Early Spring Garden Tips

“I love spring anywhere,
but if I could choose,
I would always greet it
in a garden.”

~ Ruth Stout ~

We all look forward to the spring season with delight each year. The promise of warmer weather, more daylight, and all of those beautiful spring flowers is a welcome reward after a long winter of grey days, icy air, and shoveling snow. Soon trees and shrubs will be budding, bulbs and perennials will begin emerging from the ground, and our gardens will slowly come back to life once again. Though it’s still too early to plant, there’s plenty to do in the garden. Grab your garden tools, and let’s get started!

CARE OF GARDEN TOOLS — Speaking of garden tools, early spring is a good time to make sure they’re ready for the upcoming season. Check your gardening supplies so that you’ll have what you need in the spring. Gives your garden gloves a good wash and dry, or replace worn ones. Take time to clean all tools thoroughly, removing any residual soil, then inspect for damage or rust. If you do find rust, give those areas a good scrub with steel wool. It will be a long season of work for your garden tools, so it’s a good idea to have them sharpened at the beginning of the season. Echter’s can do that for you! Simply bring in your tools (and lawn mower blades), and for a nominal fee, we’ll sharpen them. If you need to replace or add to your garden tool arsenal, stop by. We’re well stocked with all kinds of garden implements — especially at the beginning of the year.

EARLY SPRING CLEANUP — Winter can be hard on your garden! Take a walk around your garden to assess any winter damage. Remove debris leftover from winter storms, and tidy up the garden beds and boxes. Clean up any dead annual or vegetable plants that remained over the winter. Trim back the tattered foliage or old bloom stalks of perennials to encourage new growth to come in. Cut back ornamental grasses as low as possible, so the old foliage won’t detract from the new growth. Don’t be in too big a hurry to remove mulches though. There are plenty of beneficial pollinators overwinter in gardens by hibernating in dried leaf piles and last-season’s perennial plants, and March can still be one of our snowiest months!

PREPARE YOUR SOIL — Now is a good time to add organic amendments like compost and peat moss. Rototill or spade into your garden soil to a depth of 6 inches.

PLAN YOUR VEGETABLE GARDEN — A great vegetable garden starts with a great plan! Make a list of what you’d like to grow, how much area you have, and how many of each plant you’d like to grow. Check seed packets for plants’ mature sizes, sunlight and watering needs, and the yield of the veggies when planning. Then have fun mapping out and designing your planting areas!

IT’S TIME TO PRUNE — If you didn’t get to it in February, you can still do pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs in March. Some exceptions would be birch, maple, walnut, and elm. These should be pruned in mid-summer. In early spring, you can still easily see the branching structure of trees and shrubs before the leaves start coming in. Begin by removing the three Ds: anything dead, damaged, or diseased. Then move on to any crossed branches (branches that rub against another), water sprouts (branches that grow straight up from the branch), and suckers (branches that spring up from the base of the tree or shrub). Generally speaking, remove young branches that are growing inwards towards the center of the tree as opposed to outwards. Use a pole pruner to reach branches up to about 15 ft. off the ground. Pruning paints and wound dressings are not recommended on the pruning cuts. If you missed it, here’s a deeper dive into late-winter pruning.

GET STARTED ON SOME EARLY LAWN CARE — As in other areas of the garden, begin by checking for any problems that may have developed. Once the snow has melted off your lawn, check the turf in shaded areas for snow mold, a fungus that is white to pink in color and grows on the surface of the grass blades. If you see evidence of snow mold, lightly rake the affected areas and dispose of the debris. Any remaining mold should dissipate on its own after that.

LAWNS SHOULD BE CORE AERATED once or twice each year. That’s done by poking holes in the ground and pulling out plugs. This reduces soil compaction and helps control thatch in lawns while also helping water and fertilizer move into the root zone. Schedule your lawn for an aeration in March, and prepare by marking your sprinkler heads to avoid having them damaged. Water the lawn the day before aerating, so it will be softer and easier to pull plugs. Then water again after aeration to help the lawn recover. Leaving the plugs on the surface will help break down the thatch that has accumulated.

GET A HEAD START ON WEEDS — You can begin to get ahead of weeds by choosing a lawn fertilizer with a pre-emergent as your first feeding of the year. This will prevent annual weed seeds from germinating, and give your lawn a chance to thicken up and discourage weeds on its own. It’s best to apply these after aerating the lawn. This is important because aerating after a pre-emergent will greatly reduce its effectiveness!

OVERSEEDING — As the weather begins to reliably warm up in March, you can begin overseeding thin areas of lawn. Rake areas to be seeded to expose and loosen the soil, then apply a thin layer of Nature’s Yield Compost . Use a high-quality seed blended for your conditions. Echter’s has many different blends to choose from. A hand spreader will help to apply the seed evenly. After seeding, be sure to keep the surface area moist until the seed is well germinated.

PLANT COLD-HARDY CROPS — While it’s too early to plant tender, warm-season plants, it is time to plant some early cold-hardy crops. Things like onion sets, bare-root strawberries, asparagus roots and seed potatoes can be sowed directly into the vegetable garden in March. Be sure to keep a frost blanket handy for any late-season frosts, just to be on the safe side.

START SEEDS INDOORS — Now is the time to start broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi, alyssum, lobelia, pansy, and geranium seeds inside for planting out later in the spring. Start tomatoes and peppers inside now, then they’ll be ready to transfer to the garden beds in late May.

PREPARE BIRDHOUSES FOR THE BUSY SPRING SEASON — Returning birds will be looking for real estate soon! In preparation for the new arrivals, clean out and sterilize last year’s birdhouses, or put up new ones. Make sure any older birdhouses are still firmly mounted as well. It’s a good time to perform bird feeder maintenance too. Clean out all feeders and fill with fresh seed. You may also want to consider creating a pile of nesting materials to make your yard extra inviting for this year’s visitors.

Late Winter Pruning Checklist

Pruning allows what’s left to grow into something beautiful.

Late winter is an ideal time for pruning deciduous trees and shrubs. There’s no foliage growth yet, so the shape of the tree is easy to see — and so are any problems that need to be corrected through pruning! Pruning doesn’t need to be an overwhelming chore though. If you follow a simple checklist each year, you can keep up with this winter gardening task and keep your trees healthy. Gather your pruning tools, and let’s get started!

The three Ds: Dead, Diseased, Damaged

Begin your pruning by removing any of the three Ds — anything that’s diseased, damaged, or dead. Broken and damaged branches are more than just unsightly. They open the tree up to pests and disease. Prune back to at least 6 inches below the diseased area into healthy wood.

Removing dead branches is an obvious pruning task, but how do you know if a branch is dead or just dormant? Scrape away a small part of the bark, If it’s alive, it will be green underneath. If it’s dead, it will be hard and brown inside. You can also try the “bend test.” Bend the branch gently. A live branch will bend, but a dead branch will snap.

Water Sprouts and Suckers

Next, look for suckers and water sprouts and remove them. Water sprouts are newer branches growing straight upwards through the tree, whereas suckers are new growth springing up around the base of the tree.

Water sprouts are caused by heavy pruning in previous years, or by stress to the tree. To prune them away, cut at the base making sure to preserve the branch collar. The branch collar is a swollen area at the base of the water sprout. Prune to about 1/2″ away from the branch collar.

Crossing & Competing Branches

Look for branches that are not growing out from the center of the tree. These may be branches that, like water sprouts, grow straight upwards through the canopy. Also look for branches that are growing inwards towards the trunk. These branches are called competing branches because they compete for space, sun, and nutrients with healthier branches. Cut these away, so what remains are only healthy branches that are growing outwards from the main trunk.

Crossing branches are branches that grow across another. If left in place, these can rub against another branch causing damage. Removing a crossing branch ensures you won’t have to removed a damaged branch next winter!

The overall shape of the tree should be clearly visible now. Step back and look at the overall structure of the tree. If it still seems a little overcrowded in spots, prune until the shape is more even. You might want to raise the canopy a bit — that is, prune away any branches that are just too low. If there are branches that are in the way each time you mow in the summer, go ahead and remove them.

Renew an Overgrown Shrub

For shrubs that may have become overgrown and leggy through the years, a late-winter pruning can be done to improve shape, vigor, and blooming. Prune away the oldest and weakest canes at or near the ground level. This will improve the overall height & shape and should result in more foliage and better flower quality.

NOTE: It’s crucial to do a little homework before you begin pruning. If you prune spring-blooming shrubs (think lilac, forsythia, etc.) in late winter, you’ll be cutting off this spring’s blooms! Some shrubs (like hydrangea macrophylla) bloom on “old wood,” which means last year’s new canes. If you prune out the old wood on these shrubs, you’ll cut off the canes that would be blooming this year! So, a little judicious research will ensure you’re pruning the right shrub at the right time of year.

That’s it! If you keep up with this pruning checklist each winter, it should never become an overwhelming chore, and your trees and shrubs will be much healthier when springtime arrives.

Why Start Seeds Indoors?

“All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds
of today.”

~ Indian Proverb

Why should you consider starting this year’s garden indoors? Why not just wait until the last frost date passes, and plant seeds directly in the garden beds? There are lots of reasons — especially in Colorado — why getting a head start on the season is such a good idea. 

Get a Jump on the Growing Season
Besides just being a lot of fun, one of the best reasons to start seeds indoors is that here in Colorado, the growing season tends to be rather short — even more so in the mountain communities! Being able to set young plants out (as opposed to sowing seed directly) allows your crops to be a few weeks ahead at the beginning of the season, and that means earlier harvests of those tasty spring and summer veggies!

Grow a Warm-Season Crop in a Short-Season Climate
Everyone’s favorite summer vegetables usually have a long growing season. Beans, corn, and tomatoes can require anywhere from 60-100 days from seed to maturity, and those bright October pumpkins require 120 days! If you have to wait for the outdoor soil to reach the optimal temperature for growing, you’ll miss out on valuable growing days. Considering Colorado’s growing season is only an average of 150 days, getting started earlier sure can be an advantage. Start these popular summer crops weeks earlier by seeding indoors, and start enjoying those juicy tomatoes a little sooner!

When it comes to starting perennial flowers from seed, you may be able to get first-year blooms on flowers that usually don’t flower until their second year in the garden. Varieties that benefit from a head start indoors are: Asters, Black-eyed Susans, Coleus, and Lavender.

Grow a Variety That Isn’t Offered as a Starter Plant
You might also consider starting from seed if you’d like to try varieties of veggies that your local garden center doesn’t offer as “starts” or young plants in the spring. By growing your own vegetables from seed, you have more varieties available to you. For example, while we grow more than 200 different types of vegetable plants each year here at Echter’s, we can’t offer every variety of every crop. Sometimes there may be something you’d like to grow in your garden that we don’t offer. Seed gardening is a great way to grow those extra-special varieties that may not be commonly available.

Fun for kids
If you’ve got little gardeners around the house, the process of planting a dry, dead looking seed into soil, then watching it sprout and grow into a live plant is nothing less than magic! It can also provide a valuable lesson in where our food comes from. One small seed can grow a lot more than a plant. It just might grow a lifelong love of gardening.

A Word of Caution
With some crops, it can be beneficial to just wait until after the last spring frost and sow directly into the garden. This tends to be true of root vegetables like radishes and carrots. Root crops are fussy about being transplanted because no matter how careful you are during the transplanting process, there’s bound to be some minor root damage, and that will show up in the final vegetable. Direct sowing produces better results in those plants.

There’s so much satisfaction that comes from starting your garden from seed. You control what’s going into your food crops, you can save money, and you have access to a greater variety of plants. One of the nicest things about seed gardening is having something green and growing during the grey days of winter. Pay us a visit, and be inspired by all the crops and varieties that are available this year!

Caring for Your Fresh Christmas Tree

Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the
eyes of children, they
are all 30 feet tall.
~Larry Wilde

Nothing says Christmas like the spicy scent of a fresh-cut Christmas tree — a real tree. Keeping your tree fresh through the holiday season can be tricky though! Here are a few tips from the pros on how to make that forest freshness last.

BRINGING THE TREE HOME
When purchasing your fresh Christmas tree, be sure to bring a blanket or tarp to cover the tree if you are tying it to the top of your car. This will protect your tree from drying out on the way home. Be certain your vehicle can safely transport the tree you purchase to your home. Bring rope or bungee cords to secure the load adequately. 

GIVE IT A FRESH CUT
Begin by cutting 1-2″ off the trunk of your tree, and immediately place it in water. Why? When trees are cut, pitch oozes out and seals the pores. By sawing a bit off the base, you’ll open up the pores, and the tree will be able to absorb water. Then add tree preservative to the water.

WATER, WATER, WATER!
The best way to keep your Christmas tree fresh is to keep it hydrated. It’s the single most important thing you can do for your tree. A Christmas tree may “drink” a gallon or more of water each day, so check the reservoir often! Making sure your tree has enough to drink each day will prevent needles from drying, boughs from drooping, and will help to keep the tree fragrant.

Never let the water level go below the tree’s base! A seal of dried sap can form over the cut stump in just four-to-six hours if the water drops below the base of the tree. If the reservoir goes dry — even once — the tree cut will seal and may not take up water again.

LOCATION IS KEY
A Christmas tree may look beautiful next to a fireplace, but heat sources will only serve to dry out your tree. Place your tree away from fireplaces, wood stoves, heating vents, and direct sunlight. The lights on the tree produce drying heat as well. Always turn the tree lights off when leaving home or going to sleep for the night.

KEEP IT COOL
Lower the temperature in the room with your tree. It’s another way to slow down the drying process. The lower the temperature of the room, the better the tree will do.

WHEN IN DOUBT,
DO WHAT THE PROS DO
!
Professionals use products like Wilt Stop to prolong the freshness of Christmas greenery. It’s a natural, non-toxic product derived from the resin of pine trees. It has the unique ability to form a soft, clear flexible film on plants, and it’s what the pros count on to extend the life of fresh-cut Christmas trees. It’s a great way to prevent moisture from escaping and drying the branches out!

AFTER CHRISTMAS
The end of Christmas doesn’t have to be the end of life for your Christmas tree! Fresh-cut trees are useful in the garden in a number of ways.

You can use the pine needles for mulch. Pine needles are full of nutrients that enhance the pH of your soil and can prevent soil compaction in the winter.

Put your leftover Christmas tree outside, and decorate it with strings of popcorn and cranberries to feed the birds. Add pine cones which have been spread with peanut butter and rolled in bird seed. The birds will love you!

Use branches as extra insulation. Cut off the branches of your tree and lay them on your garden bed, the boughs will protect your plants from winter freezes and spring thaws. By laying them on your garden you’re giving your plants an even, steady temperature through the coldest months of the year.

A fresh-cut Christmas tree can be an easy and enjoyable part of your holiday celebrations. With just a little know-how, attention, and maintenance, your tree can provide that forest-fresh scent throughout the holiday season.

Caring for Holiday Bloomers

Poinsettias

It’s just not the holiday season without these bright, festive classic plants! You can’t go wrong with rich red poinsettias, but they’re available in everything from a snowy white to candy pink — even speckled and marbled varieties! They’re easy to care for, and with a few tricks, they’ll last through the holiday season and beyond.

Poinsettias prefer a bright area away from cold drafts, fireplaces, radiators, or heat vents. Keep them from direct sun. Never expose the plant to cold temperatures for more than a few minutes; a chilled or frozen plant will begin to drop leaves very quickly. Never allow the soil of you poinsettias to dry out completely, but be sure they are not constantly wet or sitting in water inside the foil wrap. Water the plant thoroughly only when the soil surface is dry to the touch. Remember to discard excess water from the saucer.

Be careful of locations where the hot afternoon sun may shine directly on the colorful bracts and cause the color to fade. Temperatures ideally should not exceed 70° during the day, or fall below 65° at night. To prolong the bright color of the bracts, temperatures should not exceed 72 degrees Fahrenheit during the day or 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

Amaryllis

These statuesque bloomers are a Christmas tradition for many! Their large, colorful blooms bring life to the darkest days of winter. They offer a variety of brilliant festive colors, and are extremely easy to grow.

Amaryllis bulbs will bloom 7-10 weeks after planting. Choose a pot about 2″ wider than the bulb and one that is heavy enough to keep from tipping. Fill the pot part way with potting mix. Set the bulb so that the top 1/3 of the bulb will be above the top of the soil when you fill the pot to 1″ below the top edge of the pot. Give the plant about 4 hours of bright light a day. Plant every 2 weeks for a spectacular color show all winter.

Once the blooms have faded, the plants are not dead! You can rebloom the same bulb the following year. Just cut back the flower stalks to 1-2″ above the bulb, and allow the leaves to continue growing into spring and summer, watering and rotating regularly. Around mid-August, allow the bulb to go dry and allow the foliage to naturally die back. The bulb can then be stored in a cool, dark spot for 8-12 weeks of dormancy. Once the dormancy period is met, the bulb can be repotted in fresh soil, watered, and set in a sunny spot to bring life to another holiday season.

Cyclamen

These are wonderful plants for brightening your home during the holidays. The pink, red, white or maroon flowers will continue for weeks. They prefer a cool, dry and bright place.   Choose a plant with plenty of unopened buds to get the most flowers this season. 

With proper care, cyclamen will bloom indoors for several months and can be kept through the summer to provide another display of blossoms next winter. This plant does best in a cool room and in bright light, but away from direct sunlight.  A north or east-facing windowsill is ideal. General Care:  Remove faded flowers and old leaves.  After the plant has stopped blooming, reduce watering and stop feeding.  Place the pot in a cool spot and keep it dry until July.  Then repot the cyclamen tuber in fresh compost, burying the tuber to half its depth.  Place the pot in a cool, well-lit spot and water to keep the soil moist.

Christmas Cactus

Holiday cacti make a great addition to your holiday décor. Their intensely colored blooms droop gracefully at the end of bright green branches. They’re available in an array of different colors, and can continue to bloom long after the holidays are over.

They prefer cooler rooms. Keep the soil on the dry side in November. Only water when the soil feels dry about an inch below the surface. To ensure flowers for Christmas, keep your plant in a room with bright daylight hours and no light after sunset.  Flower buds should set and the plants will be in flower by late December.

Fragrant Herbs

To bring fragrance into your home during the holidays don’t forget herbs! Rosemary, lavender and thyme along with many other herbs will add a delightful aroma to the home. Use the wonderful scent of fresh greens and pine trees to add to the traditional holiday atmosphere.

Don’t wait until spring to enjoy fresh flowers. Keep the bloom going, and add color and life to your winter season with these popular indoor plants.

Nurturing Houseplants in Winter

Now that our doors and windows are closed for the winter, houseplants provide a welcome splash of life and color in our indoor landscape.

Fresh, vibrant, and green, those innocent looking houseplants contribute much more than just a touch of color though. They play a significant role in keeping stale, recirculated air clean. Plants create fresh oxygen, filter dangerous toxins out of the air, and add a bit of fresh air to any room they live in. For the most part, houseplants are pretty easy to care for, but the winter season can present some special challenges for them. Here are a few quick tips to make your indoor garden a successful one.

BUMP UP THE AVAILABLE LIGHT
Adequate light is one of the most important environmental factors in successfully growing plants indoors. Too little light may make your plant leggy with spindly new growth. Let your plants receive as much light as possible during the darker winter days. As the angle of the sun changes and the days get shorter, you may want to rearrange your plants to ensure they’re getting sufficient light in the winter months.

If you don’t have a sunny windowsill to house your indoor garden, grow lights can be especially useful. The proper lighting can supplement sunlight, or replace it entirely in the winter! Echter’s carries everything from full-spectrum bulbs to fluorescent grow tubes that fit in standard fixtures. Add some digital timers, and getting enough hours of light for your houseplants becomes effortless!

CHOOSE PLANT LOCATIONS CAREFULLY
Place your plants well away from winter’s chill. Don’t put them near entry doors where they will be exposed to cold drafts. Make sure the leaves of your plants living in window areas don’t actually touch the window. Minimize exposing plants to temperature extremes by placing them well away from your heating system’s air vents and also away from your fireplace.

DECREASE WATER & FOOD
Remember that indoor plants need less water & fertilizer during the short days of winter. Shorter days mean less growth, so you’ll want to water only when your plants require it.

Overwatering is the number one killer of houseplants! Frequent watering forces air from the soil and opens the door for root-killing bacteria and fungus to move in. Surface soil can dry out more quickly during winter months, but that’s not a good indicator that the plant needs water. Push your finger into the soil to determine if it is dry an inch or two below the surface—that’s when it’s time to bring out the watering can. Avoid shocking your plants’ roots by using room-temperature water in the winter. Use fertilizer at half strength every other time you water until about mid-March.

INCREASE THE HUMIDITY
Houseplants will benefit from added humidity. Humidifiers are great, but you can also use a simple-to-make pebble tray. Take an oversized saucer, add pebbles, and fill halfway with water. Then place your plant on the pebbles. As the water evaporates, add more, but don’t let the plant sit in water. 

KEEP A SHARP EYE
OUT FOR PESTS
Dry air in our winter-warm homes can create a favorable environment for pests. Keep a close eye on your plants’ leaves for signs of problems. Periodically check your plants with a magnifying glass.

Thoroughly check the undersides of leaves, stems, and branch axils. Look for common plant pests such as spider mites, mealybugs, whiteflies, & fungus gnats. Spotting problems and responding to them early can keep populations from exploding.

Just as winter is a season of rest for the outdoor garden (and the gardener!), consider it an off season for your houseplants, and give them a season of rest too. Give them the essentials, but leave things like repotting and propagation until spring when your plants begin growing actively again. Next spring, after a long winter’s nap, your plants will be ready to get growing again!

Putting the Garden to Bed

In October, when the temperatures finally begin to cool, it’s a welcome sign that soon both gardens and gardeners will be able to settle in for a well-earned winter’s rest.

Those cozy evenings by the fireside will be here before we know it, but this month, there’s still plenty to be done to get the garden ready for its dormant period, and also to prepare for next year’s busy growing season!

BEGIN BY CLEANING UP THE BEDS
Start the winterizing process with a good cleanup! A proper cleanup this fall will improve overall plant health for the following year. Begin by removing any weeds. They’re sending their energy into their roots just like all the other plants at this time of year. You’ll want to get them out, so they don’t spread seed or dig deeper roots over the winter.

You’ll also want to clean up dropped fruit under fruit trees. Fruits and vegetables left out all winter will only rot, attract animals, and set seed. Remove all vegetable plants that are finished producing for the season. Dispose of plants which had insects or disease. You don’t want to put those in the compost pile. The same goes for weeds. Pull out all dead plant material. This helps keep your garden healthy through the winter and helps protect against pests.

CUTTING BACK & PRUNING
Many perennials and ornamental grasses add seasonal interest to the garden with attractive seed heads and plumes. Choose what you would like to remain intact and tidy up others by cutting tall stems back to the base foliage.

Cutting old and diseased foliage in the fall can help perennials jump right into new growth come spring. However, do not prune early-flowering shrubs such as lilac, forsythia, certain varieties of hydrangea, or rhododendron. These have already set next spring’s flower buds. Pruning now would remove next spring’s blooms! Spring bloomers like these can get a haircut right after they finish flowering next year.

AMEND THE SOIL — Autumn is a great time to amend your soil by working in organic matter. The addition of compost now will improve the soil next spring. Rototilling, or turning the soil over, will reduce insect and disease problems next year. Be sure to do this while the soil is dry.

ADD MULCH — Renewing all mulches in the autumn will yield several benefits. It helps maintain a consistent soil temperature, retains moisture, and prevents exposure of roots — which is a common cause of winter damage. Apply mulch around perennial plants — especially those that have been recently planted — as well as around trees and shrubs.

PREPARE FOR THOSE EARLY FROSTS — Keep an eye on those weather apps for nighttime temps dipping to or below freezing, and keep the frost blankets handy. A little protection for the first frost or two ensures your plants will continue to thrive in the warm autumn days that invariably follow a frost. If you run out of frost blankets, be sure to cover with a similar breathable material. Plastic is not recommended for frost protection because condensation beneath the plastic may lead to ice formation, which can damage the foliage.

TO HARVEST, OR NOT TO HARVEST — THAT IS THE QUESTION!

Though you may be able to extend the season by using floating row covers and frost blankets for the first autumn frost or two, generally it’s time to pull the warm-season veggie plants and put any harvests on the table for dinner. Here is a brief list of what to protect and when to call it a season:

Beans will not tolerate frost. Harvest and put them on the dinner menu.

Corn is frost sensitive and also should be harvested rather than covered.

Harvest all unprotected tomatoes and peppers. Unripened tomatoes can be placed in a paper bag or between sheets of newspaper to continue ripening indoors. Be sure to check on them often throughout their ripening process.

Cucumbers and summer squash should be harvested and thoroughly wiped dry before storing. Thin-skinned cucumbers do not store well and those should be eaten within a few days.

WHAT NOT TO
HARVEST … YET
Not all crops need to be hurriedly harvested before an autumn frost. Some cool-season vegetables are actually improved by the cold!

– Root crops like carrots and beets can remain in the ground until there’s a danger of the soil freezing. The soil acts as their protection from frost.
Celery and late cabbage can be harvested after you notice the frost has slowed their growth.
– Don’t harvest winter squash or pumpkins yet! Wait until their vines are frost-killed and their skins are hard to the thumbnail.
Kale and collards can be left in the garden until long after the first fall frost. Continue to harvest as needed until the foliage finally succumbs to the cold weather.
Potatoes should be harvested after the vines die down, so the potato skin has a chance to mature. This makes them less susceptible to bruises, cuts, and moisture loss during storage.
Lettuces and salad greens can be covered with frost cloth.
Onions should be harvested only after the frost has stopped their growth.

For a deeper dive into methods of storing vegetables for the winter, the Colorado State University Extension provides this handy fact sheet.

TO RAKE, OR NOT TO RAKE? Rake! Although some fallen leaves can be mulched back into the soil with your lawn mower, most turf grasses will not tolerate a thick mat of leaves over the winter. Soggy mats of leaves on turf can lead to disease problems. You can add dry leaves to the compost pile, or shred & dig directly into your vegetable beds to improve the soil over the winter.

Aerate your lawn to loosen compacted soil, and apply Green Thumb Winterizer in mid-October. Your lawn will be nice and green in the spring. For the final mowing of the season, leave your grass at a height of 2½”.

Bindweed, dandelion, and other perennial weeds will be moving food reserves down to their roots now. This is a great time to use Weed Free Zone to kill these invasive weeds, roots and all.

Before you drain your sprinkler system for the year, give your lawn a good watering. Continue to hand water as long as temperatures remain above freezing.

Put a trip to Echter’s on your autumn to-do list! We’ll help you tackle putting your garden to bed. Then you can feel free to settle back and enjoy the season knowing that your garden is well-prepared for a long winter’s nap!

Extending the Harvest

With the summer harvest season in full swing, the last thing you may be thinking about is planting more vegetables. But why give up popping out the back door to harvest fresh veggies just because summer is drawing to a close? Smart gardeners know that late summer is the ideal time to plant another round of crisp, fresh, cool-season veggies to extend the harvest just a little longer.

Late summer is prime time for sowing seeds! The soil is still warm from summer temperatures, so seeds germinate more easily. By the time seedlings are up and growing, the air temperatures will have begun to cool as autumn weather settles in. Warm soil & cool air —you couldn’t ask for better growing conditions!

Autumn gardening offers a few advantages over spring & summer as well. Spring planting problems (like bolting because of heat and pesky garden pests) aren’t an issue in the autumn. Even though frost is a necessary consideration, some vegetables are even sweeter after a light frost. So if you’re thinking of squeezing in a little more gardening before the season truly ends, grab your favorite cool-season veggie seeds and a calendar, and get sowing!

Successfully extending the vegetable season depends on a little careful planning. Begin by learning the average date of the first autumn frost in your area. Once you know this, consult the seed packet to find the days to maturity for each particular crop. For the peas in the seed packet to the left, it will be 62-75 days from sowing seed to mature peas. Armed with this information, count backwards on the calendar to find the date you should sow the seed. Simple!

TIP: You may want to pad your planting estimates with an extra couple of weeks. As the days grow shorter, there will be less sunlight for growing, and daytime temperatures will also be cooler. What may have grown quickly in the warming soil and lengthening days of spring, may take just a little longer in the autumn.

As you remove fading summer vegetable crops from your garden, it’s easy to plug in a frost-tolerant, cool-season crop in its place. Begin by adding a soil amendment to replenish essential micro-organisms, provide nutrients, and improve the overall condition of the soil. It takes healthy soil to grow healthy plants!

Lastly, be prepared for those early autumn frosts! Though there are a number of frost-tolerant crops that will laugh at a light frost, sometimes Mother Nature does something unexpected! It’s wise to be ready to give your plants an extra bit of help if necessary. Make sure to keep frost cloths & blankets, fleece tunnels & jackets, etc. at hand and ready to go on short notice. Keep a close eye on weather forecasts and forecasted overnight low temps. Protect your plants, and they’ll be able to keep right on growing in the Indian Summer that inevitably follows a first frost event.

Now … what to plant and when? With an average frost date of mid-October for our Zone 5 Colorado gardens, try planting these popular cool-weather loving crops in late August to early September. They are reliable favorites.

Go ahead and enjoy another round of leafy greens like spinach, chard, watercress, kale, and lettuces. Peas are another favorite for the autumn garden.

Root vegetables like carrots, beets, turnips, and radishes are popular choices that also do well in cool-season Colorado gardens.

Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kohlrabi will enjoy sunny days and cool nights in the autumn garden. They can all tolerate a light frost.

Autumn gardening can be rewarding and fun as long as you’re knowledgeable and prepared. Why not get just one more vegetable harvest in before winter arrives? Those late-season veggies will taste mighty good in soups & stews come January!

Harvesting Summer’s Sweet Rewards!

Knowing when and how to harvest is an especially important part of growing your own food. Why? Because it affects the quality, flavor, and nutritional value of your homegrown produce! But how do you know when something is fully ripe, and what’s the best way to harvest? Scroll through, and check out our tips on how to harvest popular crops in Colorado.

Let’s start with the jewels of the garden — tomatoes! For the best taste and the highest nutritional value, you’ll want to leave your tomatoes on the vine until they’re fully colored, then gently twist and pull from the vine. The trick is in what “fully colored” looks like. Gone are the days when you could wait for a tomato to be a rich, vibrant red before confidently plucking it from the vine.

Nowadays tomato varieties comprise a rainbow of colors — yellows, oranges, greens, stripes, and even sprinkles! It’s particularly important to know what your ripe tomato should look like. If in doubt, a ripe tomato will give slightly to the touch. It it’s not ripe, it will still feel quite hard. Another tell-tale sign is how resistant the tomato is to being picked. If it hangs onto the vine for dear life when you try to pluck it, it’s not ready yet! If you’re growing heirloom varieties, you should pick them just shy of full color because they generally ripen before their color deepens.

When to Harvest Root Vegetables?

Beets … Most beet varieties are ready to pull about two months from planting. For baby beets, you’ll want to harvest earlier, when the roots are 1½” across. Letting beets stay in the ground too long will yield tough, woody roots!

Carrots … Carrots may be harvest young (at about ½” diameter) for baby roots, or allowed to grow to full size for storage. Not sure if they’re ready to harvest? Pull a few carrots for a quick taste test. If they’re crisp and sweet, they ready to eat. (TIP: loosen the surrounding soil before attempting to pull up a carrot. Carrots are notorious for breaking off when they’re pulled.)

Potatoes … After the potato plants have flowered, you may dig some of the potatoes to enjoy as “new” or “baby” potatoes. If you want to harvest full-sized potatoes, allow the tops to die back in the autumn, then dig up the tubers.

Check These Heavy Producers Daily!

Cucumbers … Harvest when they’re firm and smooth. Check on them often! If they’re left on the vine & become too large, they can become bitter and pithy. Use your garden shears or pruners to neatly clip these from the vine. This will prevent possible damage to the vine caused by twisting or pulling. Cut the stem approximately ¼” above the cucumber.

Green Beans … Pick them when the pod has filled out, but before you can see the seeds bulging. Simply grasp the bean pod firmly up near the top where it connects to the vine, then use your thumb to gently pinch it loose.

Zucchini … There are two things to remember about harvesting zucchini — pick young and pick often! These can quickly become too large. Zucchini is at its most tender and flavorful when it’s about 5″-7″ long and you can easily poke your fingernail through the skin. Use a sharp knife (or your pruners) to cut from the vine. (TIP: you can also harvest those delicious yellow flowers! Enjoy them raw in salads.)

Harvest this summer favorite after the silks become brown and dry. The ear should be completely filled out, and the end should be rounded instead of pointed.

Peppers, Peppers, Peppers

Bell Peppers … These grow in a range of colors including green, red, dark purple, yellow, and orange. In general, they’re ready to harvest when they are the full color of the variety planted. You can harvest bell peppers when they’re green. If you allow them to stay on the vine to ripen further, green peppers may turn red, then orange, then yellow! Purple varieties will turn from green to a dark purple to nearly black. Bells can be eaten at any stage during this ripening process, however the longer you leave them on the plant, the sweeter they become and the higher the Vitamin C content will be. To harvest, use a sharp knife or scissors to cleanly cut peppers from the plant to ensure the least damage to both pepper and plant.

Chile Peppers … Both mild and hot peppers can be harvested when they reach full size and are fully colored. They can also be harvested as soon as they reach a usable size. Chiles can be eaten at just about any stage of development. Mild peppers commonly get sweeter as they mature, while hot peppers get hotter the longer they’re left on the plant. To harvest: cut peppers from the plant with pruners. Leave a short stub of stem attached to the fruit. Do NOT pull peppers from the plant by hand — this can result in broken branches.

With eggplant, slightly immature & smaller fruits are tastier and will contain less seeds. Eggplants should be firm and shiny when fully ripe. Cut with a knife or pruners rather than trying
to pull from the plant.

Winter squash … such as acorn, spaghetti, buttercup, butternut, and Hubbard are ready to harvest when you cannot puncture the skin with your thumbnail and the stems are dry and begin to shrivel. Use pruners to cut cleanly from the vine.

Harvest pumpkins when they’re fully colored and the skin is hard enough to resist a fingernail puncture. They should sound hollow when thumped. Use a sharp knife or pruners to cut the pumpkin from the vine. Leave about 2″ of stem, and handle carefully. Any nicks or bruises will accelerate decay.

After the Harvest
Look for signs of trouble, such as yellowing leaves, rotting fruit, or unwanted pests. Be sure to put any plants that have disease or insect infestations into the trash — not the compost pile!

Healthy plant foliage can go into the compost pile after removing any seed heads. Remove any weeds from the vegetable garden, then improve the soil with compost, or plant a cover crop in the bed to overwinter.

Remember to Share the Harvest
If you find yourself with an overabundance of anything (we’re lookin’ at you, zucchini!) always remember to share the harvest with friends, family, and neighbors. If their cupboards are full, donations of fresh, homegrown vegetables are welcomed at your local food bank! After all, the summer harvest should be a season of plenty for everyone.

5 Smart Ways to Deer-Proof Your Garden

Each summer we get questions from exasperated gardeners asking, “What can I plant that the deer won’t eat?” It’s a complicated subject, since what works for one gardener might not work for another. However, there are a few smart garden strategies that you can try that may make your garden less attractive to deer.

Your first line of defense is always to make smart plant choices. Be aware of plants deer favor, and make sure you’re not stocking your garden with a buffet of their favorites! Armed with a little information, you may be able to plant your solution to the deer problem and discourage them naturally.

Deer tend to like plants that are smooth, tender, and flavorful. Plants such as arborvitae, tulips, hosta, daylilies, and roses are favorites. What they do not like are plants that are highly aromatic, prickly, thorny, fuzzy, or plants that contain a milky sap like milkweed. They also naturally avoid plants that are toxic such as foxglove, daffodils and poppies.

So, what types of plants are deer resistant? Some good shrub choices are: Holly, Barberry, Spirea, Boxwood, and Lilac. For the herb and vegetable garden try: onions, garlic, sage, tarragon, lavender, mint, and rosemary. Deer-resistant flowering plants include: Peony, Marigolds, Forget-me-not, Bee Balm, and Iris. Ornamental grasses in general are not a favorite of deer, but within that category try planting Blue Fescue, Golden Hakone grass, or a Black Mondo grass

As for that elusive deer-proof plant — there is no single plant that is guaranteed to be completely “deer proof!” As Dr. James Klett, Professor of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Colorado State University states, “Deer — if they’re hungry enough — are going to eat anything. If there is a completely deer-resistant plant out there, I don’t know what it is.”

If you think in terms of which plants deer do and don’t prefer, you can begin to plan your garden with a bit more foresight and strategy. Since deer tend to be skittish about coming in close to a living area & would rather remain near the safety of the forest, try planting your deer-favorite plants (like tulips and roses) close to the house. Also, planting less-preferred plants in a protective ring around those that are more desirable can be an effective strategy.

Try planting confusing combinations of plants. “I was sure there were daylilies in there somewhere”, Bambi complains, “but all I could smell was garlic!

Another deer-repelling strategy you can try is to “foul the fringes” — that is, line the perimeter of your property with unpalatable plants. Strategically placed hedges or thorny shrubs can serve as a natural way to redirect the deer and discourage lingering to feed on more attractive plants nearer to your home. Clever!

Deer don’t go past anything they can’t see through or over. You can make that work in your favor. Use solid hedges of pungent junipers or form trellises with fragrant morning glories. If deer can’t see what’s inside, they’re less likely to take that leap of faith onto your property.

Try working with their favorite plants combined with their desire to stay near the safety of their forest home. Plant things they DO like well away from your garden. A feast of their favorite flowers (delphinium, phlox, hosta and pansy) may have them nibbling, then heading safely back into the forest. It can be your sacrificial garden. The idea is to leave them thinking, “Why brave the garden close to the house, when the good stuff is planted all the way out here?

Keep in mind that deer are like people, and what deters one won’t always deter another, but trying several of these strategies can help. With a little careful planning, and a few tricks here and there, it may be possible for your garden to coexist peacefully with these beautiful creatures!

Garden Smart with Xeric & Native Plants

Colorado gardeners are portrayed with a wide range of descriptive terms: enthusiastic, resilient, tenacious, optimistic and persistent come to mind. We learn by experience, and all of us — novice or veteran gardener, have enjoyed success and have also been disappointed with failure. What we all share is our sense of place and region, with all of its gardening advantages and challenges. Our sunny skies and dry climate provide the perfect palette for plants native to the region as well as those from other areas of the world that thrive in similar conditions.

What are Xeric plants? Xeric is a term that applies to plants that grow well with minimal irrigation once they are established. They are eagerly sought by the gardener who is looking for plants that demand less water and adapt to the soils of the region. The xeriscape gardening concept uses seven basic design and planting fundamentals.

Why Choose Native & Xeric Plants for Your Home Landscape?
There are plenty of good reasons to fill your garden with water-wise native plants. It makes sense to use plants that are naturally adapted to Colorado’s unique climate, soils, and environment. When they’re correctly sited, native species require less water & fertilizer, and they’re more pest & disease resistant.

By choosing native plants, you’ll be working with nature, instead of trying to work with plants that aren’t suited to our local conditions. Another great reason to choose native plants is to restore habitat and biodiversity in our rapidly-growing urban areas. Gardens with native plants provide food, shelter, and other important resources for our wildlife — including our native pollinators!

Where Can You Find Xerics & Natives?
It’s not hard to find xeric or native plants for your garden! Many plants that are native to our region are also xeric. These water-wise plants include favorites such as Blue Flax, Blanket Flower, Penstemon, Apache Plume, Kinnikinnick, Boulder Raspberry, Hackberry, Hawthorn and Serviceberry. The true natives — such as the Desert Four O’clock and Purple Poppy Mallow — also play very well with immigrants from abroad including Russian Sage, Ice Plant, Torch Lily and many more. These are just a few of the many interesting choices that will happily settle in and make themselves right at home in your garden.

At Echter’s, we carry a wide variety of drought-resistant and xeric plants that are especially suited for Colorado’s dry climate. Our knowledgeable staff will help you choose just the right plants for your landscape.

You’ll find that xeric and native plants are resilient, tenacious and persistent. They will inspire enthusiasm and optimism in your gardening adventures. So celebrate your sense of place, and welcome native and xeric plants to your garden where they will feel right at home!

Beat the Heat in the Summer Garden!

We’ve experienced some very warm weather this last week, and it looks like there is going to be more of it next week!  Some of your plants may be showing signs of heat stress. Leaves may wilt. Vegetables like lettuce and spinach may bolt (flower prematurely) or in the case of plants you want to blossom, like peppers or watermelon, they may drop blossoms, reducing yield. Here are a few tips to help your garden withstand the hottest part of the summer.

Watch Your Plants
Plants will often tell you when they are needing water. Lawns will turn a bluish green and show footprints that don’t rebound. Bean leaves will turn a darker green and begin to wilt. Most plants will perform better if you don’t allow them to wilt before watering, so check your garden every day and observe their needs.

Water When Necessary
It’s true that you need to water more often during hot weather, but first check the soil. The surface may look dry even though there is plenty of moisture in the root zone. Over-watering can be just as harmful as under-watering, so don’t over do it. Slow, deep watering will ensure that water soaks down to the roots. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems work well.  If using a hose that has been laying in the sun, be sure to let it run for a minute or two, until cool water comes out.

Mulch to Keep
Things Cool!
A couple of inches of organic mulch like compost, grass clippings, or bark mulch will help reduce moisture loss as well as cool the soil temperature. A side benefit is that it prevents most weeds from germinating, too!

Shade
Cover cool-weather veggies like lettuce and spinach with shade cloth. It won’t totally prevent bolting, but it might delay it a bit.  Also, raise your lawn mower blade up so that you have 3 inches of grass left standing after you mow.  This will provide shade for the roots of your lawn keeping them cool and much happier (which means a greener lawn).

Don’t Spray Chemicals
During Heat
Avoid spraying garden chemicals when temperatures are above 85 degrees. Weed killers can volatilize (evaporate and become air borne) and drift onto desirable plants. Insecticides can burn leaves of plants when temps are above 85. Spray early in the morning when temps are cooler and the air is still, or wait.

Summer is just getting started! With a little extra attention and a little extra know-how, your garden can come through this summer’s heat waves with flying colors, and keep right on blooming!

April Garden Tips

“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.”

~ William Shakespeare

Flower Gardens

Watering plants that have been recently planted outdoors is tricky. The rule is to water them in thoroughly after they are planted. Then watch the area next to the edge of the original soil ball to see if it is getting dry. You want to encourage the roots to move out into the surrounding soil to get water without letting the original soil ball get too dry. Reduce the watering frequency with time, but water thoroughly each time you water. Don’t just wet the surface of the soil.

An easy way to harden plants that are going outdoors is to cover them with Plant & Seed Guard for a few days after you plant them. You can use wire supports if necessary to hold the fabric away from the plants. Attach it to the ground with wire staples. It’s re-usable.

Pot begonias and dahlias now and keep them indoors until later in May. This will give them a good head start and they will bloom earlier after putting them outside.

Plant gladioli, lilies, cannas, callas, ranunculus, crocosmia and other summer blooming bulbs toward the end of April. Plant pansies between the bulbs to give you early color.

Fertilize your spring-flowering bulbs after the blooms have gone with Gro Rich Rose & Perennial fertilizer. Wait until the leaves turn brown to remove them. The leaves help build strength in the bulbs for next year.

Place your plant supports into position early. If you wait until they really need support, it may be difficult as the plant will be too large. This is especially true for peonies.

When you hand water, use a nozzle with a shut-off or trigger nozzle that stops the flow of water when released so you don’t waste water.

Before transplanting, be sure that your plants are not dry.

Flowering annual starts which can be planted out in early April after “hardening them off” are alyssum, dusty miller, sweet peas, anchusa, larkspur, centaurea, pansies, dracaena, and snapdragons. When is it safe to plant other flowers?

Pinch back your annuals to promote stronger, bushier plants and more flower production.

More on Planting and Caring for Annuals

Perennials & Roses & Vines

If you have a fence you’d like to hide there are several plants you can use besides shrubs. Vines like trumpet vine, silver lace vine, wisteria, honeysuckle vine, Virginia creeper and climbing roses which are perennials can be used. Annual vines like sweet peas, morning glories, Scarlet runner beans are just a few good fence covers. Remember other tall plants like sunflower or hollyhocks.

Group flowers and vegetables with the same water needs together to take advantage of their lower water requirements.

When planning your flower bed, whether it is planted in annuals or perennials, don’t overlook ornamental grasses for a beautiful contrasting texture.

Spring is the best time to divide perennials that bloom in mid or late summer such as asters and chrysanthemums. Wait until September to divide early spring-flowering perennials like bleeding hearts and peonies.

Plant wildflower seeds in April. Improve your soil before planting by raking in either peat moss or compost or a combination of the two.

Add some spice to predictable bulb and perennial beds by broadcasting seeds of annuals like larkspur, cosmos, poppies, bachelor buttons or other annuals among your established plants.

More on Planting and Caring for Perennials and Roses

Trees & Shrubs

April is the best time to plant new trees and shrubs. Improve the soil first with compost and/or peat moss. Then apply MYKE Tree & Shrub Transplanter and water in with Root Stimulator, both of which reduce transplant shock and stimulate root growth.

When planting large trees, stake them for the first year. Use 2” wide staking straps around the tree. Do not use wire, twine or rope on the tree itself. Place the stakes 2-3 feet away from the tree, tie the strap to the stake and leave a little slack. Let the tree sway slightly to develop roots and caliper.

April is perfect time to take stock of the plants in your yard. Are there plants that have overgrown their spaces? Are some sickly and unattractive? Now is the time to pull them out and replace them with a new and vibrant plant. This is what garden renewal is about.

Cut back butterfly bushes, blue mist spireas, Russian sage and other late summer-blooming shrubs at this time.

If you didn’t get around to pruning your shrubs and trees in March, you can still do some pruning now, the earlier the better.

Start your fertilizing program for roses, trees and shrubs when the leaves appear on the branches.

Protect your ash trees from Emerald Ash Borers. Use Ferti-lome Tree and Shrub Systemic Insect Drench for easy-to-use systemic protection from insects all year long. Follow the label directions and just mix it with water in a watering can or bucket and pour the solution around the base of trees or shrubs.

Watch for distorted leaflets on honeylocust trees. Leafhoppers can damage this trees fine leaves. They can also damage lawns. A good insecticide can help eliminate these tiny pests.

If you don’t have room for two different fruit trees for cross pollination, try one of our 4-in-1 apple, pear or sweet cherry trees for a great crop of fruit. There are four different grafts on one tree.

Are you tired of raking up crabapples in the summer? Spray crabapple trees with Monterey Floral Growth Regulator at mid to full bloom. This will prevent the fruit from forming.

Check for borer holes in your shade, spruce and pine trees. Evidence of these borers will be small holes, possibly with evidence of sap and/or sawdust. Our plant doctors can recommend the proper treatment depending on the type of tree and borer.

Remove protective tree wrap from young trees around April 1. Check the trunk for any problems.

Remember the worms on the ash trees last year? Watch for them again this year and spray with Eight from Bonide.

Although annuals look beautiful planted around new trees, there is a danger of over-watering your trees while trying keep your flowers pretty.

There are several trees, shrubs, and flowers which will attract those all-important pollinators – the bees. Anyone with a fruit tree or a vegetable garden knows their importance. Stop by our Plant Doctor desk for a list of these plants. Remember to refrain from spraying insecticides while bees are present. Something to note: bumblebees are more effective pollinators than honeybees.

Deep-root waterers get water under the lawn which is useful for trees, shrubs and roses. Some of these tools also have a container for dissolving fertilizer pellets to feed your plants right at the roots.

Before transplanting, always make sure trees and shrubs are not dry to help avoid transplant stress.

Start treating your pine and spruce trees for insects like scale, tussock moth, Cooley spruce gall, pine tip moth, pitch mass borer, and ips beetle. Come in and we can recommend the appropriate preventive treatments.

Vegetable Gardens

It’s time to plant seeds of peas, turnips, carrots, beets, spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce, radishes. Plant garlic cloves, seed potatoes, dormant strawberry plants and onion sets.

Keep an N-sulate cover handy for unexpected frosts after your garden is planted. It will keep the frost off new seedlings as they emerge from the soil.

Mid-April is the time to set out broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Swiss chard, radicchio, and Brussels sprouts plants. Be sure to “harden them off” first.

Enjoy an earlier growing season by four weeks by setting out Season Starter plant protectors in April. You can set tomatoes and pepper plants inside them ten days after initial setup of your Season Starter. The setup period allows the soil beneath the solar shelters to warm to a temperature suitable for plant growth.

If you are having trouble growing plants in your gardens, have your soil tested. We can test your soil for nutrient deficiencies for a nominal fee. We can let you know what to do to improve your soil for more flowers and vegetables.

Vegetable gardens benefit from watering at ground level, instead of watering overhead. Watering with soaker hoses helps to prevent many diseases and insects.  

Remember to rotate your vegetable crop plantings each year. Plant each variety of vegetable in a different part of your garden than you did last year. This will minimize repeated problems with disease and insects.

Plant your fast growing crops in two-week intervals to prolong the availability of lettuce, spinach, peas, and radishes. When the weather gets too hot for these vegetables, plant some in the shade of taller plants, like pole beans and corn. This system is also good for gardeners with limited space.

By placing a floating row cover over your carrot, lettuce, and spinach seed, your seeds will germinate quicker, and the birds won’t make a meal of them. Floating row covers also eliminate cabbage loopers on cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.  Keep your cover handy in case there is a cold snap for any newly planted vegetables and flowers.

Use soaker hoses in your vegetable garden and flower beds. You can either lay the hose on top of the soil next to the plant or bury it to get water directly to the roots. Soaker hoses can also be used to water trees and shrubs.

Lawns

Early April is the best time to start fertilizing your lawn. By using a fertilizer with pre-emergent (weed and grass preventer), you will be able to eliminate a lot of annual grass and weed seeds by keeping them from germinating.

April is a good time to seed or overseed lawns. Use a good grass seed and apply New Lawn Starter fertilizer after the seed is sown. Keep the area moist even after germination. Do not apply a pre-emergent crabgrass control before or after seeding, as this will prevent grass seed germination.

Core aerate your lawn before fertilizing this month. Not only does this help the lawn’s vigor and health, it also reduces maintenance and water usage. Be sure your lawn is well watered a day or two before aeration.

Keep your mower blade sharp. Dull blades can invite lawn diseases to enter grass blades. Bring your rotary mower blades into Echter’s for sharpening. You can bring them in on or off the mower.

Use a rain gauge to measure the amount of water you are putting on your lawn. Apply 3/4” to 1” slowly enough to evenly soak the lawn without running off the area.

Inspect your irrigation system regularly. Be sure sprinkler heads are not plugged and are properly adjusted for the radius and the level of spray needed. As surrounding plants grow, you will need to modify your system. Especially check for leaks in the sprinkler lines.

Houseplants

On a nice warm day, take your houseplants outside and give them a shower, or use your bathroom shower. The plants will appreciate a good cleaning after being inside all winter.

Birds

It’s spring cleaning season even for birds. If you haven’t cleaned your bird houses this year, clean them out and then spray them with a bird feeder cleaner before the new birds arrive.

Continue feeding the birds at your feeders. Seed-producing plants are just beginning to grow and there are now more birds competing for the depleted wild seed supply. Give them a supply of water also.

More on Feeding Birds in Colorado

The 5 Best Shrubs for Fall Color

Nothing brings the magic of autumn to life like the brilliant reds and oranges of leaves in the landscape. It’s what everyone eagerly waits for each year. It’s easy to bring a little of that autumn magic home with the right shrub! Check out these five easy-to-grow stunners that all perform well in Colorado gardens.

BURNING BUSH
Euonymus Alatus Compacta
Zone 4 / Elevation to 7500 ft.
Mature size: 6′-8′ high & wide

The best of the best in fall color! Introduced to the United States in 1860, this striking shrub quickly became popular for its fiery scarlet foliage throughout the autumn season. It has a natural, open form that shows well in borders, beds, and foundation plantings. Stunning when used as a specimen planting, screen, or hedge. This one will create a statement wherever you plant it! It’s low maintenance and exceptionally easy to grow. Will grow best in full to part sun (at least 4-6 hrs. of full sun per day). It’s adaptable to moist or dry soil, and easily pruned for shape when needed.

VIKING CHOKEBERRY
Aronia Melanocarpa “Viking”
Zone 3 / Elevation to 8000 ft.
Mature size: 6′-7′ high / 3′-5′ wide

Glorious red-orange foliage in the autumn is accented by an abundance of glossy, black berries! This low-maintenance shrub doesn’t require a lot of attention and boasts the added benefit of being exceptionally pest and disease resistant. Berries are high in flavinoids and antioxidants as well as vitamins and minerals. Good for juice, jelly, and jams. Grows best in full sun — that’s at least six hours of direct sun per day. With this shrub, you’ll have the most striking autumn color in the neighborhood, as well as the best tasting homemade preserves and desserts!

AUTUMN JAZZ VIBURNUM
Viburnum Dentatum
Zone 4 / Elevation to 7,000 ft.
Mature size: 10′ high / 8′-10′ wide

This beauty has an upright-oval habit with an impressive kaleidoscope of yellow, orange, red, and burgundy fall color. Ornamental (non-edible) blue-black berries accent the bright colors nicely. This low-maintenance deciduous shrub exhibits an excellent adaptability to a broad spectrum of soil types. Beautiful used as a border, tall hedge, or background planting.

SPREADING COTONEASTER
Cotoneaster Divaricatus
Zone 2 / Elevation to 8,500 ft.
Mature size: 4′-6′ high / 6′-8′ wide

This graceful shrub features arching branches that provide gorgeous autumn color ranging from orange to red to purple. Dark red berries dot the branches and persist into winter. Its informal shape creates a beautiful accent as a hedge, border, or foundation planting. It adapts well to most soil conditions and tolerates wind well. Grows best in full sun to part sun.

AMBER JUBILEE NINEBARK
Physocarpus Opulifollus
Zone 3 / Elevation to 8,000 ft.
Mature size: 5′-6′ high / 4′ wide

A standout variety in the garden, with dramatic foliage color throughout the year! It’s colorful foliage emerges as orange, yellow and red, progresses to green, then deepens into amazing harvest tones of reds and purples in the autumn. Multi-lobed, textured edges contribute to the dramatic look and feel of the leaves. In winter, the older stems have that classic Ninebark peeling bark for added textural interest. This is a great choice to create a focal point in your landscape or grow it as a hedge or foundation planting. Grows best in full sun for optimum leaf color.

If you’re not quite sure what would work best in your home landscape, stop by and talk to one of our nursery experts. They’ll help you plant a little autumn magic that you’ll enjoy for years to come.

Deer Resistant Plant List

Use this handy list to help you choose plants that deer usually don’t find
appetizing in the landscape

Keep in mind: No plant is absolutely guaranteed to be deer proof! If deer are hungry enough, they’ll eat anything — even plants they don’t like — especially in the winter when food sources are scarce. The plants below are not usually a deer’s top choice.

Bulbs
Allium
Daffodils
Garlic
Iris
Onions

Herbs
Marjoram
Mints
Oregano
Thyme

Perennials
Astilbe
Apache Plume
Basket of Gold
Bleeding Heart
Chocolate Flower
Clematis
Coneflower
Creeping Phlox
Daylilies
Dianthus
Delphinium
Euphorbia
Flax
Foxglove
Globe Thistle
Golden Banner
Goldenrod
Honeysuckle
Lamb’s Ear
Lavender
Lenten Rose
Liatris
Lily of the Valley
Mexican Hat Coneflower
Penstemon
Peony
Poker Plant
Poppies
Prairie Zinnia
Prickly Pear
Purple Prairie Clover
Russian Sage
Salvia
Sedum
Shasta Daisy
Soapworts
Snowdrops
Snow-in-Summer
Virginia Creeper
Western White Clematis
Yarrows
Yucca

Shrubs
Alpine Currant
Austrian Copper Rose
Big Western Sage
Boulder Raspberry
Chokecherry
Common Hackberry
Common Juniper
Creeping Mahonia
Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany
Euonymus
Fernbush
Fragrant Sumac
Golden Currant
Hancock Coralberry
Leadplant
Lilacs
Mountain Ninebark
Nanking Cherry
Oregon Grape Holly
Persian Yellow Rose
Potentilla
Pyracantha
Quince
Rabbitbrush
Red Twig Dogwood
Rose of Sharon
Santolina
Silver Buffaloberry
Snowberry
Spirea

Trees
Colorado Spruce
Concolor Fir
Douglas Fir
Gambel’s Oak
Honeylocust
Lodgepole Pine
Pinyon Pine
Rocky Mountain Maple

Make sure you’re not planting a buffet of deer favorites in your landscape! Deer show a particular preference for narrow-leafed evergreens, especially arborvitae and fir. They also love tender, green plants like hostas, daylilies, and English ivy. You might also want to employ some other strategies in addition to deer-resistant plant choices.

December Garden Tips

When snow falls, nature listens.

~ Antoinette van Kleef

Fresh Cut Christmas Trees

When purchasing your fresh Christmas tree, be sure to bring a blanket or tarp to cover the tree if you are tying it to the top of your car. This will protect your tree from drying out on the way home.

Cut 1 to 2 inches off the trunk of your tree and immediately place it in water. Add some tree preservative to the water. Check the water level daily. A tree may “drink” a gallon or more of water each day. If the water reservoir gets dry, even once, the tree cut will seal and may not take up water again.

Place the tree away from heat sources, including fireplaces, wood stoves, heat vents and direct sunlight. Always turn tree lights off when leaving home or going to sleep.

Don’t forget the wonderful fragrance fresh wreaths, greens, and garlands to add to the traditional holiday atmosphere. A spray of Wilt Stop will prolong the freshness of your greens and your Christmas tree.

After Christmas, cut the branches from your Christmas tree and lay them over your perennials as added protection from cold and wind.

Put your leftover Christmas tree outside and decorate it with strings of popcorn and cranberries to feed the birds. Add pine cones which have been spread with peanut butter and rolled in bird seed. The birds will love you.

Poinsettias

The colorful “flowers” of poinsettias are actually modified leaves called “bracts.” Poinsettias grow well in moist soil and temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees F.

Poinsettias prefer a bright area away from cold drafts and heat vents. Keep them out of direct sun. Never allow the soil of your poinsettias to dry out completely, but be sure they are not constantly wet or sitting in water inside the foil wrap.

Water the plant when the soil surface feels dry to a light touch, or pot feels lightweight when lifted. Never allow poinsettias to get so dry that they wilt. Remove from decorative foil or outer pot before watering.

Be careful of locations where the hot afternoon sun may shine directly on the colorful bracts and cause the color to fade. Temperatures ideally should not exceed 70° during the day, or fall below 65° at night.

Cyclamen

Cyclamen are great plants for brightening your home during the holidays. They prefer a cool dry and bright place. The pink, red, white or maroon flowers will continue for weeks.

Your cyclamen needs a cool, bright spot to thrive. Keep away from direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist but do not overwater – this is a common way to kill cyclamen. If you want your plant to flower again the following autumn, you will need to let it go dormant over the summer, reducing watering.

Holiday Cacti

With their colorful pink, red, or white flowers, holiday cacti are a beautiful addition to holiday décor. To ensure flowers for Christmas, keep your plant in a room with bright daylight hours and no light after sunset. They prefer cooler rooms.

Keep the soil on the dry side in November. Flower buds should set and the plants will be in flower by late December. Stop in and pick up our care sheet for year-long care of your holiday cactus.

Amaryllis

Amaryllis bulbs will bloom 7-10 weeks after planting. Choose a pot about 2″ wider than the bulb and one that is heavy enough to keep from tipping. Fill the pot part way with potting mix. Set the bulb so that the top 1/3 of the bulb will be above the top of the soil when you fill the pot to 1″ below the top edge of the pot.

Give the plant about 4 hours of bright light a day. Plant every 2 weeks for a spectacular color show all winter.

Paperwhites

Paperwhites are bulbs that can be planted indoors every two weeks for continuous flowering through the holidays. Paperwhites come in white or yellow and are wonderfully fragrant.

Paperwhites will bloom approximately six weeks after planting. To ensure strong healthy plants, paperwhites are best grown in bright, indirect light and in temperatures around 65° – 70°F. Add water as needed as the stems begin to appear. Stems grow tall and straight, with flower heads appearing when they reach 12 – 18 inches.

Norfolk Island Pines

Norfolk Island pines make great living Christmas trees and wonderful houseplants after the holidays. Be sure you use very lightweight ornaments and cool burning twinkle lights when you decorate these beautiful trees. Keep these plants away from drafts and heating vents.

Norfolk Pine prefers bright indirect light to direct sunlight. It will appreciate a boost in humidity during the winter months. You can increase humidity by using a pebble tray, placing a humidifier nearby, or grouping it near other plants.

Holiday Fragrance

To bring extra fragrance into your home during the holidays don’t forget herbs! Rosemary, lavender and thyme, along with many other herbs, will add a delightful aroma to the home.

Echter’s Plant Doctors are available during store hours seven days a week to answer your gardening questions. For accurate diagnosis, it helps to bring in a sample.

Planting a Perennials Garden

It’s every gardener’s dream: a beautiful landscape that’s big on color & texture and low on maintenance. Perennial gardens fit the bill beautifully! Filled with plants that return faithfully year after year, perennials are an easy way to grow a long-lived landscape that will bloom throughout the entire growing season. One afternoon spent planting a well-designed perennial bed will give you years of colorful, low-maintenance enjoyment. Let’s get growing!

Start
with a Plan

Smart gardeners always begin with a well-thought-out plan. It’s easier to erase a mistake on paper than it will be later on in the garden with a shovel. Begin by measuring your area, then sketch in permanent structures like fences or porches. Next, take note of how many hours of sun your new perennial bed will receive in various seasons. That way, when it’s time to choose your plants, you can begin with a palette of plants that will naturally thrive in the conditions where they’ll be planted.

Continue by roughly drawing in your desired plant choices. You’ll want to plan your perennial beds with a variety of differing heights, textures, and bloom times. This helps ensure there will be color in your garden from early spring right through to late autumn. You might even consider adding some evergreens and ornamental grasses for winter interest. Use our handy Plant Finder Tool to help you research and choose.

Pay Attention to Plant Height

Choose tall, dramatic plants for the background, medium-sized plants to provide mass in the center section, and shorter plants for the front. When planning your plant locations, be sure to draw in plants at their final, mature size. This will ensure your plants will have plenty of room when they reach full size and avoid overcrowding in years to come. Overcrowding reduces the ability of air to circulate, which can lead to disease and pest problems.

Get Ready to Plant

Before you plant, the single most important thing you can do to get your dream garden off to a strong start is to give your plants good healthy soil to grow in! You’ll want to add plenty of organic material to the native soil. The organic materials will help loosen heavy clay soils and add bulk to sandy soils, allowing them to retain moisture better. Layer 2″ of compost, peat, or composted manure onto the planting area. Blend this with existing soil to a depth of 4-6 inches. This works out to about four cubic yards of organic amendments per 1,000 square feet of native soil. Once your soil is prepared, you’re ready to plant.

Now for the fun part — stop by Echter’s, choose your plants, and bring them home! Spring is a wonderful time to get started on a perennial garden. Planting in the cooler temperatures helps those new perennials get off to a healthy start before the heat of summer comes on. Once you have your plants in place, give your garden a finished look by adding a layer of mulch. It will help control weeds while also acting to conserve water.

That’s it! With just a little elbow grease, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the beauty of your very own perennial garden. These long-lived plants will keep pumping out beautiful flowers year after year.

Stop in and see us! We have hundreds of different types of perennial plants for every landscaping fantasy, and our knowledgeable experts can help make your garden dreams a reality!

October Garden Tips

Fall is not the end of the gardening year. It is the start of next year’s growing season.”

~ Thalassa Cruso

Flower Gardens

Mums are frost hardy and are a great value for the spectacular show of color they provide. After the foliage freezes on your gladioli, cannas, dahlias, begonias and other tender summer-blooming bulbs dig them up, brush the dirt off, let them dry for a few days, then store them in vermiculite or peat moss and keep the medium moist throughout the winter. 

Planting large pots of garden mums, asters, or flowering kale as you remove annuals from beds and borders gives you a spectacular show of color immediately.

Make notes on the past growing season’s gardening successes or disappointments while the details are still fresh in your mind. If you had problems, come in and we will try to help you turn them into successes.


Bulbs

October is the best month to plant your spring-flowering bulbs. Fertilize with bulb food, super phosphate or bone meal when you plant the bulbs. Water them in thoroughly after planting.When planting bulbs the pointed end of the bulb is positioned upward.

Plant small, early-flowering bulbs where they can be seen from indoors, since they bloom when it is usually too cold to enjoy them outside. Plant small, early flowering bulbs where they can be seen from indoors, since they bloom when it is usually too cold to enjoy them outside.


Perennials & Roses

Plant perennials at the same time you plant bulbs. You’ll be able to place perennial plants between your bulb groupings for color from spring to fall.


Many perennials and ornamental grasses add seasonal interest to the garden with attractive seed heads and plumes. Choose what you would like to remain intact and tidy up others by cutting back tall stems to the base foliage.

As the soil cools, apply mulch around perennial plants, especially those that have been recently planted.


Water roses less frequently and stop fertilizing to prepare them for winter dormancy.

Don’t forget to water monthly during the winter if there is no natural snow or rain. 

Remove any foliage with fungal diseases such as powdery mildew and rust. Discard in the trash. Cleaning up now will help prevent a recurrence of the problem next year. 

Cut back perennials leaving a 6 inch stub above the ground. Leave those with attractive seed heads for winter interest, such as coneflower and yarrow. 

Leave the fronds of your outdoor ferns on the plant to protect the crowns. Prune out the old fronds in the spring when new shoots show in the spring.


Lawns

Green Thumb Winterizer should be applied in mid October. Your lawn will be nice and green in the spring.

As leaves fall, rake them from lawns and add to compost or shred them and dig directly into your vegetable garden. Soggy mats of leaves on turf can lead to disease problems. 

Leave your grass at a height of 2 ½” for the final mowing of the season. Continue to water as long as the temperatures remain above freezing. Give your lawn a good watering before you drain your sprinkler systems. Drain the system before the temperatures drop into the low twenties, to avoid freeze damage to the lines and sprinkler heads. Insulate and protect the vacuum breaker that is above ground before the first freezing weather.

Trees

In October, deep water trees and shrubs every three weeks thoroughly. 

Do not fertilize trees now. If you had insect problems on your trees and shrubs, spray a dormant oil spray on the trunks and limbs to suffocate those insects that are overwintering in the cracks and crevices of the bark. 

October is the best month to select trees and shrubs with fall color. Genetically, plants may differ in their fall beauty, so what you see in the nursery is what you’ll have in your yard. 

If you see browning needles in your pines and spruces, do not panic. It is a normal phenomenon. In the fall these plants lose their oldest needles and keep three or four years of their newest growth. 

Rake up all aspen leaves to reduce the chance of revival of any leaf-related disease you may have experienced. Dispose of these leaves and do not add them to your compost pile or incorporate them into your vegetable garden.


Vegetable Gardens


Prepare your vegetable garden soil this fall following your harvest because amending soil in the spring can be delayed if wet conditions prevail. Add Premier sphagnum peat moss, manure and Nature’s Yield Compost now. It will age and decompose over the winter and provide for earlier and easier planting next spring.

Rototill shredded leaves, garden debris, grass clippings and kitchen scraps, (excluding meat products) into your garden this fall. They will compost over the winter and greatly improve your garden soil next spring. Be sure the organic matter is insect and disease free. 

Cut dead stalks of asparagus and trim raspberry canes which have borne fruit this year. Look for the leftover plugs at the top of the canes to tell which ones fruited this year. Divide rhubarb and transplant overcrowded roots after the first killing frost for improved production next year. 


Indoor Plants

Holiday cactus need special care to get beautiful flowers this December. Buds will form for the holidays if you keep artificial light off them at night starting in mid October. 

Your houseplants will benefit from a good leaching. Take them to your kitchen sink or bathtub and water twice or three times to remove built up soluble salts remaining from fertilizer or minerals from the water. If left, these salts can build up and burn the roots and browning the tips and margins of the leaves.

Amaryllis is the most majestic of all the holiday plants. To have blooms at Christmas, plant amaryllis bulbs 7-10 weeks earlier. Choose a pot about 2″ wider than the bulb and one that is heavy enough to keep from tipping. Fill the pot part way with potting mix. Set the bulb so that the top 1/3 of the bulb will be above the top of the soil when you fill the pot to 1″ below the top edge of the pot. Give the plant about 4 hours of bright light a day. Plant every 2 weeks for a spectacular color show all winter.


Feathered Friends

Feeding the birds outside during the winter is great fun for young and old alike. You do need to have the right foods for the birds you are trying to attract. Start early while there are plenty of birds around. Keep the feeding stations clean and full. Clean out bird houses and bird feeders to prevent the spread of diseases for next year’s families. Be sure to supply a water source for birds during the winter time.

Water Features   

Get your pond ready for winter. Remove debris and clean the pond surface and filters. Remove old foliage and place plants into deeper water. Pond netting will keep fallen leaves and unwanted predators out of your pond. 

October is the time to clean the organic matter from the bottom of your pond. Remember the yucky sludge from your pond makes an excellent addition to your compost pile.

Set up a deicer or aerator in your pond to ensure one area remains unfrozen and gasses can exchange for fish.   

Empty fountains and remove pumps before freezing weather arrives. Cover fountains with fountain covers or bring them into the garage. Birdbaths must be coated with Thompson’s Water Sealant before winter if they are left outdoors. Use a birdbath heater to prevent the water from freezing. 

After October 15, (or when the water temperature falls below 50º F) feed fish Tetra Pond Spring and Fall Diet. Stop feeding fish once you see ice along the edges of the water in the morning. 


Miscellaneous

Be sure to rake your leaves in the fall, disposing of any diseased or insect-ridden leaves. Rake healthy leaves into a pile, chop them up with your lawn mower, and add the resulting mulch into your compost pile or rototill it into your garden. 

It pays to have good quality tools and keep them in good condition because it causes the least amount of damage or stress to plants. It’s also easier on the gardener as your work will go faster. 

Choose a pumpkin with a stem that is at least 2″ long. Pumpkins that are darker orange may last longer and are a bit tougher. When you get it home, clean it with soap and water to keep bacteria away. Protect from frost.


Stay warm while outside with a chimenea or fire pit. These outdoor “fireplaces” will keep you cozy warm while preparing your meal and entertaining outside.

Stop spiders, crickets, millipedes, earwigs and other bothersome bugs from coming into the house for the winter by spraying Green Thumb Home Pest Control around the foundation of your house and especially window wells. 

Fall is a great time to relax, enjoy your patio and cook outdoors. Try adding apple, hickory or mesquite chips to your grill for a unique flavor. 

Echter’s Plant Doctors are available during store hours seven days a week to answer
your gardening questions. For accurate diagnosis, it helps to bring in a sample.

June Garden Tips

“It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.”

~ Maud Hart Lovelace

Flower Gardens

“Dead-head” (pinch off the spent blooms) on perennials, annuals and roses for longer flowering periods and more and larger blooms.

Want some color in a shaded area? Try begonias, impatiens, coleus, ivy geraniums, fuchsia, or lobelia. Watch for geranium budworm on geraniums and petunias. Besides the obvious destruction of the flowers, another telltale sign is tiny black droppings on leaves and the ground beneath the plants. The most effective treatment is to spray Eight insecticide every 10 days or treat organically with BT. 

Shade your patio for late summer by planting annual vines, like morning glories, moon flowers, scarlet runner beans, or sweet peas. 

Cut flowers for bouquets early in the morning and place the stems immediately into a bucket of water to keep them fresh until you are able to arrange them. 

Stake your tall blooming flowers like gladioli, delphiniums, and cannas to keep the flowers showing and upright. 

If you are going away on vacation this summer, water all your plants (indoors and out) thoroughly before you leave. A drip system with an automatic timer will assure you that your plants will be watered while you are gone.


Container Gardens

Container gardens and hanging baskets can need a lot of fertilizer in a short time. The only practical way to get enough fertilizer to them is with a water-soluble fertilizer like Jack’s Classic Blossom Booster.

Top off your planters and container gardens with a half-inch of Mini Nuggets bark mulch to help keep in the moisture. 


Perennials & Roses

Prevent rose and perennial diseases like powdery mildew from taking hold by using a systemic fungicide before the problem appears. Once those diseases appear it is very difficult to control. Bee balm, phlox, columbines and lilacs are some of the plants prone to powdery mildew.

Fertilize your roses regularly for continuous, large and beautiful blooms. We also have rose fertilizer with a systemic insecticide for continuous insect control.

If you had rust or black spot on your roses last year, give them a good preventive spray to reduce the problem this year. You will have to repeat the spray according to the directions on the container. 

Look for empty spaces where you could plant some bulbs this fall between perennials to add more color next spring. Our fall-planted bulbs arrive around Labor Day weekend. 

Control grass in perennial flower gardens with Over the Top. It is unique in that it kills grass without damaging most perennials. 

Shade your patio with perennial vines including trumpet, honeysuckle, clematis, Engelman ivy, wisteria and silver lace vine. Even grape vines work well to create a shady spot.  

Pinch back asters and mums until mid July to encourage branching, compact growth and extra flowers. 

Too much shade? Echter’s has many shade-loving plants. For perennials try ferns, hosta, forget-me-nots, lamium, astilbe, violas, columbine, hellebores, bergenia, lily of the valley, and many more.  

Plant baby’s breath in your rose garden. It’s a great addition for any of your flower arrangements.

Grass has a very hard time growing under spruces and pines. To solve this problem, we suggest either mulching or planting one of several ground covers. Vinca, purpleleaf wintercreeper, ajuga, sweet woodruff, plumbago, creeping mahonia, and kinnikinnik are just a few suggestions for those difficult situations. 

 Use Mini Nuggets mulch or red cedar mulch in your flower beds. They will retain moisture and retard weeds from emerging. 

Vegetable Gardens

Avoid overhead watering when tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, corn and other vegetables that need pollination are in flower as the pollen may be washed away, resulting in fewer fruits.

Remove the Season Starters from around your tomatoes, peppers, etc. before the weather turns hot.

Watch for tiny holes in radish and bean leaves. Flea beetles are most likely the problem. Spray or dust with Eight to take care of those tiny problems.

Ross netting over your fruit trees and raspberries will help keep birds and squirrels out of your fruit crops. In addition, bird-repelling scare tape will be beneficial in protecting your fruit for a while.

A floating row cover “tent” over your cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower will help eliminate cabbage loopers.  If they are already present, a dusting of Eight dust will take care of this insect. 

Mulch your annual flowers and vegetable garden after the soil has warmed. Use Mini Nuggets bark mulch for the summer, and then till it into the ground this fall to improve the soil structure.   

All vegetables should be harvested early in the morning when it is cool, especially lettuce, spinach, herbs, peas, and beans. Pick edible pod or sugar pod peas when the seeds are barely visible for best quality. Continue fertilizing with a high phosphorus (the second number) fertilizer. Corn is an exception; it prefers a bit higher nitrogen (the first number) in the analysis. 

Trellis your vining cucumbers, squash and small gourds to make more room for other vegetables. Trellising also improves air circulation and keeps the fruit off the ground. 

Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems to get water directly to the plants’ roots. You can either lay the hose on top of the mulch next to the plant or under the mulch. This is the most efficient way to water your gardens. 

Plant bee-attracting flowers in and near your vegetable garden to draw these pollinators to your crops.  If you have to use an insecticide, use it very early in the morning or late in the evening to protect the bees. Harvest broccoli when the buds are still tight and before any flowers open.

Lawn Care

Those impossible weeds like bindweed, dandelions and thistle in your lawn can be controlled with Ferti-lome’s Weed Out or Weed Free Zone. These are the most effective weed killers you can buy.

If you fed your lawn in April, it’s time to put on another application of fertilizer before the summer heat arrives. A slow release fertilizer is a must for this time of year.

You can use your grass clippings either as mulch in your garden or in your compost pile. Clippings have valuable nutrients. If you used a weed killer over your whole lawn, don’t reuse the clippings from the next mowing. 

The best part of the day to water our lawns is early morning while it is still cool and use a low-angle sprinkler that puts out large water drops for your lawn watering. This will reduce water loss due to evaporation. Use a sprinkler that fits the area to be watered to avoid run-off onto the sidewalk, driveway or street.

Trees & Shrubs

Container-grown trees, shrubs, roses, and perennials can be planted anytime during the summer. Planting early in the morning or in the cool of the evening reduces the stress on both the plant and the planter.

Protect your trees and shrubs from grass trimmers. The best way to protect these plants is to eliminate the grass directly around the tree, encircle it with weed barrier fabric, and cover the fabric with bark or rock mulch.

Watch for wasps or yellow-jackets in and around your trees (especially aspens). This may be a sign that there are aphids on the leaves. By ridding your trees of the aphids, the yellow-jackets will go away.    

Prune spring-flowering shrubs and ornamental trees after they have finished blooming. Prune only the spent flowers of lilacs. Lilacs set their flower buds for the next year very soon after flowering, so don’t prune into the branches. 

Placing weed barrier around trees and shrubs with about 3″ of mulch on top will retain the moisture that you put on your plants. Cut to the edge to slide fabric into place around the plants. Cut a large “X” into the fabric where each plant is so you can fold back the fabric as the plant grows. Be sure to keep the weed barrier and mulch about 4″ away from the trunk of your trees and shrubs. 

Don’t be alarmed if you find tiny fruit on the grounds under your fruit trees. Fruit trees automatically drop poorly pollinated fruit. This is a natural occurrence. You can also help your crop by thinning the small fruit on the tree to six to eight inches apart. Leave the largest and healthiest fruit. This will make it easier on the tree and improve the quality of the fruit. This will also ease the weight on the branches. 

Watch for deformed or mottled leaves on honey locust. Leafhoppers and pod gall midge are common insects on these trees. A good systemic insecticide will help rid your trees of these pests. 

Spray your ash trees for the ash sawfly and aphids. We have sprayers that reach 30 feet, and can take care of these pesky insects early. Prevent re-infestation for one year by applying Ferti-lome Tree and Shrub Systemic Insect Drench with a watering can. This will also protect your ash trees from the deadly emerald ash borer which reached Colorado in 2013. 

If you suspect spider mites on any trees, shrub or evergreen, you can do this simple test. Take a piece of white paper and shake the branch onto the paper and examine the paper to see if anything is moving. 


Water Gardening

Once the temperature of your pond reaches 65 degrees, it is safe to set out tropical water lilies. Place water lily fertilizer tablets into the soil of your pots.

Water hyacinths and water lettuce are nature’s floating filters. They help oxygenate the water and keep algae growth down. Algae can also be controlled by a floating barley straw bale in the pond. 

If you don’t have room or don’t want to dig a hole in your ground, you can still have a water garden. Use a large non-draining ceramic pot to create a small water garden. Add a couple of water plants and you are all set. 

Feed your pond fish on a regular basis, but only what they can eat in five minutes. 


Houseplants

Aloe plants are not only decorative, but also practical. They have a wonderful healing sap for rashes, cuts, burns and sunburns. Just break a stalk open, squeeze and apply. Keep an aloe plant among your houseplants.


Wildlife

Change the water in your birdbaths weekly and clean your bird feeders to prevent diseases.  

 Home

To control mosquitoes, drain all standing water, no matter how small the amount, including rain gutters, plastic sheeting, pipes, drains, trash cans, saucers under pots, etc.

Change the water and clean your birdbaths and wading pools at least once a week to keep mosquitoes from laying eggs in stagnant water.

Use Quick Kill Mosquitoes or Mosquito Plunks in your ponds and fountains to kill the mosquito larvae. These controls do not harm fish, birds or water plants. 

Before you treat or spray lawns, houseplants, trees, shrubs or flowers, be sure your problem is identified correctly. Bring a sample of any plant problem in to Echter’s plant doctors for a correct solution to the problem.

Echter’s Plant Doctors are available during store hours seven days a week to answer
your gardening questions. For accurate diagnosis, it helps to bring in a sample.

Cool Season Vegetable Gardens

“It was such a pleasure to sink one’s hands into the warm earth, to feel at one’s fingertips the possibilities of the new season.”

~ Kate Morton

You might think of the growing season as the time between spring’s last frost and autumn’s first frost, but all vegetable gardening doesn’t wait for warm weather to be in the forecast. Cool season vegetables are hardier varieties that tolerate — and even thrive — in the cold soil of early spring.

When Can You Plant?
What’s really important is soil temperature — it must be in the 40°F range for cool season vegetable seeds to germinate. Simply go by the general rule that soil is warm enough when you can easily turn it with a shovel.

What Can You Plant?
Cool-season crops include the salad vegetables: lettuces, kales, chard, onions, peas, and radishes. Everything in the cabbage family (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) also grows well in the cool spring air. In fact, their flavor often depend on harvesting before the heat of summer sets in.

Planning
To get the most vegetables throughout the year, plan for two “shoulder” seasons of cool-season crops. Plant spring vegetables in April, then follow with warm-season veggies like tomatoes, peppers, and corn in the summer. Then you can plan on planting a second crop of cool-season vegetables in the autumn after the weather cools down.

Location
For your cool-season beds, choose a well-drained spot that gets as much sun as possible. Add some organic matter such as compost or sphagnum peat moss and spade or till it into the soil. You can water less frequently in the cooler seasons since plants will dry slower in cooler temperatures.

Making the Transition from Greenhouse to Garden
Many bare-root vegetables and cool-season crops can make the transition into the outdoor garden — but only after going through a process known as hardening off. This process reduces stress and is essential to the success of your tender plants.

Plants that start life in a greenhouse or under lights in your home spend their time in pampered comfort. The temperature is perfect, the wind doesn’t’ blow, water is always gently and carefully applied, the sun never scorches, and rain never pounds. To prepare them for the harsher realities of life outdoors, they’ll need to gradually acclimate.

For one to two weeks, move the plants outside during the day while temperatures are warm. Then bring them back inside at night when the temperatures chill down. Place them in an area that’s protected from sun and wind. The third week, as long as night temperatures aren’t going to drop below freezing, you can leave the plants in a protected area overnight. After this adjustment period, you should be able to safely leave your plants outside for the season.

Always be Prepared for Frosts
Most cool-weather vegetables can tolerate a light frost, but you’ll want to keep the frost cloths handy for sudden cold snaps and those inconvenient late-spring and early autumn frosts.

You can also protect planted veggies with a Season Starter. These transparent “walls of water” are simple solar shelters that allow the soil to warm to a temperature suitable for plant growth.

Keep the Harvest Going
You can keep the supply of spring veggies going with succession planting. Plant your fast-growing crops in two-week intervals to prolong the availability of lettuce, spinach, peas, and radishes. When the weather gets too warm for these vegetables, you can plant more of them in the shade of taller plants like pole beans and corn. This system is also good for gardeners with limited space.

Growing your own food has always been one of the healthiest (and tastiest!) ways to feed your family. If you can’t wait to get your hands dirty in the garden, give cool-season crops a try!

November Garden Tips

November comes,
and November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.

~Elizabeth Coatsworth 

Flower Gardens

To store tender spring-blooming bulbs such as canna lilies, begonias, gladioli and dahlias, put in a crawl space or garage where temperatures stay between 35 to 50° F. Use an old Styrofoam cooler or cardboard box filled with vermiculite or perlite and keep moist, not wet. 

There is still time to plant spring-flowering bulbs until the ground freezes. You’ll be happy you planted some extras when they bloom early next spring.

If you are cleaning out your annual pots, you can recycle both the old plants and the soil by either putting them right in your gardens or by putting them in your compost bin.

You can reduce the number of overwintering insect larvae by turning the soil in the flower beds now, especially where geraniums and petunias were grown last year.

Perennials & Roses

Cut any remaining debris down in the garden or flower bed. Cut back perennials to 5″. Tall stems left to blow in the wind can damage perennial crowns. Leave ornamental grasses to provide winter interest until spring. 

Put Rose Collars around your roses in mid November. Fill with Mini Nuggets Bark Mulch.

Mulch your perennial and bulb beds after the ground freezes. Mulch conserves soil moisture and helps minimize freezing and thawing of the soil. .

If you had powdery mildew, black spot or any other fungus diseases on your shrubs, roses, trees or perennials, be sure to clean up all leaves and debris and get rid of it – do not put this debris in your compost.

Lawns

If you haven’t already put your Green Thumb Winterizer on your lawn, do it by early November. Apply when the weather is warm and water well afterward. 

Water your lawn once a month during warm and dry periods. Since the sprinkler systems are drained, you will need to do this with a hose and sprinkler. Pay particular attention to southern exposures. Disconnect your hose from the faucet and bring it inside before the temperatures drop below freezing in the evening. 

Vegetable Gardens

Your spring crop of asparagus will benefit greatly from the addition of manure to the bed. 

After the ferns have turned brown, you can cut them back to 5″. Let the leaves collect to help mulch the bed. Test your soil for pH and nutrients so you’ll know what is needed before you plant next spring. Soil amendments that improve your gardens can be tilled or spaded now and worked in over the winter.

Trees & Shrubs

Knock down heavy snows from your shrubs and tree branches by gently pushing up with a broom.

It is very important to water your trees, shrubs, perennial and bulb beds every 4-6 weeks throughout the winter. If dry soil freezes, there is a good chance there will be root damage and the trees and shrubs will suffer. Your plants will better resist insect and disease problems next year .

Tree wrap is important winter protection for young trees that have not yet developed their bark. The purpose is to keep the tree’s bark temperature consistent. Start wrapping at the bottom and overlap up to the first set of branches. In Denver wrap about November 15 and remove the wrap around April 1. 

Protect tender shrubs, like rhododendrons, azaleas, hollies, etc. during the winter months from drying winds by providing a barrier made from a frame wrapped in burlap and placed on the north and west sides of each shrub.

Make good use of our winter snow by shoveling the snow onto your shrubs, trees and perennial beds. 

Are you having trouble getting your wisteria to bloom? These plants need a good shock. Try root pruning this fall. Use a spade to cut into the soil 1 ½ to two feet deep, three or four places around the roots of the plant about four feet away from the trunk. 

Indoor Plants

Now that our windows and doors will be shut for the winter, houseplants in the home are a very important air cleaner. Plants remove air pollutants from our homes and offices. 

Move houseplants away from heat vents if you have forced air heating. Houseplants will benefit from added humidity.

Humidifiers are great, but you can also use a pebble tray. Take an oversized saucer, add pebbles, and fill halfway with water. Then place your plant on the pebbles. As the water evaporates, add more, but don’t let the plant sit in water. 

Be alert to cold drafts — especially for ficus, philodendron, begonias, and gardenias.

Shorter days mean less growth for houseplants. Water only when your plants require it, but water the same amount every time you water. Use fertilizer at half strength every other time you water until mid March. Try to let your plants receive as much light as possible during the darker winter days.

Birds

Echter’s offers many seed mixes for all types of birds who are seed eaters. Individual types of seed are also popular and there is a great selection to choose from. Sunflower seed, safflower seed, peanuts, and Nyjer seed are among the favorite choices. Be sure to thoroughly clean feeders once a month.

Insect-eating birds such as flickers and nuthatches have a taste for suet rather than seed. Suet is a great energy source for birds in cold weather. 

Distract the squirrels from your bird feeders by offering them corn on the cob, peanuts and Squirrel Food. Let the birds have the seed.   

Home & Patio

Clean wrought iron and aluminum furniture and protect your patio furniture and grills with appropriately-fitted covers.

Remove concrete birdbath tops to prevent freezing and thawing which results in cement cracking and chipping. 

Disconnect all hoses from exterior faucets to prevent damage to pipes.  Drain hoses and store in the garage.  

Make sure there is an opening in the ice in your pond. A pond de-icer will keep an opening so gases can escape and your fish will stay healthy.   

If the deer repellents you have been using aren’t working anymore, try switching products. Deer can become accustomed to one scent. Switching ingredients is more effective.

Echter’s Plant Doctors are available during store hours seven days a week to answer your gardening questions. For accurate diagnosis, it helps to bring in a sample.

May Garden Tips

“The world’s favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.”

~ Edwin Way Teale

Echter’s Plant Doctors are available during store hours seven days a week to answer
your gardening questions. For accurate diagnosis, it helps to bring in a sample.

Flower Gardens

Wait until danger of frost has passed before planting tender plants. Frost blankets can help protect your plants from unexpected late freezes. When is it safe to plant my flowers?

Pinch back your annuals at planting to promote stronger, bushier plants and more flower production.

Annuals, vegetable plants and roses, selected from inside our greenhouses should be “hardened off” before planting outdoors. This is done by exposing the plants to the hot sun and drying winds gradually until the plants are fully acclimated. 

Use weed preventer to keep weeds from sprouting in your flower and vegetable gardens after you have set out your plants. Don’t use weed preventer where you are sowing seed until after it is up and growing. 

Summer-blooming bulbs like dahlias, gladioli, cannas and lilies can be planted outside now. If you started these bulbs inside and they are now up and growing, keep your frost blanket handy to cover them if there is a hard freeze predicted.

More on Planting and Caring for Annuals and Vegetables

Container Gardens

Plant your hanging baskets and container gardens now to give them a good head start. By June they should be well established.

Keep an eye on the weather and bring your baskets and containers inside if the weather gets cold. 

If your outdoor hanging baskets and planters have dried out too quickly in the past, mix granules of Soil Moist (a polymer) into the media of your container gardens and hanging baskets before you plant. This will help retain water for the plants to use as needed. We’ve added polymers to Echter’s Container Mix so you can reduce the frequency of watering.

Perennials & Roses

Prune back hybrid tea roses, floribundas and other everblooming roses to 10″ in early May. Also, prune out any dead, diseased or weak canes. 

Do not do a heavy pruning on climbing roses. Prune only those canes which are broken or dead. Deadhead, (cut off the old flowers) on daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and other spring-blooming bulbs, but don’t remove foliage until after it turns yellow. The foliage is making nutrients for the bulbs for next year’s show of color. 

Weeds take nutrients from the soil and away from your desirable plants. The smaller the weed, the easier it is to remove. Pulling them early will keep them from producing and spreading seeds.

Put up plant supports now for perennials that need to be staked, like delphiniums, peonies, yarrow, etc.  Before you know it these plants will be too tall to do it easily.

Speed up the warming of the soil in your perennial and bulb beds by removing the mulch from around the plants.

Vegetable Gardens

Before rototilling your garden, be sure the soil is on the dry side. Then, add compost and/or peat moss to the garden and work it all in. 

Make your list of the tomato varieties and pepper varieties you want to grow in your garden from these links. It’s easier if you know what you want before you go shopping.

  Echter’s Tomato Varieties        Echter’s Pepper Varieties

Plan your vegetable garden so that specific plants, like tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, etc. are planted in a different spot than they were planted last year. Rotation of your crops is very important to prevent any diseases prone to that particular vegetable. 

When planning your vegetable gardens, consider planting extra rows and donating the surplus to your local food bank. 

Plant your corn when the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees. Plant in blocks to improve pollination by the wind. Ross netting over your strawberries will help keep birds and squirrels out of your fruit crops. In addition, Bird Scare tape will be beneficial in protecting your fruit.

Check the “When is it safe…” link, which will enable you to judge when to plant your vegetable starts. For anything that you plant outside early this month, make sure that you have a frost blanket handy for those sudden and unexpected cold snaps. 

For fun try cherry tomatoes or strawberries in a hanging basket. Combine tomatoes with lettuce in a basket for color contrast in an edible combination. 

Cedar barrels or large pots make great vegetable gardens. Plant a tomato plant in the middle and lettuce, spinach or herbs around the edge for the beginnings of a great salad. Patio Prize tomato can be grown without a support. Indeterminate (vining) tomato plants need a tall tomato cage to support them. 

Plant your own cup of tea. Chamomile, lemon balm, catnip, spearmint and peppermint are just a few herbs that make delicious, healing teas. 

Never cut rhubarb stalks off the plant. Instead, hold the stalk near the base and give it a slight twist as you pull it away. Rhubarb flowers may be pretty, but they take away nutrients from the stalks. As soon as these flower stalks appear, prune them to the ground.

Bees are very important in pollinating fruit and vegetable crops. Time the use of insecticides before plants bloom and your will spare these beneficial pollinators. 

Lawn Care

Set your lawn mower blade to 2 ½ to 3″ to encourage deeper drought-resistant roots. The longer grass will keep the ground cooler and require less water. Mow your lawn during the day or early evening when the grass is dry. Never mow when there is moisture on the blades. This encourages the spread of disease and causes the clipping to clump. Leave your grass clippings on the lawn by using a mulching mower and reduce your need for fertilizer by 30 percent.

If you fed your lawn in April, put on another application of fertilizer before the summer heat arrives.
The best part of the day to water your lawn is early in the morning while it is still cool. There will be a lot less moisture lost to evaporation and the grass will be more resistant to fungal disease.

Now is a great time to reseed the bare spots in your lawn. Rake the areas thoroughly, scatter the grass seed and water it in, so that the seed can settle into the loose soil. Keep the seed moist until it has germinated. Fertilize with New Lawn Starter. Do not use a fertilizer with weed preventer in the areas where you have seeded or it will prevent the grass seed from germinating. If you had disease problems in your lawn last year, apply Ferti-lome F-Stop as a preventive measure

Echter’s Grass Seed Blends

Trees & Shrubs

Prune off old lilac flowers just below the flower right after they bloom. Trim out a couple of the thickest branches all the way to the base to help keep the lilac full and well shaped. Prune other early-flowering shrubs after their blooming time as well.

Watch for wasps or yellowjackets in and around your trees (especially aspens). This may be a sign that there are aphids on the leaves. By ridding your trees of the aphids, the yellowjackets will go away. 

Did you have worms in your apples last year? Help prevent these nuisances by spraying your apple trees with Bonide Fruit Tree Spray. Spray your fruit trees as soon as the flowers fade to control insects early. Another preventive measure is to rake up weekly all the apples which fall to the ground. 

Pines put out a thick shoot, (called a candle) from the end of the branch each spring. To control the height of mugo pines and have denser plants, use your fingers to break (do not cut) the candles in half before they turn green and the needles begin to separate. Do not remove the whole candle.

Spray plants with Bonide All Seasons Spray Oil to control oyster shell scale and other insects. This is a safe and effective insect control. If you had problems with mildew on your lilacs, a good spray of a preventive fungicide will help eliminate this problem. Read the label for the frequency of each spray.

Fertilize your trees and shrubs early in May. There are several ways to fertilize:
1) Use a Ross Root Feeder with the appropriate fertilizer pellet to get the solution right down
to the roots.
2) Use a topical granular around the plants and water in. 
3) Use slow-release fertilizer and work it into the soil around each plant. This feeds them for
several months. 

Water Gardening

Divide water lilies and other hardy pond plants this month. Place Aquatic Plant Tabs into the soil of your pots of water plants to fertilize them.

Water hyacinths and water lettuce are nature’s floating filters. They help oxygenate the water and keep algae growth down. Algae can also be controlled by a floating barley straw bale in the pond. 

May is a good time to introduce new fish to your pond. Float the bag that’s holding the new fish on your pond to equalize the temperature of the water inside to the temperature of the pond. Then release the fish into the pond. 

Wait to introduce the tropical water plants when the water temperature reaches and stabilizes at 70 degrees. 

Take your camera when visiting public gardens or even your friends’ gardens. If you want to have a beautiful flower or shrub you’ve seen, bring in a picture or a sample and we can help identify it for you.

Indoor Plants

Move your houseplants out to the covered patio at the end of May. Keep them out of the wind and direct sunlight. Remember to check them for dryness, since they will dry out much faster than they did indoors. 

Turn your houseplants a quarter turn periodically to keep the growth from leaning toward the window and the light. Fertilize your indoor plants twice a month with Jack’s Classic Houseplant Special. A good fertilizing program will help your houseplants get their good spurt of new growth this spring.

Wildlife

Plant a trumpet vine or honeysuckle to attract more hummingbirds. Stop by our customer service desk for a list of other plants which attract “hummers”.  

When trying to lure butterflies to your garden, place the butterfly-attracting plants in a large grouping.  A saucer full of wet sand will provide water for butterflies. Ask for a list of plants which will attract butterflies to your yard at our Plant Doctor desk. 

Attract ladybugs to your yard by planting marigolds, angelica, roses, butterfly weed, yarrow and many other plants. You can start your “colony” with ladybugs from Echter’s. Remember to disperse them in late evening when it is calm and mist the plant on which you need control first.

General

Check your hoses and connections to make sure they don’t leak. Echter’s carries hose repair kits and replacements for old washers. 

When you hand water, use a nozzle with a shut-off or trigger nozzle that stops the flow of water when released.

January & February Green Thumb Tips

“Anyone who thinks that gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year — for gardening begins in January with the dream.”

~ Josephine Nuese

Flower Gardens

Don’t worry if you see evidence of leaves of your fall-planted bulbs popping up out of the ground. This is quite normal and there is no way to stop them. Keep the soil moist, which will cool it and keep the bulbs hydrated.  

To prevent sparrows and finches from shredding crocus blossoms, place a piece of Bird Scare Tape tied to a stick every few feet among the flowers. The flashing will frighten away the birds.

Check your gladiolus, dahlia and canna bulbs you have stored to make sure the media in which they are stored is still moist.

Perennials & Roses

When planning your flower bed, whether it is planted in annuals or perennials, don’t overlook ornamental grasses for a beautiful contrasting texture. 

Be sure that the winter mulch around your perennials, roses and bulb beds is still in place. Replace mulch that has been blown away by heavy winds. 

Cut the seed heads from your ornamental grasses and use them to make very attractive dried flower arrangements in your house. 

Cut back last year’s growth from ornamental grasses now before this year’s new growth begins.

Lawns

When snow and ice are gone from shady areas of lawn (especially on the north side of structures) rake the grass to prevent snow mold. 

Water your lawn with a sprinkler during long stretches of mild dry weather. Be sure to disconnect the hose and put it away before the weather drops below freezing again. 

If you see “trails” in your lawn, you may have voles, a common rodent in Colorado. We carry products to eliminate this pest. Voles have been known to chew on bark of trees and shrubs, especially junipers. You may notice dead branches on junipers later in the spring.  Look deep inside the shrub and you will see where the bark is missing.

Vegetable Gardens

January is a good month for gardening, at least on paper, as you start planning for this year’s garden. Although you’ll want to include many of your family’s favorites, why not try something you’ve never grown before? 

February is the best time to prune grape vines. By waiting until just before growth begins in spring, you can recognize and remove any dead or damaged wood.

Your spring crop of asparagus will benefit greatly from the addition of manure to the bed.

Test your soil for pH and nutrients so you’ll know what is needed before you plant this spring. Soil amendments that improve your gardens can be tilled or spaded now and worked in. We can test your soil for you at Echter’s or you may use one of our easy-to-do test kits and test it yourself.

January and February are the best months to purchase your flower and vegetable seed. The best availability and selection is early. 

Take inventory of your seed starting supplies, such as pots, soil, and flats. Sterilize any that you have used before or purchase new supplies. Be ready so that you will have everything you need for a successful project. 

When starting seeds indoors, use a propagation mat. It keeps the soil in the trays at a constant warm temperature. You will get quicker germination, more seedlings and more uniformity.

Trees & Shrubs

Knock down heavy snows from your shrubs and tree branches by gently pushing up with a broom. Start with the lower branches and work your way up the tree or shrub.

It is very important to keep your lawns, trees, shrubs, perennial and bulb beds watered once a month throughout the winter as weather permits. You will reduce the chance of root damage on perennials, trees and shrubs and reduce insect population and disease problems in your lawn next year.

Get an early taste of spring. Prune branches of forsythia, quince, spirea, dogwood, viburnum, pussy willow and crabapple and plum trees. Bring them indoors to bloom. Cut the branches at an angle and place them in a vase of water. Change the water twice a week and in about 3 weeks the stems will bloom. Don’t prune the rest of the shrub until after they have flowered in spring.

Prune summer and fall blooming shrubs in February. This is the time to shape up your trees as well. Remove dead, dying, or unsightly parts of the tree. Your pruning arsenal should include bypass pruners, a compound action lopper, a tree saw and a pole pruner at minimum. Bring in your tools for sharpening if they have become dull.  

If you have large trees that need pruning, call us for the name of a tree service. The sooner you call, the more likely you will get your trees pruned at the best time of year. 

February into early March is the best time to prune fruit trees. Prune out any dead or diseased branches, any branch that is crossing and rubbing another and any “water sprouts” (those weak “branches” that shoot straight up). 

On a nice warm day, spray Bonide All-Seasons Dormant Oil on trees, shrubs, roses, vines or most anything else you had insect or disease problems on last year. It kills overwintering insect eggs and will help reduce the problem this year. Avoid spraying blue spruce or you will have a green spruce. 

When shoveling snow from your sidewalks and driveways, pile the snow around trees, shrubs and perennial plants instead of out in the street as long you have not used chemicals or salt to melt the ice. These plants will benefit from the added moisture.

Indoor Plants

If a houseplant is not doing well, check these five growing factors: light, temperature, nutrients, moisture, and humidity. They must be favorable to provide good growth. Bring the plant in to our plant doctors if you need help with a diagnosis. 

Keep holiday cacti blooming by keeping them in a cooler location with bright sun. You can move them outdoors in summer in a semi-shaded location. Then bring them in next fall for reblooming. 

Cyclamen are great plants for brightening your home in winter. They prefer a cool, dry and bright place. The pink, red, white or maroon flowers will continue for weeks.

Try growing a citrus tree in your house. If is best to have a tree which has been grafted, as opposed to trying to grow them from seed. The fragrance of the blossoms is wonderful and after pollinating the flowers with a cotton swab or artist’s brush, you should eventually have fruit. Choose the sunniest window in your house for citrus. 

Grow your own herbs inside. Either from seeds or plants, there is nothing like fresh herbs for all kinds of winter dishes, like soup, stews, and many other comfort dishes for those cold winter days.   

Keep your poinsettia blooming after the holidays by providing proper care. Poinsettias need good drainage, so if the pot is still wrapped in foil, remove the foil or make a hole in the bottom to allow the water to drain out. Keep the soil moist, but don’t overwater. Place your plant in a cool, (60 to 65 degrees F.) location that gets plenty of light. Keep out of warm or cool drafts, and fertilize once a month. 

Children are fascinated by “garbage gardening”. Carrot tops can be grown in a dish with a small amount of water. This results in a delicate fern. Sweet potatoes, pineapple tops, avocado seeds, orange or grapefruit, and peach seeds can also be started.

If you are overwintering your geraniums inside, be sure to cut them back 1/3 of their height before February 1. 

If you have a problem with those very annoying fungus gnats coming from the soil under your houseplants, let your plants dry out down to at least 1 inch before watering them. Gnats thrive in moist soil and multiply. Quick Kill Mosquito Bits with Bti, a biological pesticide will control them in the larval stage. Applying a pyrethrum or permethrin to the soil will reduce their numbers. Whitefly sticky traps will also catch those that come out of the soil. 

African violets bloom better when surrounded by other African violets. The more the merrier.

Birds

Echter’s offers many seed mixes for all types of birds who are seed eaters. Individual types of seed are also popular and there is a great selection to choose from. Sunflower seed, safflower seed and nyjer seed are among the favorite choices. Insect-eating birds such as flickers and nuthatches have a taste for suet and peanut butter rather than seed, so be sure to consider their needs as well.


Put your leftover Christmas tree outside and decorate it with strings of popcorn and cranberries to feed the birds. Add pine cones which have been spread with peanut butter and rolled in bird seed. The birds will love you. 

Ever wonder about how the birds protect themselves in the freezing cold weather? First of all, they need clean feathers, so an unfrozen water source is essential for birds to bathe. They need water in the winter as well as spring and summer. By placing a birdbath de-icer in your birdbath, the birds will stay happy all winter. 

Another requirement is shelter. You will often find a lot of birds in dense shrubs, spruce and pine trees. Any protection you can offer would be appreciated very much by our feathered friends. If squirrels are a nuisance, use a squirrel-proof feeder. 

Home & Patio

Urea is a safer ice melt around lawns, plants and pets, but it only melts ice down to about 15 degrees. If you need to use calcium chloride for cold-temperature ice melting, try to avoid pushing it onto desirable plants. Only use as much ice melt as is necessary and try to keep it in the center of the walk.

Dried herbs for cooking taste better when dried on paper towels or a wire screen. Hanging them upside down can deplete their essential oils.

We can sharpen your mower blade for a nominal fee. Bring in your lawn mower blade on or off the mower. 

Home & Patio

Gardening is a great way to exercise. You can burn as much as 300 to 400 calories per hour by digging, raking, or turning compost. Besides, gardening is fun and fruitful! Be sure to start with short spurts and ease into longer periods of gardening time.

Echter’s Plant Doctors are available during store hours seven days a week to answer your gardening questions. For accurate diagnosis, it helps to bring in a sample.