Thursday, April 27, 2017

Japanese Beetle Spring Larvae Control

It is early in the season to be writing about a garden pest that doesn't even show its attractive coppery self until June or so. I'm not fond of giving any complements to Japanese beetles because of their insatiable, destructive appetites for many of our favorite landscape plants. However, there are effective control options that gardeners can focus on now prior to the adult beetle emergence from grass turf this summer. 

My recommendations are based on factual and research-based resources including Colorado State University Extension and the United States Department of Agriculture.,h_400/a2faa4_b73e71cff98e433a95da4a56098172fa~mv2.jpg
Internet graphic from JMB Equipment
Keep in mind that there is a tremendous amount of misinformation about Japanese beetle controls out there. Comments are already showing up on local internet-community bulletin boards. My best advice is to read and follow the recommendations from reputable sources and remain informed. 
Spring Larvae Controls:

Following their life cycle will help in understanding when and what control products to use. Japanese beetles have a one-year four-stage life cycle (like butterflies, but JBs take one full year). The egg-larva-pupa-adult life cycle begins when the adult beetles emerge from their winter home (spent as larva and pupa) below turf grass. 

When they emerge along the Front Range is anyone's guess - in the past few years they have been seen as early as mid-June. My hunch is they may emerge earlier because of the warm Denver area winter and spring. Once they are flying as adults, they begin feeding, mating and laying eggs in turf grass so the cycle begins again. Check the graphic to see how they spend each quarter of their life. 

There are organic and synthetic products to use on grass turf in spring and again in the summer through fall during their egg laying period. Keep in mind that adults are very good fliers, so even if you treat your lawn, this is no guarantee they won't fly in from other neighborhoods. In large numbers JB larvae may cause turf die back as they eat their way through their grub stages, so treating the lawn is worth doing (IMO). 

University and Agriculture experts recommend treating the turf as soon as the female beetles emerge and begin laying eggs. On the many edu websites and reputable sources I've read, synthetic granular grub control products may not have much killing effect on mature overwintering grubs. Pay attention to when to apply products and read all the labels for their efficaciousness.

Check out the Colorado researched fact and information sheets linked below. As a quick summary, I have written my bullet points from my April 7, 2017 Denver Post Punch List -

Denver Post Punch List - Second Week of April
  • Japanese beetles have invaded certain areas in Denver, Littleton, Centennial and south into Pueblo. They are very destructive chewers of several ornamental flowers and foliage. In large numbers their larvae can cause turf die back. 
  • Adult Japanese beetles emerge from turf areas anywhere from late June into July. We are about two weeks ahead of spring, so consider treating the lawn now to kill their larvae.
  • Keep in mind that adult Japanese beetles are good fliers so treating your lawn doesn't mean they won't fly in from surrounding yards, parks, school grounds or golf courses.
  • Timing is everything, so apply grub control products soon, then again in the summer during their egg laying period.
  • Look for a product that is labeled for Japanese beetle grubs (larvae). Read and follow pesticide labels, some products may need to be watered in well after application.
  • Caution when using products containing imidacloprid and chlothianidin (neonicotinoid insecticides) that adversely effect pollinators like bees who visit blooming weeds including dandelions and white clover. Mow or remove any blooming plants in lawns before application.    
  • Products containing Chlorantraniliprole (trade names - Acelypryn or Scott's Grub-Ex) are fairly new registered insecticides that have a much lower potential hazard to pollinators than do other insecticides used for Japanese beetle larvae control.
  • Biological controls including parasitic nematodes and milky spore infect and reduce larva survival. These products can be pricey and may need repeated applications for control.
  • Colorado State University Extension and the Colorado Department of  Agriculture both recommend using a combination of controls to reduce numbers. This includes flicking adults into soapy water, and other recommended sprays for adults and products for grubs. Traps are not recommended for adults - they attract more adult beetles to the area.
  • Check out these three excellent research-based resources -
For links to the other blogs I've written on Japanese beetles, please click here - Japanese Beetle Blues 2016. The cedar oil "home brew" spray recipe for adult control of JBs in my blog is not research-based.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rose Pruning Workshop - Cancelled

Yep, Mother Nature is predicted to bring cold and snow on April 29, so the pruning workshop is officially cancelled. The Denver Rose Society will try again next year around the same time.

Depending on your perspective, one of the most or least favored spring garden chores is pruning the roses. Proper pruning means healthy regrowth with eagerly awaited blooms. Conversely, roses have thorns (technically called prickles), some varieties more than others, but with proper gloves and long sleeves the work is quick.

If you're in the camp of not knowing how much to prune on the rose shrub or how far down to cut in to the cane, then may I suggest cancelling whatever you have scheduled on Saturday, April 29 and attend the learn how to prune your roses workshop hosted by the Denver Rose Society. You'll just need to take a short drive to the Jefferson County Detention Center Rose Garden via 6th avenue (or another route of your choosing), exit at Johnson Road in Golden. Here's the direct link with all the helpful Google Map information Rose Garden at the Jefferson County Detention Center.

 Jail Pruning in Action (photo by Anna L.)
Why go to a detention center to learn how to prune roses you may be asking (I asked the same question when I joined the Denver Rose Society several years ago)? 

Because on the northwest side of the jail complex there is a rose garden that is tended by the inmates - the only one in the country with this type of landscape learning opportunity for jailed inmates. They have the chance to work outside during their sentence and provide a much needed service for the county. Talk about win-win. 

The rose garden is open to the public and you'll find easy access picnic tables to enjoy the view of the foothills and roses - is that a nice combo or what! Read more about the jail rose garden - Jeffco Jail Rose Garden History.

Each year in late April the Denver Rose Society invites its members and the general public to attend this pruning workshop at the jail rose garden. You're welcome to just watch the demo and learn from the experts or bring your pruners and join in the pruning fun with some guidance and tips from DRS members. The best part (besides learning how to prune) is that we aren't responsible for removing the pile of spent canes, the inmates happily rake and toss them after we leave.

Here are the who-what-wheres-

Who: Denver Rose Society invitation, open to all, NO CHARGE
When: 9:30 am to 12:30 pm (come anytime during this window)
Where: Jefferson County Detention Center Rose Garden
What: (to bring): comfortable clothes, hat, sunscreen, water and snacks are provided. Grab your pruners and loppers, don't forget your gloves if you plan on participating. 
What If:  the weather is crummy, then check the DRS Facebook page to confirm cancellation. Or phone 303 901-1389 and ask if the workshop is happening.
Stuff to buy: Mile-Hi Rose Feed - one of the best organic fertilizers on the planet, made right here in Colorado. It's not just for roses, use it on any plant, vegetable or shrub that likes a boost of NPK and other good stuff. Plus there will be a few very hardy Bailey Nursery potted roses for sale - leftover from the April 1 educational SymROSEium. 
That's me - getting ready to prune 'Gourmet Popcorn'
Once your roses are spring pruned, the garden season of blooms and enjoyment really begins (at least in my garden book). See you on the 29th!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Fertilizer Spreaders from CO-Horts

Spring lawn fertilization is as normal as checking for leftover change in the public phone booth change slot ...oh no, wrong century. That's what we did as kids, if you're under twenty, ask your parents about phone booths - also known as "payphones." It's rare to see one in today's world. But it is reassuring to know that fertilizing the lawn each spring is one garden chore that will probably never go away. Unless we keep moving toward Jetson style living. There I go again, showing my age!

Lawn in early April
Back to lawns and a very timely CO-Horts blog from Alison O'Connor, the Larimer County Extension Horticulturist, and knowledgeable turf expert among many other gardening topics. This is from her popular series - "Hort Peeve and Pleasure." This one is on fertilizer spreaders. Check it out on the link below. She'll give you the quick answers on fertilizer spreaders and if hand crank or push spreaders are recommended. And do you go with a drop or centrifugal type? The answers await.....

"Hort Peeve and Pleasure: Lawn Fertilization"

Happy fertilizing!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Spring to Winter

What a difference one day complaints, we need the moisture!

April 3, 2017

April 4, 2017

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Roses - Gotta Have One or One Hundred

It's not often to see a garden, private or public that doesn't have a rose shrub growing somewhere. They easily have a place in freestyle cottage-styled landscapes that include long blooming daisies, asters, old-fashioned hollyhock, iris and spireas. But don't discount them inter-planted with native plants, in rock gardens or areas that include Plant Select® plants and herbs - roses are herbs, after all.

Before I tell you about my favorite rose bushes, I'd like to extend a warm invitation to attend a very fun, plus educational rose event that is taking place this Saturday, April 1, 2017 at Denver Botanic Gardens in Mitchell Hall from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm. It is the Denver Rose Society's annual SymROSEium, sort of a play on words - get it - a symposium about roses! Every year the DRS hosts this three-hour gathering to learn, connect and support the society with good stuff for sale like bare-root roses, fertilizer and memberships (belonging to a plant society is good for the soul, so please join us). 

This year's program features two great speakers - Carol O'Meara from Colorado State University Extension with a program on the arrival of Japanese beetles to our gardens . Tammy Jansen, ace rose gardener and past president of the DRS will give a presentation entitled - "Practically Perfect, Ideal Roses for YOUR Garden and their Secrets for Success." There's no fee to attend, just pay entrance to Denver Botanic Gardens unless a member of the Denver Rose Society or the gardens. They also have reciprocal entry for members of other plant groups, just show them your card if you have this mutual agreement. 

For additional information click here - April 1, 2017 Educational SymROSEium.

Now for a couple of my favorite roses, the first one happens to be part of the Plant Select® program. Plant Select® is the place to find rock-star plants that perform very well in Colorado's high elevation, low water - low humidity and tough growing conditions (did I mention clay soils).

Photo from Plant Select®
I enjoy seeing large scale roses like the popular 'Rosa rubrifolia' aka red leaf rose naturalized in a good sized landscape, back dropped with subtle, yet commanding blue to green shades of conifers. The trees are a given four season of evergreen interest while the never demur 'Rosa rubrifolia' delights us viewers with emerging spring purple foliage with narrow star-like single vivid-pink flowers in May to June. Enjoy the one-time spring season of bloom, but look forward to not having to worry about diseases, watering too much or shaping or pruning through the growing season. 

The show continues in to fall with red to bronze colored nearly thornless canes that perfectly contrast with the abundant orange hips that keeps birds focused into early winter. And never worry about cold weather die back, red leaf roses are hardy to zone two - that's a minus forty degrees! Yes, they'll work just as well in smaller landscapes, but you'll probably just need one with a height of six to eight feet and a spread of five to seven feet (block out that neighbor who sees right into your back patio). They are sold in just about every reputable garden center up and down the Front Range, mail order too.

Photo by Anna L., Denver Rose Society
Roses evoke memories, many of them from childhood or from relatives who loved growing them. My ninety-two year old Mother loves hybrid tea roses (and grows them well in her zone 3/4 Billings garden). Her list includes 'Double Delight,' 'Chrysler Imperial,' and 'Tiffany.' Of the three, I also adore 'Double Delight' because my Mom's sister - my Aunt Martha also loved it.  She grew 'Double Delight' for years when she lived near SouthGlenn Mall (back when it was still a mall). The fragrance was a welcome heavenly spice that floated through her courtyard garden all summer. She rarely missed displaying a full bloom in a pretty rose bowl on her low marble top table. She fussed a little bit over her 'Double Delight' with regular fertilizer and winter mulch, but the anticipation of the creamy-blushing-red large blooms kept her (and her niece) happy for many, many years in her small patio home. I miss her.  

Hope to see you on Saturday, please tell me about your favorite rose.

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

Friday, February 3, 2017

Ornamental Annuals Seeding and Transplanting Chart

Do you have projects in your life that end up being placed on the spice rack instead of the back or front burner? If they're on the spice rack that means you have good intentions of getting to them sooner rather than never. At least that's what we tell ourselves. The chart below is the second of five planting charts that have been on my spice rack to do list since 2014 when I started this blog. My goal is to complete a seeding and transplant timing chart for ornamental annuals, vegetables, perennials, fruits and herbs for this area. The vegetable chart was finished a couple of years ago - I'll post that again soon, the season is nigh. Below is the completed ornamental annual chart.

A favorite older photo of my niece and nephew's feet!
No doubt books, magazines or websites already have this information well cataloged for all to see. But I couldn't find one that suited me (and hopefully you) and even if I had, it was informative and pleasant to read about so many plants and their perks. Many of these I have not grown, maybe in this lifetime. 

Keep in mind that these lists will not include every plant known to man and dog. And because I often suffer from "oh I see an error or a friend points out an error, or maybe I should add some more plants" syndrome, no doubt I'll revise it along the way. It is ready for public viewing with lots of help from seed catalogs that I received in the mail and online. I thank them generously - please search for the seeds you'd like to grow on their websites or in local garden centers. The seed companies are listed below the document. Be sure to read all the seed packet instructions and follow the suggested last spring frost date of May 15th along the Front Range.


Friday, January 27, 2017

Eight Mondays till Spring

Someone I heard the other day said it is only eight Mondays until the spring equinox (March 20). You know what that means...the garden get ready stage will soon be replaced with "I'll be outside, call me when lunch is ready." I'm exaggerating of one fixes my lunch! 

What is the readiness plan? Is it too early to start seeds indoors?  What can be planted? Are there any downsides to early seeding? How do I seed, I'm just getting started? Any tips? Do I needy expensive lighting and equipment? "My you ask a lot of questions. Glad you asked, I enjoy answering them."

FIRST - order your seeds or purchase from local garden centers now, no more delays. If ordered immediately they'll probably arrive the Monday after the Super Bowl, perfect.  

SECOND - yes, some seeds can be started this early in late January. The list includes plants that take longer to grow indoors (~10 -12 weeks) before they are ready to be transplanted outside. Try as I might this list may not include every plant that can be started this early.  Soon I'll post a blog with a longer list of popular seeds to start indoors.
  • Cool-season vegetable and herb seeds includes: artichokes, celery, celeriac, onion and leek, parsley. 
  • Ornamental annuals includes: pennisetum grass, lisianthus (seeding tips), snapdragons, stock, verbena, pansies/viola, geranium, wax begonia, dusty miller, heliotrope, petunia, lobelia, ornamental peppers.
  • Perennials include: delphinium, foxglove, dianthus, echinacea (coneflower), eryngium (sea holly), tanacetum (feverfew), rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan), viola, yarrow, carnation (tender perennial) bee balm (tender perennial), sweet william (biennial).
THIRD - the downsides to seeding plants too early. Not the ones listed above, they need the extra weeks to grow:
  • Light - if you're depending on using a sunny window for your seed trays, in late January we only have about nine to ten hours of sunlight. Lack of enough light results in spindly, weak seedlings. And if they are too close to the window they won't like the chill. For the plants listed above it is advisable to use grow lights and not windows for the light source.
  • Light under Lights: if you're growing seedlings three inches from the light bulbs and they are doing well, then that's good. But what happens to the plants when they're transplant size and ready to go outside and it's still mid-March and too cold for them? You can continue potting them up, watering and fertilizing regularly (don't take any long trips). Plants like tomatoes will get very leggy if growing under lights too long indoors. Play it safe with warm-season crops like peppers, tomatoes and eggplant, start them by seed (mid to late March) which is 4-6 weeks before transplanting them outdoors. Peppers can use a couple extra weeks of indoor growth so they can be started earlier in March. Again, look for my seed timing chart coming soon.
FOURTH - seed starting for beginners - these reputable links are short, easy primers on seed starting.

Starting Seeds Indoors

Planting Seeds Indoors Video

FIFTH Seed starting Tips: 
  • Test your seed viability if the packet is a few years old. Scatter about ten of the seeds on a damp paper towel. Fold and put in a plastic bag (tie) near a sunny window. If less than half the seeds have sprouted after ten days, buy new seeds. 
  • In addition to store bought seed trays and kits, don't overlook items from home - yogurt cups, butter tubs, egg cartons, plastic lettuce packages, even wooden boxes that clementines are sold in. Just be sure to sterilize them well - which means after cleaning with soap and water, wipe them with hydrogen peroxide or a 10% bleach solution. 
  • Poke or drill drainage holes in all containers.
  • Use deep - at least 6-inch pots for Spanish onions seeds.
  • Use a label system for each plant or tray. You think you'll remember, but things happen. Buy a permanent marker and use store bought sticks or cut up some of the plastic tub or lids. Sterilize the markers too.
  • ALWAYS use sterile seed starting mix. Moisten it before filling the trays or containers.
  • Lighting - yep, regular shop lighting works fine - low cost cool-white bulbs. But you'll like the growing results with the newer florescent grow lights or LED. T-5 skinny bulbs won't fit in the fixture with your T-8s or T-12s. Use a timer and keep the lights on for 12-16 hours each day. 
  • Place a fan near the seedling trays, not too close. Keep it on 24/7 - low setting. Air circulation is the best defense to damping off disease where the seedlings seem to die or suddenly collapse.
  • Seedlings prefer to be watered with room temperature water so fill a clean garbage can with water and leave it close to the seeds. Cold water may slow seedling growth and lead to damping off. 
  • Other ways to ward off damping off is to not overcrowd seeds, avoid over watering and never let the trays or containers stand in water for any length of time. Remove plastic or cover domes immediately after germination to lower the humidity levels. 
  • My backup for water lapses is using a capillary mat under the seed tray. They feel like felt and are very absorbent, usually sold in rolls or sheets at garden centers or online. I've seen them in black or white. Cut to the size of your tray, they are re-usable from year to year and machine washable on the gentle cycle (air dry). Simply pour some room temperature water over the mat about every other day or as needed and leave it to the seeds to soak up what they need right to the plant roots.  
  • Use a heat mat for quicker germination and growth on warm loving seeds like basil and tomatoes. Don't plug the heat mat into the light timer, the heat needs to be on all the time.
  • Please check back soon for my seed timing and transplanting chart.  

Capillary mat roll and fitted mat below the plastic container and seed tray

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Mail Time

No matter how comfortable I am with electronic media, news and connecting socially, there's still nothing that compares to receiving mail from the friendly uniformed person wearing blue. Maybe I speak more for those over a certain age, then again, maybe not - what grandchild doesn't like receiving a birthday card with a check (or iTunes gift card) from Grandma? And what gardener doesn't like the flood of seed and plant catalogs that arrive in January - some come in December amid the holiday cards and Harry and David fruit. Two more catalogs arrived at my house today. Heaven, joy...turn off the T.V. computer, cell phone, pour a cup of tea and wake me in the morning - I'm going to be busy this evening (and all week) dreaming and dog-earing catalog pages.

What about you, are you getting catalogs by snail mail? No criticism if you're new school and prefer to save resources by only subscribing to on line looking. Please don't hold it against me, I recycle. 

So, where does one go from here after the catalog items are circled, the pages are bent or drooled on, "sorry if that is too graphic, maybe I should leave out this reference, too late." Do you have decision fatigue over what to purchase or are you totally in control and stay within budget which in fantasy could be anywhere from $5.00 to $500,000. "Wouldn't it be great if the publisher clearing house van arrived right after the mail carrier?"

Here's why it is so hard to choose - many of the descriptions sound so wonderful...a la J Peterman Style from Seinfeld.

Description from Tomato Growers Supply Company, just an example and no endorsement intended:

'Stellar VF Hybrid' 
"What a fitting name for a beautiful round, red tomato with greater yields and high resistance to late blight plus intermediate resistance to early blight and Septoria Leaf Spot. Stellar gives gardeners who experience high disease pressure (THAT'S ME) a slicing tomato they can count on. Smooth, lovely fruit is medium-sized at 5 to 7 ounces, perfect for tucking into sandwiches or cutting up into salads."  

Forget diamonds, give me 'Stellar' tomatoes!

What I do is order a few seed packets (well under $500K) and shop my local garden centers. The key is getting an early jump. Some of the new seed introductions or plants sell out early, so get your on line orders placed (they'll ship when it is planting time, now or later for seeds). Get out to the garden stores soon because their 2017 seed racks are filled to capacity. Grab some other supplies too, new seed trays, potting soil, and if you have some dollars left over from the holidays, trade out your old fluorescent shop lights for higher efficiency full-spectrum or LED bulbs. For the thin T-5 bulbs you may need new fixtures. Here are two quick grow light primer videos - how to choose a grow light and wikiHow to grow vegetables with grow lights.

I need to close now, there's a lull in the wind, no snow predicted (except in the mountains) and the stores open soon. Happy shopping!


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Front Range Garden Class Resources - 2017

In my experiences New Year's resolutions are rarely kept, at least for the long term - not that a person shouldn't give it a go. This year I'm going to try very hard to keep thrips away from the tomatoes. In truth a more attainable pursuit might be inventing a new fangled dandelion picker. No, that's already out there - a straight edged screw driver. For all of us, a new garden year means a fresh start, a clean palette to dream, design and do. Resolve to sign up for some classes or workshops and get the brain energized and filled with the right stuff. Happy New Garden Year 2017, let's enjoy it together!

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 for ones that I know of right now. The first group - seminars, workshops and conferences charge fees, unless otherwise noted. Public and botanic gardens also charge for classes. Garden center classes are often free so check their websites for more information. Also consider attending or joining a garden society, group or club. You will meet other friendly people. Most meet monthly, have low cost dues and offer educational seminars, garden tours and trips, plant sales and judged shows through the year. Obviously if you don't reside in this area, check out what's offered in your neck of the woods. Please check back often for updates to the lists.

Denver Rose Society Educational SymROSEium

Native Plant Master Program - in 2017

Cottage Food Safety Training - Dates and locations for March, April and May 

Adams County Extension Spring Vegetable Gardening Classes, 2017 Brighton

Backyard Compost Colorado Beginning April through early May, locations along the Front Range 

Wild West Gardening Conference, April 22, 23, 2017 Laramie, WY

Colorado Dahlia Society Tuber Sale, April 22, 2017 Denver 

Vegetable Gardening Seminar April 25, 2017 Colorado Springs 

Basic Botany April 27, 2017 Golden

NYFC Water Bootcamp and Western's Farm to Table Conference 
March 30, Gunnison
Harvesting Rainwater Make and Take a Rain Barrel, May 13, 2017 Colorado Springs

Wildflowers of Green Mountain May 14, 2017 Lakewood

Basic Botany May 16, 2017 Golden

Colorado Plant Families May 18, 2017 Golden 

Pikes Peak Birding and Nature Festival May 19-21, Colorado Springs

Painting the Native Landscape May 24, 2017 Evergreen

Four Corners Horticulture Conference, June 8-10, 2017 Durango

Discover Colorado Wildflowers at Lookout Mountain Nature Preserve June 18, 2017 Golden 

Native Plant Master Course on Wetland/Riparian Plants June 19 to August 7, 2017 (3 outdoor field sessions) Littleton

Plant Field Sketching Class June 27 and 28, 2017 Golden

DIY Native Plant Landscaping Installation June 30, 2017 Littleton

Discover Native Shrubs for your Landscape July 21,2 017 Littleton  

Wetland/Riparian Plants of the Front Range July 24, 2017 Littleton 

Discovery Tour of Spain, November 26-December 8, 2017 through the extension office of Pueblo County 

Butterfly Pavilion Westminster

Denver Botanic Gardens
The Gardens on Spring Creek  Ft. Collins

Growing Gardens Boulder 

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