Saturday, May 28, 2016

It's Go Time in the Garden!

Grass Mulched Pepper Plants
May 28, 2016 Denver Post Punch List

Memorial Day weekend means the planting and outdoor garden season is officially in full swing. This summer, make it a family affair. Shop, plant and mow are the big three to-dos, but kick up the fun by adding outdoor lights around the patio and comfortable seating. It’s finally time to celebrate the arrival of rain barrels. Get yours soon.  Continue reading...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

NEW to Colorado or NEW to Gardening

Herbs growing in a wooden box, Vail, CO
May 21, 2016 Denver Post Punch List

New to Colorado or new to gardening and want to plant vegetables or flowers for the first time?  The outdoor gardening season is here and it's a cinch to get started.  From gardening in containers on a patio to breaking new ground, the pleasing fruits and flowers of your labor will make it a great summer.  Continue reading...

Saturday, May 14, 2016

What to do with Weeds and No Fail Tomato Planting

Weeds and grass will grow under, over and through landscape fabric

May 14, 2016 Denver Post Punch List
Weeds are annoying. Exceptions are the culinary weeds like dandelions, purslane and lamb’s quarter, which happen to be delightfully edible when young and not sprayed with herbicides.  Continue reading...  

Vegetable transplants, mainly tomatoes, can get leggy.  This means tall gaps between the leaves making it weak and easy to fall over.  It often happens when they are grown for too long in the garden center or indoors under lights. As long as the plant is healthy they are okay to purchase and plant.  To compensate for the leggyness and prevent being whipped about in the wind, plant them deeply.  Continue reading...

Cut off lower tomato leaves before planting deeply

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Plant Failer, or Admitting Plant Failure and What to do

Garden landscape design is a special skill.  Personally I know lots of plants and how to grow them, but to put them together in a pleasing design that looks good through the growing season isn't a skill that comes to me naturally. There is higher education training and landscape certificates for this profession and I greatly respect anyone who puts out a shingle and is doing quality work.  I try to use a designer anytime it works within the budget and recommend others do the same. Asking a garden friend with a good eye for design and plant knowledge is also recommended.  It's a nice gesture to offer to pay for a friend's advice or treat them to a special meal or bottle of wine. 

What should you do with areas in the landscape that need a facelift or a few minor adjustments? Maybe some plants haven't performed to your expectations, or they are the wrong plant in the wrong place, or worse the plant has the "I don't like you, so won't grow for you either" blues. That's a reach, plants generally don't get personal.  Most likely it is a sun issue (too much or too little) or soil problem (fertility or drainage) which explains why the plant is not acting correctly, i.e. not growing.  The question is - do you seek help from a professional, the talented friend or do it yourself? 

I'm going to go solo and design an area in our landscape that is way underperforming. Four years ago I planted several of the same hardy shrub roses that were supposed to form a nice size hedge, at least that's what I asked the plants to do.  I spaced them close enough together to give them room to grow and establish, yet intermingle and form a growing unit that would be spectacular in bloom, plus double as a living fence to keep Ferris in check.  I extensively researched the type, size and color of roses that I wanted and ended up ordering them online.  That might have been mistake one. They arrived in planting tubes which are supposed to be potted up for a season for better root establishment.  It said that right on the planting instructions in the box, but I figured with good soil preparation and the ideal east-facing location that I'd take a chance and go for it.  Plus I phoned the company and they said people often plant the tubes with excellent success, yeah, those customers must live in California  where roses grow so well they have a parade named in their honor!

Gorgeous rose and color on the few that bloomed!
In the ground they went, all nine of them.  I lost two roses after the first year. Maybe not enough mulch for their first winter?  I was able to replace them the next spring.  One died the following year and then I received an email saying the company was going out of business. They had one of my variety left, so I ordered and paid as much on shipping as the cost of the plant.  I'm sure they knew people wanted certain varieties and they'd be willing to pay the cost, who can blame them. I paid without batting an eye.

That's not a typo you see in the name, it is 'Kordes' Brillant,' a pretty orange/red shrub rose that is supposed to get five feet tall and wide. "Not bloody likely!"  And to top off my plant death frustration, the plants simply did not grow well or even attempt to form a hedge, heck they didn't even grow like a shrub rose!  I got a cane here or there, some flowered, but for the most part they looked a Charlie Brown group of sad roses (the photo tells the story).  

'Brillant' roses with creeping baby's breath groundcover
I won't lie, it's rather embarrassing to admit my rose growing failure (I am an active member in good standing with the Denver Rose Society after all).  But four years is long enough for plants to sink or swim. So as they say in our group "shovel prune" the rose if not performing (or have reverted to Dr. Huey, that's a blog for another time).  I have some replacement plant ideas in mind, but need to put them on paper and get to the garden centers soon and start planting.  I'll keep you posted on my progress.  Or just check back in another four years to see how the bed is coming along.  


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Moms are Special

This is a gardening blog, and it is close to Mother's day, so I will attempt to tie the two together.  Actually that's pretty easy to do since my Mother has probably been gardening since she learned to walk back in 1925.  Born forty-five miles east of Billings, Montana, near the Crow Indian Reservation, my Mom was the last child of ten born to Emma and Sherman, my grandparents. She lived through the Great Depression.  In those tough times my grandfather would be one of many lined up near closing time at the local grocery store on Saturday night to get first dibs on the price reduced overripe fruit.  He'd bring it straight home where my grandmother, along with my Mom and my aunts, would work for as long as it would take to can, or "put up," the almost spent fruit. To this day, my Mom's canned peaches are almost worth pretending to be sick for because she'll always open a can of her delicious peaches when you're feeling down and out.
Mom with one of my brothers

My mom was raised in a family that worked hard. Everyone was expected to contribute.  What she learned in her humble upbringing she practiced all her life as a professional nurse, wife, mother and homemaker.  Along the way she learned to be tough, not in a bad mean spirited or grade school name calling way, but tough where she could take pain and inconvenience without one complaint.  Which leads me to my most recent story of her toughness.

First. She still lives in the same home that I grew up in from fourth grade through college. My Dad has been gone for ten years this June.  She still drives, shops for groceries, goes to Shiloh Methodist Church every Sunday and gardens, albeit in a smaller plot. She just can't manage the whole half side of the garage garden space anymore.  So my brother plowed under her strawberry patch, and that's where she plants a few onions, radishes and spinach early in the season, and later - tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.  She told me last week when I called to verify her potato planting secrets that she misses planting peas and potatoes because they are her favorite dish around the fourth of July - creamed peas and potatoes, yes, I can taste them at the mere mention.

So about ten days ago she returned from the store and then parked and closed the garage door - all good.  When she retrieved the bag of dog food from the car trunk, she accidentally closed the trunk on the tip of her left thumb.  Okay, I'll pause while you cringe and scream aloud.  So, if you're me, and you live five hundred miles away and she's telling you what happened, how do you react?  I'm still reacting just writing it down and sharing it with the world.  Yikes, ouch, darn, s-word, another four letter word, damn and blast (what they say in the UK) and you fill in the rest.  She kept going and told me the rest of the story, which is that she got her thumb out (somehow) by just moving and wedging it out, over several seconds in time.  She says..."you know your thumb is quite flat on one side, so it has some give."  Give, I say, "Mom, we need to get you an emergency necklace button, like, yesterday!"  "NO, I haven't fallen and can't get up...I've got a stuck thumb in the trunk of my car, come and get it out NOW!"

The story is not over, remember she's tough.  So she goes in the house where she's already made her usual lunch before going to the store - bologna and sliced colby cheese on buttered, white bread with either grapes or sliced apples on the side.  Before sitting down to her lunch, she finds an old frozen ice-pack in the back of the freezer, and then ices her thumb through the meal and the rest of the day. Okay, top that!

Just so you know she's fine. My brother drove her to the walk in clinic a few days later.  She had to have some holes poked in the thumb nail to relieve the swelling and clots.  She didn't take any pain medication, or even look away while the doctor did the procedure.  No, that's my Mom, Madylene, she's one tough lady.  Join me and wish your Mom a very Happy Mother's Day.  If your Mom has passed away, wish another Mom the very best and please, help them with their groceries.