Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring has Sprung by CSU Extension in Gilpin County

Spring has indeed sprung here at the Gilpin Extension Office. Even at 9000 ft, our demonstration gardens are starting to show signs of life. It's hard to believe it's still March!

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Photo by Kathy Woodard, The Garden Glove

Using trellis in flower and vegetable gardens can be useful in several ways.  There are many vegetables including peas, beans, tomatoes and squash that grow better with the aid of trellising.  It gives good support, makes it easier to harvest and watch for pests, and gives great visual dimension to your garden or blank walls.  It also can be useful for protecting your home’s siding or fencing from our harsh Colorado sunshine.

Garden centers sell an array of trellis at all price points but how fun to find unexpected items around the house, or at garage and rummage sales, and repurpose them in your garden.  Depending on where you want to use the trellis and your personality, the choices are limited only by the imagination. 

Pick your location and then integrate something unusual into your habitat.  If you like the whimsical, how about an old wooden window (without glass), shutters or doorframe and either use them as is or paint them a color to accent your plantings.  French blue or yellow make interesting contrast with many flower colors. An old ladder can be laid vertically, horizontally or diagonally.  Experiment with placement to determine the best look. 

Try finding an old-fashioned iron bed frame or abandoned gate.  It could be used either rusted or repainted.  Even the metal springs would make a fun possibility for unique trellising.  Old tricycle/bicycle frames or even several bicycle wheels hung vertically or mounted together in rings would be interesting.  How about those abandoned cribs?  The rails could be used in a variety of ways to create trellising or maybe use the crib as a container garden. 

How about a telescoping gate usually used for contain pets and kids?  Plants can easily be tied and it can be leaned against a building or staked.  An old expanding coat rack can also work the same way.
Photo by Kathy Woodard, The Garden Glove
If a natural look is more your style, find a section of old fence or gather tree branches and create your own ladder.  If you’re handy, you can build a series of adjoining squares with mesh or metal lattice wire. Using both vertical and horizontal squares give it depth and visual interest.  Consider using old piping combined with wire for a sleeker more contemporary look.

One of the most intriguing elements of a garden is creating little surprises whether it’s by plants, containers or colors.  Repurposed trellising may give you a way to create a little humor and help out your plantings too! 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Seed Starting with Re-purposed Materials by Tina Ligon

I like to make gardening as cost effective as reasonably possible and I hate sending things to the landfill. This leads to lots of items being re-purposed for seed starting. This article will share just a few ideas; it is by no means complete.
Reusing containers for seed organization
Useful containers can be found in many unusual places. The blood bank was the source of the tray/tubs seen here for organizing seed packages and starting onions. They were free for the taking and have been quite useful. When using for seed starting holes will need to be added for drainage.

Starting onion seed, also using a salad container lid for a tray underneath
The plastic containers that hold salad in the produce section of the grocery can be used in several ways. They are great for holding a few seed starting 6-packs. The containers that typically hold strawberries can also be used for seed starting. The larger plastic tubes are also good for holding several plastic cups with plants. I use them for transporting “gifted” plants starts.
Plastic containers from the produce department
Some of the plastic containers with slots in the bottom and attached hinged lid are great for starting seeds, shown here with onions. The lid can be closed for retainer moisture for germination and then opened for continued growth.
Hinged plastic container with onion seedlings

Plastic cups and yogurt containers can certainly be useful. The cups are a great size for receiving smaller transplants. I find the quart size yogurt containers are perfect for larger tomato transplants. Drill a few holes in the bottom and they can be used for years. The quart size with lid is very handy for storage, such as dry ingredients for organic fertilizer, seed collection, and numerous small items.
Salvaged plastic cups and yogurt containers
Hopefully this gives you a few ideas to get you to look at your recycle pile with new interest.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Seed Starting Station by Tina Ligon

Seed Starting/Growing Station

I love to start plants from seeds. Watching those tiny plants emerge from the soil is one of my favorite parts of gardening. However, trying to grow from seed in late winter/early spring with just light from a sunny window is not enough where I live. I don’t have the light nor temperature control for good germination and plant growth. There are some pretty pricey systems to be had but I have put together a seed starting station that is working quite well for me.
The basic wire shelving unit is 4’ wide x 2’ deep x 6’ height and is on wheels. I like the wire because it allows for great air circulation, doesn’t mind getting wet and dirty, and the open sides are great for running the electrical cords. The shelves are a great size for two regular 10”x 20” starting trays plus when you start potting things up you can squeeze 4 trays per shelf turning them the other way.
The lights are just florescent two bulb fixtures with hanging chains for adjustability. There are more options for lighting but this is what I had several years ago and all is still working so I haven’t upgraded. The florescent bulbs are fine for starting seeds; if you are going for blooms then you would probably want to go to full spectrum bulbs. You do need to keep the florescent bulbs close to the plants in order for them to get enough light. There are a total of 4 bulbs per shelf. This provides pretty full coverage for the whole shelf.
The whole shelving unit is wrapped in a plastic sheet on the sides and back. I have found that just attaching with some clamps works. There is a piece of rigid insulation on top of the unit and a plastic flap for the front. In my case this unit is in a fairly cool room and the plastic makes this a mini greenhouse. The front flap is quite flexible in that you can just let it down as much as you want to keep more heat in the top of the unit. Once the seeds have germinated most plants want to grow in a slightly cooler environment.
Front flap closed to cover only top, heated shelf
 Air circulation is important to this process and a couple of small adjustable fans seem to keep things moving just fine. This year, there is the addition of a heating mat on the top shelf. There is a piece of foil covered bubble wrap insulation under the mat to help keep the heat where needed. The one mat has been enough so far. The seeds start on the top then move down a shelf when germinated and not needing as much heat. There is a controller on the mat so that the ideal temperature for the seed being grown can be selected.
Heating mat with insulation underneath
All of the lights are plugged into an electrical plug strip that is on a timer. The fans and heating mat are on another plug strip so that they can continue to run at night. There isn’t a huge power requirement for any of the devices used and the plastic and insulation helps to keep the temperature regulated and is more energy efficient.
My only problem with this system is that I would like to have another one. The unit is currently in use for the onion starts and for growing microgreens while waiting for the real seed starting season to begin. It has worked great for the microgreens, a new growing venture this winter. It is so nice to have fresh greens all winter. Here are some links to more information about seed starting: