CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Joy of Gardening With Kids!

Posted by: Yvette Henson, CSU Extension, San Miguel Basin

Most people with grandchildren will tell you how much joy their grandkids bring into their lives and how much fun it is to experience life anew with their littles.  I have realized over the last few years the positive impact grandparents can make in the lives of their grandchildren.  I can’t count the times I have heard someone attribute their love of gardening or nature or whatever to a grandparent.  And yes, I garden with my grandkids.  I have 4!  Adelle is almost 12 now!  Maddox is almost 5!  Coen and Micah, fraternal twin brothers to Maddox, are 19 months old!   

I understand that not everyone is a grandparent and not all grandparents garden or are completely positive influences.  However, what I am writing about today applies to anyone who loves to garden and loves children.  A little later in this article, I will give you some tips, resources and opportunities for gardening with children, but first I want to tell you about some of my experiences gardening with my grandkids and how I have been blessed by it even more than them! 

Adelle was my first grandchild and I was fortunate to get to spend a lot of time with her.  She would help me in my personal gardens and go with me to care for CSU Extension Gardens that I oversee.  She would eat anything right out a garden, as long as I washed it first.  Because of that she loves fresh vegetables and fruit more than any other foods.  Together, we experienced fava beans for the first time—we planted them, cared for them, harvested them and cooked them.  Together, we discovered with delight the soft, fuzzy interior of a fava bean shell and that when you cook the fava bean that grew nestled inside that blanket, it splits open to reveal a bright green, delicious bean!  When the seeds of the particular variety that we grow and save seed from, ‘Extra Precoce A Grano Violetto’ (early purple), mature they are a beautiful dark purple.  I sometimes carry one in my pocket.  Each year when I ask Adelle what we should plant in the garden she says ‘fava beans!’  

This past year, Maddox and his twin brothers and parents all lived with us!  We had, at times, 8 people living in our house!  We planted a ‘big’ garden-- as big as we could grow in the space we have.  

Maddox was the most consistent help I had.  He helped me plant every seed.  He helped me water but at times I would have to relieve him of watering duty, since like most children, he has a tendency to ‘water’ other things than just the garden.  (Sheesh!  We are in a drought after all!  And my own grandmother who grew up in western Colorado had taught me to NEVER waste water.)

Maddox got to harvest some of the veggies we planted together before they moved to California last month.  This boy who won’t eat salad at dinner, would eat the perpetual spinach we grew right out of the garden, saying “Mmmm… I love this stuff!”  Once, when his dad went with him to harvest some of it for dinner, his dad harvested some beet leaves too.  Maddox said, "Daddy, don't do that because the beets need their leaves to grow big"! 

Coen and Micah helped plant beans, plucked leaves to munch and pulled carrots and beets.  Their favorite garden duty was pulling the legs off grasshoppers.  I would then finish them off-- out of their sight of course!

I could tell you so many more stories of funny experiences and things we've learned together in the garden but I promised to give you some tips.  I’ve picked just a few.

  • I recommend that, as much as possible ,you garden from start to finish with the kids you are blessed to garden with.  Doing the work together is the most effective way to teach and to learn.  Explain the how and the why as you go; Experience the wonder and beauty all along the way!  Plan, look at seed catalogs, prep the soil, plant, water, feed, do organic pest control, harvest, clean, cook and eat!   Don’t forget to allow some plants to go to seed for next year!  

  • Let kids plant the big bean seeds AND let them plant tiny carrot seeds and kale seeds too.  There is so much variety!

  • Mistakes teach the best lessons—like when Madds spilled a bunch of carrot seeds he was trying to put back into the package. When they sprouted in a clump, he could see right where he spilled them (and this excited him for some reason).  He could see how they grew too close and learned they had to be thinned and that a lot of seeds were ‘lost’.

  • If you can, let them play in the water—just a little.  And then, lay back and enjoy the fruits of your labor together with them!

If you love to garden and you love kids, whether you have grandkids or not, there are many books and YouTube videos to inspire you and give you some fun ideas for activities in the garden.  A few of our personal favorite books are:  Sunflower Houses: Inspiration From the Garden--A Book for Children and Their Grown-Ups by Sharon Lovejoy, Miss Maple's Seeds by Eliza Wheeler and A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston.  A VLOG I really enjoy is Roots and Refuge Farm.  Jess’s videos often show footage of her 4 sons helping her on their homestead and in the garden. 

Your local CSU Extension Office most likely has volunteer opportunities for you to garden with children, such as Junior Master Gardener and/or becoming a leader of a 4-H gardening club! 

Monday, August 27, 2018

So You Did Some Landscaping

Posted by: Andie Wommack, Douglas County Extension

Earlier in the season, I gave you some things to consider when doing landscape work. One thing many people tend to do is place their plants too close together. When planning out your landscape it is important to consider the size your plants will be at maturity.

There are several websites that have landscape plans for you to use in your yard. They are all mapped out with the plants at maturity. When the landscape is first installed it will look sparse. It is important not to crowd your plants as that may cause problems down the line. While there are many tools available online to help you plan your own landscape, another option that is always good is to consult a landscape designer with help in renovating your landscape.

With any luck, the plants will be happy in their new homes and you should see nice growth as they begin to establish themselves. Some of the plants will die for a variety of reasons. One of the problems we had with the landscape we installed at our office was rabbits. Several of our new plants got eaten clear down to the ground. Some were able to recover. Others we will have to replant next spring. One thing we tried that seemed to work fairly well was to apply Liquid Fence, Deer and Rabbit Repellant granules. This seemed to help.
Another problem we had was too much water. Thankfully, we were spared the severe hail storms that plagued the rest of the front range this summer, but we did receive a lot of rain. This caused several of our plants to decline and some died. To compound this issue, one of the sprinkler heads got damaged at some point and was no longer pointed at the correct angle, causing some areas to receive too much water and others not enough.

Irrigation is more often than not the culprit in landscape issues. Too much. Too little. Inadequate coverage. Water needs fluctuate throughout the growing season and as plants grow and mature. It is important to check your system periodically to make sure all of the heads are working correctly, pointed in the right direction, and are reaching all the areas they are meant to. As a landscape matures, plants may begin to impede the stream from your sprinkler heads, lawnmowers may tilt the heads up or down, or heads may become clogged or damaged in other ways.
Gardening in Colorado can be particularly challenging so the most important thing to remember is to not give up! If you are having problems, your local Extension office is there to help! Many have Colorado Master Gardeners available to answer questions or your local horticulture agent is there as a resource as well.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

A trip to Madison Botanic Gardens

Cassey Anderson- CSU Extension Adams County

I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to spend a week in Madison while attending the National Master Gardener Coordinators conference. They left us time to wander freely in the evenings and one evening a group of us took the chance to visit the Olbrich Botanical Gardens. While being "serenaded" with music from a rambunctious kid’s concert we poked about many of the sections of the garden. We did avoid the rose garden as we were told that between weather and the Japanese Beetles it was not in good shape.
Grape arbor that was growing really well despite skeletonized leaves from the impact of Japanese beetle.

Japanese Beetle on the side of a trail in Madison.

The Thai Pavilion was the show-stopper section of the garden, with a gold-plated Thai pavilion nestled within rock and water features. The entire area was only accessible via a 155 foot arched bridge over a small river that had many kayaks and birds enjoying the nice evening in tandem. The pavilion itself is particularly special being one of only four to exist outside of Thailand.
The gold leaf on the pavilion was delicate enough to rub off with fingers so signs abounded warning visitors to look, not touch!  (Photo courtesy of Alex Fisher)

The plants surrounding the pavilion had been carefully chosen to provide a tropical look while still thriving in Wisconsin. Hardy banana, caladium, and castor bean interspersed with lush annuals such as shiso, salvias, and coleus contributed to make the area look lush and tropical. The outer area relies on tall grasses and hardy bamboos to create a peaceful surround.
The pollinators were abundant in the herb garden, three different types on this Angelica flower!

In the herb garden we were able to smell and indulge our senses with a variety of scented geraniums, tangerine and mint geranium were some of my personal favorites. The variety of mints were incredible too, one smelled like pineapple, another like chocolate. It was really quite a delightful area.

They also had some very healthy and happy Mimosa pudica or sensitive plant. Most public gardens I have found the sensitive plant in, the plant is so stressed that response time is poor and the reaction can be slow if you get one at all. This one was so active that I got distracted and forgot to take photos of it!
A very casual knot garden made with ornamental garlic and sedum, this was an idea I might want to steal for Colorado.

Being able to wander around this garden for an evening was truly a delight for the senses, both visually and aromatically. I would happily visit again. If you’re in the Madison area in the future I would highly recommend it for a stop.
With extremely hydrophobic leaves of this water lily is fascinating and gorgeous. 


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Gardening During Pregnancy

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

Due to my current state, I have done a lot of research this year on the do’s and don’ts of pregnancy. While looking at a long list of don’ts one day this spring, I saw something I never considered and did not want to see, pregnant women shouldn’t garden!? That was not good news. However, being someone who loves to see the research, I decided to dig deeper and look into some papers on the matter. Here’s what I found out…
One of the big risks to pregnant women in the garden is Toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a protozoan often found in soils and cat feces. 90% of all people who would become infected with the protozoan would experience no symptoms at all. The other 10% might experience things like fever and headaches. It’s not a huge deal for an adult, but can be very damaging to a fetus. Studies have shown that this infection passed on to a fetus can cause things like miscarriage, mental retardation, microcephaly, and seizures for the little one, scary stuff.
This is toxoplasmosis under a microscope
In order to contract this disease from your garden soil, a couple of things would have to happen. First of all, the protozoan would have to be present in the soil, most likely through an outdoor, hunting cat defecating there. Even if there is no visual evidence of cat feces in the soil, the protozoan remains infective for up to a year. Second, the gardening mom to be with a contaminated hand would have to touch said hand to her mouth for the protozoan to enter her system. Studies have found that religiously wearing gloves while gardening, and thoroughly washing hands after contact with soil greatly reduces the risk of contracting the disease. You can also become infected by consuming unwashed garden produce, so be sure you have those veggie scrubbers handy!
So cute...and potentially full of toxoplasmosis
Another concern that might come up for a pregnant gardener is exposure to pesticides in the garden. The risk really depends on which pesticide we’re talking about and how much exposure you’ve had to it. A baby’s developing brain, nervous system, and organs can be very sensitive to exposure to pesticides, so it is a good idea to minimize exposure as much as possible. Everyone, but especially expectant mothers, should use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to eliminate garden pests in the least hazardous manner. There is usually always a cultural or biological control method that does not involve using chemicals. If pesticides must be used, it is best if someone else can apply them. Find the least toxic option for your problem and be sure to wear gloves, clothing that covers your skin, and potentially a mask when working in an area where pesticides were used.
Stay away Mama!
So it seems to me with a little forethought and caution, moms to be can still enjoy working in the garden. A little sunshine and activity will be good for you and baby, just take precautions to keep your bundle of joy safe and sound.

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