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The Scourge of the Landscape – Japanese Beetle

There are some insects no one ever wants to see in their yard. Japanese beetle is probably at the top of the list. Japanese Beetles devour established landscape plants in a day. There are few things more devastating to your landscape.

There is a way to protect your landscape for the next 10 years that is organic and easy to use. It’s called Milky Spore. It’s a spore that affects Japanese beetle grubs, and nothing else. You read that right…….nothing else. That means it can be used in the lawn, in the vegetable garden, and throughout your landscape. Just one teaspoon of powder, every 4 square feet apart is all it takes for 10 years of control.  

It is uncommon for us to suggest applying something before you’ve identified an insect problem, but this is one of those times. Applying Milky Spore is like giving your landscape a vaccine that will protect it from Japanese beetle damage for a decade to come.
Japanese beetle grubs can sometimes be spotted in the lawn, the fall before you might see the adults on your plants.

When Can I Plant?

Here comes the sun! With it and the warm day temperatures of spring comes one of the most frequent questions we hear. “Can I plant this now?” The answer depends on the plant and particularly, on the nighttime temperatures. Our early spring days are often beautiful and daytime temperatures may reach well into the 70’s. It’s the night temperatures that really tell us when it’s safe to plant. Our last frost date is generally considered to occur around May 20th. While some years the date arrives earlier, there are occasional years when it occurs as late as June 1. We’re eager gardeners and antsy to get plants in the ground, but if we aren’t mindful of the night temperatures, we can do more harm than good.Image result for gardening in snow

Before I get carried away talking about plants, I should mention the value of hardening off your plants before you plant. What is hardening off? It’s a process that acclimates plants prior to transplanting in order to reduce the risk of transplant shock. The process takes a few days, but it’s worth the investment of time, particularly in early spring or late summer heat. Day one, place the plants in a shaded area outside and move them indoors or into a garage that night. Day two, place the plants in partial sun for the day and move into the garage or indoors at night. Day three, place the plant in a sunny spot for the day and move to a protected outdoor location, like against the house or under a porch, for the night. Day four, move into the sun for the day and leave them in the exposed location for the night. Day five, plant. In late summer, when the temperatures are well over 80°F, I often use the same process, but shortened to 3 days. This helps prevent sun and wind burn to the young plants. Hardening off plants increases successful transplanting.Using a Cloche to protect plants
Hardening Off Plants

Now back to what we can plant and when we can plant it.
Hands down, the most common plants asked about are tomatoes and peppers. Tomatoes and peppers, two of the longest season garden vegetables, prefer night temperatures to be above 50°F for about a week before they are planted. The ground needs to be consistently warm for them to do well. If we plant too early, and the night temperatures are still cold, plants set less fruit and are often more susceptible to problems like blossom end rot later in the season.

Blossom End Rot

There are helpful tools like Season Starters that can be used to warm the ground earlier than traditional planting would allow. They should be set up for 7-10 days to warm the soil, before they are planted with your seedlings. Once planted, the plant protectors act as insulators against cold temperatures, much like a mini greenhouse. Generally, Season Starters can give you a jump start by several weeks. Set them up about April 15 and you can plant inside them a week later.

Season Starter

We hope this Frost Hardiness list will help gardeners know when it is safe to set out their plants. The actual dates vary, of course, with each area, but the principle is the same. Perennials that are not hardy in Colorado are listed as annuals. The hardiness of perennials is based on coming out of a protected climate.

To obtain maximum frost hardiness, HARDEN PLANTS OFF gradually by exposing them to sun, wind, and cold, but above freezing temperatures for a few days.

These dates are approximate for the Denver area. Safe dates vary from year to year, suburb to suburb, and even from one location in the garden to another. Covering plants on unusually cold nights will help protect them. On extremely cold nights it may be necessary to dig plants up and bring them inside.

Very Hardy Plants–Plant Out up to 7 weeks before last frost.
(April 1 in Denver, April 10 in Golden & Parker)
Annuals:
Alyssum, Anchusa, Centaurea, Dracaena, Dusty Miller, Larkspur, Nigella, Pansy, Snapdragon, Sweet Pea
Perennial Starts
Achillea, Aegopodium, Ajuga, Aurinia, Arabis, Armeria, Aubretia, Basket of Gold, Bishop’s Weed, Carnation, Creeping Phlox, Gayfeather, Hardy Hibiscus, Lavender Cotton, Liatris, Lobelia, Primrose, Primula, Rock Cress, Purple Rock Cress, Red Hot Poker, Santolina, Sedum, Thyme, Torch Lily, Tritoma, Viola, Yarrow
Vegetable Plants
Asparagus, Chives, Fennel, Garlic, Onions, Peas, Potato, Radish, Strawberry

Asparagus

Hardy Plants–Plant up to 5 weeks before last frost.
(April 20 in Denver, April 30 in Golden & Parker)
Annuals
African Daisy, Arctotis, Baby Blue Eyes, Calendula, Carnation, Dianthus, Diascia, Flowering Kale, Lobelia, Osteospermum, Phlox, Twinspur, Vinca Vine
Perennial Starts
Alstromeria, Anemone,Baby’ Breath, Bachelor Buttons, Bellis, Campanula, Candytuft, Centaurea, Cerastium, Columbine, Coral Bells, Coreopsis, Daylily, Dianthus, Digitalis, Doronicum, English Daisy, Erysimum, Festuca, Feverfew, Flax, Forget-Me-Not, Foxglove, Galium, Garden Mums, Gloriosa Daisy, Gypsophila, Helianthemum, Hemerocallis, Heuchera, Hollyhocks, Hosta, Iberis, Lavender, Lenten Rose, Lupine, Lunaria, Lysimachia, Maltese Cross, Matricaria, Mexican Feather Grass, Missouri Primrose, Money Plant, Myosotis, Oenothera, Painted Daisy, Penstemon, Tall Phlox, Pincushion Flower, Poppy, Pyrethrum, Roses, Rudbeckia, Scabiosa, Shasta Daisy, Snow-in Summer, Statice, Sweet William, Sweet Woodruff, Veronica, Violet
cauliflower
Vegetable Plants
Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Pak Choi, Perennial Herbs, Radicchio, Rhubarb, Spinach

Half-Hardy Plants–Plant out up to 3 weeks before last
frost date.
(May 1 in Denver, May 10 in Golden & Parker)
Annuals
Anagallis, Angelonia, Angel’s Trumpets, Bacopa, Bells of Ireland, Blue Lace Flower, Calibrachoa, California Poppy, Campanula, Clover, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Creeping Zinnia, Datura, Dichondra, Didiscus, Fountain Grass, Gaillardia, Gazania, Gerbera, Gloriosa Daisy, Gomphrena, Lotus Vine, Ornamental Grasses, Petunia, Pennisetum, Phlox, Purple Bell Vine, Regal Geranium, Ruby Grass, Rudbeckia, Sanvitalia, Scarlet Pimpernel, Stocks, Strawflowers, Steirodiscus, Sutera, Sweet Peas, Sweet Sultan, Transvaal Daisy, Trifolium, Verbena, Xerianthemum


Perennial Starts
Artemesia, Hardy Asters, Astilbe, Balloon Flower, Bee Balm, Bleeding Heart, Delphinium, Echinacea, Euphorbia, Felicia Daisy, Geum, Gladiolus, Hibiscus, Hypericum, Monarda, Peony, Platycodon, Purple Coneflower, Roses, Salvia, Sagina, Saxifraga, Verbena
Vegetable Plants
Artichoke, Celery, Leek

Tender Plants–Plant outside after almost all danger of
frost has passed.
(May 20 in Denver, May 30 in Golden & Parker)
Annuals
Abutilon, Achimenes, African Daisy, Ageratum, Argyranthemum, Alternanthera, Alternaria,amaranthus, Asparagus Fern, Asters, Axilflower, Balsam, Banana, Begonia, Bidens, Black Eyed Susan, Bloodleaf, Blue Throatwort, Bougainvillea, Bower Vine, Brachycome, Browallia, Brunfelsia, Caladium, Calla Lily, Calliopsis, Canna, Cardinal Flower, Catharanthus, Celosia, Chrysanthemum, Chrysocephalum, Cigar Plant, Cleome, Coleus, Copperleaf, Crassula, Crossandra, Cuphea, Dahlberg Daisy, Dahlia, Dallas Fern, Dipladenia, Elephant Ears, Evolvulus, Fanflower, Fiber Optic Grass, Flowering Maple, Flowering Tobacco, Fountain Grass, Four O’ Clock, Fuchsia, Geranium, Gloriosa Lily, Firebush, Guara, Hamelia, Heliotrope, Hibiscus, Impatiens, Iresene, Jasmine, Lantana, Livingstone Daisy, Lisianthus, Lithospermum, Marguerite Daisy, Marigold, Mecardonia, Melampodium, Millet, Mimulus, Monkey Flower, Moon Vine, Morning Glory, Napa Valley Fern, Nasturtium, Nemesia, Nicotiana, Nierembergia, Nolana, Oleander, Oxalis, Painted Tongue, Pampas Grass, Pentas, Perilla, Periwinkle, Plectranthus, Polka Dot Plant, Polygonum, Portulaca, Salpiglossis, Salvia, Sanvitalia, Scarlet Runner Bean, Scaevola, Scutellaria, Schizanthus, Skullcap, Statice, Stoneseed, Streptocarpella, Sunflower, Swan River Daisy, Sweet Potato Vine, Thunbergia, Tithonia, Torenia, Trachelium, Trailing Portulaca, Tropical Hibiscus, Tropical Water Plants, Zinnia

Vegetable Plants
Annual Herbs, Cantaloupe, Corn, Cucumber, Eggplant, Okra, Peanut, Bell & Chile Peppers, Pumpkin, Squash, Sweet Potato, Tomato, Watermelon

 

Winter is for the Birds

During cold winter months, birds provide color and entertainment outside. It’s easy to lure feathered beauties to a feeder, whether it’s on a balcony or in the yard. With a tiny amount of effort, you can draw birds year round. In order to flourish, our bird friends need 3 things; food, water and housing. Houses offer protection from winter’s cold. Different foods draw different birds. As you might imagine, some of them have preferences. We have bird food to satisfy most any of our feathered friends.goldfinch

Black oil sunflower seed is one of the most popular among birds and birders. This one seed draws dozens of species to your feeder. If you’ve never set up a feeder before, start with sunflower seed and tube feeder. It will give you and the birds great satisfaction, while providing a good balance of fiber, protein and fats that keep birds healthy.black-capped-chickadee

Most bird food is comprised of a mixed ingredients that provide an optimal nutrient value to the birds. Look for food that provides an identifiable list of ingredients. A good food will also provide a nutritional analysis, so you will know that you’re providing them with what they need, not just filler.

Colorado has an abundance of Finches, Jays, Woodpeckers, Starlings, Grosbeaks, Hermit Thrush, and many more. They love fruit and berry seed blends. There’s also a Deck, Porch and Patio blend that leaves little refuse behind. Birds aren’t known to be neat eaters, so it helps to have “clean” food in the feeder for them.  downy-woodpecker

Suet is a great way to feed birds in winter.  Suet is ideal for high energy birds, with full-tilt metabolisms.  It provides adequate nutritional value and added fat to see them through winter.  Suet cakes usually last a week or so, making it easy to maintain the feeder.

The one thing we all wrestle with is the pesky squirrel. Those agile little thieves love to raid the feeder. They’re enough of a problem that most manufacturers make special feeders, that have a cage around the feeding tube, eliminating the squirrel’s ability to access the food. Now, if you’re a fan squirrels, a squirrel feeder might be a good decoy.horned-lark

Keep fresh water in shallow saucers outside for birds to access, toohouse-finch.

Place your feeders where you can see them from the house or patio. That way you get to enjoy the show these beautiful creatures provide during the winter months.

Fall and Winter Control of Pests and Disease in the Landscape

The fall and winter season provides an opportunity to control pests and disease in the garden. Fire Blight is a bacterial disease that affects certain species in the rose family, especially apples, crabapples and pears.  Applying Bonide Copper Fungicide while the trees are dormant is one method of control.  Copper sprays are toxic to many species of bacteria and should be applied prior to bud break while trees are still in dormancy because they may damage leaves and young fruit.fireblightf1 bonide-copper-fungicide
Control the overwintering stages of many insects on trees and shrubs with All Season’s Spray Oil. Be sure that the air temperature is above 35 degrees F and do not apply if plant tissues are wet or rain is likely. The oil will smother overwintering aphids, spider mites, eriophyde mites, scale and their eggs and larvae.

eriophyid_mites all-seasons
If you had problems with powdery mildew or other fungal leaf spotting on lilacs, aspen and maples, be sure to clean up any leaf debris and dispose of it. Clean up of affected leaves is one of the most effective controls of powdery mildew. It is best to avoid overhead watering of the affected plants during the growing season if possible.
Most pests and disease problems result from stress to plants. In Colorado our greatest stress factor for plants is drought. Remember to continue watering plants in your landscape through the winter when temperatures are above normal and precipitation is below normal. Water mid-day when temperatures are in the 40 to 50 degree F range. During prolonged dry periods, water at 3 to 4 week intervals.

Make it Merry and Bright

92b6e661f7fd05e2a0faf2f2face96f3 Festive decorations set the mood for holiday celebrations. The fresh scent of pine and cedar boughs brings forth memories of evenings spent with friends and family, and excitement for the gatherings to come. Wreaths and garlands made up of fresh cut evergreens have a long-standing tradition of welcoming visitors to our homes. A wreath can also serve as a centerpiece. Simply lay it flat on the table and place pillar candles in the center. Add ornaments and ribbon to suit your style. Similarly, boughs strewn down the center of table, accented with pine cones and berries, will add charm to your holiday table. There are few tricks to keeping fresh cut wreaths and greens looking nice, in our dry climate. Before decorating your wreath, spray it with Wilt Stop. Wilt Stop reduces moisture loss from the needles, keeping your wreaths and garlands looking fresh for a longer period of time. Display wreaths and garlands in shaded areas. Direct sunlight will dehydrate them quickly. If you are using them indoors, keep in mind that heat from the fireplace will dehydrate fresh greens and can pose a fire hazard. Limit use of the fireplace, or choose permanent wreaths and garlands to adorn the mantel. It will help to mist them lightly on a regular basis, too.wilt-stopchristmas-wreath

A favorite way to welcome guests is to create a holiday porch pot. Leave the potting mix in your summer planters, and wet it thoroughly. Fill the pot with fresh cut boughs and colorful branches. Add a festive garnish of ribbon, pine cones and holiday trim. Keep the soil moist and your bough filled planters will decorate your home into the New Year. This a great alternative to attempting to keep a living evergreen in your patio pots, a feat which is exceedingly difficult in our climate.christmas-tree

We can’t forget about the centerpiece to our holiday décor, the Christmas tree. Fresh cut Christmas trees bring out the holiday spirit in everyone. There’s nothing quite like the feeling generated by admiring a beautifully lit tree, filled with decorations that often span generations in a family. If you can, select your tree from a store where they are kept indoors. Your tree will have experienced less exposure to the elements, resulting in greater moisture retention in the needles. Your tree should receive a fresh cut and be placed in water within 20 minutes. Otherwise, the cut will seal and the tree won’t be able to draw up the water. It’s a good idea to wait 24 hours before decorating the tree, just to be sure it is drawing water. Be sure to use a tree stand with a large water reservoir and check to see that it is filled regularly. If the basin dries out just once, the tree will dry out quickly. Crispy Christmas trees are not only unattractive, they pose a fire hazard in your home. A few other tips include; display the tree out of direct sunlight and away from heat vents. Don’t leave the lights on when the tree is unattended. Disposal will be made easier if a tree bag is placed under the stand before the tree is set up. Then, when it’s time to take down the tree, just slide the bag up to prevent dropping needles through the house as it is removed. That’s what I call “merry.”

Sunny Summer Blooms

 

Spring flowers may have faded, but that doesn’t mean you garden has to lack color! There are many perennials that bide their time growing strong root systems throughout spring so they can put on their own show in the heat of summer. Here are several varieties that provide a beautiful summer display:

Coreopsis, also known as tickseed, starts blooming in June and is easy to grow. With some deadheading, it will continue to bloom with its bright, daisy-like flowers until fall. We have many varieties available ranging from cream colored to bright yellow and even red! Most range in size from 12” to 32” tall. ‘Full Moon’ has gorgeous, buttery yellow flowers held on wiry stems above bright green foliage and reaches up to 30” tall and 24” wide. ‘Moonbeam’ is a thread leaf variety with feathery foliage and creamy yellow flowers. It reaches to 18” tall and wide. Coreopsis pairs well with blue and purple flowering plants with a more spikey texture such as salvia, catmint, and lavender.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hardy Hibiscus, with its large, tropical looking flowers and foliage is a showstopper in the late summer garden! While it’s a late starter, once it pops out of the ground it grows incredibly fast. Its sturdy stems and large leaves support enormous hibiscus flowers in shades of red, pink, or white in July and August. The stems will die back to the ground in late fall at which time it should be cut back. ‘Mars Madness’ is a variety with red-tinged leaves that emerge lime green and has bright red flowers. ‘Tie Dye’ has bright green leaves and has pink and white bicolor flowers with a ruby throat. With extra water, time, and care this plant can reach 5 feet tall and wide, but usually they will be 30” to 48” tall and wide in our area. Plant Hardy Hibiscus at the back of the perennial border or among perennials that have finished blooming such as peonies or tall bearded iris.hardy hibiscus

Rudbeckia, also known as Gloriosa Daisy or Black-Eyed Susan, produce large yellow to gold daisy-like flowers. ‘Prairie Sun’ grows to 36” tall and 18” wide with large blooms of lemon-yellow tipped gold petals and a green eye. ‘Indian Summer’ has large, bright yellow flowers with a dark eye and also grows to 36” tall and 18” wide. Rudbeckia looks wonderful planted in mass. Use it in borders, cottage gardens, meadows, or for naturalizing. Butterflies love it!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila paniculata) has airy plumes of white flowers at the ends of the stems in July and August and provides a delicate texture to the garden. It grows to approximately 32” tall and wide with a dense mounded form. The silvery-blue narrow leaves look good all season and the flowers are excellent for cutting. It is drought tolerant. Deadhead to encourage fall bloom. Plant with iris, tulips, Oriental poppies, yarrow, and of course, roses. Choose location carefully as this one doesn’t like to be transplanted.

Hopflower Oregano (origanum rotundifolium) variety ‘Kent Beauty’ is a low, mounding form of ornamental oregano with long blooming cream and pink bracts containing tiny lavender flowers. The lush silvery-green foliage looks attractive all summer. Hopflower Oregano looks wonderful trailing over rocks or walls, in containers or in the front of the flowerbed. Bees love it!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cupid’s Dart (Catananche caerulea), also known as Love Plant, has 1” to 2” vivid blue flowers atop tall wiry stems that sway of its green rosette of leaves at the base. It blooms from summer until fall and is drought tolerant once established. Excellent as a cut flower or dried for arrangements, these blue daisies provide contrast in both the flower bed and in containers.cupids dart

Tall Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata) comes in many colors from blue, pink, white, purple to bicolored flowers. This knee high, old-fashioned favorite blooms for six weeks or more beginning in late June. ‘Laura’ has beautiful lavender flowers offset with a white eye and reaches 30”-35” tall and 24” wide. At 18” tall and 24” wide, ‘Flame Red’ and it’s siblings in the Flame series provide a long blooming alternative to the taller varieties. Most varieties grow to 2’ to 3’ tall and provide a colorful transition between large background plants and smaller, front of the garden show-offs.Garden Phlox

Can I still plant?

 

Yes! You can plant.

‘Is it too late to plant?’ This is a question we hear a lot this time of year.

The answer: You can plant anytime during the growing season!While planting in the heat of summer poses some challenges, container grown perennials and shrubs are always happy to get their roots into the ground.

The key is water.  High temperatures and intense sunlight cause plants to make strong demands on their root system to keep up with transpiration (think of the plant ‘sweating’ to cool off). When the roots have to work hardto keep the plant hydrated, it can’t use that energy for growing roots. Even worse, if the roots can’t find the water it needs the plant suffers.

planting-tree-6l

For successful summer planting, makesure your plants are well hydrated before you transplant and plant in the cooler hours of early morning or evening.  This reduces the stress of transplanting.  Make your hole the same depth and twice as wide as the container your plant came in.  Larger plants, shrubs and trees will benefit from pre-moistening the soil.  Fill the hole with water and let is seep into the ground completely. While the water is seeping into the surrounding soil, mix 1 part compost with 2 parts of the soil you removed from the hole. Remove your plant from its container and gently loosen the roots. Place the plant with its roots spread out. For perennials, annuals and shrubs, match the same soil level as the container grown plant.  Avoid burying it any deeper.  For trees, CSU recommends planting with the root ball elevated from the ground, as trees will settle over time.  For 1” caliper trees and smaller, plant 1” above the grade.  For 2”-4” caliper trees, plant 2” above the soil grade. Add some of the soil/compost mixture if it sits too low. Fill the hole with the remaining soil/compost mixture while gently tamping down to stabilize the plant.  Avoid packing the soil tightly.  Our goal is to eliminate air pockets while still making it possible for roots and water to penetrate the soil.  Top with compost or mulch to retain moisture and water deeply one more time with a root simulator. Planting_Shrub

Check your plants both morning and evening if it’s been hot and dry, for several weeks.  Moisture meters are handy tools to keep an eye on the moisture level surrounding the roots of your new transplants.  For larger trees and shrubs, be sure to check in several places around the root ball, as they can dry unevenly while they establish.  The long handle of a wooden spoon or a sharpened pencil can be used as a substitute if you prefer not to stick your fingers in the soil. Exposed wood absorbs moisture.  Poke your utensil into the soil a few inches and pull it up.  Feel the end of the utensil.   If it is dry, then water.  For plants with smaller root masses, check the soil about 2 inches below the surface for moisture. For larger plants like trees, check 3 to 4 inches into the soil.  If dry, give it a deep soaking.  Once your plants are settled and appear to be growing well, you can begin to reduce your watering frequency depending on your plants particular needs.  Drought tolerant trees, shrubs and perennials will still need a deep soaking at least once per week during the hottest part of their first summer.

Remember to winter water trees, shrubs and perennials, too.  Our climate is arid and young plants are the most susceptible during this time. Even established trees will suffer.  If we don’t have a decent snowfall for 3-4 weeks then watering will be necessary to maintain your plants health.  Failure to winter water is the most common reason for plant loss each spring.

The key is water. High temperatures and intense sunlight cause plants to make strong demands on their root system to keep up with transpiration (think of the plant ‘sweating’ to cool off). When the roots have to work hard to keep the plant hydrated, it can’t use that energy for growing roots. Even worse, if the roots can’t find the water it needs the plant suffers.

For successful summer planting, make sure your plants are well hydrated before you transplant and plant in the cooler hours of early morning or evening. This reduces the stress of transplanting. Make your hole the same depth and twice as wide as the container your plant came in. Larger plants, shrubs and trees will benefit from pre-moistening the soil. Fill the hole with water and let is seep into the ground completely. While the water is seeping into the surrounding soil, mix 1 part compost with 2 parts of the soil you removed from the hole. Remove your plant from its container and gently loosen the roots. Place the plant with its roots spread out. For perennials, annuals and shrubs, match the same soil level as the container grown plant.  Avoid burying it any deeper. For trees, CSU recommends planting with the root ball elevated from the ground, as trees will settle over time. For 1” caliper trees and smaller, plant 1” above the grade. For 2”-4” caliper trees, plant 2” above the soil grade.   Add some of the soil/compost mixture if it sits too low.  Fill the hole with the remaining soil/compost mixture while gently tamping down to stabilize the plant. Avoid packing the soil tightly. Our goal is to eliminate air pockets while still making it possible for roots and water to penetrate the soil. Top with compost or mulch to retain moisture, but keep the mulch at least 3″ away from tree trunks.  Water deeply one more time with a root simulator.   There is no need to fertilizer trees and shrubs their first season.  

Check your plants both morning and evening if it’s been hot and dry, for several weeks. Moisture meters are handy tools to keep an eye on the moisture level surrounding the roots of your new transplants. For larger trees and shrubs, be sure to check in several places around the root ball, as they can dry unevenly while they establish. The long handle of a wooden spoon or a sharpened pencil can be used as a substitute if you prefer not to stick your fingers in the soil. Exposed wood absorbs moisture. Poke your utensil into the soil a few inches and pull it up. Feel the end of the utensil. If it is dry, then water. For plants with smaller root masses, check the soil about 2 inches below the surface for moisture. For larger plants like trees, check 3 to 4 inches into the soil. If dry, give it a deep soaking. Once your plants are settled and appear to be growing well, you can begin to reduce your watering frequency depending on your plants particular needs. Drought tolerant trees, shrubs and perennials will still need a deep soaking at least once per week during the hottest part of their first summer.  Stake trees while they establish.

tree with stakes

Remember to winter water trees, shrubs and perennials, too. Our climate is arid and young plants are the most susceptible during this time. Even established trees will suffer. If we don’t have a decent snowfall for 3-4 weeks then watering will be necessary to maintain your plants health. Failure to winter water is the most common reason for plant loss each spring.

We also suggest using tree wrap on young trees to prevent the trunks from splitting during winter.  The usual rule of thumb is to wrap at Thanksgiving and remove the wrap at Easter.

Above and Beyond: Best Annuals for High-Altitude Gardening

Mountain gardeners know that everything is a little bit different up high: light level, flower colors, rate of growth, and additional challenges with overwintering all make mountain gardening an adventure. Selecting annuals that will tolerate cooler evening temperatures can help to extend that short gardening season and keep the color rolling all summer long. In order to choose wisely, it’s important to know which annuals are very-hardy, hardy, half-hardy, and tender.

You will also need to know your hardiness zone. Here at Echter’s, our lowest evening temps are between -20 and -10, which puts us in Zone 5. Evening temperatures from -30 to -20 are Zone 4, and if you are way, way up, you might be Zone 3 (-40 to -30).
Very-Hardy annuals are unfazed by early frosts and night temperatures of 25 degrees. These plants will continue to grow at the same rate in cool weather and they will flower on their normal schedule. These are the first annuals you will see out on the benches here at Echter’s. Very-hardy annual plants include:

• Alyssum
• Pansies
• Snapdragons
• Dusty Miller
• Ornamental Cabbage/Kalekale

Hardy annuals can take night temperatures of 28, but may experience slower growth and flowering. In the big picture, that’s not a problem— just a delay. Waiting a week or two to plant this group will prevent freezing and let them get started.

• Bacopa
• Calendula
• Carnation
• LobeliaLobelia_026
• Nemesia
• Osteospermum

Half-Hardy annuals

• Angelonia
• Calibrachoa
• California Poppy
• CosmosFlower,_Cosmos_-Radiance-_-_Flickr_-_nekonomania_(1)
• Datura
• Dichondra
• Gazania
• Gerbera
• Gomphrena
• Lotus VineLotus_berthelotii_IMGP5869

• Pennisetum
• Petunia
• Regal geranium
• Sanvitalia
• Stock
• Strawflower
• Trifolium

Tender annuals essentially includes everything else you may find in the annuals house. In the Metro Denver area, tender annuals would be planted around Mother’s day. At higher elevation

FAVORITE CHERRY TOMATOES

assorted cherry tomatoesPicking the “best” cherry tomato is an impossible task, but we can make some recommendations based on plant size, fruit color, and flavor. The first consideration is size of the plant—how much space do you have available for each tomato plant? An indeterminate variety can become an enormous, sprawling vine of 6’ or more. A determinate Tumbling Tom or semi-determinate Lizzano can spill gracefully from a hanging basket or off the side of a raised bed. If you need a very compact plant, try a red or yellow Sweet ‘N’ Neat, which will stay under 16” high. They do best when they can trail a bit, though. They are so short that the fruit can hit the ground in a traditional planting.

PT3
PT3

Fruit color is a fun factor for many tomato lovers. Combining yellow tomatoes with purple basil is a colorful twist on traditional Caprese salad. Cherry tomatoes come in red, orange, yellow, purple, brown, and black. Fruit can be anywhere from traditional grape shapes to 1” orbs or pears. Not –red varieties include Sunsugar, SunGold, Yellow Pear, Black Cherry, Brown Cherry, Indigo Rose, and Sweet N Neat Yellow.sungold tomato

Cherry tomato flavor is generally quite sweet in comparison to other types of tomatoes, which makes them great for snacking and popular with kids. If you are overwhelmed by your cherry tomatoes (which can happen in August) consider a tomato exchange with an equally overloaded friend or neighbor. You may not have fewer tomatoes at the end, but you’re likely to have a mix of varieties and flavors.

Easy Combos for Hanging Baskets

Supertunia BordeauxHanging baskets can be a quick and easy way to add color and style to a patio or porch, but it’s important to select the right plants for the spot you have chosen. A basket of petunias is never going to be happy in a shady nook, and tuberous begonias will crisp up in the afternoon sun. When choosing plants, you also want to consider how easy it will be to water. If watering the basket is going to be a challenge, you can help compensate by choosing plants that can take dry conditions, or choose larger pots or self-watering pots and soil amendments that will help you maintain moisture around the root zone.DSC_4868

Available sunlight is the starting point for all plant selection, so it’s important to determine the number of hours your plants will receive in the location you plan to plant. Do you have a northern exposure or heavy shade from a tree? It doesn’t matter if “it’s really very bright!”—you will have poor performance from sun lovers like petunias. Our visual perception of light isn’t necessarily an accurate measurement of available light to the plant.
Full sun is 6+ hours of direct sun that will shine on the foliage of your plants, each day. These are going to generally be southern, western, or south-western sides of the house, and not tucked back under an awning. If it’s a spot you want to avoid in the middle of the afternoon, odds are good that it’s the perfect spot for a basket of upright geraniums or calibrachoa.
Easy plants for sunny baskets include petunias, scaevola, calibrachoa, trailing portulaca, lantana, trailing verbena, and bidens. A blend of petunias, verbena, and bidens will provide a mix of both colors and textures with long-blooming flower power. An easy care combo for full sun could include a salmon geranium, 3 ‘Bombay Blue’ scaevolas, and 3 light-yellow calibrachoas.

Part-Sun is less than 6 hours of sun per day, which typically amounts to morning sun only. These are usually eastern exposures or an area that would have all day sun, if it weren’t for that gorgeous maple planted two owners ago. An area with dappled shade for the full day can be counted as part-sun for planting purposes.bacopa basket

Easy plants for morning sun include New Guinea impatiens, torenia, many begonias, ivy geraniums, and bacopa. Bacopa can sometimes stop blooming at the peak heat of the summer, but the foliage remains as a lovely cascade and will bloom again once the temperatures cool a bit in late summer and fall. Pansies can also be included in this group, but like bacopa (and most of us!), high temperatures induce a resting phase. A quick and lovely part-sun combo might include a few yellow or salmon ‘Mocca Mix’ begonias, a few ‘Gold n Pearls’ bacopa, and a 4-pack of deep blue torenia.

Full Shade is quite literally no direct sun in a day. Common shade zones are under a porch or patio awning, under dense tree shade, or in the shade of buildings.begonia basket

An easy basket of shade-loving plants could include pansies, compact or trailing coleus, bacopa, begonias, fuchsia, and traditional impatiens. For a quick combo, try 3 Illumination begonias and 3 white bacopas.
With all basket plantings, it is important to monitor the growth of your plants so that you don’t end up with one vigorous plant taking over the entire pot (I’m looking at you, trailing petunias!). Mild, selective pinching and pruning throughout the summer will encourage new growth from the top of the basket and help keep your baskets looking full and fresh.

A word about feeding your plants – Yes! We’re asking our annuals to entertain us with beautiful blooms all summer long, through any sort of weather or challenge that comes their way. They can’t do that without regular fertilization. Try Jack’s Classic Blossom Booster for the majority of your flowering plants, outdoors and indoors. Petunias prefer a special diet, so try Jack’s Classic Petunia Feed. Follow the instructions on any fertilizer you select. Enjoy!