I can guarantee that you are familiar with at least one member of the plant family Euphorbiaceae. Especially at this time of year, we decorate our halls not just with boughs of holly, but with Poinsettias. Typically bright red, you can now purchase plants with flowers in shades of white and peach, and even a variegated combination.
I’m out of town—very, very out of town. In fact, I’m in Swaziland, in southeastern Africa, almost 10,000 miles from home. If you want to know what my trip is all about, you can read the details on my other blog. Start here. If you want to read more, enter Swaziland in the search box at the top right of that page.
While I’m gone I’d like to direct you to this post my friend Carey wrote on landscape fabric, and why it’s probably not a good idea to use it in your garden.
Carey is another former Colorado Master Gardener, and she is full of garden wisdom. In addition to her posts to Pikes Peak Gardening Help, she has her personal blog at Carey Moonbeam. You can see my links to both these sites at right.
First the rain, then the heat. Throw in a few mosquitoes for good measure. It seems like forever since I’ve actually wanted to be out in my garden. Unfortunately, my garden reflects my neglect. Squash plants languish, beans droop, and those tomatoes are taking forever to ripen. Worst of all, the beds and paths that I so carefully weeded in June are now overgrown with flowering weeds.
In spite of its current state, this year’s garden has been an unqualified success, and I would call it a summer except for one urgent task remaining. I have to get rid of those weeds before the flowers turn to seeds! If I ignore them now, the problem will be a thousand times worse in the spring.
An iconic symbol of the West, tumbleweeds conjure images of cowboys, cattle drives, and barbed wire. They even have their own song—“Tumbling Tumbleweeds” was written by Bob Nolan in the 1930s, and seems to reappear as often as the weeds for which it’s named.
Yes, we’re all familiar with tumbleweeds. But, as a result of my Colorado Master Gardener training, I have insider information that will stun, shock, and astonish you. Tumbleweeds are aliens!
Yes, it’s true. Before the Europeans stumbled across the western hemisphere, there were no tumbleweeds on the plains. Of course, there were no cowboys, either—no horses, no cattle, and no chuckwagon bean dinners. Tumbleweeds arrived, not in flying saucers, but in seed shipments from Europe and Asia.
That’s a significant question early in the season. While mature weeds are obviously not zinnias or parsley, it’s much harder to distinguish garden plants from unwanted pests when they’re still seedlings. Yet, weed control is much, much easier when done at the seedling stage.
The first year we lived in Colorado, I made what turned out to be one of my worst gardening blunders ever. We moved into our house in November. I surveyed the empty beds around the patio and assumed nothing was planted there. Silly me. Like so many transplants here, I’d come from (northern) California, where the growing season lasted all year. I hadn’t yet learned that many plants spend the winter hiding underground.
Most gardeners are all too familiar with bindweed, a member of the morning glory family. With its white to pink vase-shaped flowers and elongated green leaves, it spreads its twisting vines across areas of disturbed soil, such as vegetable gardens and flower beds. The more the gardener tries to pull it out, the more it spreads. Reproduction is by seed, which can remain viable in the soil for up to 50 years, and creeping rhizomes, which may extend up to 6 feet from the mother plant.
If that doesn’t scare you, consider that established plants have a taproot that can extend 20 feet below the soil surface, and lateral roots that grow 30 feet long! This root system stores enough food to keep the plant alive for three years, even if the area above it is paved over. Repeated applications of herbicides may not kill those roots. Once an area is covered by bindweed, it is almost impossible for native plants (or anything else) to become established.
With the weather swinging wildly between winter storms and balmy sunny days, it must be springtime in the Rockies. The snow reminds us that it’s much too early to plant, but the warm days in between beckon us outside. What’s an antsy gardener to do? Happily, there are things you can do to prepare for the gardening season. Unhappily, one of the most important chores is weed control.
Daffodils and tulips are sending up leaves, perennials have tiny, tentative shoots, grass has a green tinge—and weeds are exploding out of the ground. This is the time to gain the upper hand.
There are aliens among us. They didn’t come from outer space. Instead, they invaded our country from their native lands around the world. Some hitchhiked in bales of hay or on unsuspecting travelers. Others were brought here deliberately, perhaps for their beauty or stalwart endurance in the face of adversity.
Once here, they took advantage of our hospitality and spread far beyond their original destination. These invaders are plants: grasses, flowers, even trees that are taking over our country. It’s time we fight back.
When aggressive plants arrive in a new environment, they upset the delicate ecological balance that sustains birds and other wildlife. We call them “noxious weeds” because they tend to take over the landscape, are difficult to control, and out-compete more useful natives. They are frequently useless as wildlife forage or shelter, while replacing plants on which wild creatures depend.
Early fall weather brings an invigorating briskness that invites us back into our gardens. Don’t resist. There is plenty to do:
Spending time now on chores such as weeding and garden cleanup will reward you many times over when spring arrives.
Amending your soil this fall will give you a head start on next year’s garden.
Fall is also a great time to build a new patio or raised bed.
Protecting your less-hardy plants will increase the odds of them surviving a Colorado winter.
Finally, winter’s cold weather is a great time to read articles, take classes, and prowl the Internet to become a more knowledgeable gardener. Your county Master Gardeners are there to help, with research-based information that is tailored to your specific growing concerns.