Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Garden Tool Maintenance by Tina Ligon

Fall is a great time to do garden tool maintenance
Fall is a great time to clean up and maintain all those garden tools before storing them for the winter. Many Farmer's Markets have booths to sharpen tools (for a fee) if you don't want to take it on yourself. However, there are several good videos available to guide you through the process.

The first step is to gather up your tools if you are sometimes like me and leave them where I last used them.
Give them a good cleaning, sharpen if needed, do any needed repairs, lightly sand wooden handles and coat with linseed oil, oil any metal parts with a light machine oil.

Here is a link to a short video about using oily sand to clean garden tools by Jefferson County Master Gardener, Gail Wilson.

University of Nebraska Extension General cleaning and sharpening video.

I include garden hoses in the garden tool category. Don't forget to disconnect, drain and put away.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Re-Purposing Materials for the Garden by Cherie Luke

Local home stores and nurseries sell garden structures and ornaments for the home garden that for the most part are dull and boring.  With materials gathered from yard sales, thrift stores, salvage yards, and recycle centers you can create interesting, fun and useful structures and ornaments for your garden.

This greenhouse was made from all recycled windows, door, and materials you can see at the Steamboat Springs reuse center at their landfill. 

This is another example of a greenhouse made from all recycled windows, door, wood, etc. that also came from the Steamboat reuse center.

The inside of this greenhouse uses granite pieces to create a raised bed garden inside the greenhouse.

A headboard from a thrift store makes a pretty support for a clematis.

Making something useful for your garden out of something some people would find worthless is fun and gratifying.  So visit salvage yards, reuse centers etc. and have fun using your imagination to reuse, repurpose, and recycle in the garden.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Things I Would Change for Next Year's Garden by Ed Powers

Plants undercover
2014’s garden was my second full year of gardening at 7500 feet in Evergreen, Colorado.  It was a disaster!!  It started off with me planting my seeds indoors much too early for my area.  I planted the bulk of my seeds in late January instead of looking at the germination time on each packet and factoring in my altitude (7500 - 8000 feet).  I should determine when the expected transplant date will be and back calculate the starting date.  This year, the young plants ended up being too leggy, a few died early in the seed starting soil while the others ended up difficult to plant because they were too big.

Plants started from seed

Some starts became a bit "leggy"
I planted in early June, shortly after what I thought would be the last frost.  They started off well but I had another major frost in late June and I lost all of my plants.  I consulted CSU fact sheets and guide lines and decided not to give up.  So I planted my second attempt in late June (I had some seedlings left from my seed starting).  I planted tomato seeds that I had saved from last year which were San Marzano, Roma, Black Krim, and Red Siberian (the latter two are both Russian varieties suited for a short growing season).  In addition, I planted eggplant, short seasoned peppers, zucchini and spaghetti squash, and cucumbers.  All were heirlooms because I planned to save seeds for next year.

My plants started very slowly and at the end of July I decided to cover them with tents in hopes to lengthen the growing season.  I was planning to uncover them around the first week in October.  At that time I had little or no fruit on anything.  In late August we had 2 heavy hail storms that did a lot of damage.  But I covered everything again and hoped that the plants would produce fruit and ripen.
Covers added

This week I uncovered my garden and 1 tomato had produced 2 small fruits.  My 2nd year of gardening has been my worst.  However, there were many good lessons learn.  So while it was a bad year for saving seeds and producing fruit I learn a lot of good gardening lessons.

Here is a list of things that I noticed in my garden:
  •      Build raised gardens at this altitude.  Although my garden area has very good, fertile soil; a raised bed assists me in taking better care of my garden.
  •     Do more research through CSU before starting my seeds and planting my garden.
  •     Start seeds (both flowers and vegetables) according to germination time and planting time in my area.  This means not all seeds get started on the same day.
  •     Transplant plants after the last frost (yes a bit of a best guess) and cover them with a hoop covering with a white or opaque cloth like lawn fabric as the covering.
  •     When the temperatures warm-up, drop the cover to the side (or use a summer weight row cover) to protect from overheating.
  •     If I notice there is expected hail, pull up the cover over hoop to protect the plants in the garden.
  •     In mid-September leave cover over plants 24 hours a day but leave the ends open for ventilation.
  •     Put a string of small Christmas lights (non LED) for night heat in each tent.
  •     Harvest in the first week of October.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Now is the time to sow wildflower seeds - by Irene Shonle

If you take your cues from the garden centers, you would think that the best time to sow wildflower seeds is in the spring.  That’s when all the packets of seeds go out, beckoning with their promises of future glory.

Wildflower seed packets
But really, the best time to sow wildflowers is in the fall.   As in right now!  Or anytime late September until the ground freezes. If you think about it for a second, it makes sense – this is, after all, when Mother Nature sows her seeds.  Most native plants actually need that period of cold and wet in order to break dormancy.  When the days lengthen and warm in the spring, the seed coat is softened and ready to germinate.   It’s not to say that you won’t get any germination if you sow in the spring, but for the most part, you’ll have better success in the fall.  And since there are often no wildflower packets to be found in the fall, buy your packets in the spring and keep them in a cool dry place until fall.

Weed your site thoroughly before planting.  If using a commercial packet, follow the recommendations for square footage covered; if you plant too thickly, the plants will be spindly and crowded and will never reach their full size or floriferousness.  Rough up the top few inches of soil, sow the seeds at the recommended density, and then rake them in lightly.  Finally, walk on the soil in order to tuck the seeds firmly into the ground.  Lightly mulch with a weed-free straw (don’t use wood mulch because it’s too chunky to allow good germination) or put a floating row cover on top.

A word about seed selection:   in the mountains, you’ll  usually have best luck with native seeds.  The mixes that contain annual plants will give some instant gratification the first year (and native perennials will not), but will seldom seed themselves for future color, so they do not offer as much bang for the buck.
Native wildflower sowing at the Gilpin Extension Office

For more information, please see the following fact sheet: