Spanish name, has been used by many, many cultures for cooking, storage, cooling and irrigation.
Okay, so what is this thing?? The olla is a clay pot that, for irrigation purposes, you bury and fill with water which then slowly seeps out. Simple. According to many, it is one of the most efficient irrigation methods around. Because the pot is below ground and has a narrow neck that just barely extends out of the ground, very little water is lost to evaporation or runoff. The water distribution is regulated by the water needs of the plant you’ve buried it next to. As the soil dries the water seeps out of the micro-pores of the clay. When the water demands have been met and the soil is moist, the water seepage stops. This technique can be used on a small scale in a flower pot, medium scale in your veggie garden and even large scale agriculture and landscape restoration projects.

Ollas can be purchased or homemade. To make your own (caveat: I’ve never done this but, plan on trying it) you take 2 terra cotta pots of the same size, seal the bottom of one so that water won’t flow out when it's filled with water, invert the other pot and glue the rims of the two pots together (you can use silicon or any other water proof adhesive). DONE! Now you dig your hole and bury your olla leaving about an inch above ground. Fill with water and find a nice stone to cover the hole for even less evaporation.

Everyone’s soil is little different and different plants will require varying amounts of water so there’s no one size fits all, but you can experiment with how close to place your olla to plants and how often you need to refill it.
Have any of you used this ancient, low-tech, low-cost, high-efficiency irrigation method?? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience!! Ole!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Colorado passes controversial legalization bill

 posted by Irene Shonle, CSU Extension in Gilpin County

On April 1, 2016, Colorado passed a controversial legalization bill.  No, not THAT kind of legalization—we did that a couple of years ago. 

 No, this bill finally made it legal for us to do what every other state is allowed – or even encouraged—to do: collect rainwater off the roof!  

This is a game changer for Colorado, and especially for people who are on household-use only wells (who previously had NO outdoor water rights).  Rainwater is free and collecting rain could reduce storm water run-off issues.

The bill has not yet been signed by Governor Hickenlooper, but he is expected to do so shortly, as he has been a supporter.  Once signed into law, the bill will take effect August 10th.

Here is the legalese of House Bill 16-1005:

I’m sure we will be seeing a plethora of rain barrels in our garden centers in August – or even sooner.  These have been conspicuously absent until now.

It is surprising how little rain it takes to fill those barrels – a half inch of rain collected from just a 200 sq. ft. section of roof will more than fill a rain barrel – and if your roof is bigger than that (most roof sections are), even less rain will do the job!

Some things to consider for your new rain barrel:

  •     Place your barrel on a hard or compacted surface, near a garden area you intend to water.  Raise the barrel so you can get a watering can underneath the spigot at the bottom.    Because residents can collect up to 110 gallons, and most barrels are 55 gallons, you may want to look into connectors for the barrels, unless you will be collecting from two separate downspouts.
  • Connected rain barrels - photo: Washington State University Extension
  •   Make sure it has a lid to keep out critters, mosquitoes and children. Opaque barrels will reduce algae growth.
  •  Use of rainwater on edible gardens can be tricky.   Everything from bird droppings to pollution to leachate from shingles can potentially cause problems.  These can be minimized by not collecting the first gallons of water after a dry spell (using a first-flush diverter), and only collecting off asphalt shingle or metal roofs (wood shake shingles can cause problems).  Only use food-grade quality rain barrels. 
 Look for future programming from CSU Extension on water quality issues with collecting rain water, and enjoy your rainwater!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Determining Your Hen’s Productivity

By: Curtis Utley Jefferson County Extension Agent

So you have a few chickens and you are interested to know who is laying and who is ready for the stew pot. How do you decide?  There are a few different ways to determine a hen’s productivity and more importantly if she is in production. The simplest way to determine who is in production is by watching who goes into an empty nesting box and leaves an egg behind after vacating. No brainier right? Well, who has time to sit and watch hens all day long – I don’t. The next way to determine productivity is to pick up individual hens and inspect their vents which should be big loose and moist if in production and small dry and tight if not in production. Blow the downy feathers away with a whistle to inspect the condition of the vent.
The vent of a productive hen

You can also tell if the hen is in production by feeling her abdomen with your flattened hand while you are holding her. The abdomen should feel soft deep and flexible. If the abdomen is shallow, hollow, and taught the hen is not in production. If the abdomen is taught and hard your hen is too fat to maintain efficient productivity.
Measuring width between pelvic bones

Measuring width between pelvic bones and the keel bone
If you are raising a yellow-skinned breed you can determine how many eggs your hen has laid in a given year by inspecting various parts of the body for pigment loss. The yellow pigment {Caratin} is redistributed from the skin to the egg yolks of productive hens and this occurs in a very specific order. The first pigment lost is from around the vent; the last pigment lost is from the hock joints and the tops of the toes. Pigment is regained during the molting cycle, so the most productive hens (those hens that also molt quickly) may not completely regain their pigment in all body parts. Pigment is gained back in the reverse order of loss.

The order in which pigment is lost from laying hens.  
  1. Vent 
  2.  Eye ring  
  3. Ear lobe  
  4. Beak, from the corner of the mouth to the tip 
  5.  Bottom of the foot 
  6.  Shanks, from front, then back and sides 
  7. Hocks and tops of toes

Bleached out corner of beak of productive hen
Yellow pigment visible at corner of beak of unproductive hen
Bleached out bottom of foot of productive hen
Yellow pigment remains on foot pad of unproductive hen
Bleached out shank of productive hen

Yellow pigment visible in the shank of a unproductive hen
Tops of toes of a productive hen

Tops of toes of an unproductive hen

Pigmented Body Area
Egg Production
Weeks of production
0-2 Weeks
Eye Ring
2-2.5 Weeks
Ear lobe
2.5-3 Weeks
5-8 Weeks
Bottom of Feet
10-15 Weeks
Entire Shank
20-26 Weeks
Hocks and top of toes
30 Weeks +

Lastly it may seem strange but your most productive hens are going to look ratty and pale, bright and active. The hens with perfect feathers and stunning colors are just pretty and not your true working girls.
This productive hen has a bright, alert, round eye and broken, worn and ruffled feathers 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Spring has arrived to some parts of Colorado

Spring is upon us in the Grand Valley.  The apricots have been blooming for several weeks, peaches are just starting.  On the ornamental front, ornamental plums, pears and magnolias are in full bloom.  I have been fielding some calls about the fruit crop this year.  I don’t have a direct line to Mother Nature so we will need to wait and see what she has in store over the next month.  Typically our last “average” last frost around here is Mother’s Day in early May.  Last year however, we had a heavy frost two weeks after that average date.  Luckily, most crops were just thinned by the frost with a few exceptions in Delta County were we had a loss in apple crop in 2015.  So all we can do is keep our fingers crossed that Mother Nature won’t bring a killing frost. 

So what temperature produces a killing frost, well temperatures of 32 degrees F bring very little damage.  It is when we hit temperatures of 28 degrees that we see about 10% loss depending on the bloom and fruit development.  Temperatures down around 21 degrees bring closer to 90% loss.  The nights to be aware when this is there is the biggest chance of freeze is when it is clear and still.  When there is a chance of freeze, the fruit growers stay up all night and use big fans to pull warmer air down to the trees.   This can increase the temperature around the trees by several degrees.   For the homeowner that just has one to several trees, if the trees are not too big, throw a blanket on them overnight.  Don’t use plastic or something that warms up too fast as you can burn overheat the trees.  Another method some growers use is to use propane heaters in the orchard or they will run the sprinklers allowing water to freeze on the trees 
which forms a layer of insulating ice.  I would still recommend the blanket method to homeowners.

Other questions I have had recently is it too late to spray dormant oil on my fruit trees.  And the answer is yes here in the warm valley where buds have expanded or bloom has started.  For areas in Colorado that are still cooler and there is no bud expansion, go ahead and get the application of dormant oil on the trees.  It is a great way to get rid of overwintering eggs and insects on the trees.

Weeds are also rearing their ugly, or not so ugly heads.  Here is a blue mustard which is an annual mustard.  Mustards always have 4 pedals in a x shape.  Pull these before they go to seed.  For weed id and their specific controls, pull the entire plant and take it to your local Extension office or email them some good pictures.
Now is a great time to seed or plant those cold loving crops if you haven’t already done so. Things like lettuce, spinach, argula, cabbage, broccoli don’t mind the cold and will actually prefer to grow before it gets too hot.  For more questions on what to plant when, call your local Extension office and ask for a Master Gardener or an Agent.

 Hopefully Mother Nature will cooperate this year and bring us a fruitful 2016.  
Posted by Susan Carter, CSU Ext Tri River Area April 7, 2016