What’s all the heat about?

It’s been a strange year for us here in Colorado.  We’re not used to this 90+ degrees for days in a row.  When it gets 90 by 9:00 am it’s a short work day.  Of course the heat means there are lots of weeds to pull so that has been the main activity this year.  Keeping the garden looking good by managing the weeds and water.

This is what’s around the garden this week:

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The grass along the front walk in front of the extension building has always been a problem.  The snow melt and salt constantly kills the edge of the grass.  To help with that we put in a border of annuals.  If we replace the plants every year we won’t have to worry about them being killed.  Every year we can do something different if we would like to change it up.

Also this year we’ve covered the rest of the front of the building with newspaper and mulch to ready it next year for a new garden.  Last year we did the patch to the left of the arbor and it is now ready for some new plants.

We’re low on plants this year.  We didn’t get any Plant Select this year and we haven’t had many donations.  If any of you are dividing your plants in your gardens this year and would like to donate some plants (we’re in great need of shade perennials), please take them to the extension office and let Amy, our horticulture agent know they are there.  We would appreciate any and all donations this year.  Thanks in advance for sharing.

We spied some pollinators in the garden this week.  The Tree Swallows really use the bird house.  It is the second year for babies.  A hummingbird was spotted and a nice bee.  I didn’t realize it until I looked a the picture that there is a big grasshopper on one of the plants.  He needs to be bird food.  Don’t eat our plants!!  That feather on the bird house is pretty big.  The bird that left it should make a meal of that grasshopper.

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We have the beginning of our path to the compost bins at the bottom of the hill.  We’ve slipped and slided and bumped our way to the compost bin for a few years now.  This will be much safer and nicer.  There are plans to continue the path and integrate it in the garden so there is easy access to it.

We will be in the garden soon.  I’m sure there will be lots of weeds to pull.

Happy Gardening!!

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Problem Areas

Do you have a problem area where nothing will grow; or there is a particular problem?  There is an area like that at our demo garden.  In front of the Extension building along the sidewalk the grass has been replaced a couple of times.  In the winter the snow melt and piled up snow kill the grass along the sidewalk.

Our project this workday was to take care of that area.   Thanks to Patrick and Paul from the county who came and stripped out the dead grass. It was a small group of Al, and Sherrie and Gloria who laid down some rock mulch.  The plan is to put annuals in that space since nothing can overwinter there.

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Two years ago there was a real problem area where nothing would grow.  For seven years it was just covered with weed barrier and rock because there was no success putting anything there.  We’ve learned a lot in the last few years about low water plants and trying native plants in those problem areas.  We stripped out the weed barrier and moved all the rock and decided to try the right plants for the right place.  We made a xeric garden out of it and put some low water plants there and we’re excited with the results.  This will be the third year for that area after redoing it and we’re happy to say that plants are growing and doing well there.

So, with a little research and thought to come up with a plan you can turn those pesky areas into something attractive.

Some of the Master Gardeners went on a tour of Pat Hayward’s garden.  Pat was the director of Plant Select and her gardens are wonderful.  All of her plants are extremely low water.  After watering to establish the plants they don’t water them at all.  The native plants are planted with no amendments and they used rock for their mulch.  It was a great day and a real treat to see Pat’s gardens.  Her new book was available to purchase.  It’s  a book about tough native plants for tough places.

Permission from Pat to use photos from the tour in our blog:

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After we left pat’s we went to take a tour of the CSU gardens.  The gardens at CSU are test gardens for new plants or new varieties.  It could take up to three years, with photos taken every week to test the plants and give results to companies asking for their help.  The annuals have been there a long time but the perennials are somewhat new.  They started out with a small perennial garden and now it’s grown substantially.  The plants are all labeled and the gardens are open so you can go up and tour any time you would like.  It as fun to see all the new colors of petunias and calibrachoas before they are for sale.  The gardens at the end of the tour have all been moved.  They were where they built the new football stadium on campus.  A very HUGE job.  The new garden is not quite established yet.  Next year it should look much better after it’s been there a year.

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A New Season Starts

Hurray, it’s gardening time.  The weather is getting warmer but not too hot yet so it’s a nice time to be outside in the garden.  Plants are popping up all over.  The tulips and daffodils and now the iris have come and are almost gone.  The perennials should start to really take off now.


Jill, one of our Master Gardeners is also a garlic enthusiast.  Here are some garlic tips from Jill:

It’s time to fertilize the garlic if you have not already done so.  I like Age Old Kelp personally.  It is a concentrate that I mix with water.   Read the directions before you use it.  Wait until the soil dries out a little and then soak the ground.  It is okay to get it on the leaves.   My garlic made it through the winter pretty well.  The hard neck varieties fared well with a loss of about 2%.  The soft neck varieties did not fare as well, with about a 30% loss.  The spring snow and showers had all the stems bent over, but they have popped back up and are reaching for the sun.

Photo by Jill Ricker

Harvest time will be in June or so.  Here’s a Plant Talk article for more tips:    http://planttalk.colostate.edu/topics/vegetables/1827-harvesting-garlic/


As a refresher on what we did in the garden last year, (see the last blog from last season):

We papered and mulched a large section of grass and put in pavers in front of the building.  This coming Spring we’ll get to  put plants and a nice bench and an arbor under the plum tree.  It will make a nice new entrance to the garden at the north end

Barbi has been busy already.  She donated a lovely arbor for the new north entrance to our garden.  This is placed where we papered and mulched for a new garden area and where we put in new stepping stones.  She brought the arbor and even cemented it in for our strong winds.  What a beautiful addition to our garden.  Our Beverly Sills Iris are framed nicely by the arbor.  We can’t wait to see climbing vines winding their way up the arbor.  Thanks Barbi!!

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The Tree Swallows are having babies in the prairie garden birdhouse again.  Hopefully we will be seeing young ones soon.


We have lots of plans in the works for this year.  Stay tuned and see what else we can conjur up!  We have a lot of talented Master Gardener volunteers and we’re excited about what is coming.

Happy Gardening!!






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Another season over (we think)

hawthorne berries

hawthorne berries

We met for our last garden session for this year but the weather has been crazy nice.  It’s still in the 70’s during the days and 40’s at night.  We’ve had a couple of freezes but there are still plants blooming.  Roses and hibiscus are still blooming and of course the weeds haven’t given up yet.

With all this nice weather we may have to sneak down and do some watering.  The ground is so dry and there hasn’t been any moisture to speak of so we’ll have to make sure the gardens and trees get the moisture they need.

We mulched a lot the last few sessions.   We stood back and looked at what we accomplished this year.  We papered and mulched a large section of grass and put in pavers in front of the building.  This coming Spring we’ll get to  put plants and a nice bench and an arbor under the plum tree.  It will make a nice new entrance to the garden at the north end

We trimmed back some perennials but left what we could for the wildlife to use as shelter and food.  We left the rose hips for the birds and grasses and seeds heads for other creatures.    We exchanged one of our bird houses for a different model to attract more bluebirds.  The Tree Swallows used the bird house and had babies in one of our houses but didn’t use the other so by switching it to a different type we’re hoping birds will use both of them.

We’re proud of the Xeric garden.  For years nothing would grow there so last year we dug out some old fabric and worked the soil and planted some low water plants.  It’s very dry and rocky there but we had some plants come back this year and added some more and it’s looking much better than the old rocks with weeds in them.

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So, we’re finished for the season but it’s such nice weather and we haven’t had our first snow so we may stop in and see what’s happening.

See you next Spring!!

What’s happening in your garden?


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We hate hail

Arrrggggg!!  Dang that hail.  Our garden was hit with hail and it’s taken about three weeks to start coming out of it.  This was a big hail storm, huge balls of hail, bigger than golf balls, and really shredded and beat up most of the plants.  It was a sad sight.  This is what it looks like a week after the big hail.  There should be a lot more beautiful blooms than are here.  The herb garden fared well.  It is closer to the building so maybe that saved it a little.

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Elsa, one of our volunteers, had her family visiting and her Mom, Susan Andersen, came with her to the garden.  She did a lovely painting of our beautiful Beverly Sills iris.  A garden is a great place to do plein air painting or sketching, illustrations or photographs.  The garden is open for artists or artist groups to come at any time and is very inspiring.  Most of our plants are identified by their common and scientific name if you need to identify plants with that information.  There are many nice little vignettes tucked around in the garden.  If you’re not an artist it’s still a great place to come and just sit and enjoy the beautiful blooms.

iris painting

We are excited that the birds are using the nesting boxes we put in last year.  Tree Swallows have been using the boxes and it appears they are going to have little ones soon.  Elsa has volunteered to be our bird monitor.  She will be doing this in conjunction with the Castle Rock Bluebird Society (Rocky Mountain Bluebird Society).  She will be checking our nesting boxes every couple of weeks to monitor who is using the boxes and if they are nesting and how many babies are hatched.

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We are going to take some of the grass in front of the building to expand the garden.  The grass has a hard time growing there and it would be more beneficial and water saving to have more garden there.  We dug a trench to mark the border and laid newspaper and covered with a couple of inches of mulch.  It looks better already.  We have a path from the shade garden down to the rock garden and we will extend that path to the front sidewalk.  We plan to put a bench under the tree so people and volunteers can sit and enjoy the garden in the shade on hot summer days.  Volunteers tend to sit and congregate there to get out of the sun and take a break so it will be a nice addition for relief from the heat and it will look better than the grass that takes a beating there.  Ooops, There is not a picture of the finished area.  Next blog will show a picture of what we’re doing there.


We are monitoring the water situation. Some parts of the garden were very dry even though they are irrigated and some parts of the garden aren’t in the irrigation path.  It has been so hot we needed to do some supplemental watering.  Gloria and Elsa stuck it out after others volunteers were finished to hand water some of the garden that is suffering from the heat.  It’s been hotter than usual this year with stretches of 90’s and even some 100’s (unusual for us here in Colorado).  Even if you have irrigation, check your areas and make sure during these hot spells they have enough water.  Remember that too much water is just as bad as too little so do the finger test and get down around the roots to see if it’s dry or damp.  Moisture meters are also available at your local garden center and are a great tool to test under the soil to see if it’s damp.  If plants look like it’s shriveling and the soil is rock hard that’s a good indication too 🙂  New plants, even if they are XXX Xeriscape still need at least two weeks of regular watering so they can establish their roots.  Just because they say they need little water they need that time to grow and stretch out their roots so they can survive.  Plants need air and water just like humans so make sure they are well established before reducing their water.

Every week we continue to add a few plants and do maintenance (there is always a weed to pull and hail damage cleanup).  The roses just had their dose of fertilizer and we pruned the Linden tree (no it’s not time to prune all trees and bushes so check before pruning to make sure you’re not cutting off next years blooms).  Here’s to hoping that our next work day the garden will have recuperated from the hail and storm and harsh temperatures.

What’s happening in your garden?




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pollinators at work

pollinators at work

Our main activity our last work day was to plant up some Plant Selects.  Gloria and Sherrie, our co-leaders, went to the Denver Botanical Gardens for the Plant Smarter seminar.  Plant Selects are new plants that are selected and distributed  for research to see how well they grow and environments where they grow best.  Many of the plants Gloria and Sherrie picked up are new plants for 2017.  We also got some plants from other years and we will try them in different areas to see if they do better or worse than where we have some of them now.  The plants will be watched and Gloria and Sherrie will do a report with the results of the environment and how well they grew.

It was a warm day and got warmer as it progressed.  Luckily the water has been turned on because we’re getting up into the 90’s all of a sudden.


We sorted them between the shade garden, rock garden (less water), main garden (more water), and the Xeric garden (much less water).  We had to read quickly about the plant and determine:  Full sun or shade, part sun/part shade; what type of soil do they like (do they need to drain or will they grown up through rocks); how big will they get; then decided how much water they need to place them in the right place.  It’s important not to put a shade plant where it’s going to be in 90 degree full sun.  It won’t last long.  Same for a full sun plant.  If it’s in the shade it won’t get the light and heat it needs to produce blooms.  If a plant needs light watering then it probably won’t grow as well where the water runs off.  Same for a plant that needs more water.  It will do better where there is irrigation rather than in the rock or xeric garden.  Here in Colorado we have to take into consideration we are a mile or more closer to the sun so many plants that take full sun in other places may need partial shade here.  We also determine how well the plant does in our Plant Zone.  In Denver it is a Zone 5.  Some of our surrounding areas, like Douglas County, have some Zone 4 areas.  Zones determine how much heat and cold plants can tolerate and how well they do in different climates.  This is what the research is all about.  All of this research helps to label the plants so they can be successfully planted when they go on the market.

We had 69 plants to read about and figure out which garden or spot to plant them.  At the same time we made sure we noted on our list where each of the 69 plants went and placed the little plastic tag next to them so labels can be made and placed in the garden without searching everywhere for new plants.  We don’t want Nancy going crazy looking for 69 new plants, some of which are in the rock garden and may be two inches tall and two inches wide.  Thanks to whoever made the list so we didn’t have to hand-write all the information.  Common name, scientific name, and we want to make sure they say TRIAL so Gloria and Sherrie can easily identify them later for their research report.

If you would like to read some in-depth information on how and where to plant, and how to figure out the right plant for the right place, please check out this link:  http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/Gardennotes/512.html

With the heat and rain there are always weeds to be pulled and it was also time to deadhead the tulips, daffodils and some of the iris.  The iris are in bloom now and beautiful.  Hopefully our next work day the peony will be in bloom.

This is what was blooming in the garden:

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If you take a stroll through our garden, look for the labels that say TRIAL and you will know that is a plant in the research stages.

After we finished our work day we all went for a lovely lunch in Castle Rock.  We got to sit near the garden so it was perfect.


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Who says gardening isn’t good exercise?

We often talk about the benefits of gardening.  Exercise is one of them.  There was a lot of bending and stooping and pulling and digging going on this work week.  We continued clean up, moved some bushes, dug up some grass, and planted some roses.  We’re glad we can still keep moving.  If you can’t do all the standing there are some nice garden seats available.  Sue, one of our ladies has a nice seat that has storage for her tools and has wheels, which allows her to still be able to get out and enjoy the benefits of gardening.


We were excited to see some birds using our bird house we added to make our garden a wildlife habitat.  If we identified correctly these are Tree Swallows.  Last work day we found a nest in the Hawthorne bush.  This week we found another nest in the Spirea bush.

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The tulips were out in full force this week as well as some other bushes and trees are starting to get their buds.  Next work day we expect the iris to be blooming.


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Barbi dug up some grasses and a Cotoneaster that are by the path and will get too big to be there.  They will eventually block the path so might as well take care of them when they are not too big to move easily.  Go Barbi!!  She is our digger or at least was today.  Elsa and Barbi then planted 6 donated roses, and Sheila pruned the Nine Barks which is an annual endeavor.  Elsa was able to use some of the compost from our compost pile we started last year.  It was really nice and dark compost.  Everyone else was busy pulling weeds and weeds and more weeds.  It was time to deadhead the daffodils as well.  When deadheading daffodils and tulips and other Spring bulbs just cut the flower stem down a couple of inches and leave the leaves.  The leaves will help give nutrients to the bulbs for next year.  They also give some green foliage interest to the garden.  Once the leaves turn yellow and dry up they may be removed and should pull off easily.  Good stuff for the compost pile.


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We had a nice morning and the weather wasn’t too bad.  A little windy at times kept us cool, but yikes, there’s a big cloud coming with some lightning so time to pack up and go to lunch and do some more garden planning.


Get out and move in your garden!!




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