CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Shameless Mushroom

Posted by: Curtis Utley, Jefferson County Extension

Multiple times per season clients will submit a non-typical mushroom to the Jefferson County Plant Clinic and ask with much venom or distaste “What is this and how do I get rid of it!” Our clinicians will smile and proclaim “Why, that’s Phallus impudicus”, a common mushroom of the garden or residential lot.
Phallus impudicus in a lawn
 Why is this mushroom so offensive and illicit such a passionate response? Oh let me count the ways. For starters, P. impudicus starts off as a beautiful but oft unwelcome lavender colored “egg” hiding just below the soil surface, sometimes homeowners will dig in their yards and discover this stage of the fruiting body. The mushroom is apparently edible in this “witch’s egg stage” but I personally have yet to partake in that gustatory adventure.
Witch's egg stage
Secondly, as the mushroom emerges from the egg stage to rear its ugly head it is shaped like a phallus which is unnerving to many peoples’ sense of garden propriety. Thirdly the cap of the mushroom is covered in green slime known as gleba. Forth, the green slime on the cap stinks and is why the common name of P. impudicus is Stinkhorn. 
Bottom Right- gleba or green slime prominent
Uniquely the mushroom’s spores are contained within the slimily matrix, why? Loathsome reason number five: The stinking slimy mushroom cap attracts flies. Most mushrooms produce dry spores that are released and dispersed on air currents, but not our Stinkhorn, its spores are disseminated by filth flies who joyfully lap up the goo and carry off the spores to parts unknown.
Blow flies, (Lucilia sericata) collecting the rotting hulk of P. impudicus

Environmental disclaimer: Fungi are an important component of nutrient cycling and in soils world-wide, without them, biomass would overwhelm us. If you do not want to give mushrooms quarter on your property simply remove and dispose of the fruiting bodies when they arise.       

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.)