Sunday, March 19, 2017

Should we Toss in some Seeds?

On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the most concerned, I'd say many gardeners are at an eleven with worry over the lack of water this winter. Not to make light of this situation, but "eleven" reminds me of a famous movie scene from Spinal Tap - These go to 11.

There's not a thing we can do about warm, dry weather except pull out the hoses and water the most vulnerable dry soil areas of the landscape - new tree plantings, new anything that was planted last summer or fall and don't forget south and west facing lawns. I'm just as focused on the birds, they seem parched and SO thankful when I fill up the saucer on the top of the bird bath each day with fresh water. The saucer is much easier to deal with than frozen water in the concrete bird bath. 
One easy way to keep plants and soil cool is to add more mulch. A thicker layer of mulch will keep beds colder longer. This was reinforced earlier today in the vegetable garden when I pulled back a thick layer of mulch on one of the raised beds to toss in some spinach and radish seeds.

Not only was the soil cold to the touch, but areas were still thawing out and wet. The worms and centipedes were having a party under the darkness of the blanket of packed leaves and grass tucked over them last fall. They didn't seem too happy to be exposed to light, but in good stride they just wiggled at me without a blink and took a dive downward. By the time I grabbed my camera for a still shot most of them had retreated.  


By the reading on my soil thermometer it's still too cold for direct seeding (35-40 degrees minimum for the most hardy cool season vegetables). The bed where I just pulled back the mulch read 24 degrees at only a depth of two inches. In contrast, a close by unmulched raised bed that is fully exposed to the sun with a mostly decomposed fall cover crop was 30 degrees. I better wait to toss in the seeds, but I can cover the area in plastic to warm it up and who knows, if this summer weather continues I might be serving Easter egg radishes by Easter!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Warm Season Vegetable Seeding Chart

Tomato seedling about to get potted up to next size
Below is the fourth in a series of seeding charts. This one is for warm season vegetables. Most indoor seeded warm season crops need 6-8 weeks to grow to transplant size prior to getting moved outside and getting acclimated to life in your real world garden or container - called hardening off. Peppers and eggplant need a couple more weeks so can them started soon (like yesterday).
Also notice that some vegetables can be directly seeded in the ground (green beans, corn, squash) - well after the last spring frost when soils and temperatures have warmed up. So if you don't have seeds purchased for May planting, get going!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Herb Seeding and Growing Chart

The spice rack is getting lighter with the completion of the herb seeding chart. If you're reading this for the first time, in an earlier blog I wrote about my overdue project to complete five direct seeding and transplanting charts for gardeners in the Rocky Mountain region, zone 5ish. Instead of front burner or back burner intentions, the charts had been placed further back - to the spice rack. No more! Below is the herb seeding and planting chart (preceeded by the ornamental annual and cool season vegetable charts). The next chart will be for warm season vegetables.

Since seeding, transplanting or propagating plant procedures are varied, this is my best attempt to get you pointed in the right direction. The chart doesn't include every herb that may grow here or harder to find interesting herbs like the wild cinnamon tree.
Some of the herbs are not easily seeded, so in those cases just purchase a plant from your local garden center. A plant like basil can be easily seeded indoors, then transplanted out in the garden when it warms up in late May or June. Basil can also be purchased as a plant and put in the ground or containers. So it's your garden, have fun seeding or planting or both. For sure have a great time using the herbs in the kitchen, in bouquets or whatever use you have in mind. I'd still like to master the art of garlic braiding, maybe this year.

For one of the best herb plant sales each spring, do not miss the sale hosted by the Front Range Organic Gardeners and the The Herb Society of America - Rocky Mountain Unit.This year's date is May 20, 9:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Denver Presbytery Church, 1710 S. Grant.   


Friday, February 17, 2017

Cool Season Vegetable Seeding and Transplanting

The indoor seeding season has begun for ornamental annuals that need longer than eight weeks to grow to transplant size. Refer to the planting chart for several ornamental annuals on this recent blog - Seeding and Transplanting Ornamental Annuals.

It's also time to direct seed indoors certain cool season vegetables, especially if you're using cold frames for earlier planting in March. Check out the planting chart below.
For newbies to Colorado there are three overlapping seasons to plant outdoors.
  • The first cool season planting period ranges anywhere from March to the middle of May. These include cool weather loving vegetables like spinach, peas and beets and cool season annuals like pansy, calendula and sweet peas. 
  • The warm season window is anywhere from mid-May to the first of July and includes vegetables like - tomatoes, peppers, squash and corn, herbs like basil, plus annuals - petunias, marigolds, sunflowers and cosmos. 
  • Hardy perennials, shrubs and trees can be planted during the warm season period and all the way to early fall. The exception is to try to avoid planting when temperatures are extremely warm (85+). It can be done, but pay close attention to watering and providing some shade for a few weeks. 
  • Exceptions - bare root roses, plus bare root trees and shrubs can be planted almost anytime the soil is workable (not too wet) from March to late April or so.
  • Mid-summer is when the third season planting window begins - mostly cool season vegetables that mature in sixty days or less and warm season crops that also have a shorter maturity date like summer squash, okra and basil.  
Keep in mind that cool season direct seeding or transplanting is all dependent on the weather - if snow is on the ground or it's raining or snowing from March to late May, the cool season planting window may either be delayed or skipped. Using tunnels, row covers and cloches are recommended if the weather isn't cooperating with your planting plans.   

Knowing the last spring frost dates and planting windows will help you plan your schedule for seed purchases (don't delay much longer) and indoor seeding for planting during the correct window - cool or warm season. 

The timing and planting information on seed packets vary per company. Some mention soil temperatures or map zones as guides to direct seed outdoors, or a certain number of days from frost dates to start seeds indoors. Familiarize yourself with the seed packet information. Check out this helpful article - Garden Primer How to Read a Seed Packet. I'm suggesting to use May 15 as the probable final spring frost date, but we know not to bet the house on that date. In 2007 the last spring frost was June 8.  

If you miss the window to start your seeds indoors, you can always purchase cool season transplants at garden centers starting in late winter into spring, and later in the spring for warm season plants. 

Warm season seeds are generally started indoors in April for late May transplanting. I'll post the warm season and herb planting charts soon.

Please be aware that some cool season vegetables prefer being directly seeded outside in soil and not started inside, like arugula and other greens. Whereas some vegetables can be seeded indoors for transplanting later outdoors or directly seeded outside, like kohlrabi. Some vegetables are perennial, so chose your site carefully because they won't like being moved. Click here for early - soil preparation.

Cool Season Vegetable Seeding and Transplanting Chart
 (a few herbs are included): 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Dry Enough For You?

Repeating this timely blog from three years ago - with a few revisions.

Few do it on a regular basis. More people need to do it on warm days. I'm not talking about taking a walk on a pleasant sixty-degree winter day. I'm referring to giving your trees and landscape a much needed winter drink of water.

In the Denver area we've had a trace of precipitation the past several weeks. We've broken three temperature records in the past six days. Last Friday we hit 80 degrees! You might be thinking because its winter there's no need to react to warm temperatures or the lack of moisture...right?  Please don't assume or guess that your landscape isn't dry without physically checking. Grab your longest screw driver and poke it down in to the ground through the mulch, the grass and especially on sunny south, west or southwest facing areas. Check anywhere the soil isn't frozen. If it doesn't go down easily, then you're dry, if you need to use most of your weight to get it down, then you're parched.

Winter watering is one of the best things you can do for your landscape. On-going or prolonged dry plant roots in the winter can lead to root damage, death or reduced plant vigor. 

During the middle part of the day when temperatures are over forty degrees, set up your sprinkler and move it around the drip line (outer branch tips) of trees or close to the trunk if the tree is new or young. 

I make it super easy on myself and set the timer and move the sprinkler every 15 to 20 minutes or so. Circle back and repeat the same spots (soak and cycle) if the area is severely dry. Soak and cycle helps the water soak down avoiding water waste and run-off. 
If you want to use the deep root soil needle then plan on an hour or more of hands-on time for large trees and other areas. Insert the soil needle down no more than a foot or eight inches (that's where most of the roots are located) and let it run five or so minutes in each spot, you'll know when the area is saturated. Move it every five to eight feet around the tree. Don't forget the shrubs too.

You can also use a soaker-hose, some call them weeping hoses and extend it around the tree drip line (or closer for new trees). Make sure the water pressure is low so it soaks downward and not up and misting the air. Leave it in place until the screw driver goes down easily (check after thirty minutes), you may need to soak and cycle using the soaker if the area is super dry. Keep in mind that soaker-hoses aren't as easy to place around the tree when the hose is cold from being in your shed or garage, use some stakes to keep it in place. 

Check your landscape every four to six weeks if there's a dry weather pattern. 

If you are growing garlic that was planted last fall they probably need a drink too, check them! 

After watering you still have time for that winter walk. 

Read more from CSU Extension - Fall and Winter Watering