Peas & Carrots

Peas and carrots are a classic couple in the kitchen, but what about the garden?

Normally, peas are sown in early spring. The traditional date is St. Patrick’s Day. While that may work in gentler climes, at 7,000 ft. elevation I would need a drill to create holes in my frozen ground. I usually plant a month later, on Tax Day. At least it gives me something to enjoy on that date.

This year, weekly snowstorms have delayed all my gardening chores. I finally got my peas into the ground on May 6. I don’t have great expectations for the harvest. Maybe we’ll have a cool start to the summer, and my husband will get to enjoy his Sugar Snaps. Maybe not. That’s the gamble of gardening in Colorado.

carrots-csu-lah-058Carrots, on the other hand, are usually planted a week or two before the average last frost date. The cool temperatures and snow-damp soil help keep the seeds from drying out during the three weeks it takes them to germinate.

This year, I sowed carrots on the same day as the peas. At least they’re right on schedule. I took the time to arrange the seeds in blocks of 16 per square foot, so I won’t have much thinning to do later. In my 4 x 4 foot carrot bed, that gives me 256 carrots—plenty for our needs.

Continue reading “Peas & Carrots”

Xeriscape: Which Grass?

Now that you know why you want a lawn, and how big it should be, it’s time to consider what type of grass to grow.

Bluegrass
Lawn_UplandIN_20090615_LAH_3607Kentucky Bluegrass still reigns supreme for a turf that can stand up to hard use. It spreads via runners, so it quickly fills in holes. (But beware. Those same runners have a tendency to wind up in the adjacent flower beds.) If you have children and/or dogs, this is probably your best choice.

Continue reading “Xeriscape: Which Grass?”

Flowering Crabapples

Malus Crabapple
The very cold nights we had last month, coupled with recent snowstorms, have badly damaged flower buds on crabapples and other popular spring bloomers.

Flowering crabapple trees, with single to double blooms of white, pink, or carmine, are a beautiful symbol of springtime. Varying widely in form, cultivars range from small upright trees 15 feet tall to umbrella-like specimens more than 30 feet across. Some form narrow columns; some are weeping. Many produce small, ornamental fruit that lasts all winter, in shades of yellow, orange, or red. The simple green leaves of some varieties may have a reddish cast, especially in the spring. ‘Indian Summer’ is an example having orange fall foliage. ‘Molten Lava’ has attractive yellow bark. With over 200 cultivars available, you can choose a tree that matches your site and provides four seasons of garden interest.

Continue reading “Flowering Crabapples”

The Birds and the Bears

Grizzly Bear_DenverZoo_LAH_1488Last week’s news story about a local woman’s encounter with a bear while out walking prompted me to consider the responsibility we have in preventing this sort of event, which resulted in the death of the bear.

In most cases, bears approach humans because they associate us with food. As one who delights in feeding birds, I’m very aware that what I intend for the birds may also be relished by bears. While bear sightings in my neighborhood are very rare, many neighborhoods along the Front Range extend into bear habitat. We would do well to take precautions.

Continue reading “The Birds and the Bears”

Xeriscaping: Just Enough Lawn

What would happen if you turned on the tap and no water came out? We are accustomed to having water on demand, but here in the west, the truth is that we are slowly running out. As communities grow, increased demand on both surface water and aquifers will eventually lead to rationing and other restrictions. In some places, that has already happened.

Since landscapes consume far more water than household use, your yard is the best place to conserve.

Lawns are the thirstiest part of most landscapes, so let’s start there. Frequently, homeowners plant turf because they don’t know what else to do, or because they’ve always done it that way. A wall-to-wall carpet of grass might work in Virginia, but is it appropriate in Colorado?

Continue reading “Xeriscaping: Just Enough Lawn”

Johnny Jump-ups

violas-johnny-jump-ups-dbg-2008jun26lah-446-21They’re jumping up all over the place— miniature flowers with elfin faces, surrounded by petals of yellow and purple. No wonder we call them Johnny Jump-ups! The petite plants, sporting elongated heart-shaped leaves, must have started growing as soon as the ground thawed, to be in bloom this early.

viola-johnny-jump-up-home-blackforestco-15jun07-lah-008These short-lived members of the violet family are not particular about soil, exposure, or water. However, for maximum bloom, grow them in full sun, and don’t let them get too thirsty. Skip the plant food, as too much fertility will encourage leaves at the expense of flowers. For a mid-summer repeat performance, trim back leggy plants. Prolific self-seeders, new plants quickly replace those that succumb to old age, and they will form a solid mat in a year or two.

Often used as edging plants, Johnny Jump-ups are perfect naturalized under trees or as a ground cover for spring-blooming bulbs. They also do well in containers.

(This article will appear in the Colorado Springs’ Gazette on 4/25/09; it is currently on their website.)

Starting Seeds: Pre-germination

corn-germinating-on-towel-lah-1Vegetable seeds will germinate with or without soil. All they really need is an infusion of water to swell the seed coat, and sufficient warmth to signify spring. In fact, seeds for our most commonly grown food crops are among the easiest to start. They will begin their growth on a paper towel, a bed of agar, or even while still inside the fruit where they were formed! The home gardener can put this fertility to good use.

Continue reading “Starting Seeds: Pre-germination”