Friday, December 23, 2016

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

There's Still Time!

If you're in the last minute or don't know what perfect gift to give the gardener in your life camp, fret no more. May I suggest the gift of education. 
Denver and the Front Range is very fortunate in having many free or low cost outlets for garden classes and seminars. Below is a list with links that I've put together for ones that I know of as of right now - I'll refresh the list (and re-post) the first of the New Year. Don't forget botanic garden memberships or plant societies, consider giving them a year's membership to meet other gardeners. Obviously if you don't reside in this area, check out what's offered in your neck of the woods.  


Jefferson County Beginning Vegetable Gardening Symposium - January 28, 2017

Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants Conference February 11, 2017

High Plains Landscape Workshop March 4, 2017 

Denver Rose Society Educational SymROSEium April 1, 2017

Butterfly Pavilion Westminster

Denver Botanic Gardens
The Gardens on Spring Creek  Ft. Collins

The Hudson Gardens  Littleton

Pikes Peak Urban Gardens Colorado Springs

AREA GARDEN CENTERS:  too numerous to mention, so call around or check their websites or Facebook for their 2017 classes.


Colorado Cactus and Succulent Society
Colorado Native Plant Society
Colorado Water Garden Society
Denver Field Ornithologists
Denver Orchid Society
Denver Rose Society
Front Range Organic Gardeners
Ikebana Denver Chapter
Rocky Mountain African Violet Council
Rocky Mountain Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society 
Rocky Mountain Koi Club
Rocky Mountain Unit of The Herb Society of America

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Farewell Gardening Season 2016

This year is one for the books, not just for gardening but for world and national events. Since this is a gardening blog I won't attempt to write about the intense election year that just took place. I just hope you agree with me that being out the garden is the place to get away from it all.

Last year my end of the year garden blog dealt with two areas - weather and insects. In 2015 we had too much rain and too many Japanese beetles. In 2016 we had less of the former and more of the latter. Let's visit some of the vegetable tales first, then a few comments about the landscape. I'm Japanese beetled out (for now), but you can read all about them starting here - Japanese beetles.

Without even looking up the exact rain totals for 2016, we were dry most of the summer and all through the fall. The living proof in my garden was the potato crop. In '14 and '15 they were more than content growing in the cool, moist temperatures, the yields were outstanding, the taste beyond any super market spud. This year I had to move them out of the baking hot raised bed garden area to the coolest part of the landscape with afternoon shade. I grew them in Smart Pots so moving them was the easy part, keeping them watered almost every day got tiresome and I could tell by looking at them that they just weren't liking the unrelenting heat. You'd think the tomatoes would be just the opposite and love the hot days, nope, not them either.

Some years tomatoes are more fussy than a three month old during the dinner hour. Instead of crying, a tomato will quickly show you what's bothering it. Temperatures over ninety degrees, especially for several days on end reduce flowers from forming and if they do flower, many of them simply dry up and drop off the vine. Fuss, fuss, and more fuss, I had lots of dropped tomato blossoms last summer. Denver was mostly in the nineties from June 9th into September, so their fuss quotient was over and beyond.
Throw in just one night of cool temperatures (less than fifty-five) and tomatoes sulk, often taking several days to resume proper growth, this happened more than once in mid-late August. On the 19th it went down to 51 for a couple of nights, then as low as 49 on August 25th. And no, I didn't pull out the cover cloths for protection (should have). It pretty much stayed in the mid-fifties at night from late August through September with a few warmer nights here and there. As days got shorter in to the fall, the harvest, which should have been robust was just so-so. Now this was my garden in central Denver and I realize there are always exceptions or gardeners who say they had a great tomato season. They are the ones right now enjoying their home canned stewed tomatoes or sauce. Not me, I'm back to store bought 😪.

Tomatoes appreciate fertilizer during their fruiting period, but too much will lead to more foliage growth and less fruiting, too little fertilizer is an invitation for early blight. This year I didn't have early blight, but I did have tomato spotted wilt virus which is very difficult to prevent, plus there's no cure once the plant is infected. Pulling and not composting the diseased plant is the only option.  

A thrip insect carries and spreads the fungal disease when they take up residence in your tomato's leaf tissue. These guys (thrips) can be found on many different weeds in the garden and move to tomatoes or other night shade vegetables. They can also hitch hike home from garden center plants. Read all about their life cycle from this CSU Fact Sheet. The plant symptoms of TSWV look much like other fungal or nutrient problems, including bronzed or spotted leaves, tip die back and a general lack of vigor, the fruits may become mottled or develop ring patterns. I lost four tomato plants to TWSV, I got a firm diagnosis from the Jefferson County Plant Diagnostic Clinic.

Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus
Next year I vow to purchase certified virus-free tomato seeds and grow my own plants or look for garden center varieties that are resistant to TSWV (not easy to find, your best bet is a reputable independent garden center, you may not find labeled virus-free vegetable plants in box stores). I also try to keep the garden area and near the alley fence weed free, but no doubt the weeds up and down the alley off our property may be harboring thrips. 

Basil veil over Smart Pot to keep Japanese beetles off!  It worked!

The basil crop was outstanding this year, no more downy mildew issues at all, the key was growing them in Smart Pots and not directly in the ground. I was able to seed three successive crops and used the leaves in salads, sandwiches and pesto with plenty left to chop, process with oil and freeze. 🙌 

I didn't plant squash this year after the garlic harvest, instead I planted a cover crop to improve the soil tilth and renew the fertility in two of the raised beds.

It was an average year for peppers and eggplant, I think the excessive heat and possible water issues (not enough) may have hurt them, but more than that I noticed that the roots really didn't reach out much in the soil. My hunch is that I just didn't score the compacted roots as well as they should have been cut. I checked out the root ball when I pulled the plants, sort of a visual root autopsy. The plants were small overall, another sign they just weren't growing well. My fault, my bad, thank goodness there's always next year!  

Final Swiss chard and lettuce harvest December 1, 2016
I skipped the early spring cool-season planting of the leafy crops and broccoli, but the August fall crop was a boom with several cut and grow again opportunities. In fact, the lettuce and Swiss chard finally pooped out or honestly, I threw in the trowel just a few weeks ago in early December. 😊

As for the ornamentals and rest of the landscape, despite a couple months of higher than average water use I have no complaints. I attribute the water use on establishing new plantings from the house build (especially the trees). In time that will even out and with the small turf area and water thrifty plantings, I look forward to much lower water bills. In earlier blogs I wrote about the new planting beds, I'll keep you posted on how they fill in over time.
Long Lasting Fall Colors and Textures
This past recent fall was visually delightful - the autumn colors were prominent and long lasting. It also seemed like the fruits and seedheads on shrubs, hawthorns, crab apples and many more plants held on for weeks, which only added to the orange, red and purple fall color parade. 

Winter has finally arrived in the Denver area (the mountains are getting tons of the white stuff, so come on out and ski). Snow has been spotty along the Front Range so far - we'll welcome any moisture to replenish our dry soils. Warm days in the 50s seem to sneak in here and there between the Canadian freeze events that have been seeping in to Colorado. Take advantage of the dry days above 40 degrees to water unfrozen new plantings and south facing areas of the landscape. After you drain the hoses, head inside for a warm cup of (your choice) and peruse the 2017 garden catalogs. Dog ear the pages or bookmark the company on your toolbar. Place your orders soon but save some dollars and support your local garden retailer. Better yet, stroll on in and get some seeds or other garden supplies. Breathe in the moist air and dream.....of you know what......spring. 😎

Fall Fruit was AWESOME in 2016

Friday, December 2, 2016

More Greenery Please

December is the month it truly sinks in that the landscape is mostly motionless shades of brown and grey. Your view outside may seem more lively if you have conifers to draw attention away from the dormant plants. Note to self - if outdoor greenery is in short supply plant more evergreens next spring. And throw in some ornamental grasses and shrubs that add not only texture, color and movement, but some contour and good hiding places for birds to hang out...keep a close eye on those cats!

Enduring winter isn't all bad, we know we have to have cold months to get to spring, plus we can get our green fix in other ways - you just need to look around for greenery in the form of freebies or low cost DIY tree cutting or shopping around. Release your creativity side even if you don't have the natural knack, I sure don't. Here's what I do...

Internet Photo from
I look for free or low cost greenery at the Christmas tree lots that spring up immediately after Thanksgiving. They usually have a bin of excess branches that were cut to shape the tree. You will mostly find Frasier or Noble fir branches, but if you call around, you might find other types of conifers.

If you get a Colorado permit to cut your own Christmas tree in state and national forests, you get up to five permits per person ($10.00 each permit) so you'll have plenty of greens for use back at home. The permits are for trees, so use one of the permits for an extra tree that can be cut up into branches. Garden centers, grocery stores and box stores also carry bundled greens for use in all kinds of indoor and outdoor decorating - wreaths, boughs, swags and winter floral arrangements. 
Internet Photo from

So you've got your greens, now what?  First of all, realistically they'll only last a few weeks after Christmas unless you're diligent about spritzing with water or using anti-desiccant commercial sprays. It's Colorado after all, home of mostly year round fifteen percent humidity. Better add to your list another tube of moisturizer.

Here are some greenery tips - 
  • For holiday cheer deck the table setting, front door, mantle and all through the house with fresh greenery (artificial works too, pine fragrance sold separately).
  • There are many evergreens to choose from, but the best scents come from Scotch pines, Balsam, Douglas and Frasier firs. Stay away from white spruce, their needles don't smell nice when crushed. The aroma from eastern red cedar can't be beat, but these Christmas trees generally aren't sold in our area.
  • Before you decorate with greenery first get them well hydrated - fill a bucket with room-temperature, non-softened water to hold the greens.
  • With a hand pruner make diagonal cuts through the stems, and then using a small hammer gently crush the exposed end, this will help with water uptake.
  • Set the stems back in the water for a few hours before making a wreath, swag or boughs to hang, then decorate. You'll need twine or wire to attach branches, plus bows, ornaments and any other holiday adornments.  
  • Supplement arrangements inside or out with juniper, eucalyptus, lavender sprays, rosemary cuttings, twigs and branches, dried fruits, dried flowers and pine cones. Use artificial materials or flowers to fill in if less fresh greenery is available. The possibilities are many, just check on Pinterest or Houzz for thousands of ideas. And don't forget the lights.
  • Using greenery and other seasonal props in outside containers is a festive way to celebrate the holidays and spark up dreary empty pots. I recommend removing spent annuals and some soil well before the soil freezes so it's easier to fill and decorate. If the outdoor containers are frozen solid, then just layer in the greenery or if there's room drop in a greenery pot that was assembled indoors.
  • Caution on clay or glazed outdoor containers. Eventually they may crack from the Colorado freeze thaw cycles, but if you are leaving them outside anyway and not covering them or elevating them from direct cold from the ground, then by all means give them a pop of winter decor. Plastic, concrete and metal containers should weather just fine.
Winter Outdoor Container Ideas -

Assorted Layered Greenery Urn

Curly Willow, Spruce Branches and Ilex

Cardinal Dogwood, Spruce and Ilex

Internet Photo from Pinterest
Simple Outdoor Design with Birch, Greens and Pine Cones from Pinterest

Snow on Curly Willow and Spruce Greenery

 Wishing you a joyous holiday season. I'll return for a few more blogs before year's end.