Monday, September 19, 2016

Gardening with Beneficial Friends by Jackie Buratovich, Colorado Master Gardener

I’m nearing the end of my second summer in a passive solar house with an 80-foot expanse of south-facing windows.  At 7,000 feet, where the outdoor gardening season can be fickle and short lived, the idea of stuffing our large window planters with vegetables and enjoying vine fresh tomatoes at Christmas held huge appeal.   Little did I know that I was starting a whole new gardening adventure.

Late fall and my solar palace was bursting with green.  Tomatoes crowded four window bays, cucumbers hung from the ceiling between the kitchen and the window planters, the odor of herbs filled the air in the late afternoon; this was a gardener’s dream!  Or so I thought.  First I noticed the peppers.  Transplanted starts from a reputable grower, they were anemic and the fruit wasn’t developing properly – especially for the amount of warmth and sun they were getting.   Then, the cucumbers between the kitchen and the solar hall declined; I expect some powdery mildew on cucurbits, but the additional shiny sticky coating and spider-webbing was a concern.  My research pointed to white flies, and I tried Neem Oil and another organic pesticide with little impact.

It was Thanksgiving, snow was on the ground yet the tomato vines crowding the windows weren’t freezing.  To provide the interior of my rowdy tomatoes with air and sun, I judiciously began pruning non-bearing limbs and some of the larger leaves.  I started to notice a suspicious shiny coating on the vines…a bit of pruning led to major hacking…and tears.  The leaves at the windows and the window sills themselves were covered with a thick layer of honeydew.  Devastated, I cut the plants down and tossed them into the burn pile.  A week later, kale at the other end of the house was covered with little green critters, stickiness and damage.  I collected a couple of leaves and went over to the extension office to use the microscope. Hmmm…they looked like aphids, but aphids can be species selective.  I didn’t expect all the plants would be attacked.  Our awesome extension agent, Todd Hagenbuch, sent my samples to the CSU greenhouse entomologist and the verdict came back:  Green Peach Aphids – a wee bestie that’s particularly problematic in greenhouses and resistant to chemical pesticides (which I’m not going to use in my living space anyway).  The population was substantial enough that the darn things were reaching the winged adult stage – which explained the movement through the house.  Aphids are blind, dumb, and barely mobile…but allow them to grow wings and watch out!

The extension expert sent me a CSU paper on biological control of insects, how they work and where to find them.  I made some calls to ‘insectaries’ and settled on lacewing larvae, an aphid predator.  They come as eggs on cards that are hung near aphid infestations. The adults don’t seem to do well in greenhouse environments, so I would need to keep hanging new cards.  The lacewings worked, but my aphid problem was out of control…now they’d found the bougainvillea!   Desperate, I released two batches of aphidoletes aphidimyza. This is a tiny midge (in the fly family) that flies around laying eggs near aphid populations on the leaves. The aphidoletes eggs hatch into tiny larvae (maggot-like) that scoot around the leaves eating aphids.  Within about a month, there was no honeydew, the new shoots were free of aphids and we could now expect fresh tomatoes and other vegetables.  

It has been a fascinating adventure in allowing what happens in nature to work in a home.  The only drawback is teeny little flies that are attracted to my late-night headlamp but it’s a small tradeoff for fresh vegetables all winter long!

Photo by I, Luc Viatour, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Garden Q & A by Kurt M. Jones, Chaffee County Extension Director

Q. My daylilies are two years old and have never flowered. What is the problem?
A. Since your daylilies they are relatively young, it is unlikely they need to be divided. Usually, after five or six years, daylilies do become large enough to be divided.
A couple of more likely reasons are they are not getting enough sun or water in their current location. Daylilies will tolerate partial shade, but prefer full sun to provide a profusion of blossoms. And while they can tolerate poor soils, they are happier in well-drained soils that have been amended with organic matter.
Early next spring, apply a complete fertilizer once, such as 10-10-10. Daylilies like to be watered at least once a week to a depth of eight to ten inches and need even more water during periods of minimal rain. Mulching can be very helpful in maintaining moisture, and is necessary to help newly fall-transplanted daylilies survive their first winter.

Q. Where can I get information on how to adjust my sprinkler system?
 A. All major sprinkler system manufacturers have websites that contain instruction manuals for homeowners. Look at the sprinkler head you want to adjust, find the manufacturers name and model number and then you will be able to go to their website and find instructions and guidance.
Simple adjustments to one or two heads of your sprinkler system can be fairly straightforward. However you may want to consult a professional for major or more extensive adjustments, since there may be design factors to consider. Additional information is available from the CSU Extension in Factsheet 7.239, which can be found by visiting

Q. I have a shrub I want to get rid of under a tree. What is the best way to do this without damaging the tree?
 A. First, you may want to try to kill as much of the shrub as possible in advance with glyphosate, such as Round Up. When applying, be careful not to allow any of the chemical to spray or "drift" onto nearby plants (including the tree), and be sure to follow the directions on the container.
After waiting the time specified on the container to see results, carefully dig around the shrub using a sharp spade or pick, identifying shrub roots to remove. As much as possible, it is important not to disturb or damage the tree roots, in order to preserve the tree. Most tree roots are located in the top 6-24 inches of soil, in an area two to four times the diameter of the tree crown.
When you have removed as many roots as possible, you may also want to consider applying one of a variety of products on the market that speeds up the decomposition of any remaining stump or roots. If any remaining roots send out sucker shoots, these can be killed with another careful application of glyphosate.

Q. Is there any way to get rid of aspen seedlings/suckers in the lawn?
A. There's not much you can do, as suckering to produce new shoots is in aspen's nature. You could try digging up aspen sucker shoots in spring, before the leaves appear, for planting elsewhere. However, more suckering will occur later. You could cut them back or mow them down, but the "stubs" will continue to try to produce leaves and grow, and new suckers will develop. A product called "SuckerStopper" may be useful; follow label directions carefully. A systemic herbicide like glyphosate (Roundup) applied to sucker leaves may result in damage to the "mother" aspen.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

How to install a rock garden by Barbra Flowers, Master Gardener

My husband and I recently decided to install a rock garden.  Or rather, I decided and he foolishly agreed.  A local nursery was giving away some landscaping rocks so we went by and picked up a load for a patio for our outdoor firepit.  This led to the rock garden idea.  We have a west facing slope that gets full sun and grass will not grow there.  “Let’s dig it up and plant rocks!”  I said.

Okay, so now I will tell you how to install a rock garden.  I will not tell you how we did it because we did it wrong!  My first piece of advice…don’t do it!
Well, if you must…here’s how:

Gather the rocks.  It took us three loads…we thought it would only take one.  We, or rather, my husband has developed some new muscles from carrying all the rocks.  Use a wheelbarrow and/or a dolly.  We didn’t…that was dumb of us.

Dig down 18 inches.  Hopefully your soil isn’t solid clay like ours.  At our age slinging a pickax and shovel is no picnic.  Why are we doing this we asked ourselves?  Too late, we have the rocks now.

Arrange rocks according to size and shape.  You should use the same kind of rocks for a more natural look.  Try to emulate mother nature (not easy) in your arrangement, keeping the rocks in groups of three offset from each other so soil will catch between them.
Fill in with a soil mixture of pea gravel, topsoil and compost.  I put a thin layer of gravel first, then topped with the soil mixture.

Begin planting.  Choose plants best suited to the exposure of your garden.  There are good books in the library with plant suggestions.  The local nurseries can also help with your selections. The Yampa River Botanic Park has several rock gardens that demonstrate design ideas and plant selections.  I am doing a mix of perennials and alpine plants that I am moving from other sections of my garden.  All of these plants are suited to west facing, full sun and dry conditions.

Apply a layer of pea gravel as mulch.  This will help hold the soil until the plants have established their roots.  Water well and do not let dry out until plants have taken hold.
Okay, my garden is done.  Well, not quite.  I am still planting.  I hope to get most of it planted before the snow flies.  I think it looks pretty good.  Next I have to figure out how to keep the grass from growing where it didn’t before.

Now, off to the chiropractor and massage therapist!