Monday, August 26, 2013

It has been a Fabulous Summer by Sharon Faircloth

The fading, but ever-hardy, long blooming, bee-loving
catmint (Nepeta cataria)
Hasn’t it been the greatest summer?  The afternoon rains came back after several years of incredible drought.  After living in the same meadow for over 35 years, it is amazing how much the wild growth changes from year to year depending on how much moisture we receive.
Additional rainfall improved the growth of everything – the shrubs are bigger and more vibrant than they have been in years.  The flowers were everywhere and the native grasses even stayed green.  Plenty of rain, no damage from hail -- it was going so well, you know it could not last!
About the second week of August, I woke to my dogs barking.  It was the elk bark, not the coyote howl so I knew trouble was about…. I reassured myself thinking, there’s plenty of grass so they should be happy with that. 
Mutilated Moon Carrot (Sesili gummiferum)
I awoke the next morning, to find my beautiful rock garden looking like the locusts came through. Flowers were chopped; even hens and chicks were decimated!  As we have learned and painfully experienced, “wildlife resistant” plants do not equal “wildlife proof”!  To resist critters, choosing aromatics, plants with prickles and spines, tough leathery leaves and milky sap will give us the best hope of success.  Some good strategies and plant examples are found in CSU Fact Sheet 6.520.  Planttalk also covers the subject in 2302 and 2307. 
Victoria Blue Salvia (Salvia farinacea)
Additions I made this summer included the crazy Moon Carrot (Seseli gummiferum) and some beautiful Victoria Blue salvia (Salvia farinacea).   I planted mint around them to discourage critter interest but the mint hadn’t taken yet so didn’t really help much.  Clearly, the plants lived up to their expectation of being critter resistant but that didn’t save the beautiful blooms from being rudely discarded as unappealing to the elk!  The only plants left totally unscathed were the ever-hearty, bee–loving catmint (Nepta cataria)!

Whining about the elk will subside, especially as they migrate through this fall.  Don’t tell my dogs but elk are magnificent animals, so much a part of our mountain landscape.  At least that rock garden looked magnificent for a while!

Victoria Blue Salvia blooms, guess they didn’t really care for them!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Somebody tell them ground squirrels that potato leaves are poisonous! By Irene Shonle

I have all the greens in my garden covered by floating row covers, but my potatoes are hanging out unprotected.   The deer come by occasionally and eat all the flowers, but recently the Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels or perhaps the chippies have been eating the leaves off the lower branches!
Chipmunks or ground squirrels eating the lower potato leaves.
I don't think they're doing a lot of damage this late in the game -- I'll be harvesting in a few weeks, anyway, but I'm wondering why they can eat them.  Any green parts of potatoes (including green skinned potatoes themselves) contain solanine, which is toxic even in small doses (  Why are they suffered no ill effects?  (And no, it wouldn't break my heart if they did suffer ill effects).
Perhaps this article sheds some light on the situation:
(It basically says what we know about many plants - that alkaloids vary over time and location).  Maybe the plants are giving up their alkaloid defenses, because they "know" the end is near, and the leaves matter less now in the grand scheme of things. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Garden update - by Irene Shonle

So,  last fall, I had gotten fed up with creatures eating my garden, and had performed a garden makeover.

Here's my update: my garden is burgeoning!
Kale, mustard greens, swiss chard all flourishing
It's such a pleasant change from last year when I would go out each morning to discover new depredations and would wring my hands. This year, I just go out and harvest greens for my daily salad (have to keep up with all these greens somehow!) and smile.  Between the hardware cloth keeping the pocket gophers and voles out, and the floating row covers keeping everything from the deer to the flea beetles out, everything looks great! The bunny poop and compost have provided abundant growth, and  the rains we've been having have also meant I've hardly had to water at all.  Closest thing I've ever had to a no-work garden.

Lovin' it.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Weeds: Noxious or Obnoxious? by Rebecca Anderson

Musk thistle (Carduus nutans), photo from CSU Extension

Weeds were a hot topic at the Evergreen Farmer’s Market last Tuesday.  The extra rain this summer has them popping up in everyone’s yards and gardens.  Questions ranged from identifying and controlling specific weeds to triaging which weeds were the most important to remove.  Of course, the noxious weeds need to be a priority for removal.


Noxious weeds are not native to Colorado.  They have no natural controls such as grazers or parasites.  They out-compete native plants because noxious weeds are able to adapt quickly to our environment.  The Colorado Noxious Weed Act has divided noxious weeds into 3 categories:  List A plants need to be eliminated everywhere, List B plants need to be managed to stop their spread, and List C plants are recommended for control.

Yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris), photo from CSU Extension
 The first step to managing weeds, especially noxious ones, is prevention.  This includes maintaining healthy lawns and gardens, purchasing weed-free grass and flower seed, and using weed-free manure and mulches.  Cultural techniques such as establishing a population of desirable vegetation to out-compete the weeds and adequate mulching also contribute to managing weeds.  Mechanical control methods (hand pulling,  hoeing, mowing and tilling) are the next line of defense.  Biological weed control is an area that is being developed.  It utilizes the natural enemies of specific weed species.  Biological controls are slower acting, often requiring 5 to 10 years for success, and are often most effective when combined with other control methods.

Chemicals can be great assets in the battle against weeds.  If choosing to use an herbicide always read the label first!  There are many herbicides on the market, so before selecting a product, make sure the target weed has been properly identified.  Your county extension office and weed department are great resources for assistance with identification.  Once identified, the life-cycle of the weed can then be considered.  Is it an annual, perennial, or biennial?  Timing of herbicide application, frequency of applications, and rate of application should be correlated with this information.

The Colorado State University Extension Noxious Weed Management Pocket Guide has great pictures for several common noxious weeds and tips for their control.  It can be found at the following website: 

The Colorado Weed Management Association has a complete list of Colorado noxious weeds at their website with photos and descriptions of most of the List A and B species.  This can be found at:

Don’t forget to visit our booth at the Evergreen Farmer’s Market.  We have a noxious weed of the week and a noxious weed guide book to get you started on planning a management program for your own yard and garden.