Monday, December 28, 2015

Goodbye Gardening Season 2015

You're probably reading many year in review articles and blogs this week. Top ten movies, Ten Strangest Animal Discoveries, and top Adele songs (they pretty much all sound the same, but I'm still a fan). Let me add my two cents and coincidentally I have two central observations about the gardening season of 2015. 

June 7.5 inches
Rain and Japanese beetles.  In my yard it rained Japanese beetles in July and August. "Holy Known Unknown Flying Objects!!"  There's no way of knowing the Japanese beetle totals, maybe, definitely, in the hundreds.

Colorado averages between fourteen and fifteen inches of precipitation a year. Putting that in how little that amount is perspective, Massachusetts receives forty-seven. The weather service measures moisture amounts at Denver International Airport, the totals in my yard are usually higher. In 2015, Denver received 18.22 total inches of precipitation, that's through 12/27. The "head scratching, can't believe this is happening rain months" were May and June. 

In May we received a little over five inches and in June close to seven and a half.  The math is easy, we received a boatload of precip. in the prime time spring planting window. As a result my tomatoes went in the ground around July 4th about the same time I harvested garlic. On the flip side, the cool-season vegetables were in heaven with the lower temperatures and wet weather - broccoli, lettuce, spinach, potatoes and kale sailed through to the dinner plate deliciously fine.  

And wouldn't you know, the faucet quit flowing in August and most of the fall season. At least it wasn't a repeat of November 2014's freeze event, so plants benefited from the normal gradual hardening off period. By the way, my plant losses weren't too bad from the '14 flash freeze, mostly newly planted perennials and two Rose of Sharon trees that I'm still watching for recovery.

Fall was simply spectacular. Not only did roses rally for another bloom cycle (they really missed the spring season), but late summer thrillers performed on cue. Coneflowers, penstemons, monarda, echinops, lavender, and asters....the list is too long to mention all of them. Trees enjoyed a long period to show off their fall glory before we all turned our thoughts to what side dishes to prepare for Thanksgiving.    

And now we're in the chill of late December and looking forward to what She'll throw at us next. We know for sure that the days are lengthening and the trowel beckons. 

Japanese Beetles
Oh...those darn Japanese beetles. I will not swear in my writing, but curse words are spot on to describe their presence in one's yard. The first JB I spotted was on a patio container 'Rosa Bianca' eggplant in late June.  Then they gathered to stay, play and eat on the fence of silver lace vines, which are the collective veil of privacy from the alley to our backyard. They had to go!  I tried the easy way first - flicking them in to a soapy jar of water, but the numbers were too great and I couldn't easily reach them on top of the vines.  I mixed up some organic BioNEEM® which mildly discouraged them. Then I cried and commiserated with other area gardeners who were battling them as much or more than me.  Then we all cried as the heat of August kicked in when their eating and mating season moved into fifth gear....turbo gear!  I learned about a biological (organic) product that works on both adult beetles and their larvae.  It contains the active ingredient Btg. It was only available from one mail order supply company.  I'm hoping it has a wider distribution next summer.  I wrote several blogs about Japanese beetles and control options (including Btg) and protocols a few months ago. More - Japanese beetles  

Japanese Beetles on Roses
Japanese beetles are not only incorrigible insects, they are intrusive, invasive and insensitive to our summer garden pleasure! To borrow some words from Dr. Seuss and Mr. Grinch...they stink-stank-stunk!

At the end of each garden year there isn't a downside, at least in my book.  What happened happened. The tomatoes finally ripened and we enjoyed several warm fall evenings on the patio. Gardeners will collectively hit the ground running with new hope and vigor in a few months.  In the meantime I'll read up on the latest plant introductions while Adele is playing in the background.  

Happy New Year!  

Thank You for Reading My Blog and Denver Post Punch Lists!  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Seasonal Delights

Plant Select Tennesse Purple Coneflower
This time of year receiving holiday cards and letters, plus scrolling through Facebook is a cheery get away from the negative zone. Not the Negative Zone parallel universe a la Marvel Comics. I mean the twenty-four hour negative news cycle which mostly includes Hollywood bawdiness and divisive political mudslinging.

No more Debbie Downer pessimism, it's almost Christmas!

Checking out what family and friends are baking, making and photographing is downright positive, smile inducing and hopeful. Trying not to sound too cliche-ish, but wouldn't it be nice to have that feeling all year?!

My favorite Facebook postings are anything plant related, followed by the Santa and kid pictures, along with those whirlwind recipes that show how to bake one-bite cinnamon rolls or chocolate covered popcorn in thirty-seconds.  And the animal videos that make you laugh out loud or cry in less than five seconds, talk about a quick emotional response! They equal the immediate reach for a tissue Budweiser Clydesdale commercials from the Super Bowl. Yea, some would call the time spent on FB a waste, I call it "five good minutes." I stole that title from an ESPN sports program segment that my husband often watches.

Enjoy the season. The bills arrive in January, but spring is just a few weeks away.

Some of my favorite photos and video links from 2015 -

Holiday Popcorn

A Thanksgiving Miracle - SNL

Freshpet Holiday Feast (from '14, still a winner) 

Garlic doesn't mind the snow!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

It Was a Good Ride

Part of life is letting go of things that have served their purpose, often there is an emotional component - happiness or more often, sadness.  My most recent "letting go" experience happened a few days ago. It was sad. My twenty-year-old ownership of my 1994 Ford Aerostar minivan ended.   

Simply and economically it was time to get rid of this very fond reminder of my single career days motoring up and down the interstate highways and back roads of the Rocky Mountain West. I was a manufacturer's representative for several years prior to meeting my husband and later closing my business and "getting off the road."  My career required lots of travel, mostly by driving to store owners from Las Cruces, NM to Havre, MT"The Van" as we've always called it, was not only my ride, it was my home away office, suitcase and connection to the latest news at the top of the hour by radio.  It had no CD player, GPS and came equipped with only one airbag. Back in those days all you needed was cruise control and a fuzz buster, I had both! 

Time has flown by and seeing "the van" get towed away was the end of many chapters in a long book.  By the way, it still drove okay, but the charity Step 13 sent the tow truck anyway

This story doesn't have much to do with gardening, although I used the van often over the years to haul plants, bags of mulch, expanded shale and large item garden do dads. We often lent it to neighbors and friends to help with their moves. I drove the van to northern Idaho in 1996 to get married, then on to Jackson Hole and Jenny Lake Lodge for our honeymoon. My sister and I had some unforgettable times driving the van through Phoenix on our way to meet up with our parents who wintered in the area in their 80s-era Fleetwood Bounder motorhome And the most memorable drive was in '01 when I met and picked up our first dog Tallie. She was close to six years old and needed a new home which we lovingly provided until she was fifteen.  She rode calmly on the bench seat behind me while I nervously steered us both back to a new life.  

So long dear van....your aerodynamic slope-nosed design was no longer in favor or production after 1997. Ford Motor Company moved on to the Windstar, then the Freestar and currently the Ford Transit Connect.  

We're not in the market for a replacement, we'll make due with our compact station wagon hatchback. I'll miss the van more than ever next time I need to move some large rocks.  :'(


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What's Next Part II (after Thanksgiving)

With a blink Thanksgiving came and went.  Really, it's over?  Well, then before we know it December holidays may come and go just as quickly. And you know what the New Year means...countdown to spring!  So what's next?
It's early December and every time you enter the garden center or grocery store you're first greeted with displays and rows of amazing, beautiful winter flower bouquets, poinsettias, rosemary, and Norfolk pine plants. And there's winterberries, fresh greenery, Christmas cactus and orchids, oh my!  Goodness, there's more red, white and green staring you in the face then the over the top Santa display at the nearby shopping mall. You're torn whether to splurge on one of these seasonal splendors or hold tight to your budget and continue walking staight to the bread aisle. You can't help but dream about guests walking into your aromatic cinnamon spiced holiday party oohing and aahing over the house filled with dazzling seasonal floral eye candy. Back to reality, should you make a purchase, that's your call...I'm still thinking about going back for the blue-dyed poinsettia. 

If you buy, choose a day when the outside temperature is above 50 degrees to cart home your holiday treasure.  And cover it with plastic bags from the store or bring your own box to keep the cold and wind out. 

Hopefully your plant came with a tag which should give you basic care instructions.  Often I take a photo of the tag just in case it gets tossed with all the foil or decorations. 

When you first get home, carefully unwrap your plant and if foiled, cut some holes in the bottom of the foil and then place the plant on top of a tray so water will freely drain. Check for flying gnats and if present isolate the plant until they are taken care of.  My recommendation is to break off small pieces from your outdoor water feature mosquito dunks and place on top of the soil, once watered in the larvae will be killed (the dunk contains "Bt," a very safe biological product to use). More - fungus gnats  

Links with care instructions for some popular holiday plants. 

Christmas Cactus
Christmas Trees 
Norfolk Island Pine 
European Cypress and Lemon Cypress Potted Plants 
Cut Flowers 

Wishing you a happy, healthy December holiday season. May it slow down just a tad so you can enjoy more time with your guests. After they are gone, sit down with a 2016 seed catalog and dream of you know what!