Monday, November 19, 2012

In My Backyard by Martha Perantoni

The number one question I heard all summer from gardening clients and at the Evergreen Farmer’s Market Master Gardener booth was “what won’t the deer and elk eat?” The answer I finally arrived at was “anchovies.”

Colorado and her foothills are unique in its diversity of wildlife. That’s the beauty and the challenge of it, particularly for gardeners.  I revel in the wildlife community, and its impact and softening on me daily is worth a few lost posies. Native Americans believe in the power of the animal kingdom and since we are all part of the same community, I think it’s critical we soften our attitudes towards those we consider invaders. While your garden may not be completely ungulate resistant, what a wonderful opportunity to view and enjoy our local species by offering them occasional snacks!

This bull elk wandered through my driveway during rut, herding his ladies ahead of him, and for obvious reasons I stayed in my car until he moved through. They devoured plants in their path, but it’s autumn and, shoot, plants need winter pruning anyway!

My little red fox friend decided that caching his catch in my upper deck container was a good idea. All the time I thought he was there to smell my lobelia before the first freeze!

Every region and climate in North America has its own set of challenges –in Florida, it’s hurricanes and for California, it’s earthquakes. While Colorado has its share of everything from drought and wildfires to deep snowpack, how lucky we are we have opportunity to view and cherish our wildlife. Got elk? Get a camera and share the beauty of your interaction!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bobcat in the garden - by Irene Shonle

Bobcat visits our garden.  Photo by Tom Lambrecht
Following up on the last post,  we had a visit from another garden helper a couple of days ago.  A beautiful bobcat spent about fifteen minutes visiting our garden, probably attracted by the many voles in the area (and possibly the bunny poop we have been adding as fertilizer).

We watched it stalk several voles -- it missed a couple of times and finally did get one.  I hope it returns often, because there's plenty more where that one came from!

Since our beloved old dog died a few years ago, it has been interesting to watch the increase in visits from critters of all kinds -- our vole population is up, but so are the bobcats, coyotes, and foxes.    Maybe we'll reach a reasonable equilibrium one of these years.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Nuisance Neighbors or Garden Helpers … a Tail (!) from Camp Evergreen

Mr. Fox, enjoying a bit of shade on the deck

Those of us living at altitude know all too well, the challenges of gardening with critters around our prized plants, veggies and trees.  We’ve all made the efforts to keep them out or perhaps even have read the Fact Sheets on control methods.   In fact, most hearty  Master Gardeners (MG) have fielded calls on the CMG Hotline about controlling the critters that frequently make a meal out of our prized nursery stock, ripening tomatoes or seedling transplants and saplings. What’s a gardener to do??   Just who was here first???

Other than surrounding your beds with 6’ high fences, electronic eyes, searchlights, coils of razor wire, bottles of repellant and other manners to control underground attacks – I say strive for a non-contentious balance. While these invaders may be looked upon as nuisance neighbors, these critters also can be considered garden helpers.  Case in point, I had two such garden helpers this past summer that amused me to no end.

Take Mr. Fox, seen above resting in the shade on the back deck after a hectic morning of wrangling squirrels!  Dare I say there were no battles of who’s going to eat the birdseed at the feeders first …birds or squirrels?  Or who’s going to dig in the deck planters to bury some unforeseen treasure from the forest floor.  In fact, I followed wet paw prints across a spot of sheltered deck after a light rain one evening, only to discover they did not belong to the resident Camp Lab, but belonged to Mr. Fox.   He at least had had the consideration of digging in a planter box that had not yet been planted!  For that, he earned Special Access and the box remained unplanted for the rest of the season … and no, I didn’t dig around to find out what all his buried treasures were!

Then there was Carly, the young elk cow, who appeared one late afternoon to help trim the back lawn.
Young elk, Carly, the lawn maintenance crew

For all that say … “Who has a lawn in the Foothills …?”   I will readily admit I do – It’s small, only 8 x 30 off my back deck.  It’s just an added spot of greenery no one enjoys, other than those here at the Camp.
Yes, it’s filled with dandelions, small knapweed and other such invaders but Carly does enough to help keep things under control!  Perhaps an affiliate membership in the Colorado Weed Management Association is in order??  I will say she was even considerate enough not to leave her pine-tainted fertilizer behind, even though it was fall and the prime time to fertilize lawns for root growth!

There are a few more ‘helpers’ around here at The Camp, but they have yet to prove their worth.  (Even though Rosie the Rabbit is careful & delicate in her pruning, she just needs to find a different  horticultural focus, besides my budding Columbine!)   While it is fun to call out our nuisance neighbors,
it is important to remember how much we all enjoy living in such colorful surroundings – even if it means a 6’ high fence to protect the veggie plot is in your future for next Spring!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Greenhouse in Teller County, CO by Valerie Belding

I’ve never been a person filled with garden envy until I tried gardening in a mountain valley. I’m just outside of Woodland Park along Trout Creek and register 10 degrees colder than Colorado Springs’ temperatures at almost any given time. My soil, at one point, consisted mainly of decomposed granite. Summer sun is adequate but my fall/winter sun exposure is limited to 6 hours.

With a back hoe, we dug a pit and brought in top soil for a vegetable garden. I experimented with several types of structures until we built my current greenhouse(7’ x 12’). I have a regular garden plot up against my greenhouse and I use both all summer. Compost and horse manure are added to the beds plus my spent annual containers; plants, dirt and all.

Last year I battled with what someone said were gophers. I never saw the animals but saw the mounds. The burrows were 2-3” across and all over my perennials beds. I flooded and collapsed many tunnels and ultimately baited the flower beds. Afraid of repeating the battle this year, I opted to use hardware cloth under the soil in the greenhouse and contained the soil in boxes adding height for future composting.

Pavers line the middle walk for heat retention and cleanliness and I keep gallons of water for passive heat. As night temperatures decline I add an additional plastic liner to insulate from the cold. I also lower the ceiling using moveable boards across the midrib to support one more layer of plastic. I can still vent and run a fan by lifting the plastic bib in front of the door. I have heat in the morning hours to keep it from getting too cold.

As we just cleared a 13 degree night I was tickled to open up the greenhouse and see my lettuce, Swiss chard and onions in good shape. I did lose some very young lettuce and most of my spinach to a mouse. I'm negotiating his presence with baited traps and ‘aromatherapy’ (urine sprays and blood meal). Seems he’s got the message. I'm not sure how much growing I have ahead with diminishing day light, but I'm going to see how far I can go.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pocket Parks by Janet Low

The park with bermed, rock covered hillside with native shrubs and wooden architectural features

Strolling along an old railway path in Salida with  my granddaughter, we came across a once weedy vacant lot that had been transformed into a “pocket park.”  As she napped in her stroller, I sat and enjoyed the view of the Collegiate Peaks and the natural setting that had been created by the native herbaceous perennials and shrubs. At this Monarch Spur Park in Salida, a wooden structure created to post facts about the sight, along with a list of native plants that were planted in the pocket park were included.  Credit was also given to the creators and donors of the park.

Explanation of Monarch Spur Park, a sign in the pocket park in Salida

By definition, a pocket park is a small park accessible to the general public, frequently created on a single vacant building lot or small irregular pieces of public or private land.  They provide greenery, a place to sit, possibly created around a monument or art project. They can also have a positive effect on the value of nearby homes and businesses as well as eliminating the weeds on long forgotten lots.

The wooden structure built for the sign

Returning home to Lakewood, I began to think of the possibilities for “pocket parks” in Jefferson County.  As a master gardener without a plot of land of my own for gardening, I have adopted plots of land to tend to, such as friends’ gardens that need help with planting, weeding, dead heading  and dividing, a memorial garden at the church my parents once attended and now the idea of a pocket park.

My thoughts about a pocket park would be to research land ownership when coming across a plot of land that would make a viable project.  CSU fact sheet #7.242 Native Herbaceous Perennials for Colorado Landscapes and #7.422 Native Shrubs for Colorado Landscapes would be supports for suggested plants. 

The labor force necessary could possibly come from Colorado Master Gardeners as a project for  garden project/plant select/ or display garden credit hours.  The plants could also come partially from Colorado Master Gardeners when dividing and sharing their own gardens (such as Fall Harvest), along with fundraisers and donations throughout the year.  The Salida park used a grant form Great Outdoors Colorado, along with cooperation from neighboring landowners, Salida Parks Open Space and Trails and the City of Salida Public Works Dept.