Friday, October 25, 2019

Season Extenders

We know that colder temperatures are coming – and soon.  According to NOAA, Steamboat’s average date of a temperature below 32.6 deg F is August 20th and below 28.6 deg F is September 7th…guess we blew right by those dates this fall!  It’s time to give up, go inside or get out the Season Extension armaments.

When we talk about Season Extension, we are referring to a variety of human-applied garden accessories that help us gain a couple weeks on either side of the short mountain growing season.   Basically, you are either keeping heat in, blocking radiation from a cold clear night sky, and/or adding heat to provide frost protection.  Once it gets in the mid-twenties, you might as well throw in your trowel, unless you’re prepared to spend more money on heating than the worth of your vegetables.  You may have heard or read about these Season Extenders:  Row Covers, Tunnels, Cold Frames, Hoop Houses.

Floating row covers are a synthetic fabric that you place over your plants.  It comes in increasingly heavy weights, from insect and mild frost protection to 5 or more degrees of protection.  The heavier the cloth, the less sunlight gets to your plants.

Plastic-covered low Tunnels can increase the growing season by a month at either end (although wind and snow might cause damage if used too early or too late in the growing season). These tunnels are made by bending hoops from ½” PVC pipe, electrical conduit, or 6- or 9-gauge wire, and putting sturdy plastic over the hoops. UV-stabilized greenhouse film will last more seasons than untreated plastic, but it costs more. The plastic needs to be pulled tight to form a tunnel, weighed down along the sides with sand bags or large rocks, and staked out at either end. This strategy can be attached to a raised bed (my personal favorite) to make a Hoop House.

Cold frames are usually a frame of glass or plastic placed on a raised bed.  These are potentially a little more work but a great way to repurpose building materials, old windows or window frames. 

Remember – anything covered in plastic will need to be ventilated on sunny days or temperatures inside the enclosure may rise enough to kill those plants!

Jackie Buratovich was raised in a central California farm family and loves making things grow in and around a solar home here in Routt County.  She received her Master Gardener training in Boulder County in 2003, and acknowledges that while growing conditions here are more challenging, being back in an agricultural community is like coming home and being able to grow greens outside all summer long is a bonus!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Downsizing the lawn

By Vicki Barney

First my yard had too little lawn. Flowers galore and a variety of ground covers but no grass.  After a few years of (successful) seeding, there was too much lawn; mowing is not my thing.  So this spring I downsized my lawn and expanded the garden area.  It turned into a fun adventure, thanks to the advice and help from my friend Karen Vail.

Removing a lawn can be a daunting task.  It can be accomplished by digging, a back breaking chore that may awaken dormant weed seeds and damages the physical condition of the soil, or soil tilth. Another option, using chemicals, is not a choice for organic gardeners like me.  Smothering the lawn by laying plastic or newspaper is a third option.  Plastic successfully kills the lawn, but also will kill beneficial bugs and any underlying tree and shrub roots.  I took the gentlest path: smothering with newspaper or, in my case, cardboard.

The many ways to remove a lawn are discussed in the CSU Extension Fact Sheet 7.234 - Xeriscaping: Retrofit Your Yard (   Since I didn’t need to remove all roots – no plants were to be started from seed - using cardboard was a sound choice.  I had also found success with cardboard a few seasons back when I wanted to contain an aggressive groundcover, smothering an area over the course of a winter. 

 The steps:

  1. Cut the grass very short.
  2. Lay cardboard (removing staples and tape first) over the area.
  3. Top with 3 inches of weed-free compost.
  4. Lay drip irrigation on top of compost.
  5. Water every other day for 6 weeks.
  6. Plant new garden.

During those six weeks, hungry worms did the work of breaking apart roots as they moved up through the cardboard and into the compost.  The technique works best when the underlying soil is healthy and contains few weeds, as the weeds may sprout in the new garden.  If the area is very weedy, smothering with plastic may be the better option.  

While the worms worked, I followed the sun’s path across the garden (finding it shadier than I thought) and selected native plants from lists provided by Karen.  Then one morning Karen and her assistant Allison Mecklenburg came by to arrange and plant rocks and flowers.  A beautiful new garden was created in a single day.  Amazing.  

After two weeks of attentive watering, the new plants have settled in.  My only chore is to check every so often for sprouting weeds, leaving me free to watch the variety of birds stopping by on their way south for the winter.
Vicky Barney gardens for wildlife and is a member of the Master Gardener Class of 2011. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

A Spring Bulb to Know and Grow

By Cherie Luke

Although still six months away, now is the time to dream about spring flowers and plant
spring flowering bulbs. One of my favorites that I have discovered in the last few years
are Species Tulips. Species tulips are also sometimes called botanical tulips, wild
tulips, or rock garden tulips.
It is believed that species tulips grow in an area that runs from Central Asia to Spain
and Portugal and that roughly 150 different wild species exist. They are in the Liliaceae
(lily) family.
Species tulips are generally smaller than hybridized tulips and grow to a height of
about 6”. As with other spring flowering bulbs, plant in the fall to a depth of about 4”,
but it is always best to follow the guidelines for planting that is listed on the bulbs
package. They will preform best in full sun to part sun in well drained soils. Their
hardiness zone runs from 3-9.
Species tulips are very good for naturalizing. They not only return each year, but they
multiply every year. In general they bloom for me in mid April. I had heard that species
tulips are critter resistant. The first year I planted them in an unprotected area, some
but not all of the blooms were eaten. Since that first year, none of the blooms or bulbs
have been eaten.

Tulip 'Tarda' is my favorite species tulip so far. This little gem was awarded the Award of
Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society and was pronounced ‘Flower Bulb of
the Year’ in Holland for the year 1997. Tarda was first cultivated commercially in 1590.

Another favorite is tulip ‘Norah’. This species tulip is a lovely shade of pink with a bluish
black basal coloring.

For more information on spring flowering bulbs see
Fall-Planted Bulbs and Corms - 7.410 - ExtensionExtension
Spring-Planted Bulbs, Corms and Roots - 7.411 - ExtensionExtension
Photos by Cherie Luke a Jefferson County Master Gardener

Friday, October 4, 2019

Accepting What Is

By Nan Porter

I have written garden articles for the paper as one of my ways to fulfill my hours for the Master Gardener organization and my garden mantra has been modified dramatically over the years since I have been writing.  When I first envisioned my garden it would have flowers that would bloom all summer and at different heights. Butterflies and bees would be buzzing in and out of flowers.  Ahhh!

I bought lots of flowers from many different nurseries, consulted nursery owners and workers and really thought I had done my homework for my vision.  As I mention in past articles it used to rain every afternoon so my garden grew and grew. Then one day the rains stopped about 10ish years ago.

My vision of a quaint English garden was never realized due to the plants not adapting and the rain not falling  (We have a well and there wasn’t enough water for garden and family.) I also bought a horse and wanted to ride instead of picking weeds and watering for hours.

Of course I still “wanted a beautiful garden.” I am just not willing to put in the time to make it happen.  Now after 20 plus years of looking out at my garden I have a new mantra “ACCEPT WHAT IS” and this year I had a wonderful colorful garden. 

Accepting what is includes filling in a lot of the garden with big pieces of flagstone, river rocks with 4 to 5 thicknesses of highest grade weed barrier under the flagstone. If there is not weed barrier the flagstone, it disappears under the weeds. Choosing plants I see around town that really grow at altitude. Exchanging plants with friends. This technique is the best for many reasons.  The plants are from this area and it is wonderful to walk through the garden and think about the people who shared their plants with you.
Accepting what flowering plants are native and just show up in your garden. Just make sure they are not white top and other noxious weeds. (Please check with your local weed manager to be sure).
Accepting there will be weeds and if you have other interests besides a wonderful garden, you too can accept a weed that is green and blends in with the gestalt of your garden.

The last thing to accept is the weather. When it snowed a lot on June 21st I was really depressed, but this year I had a beautiful garden through August which is a month longer than usual.  The garden is fading and going to seed, but it was a wonderful summer with lots of colors!!! I love gardening when I don’t
spend every day weeding for hours!!! Oh, I still do water every other day if it doesn’t rain. Accepting what is allows me to enjoy the garden that I have.