Yellow Leaves with Green Veins

GOG_20090812_LAH_9072r-signedColorado—the word means “red” in Spanish. And Colorado’s soils are often reddish, due to the abundance of oxidized iron. Here in Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods (right) attracts visitors with bright orange sandstone monoliths. Further north, Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is part of the same formation. Our well water has so much iron in it that our white laundry turned pink—we had to install an iron-removal component to our water system.

So, with all this iron present in our soils, why do so many plants here suffer from a deficiency?

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Oops! I Forgot to Mention That

K garden 3Last spring, our daughter and son-in-law moved into their first home. For the first time, she has a yard of her own. And being my daughter, of course she couldn’t wait to grow her own veggies. Although they moved in March, her advanced state of pregnancy took priority, and instead of carrots and beans, she grew an adorable baby girl. But this year, it’s time to garden!

At first, things seemed to go well. We consulted on the best crops and varieties for her area, and she wrote away for some local seed companies’ catalogs. Seeds were ordered in plenty of time, the packets arrived, and she started preparing the garden space where things were to grow.

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Birds Have Rights

Great Horned Owl nestling @Peyton 17may2008 LAH 008rA pair of Great Horned Owls recently decided to nest in a tree at a major intersection here in town. Not smart. Still, their choice of nest spots provided their growing family with an ever increasing number of fans… and tons of harassment. It’s unbelievable what some people will do. You can read the whole horrendous story* in our local paper. It makes one wonder about the intelligence level of our population.

The caution sign was largely ignored—people were much too close. Some idiots were poking the twiggy structure with sticks, trying to make the parents fly. Others were climbing the tree. In fact, families sent their small children up the tree for a peek into the nest! Don’t they know that the owls are dangerous?

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Argh, Ants

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I was ready to declare war. Our kitchen counters were crawling with ants. Not the cute little “sugar ants” we used to get in California. These were huge, black ants that delivered a painful bite when they got their mandibles into you.

I admit it was my fault they invaded our house. They arrived from the surrounding forest, attracted by the sugar water in the hummingbird feeders hanging from the eaves over our balcony. I moved the feeders and changed the way I hung them, and the ants went looking around for another source of dessert. I have no idea how they got through our walls.

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A Garden Retrospective

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With the bustle of Christmas over and the new year just ahead, it’s time to take stock of our lives, and that includes our gardens. Now, when the ground is frozen, plants dormant, and hopefully under an insulating blanket of snow, we have time to catch our collective breath and consider our garden from a broader perspective.

Let’s start with the positive. What worked this year? What do we want to do again? In my garden, I trialed a new variety of carrot (my old standby was no longer available). It was an unqualified success. ‘Prodigy’ is a terrific carrot, a uniform bright orange and amazingly tender considering how huge each root is. I cooked the ones I’ve pulled so far (the rest are tucked under mulch in the garden, waiting their turn), and they were tender and delicious. I intend to grow it again.

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Wind

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I know that wind is merely “air in motion,” but why does it have to be in such a hurry?

Here in Colorado, the wind has been blowing for weeks now—and not just gentle breezes, but howling gales that topple trees and suck every drop of moisture from already desiccated soil. First a dry winter, now this ceaseless wind.

As a gardener, there are times when I’m totally frustrated by too much wind. It stunts the growth of tender new shoots (I’m not trying to create bonsai tomatoes, but sometimes that’s what I get) and makes working in the garden a miserable experience.

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There’s a Mouse in the House

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Eew! What was that horrible smell? Even with chronic congestion associated with my being allergic to nearly everything, I could tell something had died. Following my nose, I wandered downstairs, then into the corner of the basement with the seldom-used utility sink. As I got closer, I realized the deep sink was completely full of dirty water  that lapped at the faucet and threatened to spill over the counter and onto the floor. I hastily ran upstairs to alert my handyman husband.

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Oh no… Spider Mites!

2-spotted-spider-mite-whitney_cranshaw-colorado-state-university-bugwoodorgMy houseplants had been looking fine all summer, but now they were obviously ailing. No leaves were drooping, no obvious critters were chomping on the leaves. It was more of a general sense of decline—and a dappled, grayish pallor to the foliage.

Closer inspection revealed that many of  the V-shaped joints between leaf petiole and stem were filled with minute webbing. My skin crawled. My plants were infested with spiders! To be more accurate, my plants had spider mites. These tiny bugs are not insects. They are arachnids, just like spiders, scorpions, and ticks. Like spiders, they have two body parts and eight legs. Unlike spiders, all of whom are predators, spider mites are more like vampires. They suck plant juices.

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Outfoxing Fox Squirrels

fox-squirrel_blkforest_20100424_lah_3624If you feed them, they will come. Anyone who puts sunflower seeds into a birdfeeder sooner or later has to contend with squirrels. And if you grow a garden—well, squirrels like many of the same foods we do, plus flowers, tulip bulbs, and numerous other plants. The question isn’t whether or not you’ll have squirrels in your yard. You will. The question is, what are you going to do about them?

I used to really like squirrels. After all, they’re cute, with bright black eyes and fluffy tails. And they’re fun to watch as they chase one another up one tree and down the next. That was before I started feeding the birds. Within hours of hanging my first feeder, the squirrels had discovered it. (It took the birds two weeks.)

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