CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Mindfulness in Nature During COVID-19

Posted by: Lisa Mason, Arapahoe County Extension

Research has shown that mindfulness and spending time outdoors offers tremendous health benefits including boosting your immune system, improving mental health, decreasing stress, increasing creativity and more. Mindfulness is defined as “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens,” according to UC Berkley. While there are a variety of techniques, one of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness is to get outside and enjoy nature.

One of the most difficult parts of mindfulness can be calming down the inner chatter or the “monkey mind.” CSU Extension’s Live Smart Colorado blog offers some great tips for calming the mind.

Different techniques work for different people. When I am outside, I like to keep a nature journal and document my surroundings and experiences. The natural world has so much to see if we pause to observe.
A nature journal can be a great way to document your experiences. Photo and journal: Lisa Mason 
Not sure where to start? Here is an exercise you can try. You can write or draw your surroundings and experiences, or you can simply enjoy the moment.

Take a few deep breaths. Use your senses. What are you seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, and smelling? Focus on one sense at a time for at a minimum a few minutes.

Touch: Notice the textures and shapes—the bark of different trees, the grass blades, the ground beneath you.

Sound: Do you hear birds singing? Maybe different species of birds? What about the wind blowing through the trees or the squirrels chittering nearby?

Sight: Notice the clouds in the sky. Where is the position of the sun this time of year? Try to spot all the living things: the grass, trees, plants, insects, mammals, birds, etc. Are there any plants beginning to bloom? What colors do you see?
A purpleleaf sand cherry beginning to bloom in my backyard. Photo: Lisa Mason
Smell: Maybe different flowers are blooming, or the smell of rain is in the air. If you are near a ponderosa pine tree, you might notice the bark smells like butterscotch or vanilla. 

The spring season is a time of change. You might look for some of the following in your own backyard:
  • The summer migrant birds have arrived! Look for hummingbirds, turkey vultures, Swainson’s hawks, and more.
  • Native bees are emerging from underground and cavities. You can see them foraging on flowers such as chokecherries.
  • Deciduous tree leaves are starting to emerge. While the latest cold and snow may have damaged buds on some trees, others are just getting started.
  • It is breeding season for birds. Some birds like the downy woodpeckers are making their nests now. Others like great horned owls already have babies in their nests. In fact, great horned owls are among the first birds to have babies in the season.
  • You might catch a glimpse of a butterfly. We will start seeing more and more. Some butterflies species overwinter in a chrysalis and others will migrate to Colorado.
  • We have so much daylight right now--almost 14 hours of daylight! That means more time to enjoy the outdoors, especially in the evenings.

Remember: if you are outdoors, please follow social distancing protocols in your area such as wearing a mask and keeping at least a 6-foot distance between you and other people.

Take care and enjoy nature!

Monday, April 27, 2020

Transplanting Warm Season Vegetables

 By Sherie Caffey, CSU Extension-Pueblo County Horticulture Agent

     I don’t know about you, but I am so excited that it’s almost time to plant my vegetable garden! I love to grow pretty flowers and interesting native plants, but my veggie garden has always been my favorite. It makes me feel so proud to pick things from the garden and feed it to my family, not to mention there is nothing quite as tasty as home grown produce!

My little transplants under an LED light
     Warm season vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers can’t be planted outside until the danger of frost has passed. Considering we live in Colorado, this can be quite the guessing game as to when it’s safe to plant. To get a good idea, check out the CSU Extension ClimateSummary for your area. This summary will give you probabilities of having a frost on certain dates in your area. For example, in Pueblo, on May 1, there is a 50% chance the temperature will get down to 32° F. The summary also has a nifty chart that shows you when to plant which crops based on normal temperatures. Although we don’t know what the weather will bring, this is a good resource to help you take your best guess.

Getting my little plants used to the great outdoors
     Even when the danger of frost passes, you shouldn’t just stick brand new transplants out into the garden without giving them some time to get used to being outdoors. I like to start my new plants outside for 10 minutes, and bump it up every day until they can handle being out there for hours.

My garden beds after adding new compost
    Another thing you can do if you still have some time to wait before you can plant some of your vegetables, is to make sure your soil is ready! I have relatively new garden beds so I added a few inches of compost to my beds and incorporated that a couple inches into the existing soil. This will add organic matter and hopefully give me a bountiful harvest.

     To get in depth information on when to plant a certain vegetable, spacing, germination days, days to maturity or really anything else check out this Vegetable Planting Guide from CSU Extension.  

Monday, April 20, 2020

Seed Libraries

by Yvette Henson

Seed Libraries are fun and they also serve important roles in our communities!  The most important role, in my opinion, is to support a more resilient local food system.  You may ask, ‘How does a seed library do that’?  The ideal of a seed library is not only to provide seed and make gardening more accessible but to educate and grow seed-savers who will grow their favorite varieties in their gardens, allowing some of their best plants go to seed.  Then they will have seeds for themselves and to share with their local seed library for other people to grow in their gardens.

Plant genetics work so that when carefully done, saving seed, will result in plants that are better adapted to the local growing conditions they are grown in.

A reliable local seed source is an often-overlooked, but vital part of a local food system.  In addition to the benefits of having seeds for plants adapted to local growing conditions, it is important to have a reliable source of seed.  Consider our current situation with COVID-19. Many seed racks are emptied of their seeds and seed companies are running out of seed and/or having a hard time filling orders.   This is good for the seed companies and an encouraging sign that more people want to grow food.   A Seed Library with local seeds is an important source of seeds. 

carrots gone to seed
I was listening to a podcast the other day.  The guest was Ken Greene, owner of Hudson Valley Seed Company.  He is a huge proponent of seed libraries and seed savers.  In the podcast, he said something that inspired me: “We can look at this increase in seed buying as that people are worried or are ‘freaking out’ but part of it is also that seeds are hopeful and embody this sense of potential…”. 

perpetual spinach (chard) seed
I have been blessed to work with our local Lone Cone Library and Master Gardeners to develop the San Miguel Basin Regional Seed Library.  A few of our goals are to maintain and provide a collection of pure, healthy seeds for community use, to educate our community how to grow and save seed successfully and to develop a source of regionally adapted seeds. You can find more information about our seed library on our website (Agriculture/Local Food page):

San Miguel Basin Regional Seed Library 
Many Extension Offices around our state work with their local seed libraries in similar ways. At the moment most libraries and other locations that house seed libraries are not open to the public and yet they may have found creative ways to distribute seeds.

Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance has a list of seed libraries in Colorado:
A few other seed libraries in our state that I am aware of are:
Larimer County: Old Town Fort Collins Library has a seed library and Loveland Library will soon have one. 

Lettuce Going to Seed (photo credit Laura Parker, High Desert Seed & Garden)
If you don’t see one listed in your area, reach out to your local CSU Extension Office and/or your local library. 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Darn Dog Spots!

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

The year 2020 may well be the year of many things, but horticulturally speaking, I'm deeming right now as "The Year of the Dog Spots." It seems my inbox is filling up with a lot of turf questions. Being the turf nerd I am, I really enjoy responding to turf inquiries. Primarily because I love lawns.
Yes, this is all dog urine injury! Promise!
So you have brown spots? You're not alone. I have them too, because of the beagles, Maple and Hazel.
It seems the beagles didn't get the "physical distancing" memo...
I have a couple of theories as to why dog urine injury seems to be so prevalent this year. The first is that we had a pretty dry fall and winter on the Colorado Front Range. The lack of snow and rain didn't add any moisture to the soil, which helps leach the salts from the urine deposits. The second is that dogs are lazy. I watch my older beagle, Hazel, dash into the yard, assume her position right next to the patio, and dash back inside. She does this all winter, because she doesn't like the cold. So day-after-day, she adds to the salt accumulation. By the time spring rolls around, the area is nuked. Hazel is just a little beagle....if you have a bigger dog, you might have bigger problems.
More urine = more potential for lawn injury
The interesting thing about urine is that is contains some nitrogen, so you often get a greening response. Urine also contains salts, which is the killing culprit.
Nitrogen response from dog urine.
Look at all that growth!
What can you do? First, be grateful we're getting some moisture to move those salts through the soil. Yay moisture! Second, take your fingers and rough up the spots. Look carefully for any sign of green life. Even a few springs of turf are a good sign that the grass isn't dead. It will take time to recover, but where there's green, there's hope.

If you don't see any signs of green, then it's time to reseed. Check out this PlantTalk Colorado video on reseeding the home lawn. It stars Maple the Beagle.

The steps to reseeding are pretty simple. First, seed selection is important. Perennial ryegrass is the most salt-tolerant cool season species we have and it blends well with Kentucky bluegrass. Seed perennial rye at a rate of 6-8 pounds of seed/1000 square feet.

Using an aerator (for large spaces) or a pitchfork (for small spots), make lots and lots and LOTS AND LOTS of holes. These holes are going to create "germination chambers" for your seed. After you poke the holes, spread the seed. For large areas, use a fertilizer spreader, with the mouth just open wide enough to let seed fall out; if you're just doing a spot or two, you can sprinkle it with your hand. Then work the seed into the holes. Water to keep the seed moist. There's no need to add any additional soil to the lawn or topdressing materials.
Make holes. Lots and lots AND LOTS of 'em.
If you need to seed this spring, don't use a fertilizer with a crabgrass preventer. If you already applied such a product, wait to seed until late summer or early fall.

Oh, and train your dogs to use mulched areas or non-lawn areas to prevent further injury. I know. Training dogs is hard. I have beagles!
Maple the Beagle

Thursday, April 9, 2020

2020 Victory Garden Containers

Posted by:  Patti O'Neal, Jefferson County Extension

Not all of us have the space, the time, the know-how or the confidence to start growing all our own food.  But there is an easy, much less overwhelming solution, a way to get started; grow a container garden.

Advantages of Container Food Gardens

  • ·       They reduce the effort of nearly every garden task, apart from watering which requires more diligence.
  • ·       They are mobile and can be placed or moved to take advantage of orientation to light.
  • ·       You avoid most all soil borne diseases
  • ·       Pretty much guaranteed weed free
  • ·       Allow for creative expression with vegetables, herbs and edible flowers

 Nearly all vegetables have varieties that are suitable and very successful when grown in containers.  You can grow just about any of your favorite vegetable, herbs, small fruits and edible flowers this way.  To set you up for success, here are some helpful tips to get you started successfully.

Choosing seeds or Transplants

When starting out, look for varieties with the words “Bush” or “Patio” or “Dwarf” or “Determinate” in the name for the surest way to find a variety best adapted to container culture.  After a season or two when you are comfortable with growing this way, opt for anything and experiment with trellising for vining crops. 

Light and Orientation

Most all vegetables need 7-8 hours of full sun to give best harvest.  But some, like leafy greens will succeed with as little as 4, with some root vegetables succeeding with 6.  Balconies, patios, yards with south, east facing exposures are best with west good with added protection in the heat of the day.  North facing areas are far less successful but can handle leafy green vegetables and some root crops if unobstructed light.  Always worth trying.


Select containers that provide adequate root space, for root crops. The container should hold adequate soil to support the mature size of the plant.  It should have adequate drainage.  The larger the container the more drainage there should be.  Consider the root growth as some plants require much less than others and therefore a shallower container might be right for the job.   Refer to CMG Garden Notes for complete list of container vegetables and the size container adequate for good growth.


Container Mix or Outdoor Container Mix or Potting Soil are clean and contain enough mineral to sustain good growth with a good fertilization program.  Do not use garden soil in a container as it contains soil borne diseases and pests which can wreak havoc in a small space.  Nor does it drain well.  Seed starting mix contains no soil at all and will not sustain the root growth of vegetable plants. 


Vegetables need adequate and consistent water.  Inconsistent water will encourage both disease and pest problems.  Inadequate water will yield stringy, tough and even bitter flavored vegetables.  It is particularly critical to monitor watering of vegetables in containers as they have a limited soil mass.  The smaller the container the more watering may be required each day in the heat of summer.  Larger containers will require less.  Watering can be done by hand, or there are excellent drip systems that can be set up for containers.  When you water, you should apply enough so that the excess drains out.  If using drip dishes, these should be emptied of any excess after15-20 minutes.  Turkey basters are helpful to remove excess water if the containers are too large to tip to empty the drip dishes.

Vegetables are annuals and thus are heavy feeders.  Timed release fertilizer can be added to soil at the root level when planting.  Use a soluble fertilizer according to the label directions.  But be cautious.  Excessive fertilizer (nitrogen) will force green growth at the expense of fruit set.   Likewise, over fertilizing herbs causes forced growth at the expense of volatile oils.

Be creative with your plantings.  You can mix varieties of the same plant for color and texture or to try new things.  Mix herbs and edible flowers with your vegetables to make the container more interesting and serviceable. 

Growing your own food is satisfying and rewarding.  If you want to try your hand at self-sufficiency but have been hesitant for lack of space or confidence, starting a small Victory garden is the way to go.  You can add containers as your confidence builds and try new vegetables or varieties of one you particularly love.  Containers are a great way to involve children in first time gardening as well as they are easier to plant, tend and harvest.  So, don’t let space or confidence stop you.  Claim Victory!  Start a Victory Vegetable Container Garden. 

Monday, April 6, 2020

Weeding in the time of Coronavirus

By Irene Shonle,  El Paso County Extension

At the time of writing this blog, the entire state of Colorado is under stay-at-home orders due to the Coronavirus.  It’s a scary, uncertain time, and it is creating a lot of anxiety for most people.

I have the perfect activity to help.  It’s something you can do while house-bound (you are allowed to be in your yard), releases all kinds of anxious energy, gets you out into the sunshine, and gets your hands dirty (the latter two are proven mood-lifters).

It is dealing with your winter annual weeds.  Weeds that fall into this category include kochia, cheat grass, prickly lettuce, henbit, redstem filaree, and many of the mustards (blue mustard, flixweed, shepherd’s purse, etc).  You do need to learn to recognize these weeds when they are first emerging (especially if you have sown any desirable seeds) so you can treat the right plants. While the Extension offices are mostly closed due to the Coronavirus, you can still email pictures in for identification, or you might find your weeds pictured in one of these two guides: or here:
Kochia seedlings

Right now is the perfect time to get out there - - winter annual weeds are just emerging from the soil, and are very easy to kill with just a hoe, or even hand-pulling, depending on how many you have to deal with.  At this stage of growth, they have almost no root system, and require a minimum of effort.  Plus, the soil is probably moist after the winter precipitation, which makes it easy to work. Also, the winter annual weeds will mature and set seed sooner than summer annual weeds, so they are good to prioritize.
So easy to kill those little tender seedlings (kochia)

It will be much harder to deal with any of these plants once they have fully grown, have established root systems, and tougher stems. And if you let them get to the point where they are about to drop seed, then you will have to pull and bag the weeds. So much easier to deal with them now.
Mature kochia (
I have recently moved to a house on 1/3 of an acre, mostly covered with kochia, cheat grass and bindweed, so I have lots of therapeutic activity ahead of me. I have thickets of kochia coming up from years of plants dumping their seeds into the soil.

One of the things I like to think about when I am working on winter annual weeds is how much future seed I am keeping from getting into my soil seed bank. For example, one cheat grass plant can produce 500 seeds, and one kochia can produce over 14,000 seeds.  So even pulling a couple of plants could prevent thousands of future weeds.  It’s even better than the return on investment with mending clothes (remember that old saying “a stitch in time saves nine”)? And one swipe of the hoe, I am preventing hundreds of thousands!  Why, I am a veritable super hero.

Many winter annual weed seeds fortunately do not remain viable for very long; often just 1-2 years in the soil. This means that if you keep any of your current crop of weed seeds from maturing to the stage where it can set seed, you will actually be able to clear your yard of these weeds with just a couple years of diligent effort.

I wish I could say the same of bindweed!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Food for Pollinators and You

Posted by: Nancy Klasky, City and County of Broomfield Extension

Pumpkins need pollination by bees

There is something deeply satisfying when you grow your own food.  The joy and accomplishment of tending to a plant from the time you see that tiny seed germinate until harvesting is something you cannot purchase in the store.  Not only do we benefit from the food we grow, but so do the many native pollinators. We tend to think of flower gardens when we think of attracting bees, butterflies and other pollinators to our yards, but vegetable gardens also rely on having those native insects. Unlike those popular home garden plants that are self-pollinating such as tomatoes and peppers, plants in the cucurbit family need pollinating by bees. Cucumbers, squash, pumpkins and zucchini are cucurbits and are easy to grow in our yards with the right soil and sunshine.
Growing your own herbs is another great way to bring those bees to your yard and flavor to your cooking! It’s easy to grow most common herbs used in cooking, and growing them yourself is an exciting and cost-effective wayto have your own home grown herbs year round. Oregano, cumin, thyme, sage, chives, cilantro and others are herbs that rely on pollination for propagation. It is usually suggested to pinch off the stems to prevent flowering on these plants to create a bushier and tastier plant. If you want to seed propagate you must let them flower and be pollinated. So why not have a little of both by seeding one plant and growing another for drying to use in cooking? Drying herbs is pretty simple. Most you can just hang inside away from direct sunlight and then, when completely dried, you remove stems, break up leaves and store in glass containers.
A fun way to get kids excited about gardening is to create a themed garden. You can grow tomatoes, spaghetti squash, garlic, onion, peppers, oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme and call it the Spaghetti Dinner garden. Another great meal theme is chili peppers, jalapenos, cumin, oregano, and cilantro to have a Green Chili Bowl garden. The cheese and tortillas may have to come from the store however.
One of my favorite and very easy recipes to make is with my home grown Roma tomatoes, jalapeƱos and cilantro is roasted tomato salsa.  

Here’s my recipe:

Roasted Tomato Salsa 
·      10 – 12 Roma tomatoes cut in half
·       2 – 4 garlic cloves cut in halves
·       1 white onion cut into wedges
·       1 jalapeƱo cut in half and membrane removed

·       1 t. cumin
·       Cilantro chopped
·       Salt to taste
·       1 – 2 T. olive oil

Preheat oven on broil.
Toss tomato, garlic, onion and jalapeno with olive oil. Lay flat side down on baking sheet.
Roast in oven until dark brown and almost burnt. Let cool, then throw in blender with cumin, salt and other preferred spices (I use a little red chili powder). Last, mix in cilantro and lime if desired.  One word of caution to wait until slightly cooled so that your blender top doesn’t fly off and make a mess from the hot contents! I speak from experience.
It also freezes well, so you can enjoy it for months to come.
Herb Drying 
There are so many good things to make with our garden vegetables and herbs, and there’s also that good feeling we get by knowing while we enjoy that delicious meal we are also helping out pollinators!

For more information on herb gardening and other gardening topics visit:

Pumpkin Plant Photo: N. Klasky
Roasted Tomato Salsa Photo: N. Klasky
Herb Drying Photo: