Monthly Archives: October 2015

Pass-Along Plants

Many plants in my garden came from the gardens of friends.  I call these pass-along plants.
The Ginnala maple in my back yard is turning red and today the leaves are blowing off. This tree came from Virginia’s yard as a “stick” not quite 1 foot tall.  I managed to over-winter it for a few years on my back porch, moving it to a larger pot as needed.  Now it provides a hiding place and a launching pad for the little birds that eat at my bird feeder.  Ginnala Maple
Also in my back yard is the rhubarb plant that Patti brought back from her parents’ farm in Iowa.  It has done well here, in Denver.
The walk to my front door is lined with Maximilian sunflowers. These tall, happy perennials came from Jane’s yard. They tend to spread on their own, which makes them a good pass-along plant.
Perennials that spread and self seeding annuals are wonderful gifts if the giver warns the next gardener about the plant’s habits.

The story of the pass-along plant can live on after both gardener and garden are gone.  Take a minute to remember or to plan the pass-along plants in your garden.

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Big Harvests from Baby Vegetables

Up until a few years ago, small-space vegetable gardeners had a limited number of choices when it came to growing patio-size fruits and vegetables. Now, thanks to creative plant breeders and forward-thinking seed companies, there are dozens of small-sized fruits and vegetables meant for container planting.

Baby vegetables typically grow pint-sized produce on smaller-than-usual plants. The miniatures look just like the full-size options and retain all the same flavor, but because they’re smaller, they can be harvested and enjoyed earlier.

When shopping around, look for clues in the plant names like tiny, little, miniature, dwarf, bush-type, personal-sized or baby.

This season I had fun experimenting with three new vegetable plants especially bred to grow in containers or small-space gardens. Each grew especially well and produced a surprising number of beautiful and delicious fruits.

If you’re looking for some new container vegetables to grow next season—or to recommend to other gardeners who lack large vegetable-growing spaces—you might like to give these a try:

little bites cherry tomatoLitt’l Bites cherry tomato

Litt’l Bites is a small-size plant that’s perfect for hanging baskets. These were easy to start from seed (about 6-8 weeks before the last average frost date) and transplant into containers when weather warms. The plant grows quickly and sends out sprays of tasty tomatoes that cascade over the edge of a hanging basket or tall container. The tomatoes are ready to pick in 65 days and the plant keeps producing through the season. I planted nasturtiums with the tomatoes for added appeal.

Little prince baby eggplantLittle Prince container eggplant

Get a head start with these eggplants by planting Little Prince seeds indoors about 8-10 weeks before the last average frost. When transplanted into large patio containers, the plants grew two feet tall and produced adorable eggplants in 65 days. It seemed like there were always a handful or two to pick, and the plants kept producing all season. Little Prince would be a nice addition to an edible landscape because the plants feature green fuzzy leaves and nice lavender flowers. Harvest the fruits while they’re glossy to keep the flesh seedless and sweet.

baby butternut squashBaby Honeynut winter squash

As soon as night-time temperatures are 50-55 degrees, plant these little personal-size butternut squash seeds outside. The long vines grew well on a trellis placed in a large container. Each squash is about 4-5 inches long and weighs about 1 pound. Warm fall weather helps the fruit reach the 110-day mark for fruits to turn from green to tan and develop a hard outer shell. Wait for the first frost for vines to die, then clip the fruit, leaving a long stem for winter storage. These small winter squashes have a dark orange interior with an exceptionally sweet flavor.

By Jodi Torpey
Denver Master Gardener

Why Leaves Change Color

Fall leaves

Autumn, when the trees blush at the thought of stripping naked in public.”
– Robert Brault

Well, that’s a new way of thinking about fall leaves, isn’t it? In reality, the changing colors of leaves is a complex dance between reduced daylight, temperature shifts and moisture. These climactic factors trigger deciduous plants to prepare for  winter dormancy, with each species changing colors on its own timetable.

When temperatures begin to moderate and daylight decreases, it is a signal for plants to decrease and ultimately stop the production of chlorophyll, which in turn DSCN0428[1]triggers sugar storage in leaf cells, which is needed for winter survival. Chlorophyll is responsible for leaves’ green color, so in its absence, other pigments, which were always present are now “unmasked”. Two such pigments are carotenoids, responsible for the yellow in corn, carrots and  aspen and anthocyanins, which produce color in apples, strawberries and some maple trees.

Why are the fall colors more brilliant some years than others? Weather, both before and during the time chlorophyll production slows down, plays a key role, for example:

  • Long winters or  severe summer drought can delay fall color for a few weeks.
  • Moist fall weather and cooler temperatures keeps leaves bright and colorful longer.
  • Dry autumn conditions results in earlier loss of color, drying and dropping of leaves.

Parts of the Colorado  high country have been ablaze with golden aspen for a few weeks now, while other areas, including the Denver metro area, have yet to peak. The U.S. Forest Service offers a  Fall Color Hotline at 1-800-354-4595, while the map below shows typical time frames for various regions.

fall_peak_us_720x486

For more detailed information on fall leaves, be sure to check out:

www.na.fs.fed.us/fhp/pubs/leaves/leaves.shtm

www.ext.colorstate.edu/ptlk/1728.html

Submitted by Linda McDonnell, Denver Country Master Gardener