CO-Horts Blog

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Reuse (or Recycle!) that Christmas Tree

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

I feel like yelling, "We made it!" since 2020 is coming to a close and the holidays are (mostly) over. As I type this, I'm glancing around at the remnants of Christmas...leftover cookies, stray gifts, and drooping poinsettias. While we don't have a real Christmas tree (finding needles into June drove me crazy), about 20% of you do. And while many towns and cities offer Christmas tree recycling, there are some other things you can consider doing with your tannenbaum...

Cut it up!

Remove the branches and use them around your landscape. Branches can be used to line sidewalks as a special touch. They can be placed around fall-planted perennials and shrubs for added protection (and to capture snow). You can also let the wood dry and use the tree for firewood in a few months.

Using Christmas tree branches as mulch for young plants
(photo courtesy of Garden Gate Magazine)

Entertain the birds!

Placing branches on the ground will provide habitat and protection to ground-nesting birds. Standing your whole (undecorated) tree in the backyard can provide shelter to smaller birds who frequent your landscape. I have a very large (and slightly invasive) silver lace vine that encompasses the corner of my fence. Do you know how many birds live in the vine!? Hundreds! Maple the beagle loves to see them fly as she runs, full speed, towards it multiple times per day. I bet the chickens would enjoy the evergreen branches too...something new to peck and investigate.

A large silver lace vine that has eaten the fence. It's wonderful habitat for small birds.
Using this idea, place your Christmas tree in the landscape to provide additional shelter.

Control your soil!

Cut branches placed on top of your vegetable garden beds will help prevent soil erosion during windy winter days. If you have placed mulched leaves or grass on top of your beds, the branches will help keep those in place.

Make your own plant tags!

This takes a bit more work, but consider cutting up the tree to create flat wooden plant markers. You can then use these in seed starting flats, marking spring-planted bulbs, or even vegetables in your garden. 

Create a fort!

The Town of Windsor created an incredible fort last year with recycled Christmas trees called the "Magical Forest". Staff positioned trees to make tunnels and hiding spaces for kids to play. Keeping in mind social distancing requirements, maybe you can create a smaller version in your backyard?

Windsor's "Magical Forest" (photo courtesy of the Town of Windsor)

Get your mulch on!

Once you bring your tree to recycle, it's often chipped into mulch. Many towns and cities offer residents the free mulch in the spring. This mulch is as good as any! Plus it might have some fun flecks of color from leftover tinsel that made it through the chipper. If you're not digging the look, then top it off with some colored mulch of your choice. Check with your local authorities to find out when and where Christmas tree recycling is taking place. Please don't send your tree to the landfill, as there are so many other great options. 

Christmas trees are often chipped into mulch, which is often available
for free to the public. Check with your local municipality for information.

Did I miss a great idea? If so, let me know in the comments. Happy New Year to all!

Monday, December 21, 2020

Caring for Popular Holiday Houseplants

 by Amy Lentz, Weld County Horticulture Extension Agent

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a fantastic webinar about caring for holiday plants by one of our Larimer County Colorado Master Gardeners, Susan Bonsall. Her class was so informative that I thought I would highlight some of these holiday plants in this week’s blog post. If you want to dive deeper into Susan’s 1-hour webinar, a recording can be found HERE. (Thanks Susan!)

Many of you may be receiving a holiday themed and decorated plant as a gift this holiday season, or maybe you decide to buy yourself one to dress up your home. But don’t be fooled, even though most of these plants are sold and promoted this time of year, they are not made for outdoor temperatures or winter landscapes. Most of these are tropical in nature and are to be grown as houseplants indoors. So, let’s talk about a few of the most commonly received holiday houseplants! 

*Be sure to check out all of the linked text throughout this article for more information and growing instructions.


I could go on for days about poinsettias. In fact, I’ve written a blog post in the past about the interesting history of the poinsettia and how it became the quintessential holiday plant. Poinsettias are not commonly kept very long after the holidays are over, but if you do want to keep your poinsettia going past the holidays, you can keep it indoors in a high light area until the summer then move it outside. Water it thoroughly when dry and allow the pot to drain completely. For more tips on caring for poinsettias, see the following fact sheet from CSU Extension.

Poinsettias in a Greenhouse - Photo: Amy Lentz

Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter Cactus

That’s right, there are actually 3 main types of holiday cactus and the difference is shown in the leaves and when they each bloom. These popular holiday plants are short-day plants that require several weeks of days with less than 12 hours of light in order to bloom, with the Easter cactus requiring the most number of weeks. If you are unsure of which type you have, try comparing the leaf segments to the chart below from Iowa State UniversityExtension:

I'm guessing Thanksgiving cactus. 
Photo: Amy Lentz

For more information on how to care for your holiday cactus, visit this PlantTalk article.


I LOVE the amaryllis! These popular houseplants have beautiful trumpet-shaped blooms atop a tall stalk with long, thick grass-like leaves. They are truly stunning when they bloom! They come in a variety of colors from red to pink to white - and all shades in between. 

The bulbs prefer to be planted in a container that is 1 inch larger in diameter than the bulb and deep enough to support its long root system. They also like to be planted shallow with half of the bulb above the surface of the planting medium. And, because these plants bloom better when pot-bound, you only have to repot them every 3-4 years.

My amaryllis blooms when it wants to
and surprises me every time.
Photo: Amy Lentz

 For more tips on growing Amaryllis, see the following PlantTalk article.


Paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta) are an easy plant to force indoors by planting the bulbs in a container of rocks. They are a tropical bulb that take about 6 weeks to grow and bloom. They will show off their blooms for a few weeks, but then do not rebloom and can be disposed after blooming. To help keep your paperwhites on the shorter side, you can follow Cornell University’s research guidance and give them a little hard liquor mixed with water (4% solution)! 

The above video from PlantTalk and Tagawa Gardens has more tips on how to grow Paperwhites and Amaryllis.


 Norfolk Island Pine

This time of year, these popular gifted plants are adorned with lots of holiday decorations to look like a miniature live Christmas tree. And even though they are dressed up as cute little pine trees, they are not true pines at all. They are actually large tropical houseplants that would not survive out in the cold!

Photo: Costa Farms/Amazon

When caring for these tree-like houseplants, make sure to give them a large container to support the top growth that can be anywhere from 2 to 20 feet in a home setting. These plants can actually reach heights of 200 feet in their native habitat in Australia and New Zealand! They prefer a mild room temperature of 60-72 degrees and at least two hours of bright but indirect sunlight. Click on this link to CSU's PlantTalk article for more information about growing a Norfolk Island pine in your home.

Hopefully these tips and links will help you to keep your holiday plant going strong for years to come!

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Let's 'Jazz Up' our Gardens for Winter

 By Yvette Henson, San Miguel Basin, CSU Extension

Most of us are not getting out much right now and/or we are working from home, so we see our own landscapes much more than usual.  Are you, like me, experiencing some boredom and some “I miss my summer garden” blues?  Consider adding more winter interest to your garden- I am! 

Thoughtfully place a few built structures and plants that provide winter interest and food and shelter for birds or other wildlife.  This will make our gardens more inviting in winter.  When the weather is not hospitable for being outdoors, arrange indoor seating for outdoor viewing, place colorful elements where they can be seen when leaving or returning home from walking the dogs, getting the mail, getting groceries, or just going for a drive. Make use of or plan to create paths that invite a walk through your garden in the winter.

Some built structures that can be added or ‘jazzed up’ are walls, fences, trellises, covered seating areas, raised beds, containers, fountains, sculpture and outbuildings.  Consider adding a pop of color with paint or stain to any of these structures to brighten things up.  And string lights are not just for Christmas decorations!  You can also shine light on things that you want to highlight, like sheds or trees.

Branching form of trees and shrubs, colorful or textured bark, and seed heads on perennials and grasses provide winter interest.  Winter color is also in fruit and bark.  Some conifer foliage can even change color in the winter!  

We can add something like this colorful birdhouse
for a quick pop of color this winter!
Photo credit: Pixabay

This trellis isn't colorful but its presence makes a statement. 
Maybe I could paint the chair orange for more interest!

The Playhouse never fails to cheer me up in any season!

There are many beautiful 'Winter King' Hawthornes
in Grand Junction showing off their red fruits this winter!
photo credit: wikimedia

One of my favorite pines is Pinus bungeana, lacebark pine. 
Isn't the bark coloration beautiful?  
Denver Botanic Garden has some good specimens. 
photo credit: Penn State Extension

Phlomis russeliana seedheads in winter.
Try the Plant Select Phlomis cashmeriana
Photo Credit: My Wildlife Allotment

Monday, December 14, 2020

"Top Performer" Perennials from the 2020 CSU Perennial Trial

Posted by Jim Klett, Professor, Colorado State University, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture

Evaluating perennials in the Rocky Mountains

The purpose of the Perennial trial garden is to evaluate new perennial plant species and cul­tivars under the unique Rocky Mountain environmental conditions.  Plants are evaluated for plant vigor, uniformity, floriferousness and tolerance to environmental and biot­ic stresses.  The Perennial Trial program at Colorado State University is designed to test newer perennial cultivars that have been introduced in the past three years or less. Entries in this trial are grown for three summers and two winters before they are switched out for new entries.

Performance Evaluation

Photos and data on plants and flowers were collected on a bi-weekly basis from May to early October. Dead plants in the trial were not considered in the bi-weekly evaluation; thus, the ratings given only reflect the live plants. Members from the Perennial Trial subcommittee also evaluated and wrote comments for each plant variety in June, July, August and September. Plants and flowers were rated 0-5 using the following scale:

 0 = Dead/No flowers

1 = Poor: Plants are very sick or dying, extremely few flowers

2 = Below Average: Plants are unattractive in some form, i.e. – leggy growth habit, chlorotic or low vigor, flowers are few and occurring sporadically

3 = Average: Plant appearance with growth characteristics that would be expected for the time of season; flowers would be few but uniform across the plants

4 = Good: Plants look attractive (foliage, growth habit, etc.,); flowers are blooming strong and showy

5 = Excellent: Plants are very healthy and uniform; flowering is impressive


Selection of “Top Performers”

On November 20, 2020, a conference call was convened with CSU staff and the Perennial Trial Garden Subcommittee. Pictures of entries from the 2018 planting were posted to the Perennial Trial website for review. Data from the growing season was compiled and emailed to each evaluator prior to the conference call for review. After discussion and looking at the pictures taken throughout the season, each plant was voted on by each member of the committee as to whether it should be awarded the designation as a “Top Performer”.

2020 “Top Performers” from CSU Perennial Trials


1.    Allium ‘Summer Beauty’ (Allium lusitanicum) from Stonehouse Nursery, LLC

     Soft lavender blue flowers were prolific and brought strong flower power later in the summer. Flowers were relatively tall and held above foliage for maximum show but had good structure and did not lodge. Plant were uniform and very attractive with glossy green, flat leaf blades.


2.       Echinacea ‘Sombrero® Tres Amigos’ (Echinacea x hybrida) from Darwin Perennials

Flowers were unique with an “evolution of color” that resulted in about three different shades of color during the season. Blooms were vibrant with a rich saturated color. Abundant flowers remained in bloom a long time and created an impressive overall show. Plants had a good growth habit with strong branching and no disease.


3.     Penstemon ‘DAKOTA™ Burgundy’ (Penstemon digitalis) from Terra Nova Nurseries

Dark burgundy foliage was a key reason for the superior rating. Multiple shades of            burgundy added interest to the dark foliage and help make the white/lavender flower color really stand out. Blooms are very prolific with a long flowering period. It was noted that although the flowers are very impressive, the plant looks very showy even when not in flower due to the attractive dark foliage that remained clean all season and never had got “floppy ear”. Plants were very reliable and had 100% survival over three seasons.


4.     Phlox ‘Ka-Pow®’ series (Phlox paniculata) from Darwin Perennials

     Evaluators were impressed with the entire series as all had similar height, were very uniform and resistant to powdery mildew. Flowers had a long period of bloom with no color fade. Series had a range of colors that went from soft lavender to a vibrant pink. The pink entry was noted to have some shades of coral which is unique to Phlox.


5.     Salvia ‘Blue by You’ (Salvia nemerosa) from Darwin Perennials

      Vibrant blue flowers were very showy with prolific amounts of blooms early in the season and an impressive repeat later in the season after a hard cut back of old blooms. The unique blue color is a great addition to the pallet of Salvia colors in the trade and evaluators said they “had to go see it” from across the garden.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Native plants for winter interest- lesser used edition

 By Irene Shonle, CSU Extension, El Paso County

With climate change creating warmer, drier winters, Colorado gardeners can't rely much on a snowy landscape to hide a garden that has lost its summer pizazz.

This post is devoted to native plants that seldom make the winter interest lists, but will help make your yard maintain some flair during the dullest time of year.  Not only that, but they are also waterwise stars -- we are also experiencing hotter, drier summers, and need to consider our overall water use directed towards landscapes.


I am  in love with yuccas. Their spiky leaves look fantastic all winter, and there is the added bonus of white stalks of flowers in June.  If you do get snow, the drama only increases:

Most woody sages keep their leaves all winter.  Western Sage (Artemisia tridentata looks great, as does the smaller Artemisia bigelovii pictured above).

Prickly pear cactus (Opuntias) maintain a solid presence throughout the winter.  Some even turn purplish in the winter.  And, of course, in the summer they produce beautiful flowers beloved by bees. And, often, showy fruit in the fall.

                                Opuntia spines can look fantastic in low-angled winter light.

                        A plant I have often overlooked is the humble four-winged saltbrush (Atriplex canescens). It keeps its gray-green leaves in the winter, and the female plants produce interesting seed pods that persist into the winter.

                                Broom Snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae), in my opinion, is a much under-utilized                                     plant. It has tidy blooms of yellow in the fall (appreciated by pollinators), but then in the                                 winter, the seed heads dry out to created a charming presence. A bit like a rough-                                        around-the-edges baby's breath.

                                    Winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata) is a much under-utilized shrub. It is extremely         waterwise and provides food for many bird species, including  horned lark, Brewer's sparrow, sage             thrasher  black-throated sparrow, loggerhead shrike, and other birds.  Not only that, but it keeps its narrow, grey-  green leaves in the winter, and the seed heads look wonderful in the morning light.

Here's a plant I did not expect to put on this list, but I am taken with how the seed heads persist into the winter, providing interest and seed for birds.  This is hairy golden aster (the extremely variable Heterotheca villosa).

Consider planting some of these plants in your garden in a sunny dry area, and reap the rewards of providing habitat as well as winter enjoyment.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Your Pollinator Book List: Ideas to Read this Winter and in 2021

Posted by: Lisa Mason, Arapahoe County Extension

Now that we have put our gardens to bed for winter, it is time for rest and downtime. For some, it may be time to plan our gardening activities for 2021. For inspiration, look to the tiny critters that are responsible for pollinating plants in ecosystems around the world and providing healthy foods for people and animals. Your knowledge and appreciation for these hardworking bees and other pollinating insects will blossom.

Here are some of my favorite books on pollinators:

The Forgotten Pollinators by Stephen L. Buchmann and Gary Paul Nabhan, illustrated by Paul Mirocha

Published in 1996, this book is as timely as ever. Written by scientists, this book is filled with stories, research. I think the authors do a great job at painting the picture of different pollinators and their plants in ecosystems around the world. I keep this book on my book shelf and each time I re-read sections, I develop even more appreciation for our pollinators and plants.  

The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees by Olivia Messinger Carril and Joseph Wilson

This book is a fantastic resource to learn more about the 4,000+ bee species found in North America! The book is organized by the different families and genera of bees. It is an easy-to-understand way to learn about the natural history of the bees, identification tips from eye-level to a microscopic level, and includes excellent photos. If you are interested in learning more about bee that may be visiting your garden or if you want to participate in the Native Bee Watch Community Science Program next summer, this book is for you! 

Attracting Native Pollinators by the Xerces Society

Are you thinking of adding more pollinator habitat to your yard? Or maybe you’re interested in adding pollinator-friendly plants at a local community garden? This is a great book that covers the biology and natural history of bees, butterflies and other pollinators. You will also find resources, tips and ideas for building pollinator-friendly habitats in backyards, community gardens, urban green spaces and more. The book also includes plant lists and sample garden plans. Attracting Native Pollinators is another great staple to have on your book shelf.

Our Native Bees: North America’s Endangered Pollinators and the Fight to Save Them by Paige Embry

You will enjoy reading this book to learn about the natural history of native bees. The author does a great job at telling the story about why native bee are so important. You’ll read about the story of the possibly extinct Franklin’s bumble bee, how blue orchard bees pollinate fruit orchards, the secret life of small carpenter bees (Ceratina spp.), and more.

Field Guide to Butterflies of North America by Jim P. Brock and Kenn Kaufman

This guide is a great reference for improving your butterfly identification skills. The book includes great pictures, range maps and includes larval plant food. If you are interested in finding a list of butterflies and moths in your county or state, visit Butterflies and Moths of North America.

The Beekeeper’s Handbook by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile

Interested in beekeeping but not sure where to begin? Or maybe you want to learn about the fascinating biology of a social insect? This book will give you the biology and best management practices of keeping honey bees. The decision to keep honey bees should not be taken lightly. In addition to time and money, hives also need to be managed properly to reduce chances of pests and diseases, which not only hurt your hive, but can also hurt other hives in the community. This book is a great tool if you’re a new or seasoned beekeeper.

Some of the great pollinator books on my book shelf!

Many more pollinator and beneficial insect-related books

While the books listed above are some of my favorites, this not an all-inclusive list. Here are some other books that I plan to read soon:

Buzz, Bite, Sting: Why We Need Insects by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson

The Garden Jungle or Gardening to Save the Planet by Dave Goulson. Check out other books by Dr. Goulson here.

Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley

What are your favorite books on pollinators? What are you planning to read this winter? Comment below!

Please note the link for each book directs you to the author’s website or the company that published the book. All these books can be found at a variety of places including local bookstores. No endorsement of products mentioned is intended nor is criticism implied of products no mentioned.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Feeling Thankful in 2020

 Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

Don't get me wrong--it's been a hard year. There have been many challenges, new stresses, obstacles, and uncertainty. "Be flexible" has been a good mantra. Despite the bad, there's also been a lot of good. So let's take a moment to reflect on the positives...

People started gardening.

We were stuck at home, looking outside at our landscapes, so people picked up a shovel and got busy. This meant record-breaking seed salesBaker Creek, a supplier of heirloom seeds, reported over 10,000 orders on one day in late March. In some cases, this meant packing and shipping delays. It also meant that some seeds were completely sold out. For those of us in horticulture, the news was exciting! New gardeners! (And truth be told, it also provided us Extension folk a bit of job security, since we knew these new gardeners would have questions.) The record seed sales also extended to nurseries and greenhouses, who struggled to keep plants in stock due to demand. 

Shoppers at Fort Collins Nursery (photo courtesy of the Coloradoan)
Shoppers at Fort Collins Nursery (Fort Collins, Colo.) (photo courtesy of The Coloradoan)

Several garden centers reported higher-than-normal Mother's Day sales, with customers swarming to buy hanging baskets, annuals, and summer-blooming bulbs. Signs were posted that said, "New shipments are on their way!" Garden centers responded with curbside pick-up and online ordering. For months, one of the nurseries in Fort Collins had long lines lining the frontage road in front of their store the moment they opened each day. A warm welcome to all of our new gardeners!

Gardeners gave back to their community.

The CSU Extension Grow & Give project provided resources for people to grow produce with the intent of donating some of it back to their communities. Wildly successful (and award-winning!), this project was adopted by 37 Colorado counties. Gardeners donated more than 46,000 pounds of fruits and veggies to local food banks and pantries, as well as churches, community groups, and neighbors. 

Farmers' markets were successful

Nationally, farmers' markets were deemed as "essential business", meaning that they were allowed to operate as per health department regulations. The Larimer County Farmers' Market, operated by CSU Extension in Larimer County, scrambled to open their doors in May. Despite numerous regulations and mandates, the market operated successfully for 24 weeks. It even had the highest sales day in its 45-year history in August. Masked customers lined up obediently, six feet apart, to purchase their favorites from dedicated vendors. Hand sanitizer, wash stations, gloves, and masks all became part of the market culture. 

Styria Bakery II at the Larimer County Farmers' Market in Fort Collins (photo by Karen Collins)
Styria Bakery II at the Larimer County Farmers' Market (photo courtesy of Karen Collins)

Selling plants to get a home

I recently read this heart-warming story that brought tears to my eyes and provided the hope that we're so desperate for. Aaron Moreno, a California first grader whose family was homeless, sold plants to help his family get an apartment. His mom gave him her last $12, which he invested in succulents and sold them for a profit of $4. He took that money and reinvested it into buying more plants. Setting up his table outside a shed, where the family was living, people bought the plants--in droves. Aaron's Garden raised enough money (with the help of GoFundMe) to move his family out of the shed into an apartment. Aaron now has money in the bank and a place to do homework. While he may not stay in horticulture (he wants to be a judge), it's clear that gardening changed his family's life. 

Aaron Moreno of Aaron's Garden (photo courtesy of Instagram @aaronsgarden)
Aaron Moreno of Aaron's Garden (photo courtesy of @aaronsgarden on Instagram)

Yep. It's been a tough year. But there's still so much good. And if tough times have proven anything before, it's that we'll get through this. Together. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Monday, November 16, 2020

8 Ways Cover Crops Can Improve Your Garden

Patti O’Neal

Jefferson County Horticulture and Urban Food Systems

Cover cropping, a strategy also known as green manure, has been practiced by gardeners and farmers the world over for over 10,000 years. This organic restoration practice can boost your garden noticeably the very first year you incorporate it into your own best management practices and the improvements increase even more each year as their effects accumulate. These crops are easy to use, do not need much care beyond watering and a mowing or two and provide tremendous advantages to the garden and gardener.

Cover crops are plants that are considered soil builders. Here are 8 sometimes overlooked ways that cover crops build the soil productivity in your garden:

·       Provides Beneficial insect habitat – pollinators, honeybees, beneficial predator insects will all enjoy the nectar as well as the shelter these crops can provide at every season you use them. 

·       Smothers weeds and suppresses their seed from germinating as well.  They provide a dense mat to keep the light from reaching the seeds.

·       Better, more complete soil tillage than any mechanical method.  These crops improve soil structure, allowing more air and water penetration. They can break up soil compaction, loosen tight, hard, or heavy soils and create good tilth.

·       Provides shade for the soil for cooler root temperatures, less moisture losses during hot weather.

·       Acts as a living mulch when established between vegetable rows. 

·       Increases organic matter in the soil while feeding the microbes, beneficial bacteria, fungi, and earthworms living in the soil.

·       Conserves soil moisture both at the surface of the soil and in the critical root zone. The extensive root systems conserve soil by reducing erosion from rain by slowing water flow across and through the soil. The living foliage can also buffer wind effects.

·       Fixes nitrogen from the air while recycling nutrients, preventing their run-off and leaching from the root zone, simultaneously bringing up deeper nutrients to plant roots that are usually unavailable.

Use seasonally appropriate cover crops.  Legumes, vetches, rye, and buckwheat are all excellent cover crop plants.  Like all plants, each cover crop germinates and flourishes best in certain seasons. Most reputable seed companies will sell individual crop packets or recommended mixes appropriate for specific season plantings.  Some cover crop seeds are available locally, but seed catalogues have the widest range and generally provide good advice and instruction on using them. 


                        Buckwheat flowering in  Betty Cahill's raised beds

If you are letting a bed or area of your garden go fallow for a season, this thousands year old practice of planting a cover crop can help to replenish the biological community of your soil below while providing nectar as well as shelter for pollinators and beneficials above. Here are a couple of tips to help you be the most successful with a green manure crop.   

·       Allow your crop to flower but watch carefully and do not let it go to seed or you will be battling weeds of a different sort in the months to come. 

Flowering red clover

·       If you plant early enough in the season you can get one or maybe even two mowing’s in (If you garden in raised beds, a weed whacker works great for this) forcing the root material into overdrive to produce another above ground crop.  This action forces the root system further into the soil to depositing additional nutrients while continuing to improve tilth, bringing formerly unavailable nutrients up to the plant root zone. 

After your final mowing, fork the remainder of the material under so the microbes and arthropods you have encouraged can break it all down completely to become plant available nutrients.  Be sure and do this at least a month to six weeks before your intended planting date for this bed.  Otherwise, the increased microbial activity will compete with the root establishment of new plants or can even disrupt germination of seeds. You do not want to spoil all the good work you have done. 

Farris helping to turn the cover crop