Thursday, August 10, 2017

Smart Pots Grow Smart Plants

I'm in my sixth season of using Smart Pots to grow vegetables. Just like last summer I'm using them to grow tomatoes, basil and potatoes. The only difference this year is that the plants are growing better, in a way, smarter - they are very healthy, disease free and producing. I credit two reasons for this - using Smart Pot containers and the consistent, sunny and mostly hail-free weather conditions.

Hard to see but six Smart Pots growing potatoes
If you are unfamiliar with Smart Pots then you're missing out on one of the easiest, plant and root growing friendly containers on the market. These felt-like, reusable, lightweight containers ensure garden growing success for anyone. Smart pots have been described as the cotton shirt of the container world. Why? Plants growing in porous Smart Pots don't get as hot - they breathe, allowing air to flow through the container and around the plant. The plant feels comfortable, just like we feel when wearing a cotton shirt. 


Roots in Smart Pots subsequently grow larger and don't end up up growing in circles like they do in other hard material containers. Once a root in a Smart Pot reaches the side of the fabric, the root forms new roots that will grow up, down or side-to-side in a process known as air root pruning. No root girdling, just lots more healthy, happy, fibrous root growth!
  
'New Big Dwarf' Organic Tomato
They are very affordably priced and come in several sizes and three colors. I'm using black #15s for potatoes, #20s for tomatoes and big bag bed mini for basil.

Try new plant varieties or tuck Smart Pots anywhere in the landscape where there's good sun and easy access to water. Gardeners appreciate that they can be used during the growing season and easily emptied, folded and stored over the winter. Try the wall flower saddle planter over railings, gates or fences. The sidewall opening on the transplanters come in very handy for potting up plants as they grow larger.

Fill them with quality sterile potting soil at the beginning of each gardening season and plant or seed just as you would in any other container. Over watering is practically impossible with the porous nature of the container. Smart Pots will provide many seasons of use before needing to be replaced.

Use a tray or tarp underneath so soil won't seep out onto concrete or wood surfaces. If used on bare ground, no need to use anything under the Smart Pot. They are growing on the small rock mulch near my raised beds. I water daily on hot days and fertilize plants twice a month.

Lettuce Leaf Basil in Mini Raised Bed - Veil for Insect Protection
My new technique to grow basil is to heavily over seed a mini raised bed, then harvest as micro basil greens or allow them to grow to two sets of leaves. In a few short weeks there are plenty of greens to use fresh in salads or pesto with plenty left over to process in oil for freezing.

There's still time to seed more basil, and while you're at it, get going on the third or fall season of gardening with your favorite leafy greens.



Thursday, August 3, 2017

City Living Among the Foxes and Rabbits

People living in rural areas are used to seeing wildlife or having encounters, hopefully from a distance. I admit we have a can of bear spray in our cupboard - purchased a few years ago before hiking around Jackson, WY. I hope to never use it living here in central Denver, despite it being recommended recently by a state wildlife professional to deter raccoons from feeding on apples or peaches. She said one hit of the spray and they won't return. Our apple tree died years ago and we no longer have peach trees, but we do have rabbits and squirrels all around us and now, a very sick fox.

The rabbits are easy to keep out of the backyard, a four foot small mesh wire fence attached to the wrought iron has kept them away from the lettuce and the lawn. I still see four or five of them in our neighborhood quietly resting on front lawns taking a nibble here and there in between their daytime naps. Some look a bit thin and possibly mangy, but not nearly as sick as the fox we encountered a couple of days ago. 

Ferris, our dog alerted us to the fox in the corner of our front yard upon returning from an early morning walk. It was immediately evident that the poor critter was very unwell and not interested in moving away quickly. It was lying on mulch near the neighbor's north fence behind some of our bushes. We quickly got Ferris in the house and blocked him from going out on that side of the house.

The photo is disturbing to say the least. The face is clearly plagued with mange or some kind of infection. When it walked around the fence to the neighbor's yard to hide under his low deck, it was clear the tail and legs were also diseased. Honestly, I thought the animal was some kind of escaped small goat, which are legal to have in Denver - it looked nowhere near what a fox is supposed to look like.  

After calls to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Denver Animal Shelter, the neighbor and I got a visit by a helpful, friendly Animal Protection Investigator from the Denver Animal Shelter. Ordinarily they do not get involved with nuisance wildlife, but since this fox was sick or possibly injured, they took action. The investigator did his best to try to view the fox under the deck, but the area was too dark and wide to see very far. Based on the many sightings of this sick animal on the local Nextdoor website, he said he'd set up a trap. The trap caught a squirrel the first night, nothing last night. 

There's not much more that can be said about wildlife moving in or coexisting in and near cities and people. They were here first. I don't blame them for hanging out where food is pretty accessible. The city born and raised Canadian geese in Denver parks are a draw for foxes and coyotes. Another neighbor recently told me that someone on her block regularly puts out dog food for foxes, not a good idea, obviously, plus it is against the law in Denver. 

We know the dangers of being near or touching sick wildlife and our first priority is for our safety and health of our children and pets. My hunch is the poor fox has moved on to the weedy space near the highway south of us to quietly die. Rest in peace.

8-8-2017 Update  I was told that the fox was found earlier today a half a block from our house and quietly euthanized by the City of Denver Animal Shelter. I don't know the details other than it was a very, very sick fox and was easily caught and died peacefully.   

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Fall Planting in July and August

When it's one hundred degrees outside gardeners are up with the roosters getting their watering and harvesting chores finished before the heat of the day. Sometimes I venture out mid-day to marvel at the busy pollinators. No doubt if we could translate their buzzing vibrations they'd tell us to "jjjjjuuusssstttttzzzzzssssttttaaayyyy indoors!" Got it, might as well go shopping for more seeds to plant.

The third season of vegetable planting is here. If you're new to Colorado, we generally consider early spring to the middle of May the first planting season - cool crops, followed by warm season crops from mid-May to early summer. The third or fall season includes both warm and cool season and starts in July or later, depending on crop maturity before first frost.

I typically use mid-October as the first frost or freeze date, so focus on crops that will mature in about sixty days to be on the safe side. The seed packet will list days to harvest. 

Check the chart below for plants that can be seeded now through August and into early September.

Tuck in seeds wherever there is room, even the landscape if you've got some open real estate. Try the shady side of taller crops like tomatoes or corn. If the area was growing crops prior, mix some all purpose fertilizer in the soil before seeding.

When it cools down some (nights in the 50s, days in the 80s) direct seed lettuce, spinach, arugula and radishes - the quicker maturing cool season crops.

Cool season vegetables and herbs that can be seeded right now include beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cilantro, Swiss chard, collards, bunching onions, parsley, peas.

Warm season vegetables and herbs that can be seeded right now include basil, bush beans, slicing cucumber, okra, New Zealand spinach, summer squash.



Fall Season Vegetable Planting Calendar 
for the Colorado Front Range
Use of cold frames or tunnels help extend the season


CROP –
COOL
SEASON
DAYS
TO
EMERGE
DAYS
TO
MATURITY
FALL SEED
BASED ON
MID OCTOBER FREEZE
NOTES
Arugula (herb)
Eruca sativa
7-14 days
30-45 days
Mid-Aug
Arugula – wild or heirloom
Diplotaxis tenuifolia
7-14 days
30-45 days
Mid-Aug
Asparagus
Asparagus officinalis
14-21 days soak seeds prior
Perennial
Spring Plant
Artichoke – Imperial Star
Cynara scolymus
10-15 days
85-100 days
Spring Plant
Beets
Beta vulgaris
5-21 days
60-65 or sooner for leaves
Mid-July
Broccoli
Brassica oleracea
7-14 days
45-75 variety differences
July fall direct seeding is recommended
Broccoli Raab
Brassica rapa

4-14 days
35-45 days
End-July
Brussels Sprouts
Brassica oleracea
Gemmifera group
5-10 days
80-110 days
Early-July
Cabbage
Brassica oleracea
var capitita
7-12 days
60-80 days
Mid-July
Cabbage
(Napa or Chinese)
Brassica rapa
var pekinensis
10-15 days
50-55 days
Mid-July
Cardoon
Cynara cardunculus
10-15 days
100 days
Spring Plant
Carrots
Daucus carota var sativus
10-25 days
65-75 days
Direct seed every 3 weeks until August 15
Cauliflower
Brassica oleracea
var botrytis
8-10 days
50-80 days
variety differences
Mid-July
Celeriac
Apium graveonlens
14-25 days

95 days
Spring Plant
Celery
Apium graveonlens
14-25 days
80 days
Spring Plant
Cilantro (herb)
Coriandrum sativum
10-20 days
50-55 days
Mid-July, likes cool weather
Chard-Swiss
Beta vulgaris
5-10 days
25 days – baby leaves
50 days –  bunch
Spring-Summer-Early Fall
Chicory
Cichorium intybus
14-21 days
65-70 days
Late July, prefers cool weather, moist soil
Chives Onion (herb)
Allium schoenoprasum
10-15 days
Perennial
Spring-Summer, Early Fall
Chives Garlic (herb)
Allium tuberosum
10-15 days
Perennial
Spring-Summer, Early Fall
Claytonia
Claytonia perfoliata
7-14 days
40 days
Late August. Known as winter purslane, likes cool weather and soil
Collards
Brassica oleracea


10-15 days
50-60 days
Mid-July
Cress
Lepidium sativum
5-15 days
20-30 days
Early fall

Endive
Cichorium endivia
7-10 days
60-70 days
35 days – baby leaves
Late summer, needs cool soil and temperatures
Escarole
Cichorium endivia

7-10 days
45-60 days
Late summer, needs cool soil and temperatures
Fennel (herb)
Foeniculum vulgare
14-21 days
90 days for bulbs, less for foliage
Mid-July
Garlic (herb)
Allium sativum
10 days for warm fall
9 months for fall planted

From Mid-Sept to
Mid-Oct
Greens – Baby
varies
5-10 days
25-30
Seed through early fall
Horseradish
Armoracia rusticana

Perennial
Harvest roots in late fall
Kale
Brassica oleracea


5-10 days
50-55 days
Early August
Kale Greens
Brassica oleracea

5-10 days
25-30 days or 7-14 days for micro -greens
Every two weeks until first fall frost
Kohlrabi
Brassica oleracea
(gongylodes group)

10-14 days
55 days
Early August
CROP –
COOL
SEASON
DAYS
TO
EMERGE
DAYS
TO
MATURITY
FALL SEED
BASED ON
MID OCTOBER FREEZE
NOTES
Leek
Allium ampeloprasum
(porrum group)
7-14 days
40 days for baby leeks, 84-100 for full size
Mid-August for baby leeks, okay to harvest after a couple of frosts


Lettuce Loose- Leaf
Latuca sativa
5-10 days
21-68 days
many varieties
Every three weeks until early fall, seed in afternoon shade of other plants
Lettuce Cos or Romaine
Latuca sativa
5-10 days
50-70 days
Every three weeks until early fall, seed in afternoon shade of other plants
Lettuce Crisphead or Iceberg
(tight leaves)
Latuca sativa
5-10 days
75 days
Every three weeks until early fall, seed in afternoon shade of other plants
Lettuce Butterhead or Bibb
(loose leaves)
Latuca sativa
5-10 days
65 days
Every three weeks until early fall, seed in afternoon shade of other plants
Mรขche
Valerianella locusta
10-20 days
45-60 days
Late-August, afternoon shade

Mizuna
Brassica rapa var. Japonica
4-7 days
35-45 days
21 days baby leaves
Late-August, afternoon shade

Mustard Greens
Brassica juncea
7-10 days
50 days
21 for baby leaves
July-early September
Onion Seeds
Allium cepa

7-15 days
70-150 days per onion day length
Spring Plant
Onion Bulbs or Sets
Allium cepa

7-15 days
100 days or 3-4 weeks for green onions
August to Fall
Onion Bunching (Scallion)
Allium fistulosum
10-15 days
60-65 days
Mid-July
Onion Egyptian
Allium cepa var. proliferum
10-14 days
Perennial
Spring Plant
Orach
Atriplex hortensis
7-14 days
35 days
Late August. Like a warm-season spinach, tolerates heat, nice annual ornamental too
Microgreens
INDOORS
4-7 days
10-21 days,
harvest days vary per seed types
Many seeds to choose from, seed in shallow trays all year, esp. in winter
Pak choi or
Bok choy
Brassica rapa (Chinensis group)
5-10 days
30-50 days
Late July to mid-September
Parsley (herb)
Petroselinum crispum
14-28 days
60-75 days
Mid-July, Soak seeds prior to seeding, prefers afternoon shade
Parsnips
Pastinaca sativa
10-25 days
85-120 days
Harvest in fall after frosts for sweet flavor
Peas – shell,
snap, snow
Pisum sativum
5-10 days
50-65 days
Mid-July, soak seeds prior to sowing
Potato Tubers
Solanum tuberosum
10-15 days
90-120  


Spring Plant
Radicchio
Cichorium intybus

7-10 days
60-90 days
Late summer, needs cool soil and temperatures
Radish
Raphanus sativus
5-10 days
20-30 days
Late summer until first fall frost
Radish - Daikon
Raphanus sativus
5-10 days
60 days
Harvest any size in late fall before ground freezes
Rhubarb Crowns
Rheum rhabarbarum

Perennial
Spring Plant. Grow one full year before harvest
Rhubarb Seeds
Rheum rhabarbarum
7-14 days
Perennial
Spring Plant
Soak seeds before planting. Grow one full year before harvest
Rutabaga
Brassica napus
4-7 days
90-100 days
Spring Plant
Shallots
Allium cepa var. aggregatum
10-15 days
100 days
Zone 5 or warmer fall or spring plant, Zone 4 or colder spring plant
Spinach - Common
Spinacia oleracea
6-10 days
30-45 days
Use bolt resistant varieties during heat of summer, cold hardy types can overwinter
Tatsoi
Brassica rapa var. narinosa
5-10 days
21 days baby leaves, 45 full leaves
Sow up to three weeks before first fall frost
Turnip
Brassica rapa
5-10 days
40-75 days
Sow late summer before first fall frost

 































CROP –
WARM
SEASON
DAYS
TO
EMERGE
*indoor seeded for spring planting
DAYS
TO
MATURITY
FALL SEED
BASED ON
MID OCTOBER FREEZE
NOTES
Basil  (herb)
Ocimum basilicum
5-10 days
60-85 days
Annual
Mid-July, basil is very frost sensitive
Bean Bush—Filet, Snap, Haricot, String, Shelling, Wax, Dry,
Phaseolus vulgaris
8-10 days
55-65 days
70-75 shell
80-100 dry
Mid - Late July for early maturing
Bean Pole—
Wax, Snap,
Phaseolus vulgaris
6-12 days
60-65 days
Mid-Late July
Bean Lima
Phaseolus lunatus
6-12 days
65-85 days
July for early maturing
Bean—Winged Bean
Phaseolus tetragonolobus
6-12 days
65-85 days
July for early maturing
Bean—Scarlet Runner
Phaseolus coccineus
6-12 days
65-85 days
July for early maturing
Bean
 Yard Long
Vigna unguiculata
10-15 days
65-85 days
July for early maturing
Bean Cowpeas
Vigna unguiculata
10-12 days
75 days
July


Corn, Sweet
Zea mays hybrids
5-10 days
68-80 days
Spring Plant
Corn
Ornamental
Zea mays

5-10 days
85-120
Spring Plant
Can be left out after several frosts, harvest when kernels are hard and glossy
Cucumber
Slicing, pickling, specialty
Cucumis sativus
5-10 days
48-65 days, depends on variety
Mid-July for short maturing
Edamame
Glycine max
10-12 days
80-95 days
Spring Plant
*Eggplant
Solanum melongena
10-21 days
60-80 days
Spring Plant
Ground Cherry
Physalis pruinosa

14 days
75 days
Spring Plant
Melon-
Cantaloupe, Canary, Muskmelon,
Honeydew
Cucumis melo
5-10 days
60-85 days
Spring Plant
 Melon ‘Cucamelon’
Melothria scabra

7-21 days
65-80 days
July for early maturing
Okra
Abelmoschus esculentus
10-15 days
55-65 days
Mid-July, soak seeds for a day prior to sowing, harvest when small - 3-4”

*Pepper–Bell,
Sweet, Serrano, Cayenne, Jalapenos, Paprika, Ornamental
Capsicum annuum
10-21 days
70-90 days
Spring Plant
*Pepper - Habanero, Bhut Jolokia
Capsicum chinense
10-21 days
90-110 days
Spring Plant
*Pepper –
 Tobasco
Capsicum frutenscens
10-21 days
80 days
Spring Plant
Pumpkin
Cucurbita maxima
5-14 days
95-120
Spring Plant
Pumpkin
Cucurbita pepo
5-10 days
95
Spring Plant
Spinach - Malabar
Basella alba
14-21 days
85 days
Late Spring Plant
Spinach – New Zealand
Tetragonia expansa
10-20 days
50-60 days
Mid-July also known as perpetual spinach
Squash
Summer—Yellow, Zucchini, Patty Pan, Round, Scallop, Calabacita
    Cucurbita pepo      
5-10 days
45-65 many varieties
Mid-July, harvest  when small!
Enjoy the
edible flowers
Squash
Winter –Butternut, Buttercup,
Kabocha, Hubbard,
Lakota 
Curcurbita maxima

5-10 days
85-110 days
Spring Plant
Harvest before first fall frost, edible flowers
Squash
Winter–
Acorn, Delicata,  Spaghetti 
Cucurbita pepo      
5-10 days
85-110 days
Spring Plant Harvest before first fall frost
Squash
Winter – Butternut
Cucurbita moshata      
5-10 days
85-110 days
Spring Plant
Harvest before first fall frost
*Tomato
Lycopersicon esculentum
5-10 days
60-110 depending on variety
Spring Plant
*Tomatillo
Physalis philadelphica or ixocarpa
10-12 days
75-100
Spring Plant

Watermelon
Citrullus lanatus
3-5 days
70-100
depending on variety
            Spring Plant