Thursday, September 22, 2016

Winding Down

When composing a new blog the challenge is coming up with the title. While doing so for this entry, I was going back and forth in my mind if the garden season is winding down, slowing down or am I slowing down? Yikes, the latter thought gives me a shudder, a chill...a shuddering me, I still feel like I'm 28! When I was 28 perms were the rage, as were very large padded shoulders on blouses and jackets. That's two trends I hope never boomerang. As much as I don't feel old, I get a bit melancholy about the end of the summer growing season and the last of ripe tomatoes and fresh snipped flowers for indoor joy.  

Today is the first day of autumn, so change is imminent, let's face it together. How's your winding down list coming? Have you shopped for close-out plant deals? Are they in the ground? Got bulbs...including garlic bulbs for planting? Is your bounty of produce or fruit put up for the winter? Is your lawn aeration scheduled, same for sprinkler turn off? Once these items are checked off, it's pretty much just a waiting game for leaves to fall for filling the compost pile or used for "bed time" mulch. Last on our seasonal list is moving the outdoor furniture into the garage. Ferris is the one who really misses the patio set, especially the cushioned foot stoolit's his favorite place to relax and keep an eye out for any movement in the yard...squirrel, bird, grasshopper. 
Nothing a person can do about the changing seasons, time marches on as the saying goes, though I would prefer a very slow cadence with many sunny days in the 60s. Snow can march in on December 1st, that seems about right. 


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Garlic is Next

If you've read my blog for a season or two you know that I'm a fan of garlic and planting a pretty good size crop every year. Planting in the fall is recommended over spring planted garlic. Giving cloves nine months time to develop into large bulbs, so large that your friends will think you have garlic growing magic or some kind of a vampire fetish is the main reason to fall plant. Hard neck varieties grow very well in our cold, northern climate. BTW...hard neck garlic is the gold standard in gourmet taste and rarely found for sale in grocery stores (so you must plant your own)!

Since I've written about garlic planting how tos before just click the links below. 

Written in 2015
Plant Garlic Now

Written in 2014
Garlic Growing is Grand

Happy garlic planting!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Dahlias, Love 'Em!

Years ago I spent a few days in Tacoma Washington in September for a niece's wedding. Prior to Jenny's joyous event, my parents, sister and I visited the gardens and sights at Point Defiance Park. It was one of those times in your life when you show up to a new place without one ounce of expectation and it turns out to be a two thumbs up (way up) experience. 

I thought of this visit as I was about to post a notice about the upcoming Colorado Dahlia Show happening this weekend at Paulino Gardens. It's amazing how one's garden oriented mind can wander and remember.

First, a short background on Point Defiance Park. With over 700 acres, the views surrounding the peninsula of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains and Gig Harbor rival any of the well-known natural attractions. Early explorers saw this peninsula as a model fortress, a place that could "bid defiance to any attack" while American Indians embraced the forest and sandy beaches for hunting and living. In 1888, this never used military reservation was authorized by President Grover Cleveland to be a public park. It was officially signed over to the City of Tacoma in 1905 by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Internet Photo

Over the decades Tacoma park commissioners and planners replaced roaming buffalo with picnic, camping, boating and fishing areas. Sights came and went - horse trails, an amusement park, and an indoor swimming pool (natatorium) that used Puget Sound salt water heated to eighty degrees. Today there are formal gardens including a Japanese, Fuchsia, Rose, Rhododendron, Herb, Iris, Native and Dahlia garden. 

There's also Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, beaches, marina, hiking trails, and the must visit spectacular cliffs overlooking the Tacoma Narrows to view bald eagles feeding on salmon as they brave the swift tidal currents. 

The day we visited Point Defiance Park was picture perfect - sunny, no wind and comfortable short sleeve weather. I clearly remember three activities that day - the glorious waterfront views from the peninsula, the well-designed dahlia garden and a delicious, relaxing lunch with my parents and sister at a restaurant overlooking one of the harbors. The name of the eating establishment has escaped me, so I need to go back and find that place plus a visit to the rest of the park.

But....oh....those dahlias.

Here's what their website says about the Dahlia Garden -

"Dahlia Trial Garden One of the largest official trial gardens in the U.S. and Canada, the Dahlia Trial Garden is maintained in cooperation with the Washington Dahlia Society. The garden is comprised of plants grown from tubers sent by dahlia growers from throughout America, Canada, England, New Zealand and Australia. Each year, the dahlias are scored by official judges of the American Dahlia Society. Dahlias receiving between 85 and 100 points are included in the annual classification book. They are then named and become available to the general public. Blooms begin in July, but August is the best time to view the garden in full bloom, when plants reach heights higher than 6 feet."

I recall so many varieties, colors and sizes that I cannot even begin to describe them with the beautiful adjectives they deserve. They were healthy and happy growing in large blocks of raised beds. There were rows and rows of them - all very well labeled.  I know I took photos that day but they must be on an old hard drive in our storage area - retrieving them sounds like a great winter project. 

For Christmas that year I sent both my Mom and sister (plus a copy for me) a dahlia book so we could learn more information and grow our own tubers the following spring. And we sure did!

So that's why I'm writing this blog today. Go see for yourself the many dahlia types you can grow in your own back yard. This weekend, September 10th and 11th Paulino Gardens in Denver is hosting the Colorado Dahlia Society September Flower Show. Stop by this free event to admire the entries and winners, plus take notes of varieties you want to grow next summer. Experts from their group will be on hand to answer questions. 

Read more about growing dahlias on these links:

Articles on Growing Dahlias from the Colorado Dahlia Society

Planting Dahlia Tubers

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Plant and Divide for Next Year

It's early September, by no means the end of the garden season, but for many, it's the beginning of putting in new plants, moving some around and dividing overgrown clumps.  Read the how tos on my Denver Post Punch List below.  

Just a FYI...I'll write two Punch Lists for the Denver Post this month, my next one will be on September 17th, then I'll continue with a monthly Punch which will be in the first Saturday of the month in the Life & Culture section. It will run October through February.  

Fall is a great time to move plants
September 3, 2016 Denver Post Punch List

Labor Day may be the unofficial end to summer, but the garden says otherwise. Keep your harvest basket close and garden gloves on for late season planting. But really, where did the summer go?

Fall Planting
  • Want a head start on next year’s garden? Easy—go shopping or divide and replant overgrown plants early this month. 
  • Trees, shrubs and perennials generally establish well in the fall with warm days and cooler nights. Get them in the ground sooner rather than later for optimal root growth.
  • Inspect the landscape –look for bare ground planting opportunities. Replace plants that didn’t survive the season.   
  • There are great deals at local garden centers–shop wisely, read the plant tag to make certain it will work in your space, soil and light conditions. 
  • Just because the plant may look a bit weary from being in a pot all summer, it may be fine once it gets established with your good care.   
  • Also, it is common to find garden center plants with circling roots inside the container or growing out the bottom.  
  • Cut off outgrowing roots. Then remove the plant from the container, it is easier if the root ball is moist.  
  • Untangle or tease excessive or girdled roots before planting. In some cases you may need to use sharp scissors or a knife and make vertical cuts through the root ball. This method helps new root growth to establish in the surrounding soil. 
  • Dig your planting hole— wide and not too deep.  
  • Loosen up the soil and improve drainage. Mix in some well-composted soil (store bought bagged is fine) with the native soil, but not so much that the roots remain in the area with amended soil.

     Fall Dividing
    Cutting compacted roots will allow new roots to grow and establish much better
    • Fall is also a good time to divide, move or share and replant established spring to early summer blooming perennials like salvia, catmint, daylilies, daisies, coreopsis and bee balm—wait until spring to divide and replant late summer or fall bloomers.
    • Dividing plants is necessary when foliage seems sparse, the flowers are smaller than normal, or the center of the clump is dying out or hollow (especially noticeable on ornamental grasses, spring is best for dividing grasses).  
    • Water the plants a couple of days before dividing and cut the foliage down to six to eight inches for ease of move. 
    • Dig the new hole location first and amend the hole as described above.
    • Move mulch away from the plant.   
    • Use a straight edged shovel and dig straight down in a circle around the entire plant. If growing right next to other plants in the landscape you may have to dig closer to the plant.
    • Use a shovel to lift up and divide the entire root ball, or dig down into the plant and take out sections including roots.
    • Re-plant at the same height where they were growing. Fill in soil around the root ball, water well, additional soil may be needed after watering, then mulch. 
    • Some plants do not like to be divided because of their long tap root or woody shrub-like structure – butterfly weed, lupine, clematis, false indigo, lavender and baby’s breath. An excellent resource on dividing - Clemson University Dividing Perennials
    • While shopping for plant deals also pick up some mums, asters, pansies, and other late bloomers. 

    Tree/Shrub Fall Planting and Care   

    • Fall planted trees and shrubs take longer to establish than smaller rooted perennials. Plant no later than mid-October. 
    • Unlike planting a half-priced perennial, tree and shrub fall planting require careful selection, planning, soil preparation and care through the winter. Pass on buying pricier landscape plants if post planting care including watering can’t be maintained.
    • Planting evergreens in the spring is the recommended time of year. If fall planted and the roots aren’t established because of lack of water or quick temperature changes, the foliage or needles may burn, suffer injury or die entirely.
    • As we head into fall many trees appear stressed from lack of water, insects, disease or injury – some are losing their leaves early or turning colors already. Scorched leaves are evident on lindens, maples and others.
    • Check to see that trees are getting moisture in the root zone to a depth of one foot. Do not over water all at once to compensate for lack of summer watering. Maintain a regular watering schedule through the fall and winter.
    • Consult with a professional arborist, trusted garden center or Colorado Master Gardener for help diagnosing problems. 

    Vegetables and Containers
    • Regularly water and fertilize outdoor ornamental and vegetable containers. As long as they are growing, producing or blooming, they need regular care and maintenance.
    • Continue direct seeding quick maturing cool-season vegetables like lettuce, spinach, arugula, beets, kale and radishes in open areas of the garden. Keep the seed bed moist by watering at least twice a day on warm days.
    • Be ready for rapid weather and temperature swings this month. Nights in the forties can set back warm-season vegetable ripening. Light weight sheets and blankets are quick go-to covers. Invest in floating row covers for warmth and quick drying the next day. Avoid covering plastic directly over plant foliage—it transfers the cold to the plant.
    My sincere condolences to Colleen O'Connor's family, including her Denver Post family and friends. I did not know Colleen personally, but have read her many outstanding features and articles over the years.  

    "The bitterest tears shed over graves
    are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone."
    ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe ~

    Saturday, August 20, 2016

    August Insect Invasion - Japanese beetles and likable fliers

    Has it been a more noticeably buggy year in your garden?  Are you seeing more wasps, lady beetles or bumblebees this summer?  If you're answering no then perhaps you're at least seeing some hummingbirds and painted lady as well?  Then surely roly-pollies?

    Here in central Denver and the Cahill residence it seems like an insect convention is going on, almost an invasion of flying objects in just about every corner of the garden. We even have plenty of ants - some are fliers. Let me get the worst offender out of the way first (you can search for many of my Japanese beetle blog entries). JBs are still in area gardens and they are hungry and horny. I often hand pick several couples a day right in the middle of their... well you know.  If you're tired of flicking beetles into soapy jars, try my home beetle brew, it sure beats a case of tired flicking fingers (and no lingering smell from the jar of soapy, dead beetles). This home concoction has not been scientifically studied or formally researched (that I know of).
    Internet Photo
    • 1 teaspoon of cedar essential oil (sold at natural grocery stores, one ounce costs around five dollars and it will make several 32-ounce batches)
    • 3 tablespoons of soybean oil (very affordably priced) at H Mart, an Asian market in Aurora
    • Add to at least 32-35 ounces of water in a spray bottle, shake well and start spraying the little brutes.

    Spray late in the evening, even past dusk when all the bees and beneficial insects we like go home for the night. I use the far-reaching target setting and hit the beetles several times, they don't like being sprayed with oily cedar (who would). They die off at some point because I see DBs (dead beetles) on our nearby patio or in the dog water dish, eeewww. We change it often. The spray doesn't have a long lasting residual effect on the plants, but good enough to keep down a larger invasion (at least this is what I'm telling myself). I haven't noticed burned foliage on the plants I've sprayed - silver lace vines, Virginia creeper (in the neighbor's yard, we don't grow it), roses, gaura, rose of Sharon, and coneflowers. If in doubt, spray a small section of your plant, then wait a day to see if there is any damaged foliage. I've been spraying adult beetles twice a week, soon I'll be treating our turf to kill larvae, but that's another blog (soon).

    The likable fliers are really fun to watch this season.  If you read an earlier summer blog you may know that I designed and planted three new beds (still need to write the before and after blog). Anyway, I included many pollinator friendly plants, one bed is mostly Plant Select® plants. Broad-tailed hummingbirds visit at least twice a day finding the agastaches irresistible. The native, honey and bumble bees are flying, feeding and pollinating like there's no hurry to be anywhere soon.

    I recently wrote a Denver Post Punch List article on what's flying in the garden. I mentioned paper wasps and the high numbers, at least in my garden. Thank goodness they aren't aggressive stinging types like yellowjackets, but my do they nudge around on so many plants. They must really be hungry!  Sometimes I actually want to say to all the fliers, hey, I'm walking here!  Sound familiar?

    It's all good - a humming, buzzing hot summer. 

    Saturday, August 6, 2016

    Smart Pots Deliver!

    Finding quality and tasty homegrown fruits and vegetables this time of the summer is as easy as switching your cell phone to mute. And you'll want silence and no interruptions when savoring fresh green beans off the vine or handfuls of cherry tomatoes when passing by a bountiful plant. Now, right now in early August IS the reason we gardeners, plan, wait, amend, test, plant, fuss, cover and then rejoice!  If you don't grow your own vegetables, no problem.

    Every local grocery store, farmer's market, Farmshares/CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and some street intersections are selling stuff that tastes great. What's on your plate?  How are you plants faring so far this summer?  Here's my report.

    I'm in my fifth season of using Smart Pots to grow vegetables. This year I'm using them to grow tomatoes, basil and potatoes. If you don't know about smart pots then you're missing out on one of the easiest, plant and root friendly containers on the market. These porous, award winning, reusable, fabric pots (available in several sizes and three colors) practically ensure garden growing success for any green and non-green thumbed person. As well stated by one of their retailers, smart pots are the cotton shirt of the container world. Plants growing in smart pots don't get as hot - they breathe, allowing air to flow all around the container.  The plant feels comfortable, just like we feel when wearing a cotton shirt.  Roots subsequently grow larger and don't get caught up growing in circles like they do in other hard material containers. Once a root in a smart pot hits the side of the fabric, the root forms new roots that will grow up, down or side-to-side in a process known as root pruning. No circling, just more root growth! 

    Seasoned gardeners can try new plants and tuck smart pots anywhere in the landscape. New gardeners or small space gardeners will love that they can be used during the growing season and easily emptied and stored over the winter. To top off their ease of use, over watering is practically impossible with the porous nature of the container. Just use a tray or tarp underneath so soil won't seep out onto concrete or wood surfaces. If used on bare ground, no need to use anything under the smart pot.

    Hands down our "Big Boy" tomato growing in the #20 smart pot is well developed, healthy (despite some hail damaged leaves) and full of nice green fruit, just minutes away from turning red.  These tomatoes seem happy, so the person growing them is happy (me).

    I direct seed lots of basil each summer and consider it one of nature's best plants, an A+. Unfortunately my in-ground basil plants contracted downy mildew (as diagnosed by the Jefferson County Plant Diagnostic Clinic) a couple of years ago. Downy mildew is not exactly a fungus like powdery mildew, it's more of a nasty pathogen closely related to water molds.  It can be reintroduced to a garden by infected seeds, transplants or spores that happen to blow in. I'm hoping to out smart this pathogen by using smart pots to grow basil plants quickly for day to day use. I'm also harvesting often and freezing or "putting up" small batches of leaves packed in olive oil for use all winter. 

    Here's my "out smart downy mildew" procedure:

    I heavily direct seeded basil in two small raised bed smart pots. In a matter of days - fourteen or so, I was harvesting basil micro-greens that tasted out of this world delish. And as often happens with basil that is left to grow too long between harvesting, the leaves can taste a bit soapy (at least to me and one of my garden friends, and former caterer). NO soap or bitterness at all in the micro greens, plus by harvesting leaves in the 6-leaf stage, there's less chance for poor taste or succumbing to downy mildew (I hope). One other tip, I covered them with the lightest weight floating row cover when the first Japanese beetles showed up in June. The plants don't mind the cover a bit, it's allows 85% light transmission and the plants just keep growing as usual. In the next few days I'll harvest all the plants and start the process over, well before the chance of frost.

    Saturday, July 30, 2016

    Serious Pest - Emerald Ash Borer

    Please join me in your sympathy and concern for residents in Boulder County battling emerald ash borers (EAB). In the long term this serious pest won't remain in Boulder County. It's not a matter of "if" it is "when" they will reach other areas along the Front Range. 

    Photo from City of Lenexa, KS
    As serious pests, the harm they are causing to ash trees is devastating, but it is even more than that. Their presence leaves a sense of hopelessness and loss because there is no stopping it. Once infested, EAB can kill an untreated ash tree in 3-5 years. The emerald ash borer spreads easily from tree to tree - they can fly a half mile. They also spread by infested nursery stock, or firewood carried into uninfested areas. Boulder County has a quarantine on moving any ash wood out of quarantined areas.

    Emerald ash borers are silent yet deadly to its host - all ash trees in the fraxinus genus. This includes the attractive autumn purple ash tree that causes driver double takes each autumn. It has been planted by many homeowners seeking and finding great satisfaction with brilliant fall red to purple leaf color. Finding replacement trees with equally fine fall color is possible, but it won't be easy saying good bye to these once easy-care trees. Emerald ash borers do not infest mountain ash trees which are in the sorbus genus. 

    Emerald ash borer was first found in 2002 in southeastern Michigan and is now in 27 states plus parts of Ontario and Quebec Canada.  It was found in the City of Boulder in September of 2013.  It is considered the most destructive forest pest in North America, causing millions of ash tree death - those numbers will rise as the insect spreads to new areas, states and provinces. Follow the spread of EAB on this timeline.

    Adult borers emerge from spring to summer to feed on leaves, mate and lay eggs in crevices and cracks of ash tree trunks. Eggs hatch in about two weeks, then the new larvae tunnel through the bark into the cambial region of the tree - this is the thin layer of cells just inside the trunk that grows wider each year.  The larvae feed on the sugars in the phloem (inner bark) of the tree, and long term the feeding causes the tree to weaken and eventually die. Adults are most active in the heat and sun from mid-day to early evening.  Males live for about a month, females up to two months and lay from 50 to 150 eggs during this time.

    Tree damage is most noticeable on the main upper limbs and large branches.  Look for thinning in the crown of the tree and branches with yellow leaves. Sucker growth on limbs and trunks are indicators. Woodpecker activity is another sign of EAB presence, they peck and leave light colored patches of bark as they feed on larvae. The tell-tale D-shaped exit holes on ash trees are more visible proof of an EAB invasion. The outer sapwood of an infested tree (not visible from the outside) will reveal etched larvae galleries or s-shaped tunnels.

    EAB infested trees Boulder, CO summer 2014

    Tree industry professionals, City and State agencies and universities are doing all they can to educate the public on identifying ash trees, spotting the insect as an adult or damage left by the tunneling larvae. And most important in the education process are the spray or injection options for treating valuable ash trees and planting recommendations for replacing or adding new trees near ash trees. 

    Read all about these options at Be a Smart Ash. Denver residents are eligible for free replacement trees in public right-a-ways, click here for more information - apply for a tree.  At only 1/2 inch long and 1/8th inch wide, Emerald ash borers have generated a tremendous amount of time, attention and dollars. 

    D-Shaped Exit Hole
    The City of Denver and surrounding counties have done an exceptional job in getting ready for the eventual arrival of EAB with monitoring and planning strategies. Click on any of the links below for additional information. 

    Be a Smart Ash 

    City of Denver Trees and Natural Resources 

    Colorado Department of Agriculture 

    City of Boulder 

    Emerald Ash Borer Information Network