More Better Tomatoes

tomatoes-greenhouse-2008sept08-lah-296Summer is just around the corner and the weather is (hopefully) settled. You’ve finally planted your tomato seedlings and you’re dreaming of luscious, red, ripe tomatoes—the sooner the better.

However, this is Colorado, and there’s no guarantee when it comes to growing tomatoes. Now that your plants are in the ground, what’s the best way to care for them to ensure the biggest, fastest harvest?

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Moth Orchids

Orchid_2943_filt_rel

With the holidays behind us, winter seems to stretch out as far as we can see. I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready for a tropical vacation! We can’t afford tickets to a balmy beach or verdant rainforest, but I can manage to plunk down a mere $19.95—or less—for a blooming orchid. My imagination will have to supply the rest.

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Keen on Kale

Colorado State Univ. Field DayIt used to be relegated to garnish status, if you could find it at all. Kale’s strong flavor placed it in last place when compared to its more appealing relatives such as cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. Even the oft-hated Brussels sprouts were more popular. But now, kale is finally getting the accolades it deserves. From kale smoothies to the seared kale I enjoyed at a restaurant recently, its showing up everywhere. With its abundant nutrients and new, milder flavor, kale might be the “trendy veggie” of the decade.

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More Basil, Please

Basil in food processor_LAH_2355The summer is winding down and my harvest (well, except for the still-green tomatoes) is in full swing. Last month I made my first basil cuttings. Now it’s time for another one. And with any luck (and a late frost), I’ll reap one more before the plants freeze.

How do I get so much basil from just a few plants? It’s not hard—I just have to plan ahead. First, I start the plants early indoors. Second, when I pick the leaves, I make very intentional cuts in specific places. And finally, I don’t let the plants go to seed. Let’s look at each of these points more closely.

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Beyond Spring

Malus 'Branzam' Brandywine_Crabapple_DBG_LAH_5147Most landscapes look terrific in May and June. The leaves are fresh and new. From pink crabapples to purple lilacs, it seems as if everything is in bloom. The contrast with the lifeless browns and grays of winter is enough to send you cavorting across the  glowing, emerald green lawn.

It’s tempting—irresistible, really—to rush to the local garden center and buy everything with flowers on it. I’ve been subjected to Facebook photos of flowers since March (I have a lot of friends in California), and finally it’s our turn!

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Colorado’s Iconic Blue Spruce

Bowman's Root and Blue Spruce_DBG_LAH_4163Colorado has a love affair with the blue spruce (Picea pungens). Perhaps we’re enamored with the striking, steel-blue tint to the needles, and the way the color causes fall’s orange leaves to glow. Perhaps we appreciate the towering, pyramidal shape of a mature tree, or the short and squat dimensions of a dwarf cultivar.

A number of gardeners I’ve talked to added a blue spruce to their yard because it’s Colorado’s state tree. Blue spruces may not be the easiest species for Front Range landscapes, but they’re definitely worth the effort.

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Botany for Gardeners: Photosynthesis (part 2)

Food begins with photosynthesis
All food begins with photosynthesis

(If you missed last week’s post about how photosynthesis works, you might want to read it now. I’ll refer to it below.)

As gardeners, we all want to grow healthy plants. Knowing what they need is helpful, but knowing why they need it is even better. Today I’m going to go over what plants need in order to feed themselves—and us. That’s what photosynthesis is for.

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