A Poison Plant Primer for Halloween

While on a garden tour a few years ago, I crossed over to the dark side. Instead of admiring the frilly flowering ornamental plants, I spent my time inside the Poison Plant garden. 

The gate, decorated with a large iron spider in a large iron web, creaked eerily on opening and then slammed shut behind me.

The spider signified the potential dangers that grew inside that garden, like Oleander (a glycoside). This innocent-looking plant can cause respiratory difficulties and heart problems. Although this Mediterranean shrub can be a fragrant addition to the landscape, every part of the plant is poisonous when eaten. The smoke is also toxic if plant parts are burned.

Other glycosides in the garden included foxglove and lily-of-the valley.

Why would a perfectly nice botanic garden include harmful plants among the others? For the same reason so many other plants are on display: to educate gardeners and the general public.

We can’t escape poisonous plants because they can grow anywhere. Jimson weed and nightshade; soapwort and poison ivy; stinging nettle and even St. Johnswort were a few of the other plants growing in the garden.

“A recent increase in herbal usage has given rise to misuse and mistaken identities,” explained a sign near the poison garden’s entrance. “It is important to consider means of preventing a toxic encounter as well as enjoying the contributions of poisonous plants around us.”

Because Halloween is a time for delightful frights, I recommend taking a read through Amy Stewart’s entertaining book called “Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities” (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2009).

She includes poisonous plants familiar to most gardeners, like Castor Bean, Henbane, Hemlock and Deadly Nightshade. But she also includes some surprises like Habanero Chile, Sago Palm, Tobacco, Junipers and Bermuda grass.

“We assume if it grows out of the ground, a plant is natural and natural is good for you,” says Amy. But cyanide is also a natural substance that comes from some plants, and it definitely isn’t good for you.

Speaking of deadly plants, what do you think is the world’s most wicked plant? Scroll past the following poison plant resources section to learn the answer.

Resources

A nice addition to Amy’s book is a list of poison gardens throughout the world and a well-research bibliography with many poisonous plant resources and identification guides. Here are a few links to help get you started:

CSU’s Guide to Poisonous Plants database lists trees, shrubs and perennials that can be harmful to animals.

Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has a searchable database of plants that are poisonous to livestock and other animals. The color images help with plant identification.

The University of Illinois Extension has a comprehensive list of links to poisonous plant information. 

The World’s Most Wicked Plant?
Tobacco

By Jodi Torpey
Denver Master Gardener since 2005

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Fall in the Perennial Garden

 

McDonnell summer border 

I don’t know about you, but in my  garden, fall cleanup can be hit or miss. Whether a function of limited time, gardener burnout or an early cold spell, some years I just let it all freeze dry in place till the spring. I’ve learned to embrace the  appearance and find that doing less offers the garden many benefits, including:

  • Dried foliage will help protect the crown of perennials from the freeze/thaw cycle; this is especially good for marginally hardy perennials. If  you do prune, leave about 3-4 inches from the ground to avoid damaging the crown.
  • Dead stems “mark” the plant and lessen the chance of accidentally digging it up or stomping on it in the spring. This is really helpful for plants that “wake up” a bit late in the spring.
  • Leaves will decompose and add organic matter to the soil. They can also insulate plants from harsh winter temperatures.
  • Dropped seeds produce new plants to fill out your garden or share with others.
  • Seed heads provide tasty food for birds.
  • Some plants prefer spring pruning, such as grasses and plants with semi-woody stems like Munstead Lavender and  Wild Thing Sage or Salvia Greggii. A spring haircut when new growth emerges often yields a plant with better form and growth. (Not to mention increased chance of winter survival.)
  • Early season flowering shrubs such as lilacs have already put on the

    Photo from CSU CO Master Gardener Garden Notes

    growth that produce next year’s flowers. If you cut now, you will not have blooms next spring. These plants should be pruned shortly after blooming, or  you may have a lilac that looks like this!

Fall garden clean up does not need to be back-breaking work. Just remove diseased or mildewed foliage, lightly cut back long limbs that can be  damaged by strong winds and occasionally water if conditions are dry. Your garden will benefit from this “less is more approach”.

References:

Winterizing Perennials, Plant Talk 1020

Maintaining Perennials, Plant Talk 1019

Winterizing Perennials During Drought, Plant Talk 1064

Written by Linda McDonnell, Denver County Master Gardener. 

A version of this post was originally published in October 2015.

 

10 Reasons for Becoming a Denver Master Gardener

If you like to plant and grow things, you may be a Master Gardener in the making. A desire to help your community is another plus. In case you need more convincing, consider these 10 benefits of joining us and then take the next step to become a Colorado Master Gardener.

Number 10: You’ll be a better gardener. Becoming a Denver Master Gardener doesn’t mean you’ll be a perfect gardener, but at least you’ll know why the daisies died, what’s wrong with your tomato plant, why the lawn has brown spots, and what the heck is eating those roses. The CSU Master Gardener program is like getting a mini-degree in horticulture.

Number 9: You’ll help with important research. Master Gardeners are often called on to help with CSU Extension research projects. One recent project included collecting tree data as part of the Rollinger Tree Collection Survey project, a collaboration with the Denver Botanic Gardens and other partners to understand the past, present and future of Denver’s urban forest.

Master Gardeners like to meet, mingle and break crab legs together.

Number 8: You’ll meet and mingle with like-minded folks. Gardeners like to talk—and listen. Whether you’re a social butterfly or just like to belong to a tribe with similar interests, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy each other’s company.

Number 7: You can share your knowledge. People have questions and now you’ll have the research-backed information to provide answers in person at farmer’s markets and special events or by answering email questions from home. There’s a lot of gardening misinformation out there, but you can help dispel the myths (except when it comes to marijuana).

Number 6: You can volunteer in meaningful ways. Community outreach is an important part of being a Denver Master Gardener and others appreciate your contribution. The vegetables grown in the Harvard Gulch Demonstration Garden are donated to help feed the hungry; The Haven at Fort Logan offers another chance to serve others with your gardening skills.

Master Gardeners plan and plant the CSU Extension exhibit at the Colorado Garden and Home Show.

Number 5: You’ll get to work behind the scenes at the Colorado Garden and Home Show. A favorite volunteer project is being part of the annual show whether helping to build the CSU Master Gardener display or answering attendee’s questions. Free entry to the show is an added bonus.

Number 4: You can stretch your leadership skills. Being a Master Gardener lets you take the lead on a special project in a safe and supportive environment. Creativity, innovation and new ideas keep the program interesting.

Number 3: You’ll receive a well-recognized credential. Anyone who’s been paying attention has heard of CSU Extension’s Master Gardener program. The title is a well-known and well respected credential in the gardening world and in every state across the country.

Number 2: You’ll be supporting an important educational program. Becoming a Master Gardener isn’t free, but the nominal annual fee ensures the Denver Master Gardener program can continue its mission.

Being a volunteer at the City Park Greenhouse refreshes gardening skills for the new season.

And the Number 1 reason for becoming a Denver Master Gardener: Volunteering at the City Park Greenhouse.  It’s one of the most revitalizing volunteer gigs, and it happens at a time of year when gardeners need it the most.

Those are my top 10 reasons. What are your top reasons for becoming a Denver Master Gardener?

By Jodi Torpey
A Denver Master Gardener since 2005

2018 Colorado Master Gardener/Colorado Gardener Applications Now Being Accepted

2016 gardenline 9

We are now taking applications for the 2018 Colorado Master Gardener volunteer class. We are also recruiting Colorado Gardener Certificate students who take the classes without volunteering. The application deadline is October 18th, 2017 and weekly Wednesday classes run from January 24 through April 10, 2018 from 9:00am-4:00pm. Classes will be held at Denver Botanic Gardens and Jefferson County Fairgrounds. For more information about the program, please visit our website: http://www.cmg.colostate.edu/about.shtml

If you are interested, please call 720-913-5272 or email merrill.kingsbury@denvergov.org for an application.

If you live outside of Denver, please see this link for the CO Master Gardener Program in your county: http://www.cmg.colostate.edu/ask-cmg.shtml

Gardens in the Sky

Quivas.-Denver-CO1

Denver Private Residence. Courtesy of Denver Green Roof Initiative

Green roofs or living roofs have been around for thousands of years. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were constructed around 500 B.C. using tar and layers of reeds to waterproof structures, upon which lush plants thrived. Europeans have long embraced green roof design and today, about 10% of homes in Germany have living roofs. North America has been slower to adopt green roof design, but the practice is gaining momentum, particularly in urban areas including Chicago, New York, Portland and Washington DC. This November, Denver residents will vote on The Denver Green Roof Initiative, modeled after legislation in Vancouver, which requires commercial buildings in excess of 25,000 square feet to dedicate a portion of roof space to vegetation or solar panels.

Image courtesy of wikispaces.com

What are green roofs and why are they valuable? A green or living roof is one that is either partially or completely covered in vegetation on top of the human-made roofing structure.  There are two major types of designs – extensive and intensive. Extensive green roof systems include a thin waterproof membrane covered in a lightweight, shallow planting medium and low maintenance plants, often using a system of trays  Intensive green roofs involve a more complex system of layers, are more expensive, require greater structural support and allow for a wider range of vegetation, such as trees and shrubs (see diagram). Intensive green roofs can serve as parks or public spaces, such as the Mordecai Children’s Garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens or Highline Park, built upon an elevated historic freight line in New York City.

Anschutz Wellness Center -University of Colorado, Aurora. Courtesy of Denver Green Roof Initiative

Denver has the third highest heat island effect (the average daily urban-rural summer temperature difference over the past 10 years) in the country.  Green roofs moderate the HIE by cooling ambient air through evapotranspiration. They also provide summer and winter insulation to buildings thereby reducing the carbon footprint. Other benefits include decrease in stormwater contamination, reduction of pollution by filtering the air as it moves across the roof, additional wildlife habitat for birds, insects, spiders and other animals and absorption of noise. While green roofs, especially extensive designs, are expensive, they have been shown to last longer than traditional roofing resulting in long-term cost benefit.

 

EPAgreenroof_terrace2

Denver EPA Headquarters Courtesy of Denver Green Roof Initiative

The 20,000 square foot green roof at Denver’s Environmental Protection Agency Region 8 Headquarters  was installed in 2008 in partnership with Colorado State University and other organizations. Using a system of 2′ by 4′ plastic trays, plants were studied for exposure to winter and summer extremes, wind exposure and soil conditions, among other factors. The roof contained four species of Sedums, including Sedum album (white stonecrop), Sedum kamtschaticum (Russian stonecrop), Sedum acre (goldmoss stonecrop) and Sedum spurium (two row stonecrop) and three varieties of Sedum spurium: ‘Dragon’s Blood’, ‘John Creech’ and  ‘Red Carpet”.  According to the researchers, “These plants were selected for visual appeal as well as survivability in harsh environments with temperature extremes, and for their capacity to withstand drought conditions better than most plants.” Another outstanding performer was the brittle prickly pear, Opuntia fragilis. According to Dr. Jennfer Bousselot, “It’s spectacular especially since it has been virtually untouched since the formal study ended in 2010. It has thrived on only light irrigation during the growing season.” Find extensive documentation of the project here.

 

Green roof design addresses many environmental concerns. Will it “take root” in Colorado?  To learn more about green roof design and Denver’s upcoming ballot initiative, here are some additional resources:

National Public Radio: Do Cities Need More Green Roofs?

The Denver Green Roof Initiative (includes ballot initiative)

The Denver Post, March 14, 2017. “Green roofs will benefit Denver but they shouldn’t be mandated”

 

Written by Linda McDonnell, a Denver Master Gardener

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When it Rains, Let’s Measure It

Nolan Doesken of the Colorado Climate Center at CSU demonstrates how to read a rain gauge.

Denver Master Gardeners had the chance to learn why Colorado’s climate can be so frustrating during an entertaining presentation by Nolan Doesken of CSU’s Colorado Climate Center.

The July program was one half continuing education on the basics of our state’s climate and one half recruiting effort for more rain gauge volunteers. Both halves are important to anyone who’s affected by Colorado’s crazy weather.

Doesken is the state climatologist and the founder of CoCoRaHS, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. What started as a small volunteer effort in 1998 to track and map precipitation in northern Colorado has expanded to include thousands of volunteers in all 50 states, Canada and the Bahamas.

CoCoRaHS volunteers measure and report the amount of precipitation that falls in their yards. The combined data gives a comprehensive precipitation picture that’s important to natural resource education and research.

Colorado’s early weather reports were sent by telegraph from the top of Pikes Peak beginning in 1873.

Colorado started tracking climate data in the 1870s, but that data was collected only at weather stations. Some of the first official weather measurements were on wind pressure, speed and direction.

But there’s an ongoing need for data that helps tell the weather story in more detail. The combination of Colorado’s high elevation, mid-latitude location, complex mountain topography plus our location far from the continent’s moisture sources make for a challenging climate, Doesken explained.

We can also blame those confounding 40-degree temperature swings from one day to the next on those factors, too.

Anyone who has an interest in being a citizen scientist or learning more about the weather is invited to join the CoCoRaHS network. Volunteers use high-capacity rain gauges placed wherever rain can land without interruption.

Because precipitation can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, volunteers are needed in all areas. Each time it rains, hails or snows, volunteers measure the amount of precipitation and report it on the program’s website.

The rainfall reports get used every single day, Doesken said. Even 0″ precipitation reports are important. Data users include weather forecasters, hydrologists, researchers, farmers, ranchers, engineers and many others.

Interested volunteers can learn all the details at CoCoRaHS.org. Many helpful video tutorials are available on YouTube, too.

By Jodi Torpey
A Denver Master Gardener

Do Japanese Beetles Prefer Some Roses More than Others?

Colorado roses have been attacked by Japanese beetles for several years, leaving behind ravaged foliage and deformed flowers. Curiously though, some gardeners report that their roses suffer little to no damage from the insect. Are some rose cultivars less enticing to the Japanese beetle than others? This was the focus of Colorado State University’s 2016 observational study conducted at Littleton’s War Memorial Rose Garden. In the first year of this multi-year study, the following rose cultivars were not found to be damaged by Japanese Beetles: Angel Face, Debut, Hondo, Joseph’s Coat, Mardi Gras, Picotee, Popcorn, Prima Donna, Ralph Moore, Singin’ in the Rain and White Lightnin’.

Conversely, the following cultivars were observed to have the highest levels of Japanese beetle destruction: Pink Promise, Honey Perfume Whisper, Love and Peace, Day Breaker, Strike it Rich, Cherry Parfait, Eureka, Starry Night, Rainbow Knock Out, Lady Elsie May, Carefree Delight and June Lover.

Adult Japanese beetles destroy flowers at the same time bees are gathering pollen, making their impact even more significant. For this reason, CSU’s study identified roses with high Japanese beetle susceptibility and high visitation by bees. Topping this list were Rainbow Knock Out, Lady Elsie May and Strike it Rich. Also in this group were Prominent, Home Run, Easy Does It, Apricot Nectar, Gemini, Starry Night, Baby Boomer, Sweet Diana, Julia Child, Cathedral, Betty Boop, Mon Cherie and Cloud Dancer.

Early findings suggest that gardeners may be able to lessen damage to roses by planting cultivars that are less attractive to Japanese beetles. It also underscores the importance of close monitoring and care of plants to reduce the effects on pollination. In the future, additional information on why some cultivars are preferred over others is likely to emerge.

This CSU publication provides comprehensive information on caring for plants infested with Japanese beetles, the larvae stage effecting turf and more. An additional bit of advice – it has recently been found that crushing the Japanese beetle does not attract more beetles. So, while we’ve previously been advised to handpick and drown the insect in soapy water, feel free to stomp on them too. Since they are night feeders, they are easiest to find around dusk, when they are about to feast on your plants.

Written by Linda McDonnell, a Denver County Master Gardener

Note: The study cited in this post was presented to the Denver County Master Gardener Association by Dr. Whitney Cranshaw of Colorado State University in May 2017.

Photos courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slow Food Helps Grow Kids

An important part of the children’s garden was helping kids connect to nature by learning about the colors and magic of fruit. Other beds were filled with all the plants needed to make salsa, a nutrient scavenger hunt and salad greens as an equation for success.

There was a lot to love about the Slow Food Nations festival in downtown Denver over the weekend.

The celebration of local, organic and sustainable foods included free food tastings offered by Slow Food groups from around the world, educational programming and vendors selling to the thousands of foodies that attended the event.

But one of my favorite displays was the children’s garden, located on the sidewalk just north of the Taste Marketplace.

In this series of raised bed gardens, kids had the chance to get their hands dirty by exploring gardens filled with fruits, vegetables, herbs, grains, and flowers.

One of the premier gardens included a sample of the modular Learning Gardens, created by The Kitchen Community. The Kitchen Community’s mission is “Community through Food” and it accomplishes that goal by building outdoor classrooms on school playgrounds around the country, including Denver and Fort Collins. There are more than 400 to date.

The customizable gardens are designed to fit into each school’s landscape and become part of the educational process. As a teaching tool, the gardens help students learn about growing and eating nutritious foods and gaining healthy habits to hopefully last a lifetime.

A bowl of dried corn and a grinder were placed next to a bed of corn plants. Kids were encouraged to try their hand at turning corn into a grain for cooking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Low Tunnel garden bed introduced kids to the the concept of helping plants grow before and after summer. Books on year-round gardening surrounded the bed as resources for kids and their parents.

 

 

In addition to all the herbs, fruits, and vegetables, there were beds of flowers to promote planting for pollinators. A sensory garden helped kids see, smell and feel the benefits of plants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Jodi Torpey
A Denver Master Gardener

TREES, glorious trees

Trees. They are all around us.  In our gardens.  In our parks.  On the street.  Yet we barely notice them most of the time.  Gardeners tend to forget that they are plants like any other.  Non-gardeners tend to regard them as more or less permanent objects in the landscape.

I’ve recently been helping with the Al Rollinger Tree Survey being done by Denver Botanic Gardens and The Denver City Forester’s Department.  (For more information on this, see www.botanicgardens.org/rollinger-tree-collection-50-year-survey-project.)  This has taken me to different parts of the city, looking at trees in yards and on the street.  For each tree in the project we identify the tree, measure its diameter and height, assess condition, take a photo and get the GPS location. This close examination has given me a new appreciation of these giants of the plant world.

Denver is at the western edge of what was once short grass prairie all the way to Kansas City.  Trees are not native to this landscape apart from the odd plains cottonwood near water.  All the trees planted and growing in our city are imported here, whether from the higher ranges in the mountains (pine, spruce, aspen) or from the north and east (maples, oaks).

Why plant and grow trees?

Yes, it can be difficult to grow healthy, long-lived trees here.  Too little water, alkaline soil, heavy clay, too hot in summer, too cold in winter, traffic pollution, concrete and blacktop suffocating roots.  These are the same problems that challenge us in our back yards as we try to get our shrubs and flowering plants to perform for us. But with a little care and attention, we can grow healthy trees. Just look at the many benefits trees bring:

Environmental/Health

  • Provide oxygen
  • Reduce carbon dioxide levels
  • Improve air quality through absorption of pollutants
  • Absorb and retain water to reduce run-off and delay onset of peak flow (flooding)
  • Reduce soil erosion
  • Improve capacity of soil to absorb water
  • Provide animal, bird and insect habitat
  • Reduce noise levels
  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce UV exposure

Energy

  • Shade and cool our homes and streets
  • Save energy (natural cooling through shade v. AC)
  • Provide wind breaks

Social

  • Increase property values and reduce crime
  • Improve walkability of neighborhoods
  • Provide beauty

Get to know our trees

You can find out about every single tree growing in the street and public rights of way in Denver by typing in an address in the city’s “Treekeeper” program at http://beasmartash.org/do-i-have-an-ash-tree/interactive-map.  When I walk the dog around the neighbourhood, I look up now and try to identify the trees I walk by (or underneath).  If I don’t know one, I take a note of the address and check on the Treekeeper when I get home. (Because of the vast amount of data involved, the program doesn’t work well on a mobile device.)

Some trees are “champions”. These are trees that have attained a large size (based on species) through girth, height and crown size.  You can find out about Colorado State Champions here www.coloradotrees.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2016-Website-Champs_Alpha.pdf and National Champions here www.americanforests.org/explore-forests/americas-biggest-trees/champion-trees-national-register/. 

Choosing and buying a tree

A tree can be a big financial investment and selecting the appropriate tree is very important if you want it to not just survive but to thrive for many years.  The CSU Extension Service publishes a very helpful list of trees recommended for the front range. You can find it here: www.extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/garden/treereclist.pdf

The non-profit organisation, The Park People, has a scheme called Denver Digs Trees for selling street and yard trees at subsidised prices (or even for free in some locations) every year.  The trees they sell are all considered suitable for Denver. You complete an application form in January or February and the trees are distributed in mid-April.  They will even come and plant your tree for you if you need help. You can find them here:  www.theparkpeople.org/Programs/DenverDigsTrees.aspx

Look for trees in Colorado nurseries and garden centers which grow their own trees.  A tree which started life here is likely to be better adapted to Colorado growing conditions than one imported from another state.

Before you plant

When planting a tree whether in your yard or the street, you need to get the position of all utility lines checked before digging . You can get the utility lines checked for free by calling 811.  You also need a permit from the City Forester before you plant a tree in the street i.e. the public right of way.  The permit is free and can be obtained by email. See here for details:

www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/denver-parks-and-recreation/trees-natural-resources/forestry-trees-/property-owner-resources.html

Tree problems

Like all plants, trees can have problems.  Pests and diseases or hazards caused by natural events, like storm damage.  Often problems stem from human actions.  Improper planting, insufficient or too much irrigation, damage from garden tools like mowers and weed-whackers, root damage from nearby construction, damage from staking and guy wires, pet damage, root damage from landscape fabric or inappropriate mulching e.g. river rock.

Emerald Ash Borer

The biggest problem facing trees in Denver right now is the threat of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). This pest came from Asia where their ash trees are immune to it.  Unfortunately, American ash trees are not.  Its presence has been confirmed in Boulder since 2013 and in Longmont since 2016.  It threatens to wipe out all the ash trees in Denver if (when?) it gets established here.  That’s 1 in every 6 trees in Denver or 1.45 million trees.  For information and advice about EAB go to http://beasmartash.org/.

To try and mitigate the effect that EAB will have on our city trees, the City Forester’s Dept, in association with The Park People’s Denver Digs Trees program, is offering new street trees now for FREE.  By planting in advance of the arrival of EAB, the aim is to mitigate the effect of the EAB and increase diversity in the city’s tree population. You don’t need to have an ash tree already or any kind of street tree, just room to plant a new one.  To apply for a new street tree, go to www.beasmartash.org/what-can-i-do/apply-for-a-tree/.  They will even plant it for you!

Learn more about trees and get involved

The Park People run a program with Denver’s City Forester’s Dept which trains volunteers to become Community Foresters.  Volunteers assist the City Forester’s Dept by becoming qualified to lead and participate in tree planting and tree care projects in their neighborhoods.  Courses are run every year.  More information can be found at  www.theparkpeople.org/programs/communityforester.aspx

Get more information about trees

You can find useful information and get advice on all aspects of trees from the following:

Your local City Forester (arboreal inspector) – find him/her at www.denvergov.org/content/dam/denvergov/Portals/747/documents/forestry/forestry-inspections-districts-map.pdf

CSU Extension Service ‘Ask an Expert’ – ask.extension.org/groups/1955/ask

Ask a Master Gardener – www.cmg.colostate.edu/ask-cmg.shtml

The Park People – www.theparkpeople.org

The Colorado Tree Coalititon – www.coloradotrees.org/

A professional arborist – see the list of arborists licensed to operate in Denver at www.denvergov.org/content/dam/denvergov/Portals/747/documents/forestry/DPR-Forestry_current-licensed-contractors.pdf

Look up, learn more and enjoy our trees!

 

Anne Hughes/A Denver County Master Gardener

Photo by Anne Hughes

 

 

 

 

Rabbits!

rabbit-717855_960_720With apologies to Bugs, Peter and Thumper, rabbits are real pests in the garden. Parts of the Denver metro area are inundated with them, while others are not – at least yet. I’ve been seeing them in my central Denver neighborhood for the last few years. They reliably devour my lettuce each spring  and feast on Goldstrum Rudbeckia in August.

If you’re not sure if rabbits are the culprits to your plant damage, look for clean, 45 degree angle cuts, mowed down seemingly overnight. Damage is usually up to 24″ high and most often on tender new growth.

While a hungry rabbit will eat many plants, in the vegetable garden they prefer young tender shoots of lettuce, beans, squash  and broccoli.  They also love to munch on many ornamentals such as black-eyed susans, pansies, marigolds, petunias, gazania and ornamental grasses.

Nothing will completely deter a brazen bunny, but a combination of the following practices may curb their ways.

Fencing – Erect 3′ high barriers with chicken wire with 1″ mesh openings around your garden plots. Rabbits love to burrow, so be sure to bury the fencing 6″ deep.

Plants – Colorado State University reports that sedum, foxglove, iris, lambs ear, red hot poker, yarrow, yucca, apache plume and blue mist spirea are somewhat rabbit resistant. Rabbits’ taste buds vary just as ours do, so no plant is 100% off-limits.

Predators – Wildlife such as foxes, coyotes, hawks, adult owls and rattlesnakes will send rabbits packing. So will your cat or dog, who will get the added benefit of a good workout from chasing bunnies.

Repellents – Products containing capsaicin (pepper extract) , castor oil, ammonium salts or predator urine can be effective when sprayed to a height of 3 feet and reapplied after heavy rains or watering. Some newer eco-safe sprays deter rabbits and deer, are less effected by moisture and emit a long-lasting scent (undetectable by humans) which repel rabbits. These are not recommended for edible plants.

Winter Care – Rabbits feast on our landscape in the winter by chewing on woody shrubs and the bark of your trees (fruit trees are a favorite). Protect these plants with fencing. Also remove thick underbrush and tall weeds and grasses which create comfy winter shelter. Seal up openings around decks, sheds and crawl spaces, too. By removing an inviting resting place, rabbits are encouraged to seek shelter elsewhere.

Have you had success in preventing rabbit damage?

References:

http://planttalk.colostate.edu/topics/wildlife-issues/2305-ravishing-rabbit-revenge

http://www.denverpost.com/2013/06/19/bunny-rabbit-plague-hits-colorado-gardens-what-to-do/

Photo Credit:

www.Pixabay.com, a source for royalty free images.

Written by Linda McDonnell, Denver County Master Gardener