Thursday, May 28, 2015

Can I put my tomatoes out yet? By Debbie Becket

King Soopers has had tomato plants for sale since March; I can put my tomatoes out... Right?
Probably not, but soon!
We must consider OUR weather conditions, altitude and growing season.

1. USDA Plant Hardiness zone maps help gardeners decide which plants will survive at a particular location. Gilpin County sits in zones 3b and 4a. The map is based on average low temperatures.

2. The last frost date is June 10 for these zones. Our growing season is about 90 days.

Tomatoes are a tender plant and cannot survive below 32 degrees. Watch night time temperatures.

Harden off your plants. Whether you buy plants or start them at home, they need to be hardened off for a week or so. Start by setting them out in a sheltered area like a porch. Then gradually shift them out into a sunny spot. Bring them in at night.

I know, I know, you still want to try to plant them sooner than later… itchy green thumbs?
Season extenders can help you get a head start. These include wall of waters, hot caps and floating row covers, sold at garden centers, and some homemade attempts as well.
A gallon milk jug with the bottom cut out provides an inexpensive micro- climate to help protect your tender tomatoes. Don't leave the caps on during the day.

 Oh, you bought your tomatoes a month ago and now they are too leggy? Never fear, those tomatoes can still be planted. Remove all but the top leaves and plant them "horizontally!" 

I can't wait for a juicy BLT!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Why Did My Plant Die? by Louise Heern, Clear Creek County Master Gardener

While we are all not-so-patiently waiting for our mountain gardens to re-appear, I thought we could all use a little cheering-up. This poem is taken from Geoffrey B. Charlesworth’s book, The Opinionated Gardener. It is a wonderful book written by an expert gardener and is full of information and humor. For every gardener who has ever lost a plant – this one is for you!

Why Did My Plant Die?
By Geoffrey B. Charlesworth

You walked too close. You trod on it.
You dropped a piece of sod on it.
You hoed it down. You weeded it.
You planted it the wrong way up.
You grew it in a yogurt cup
But you forgot to make a hole;
The soggy compost took its toll.
September storm. November drought.
It heaved in March, the roots popped out.
You watered it with herbicide.
You scattered bonemeal far and wide.
Attracting local omnivores,
Who ate your plant and stayed for more.
You left it baking in the sun
While you departed at a run
To find a spade, perhaps a trowel,
Meanwhile the plant threw in the towel.
You planted it with crown too high;
The soil washed off, that explains why.
Too high pH. It hated lime.
Alas it needs a gentler clime.
You left the root ball wrapped in plastic.
You broke the roots. They’re not elastic.
You walked too close. You trod on it.
You dropped a piece of sod on it.
You splashed the plant with mower oil.
You should do something to your soil.
Too rich. Too poor. Such wretched tilth.
Your soil is clay. Your soil is filth.
Your plant was eaten by a slug.
The growing point contained a bug.
These aphids are controlled by ants,
Who milk the juice, it kills the plants.
In early spring your garden’s mud.
You walked around! That’s not much good.
With heat and light you hurried it.
You worried it. You buried it.
The poor plant missed the mountain air:
No heat, no summer muggs up there.
You overfed it 10-10-10.
Forgot to water it again.
You hit it sharply with the hose.
You used a can without a rose.
Perhaps you sprinkled from above.
You should have talked to it with love.
The nursery mailed it without roots.
You killed it with those gardening boots.
You walked too close. You trod on it.
You dropped a piece of sod on it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dalmatian Toadflax by Sharon Faircloth

The Colorado Noxious Weed Act was originally passed in 1990 to empower local governments to implement management programs to protect and reclaim lands severely impacted by non-native, invasive plants.  The weeds have been categorized in “A”,”B”, and “C” lists by their level of “noxiousness!”  “A” List plants are designated for elimination.  “B” List plants are ones whose spread should be stopped and List “C” plants should be controlled.  Full lists can be found on the Colorado Weed Management website,

Noxious weeds can appear quite beautiful but they can threaten drinking water, agricultural crops, pastures and our native habitat.  These plants have been transported to our state in various ways and some are even sold in other areas as nursery stock.  They thrive because they have little natural control and have enormous root systems and seed banks.

One of the “B” List weeds in our area requiring attention is the Dalmatian Toadflax (Linaria dalmatica and Linaria genistifolia).   It is a creeping perennial, part of the Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae).  It grows from 2-4 feet tall, has yellow snapdragon-shaped flowers, sometimes presenting orange centers.  A key to identifying Dalmatian Toadflax is by its waxy, dense, heart-shaped leaves.  It is well adapted to more arid sites and can spread very effectively once established. A mature plant can produce up to 500,000 seeds annually and remain viable in the soil for up to ten years! 

Because of its adaptability to our arid climate, it’s quite difficult to manage.  It is best to get to it as soon as it’s detected.  Depending on temperature, you may see it first emerge mid-May and flowering Mid-May through August but more likely it will be June and July in our high altitudes.   The seeds mature July through September.

An integrated management is usually the best approach.  If you can catch it in small groups, dig up and bag the entire plant for disposal.  For larger infestation, digging just spreads seeds and it’s difficult to get all the roots.  The key to deter a creeping perennial is to exhaust the nutrient stores in their root system.  For an extensive discussion on what has been accomplished with mowing, biological and chemical control, please see CSU Fact Sheet 3.114 (

Once it’s under control, you will want to re-vegetate.   Native seeds and plants like Golden Banner (a native which looks similar) and Columbine are good substitutes.  OK, Noxious Weed Soldiers, it’s time to do your part to keep this plant under control!