Monday, December 18, 2017

Poinsettias by Kurt M. Jones Chaffee County Extension Director

The Aztecs cultivated the poinsettia in Mexico long before Europeans came to the Western Hemisphere.  They used the bracts for a reddish-purple dye and the latex to counteract fever.  The plant also played a part in midwinter celebrations and was widely planted in gardens.

            In 1925, Joel R. Poinsett, a botanist and the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, sent some plants to his home in South Carolina.  He shared his find with other plant enthusiasts.  December 12th is National Poinsettia Day and recognizes Poinsett’s contribution to the holiday season.

            Poinsettias do well in the home and keep their color until mid-March.  The showy red, pink, white, yellow, bicolored or speckled modified “leaves” are called bracts.  With proper light and temperature, they accumulate the pigments that give them their color.  The flowers of the poinsettia are in the center of the bracts. 

            Poinsettias come in many colors and forms.  New selections appear every year.  When selecting a plant, choose one with dark green foliage.  However, cultivars with lighter colored bracts typically have lighter green foliage. 

           Plants with pale green, yellow or fallen leaves generally have a root disease problem, have been overwatered, had an excessive dry period, or received limited fertilization.  Bracts should be well-developed with little pollen showing on the flowers at the center of the bracts.
          When outside temperatures approach 35 degrees F, be sure the plant is well wrapped or sleeved before transporting.  Low temperatures, even for short periods, can damage leaves and bracts.

            To care for your new poinsettia, place it where it can receive a lot of indirect sunlight.  Poinsettias thrive on indirect, natural daylight–at least six hours per day.  Avoid direct sunlight, as this may fade the bract color.  To prolong color, keep plants out of cold drafts and away from excessive heat.  Ideal temperatures are 67 to 70 degrees F during the day and 60 to 62 degrees F at night.  Remove damaged or diseased leaves.

            Poinsettias require moderately moist soil.  Check plants daily and water thoroughly whenever the soil feels dry to the touch.  Plants in clay pots require more water, while those in plastic pots are easily overwatered.  Do not allow the plants to sit in standing water.  You may need to remove foil wraps or poke holes in it to allow for water drainage.

            A poinsettia does not require fertilization while it is in bloom.  However, to maintain green foliage and promote new growth, apply a balanced all-purpose house plant fertilizer once a month.  Always follow the directions on the fertilizer label.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

How to contain plant-eating varmints and hail on deck planters by Ed Powers

We have lived in our house in Evergreen for the past 7 years.  And for the past 6&1/2 years we have battled plant-eating varmints and hail on our deck planters.  We started with pots that had wire cages that we built.  Well, the varmints managed to get thru the cage and destroyed our plants.  We then bought hangers and hanging planter bags and put wire cages around them.  Again, both the varmints and hail got the plants. 

Half way through this summer we decided to put pots that sat on the deck railing and put plastic sheet plastic on each side of the planters on the railing. It partially worked: we stopped the varmints from getting in. At the same time we set up a night-vision game camera to find out who the culprits were.  No luck, we were only able to get a picture of a tail.

Not only could we not discover what the varmints were, but the hail again destroyed our flowers. Out of desperation, we designed and built a modified mini greenhouse type enclosure.

We made it from a 24 inch  clear plastic roofing material (my terminology) (cut from a 8 foot sheet) supported with 15 inch high and 24 inch wide ¾ inch pvc.  We then forced the enclosure to stay in place with a piece of wood at each end.  All materials were bought at an home improvement store.

These are some of the materials used in building the enclosures.  As you can see we had outstanding flower displays after we were done.

They even made it through snow!

All pictures and ideas were done by my family.  Maybe they will be of use to you.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Ideas from the Garden Center by Sandy Hollingsworth

Gardeners are notorious for getting ideas and finding new ways to use space in their garden by visiting garden stores and nurseries. After the fall cold snap when our gardens succumb and we find ourselves sad about the abrupt end to the season, we just can’t stop thinking about gardening. 

While you may know that raised beds are a great way to use space and reach your veggies as they grow, you may like to see some ideas to ponder for next season. A rectangle (pictured) is the most common shape for a raised bed and it is generally recommended that it be 3-4 feet wide and about 6-8 feet long so that you can reach if from each end. Shorter is just fine and having two or more is often desired depending on how much produce and variety that you want to grow. 

Three tips in the mountains for new raised beds are to line the bottom with hardware cloth to deter critters from digging from below, adding row covers to warm the soil for seeds and keep insects and critters, including birds, from snatching your seeds and seedlings, and adding a hoop and cover above to let the plants grow in more even temperatures plus protect them from hail or sunscald. Row covers are synthetic fabric from garden stores or even cotton sheets. Plastic is ok for the hoop cover as long as the plastic doesn’t touch the plants - or the hot or cold plastic will likely harm the plants. 

A fun idea recently spotted at a garden center is the wall garden (pictured) with multiple smaller planters using vertical space instead of only horizontal space. Also in the photos are vertical trellises that peas, beans, cucumbers or other vines can grow up. Using good fresh amended garden soil or “topping off” an existing raised bed with soil formulated with ingredients for raised beds will give your seeds and seedlings the nutrients that they need. 

In the upcoming winter months there are many good CSU Extension Fact Sheets (FS) you may wish to read or review about soil preparation (FS 7.235) plant selection for the mountains (FS 7.248), growing from seed (FS 7.409) pest control (FS 5.569), and new to Colorado gardeners (FS 7.220 and 7.244) to plan for the warmth of next spring. 

Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants Conference --Save the Date!

Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants Conference --Save the Date!
February 10, 2018 at the Denver Botanic Gardens
Registration for the 3rd Annual LWCNP Conference coming December of 2017:

Our keynote speaker will be Panayoti Kelaidis.   Topics for the ‘New to natives’ breakout session will include planting for habitat, planting for year-round interest, adding natives to an existing landscape (including replacing your lawn), and “plant this, not that”.  Topics for the ‘Knows the natives’ breakout sessions will include maintenance,  rock/crevice gardening (including bare-root planting), soils for native plants, and water conservation through passive water harvesting.  We will end the day with panel with a grower’s perspective on natives.
We will also have many wonderful vendors to check out before and after the conference, and during breaks.
The Landscaping with Colorado Native Plants Conference promotes the inclusion of native plants in our landscaping to benefit pollinators and songbirds, save water, and restore the beauty and health of nature in the places we live, work and play.

While we recommend the use of straight species and local ecotypes wherever possible, we support the use of varieties and cultivars of native species as long as their breeding doesn’t interfere with their ability to function in nature and maintain key relationships with pollinators and other lives.