Monthly Archives: August 2016

Smart, Smiley Sunflowers

Can you think of a flower with more personality than the sunflower?  Their wide faces, perched atop strong stems seem to nod and welcome garden visitors. Varying from the 16 foot tall Sunzilla, to the petite 1.5 foot Teddy Bear variety, there is a sunflower to suit most needs. Other fun, descriptive common names include Big Smile, Moon Walkers and Paul Bunyan. Newer introductions include bronze, bicolor or orange blooms in single or ruffled double flower varieties. Multi-stem cultivars are available, but for me, the classic Jack in the Beanstalk-like single stem yellow bloomer evokes childhood memories and is the one to grow.

Beyond their charming appearance, sunflowers are fascinating plants. It’s long been observed that as they grow, the flowers turn to follow the sun in a daily sun bathing ritual. Until recently, why this happens has been a mystery. Science, a scientific peer reviewed journal, reports “a new study suggests that this daily sun worship activity is guided by circadian rhythms during development.” So just like us, sunflowers have an internal clock!  Until full maturity, sunflowers will move with the sun’s path throughout the day, stretching to capture the sun’s energy and  warming the flower to entice more pollinators.

Check out this one minute video to learn more and if you don’t already grow them, consider sowing sunflower seeds in a sunny spot next spring. They are a fun and fascinating addition to the garden.

 

 

Submitted by Linda McDonnell, a Denver County Master Gardener

 

 

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Grow Local Colorado and the Harvard Gulch Park Vegetable Garden

The Denver Extension CSU Master Gardeners (CMGs) in partnership with Grow Local Colorado have been growing a vegetable demonstration garden at Harvard Gulch Park on the corner of Emerson St. and Iliff Ave. in Denver for several years.  Produce from this joint project is donated to the Community Ministry Food Bank and the Food Bank at the University Church of Christ.

Harvard Gulch Park vegetable garden

Harvard Gulch Park vegetable garden – June 2016

Every year beginning in March while there is still snow on the ground, the CMGs start vegetable plants from seed at the City Park Greenhouses.   They nurse the seedlings until late May when the plants are big and sturdy and ready to be planted at Harvard Gulch Park.  With the help of Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado,  the CMGs plant tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, squash, peppers, cabbage,  lettuce and chard in the demonstration garden.  Over the course of the next several months, CMG volunteers water, weed and harvest the bounty for donation to local food banks.  As of the middle of August, the Harvard Gulch garden has produced more than 440 pounds of produce and the season is just kicking into high gear.

Our partner, Grow Local Colorado is an organization dedicated to promoting local food, local community and local economy.  The Harvard Gulch Vegetable Garden is one of several Grow Local sponsored gardens in Metro Denver including a number of Denver parks and the Colorado Governor’s Mansion.  These Grow Local sponsored gardens are providing thousands of pounds of fresh produce to communities that do not have easy access to healthy food.  The garden partnerships are just one of several projects Grow Local is engaged in to encourage Coloradans to grow and share produce with others in their communities.  Visit the Grow Local website to find out more.

If your garden is producing more vegetables than you and your family can consume, consider donating your garden surplus to area organizations that help those experiencing food insecurity.  The attached link at the Denver Extension website is a guide to organizations in your community that will gladly accept your surplus bounty.

Harvest from Harvard Gulch Park vegetable garden

Harvest from Harvard Gulch Park vegetable garden

The City and County of Denver is working with members of the community to ensure food security for all Denver residents through the Denver Sustainable Food Policy Council.  To learn more about the Sustainable Food Policy Council and Denver’s food system from production to distribution to consumption check out the Denver Department of Environmental Health’s Food Systems Policies website.    Find out how our food system works (or doesn’t) and its impact on the health of our citizens.

If your green thumb was too green this summer, join Grow Local Colorado, the Denver Extension CSU Master Gardeners and others in helping bring healthy produce to all members of our community.

Written by Mark Zammuto, a Denver County Master Gardener

4 Ways to Share the Harvest

Share the HarvestOn August 8 I saw a picture on social media of three oversized zucchini squashes lined up against someone’s front door.

Apparently it was National Sneak Some Zucchini On Your Neighbor’s Porch Day and gardeners were making the most of it to get rid of their giant zucchinis.

I know summer squashes can be the punch line to gardening jokes, but I didn’t know there was a whole day devoted to surprising neighbors with jumbo fruits that might go to waste.

Good gardeners know that zucchinis are best when they’re small and tender. To avoid club-sized fruits, harvest early and often, when fruits are about 5-7 inches long. It pays to remember at the height of the season, fruits can be ready to pick within a week of flowering.

Instead of unloading zucchinis onto unsuspecting neighbors, why not donate the extra produce to people who will appreciate it? Here are four ways to share the harvest with a food pantry that will distribute it to our neighbors in need:

AmpleHarvest.org
Ample Harvest is a national charitable organization that connects gardeners with local food pantries by zip code. On the website homepage there’s a Find a Pantry button at the top of the page. When I keyed in my zip code, I found a dozen pantries within a 9-mile radius.

Colorado Hunger Free Hotline
In addition to being a food resource, the Colorado Hunger Free Hotline can help gardeners find a food pantry that accepts fresh produce. Call 855-855-4626 (Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) and ask about food pantries located in your zip code. Then get in touch with the pantry for details about dropping off your fresh fruits and vegetables.

Fresh Food Connect
Fresh Food Connect is a local project of Groundwork Denver, Denver Food Rescue and Denver Urban Gardens. The program has three goals: reduce food waste, collect fresh produce and employ low-income youth. Fruits and vegetables are collected from your front porch and either donated or sold at a youth farm stand. If you live in zip code 80205, you can sign up and get a weekly email asking if you have any produce to donate. Someone on a bike with a trailer will ride by and pick it up.

Fresh Food Connect organizers say the program will expand to other neighborhoods, so even if you don’t live in the 80205 neighborhood, sign up so they’ll have an idea of where to expand the program in the future.

Project Angel Heart
Project Angel Heart takes fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs and turns them into healthful meals for their clients with life-threatening illnesses. Project Angel Heart has a list of accepted items, especially chard, tomatoes, zucchini! and yellow squash (see the full list and other details on the website).

Produce must be harvested and dropped off on the same day: Mondays, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., at the Denver office and kitchen (4950 Washington St.).

If you have a favorite drop-off spot, please add it to this list and help other gardeners find the best use for their extra produce. And let’s start celebrating zucchinis for their important role they play in our gardens — and kitchens.

By Jodi Torpey
A Denver Master Gardener