Friday, September 25, 2020

Flower Pots!

By Ed Powers 

For the past three years, my wife and I do flower boxes which rest on our home deck railing at about 8000 feet. We usually buy mixed flower pots at a local nursery or big box store, and also plant flowers in a fiberglass urn on the deck. Before beginning, we researched in the Garden notes from CSU, which was very helpful as we designed, built, and planted them. 

Initially, they were exposed with no cover.  The first set of plants were eaten by varmints that lived around our deck, and then what was left was destroyed by hail.  So we went back to the drawing board and designed what we thought would be a great cover to protect the flowers from hail and varmints. Wrong!  It protected against hail but not varmints. 

We finally developed protection that did both. We made a plastic roof that went from one end of the long pots to the other, secured to the railing and pots with screws. Bird netting was run around the lower half of the pots. This accomplished what we wanted. It protects flowers from hail as well as varmints.  

To our surprise it also allows some of the flowers to self-seed and grow again the next year.  Marigolds, petunias, and allysum have reseeded for the last three years. The plastic cover serves as a simple greenhouse.  However we must remember to water every day or every other day because the multi-plant roots require quite a bit of moisture,

This year has been our best year for all our flower pots. We have volunteer plants from previous years, and I grew seeds and we bought more flower pots.  We fertilize them and I water them every two days.  These pots are overrun with flowers, including purple and white Alyssum, blue and white Labella, Petunias, Marigolds, assorted Snap Dragons, Dusty Miller, Million Bells and Verbena.  In our urn, Columbine, Prickly Pear Cactus (dug up from our property), and two colors of petunias are growing strong. 

Of course the fact that we were at home a lot, because of COVID-19, helped our gardens. We have learned a lot about our gardens because of this and will apply it in the future.  We really enjoy the flowers!

Friday, September 18, 2020

Kale- An Easy Crop That Keeps on Giving!

By Yvette Henson, San Miguel Basin, CSU Extension

You may remember how trendy kale was a few years ago.  Many restaurants had some sort of kale salad on the menu and we were all making kale chips and kale pesto at home.  Farming of kale grew more than 57% between 2007 and 2012 because of consumer and restaurant demand!  Apparently, kale is used in more than 400 products!  And while Zagat declared in their National Dining Trend Survey in 2015, that kale is no longer “in" it is a crop that keeps on giving in my garden.

The first year planting of ‘Red Russian’ and ‘Blue Scotch’ curly kale in my garden.

Several years ago, I planted a small patch of ‘Red Russian’ and ‘Blue Scotch’ curly kale in my garden.  At the end of the season I decided to see if I could overwinter it to harvest seed the following year. I covered the plants with some row cover fabric held up by hoops. The following spring, although it was a little ‘burned’ from the cold, it quickly began to regrow and bolt.  I only allowed the Red Russian variety to set seed—it was the one that overwintered best.  I harvested it to demonstrate saving and processing kale seed at a Seed Saving class we held that October.  I had plenty of kale seed to share! 

My kale, gone to seed.

Seed processing demonstration.

It overwintered again, this time without protection, and I let it be there and kept harvesting it.  The next year I wanted to use that spot for something else, so I pulled it all out of the bed.  It had re-seeded at the base of the stone wall around the bed.  I let that grow for two more years, with only the water from overflow from the bed behind it and without covering it in the winter.  It continued to produce leaves that I harvested whenever I wanted them.  Last year, I thought “enough is enough!’  I tried hard to remove it by cutting the thick woody stems back at ground level.  It was quite tough since the bases were several years old and… it still came back this year!   

This is a picture of the three plants today.

Kale is easy to grow, obviously.  There are two species and main main types. Brassica oleacea (Dinosaur and blue curled kale) which will cross-pollinate with cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and collards. Brassica napus (Siberian and Russian kales) which will cross-pollinate with rutabagas and swede turnips, as well as oil seed crops like canola and rape seed. 

Kale can easily be planted by seed. For spring and summer harvest, plant kale seeds four weeks before last frost. For fall harvest, plant seeds eight weeks before the first frost.  Feed lightly and regularly while growing with a 5-5-5, or similar fertilizer and water as needed (kale will get aphids if stressed). 

Keep cutting the oldest leaves when they are still succulent but do not remove more than 1/3 of all the leaves at a time. If you plan to grow kale for seeds, only save seed from plants that bolt after overwintering—early bolting is not a trait you want in the genetics of your seed.

Kale is nutritious!  It contains 900% daily needs of vitamin K and 600% vitamin A per serving! 

Here are some great recipes:

Massaged Kale - Red Russian or Siberian kale are best for this recipe because of softer leaves. 

Kale Pesto - You can use any kind of kale for this recipe. 

Kale Chips - Any kind of kale can be made into chips but I prefer varieties that have flatter leaves. 

Currently, my favorite way to eat kale is for breakfast—I just go out into the garden and pick a half dozen or so leaves and flash fry them in a small iron skillet until dark brown but not burned.  I add them to an everything bagel with smashed avocado and ‘everything but the bagel’ seasoning. 

While kale might not be as trendy in the restaurants, it is not a crop I want to be without, and I’m not sure I could be, even if I wanted to.



Friday, September 11, 2020

Maple Trees in Colorado

By Cherie Luke

Maple trees belong to the family Sapindaceae and the Genus Acer. There are approximately 128 kinds of maple trees which are easily recognized by their palmate leaves.

Having grown up in the east where maple trees are plentiful, I was happy to discover a maple trees that is native to the west, plus one non-native that will grow well at my 7,600’ elevation. Not only do I think they are a beautiful tree but I covet having deciduous leaves to use as leaf mulch to improve the soil in my gardens.

At the Denver Botanic Gardens plant sale a few years ago, I happened to find Acer grandidentatum, Bigtooth maple, in the “Grown at the Gardens” section. This tree started out 2 feet tall and now after about 6 years is 10 feet tall. It may well reach 20’-30’ tall. This is my favorite tree.

Tatariun Maple (Acer tataricum) 
Bigtooth maple may also be known as Wasatch Maple where its native habitat is located in the Wasatch Mountains. This mountain range stretches from Wyoming into Colorado and along the Utah border.

Another maple tree that I enjoy growing in my landscape is a Plant Select maple called Acer tataricum. This maple is expected to grow 15’-18’ tall and wide. This tree is native to southwestern Europe and western Asia. It has adapted well here because it doesn’t mind our alkaline soils, our semi- arid climate, and because it holds up well to storm damage. It’s beautiful red samaras (seed pods) are very attractive in the summer. In the fall the foliage turns a stunning red, yellow, and orange.

If you do not have any maple trees growing in your landscape, these are two you may want to try.

For more information about trees see CSU Extension Fact Sheet 7.423 Trees and Shrubs for Mountain Areas

Friday, September 4, 2020

A Butterfly Garden

A few years back I planted a small garden outside my back door.  I wanted to add summer color to the native chokecherry and serviceberry bushes that grow at the property’s edge.  To my delight, I inadvertently started a butterfly garden.

I notice butterflies when hiking in the high country.  They flutter about in a variety of colors and sizes, stopping briefly here and there, flying off before I get a good look at them.  Sometimes I see them congregating on the ground around a mud puddle.  Research tells me these are mostly males, likely getting nutrition from dissolved minerals.  One can learn to identify butterflies by noting size, color and pattern, and flight behavior, but to date, I can only easily recognize swallowtails and cabbage moths. 

This year I find I am hosting a new butterfly, a fritillary perhaps?  (see photo)

These visitors arrived in my garden in August when the nonnative purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and a native aster started blooming.  They appear to ignore other flowers nearby – black eyed susans, jupiter’s beard, cosmos, even the native bee balm.   They perch on the tall coneflowers when the sun is shining and linger, mostly one to a flower but sometimes sharing the bloom with another butterfly or even a bee.   They hang on when the wind gusts, rocking back and forth, finishing their meal before moving on.

Well planned butterfly gardens have host plants that provide food for caterpillars and nectar plants for adult butterflies.  They have sunny spots sheltered from the wind, and accessible water.  A garden with masses of flowers that bloom in sequence is ideal. CSU Extension’s “Attracting Butterflies to the Garden” has more details. (

My garden is not well planned, but it appears to have matured enough to provide the right environment for these butterflies.  They may like the untended surrounding area that has plenty of shelter and “undesirable” plants like dandelions and clover.  Or perhaps the small drip irrigation system installed last summer brought the butterflies.  Given regular water, all the plants have grown thicker and taller, with bigger and longer lasting blooms.

Watching butterflies lingering in my flowerbed is a treat!  With more research and a bit of work, I hope to attract more butterflies to my garden next year.    

 Vicky Barney gardens for wildlife and is a member of the Master Gardener Class of 2011