Don’t Wait. Plant Now.

Plants for sale @Lowe's-CS_2008aug02_LAH_5093If the cooler weather and turning leaves haven’t alerted you, the calendar can’t lie. Tomorrow is the first day of autumn. Can our first frost be far behind? It’s tempting to let the change of seasons put a stop to gardening for the year, but there’s still much to do. (See my previous post on “Putting Your Garden to Bed” for ideas.) Of course we know that many spring-blooming bulbs go in the ground now. But how about perennials, shrubs, and even trees? Can we plant (or transplant) them now? Even for those of us who live in places with cold winters, fall is a terrific time to plant.

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Snow-tolerant Veggies

Yes, it’s May. And yes, it’s still snowing. In fact, we had temperatures around 20 degrees, with snow, over the past few days. The prediction is for warmer weather, but in previous years we’ve had snow and lows below freezing well into June. Of course I’m anxious to get my garden growing—but what will survive our winter/spring weather? Surprisingly, quite a lot!

Kale
LAH_7318We were gone last fall, so I never got around to pulling out last summer’s freeze-killed veggies. It turns out that was a good thing. With no protection at all, my Starbor kale roots survived our Zone 4 winter, and new growth is appearing from a dead-looking stump. I expect the kale plants to bolt as soon as it warms up a bit more, but in the meantime, I’m harvesting kale now. I plan to include kale in my garden again this year, starting seeds inside and setting out plants in late June to mature in September and October, after frost sweetens the leaves. You can bet I’ll leave those plants in place next fall, maybe with a bit of mulch or a row cover, for yet another early harvest. Continue reading “Snow-tolerant Veggies”

Microclimates Matter

nga-app-planting-guideThe link promised to tell me when I should start my vegetable garden—when to sow seeds indoors, and when to sow or transplant outdoors. Just type in my zip code, and I’d have information customized for my area, courtesy of the National Gardening Association. I rarely click on ads, but I’ve found the NGA to be helpful in the past. Besides, I was curious. I have 24 years of records telling me when to plant in my area—how would their site measure up?

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Garden Advice: Companion Planting

carrots-tomatoes-401Do carrots really love tomatoes? Do beans and onions hate one another? The internet (and my bookshelf) is full of anecdotal advice about which crops we should plant together, and which ones we should not.

There’s a well-known book that’s been around for ages called Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening, by Louise Riotte. It offers page after page of “facts” about companion planting. That sounds really helpful, and I was ready to try it all, but unfortunately, when I dug in online, I discovered that there is very little science behind the advice.

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Planting a Tree

Improper staking_LAH_5226How do you plant a new tree? Most people know to dig a hole “twice as wide and deep as the root ball” (according to the label I found hanging from the branches), then stick in the tree, making sure the roots are well buried. Amend the backfill with plenty of compost, pile it over the roots and tamp it down firmly. Finally, securely stake the thin trunk so it won’t wiggle in the wind. Right?

Wrong!

This advice was being questioned as far back as 1980, but it is still widely practiced, much to the detriment of the poor plants.

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Grow Plants, Grow!

We have plants! No more mud, no more growing chasm in the backyard where the runoff was carrying our dirt away. The landscapers finally arrived and we now look a lot more finished.

front yard 2015-08-07 11.27.53Can you find the plants in this photo? There are 29 of them (not counting the ones in the pots on the porch)!

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Scheduling Seed Starting

seeds-in-baggies_lah_6137If you ordered your seeds from a catalog, chances are those seed packets are beginning to arrive at your house—an entire garden, in one padded envelope! After you’ve opened the package and checked to make sure they included everything you ordered, (or if you’ve bought your seeds at your local garden center), what should you do with those seeds?

I used to just toss the packets into my seed-holding shoebox and hope I would remember to start them at the right time. Now I take a little time to get organized before spring planting really gets underway.

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Gardeners, Start Your Bulbs!

crocus-blackforest-27mar2006-lah-001-cropThe first crocus of spring. Sunny yellow daffodils naturalized under trees. Beds full of crimson tulips—it all starts now.

After gardening all summer, it’s hard to add yet another chore to the pile of things to do this month, but planting bulbs should be near the top of the list. Getting them in early not only affords you the best selection at the garden center, but gives roots time to grow in still-warm soil, preventing frost heave and providing the best start to next spring’s bloom.

Pick a location that gets plenty of sunlight, particularly if you intend for your bulbs to come back year after year. Most bulb species bloom well the first year, but here in Colorado they tend to diminish with each successive growing season. Especially in the case of tulips, assume that you will need to replace them annually for the best display. Even other species will need ideal growing conditions if they are to increase in size and number.

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Living Christmas Trees

Photo: Judy Sedbrook, CSU Extension
Photo: Judy Sedbrook, CSU Extension

With the surge in environmentalism, many people are trying to decide which is “greener,” a real Christmas tree or an artificial one. Both have their pros and cons. There is, however, a third alternative. You can decorate a still-living tree this year.

Most nurseries and garden centers sell potted Christmas trees. You bring them indoors for a brief spell (a week at most) during the holidays, then plant them permanently in the ground.

Still-living trees cost more. No one wants to pay a premium for a tree that still has roots, only to have it die after moving it outside. While planting a Christmas tree isn’t difficult, you should do the same research and preparation that you would do when choosing any tree for your yard.

First of all, make sure you have the right tree for the right place. Consider how the tree will fit into your overall landscape plan. Most evergreen trees get very large. That cute three-foot fir may have a mature height of 70 feet or more! Instead of trying to cram a giant into a small suburban yard, choose a dwarf specimen instead—or arrange to plant it elsewhere so it will have room to grow.

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