Monthly Archives: June 2017

Grandma Always Said: How To Research Gardening Questions Effectively

IMG_20170228_123941189“Roses won’t do any good without blood.” my grandma always told me as, small girl, I watched her dump buckets of chicken blood over the roots of her roses in rural Wisconsan. Of course, she also told me roses planted during the waning moon would die straight away.
My grandma’s gardening practice was full of these details: fish heads in the holes dug for new lilacs, red thread tied around apple branches to protect them from blight. I still keep her copy of The Farmer’s Almanac fondly among my folklore books….but I don’t get my garden advice from it.
Gardening is a mystical business, half art and half science. Folklore abounds, and any gardening question will have five answers, three of them odd or downright off the wall.
The internet has not helped this issue in the slightest. Type ‘kill weeds in the garden’ into Google and you’ll get hundreds of answers, ranging from reputable to rapaciously folksy to alarming in the extreme. For example, I once read a recommendation for turpentine and salt to kill prickly lettuce around peonies. You get the idea….
So how does a gardener sort through the chaff to find the information they need in this muddle?
Here’s a quick checklist of the Four Research Rules, to help you vet your sources!

Reputable URL

When doing a web search, focus on URL’s with an ‘.edu’ ending. This means that an educational body has collected, researched and put out the information for public education and it should be fairly unbiased. If the site ends in .com, chances are a company is involved, and that can skew answers towards ‘buy this to fix your problem!’ The research is also more reliable on educational websites than on your garden-variety blog.

Reliable Information: The Most Accurate Information For Today

As with any other field, information on best garden practices changes with time. I generally ensure that my garden books are no older than 1970, and prefer books printed in the 90’s or later.

Repetition: It Makes Reputation

If only one source or one gardener is talking about a method, you might want to be wary. Best practices tend to spread, so if there’s no existing research on a method of doing something, you might want to try it as an experiment but don’t  rely on it until it’s proven.

Research!
If your source isn’t citing other sources or is using anecdotes to endorse a recommendation, buyer beware! Look for solid research, sources that you can look up yourself and references to specific studies, field trials, or specific experimental examples of the product/method/concept being applied. Some garden books are written poetically and that’s fine, but make sure there’s solid research under the fine words.

Happy garden researching!

-Olivia Wylie, Master Gardener

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New CSU Resource Targets Emerald Ash Borer

Colorado is preparing to battle a tiny insect that’s destined to change the way our urban forest looks. The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is already in Boulder County, and it’s only a matter of time before this destructive pest is found in nearby counties.

Every single ash tree that lines the streets of our neighborhoods is at risk. The EAB loves these trees that make up about 15 percent or more of all city trees.

The newest weapon in the fight is a mobile app. Colorado State University Extension and the Colorado Forest Service joined together to create a free app to help with early detection of the EAB menace.

The app is easy to download to Apple and Android-based mobile devices. Just search for “EAB/Ash Tree ID.”

The app walks users step-by-step through tree identification to determine if the tree is an ash and susceptible to the EAB. If it’s an ash, there are more resources for EAB symptoms, management and links to much more information.

It’s important for tree owners to be aware that ash trees are already at risk so they can be prepared. It’s better to consider management and treatment options sooner rather than later.

The EAB/Ash Tree ID app is the latest tool in the Colorado campaign to raise awareness about the insect pest that has already killed tens of millions of ash trees across the states.

The Be a Smart Ash program, sponsored by the City of Denver, started its communications campaign last year. The Colorado Department of Agriculture is also actively involved in fighting the EAB.

Laura Pottorff with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, leads an excellent one-hour webinar called “EAB: Myth or Monster” for Colorado Master Gardeners. The webinar (taped in May) is available through the CMG online continuing education program and will give master gardeners the information they need to provide research-based information to their communities.

All these resources will help tree lovers start thinking about their options for managing the ash trees in their landscapes. Approaches include replacing ash trees now, planting new trees to take the place of an ash tree in the future, and researching the insecticides to treat trees when the time comes.

By Jodi Torpey
A Colorado Master Gardener

Five Annuals for the Garden

Perennials, shrubs and trees are the undisputed stars of landscape design, providing structure, texture, longevity and nourishment for pollinators (especially native plants). But annuals, too, can play a valuable role for their ability to fill out a maturing garden and infuse color when perennials have finished blooming.  Design-wise, these “one season wonders” offer a chance to change things up from year to year.  For the short-term renter or impatient gardener, annuals offer speedy gratification.

If you’re thinking “petunias, geraniums, marigolds – been there, done that,”  keep reading. Here are five other easy to grow annuals for sunny locations which will thrive when planted among plants with the same moisture needs.

CLEOME

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Cleome, or spider flower, is the tall kid in the back row. Intricate, long-lived  blossoms (6+ inches across) in shades of white, purple or pink will attract hummingbirds and pollinators. Seed pods create interesting tendrils. Xeric once established, plants can reach 5′ tall by the end of the summer. Let some seed drop and they may return next year.

RUBY MOON HYACINTH BEAN  (Dolichos lab lab)

Move over wisteria and clematis, this Plant Select vine is a show stopper. Burgundy tinged foliage with dark stems which support abundant amethyst flowers. In late summer, this vigorous vine is covered with large dark purple bean pods. Grow it on a trellis, let it climb a fence or freely mound in the full to partial sun garden.  Learn more about Ruby Moon here.

LOVE-IN-A-MIST (Nigella damascena )

Love-In-A-Mist sounds like the title of a romance novel, doesn’t it? This delicate, tough plant bears 1″ blue, white, lavender or bicolor flowers which bloom atop 8″ to 12″ finely cut “misty” foliage. It is best grown from seed but occasionally available as seedlings. The bloom morphs into an oval, burgundy striped seed pod which rivals the flower in beauty. Let it reseed for next year, but also treat yourself to some flower and seed pod cuttings.

COSMOS (Cosmos bipinnatus)

Single 2″ to 3″ daisy-like flowers seem to dance above 24″ finely cut foliage. Popular varieties come in pastel/white mixtures; a newly introduced dwarf cultivar is available too. Cosmos can be started from seed or purchased in 4 packs. Don’t let their delicate appearance fool you, they prefer low water conditions and strive in the summer heat. One caution – over fertilizing results in lush foliage and far fewer flowers. Cosmos are a long-lived cut flower, excellent planted in mass and attractive to birds. Will reseed easily, occasional deadheading keeps them at their best.

SUNFLOWER (Helianthus)

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Big and little kids alike delight in watching sunflowers grow. Sow some seeds in the spring and you’ll thank yourself later – so will the birds. If you prefer, keep your eyes out for sunflower transplants at the garden center. Visit Smart, Smiley Sunflowers for information on the wide variety of cultivars, including shorter and multi-branching options.

Written by Linda McDonnell, a Denver County Master Gardener

Photo credits:

Ruby Moon Hyacinth Bean: Plant Select

Sunflower: Jodi Torpey, Denver County Master Gardener

Cosmos, Cleome and Love-In-A-Mist: Pixabay.com, a source of royalty free images