Friday, April 24, 2020

Gardening for Well-Being

By Ginger Baer, Gilpin County Master Gardener

Spring is the time of year when I am anxious to get outside and start digging in the dirt. My daffodils are popping up, the perennials are showing signs of life, and the sun is starting to warm the soil.

Now, probably more than ever, with Covid-19 in 2020 , I am getting particularly anxious to get outdoors and make my garden grow.

This year there are many initiatives to get people out in their gardens and start growing their own food. CSU Extension has started a Grow & Give Victory Garden program this year.
CSU Grow & Give program

Are you new to gardening? Not a problem. There are many learning tools available to you. The Grow & Give project has released many videos to help get your started. Are you an experienced gardener? Well then, you know how good it feels to get out in the garden.

There are many reasons why this program will be good for your wellbeing. When you grow a garden you are getting outdoors. Looking after your plants gives you purpose and the ability to nurture. It’s good to be connected to living things. Especially this year when we are all self isolating. Being in your garden helps you to relax and let go. It gets you away from the news and constant barrage of all that is wrong in the world right now. Being out in nature gives you exercise and helps your body to release the happiness hormones, serotonin and dopamine. Gardening also allows us to vent and release anger. Pull that weed! It also lets you gain some control at the same time.1
Girl in garden
You know what even feels better? Growing with a purpose. How many times have you found that you have produced more in your garden than what you can actually use? Think zucchini. So why not grow that little bit extra and donate it to your local food bank? This year especially, there is a huge amount of pressure being put on our food banks due to the loss of so many jobs. Grow and Give.

Woman in garden
Gardening is now becoming a normal prescription for people who are fighting anxiety and depression. The sense of purpose, the exercise, exposure to the sun are many of the reasons that this is a useful tool to oversome anxiety and depression. 2

Gardening programs have been developed by mental health therapists and are are tailored to individuals’ needs, working with them to set goals that will improve their health and wellbeing. This process is called social and therapeutic horticulture (STH). It can:
  • Reduce depression, anxiety and stress-related symptoms
  • Alleviate the symptoms of dementia, such as aggressive behavior
  • Increase the ability to concentrate and engage
  • Reduce reliance on medication, self-harming behavior 3
So, the bottom line is: Get outdoors, get gardening and feel terrific!

2. mental-health

Friday, April 17, 2020

New Basics of Mountain Gardening Webinar!

New Webinar on the Basics of Mountain Gardening!

Jennifer Cook, Gilpin County Extension Director, and Ginger Baer, seasoned Gilpin County Master Gardener, team up for an overview of the most successful vegetables and herbs to grow at high elevations. They also discuss garden strategies to make the most out of a short growing season. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

What Butterfly Is That?

What Butterfly Is That? By Cherie Luke, Jefferson County Master Gardener

Is one of your gardening goals this year to attract more butterflies? Mine is!

Butterfly gardening, and butterfly watching have become increasingly popular in the last few years, along with butterfly conservation. Many people think that butterflies are also good pollinators because they spend a lot of time on flowers but they are not. They do not have a body shape conducive to transferring pollen for most flowers. Still, I find watching them can be fascinating and beautiful as they fly around the garden from flower to flower.

Butterflies belong to the family of insects known as Lepidoptera. There are 20,000 species of butterflies worldwide and 575 in the continental United States.

To attract butterflies to your yard, first and most important is to have a life-sustaining environment. It is vital that insecticides are not used in or near your garden.

Butterflies need flowers for nectar (energy), and specific caterpillar host plants to lay their eggs. Host plants have evolved in order to feed the caterpillars that emerge from these eggs. After emergence, caterpillars eat the host plant leaves. Without host plants in your garden or yard, butterflies will go elsewhere when it's time to lay their eggs. Trees, shrubs, perennials, and grasses all can serve as important host plants.

Monarch butterfly on host plant Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly weed) in my yard
It is also a good idea to have a water source for butterflies. A saucer with pebbles, on or low to the ground, makes a good place for them to have a drink. Just remember to keep the water fresh.

And last but not least, it's fun to identify what kinds of butterflies are attracted to your garden. There are many books available to help you identify which butterflies are visiting your garden. The new one I like is, Butterflies of the Colorado Front Range, A Photographic Guide to 100 Species, by Janet R. Chu and Stephen R. Jones.

For more information on attracting butterflies to your garden see:

Information on understanding pesticide impact on butterflies:

Friday, April 3, 2020

Gardening Opportunities

So Many Garden Opportunities While We Shelter in Place
By Sandy Hollingsworth, Gilpin County Master Gardener
Like everyone in the country, gardeners are asked to be at home during the COVID 19 outbreak. This time can be a challenge, or a time of opportunity. Here are some thoughts on how to use your home isolation as an opportunity to keep busy as a gardener. 
Start seeds!
Many seed packages suggest a 4 to 6-week indoor start time. You can start them in a warm location in a sealed plastic bag for the first few days or use a warming mat which fits a plastic flat just right. Using a warming mat will speed up and help with consistent seed germination.
To start seeds, sterilize your starter pots by dunking in warm water with a little bleach, set aside to air dry. Moisten sterile seed starting mix by putting it in a bucket or large bowl, adding warm water, and stirring until the soil is consistently moist. Put moistened soil into dry clean pots, add seeds, and cover to the recommended planting depth on the package. You can cover seeds with dry starting mix and mist to moisten. 
Place pots in larger trays and cover with a plastic lid, clear plastic wrap, or bag so that you can see when the seeds start sprouting. At this point, remove the cover.
Once the seeds sprout, they need to go into consistent warmth and light, preferably under a grow light set so you can raise the height of the light as the plants grow. A sunny west window can do the trick as long as you turn the pots if they start to lean toward the window, so that stems grow stronger and straighter. 
Keep plants evenly moist as they grow. Transfer to larger pots in a few weeks if needed.
Before planting outside, plants need to be hardened off by increasing sun and outside exposure over a week or so. Start with a couple of hours outside and gradually add exposure to a full day.
If you have space, consider starting extra vegetable seeds! Plants will be ready to donate to your local food bank, neighbors, or care centers when they are able to receive them this growing season. 
Seed starting CSUE fact sheet-
Sort and clean your pots and tools!
If you didn't get a chance in the Fall (we had a sudden mountain snowstorm in October), you could take inventory and decide if you still want all of the pots and tools that you have. Maybe some are past their prime or you want to give some away. You can wash pots in the shower or a work sink, sanitize with bleach water, let dry, and they'll be ready for Spring.
Tools can be sharpened, cleaned with steel wool to remove any rust, dipped in bleach water, then dried. You'll be able to grab them when spring and summer outdoor planting gets going.
Peruse catalogues!
They are always great for inspiration and dreaming. If you are not able to buy supplies, then you have time to get them on your wish list. It's a fun way to get some creative pot design and support ideas to try and replicate with materials you have at home. You can even brush up on your plant names and learn new ones. Surprise your friends next time you play Scrabble!
Order delivery or plan your shopping list!
If you have a gardening budget, most stores are offering pick-up or delivery during the Coronavirus reduced hours or closures. Some unique plants and tools are available on-line and not in local stores. Of course, supporting our local garden stores will be especially appreciated this year.
Plan your shopping list for when you are able to go out and shop. We all have our favorite local businesses we like to shop at for most of our garden supplies, pots, tools, plant starts, hanging containers and all the things that make us gardeners happy.
Plan your garden layout!
If you keep a garden journal, it's a great time to review it. What worked well? Did you miss any chances for succession planting? What can you do better or differently this year?
Draw a design and even color it by flower or plant color to help visualize what you want to do this summer. If you can't afford new plants, you can move things around in your own yard, or start asking your friends to trade or give you what you need to fill empty spaces in your plan.
Design ideas from Plant Talk Colorado -
Call your neighbors and talk gardening!
Not only is a call heartwarming for both people, the stories about our plans, successes, favorites, failures and dreams in our gardens are topics to stay connected. Many people are using Zoom, Facetime or Facebook to see others, meet and stay in touch.
Draw plant and flower theme cards and send them to friends or random people!
Who doesn't enjoy getting a note in the mail? If you aren't a painter or artist by nature, try making a design with cut out magazine and catalogue photos or stickers. These are equally cheerful. It can be a fun activity if you have children or other adults in your household who want to help create. 
Watch webinars and read books!
There is so much to learn. Books and videos are great ways to escape for a while. Some very funny parodies or instructional videos are available to watch or listen to just for a laugh or inspiration. You could share them with friends via email or social media. 
Try these Plant Talk Colorado resources: 
Hope this gives you some ideas and optimism about things that we gardeners can do now for the upcoming gardening season. Please be well during this period of social distancing and taking precautions to protect our vulnerable community members. 
If we need to social distance into summer, the yard and garden are great places to be!