CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Mountain Garden, Late July

by Yvette Henson, San Miguel Basin CSU Extension 

I live and garden at 8,400’ elevation in SW Colorado.  My highest summer day-time temperatures usually don’t exceed 80 degrees F, with an occasional 90-degree day.  My night-time temperatures are around 50 degrees.  My frost-free growing season is around 100 days (I don’t have any weather data to use to calculate it).  

So, it stands to reason that I am most successful with cool-season crops! However, I usually grow short-season tomatoes in buckets on my deck where it is a warmer microclimate and I grow green beans and occasionally summer squash, all warm-season crops.   I rely on friends and family who live nearby at lower elevation with warmer summer temperatures for my squash and I share greens with them.  

It’s been so dry the last few years; I’ve wistfully wondered what it would be like to garden somewhere with water.  This year we have had moderate monsoon moisture and that is a welcome respite from our usual drought prone garden.  The rains have made the temperatures lower as well.

I grow almost everything under season extension covers.  They provide shade, help keep pests out and reduce evaporation from the soil.  


I keep my broccoli covered to try to keep the cabbage worm butterflies out.   This bed is covered with 17% row cover fabric (excludes 17% of light).

Today I harvested 3 of 4 total heads of 'Nutribud' broccoli.  I also have 4 plants of 'Belstar' broccoli, that have yet to form heads.  Not only should they both form heads, they should continue to produce side shoots until mid October or so.  There are differences of opinion about whether the side shoots are worth it, but I grew 'Nutribud' several years ago and I got more broccoli as side shoots than I did in the heads.

My garlic is curing. It is small but potent and I have a lot of it!  Not only am I disappointed in the size, I am disappointed that it wasn't ready till mid July.  I had hoped to harvest it on July first and follow with shelling peas.

I missed the timing on my onions as well.  The first picture are onions I planted from small starter plants-- they are forming bulbs.  The second photo are onions I direct seeded into the ground.  I planted both on May 14th.  The direct seeded onions aren't very big but if they don't form bulbs, I can at least use them as 'green onions'.  They are yellow 'Candy' onions, a day-neutral, storage variety.

My favorite kale to grow is 'Red Russian'. I have had plants overwinter for 4 years!  This year I tried some 4 types of kale.  I direct-seeded in July so they would be ready as the temperatures are cooling down.  You may be able to pick the varieties out in the photo above:  'Western Front', a variety of Red Russian kales and 'True Siberian' kale, Brassica napus species.  There is also 'Baltic Red' curly kale that isn't very red and an unknown variety of Lacinato kale, both Brassica oleracea.  The 'True Siberian' kale had the best germination and has grown very quickly but I haven't enjoyed the texture or taste so I am slowly removing them one by one to allow room for the other varieties.

This bed is planted with a population called 'Fantasia' rainbow carrots.  I got the seeds from an Organic Seed Growers seed swap.  They wont be ready for a month or so but I pulled two carrots for this blog post, hoping to show some variety in color.  I am not sure this photo shows it well, but the one on the left is orange and the one on the right is yellow.  There should also be purple carrots and carrots with mixed colors in the roots.

This cold frame type bed is planted with 4 varieties of potatoes developed by the CSU Research Station in the San Luis Valley.  The varieties are: 'Rio Grande' russets, 'Masquerade' yellow-fleshed, 'Purple Majesty' and a red skinned variety with white flesh that I have forgotten the name of.  They won't be ready till the tops die down sometime in October.

This year I planted a 4' x 12' bed with bare-root 'Mara des Bois' day-neutral strawberries.  I have grown these before in our research beds and this variety was my favorite because it was prolific and the berries were very sweet, although not very large.  They have had a slow time establishing but they are finally setting lots of blooms and should produce fruit until frost as well as next year.

These pole beans are what I named 'Accidental Cross' because that is what they are.  I was given some seeds that were brought over from Romania and planted them.  They were a beautiful golden-colored, flat, stringless bean.  I also had 'Provider' bush beans in my garden that year.  The resulting plants from the seeds I saved from the Romanian bean was a tender, flat-podded, stringless green- colored bean.  I love them and will keep saving seeds BUT it was a sad lesson to learn.

I love saving seeds and experimenting with intentional crosses.  The photo is of perpetual spinach, a green chard that has narrow stems and tastes more like spinach.  It is more tolerant of heat than true spinach.  I crossed two varieties.  The plants in the photo above are F2 plants, resulting from two years of crossing.  I will cover them and let them overwinter and next year they will set seed (the F3 generation). Even though it is a seed crop, I can still take an occasional harvest of leaves to eat.

I like to try new things.  The plant in the photo is the second year of root chervil (its a biennial).  It is grown in Europe for the roots.  The seeds were difficult to find and difficult to germinate.  I ordered then online and they came in the mail, postmarked Serbia!  We harvested a few roots for Thanksgiving dinner (they taste better after 40 days of frost) and loved them!  So, I left several  to go to seed.  I have enjoyed watching the many pollinators that visit the flowers.   I will be glad to share seeds if anyone wants to try them.  They germinate best when sewn in fall, when they are fresh and lose germinability if saved.

My hope is that this blog post has disproven the myth that you can’t grow a garden in high-elevation, short-season areas with cool temperatures!

I would love to hear what is growing in your garden this year, regardless of where you live!  Have you grown any of the crops I am growing this year?  

Monday, July 18, 2022

Landscape for Life Comes to CSU Extension

 Posted by: Deryn Davidson, Horticulture Agent, Boulder County

As many of you know, and for those who don’t, CSU Extension is a community-based resource found in counties across the state of Colorado. We are part of the larger Cooperative Extension Service that can be found across the country at land grant universities. CSU Extension’s mission is to empower Coloradoans to address important and emerging community issues using dynamic science-based educational resources. To that end, we have an exciting announcement! CSU has been named the new institutional partner for Landscape for Life, a program that provides education on sustainable landscaping practices. As resources like water become scarcer and interest in pollinators, native plants, and gardening with purpose grows, this program will work to meet the demand for education in sustainable and climate resilient landscaping. Modules include information on soils, water, plants, materials, health, pollinators, and maintenance.

Developed in 2011 by the United States Botanic Garden (USBG) and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas at Austin, Landscape for Life is based on the principles of the Sustainable Sites Initiatives (SITES), the nation’s first comprehensive rating system designed to distinguish sustainable landscapes and measure their performance. The program will continue to be in partnership with the USBG and will be offered by CSU Extension.

“USBG is thrilled to collaborate with CSU to continue Landscape for Life and the important work of teaching people about sustainable gardening at home,” said Dr. Susan Pell, USBG acting executive director. “CSU’s commitment to sustainability through action and education make for a great fit for this program. We look forward to working together to expand knowledge, access, and resources for sustainable gardening practices across the country.”

“We are proud to be part of the program’s history and are pleased that CSU will foster its future,” said Lee Clippard, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center executive director. “What began as an initiative to deliver education on sustainable gardening practices has grown into an opportunity to inspire lasting impact and change.”

For over 10 years, Landscape for Life has provided resources and training opportunities for people interested in climate-resilient landscaping techniques for any size garden. While conventional gardens can work against nature, sustainable gardens are supportive of natural ecosystems and conserve resources. They enhance the environment’s ability to clean air and water, reduce flooding, combat climate change, and provide other natural benefits that support life on earth. Landscape for Life uses these benefits as core themes and areas of focus for the course curriculum.

CSU Extension assumed responsibility for management, stewardship, growth, and ownership of the program in May 2022. The first charge of the new CSU-USBG partnership will be updating content to ensure the latest, science-based research remains core to the curriculum, followed by improving in-depth learning opportunities through accessible online programming and in-person training in Colorado.

Through leveraging the institution’s experience and expertise in creating scalable learning platforms, mixed with strong, national Cooperative Extension network connections, CSU plans to address audiences nationwide. Longer-term, high-priority goals for the program place an emphasis on language justice with an initiative to translate course content into Spanish, in both written and live translation.

To be responsive to different learning styles, personalized education tracks are in development. Course modality will include options like free online content, modular online courses, and customized, fee-based training delivered either online or in-person.

Based on the learner’s desired outcomes and intended goals for registration, course content will be directed at two audience segments of the landscaping industry: those who install and maintain green spaces (landscaping companies, municipal staff, homeowners/gardeners), and those who experience landscapes (clients of landscaping companies, HOA boards, municipalities, homeowners/gardeners).

To learn more, explore the course curriculum, or see how to get involved, visit Landscape for Life  

Friday, July 15, 2022

The Ups and Downs of Backyard Chickens

 Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

I have been a proud chicken owner since 2014. It was a dream of mine to have feathered friends happily clucking in my backyard for awhile and finally made the decision to invite them into my life. It took quite a bit of planning and infrastructure, but I have really enjoyed my ladies. Last week I lost one of my oldest hens, Dizzy Miss Lizzy, and it hit me harder than I expected. She was a beautiful buff orpington, with golden yellow feathers, and was very proudly "fluffy but not fat". (Note, all of my girls are named after women in Beatles songs - and our henhouse is Henny Lane.)  

Lizzy in her fluffy glory. (Photo by Fred McClanahan)

Like having any pets, there are ups and downs. Losing chickens is definitely a downer. But there's so much good!

Fresh Eggs

It sounds romantic, doesn't it? To wander outside and gather your own breakfast? The eggs are a wonderful perk and there are times when I have so many eggs that the thought of eggs makes me turn up my nose. If you want to be a hero, give someone fresh eggs. And the colored eggs are really spectacular. Egg laying isn't consistent - the first couple years are the best, but laying can stop with really hot weather or stress. Chickens are lay best when days are long. Unless you provide light in the coop, they usually will stop laying during winter months, but resume in the spring. 

Eggs, glorious eggs!

Chickens are free entertainment

Chickens have personality - and you get to know your girls really well. Rita? She's the chatterbox of the flock. Martha? Fastest chicken in the coop. Prudence? A beautiful dusty lavender and will stare down Maple the Beagle all day. But throw a few worms or a head of lettuce in the run, and watch the show! They are great at "keep away" and Lizzy was always the quickest and the best at stealing treats from the others. I love hearing them chatter and often find myself asking them questions about the neighborhood gossip. Sadly, I only get a lot of clucking. But you can make incredible videos of them running! This was a promo for the Chicken Olympics event we had at the farmers' market last summer.

I think they know their names

Or at least they know my voice. And my voice usually means I have treats for them (sparingly, of course). But they usually come running when I tell them hello or good morning. I am pretty convinced that Rita knows her name though, because I've shouted it from the upstairs window and she always chirps back at me. 

Pest control at its finest

Boy howdy - chickens love eating bugs. They are experts at eating beetles, moths, larvae, grasshoppers, and anything else that might cross their paths (including mice). Earlier this spring I had someone drop off a cup (!!!) of bumble flower beetle grubs to identify and the ladies thoroughly enjoyed them. I was a bit squeamish, since the grubs were huge and juicy. But they loved it.

Lizzy working her way through the bumble flower beetle grubs.

Chickens aren't without their challenges, and one of the biggest is:

The pecking order is real

You've heard of the pecking order and it's a fierce and competitive ladder. I had two hens, whom I called the "Mean Girls" that I had to rehome because they were ruthless with one of my older hens. Chickens will seek out and attempt to destroy those they feel are weaker. There are always nips and pecks, but it can turn deadly. With Lizzy gone, my hens are currently reshuffling and it's interesting to watch. 

Harmony for a moment eating acorn squash...

They can get mites

Yes, chicken will get northern fowl mites and it doesn't mean you're an unclean or bad chicken owner. I just had a mite infestation and it's enough to give you the heebie-jeebies. Mites are commonly found on all birds, but when populations are high, it can cause major health issues to the chickens. My first sign was what looked like a poopy rear end. Upon closer inspection, it was a significant mite infestation. After treatment with spinosad (yes! the same stuff you use on plants, but labeled for chickens), and many plucked feathers (the tweezers were thrown in the trash), the girls are all much happier. Older chickens are more likely to have mite issues, because they may not work as hard at dusting to keep themselves clean. If one chicken has mites, it's best to treat all of them.

Losing your feathered friends

It's never easy to lose any pet, and my chickens are very much part of the family. Lizzy was over eight years old, which is an amazing life, but she's greatly missed. I am very fortunate that I've never lost any to fox or skunks - every backyard chicken owner has heard those horror stories. You take a lot of precautions to keep your hens safe, with lots of fencing and security measures - I joke that my entire coop is held together with zip ties. We've added extra netting to protect against the avian flu and made adjustments for better sanitation. 

So is it worth it? Without hesitation: YES. I adore them. I love talking to other chicken owners. I love following Instagram accounts of people who are as crazy about their hens as me. I love buying them treats at the grocery store (spinach is their favorite, followed by sweet corn). I love seeing them run on their clumsy legs. I love seeing Loretta stretching her long neck to reach the pumpkin leaves in the garden. I love Molly's aloofness, but her attempts to be friendly. They are amazing. 10/10 highly recommend. ( you know all the Beatles songs their names came from?!)

The ladies of Henny Lane

Friday, July 8, 2022

‘Grow & Give’ from your garden this summer

 By Amy Lentz, Colorado State University Extension - Boulder County

Are you growing a garden in your backyard or have a few containers of tomatoes on your patio? Do you know what you will do with any extra veggies you might grow this summer? Colorado State University Extension has a solution for your overabundant garden and can help you make the most out of your harvest – it’s called Grow & Give! Through the Grow & Give program, you can donate those extra zucchinis, tomatoes and beans to a local food pantry or a neighbor in need and make a positive impact on others.

Master Gardeners work in the ‘Food Pantry Garden’ at the Boulder County Fairgrounds Community Garden which grows solely for donations through the Grow & Give program. Photo: Amy Lentz

The Grow & Give program was created in the spring of 2020 as ‘a modern victory garden project’ to help Coloradans learn to grow food, share their harvest, and keep it in their local communities. Back then, you might remember people flocking to garden centers across the state to empty the shelves and buy up all the seed packets to start their new hobby of backyard gardening. But growing food isn’t necessarily a cake walk and CSU Extension saw the need to fill in the gaps. They saw a need to teach people how to garden from starting with seeds to harvesting and storage. In addition, Grow & Give collected information from local donations centers across the state and created an interactive map to help participants get their extra produce to donations centers.

In its pilot year, the goal of the program was to provide an outlet for learning about home food gardening while also making a difference in local communities during the global pandemic. In 2020, Grow & Give registered over 500 home and community gardens across the state and saw over 1,800 donations for a total of 47,000+ pounds of nutritious, fresh home-grown produce. But it didn’t stop as the pandemic has slowed…in fact, it’s grown! Last year, Grow & Give registered an additional 200 gardens and donations topped 55,000 pounds. This summer is no different as we continue to deal with food insecurity in our communities due to supply chain disruptions, inflation, and inequities in community services. Grow & Give continues to be there to help.

An example of one of my Grow & Give donations from 2021.
Photo: Amy Lentz

One of the unique aspects of the Grow & Give program is that it not only links you to produce donation sites, but it also teaches you how to grow fruits and vegetables specifically in Colorado’s unique climate through resources on its website. From the plains to the mountains, there are a vast number of articles, fact sheets and videos from raised bed gardening to how to grow tomatoes in buckets. You can learn about kohlrabi, peppers, cabbage, lettuce, strawberries, herbs and practically any other fruit or vegetable you can grow in Colorado. Not sure how to get started or deal with pests? This is also covered in the resources on the Grow & Give website –

An example of the resources offered on the Grow & Give website - vegetables in containers! 

Are you ready to join the collective effort across the state to help with food insecurity at a hyper local level through the Grow & Give program? It’s easy! All you have to do is register your backyard garden or community garden plot…then when you have extra produce, report your donation through the website. You’ll get a bi-weekly emailed newsletter with gardening tips and it’s totally free to join. To learn more, contact your county’s CSU Extension office or visit

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The Grub that Got Away...

 Posted by Hania Oleszak and Mari Hackbarth, Jefferson County Extension

With summer finally in full swing, we’ve been wading knee-deep in plant and insect samples over at the Jefferson County Plant Diagnostic Clinic. With that in mind, we thought it would be fun to clue you in to some of the pests and diseases that we’ve been seeing lately. See if you can identify any of the following samples as we walk you through some of the key steps of our identification processes…


Our first culprit is a first to our clinic. With a piercing, sucking mouthpart originating from in front of its eyes and long, segmented antennae, this insect appears to fall under the Hemiptera order.


Bee Assassin Bug; photo credit: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University

This sample came with a critical piece of information for its identification: the environment in which it was found. Specifically, this insect was found attacking a honey bee near a hive.

 In addition to the dorsal and ventral markings on the insect and the fact that the mouthpart had three segments, these clues all indicate that this insect is…drumroll please…a bee assassin (Apiomerus spp.)! There are three species of bee assassins within Colorado and they often hide and wait for their prey before ambushing them. While we all prize our bees and dislike anything that harms them, bee assassins have not been identified as a threat to our bees and are actually generalist predators, meaning they feed on a range of insects.


Our next culprit makes its way, unfortunately, into our clinic a handful of times a year. Like the bee assassin, this sample was also identified to the Hemiptera order, which is also the order referred to as “true bugs”.  Additionally, this sample was found in an assisted living facility bedroom…any ideas yet?

Bedbug, Cimex Lectularius dorsal view; photo credit Pest and Diseases Image Library,

Bedbug, Cimex Lectularius ventral view; photo credit  Gary Alpert, Harvard

Note: the piercing, sucking mouthpart originating from in front of the eyes and the long antennae broken into 4 segments.

 Based on context and morphology, our insect appears to be either a bed bug or a bat bug (both belonging to the Cimicidae family). To differentiate the two, it’s important to observe the fringe hairs on the pronotum and the wing pads, as noted in the figure below.


 Bed Bug Identification Key; figure credit: CSU Extension


What’s the final verdict? It’s a bed bug (Cimex lectularius), ew! Bed bugs are bloodsucking insects, often feeding in the middle of the night. They do not transmit disease.  People often develop red, itchy swellings from bed bugs, but these bites alone are not enough to diagnose a bed bug problem.  Identification requires microscopic examination of the beak length, antennae and pronotal hairs.  Bed bug interceptors, basically traps that bed bugs can’t climb out of, can be placed underneath the bed post in order to monitor for bed bugs.


Next up, we have a raspberry plant that was brought in for management advice. This sample already had been diagnosed upon entering the plant clinic, but we won’t give you the answer that quickly! The key symptom in this diagnosis is that the shoot tips of the raspberries are wilting. Additionally, there are two rows of punctures along the stem, beneath the point of wilting.

Spoiler alert: these two rows of punctures are actually made by female Raspberry cane borers (Oberea perspicillata), surrounding the point at which eggs have been laid in the pith of the raspberry cane. Upon hatching, larvae burrow down through the pith, making it down about an inch or two from the punctures by the first winter, and eventually making it down to ground level. To control for the Raspberry cane borer, it’s best to prune the raspberry canes below the puncture marks, or as far down as there is evident damage to the pith of the cane.


Raspberry Wilting; photo credit: Mark Longstroth, MSU Extension


Raspberry Cane Borer Larva; photo credit: Alan T. Eaton


Next in our line-up is a crabapple tree with an array of symptoms that are quite telling and commonly seen in our clinic. Looking at the crabapple branch, we could see darkened, mummified fruit, as well as blackened and crooked shoot tips (which we refer to as shepherd’s crooking).


Shepherd’s crooking symptom of Fire blight; Photo credit Don Hershman,

Upon further investigation in the lab, we could see under the microscope that there was bacterial streaming (i.e. the movement of bacteria out of the cut tissue) present in the fruit. Watch a youtube video of bacterial streaming HERE.  So cool!  This confirmed our suspicion that this crabapple tree has…Fire blight! Fire blight is a bacterial disease, caused by the bacteria Erwinia amylovora, that affects members of the rose family. The bacteria can be spread by insects, rain, or contaminated pruning tools, which is why rainy springs are conducive to the spread of Fire blight and why we recommend to disinfect pruning tools between every cut when working with plants of the rose family. Blossom blight (blackened, dead flower blooms) and oozing exudate from the tree or fruit are other tell-tale signs that your plant may have Fire blight. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Fire blight, so it’s best to prevent the spread of the disease and remove infected plant parts.


Last, but not least, is the grub that got away! Late one afternoon, we received a sample of a grub that was found in a mulch pile and placed it, along with some mulch, in a closed petri dish overnight. To our surprise, the grub was nowhere to be found the following morning – all that remained in the petri dish was mulch (see below).


Photo credit: Mari Hackbarth, Jeffco Plant Diagnostic Clinic

 Later that week, we received a sample of very similar-looking grubs. Upon morphological inspection (i.e. looking at the rastral pattern, or the arrangement of short hairs located above the anal slit of the abdomen), we were able to deduce that the grubs were likely bumble flower beetle larvae.


Rastral Pattern on Grub; photo credit: Mari Hackbarth, Jeffco Plant Diagnostic Clinic

Interestingly, bumble flower beetles form oval, earthen pupal cases as they mature into their adult forms and, looking more closely at second sample, we were even able to find some (see below)!


Bumble Flower Beetle Larvae and Pupae; photo credit: Mari Hackbarth, Jeffco Plant Diagnostic Clinic


Wait a minute!  If bumble flower beetles form pupae that look like big chunks of soil, and if our initial grub that got away looked very similar to the bumble flower beetle grubs…could our initial grub actually still be hiding in our petri dish in a pupa? What do you think?



 Bee Assassin Bug: