Thursday, May 25, 2017

Sedums at High Altitude?   Solution: Container Gardening. by Lorrie Redman

Sedums! I wish I could write a jingle about them since they are some of my favorite container plants. It would start with (remember to sing this!) star flowered, succulent, eccentric and chubby. Ok, I admit I am not a poet or songwriter. What I do know is how relatively simple and interesting these plants are to grow.

Sedums are used by gardeners as waterwise, poor soil, low maintenance outdoor plants. Unfortunately, some sedums are not suitable for mountain gardens. At altitude, when planting outside, we are limited to planting sedum plants that are in zones 2-4. In reality, most sedums fall into zones 4-9. This limits our ability to purchase the large variety we see in the plant stores.  The solution to this dilemma is to plant higher zone sedums in containers. Then we may enjoy these plants all summer on our decks then bring them in for the winter.  

Quick Tips on Container Sedums
  • Sedums that are brought indoors over the winter months are best placed in a south facing window with bright light.
  • Sedums use cactus and succulent soil mixes. They thrive when their soil environment is not too wet or soggy.
  • Sedums require water when establishing roots the first year, but once established their water needs are in the red zone (1-3 zone) on your water meter. They are water smart!
  • Sedums prefer containers that are porous and unglazed. They need air for their roots and the containers need to let moisture escape. They are a great way to reuse your old terracotta planters or give you a reason to build your own hypertufa pot. Sedums love the counterbalance weight of hypertufa pots and the rough surface to grip onto.   
  • Sedums are relatively pest and disease free so long as they are not overwatered.  

The following are five Sedums you can plant either outdoors or indoors in the mountains:
S. acre (Goldmoss)                
S. album (White stonecrop)
S. divergens (Spreading stonecrop)   
S. spurium (Two-row stonecrop)
S. kamtschaticum (Kamschatka stonecrop)

With Sedums in containers you are not limited by zone, water or seasons.
You can be tempted by that fun plant in the nursery and bring it home!  

For more information on sedums for the mountains and foothills please refer to the following CSU fact sheets:
Ground Covers and Rock Garden Plants for Mountain Communities #7.413
Ground Cover Plants # 7.400
Plant Talk : Sedums #1046

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Junior Master Gardeners in Routt County by Jo Smith

Summer of 2017 will mark the third season of the Junior Master Gardner program. In collaboration with Routt County Master Gardeners and the Yampa River Botanic Park, four Junior Master Gardening workshops will be offered for 3rd through 5th graders. The Junior Master Gardener program was developed by Texas A&M Agri Life Extension Service. It is modeled after the successful Master Gardener program and offers horticultural and environmental science education through fun and creative activities. The program is committed to helping young people become good gardeners and good citizens so they can make a positive contribution to their community, school and family. Participation in all Junior Master Gardener sessions (8 total) with a community service component, qualifies a student to become a certified Junior Master Gardener. The Routt County program offers 4 workshops each summer. 

In 2016, ten junior gardeners enjoyed learning about gardening in Routt County. Four workshops were held during the summer on Saturday mornings at the Trillium House at the Yampa River Botanic Park (YRBP). Students could attend any or all of the sessions. Earlier in the spring, the YRBP had constructed a raised bed specifically for this program. This small garden is located in the Children’s Garden section at the north end of the park. At the first workshop the participants planted the raised bed, toured the gardens and learned how to keep a garden journal. In the second workshop, the kids experienced the ongoing tasks of maintaining a garden: fertilizing, weeding, and managing pests. The third workshop focused on insects in the garden with a great presentation from the Routt County Bee Keeping Association. During the last workshop, the students harvested the garden and learned how to save seeds, dry and arrange flowers, and how to preserve garden produce.  Six Routt County Master Gardeners along with Gayle Lehman, YRBP manager, provided instruction and insights into gardening in the valley.  Students enjoyed the workshops and several attended all four sessions.  Ruth Peterson of Hayden was awarded the Junior Master Gardener certification at the end of the summer as she had attended, over two summers, all 8 workshops. 

New sessions for Junior Master Gardening will be offered summer of 2017. Participants will once again design, plant, tend and harvest the Junior Master Gardener plot at the park. In addition to the garden, students will learn how to identify plants, what organisms are found in a garden ecosystem, and how to maintain and harvest a garden. All workshops include short informational components with accompanying hands on activities. Participants at each workshop take home a project to extend their learning. Sessions will be held June 10, July 1 and 22, and August 5.  Each workshop is 3 hours: 9 am to 12 noon. 

 The Junior Master Gardener program is a great way to get kids interested in gardening. The program is open to Routt County residents. Registration is at the CSU Routt County Extension Office, 136 6th St. Steamboat Springs, CO. Sessions require a $12 materials fee. A snack and water are provided.  Sessions are limited to 12 participants .

Jo Smith is a member of the 2013 class of Routt County Master Gardeners. She is a retired biology teacher and enjoys the kid and gardening connections in the Junior Master Gardening program.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

What are "fruit flies" doing in my houseplants? By Barbra Sanders

These pesky flies are considered "nuisance" pests in our homes in winter. In large numbers however, the larvae can cause significant root damage. They could have entered your home with outdoor plants that have been brought inside for the winter.

These flies will never be 100% eradicated but some control is possible.

First, hold back on the watering. Fungus gnats love wet soil! Let the top one to two inches of the potting medium dry out between waterings. That will decrease the survival of the eggs and hatched larvae. And your pots will not become a fun place to lay eggs.

Second, it is always a good idea to pick up the dead leaves and blossoms of the plants on top of the soil. No more hiding places!

Third, you have several options for more aggressive control. These insects are attracted to those yellow "sticky traps" which may slow down the egg laying females. They are available at garden centers, nurseries, and You can make your own traps with yellow construction paper and Tanglefoot®

There is a parasitic nematode (microscopic roundworms which infect the larvae in an unspeakable way, causing death).which provides a long-term control and might be more appropriate for large commercial greenhouses. Home Depot® has "Fungus Gnat Control Nematodes".

I have found that the larvae are very effectively stopped by a product containing Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. israelensis (Bti). If you are starting seeds, the young roots are particularly vulnerable to the chewing larvae. Products containing this strain of Bti are available at garden centers, nurseries, and at This is a very safe biological control method. Make sure you are purchasing the Bti israelensis listed as the active ingredient. Products on the market are; Gnatrol®, Gardens Alive Knock Out Gnats®, Bonide Mosquito Beater WSP®. Before using any of these products, be sure to carefully read and follow the label instructions. The granules are mixed with water and the plants are then drenched. Bti only works on the larvae of the gnats so several applications over a few weeks should do the trick to get rid of the flies!

For more information on this problem, go to the following on line sites: 584/
University of California, "Pest Notes" Publication 7448
Missouri Botanical Garden Gardening Help "Bacillus thuringiensis..."

Friday, May 12, 2017

Springtime in the Mountain Garden by Vicky Barney

Watching the snow melt is a wonderful time of year for the gardener.  It signals that it’s time to sharpen the gardening tools and stretch the muscles in preparation for gardening season, and it’s a treat to watch the natural world wake up, from the trees and bushes leafing out to the explosion of dandelions.  And remembering that the dandelions are beneficial to the pollinators will keep the gardener calm while waiting to see if the garden will shape up as envisioned during the long winter.
Spring came early this year, or so we thought.  Then the subsequent snow flurries and cold temperatures reminded us that one must be patient before planting in the high country and wait for consistently warmer weather.  Guides to spring planting in Colorado may be misleading unless one remembers: “Higher elevation gardens generally run anywhere from three to five weeks later for seeding or transplanting unless using cold frames or tunnels.” (

A number of other garden activities will keep the mountain gardener busy while waiting for planting season. General clean up and mulching of garden beds is a great way to introduce the gardener to this year’s garden.   Early season weeding is also rewarding.  For example, the noxious weed, houndstongue, leafs out early with bluish green leaves, standing out from the bright greens of grasses and wildflower leaves.  Cutting the plant’s taproot 2” below the soil surface will kill the biennial and prevent the spread of thousands of seeds through the “hitchhiker” burrs.  Other weeds (plants in the wrong places) are also easier to see and dig this time of year, before the soil dries out and the roots have a chance to grow deeper and stronger.

Vegetable gardeners can get started with indoor planting, using seed varieties that recommend early starts. One may also plant outside if minimum soil temperatures have been met, so investing in a soil thermometer (or using a metal meat thermometer from your kitchen) is a useful tool.  Soil temperatures are not only critical for seed germination, but also for root development and efficiency.  Many factors affect soil temperature (soil moisture content, soil texture, surface cover, aspect and elevation), so it is important to check temperatures in all planting beds.  Details can be found here:

A variety of crops can be planted early.  When the garden soil reaches a minimum of 35 degrees, extra-hardy crops (lettuce, onion, parsnips) can be seeded.  At 40 degrees or warmer, hardy cool season vegetables can be planted (peas, radish, spinach, swiss chard, turnips, leeks, beets, carrots, kale, arugula, potatoes, parsley, and cilantro). CMG GardenNotes #720 provides more details. (

Lastly, now is a good time to firm up the winter’s garden dreams and reengage a passion for mountain gardening.  There are great resources online; Colorado Master Gardener GardenNotes  provide information on many topics. Those with an interest in native gardening will find the Native Plant Society’s website quite useful.  A specific guide to plants is here:  For those who prefer face to face interaction, the Routt County Extension office will provide a number of activities throughout the spring and summer.  An Evening with the Master Gardeners will be held at the Bud Werner Library on Wednesday, MAY 17th   where stations will be set up in Library Hall for hands-on learning with Master Gardeners.  Weekly office hours on Thursday mornings at the Extension office also are great for answers to specific questions.  Finally, check the paper weekly during the growing season for articles written by Master Gardeners on various topics.

Even though weather this time of year can be challenging, there are lots of ways to get your gardening season started.

A long time Steamboat resident and casual gardener, Vicky Barney is a member of the Master Gardener Class of 2011.