Colorado Garden Calendar – December 2022

By Linda McDonnell, CSU Extension – Denver Master Gardener since 2013

Gardening slows down in December but doesn’t stop completely. There’s still time to finish some chores from our November list, so be sure to revisit it. For the next few months, prioritize winter watering during dry spells to ensure healthy plants next year.

December’s also a great time to enjoy indoor plants, appreciate nature’s seasonal beauty, and start thinking about next year’s garden.

Here’s a run-down of tasks and activities for December.

Trees, Shrubs, and Perennials

  • Winter watering is essential to long-term plant health – make it a point to water during four-week dry stretches. To ensure proper absorption, water early in the day when temperatures are above forty degrees. This post offers excellent advice on when, why, and how much to water – and photos of the impact of too little moisture.
  • To help with moisture retention, replenish mulch in areas that have gotten thin.
  • Shake snow from bent tree limbs and branches to avoid breakage and lightly prune any broken limbs to avoid further damage.

Compost

  • Continue adding green and brown materials to your compost bin. Since decomposition is slower in cold temperatures, break your materials into smaller pieces to speed up the process. The University of New Hampshire offers more winter composting tips here.

Houseplants

  • Winter is the dormant season for non-blooming indoor plants. Reduce watering, stop fertilizing, and keep them away from drafts for the next few months.
  • Increase humidity around your plants. Ignore popular advice to mist with a spray bottle – to make an impact you’d need to mist for hours on end! Instead, group plants together on a pebble-lined tray and add water to just below the top of the pebbles.
  • Check regularly for pests such as mealy bugs and spider mites. If present, treat and quarantine the infected plant. Find remedies here.
  • ‘Tis the season for holiday plants and live Christmas trees. Here are some helpful links to keep them at their best: Keeping the Ho Ho Ho in Holiday Plants, Tips for Caring for Your Christmas Tree, A Year in the Life of an Amaryllis, and Christmas Cactus Care.

Celebrate, Inspire, and Explore

  • The winter solstice arrives on December 21st. In the Northern Hemisphere, it marks the day when the sun is at its lowest height at noon as well as the shortest day of the year. Starting the next day, we’ll gain about two minutes of daylight daily till June 21st. Yippee!
  • Share your enthusiasm for gardening with a child – find a few activities here or wander the library aisles to find an inspiring book on plants or nature.
  • Check out 2023 seed introductions from your favorite growers. It’s time to start scheming and dreaming about next year’s garden.

As always, CSU’s available to help with gardening advice at the CSU Extension Yard and Garden website. We hope you’ll visit often.

We’ll be back in two weeks with our last post of the year. Until then, enjoy all the season brings.

CSU Spur – The New Education Kid in Town

By Valerie Podmore, CSU Extension – Denver Master Gardener since 2020

Trigger Warning…Terrible rhyming ahead!

Hey everybody, have you heard

About the amazing new campus called CSU Spur?

It’s a science-based learning center

Teaching all kinds of subjects

And the beauty of it is that

it’s free and open to the public!

What is this “Spur” about which you rhyme so poorly?

CSU Spur is an offshoot of Colorado State University, a new urban campus in Denver which aims to educate the public in subjects which affect us all as citizens of this planet and Colorado. Spur’s focus is on engaging pre-K-12 youth in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects and encourage their participation in related careers. Not only are there educational programs focused on food, water, and health, but community outreach, research, and partnerships with schools and industry.

While there’s something to do and see almost every day at Spur, the family fun really happens on the 2nd Saturday of every month.  Check the continually updated events page for new activities. In addition, school groups are welcome so get in contact to schedule a visit!

CSU Spur is located at the National Western Center, just north of I-70 between Washington Street and Brighton Boulevard. It consists of three separate buildings on the National Western Center campus: Vida, Terra, and Hydro (opening January 2023).

Terra

Terra is the earth sciences building, where agriculture is brought to life in a way that educates us ‘regular folk’ on where our food comes from and how we can all participate in creating a food future that is sustainable and benefits all.

At Terra you can observe plant and food growth research, participate in cooking classes, watch the creation of new food products in the innovation lab, see how agriculture can take place even in urban spaces like on the green roof of Terra, and inside you’ll see the most amazing plant wall!

Not only is it pretty (remarkable!) but this year the green roof’s vegetable garden produced an amazing amount of produce which was donated to a local food pantry partner, Growhaus. Read about it here.

The Soil, Water and Plant Testing Laboratory, formerly located in Fort Collins, has moved to Spur! This is a great facility to assist with learning what our soil needs, what might be wrong with our plants, and how best to treat them. This blog explains how soils testing can help us create a great garden.

Terra is the place if you want to learn about food and plant careers, as the best of agriculture education happens here!

Vida

Vida is the human and animal health and life sciences location! Focused on the connection between humans and animals, Vida aims to educate and engage people about animal and human health.

Interested in learning about veterinary work? Come watch dog and cat surgeries at the Dumb Friends League Veterinary Hospital. The DFL’s aim at Spur is to focus on connections between human and animal life. It’s a teaching hospital for veterinarians in training with the goals of community engagement, education in the humane treatment of animals and the effects animals have on us humans as well. Check it out here.

The Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center helps horses needing physical rehab and therapy to recover from injuries and is also available for viewing by the public.

If you’re familiar with CSU Professor Temple Grandin, you know that large animals and their humane treatment are her passion. At the Temple Grandin Equine Center, a variety of therapies are available for individuals with a range of challenges utilizing the Vida horses.

Hydro

Hydro is close to complete, opening January 6th of 2023!

This will be the water education center, where you can learn about the far-reaching impact of the waters which begin here in Colorado. Located adjacent to the Platte River, the public can learn about headwaters and watersheds.

Hydro will house a café using produce grown onsite, include many different art exhibits, contain a variety of spaces for meetings and learning. It will be the permanent home of CSU Masters of Agribusiness and Food Innovation Management, the CSU Water in the West Symposium and other programs.

As water is so important here in the West, this building will be a wonderful learning and solution-focused resource.

Trust us, just GO!

The new CSU Spur campus has so much available, it’s hard to put it all in one post. It is truly is amazing and will only grow and improve as time continues, so check out the FAQ page and plan a visit – you might be surprised what you learn!

Webinar Invitation: Doug Tallamy on Solutions to Insect and Bird Decline

By Linda McDonnell, CSU Extension – Denver Master Gardener since 2013

If the recent headlines about the serious decline in the bird and insect populations make you want to crawl under a blanket and hide, consider attending ecologist Doug Tallamy’s free virtual talk on December 1st at 5pm MT. Sponsored by the Coalition for Endangered Species, the webinar will explore Dr. Tallamy’s research on the decreasing insect and bird populations and most importantly, what each of us can do to work towards a solution. Register in advance here.

A highly respected advocate for restoring native habitats, Dr. Tallamy is the author of the New York Times best seller Nature’s Best Hope, a professor at the University of Delaware, a sought-after speaker, and the co-founder of Homegrown National Park.  

Hope you’ll attend. Blankets optional.

This webinar is approved for Denver County Master Gardener educational credit.

Colorado Gardening Calendar for November 2022

By Terry Deem-Reilly, CSU Extension – Denver Master Gardener since 2003

Anything can happen in a Colorado November: our first hard freeze (or the second or the third), or nighttime temperatures stuck at 45F. Lawns and gardens can suffer from heavy wet snow (with the splintered tree limbs littering the streets to prove it) or prolonged dryness that has gardeners alternating watering with leaf raking. Despite the unpredictability of autumn, winter will eventually arrive (probably with two feet of snow on Thanksgiving Eve), so our focus this month is on closing out the 2022 season and preparing for Spring 2023. 

VEGETABLES

  • Harvest any remaining vegetables; we can have a killing frost and/or snow that will wither produce anytime now. Farm Calculators offers an extensive list of veggies for autumn harvest; if mild weather has gifted us with green tomatoes, try ripening some to use on Thanksgiving! Minnesota Extension has compiled some great hints on harvesting AND storing late-season produce.
  • Finish cleanup now while temperatures remain mild. Pests and diseases will overwinter in plant debris and afflict the garden next spring and summer – and no one feels like working outside in a December snow squall!
  • Spread compost over the soil and turn it in – it feeds the microscopic critters that will deliver nutrients to your plants’ roots next year.

TREES AND SHRUBS

  • Pruning trees and shrubs can wait a few months, according to the schedules outlined in the Plant Talk articles Pruning Shrubs and Pruning Shade Trees. Dead tree branches, however, should be removed ASAP so they don’t become a hazard in heavy snow accumulations. (Many arborists offer discounts for off-season services.) Ditto for all dead bits on shrubs and roses.
  • Keep watering weekly until the ground freezes – usually around Thanksgiving at Denver’s elevation. 
  • Check mulch levels to ensure that soil moisture remains adequate to maintain healthy roots. Mulch should cover the root balls without crowding the stems or trunks. 
  • Irrigation during winter warm periods is also key to helping roots support plant growth next year. Consult the Extension Fact Sheet “Fall and Winter Watering” for details on winter watering.
  • Wrap the trunks of trees too young to have formed bark to prevent sunscalding during periods of alternate warming and freezing in the winter. During warm periods, tree trunks take up water into their cells, which then burst when temperatures drop below freezing, killing bark and conductive tissue. “On at Thanksgiving, off on tax day” is a good rule of thumb for utilizing tree wrap.
  • Consider using protection like plant bags and burlap around evergreens prone to drying out in winter winds. 
  • Put rose collars around your roses and fill the collars with leaves for insulation, or mound soil over the bud union of each plant.

PERENNIALS

  • Make sure that nonxeric and new xeric/native perennial plants are mulched to a depth of at least one-and-a-half to two inches. Pull the mulch back from the crowns to forestall crown rot and discourage pests from burrowing around the plant.
  • Keep watering perennials until the ground freezes and throughout the winter as prescribed by the fact sheet referenced above.
  • Postponing deadheading and cutting perennials back until spring offers several advantages to your garden: many perennials produce seedheads and stems that offer cold-weather food and shelter to birds, beneficial insects, and other wildlife; intact stems also protect crowns from freezing and catch snow to deliver more moisture to the plants. 
  • It’s a bit outside the recommended planting time, but If you still have bulbs to plant and the soil is workable, do it now. Since roots will have less time to develop, flowering may be reduced, but you still may enjoy spring blossoms. Make sure to water them in well. 

LAWNS

  • Rake up leaves so they don’t mat on the turf and promote mold growth. Running a mower over piles of leaves will produce free mulch to spread over plant beds (and free nutrients as the leaves decompose)!
  • Blow out and shut off sprinkler systems if you haven’t done so already. If time and weather permit and the turf looks dry, irrigate one more time.

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Clean, sharpen, and oil tools; get that lawnmower blade sharpened while you’re not distracted by spring gardening tasks.
  • Consider what plants to add next year – gardening catalogs will start arriving next month! And continue to contact Denver County Extension with all your gardening questions.

ONE MORE THING

It’s been my pleasure to contribute to this blog this season, but my short posts can cover only a few essentials. Therefore, here’s a fall task list that not only adds another dimension to your fall garden experience but also allows me to make a small homage to a most distinguished horticulturist whom we lost this year: Ten Key Tips for the Fall Garden.

Fall Blooming Saffron Crocus

Lori Williams, CSU Extension – Denver Master Gardener since 2016

Saffron is one of the most exotic and expensive spices in the world, prized for its complex, sweet and earthy flavor. This highly desirable seasoning comes from the red female pollen receptors or stamens of the fall blooming saffron crocus (Crocus sativus). While the plant looks like the familiar spring blooming crocus, only saffron crocus produces this coveted culinary ingredient.

Lucky for Colorado front range gardeners, saffron crocus is hardy in our zone 5 climate and once established, is drought tolerant. I added it to my garden three years ago and am really enjoying it.

Let’s take a look at the plant’s history and tips for growing and harvesting.

Saffron Through the Ages

For centuries, saffron has been used in a wide variety of ways – as a richly scented perfume ingredient, a vibrant fabric and ink dye, an aide in organ functioning, and to beat the blues – to name just a few. Reportedly, Cleopatra soaked in saffron-infused baths as she liked the luminous glow it gave her skin. Today, saffron’ s most notable use is as a flavorful seasoning in sweet and savory dishes.

Planting Tips and Growth Cycle

Saffron crocus plants develop from corms (a squat shaped bulb). Since the Denver area is on the cold edge of the plant’s hardiness range (zone 5),  plants will benefit from the sunniest location possible.

Plant six weeks before the expected first frost. Bury corms in well-draining soil, 2-3 inches deep, 3-4 inches apart with pointy end up and ‘hairy’ end down. For successful flowering, nighttime soil temperatures should be as low as 40 degrees. Corms spoil quickly so plant soon after purchasing.

Thin, grass-like leaves sprout in 4-10 weeks, followed shortly by 2-4 purplish cup-shaped blooms which last up to a month.

The foliage remains green for months while underground the ‘mother’ corm multiplies or produces ‘daughters.’

Leaves yellow and die in spring; plants will be dormant in summer. Divide bulbs every 3-5 years during the late summer dormant period.

Harvesting Saffron

Timing and TLC are critical to capturing maximum flavor. This is where the labor cost of commercially grown saffron adds up. Plants are low-yield and picked by hand – producing just three stigmas per flower. It takes 4600 flowers to produce one ounce of saffron. It’s no wonder that today .03 ounce of the spice costs $24!

Some growers believe the most robust flavor comes from the morning harvest of the season’s first blooms. Imagine watchful workers jumping into action on that first morning, hand plucking dark red threads from each flower.

Here are harvesting tips for the home gardener:

  • Allow the plant to mature for an entire life cycle before collecting the stigmas. My initial year’s growth was small and floppy, with underdeveloped stigma, so I just enjoyed the prettiness.
  • Microclimates impact plant growth and saffron production. This year, my esteemed master gardener friend who gardens to the south of me completed harvesting by mid-October, mine flowered about two weeks later.
  • Remove the long, crimson red stigma by hand when flowers are in bloom. Last year I harvested a few days post-bloom which resulted in orange-stained fingers and strands that went *POOF* into dust the moment they were touched. A good, but hard lesson to learn.

Saffron is amazing fresh; however, it’s more commonly used dry. To preserve it, lay the threads on paper towels and protect from light to maintain flavor. When dry, wrap threads in foil and place in an air-tight container. Ideal storage temperature is 77 degrees.

Resources and References

Saffron crocus is getting easier to find at local garden centers and there are many reputable growers online and via catalogues. This Nebraska Extension article includes a helpful list.

This video from a Tasmanian saffron farm is fun to watch.

America’s Test Kitchen offers some mouth-watering sweet and savory saffron recipes here.

The University of Vermont is home to the North American Center for Saffron Research and Development.

Saffron crocus is a lovely addition to the fall garden as well as your spice rack. I hope you’ll try growing it!

Highlighting People that Make a Difference: Barbara Masoner of Grow Local Colorado

by Gail Leidigh, CSU Extension – Denver Master Gardener since 2021

One of the best things about being a master gardener is the opportunity to volunteer with some amazing local organizations, and among them is Grow Local Colorado. Started in 2009 by a group of people who were concerned about the environment, sustainability, and food equity, Grow Local now has 20 gardens in locations throughout the Denver metro area, and last year contributed nearly 10,000 pounds of fresh food to area food pantries and organizations that address food insecurity.

I recently had a chance to sit and talk with the founder and co-director, Barbara Masoner, about the work they do and the future of the organization (conversation has been edited for length and clarity).

Can you tell me more about Grow Local and how it got started?

There was a group of us during the great recession asking what can we do to help? Food inequity was a big issue, as well as the environment and sustainability, and gardening was an obvious solution. John Hickenlooper, mayor of Denver at the time, initially offered Civic Center Park to start a garden, so the project could be seen by the public community, and then later the yard at the Governor’s Mansion. Denver Urban Gardens and Denver Botanic Garden first provided plants, and the collaboration got lots of press. Now we have gardens in 20 different places. Recently, Adams County schools became a partner, as there is such a need there. Our garden partners do have to commit volunteers and their time to grow the food. The Denver city greenhouse has offered to grow our seedlings for us for the past four years.

Are there any aspects of the projects that Grow Local is doing that you are especially excited about?

The ability to share the magic, such as the public seeing the vegetable gardens at Civic Center and asking what it is about. Even during the Black Lives Matter protests during the summer of 2020, with huge groups of people gathering at Civic Center Park, the gardens were not disturbed. People from the homeless communities will offer to help plant as a way of giving back.

How do you decide where to donate the food that is grown?

We let the garden volunteers decide where the food goes, and they often have community connections. The smaller food pantries especially appreciate the fresh produce.

What are your biggest challenges?

This year we’ve harvested about 5,000 pounds so far and expect it to be about 8,000 pounds for the year. We had some pest and water issues this season and there was an infestation of harlequin bugs at Civic Center Park.

We can always use more experienced gardener volunteers. People mean well, and one year we lined an entire garden with herbs to keep out the geese, and a volunteer accidentally pulled them all.

In our future – figuring how to grow vegetables (in hotter and drier climates), and making our food equitable. Right now, we have offers to glean more fruit trees than we could possibly get to without the help of more people, more paid staff (and more time!).

What is your favorite plant/vegetable?

That is like asking “who is your favorite child?” I would say okra – it is a lovely vegetable, with a beautiful flower and a delicious fruit.

Who does your social media? You have some fantastic content illustrating your work and volunteer opportunities (like and follow with the links below!).

Linda Kiker, co-director of Grow Local, does the content for our Instagram page, and I do the Facebook page.

Interested in supporting such an important and great local cause? The Grow Local Colorado website has further details on helping out with volunteer and monetary support.

Colorado Gardening Calendar for October 2022

By Valerie Podmore, CSU Extension – Denver Master Gardener since 2020

It’s Pumpkin Spice time…no, not the drink, the gardening season! October is one of the best months for cleaning up the garden in preparation for the impending end of the season and of course doing pumpkin things! Mark your calendar to get these gardening to-do’s done in your yard and garden.

Vegetable Garden

  • Continue to harvest your vegetables which you planted both earlier in the season and in early fall.
  • Think about building cold frames or some sort of protective covering to help your veggies last as long as possible with the colder weather this month.
  • Cover crops can help build your soil for next year’s planting.
  • If (unlike me) you have kept your herbs alive this season, maybe give herb preserving a try.
  • Take a look at this article about Pumpkin Habanero peppers…talk about Pumpkin SPICE!

Trees and Shrubs

  • Young trees’ trunks (2” and less) will need to be wrapped to protect from sunscald in winter (from November to April).
  • Pay attention to watering, making a plan to water deeply every 4-6 weeks during dry fall and winter months.
  • More detailed tree and shrub care information can be found here.

Lawn Care 

  • Lawn aeration can still be performed early in the month.
  • Because we can have our first frost of the season anytime this month (average first frost is around October 6th), this is time to winterize your sprinkler system. Good advice even if you don’t do this yourself. 
  • Oh hooray! LEAF CLEANUP.
  • In addition to the above, here is the Leaf Drop information for 2022 in Denver.

Perennial Flower Beds 

  • If you didn’t plant any spring blooming bulbs yet, get ‘er done this month! 
  • Early in the month is a great time to divide and transplant summer blooming perennials before the cold moves in.
  • Here is a great pollinator-friendly post on fall garden clean-up if you are looking to help our friends through the winter.
  • Working on winterizing your plants will help them survive for next year’s growing season.

Annual Flower Beds

  • Pansies are a great way to get late season color into your garden.

Other Tasks

  • Houseplants that were outdoors will want to come back in when the nighttime temps fall below 50 degrees. Make sure to give them a good clean-off of creepy crawlies before bringing them inside!
  • Clean your tools for next year.

As always, visit the CSU Extension Yard and Garden website for more gardening tips.

Looking Forward: Planning Your 2023 Vegetable Garden for a Hotter, Drier Denver 

By Molly Gaines, CSU Extension-Denver Master Gardener since 2019

I grow vegetables primarily for the vibrant, incredible flavor they almost always guarantee. So, you can imagine my disappointment when I picked my first homegrown cucumber of the 2022 season, and it tasted awful — bitter beyond redemption. 

When assessing what went wrong, I first blamed our hot summer. But after some self-reflection, I realized that as an experienced gardener, I should’ve been more thoughtful about what I planted and how I tended to it. As a climate pattern of hotter summer days with less moisture continues in Denver, we all need to plan for climate-resilient gardens. 

The CO Climate Trend

Colorado’s climate is trending hotter and drier. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, over the past decade Colorado’s annual temperature has warmed 1.1 degrees and annual precipitation has decreased by 0.22 inches. 

In September, a record was set in Denver for the most 90-degree days ever recorded. So far in 2022, Denver has experienced 66 days of 90-degree temperatures — the 3rd most in history and the 8th consecutive year above the average. 

These trends mean gardeners must plan more wisely and stay attuned to the weather, adjusting our plants’ growing conditions and nurturing them appropriately.

My Cuke Mistakes

I hastily purchased my cucumber seedlings (mistake #1) in late June after two rounds of plants withered. I planted the two new seedlings in an elevated bed with lots of other herbs and flowers. Knowing I’d packed a lot into my small garden bed, I frequently fertilized the seedlings, even as temps climbed (mistake #2). By August, I was struggling to keep them adequately watered. Cucumbers require a ton of water, especially in elevated beds, so they were occasionally stressed during the 90+ degree days (mistake #3).

While we could write a whole series of blog posts about climate-resilient gardening, we’ll use my bitter cucumber story as a top-level example of how to better plan and care for our gardens in Denver’s hotter, drier climate. 

Plan Wisely

I didn’t carefully choose the cucumbers I planted, instead grabbing what was available at my local nursery. 

If you’re growing seedlings at home or sowing directly, it’s easier to choose the best option as seed companies provide extensive background on each variety. For example, ‘Little Leaf’ cucumber would have been perfect for my elevated bed – smaller in size and producing “ fruit under stress and without pollinators, guaranteeing high yields.”

Shopping for seedlings from one of the major area plant sales, such as the Denver Master Gardeners annual spring sale, is another great way to find the right plants. Varieties grown and sold are carefully selected for our region, and sale staff are equipped to answer questions.

If you experience success with a particular plant, save those seeds for next year. For guidance on seed saving, check out this excellent resource from Colorado State University.

Planting fall crops in August is challenging when temperatures still hover above 90 degrees. Consider fall vegetables that mature quickly. Radishes and greens are good candidates. 

Don’t Over Fertilize 

Excessive heat slows production. If your plants aren’t producing as they should, don’t assume they need fertilizer. This is what I did to my cucumber plants. I continued to apply fertilizer during the summer heat, which led to lots of green and hundreds of blooms, but minimal fruit. For a guide to applying fertilizer to your vegetables, check out this guide from the University of Minnesota Extension. 

Water Consistently

The direct sun and constant heat can make plants stressed. Don’t add to their stress with hit-or-miss watering. Help make your garden climate resilient with reliable, consistent drip irrigation. If you’re not able to irrigate your plants in this way, hand water in the mornings. Give your plants a deep, thorough soak at the roots. Here is a good resource for watering in the persistent heat.

Colorado gardeners are used to a challenging climate. Proper planning will allow for the most successful, climate-resilient vegetable garden possible. 

For an excellent resource about climate resilient gardening, click here

Watch for future ‘Looking Forward’ posts where we’ll spotlight Master Gardeners who are applying what they’ve learned to expand, rethink, or improve gardens. 

Planning a Less-Lawn Yard

By Linda McDonnell, CSU Extension – Denver Master Gardener since 2013

Many Coloradans are swapping out their bluegrass lawns for less water-hungry and more regionally appropriate landscapes. This change in attitudes may be motivated by this summer’s brutal heat, need to conserve water, wildfires, desire to support pollinators, or the goal to spend less money on lawn upkeep – or a combination of these factors.

Governments are also getting behind the concept. Aurora recently approved legislature limiting the installation of turf grass in new housing developments starting in 2023.

The state of Colorado is developing a turf replacement program for homeowners to go into effect next year, possibly with monetary rebates, and administered by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. (Keep up with the board’s progress by subscribing to their newsletter.)

If you are considering converting all or part of your turf grass to a water-smart landscape, fall and winter are good times to begin the planning process.

Here are some practical suggestions to help you get started.

Form follows function is a time-honored design principle. Applied to a yard rehab it means considering how your yard is used before you ever think about how it looks. Do you need space for kids to play? Dine or entertain outdoors? Have dogs? Consider practical needs such as wide pathways to doors and seating areas (36-42” is recommended), storage for trash carts and clearance to roll them to the curb, and landing spots for passengers getting in and out of cars.

Lawn conversions don’t have to be all-or-nothing. Consider starting with a back or front yard, or a difficult to irrigate section of the lawn. Xeriscaping: Retrofit Your Yard offers excellent suggestions on selecting a site.

Keep what you can. Take a hard look at the plants in your yard and how they fit in the new scheme. You can’t move a 25’ conifer but relocating shrubs and xeric herbaceous perennials is doable and budget-friendly.

Hardscape – pavers, gravel, and rocks – may already be in place or can be relocated. Think about it: hardscape doesn’t need to be watered or mowed! If the budget allows, be generous with the use of hardscape in your new plan.

Gather inspiration and knowledge. Visit public gardens with xeric gardens such as Denver Botanic Gardens, Aurora’s Water-Wise Garden, or The Gardens at Spring Creek. Take photos and note plant names and combinations. If you need help identifying plant names, send your photos to the Denver Master Gardeners at the Denver Botanic Gardens for identification (gardeninghelp@botanicgardens.org).

CSU has a treasure trove of helpful information here.  Colorado Native Plant Society, Plant Select, and Denver Water are good resources, too.

Be realistic. Consider how much time you have to devote to this project, your skill level, and your budget. Will you do all or some of the work, hire help, or enlist family and friends? If you are not sure where to start, you may want to consult a garden designer who’s in sync with your goals.

Expect less work, but not no work. Xeric plants need to be irrigated until established, which could run one to two seasons, and during periods of prolonged drought. It is also critical, especially in the early days, not to let weeds take over. Initially there will be a lot of open ground and weeds would love to fill it up.

Don’t forget community regulations. If your neighborhood has covenant restrictions or a review process for landscape changes, you will need to submit your plan with enough lead time to have it approved before the project begins.             

Once you’re armed with your plan you can tackle removing grass. Fall is a good time to start, particularly if you want to use the solarizing process, an herbicide-free method to kill grass. Find instructions here. CSU also provides instruction on the proper and safest use of herbicides to eliminate turf here.

Exchanging traditional lawns for creative, ecologically sustainable landscapes is a smart practice that is likely here to stay. If you’ve converted a traditional lawn and have additional tips, we welcome your input in the comment section.

Colorado Gardening Calendar for SEPTEMBER 2022

By: Valerie Podmore, CSU Extension-Denver Master Gardener since 2020

Let’s not get downhearted at the impending end of growing season! September is one of the best months for continuing harvests, enjoying our gardens, and yes, preparing for the end of summer (sad face). Mark your calendar to get these gardening to-do’s done in your yard and garden.

Vegetable Garden

  • Continue consistent watering practices. We might be cooling down, but we are still dry, so don’t let your hard work “die on the vine!”
  • Plant fall vegetables! Some do really well in cooler weather and ripen quickly for harvest, such as lettuce, kale, arugula, Swiss chard, and spinach which can be direct seeded.
  • Save heirloom plant seeds if you are looking to start your own plants for next season.
  • Get your plant covers at the ready just in case we have a (pretty typical) cold snap or just in case temperatures dip lower than your veggies enjoy.
  • Make sure to clear away any dead vegetation to prevent disease or pest proliferation.

Trees and Shrubs

  • Water, water, water! Just like our vegetable gardens, our trees and shrubs need to be consistently watered. Weekly is a good schedule, but this fact sheet provides very thorough advice.
  • Trim only branches or limbs which are damaged or diseased at this time.
  • Be careful with fertilizing trees and shrubs. This link has good information on fertilization if there’s been particularly dry weather (when is it not?).
  • While planting in fall might not be the #1 time, it’s still possible to find discounted plants and if you finish before the end of October, your tree or shrub will have some time to establish itself before the cold of winter.

Lawn Care

  • Aerate this month to allow oxygen to get to the roots of your grass. This is an awesome turfgrass post for more information.
  • Water deeply, giving your grass a good, long drink. Weekly for even 45 minutes is more beneficial than more often for less time.
  • This great fact sheet has probably everything you need to know for keeping your lawn healthy.
  • While the scourge of Japanese Beetles might be behind us, this is a prime time to apply grub-killers like grubGONE! and GrubEx to turf to help prevent them returning.

Perennial Flower Beds

  • Water (I know, it’s like déjà vu!) weekly until the ground freezes to give the roots a chance to develop before winter.
  • Cut back spent plants but consider leaving some stems and seed pods in place for pollinators and birds. This post from our Routt County Extension friends posits a different way of thinking about cleaning up (or not!) the season’s leftovers.
  • Look at what needs filling in or doesn’t work and make plan for spring.
  • Purchase fall planted bulbs – who doesn’t love plant shopping? This is the time that plant stores, catalogs or online sellers are stocking up so go crazy!

Annual Flower Beds

  • Clean up annuals in containers and sanitize any pots you’ve emptied.
  • Get some fall color such as chrysanthemums or pansies which overwinter quite well if mulched properly.

Other Projects

  • KEEP WEEDING! That is all.
  • Start prepping houseplants that have been outside to come back inside for winter. Check out this post for details.
  • Finally, this is the month when Colorado Master Gardener program applications will begin! These will be posted on our main website with applications open September 1 – October 16. Do you or someone you know want to apply? Please DO!

Visit the CSU Extension Yard and Garden website (https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden) for more gardening tips.