Wind aftermath

It is a lovely day today here in Colorado Springs, but I thought I was Kansas yesterday with all the wind we had here.  We had wind gusts up to 60 mph which had everybody and everything outdoors holding on for dear life.  Today I got out of my nice cozy bed and went outside to check out the damage.  Luckily there was no real big damage just a lot of trash from everyone else yard.  I did have to finally get the leaf blower out, which I had been putting off, to collect all the leaves that was blown up against the fences. 

Walking around the yard I noticed other things I have been putting off also.  It is amazing how you tend to forget about chores in the garden when Old Man Winter arrives.  I was supposed to get a bale of straw to cover the garden beds, oh about two months ago.  Well the dog paw prints in the beds and the digging of our neighbor’s cats made it clear I have to get it done.  Not only will get stop the cats from digging but here in Colorado the lack of moisture, high winds and abundance of sunshine will dry out those beds before we know it.

I love Colorado in the wintertime.  I was raised in PA., and there in the winter time it so deary, cold and the snow stays around forever.  Here when it snows it only stays around for a few days.  Our abundance of sunshine makes quick work of the snow.  It may be 10 degrees outside but the sun is shining and you don’t have that cloud of gloom hanging over your head like back East.

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Gardening Jobs for January

January is all about looking through your new seed catalogs and deciding what you are going to grow this year.  I always try and grow something new each year.  This past year it was Okra.  I know some of you are wondering what Okra is and what to do with it.  It is a flowering plant in the mallow family (like cotton or hibiscus).  It is a very popular vegetable in the southern part of the U.S.  You can fry okra or put it in soups or gumbo.  Since Okra loves the heat make sure you try a variety that is tolerant of our cooler summers like “North & South” from Burpee

  • Check you houseplants for pests and ensure you water regularly.
  • Clear any annual plants out of your beds you might have forgotten to reduce overwintering pests.
  • Don’t forget about winter watering when the temperatures get above 50 degrees.  Watering now will prevent root damage and give your plants a better chance of making it through the winter.  Check out Fact Sheet 7.211 at the CSU Extension website.
  • Check the mulch levels in your planting beds making sure you have 3-4 inches to protect your bulbs, perennials and shrubs.  Our winter winds have a habit of displacing our mulch from the places we intended.

Cleaning those Garden Tools

I know by now all you gardeners no matter what part of the country you live in are itching to do something in your garden.  Those seed catalogs have started to show up in your mailboxes, I received three the other day was giddy with delight, and feel the urge to do something.  Now let’s not jump the gun yet.  One thing you can do if you already haven’t done it, and I am guilty myself, is to clean and get those garden tools ready for spring.

For all you gardeners who have done your tool cleaning, go back to your seed catalogs.  Now for the rest of us go out to your shed or wherever you store your tools and check them out.  Do some of them still have dirt on, dull edges or that nasty four letter word “RUST” ?  It is time we do something about that.

The first thing we should do is get all that dirt off.  You can scrape it off with a good stiff brush or wire brush.  For that really stuff dirt, the dirt that has been there since August, you will have to spray it a hose or let it soak in a bucket.

Once the dirt is cleaned off use an old rag or your wife’s hand towel and dry them off completely.

If any “RUST” has developed on your tools take some steel wool and scrape it off.  Make sure you wear some good gloves while doing this action.

Once the “RUST” is removed it is time to sharpen the tools.  This can be done a couple different ways.  You can use one of those new high speed sharpeners you can buy from garden magazines.  Or, you can you use elbow grease and a #10 bastard mill file.  If you use the file hold the tool tightly and file the tool at a 45 degree angle.  Make nice smooth single strokes on the beveled side until sharp and then flip the tool over to remove any burrs.

Now that our tools are clean and sharp we need to protect them from that nasty “RUST”.  Spray your tools with some type of penertrating oil or WD-40.  One thing I do during the growing season to keep them clean is after using them stick them in a bucket of sand combined with some motor oil a couple times, wipe them down and then  put them away.

We cleaned our tools, sharpened them and gave them a coat of oil, but one more thing we need to do.  That is to preserve the wood handles.  We do this by making sure they are clean and any splinters sanded and for the final touch a little paste wax to protect the wood.

By doing these few things now when we have time our tools will be ready to go when it is time to start digging, and that won’t be soon enough for me.

Attracting Butterflies to your Garden

 

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There is nothing as relaxing as walking through your garden admiring your hard work and beautiful plants.  But add in a number of gorgeous butterflies floating through the air and you feel like you are in a fairy tale.  No matter in which part of the country you live you can build a garden especially designed to attract butterflies.  It can be small or large it just depends on your imagination, space, how much work you want to put into it and of course the things we love the best as gardeners “flowers”.

There are five basic requirements to having a successful butterfly garden and they are:

1. Nectar– Nectar flowers are the greatest factor for a successful butterfly garden.  The butterflies seek out the sweetness of your flowers for nourishment.  Here are a few flowers you might consider planting in your butterfly garden; yellow cosmos, zinnias, phlox, cardinal flower, butterfly weed, and purple cone-flower are just a few to consider for your garden. 

2. Water-Just like any other living creature; butterflies love to have a regular source of water.  Butterflies love wet spots which are called”puddle clubs”   Here they get to take in the moisture and nutrients from the puddles.  A thin saucer with gravel, small rocks and water placed in the shade is ideal to attract butterflies.  Just make sure some of the rocks are out of the water for them to light on.

3. Supplemental foods-Some butterflies don’t live on nectar, they prefer a more varied diet.  Some of the most beautiful butterflies, like the red-spotted purple butterfly prefer soft or overripe fruit.  The riper the fruit the better the butterflies like it.  So before throwing that rotten piece of fruit in your compost pile or in the trash, put it out in your butterfly garden to entice the butterflies.  Additionally, if you grow fruit bearing plants leave a few on the plant to rotten and the butterflies will love you for it.

4. Shelter-Another important factor for a butterfly garden is shelter.  Chilly weather and windy days are hard on these lovely insects.  To encourage butterflies into your garden make sure you have some type of shelter for them like hedges, vines and shrubs.  Butterflies love the open space to float in but they also need sheltered areas to relax and get out of the wind and weather.  When designing you butterfly garden incorporate a mixture of flowers, shrubs, vines and even trees, if you like, to provide that shelter they need.  The plants can be a combination of shade or sun loving plants depending on the area.  You can even incorporate a butterfly hibernating box into the garden.

5. Nest sites and host plants-Providing your butterflies suitable conditions whether by the use of shrubs, vines, etc., plus handmade nesting areas will ensure the likelihood of a successful butterfly garden.  Another very important factor to continually have butterflies in your garden is to have sufficient amounts of host plants where the butterflies can lay their eggs.  Having host plants in your garden will not only encourage the butterflies to lay eggs, but also will provide ample food for the caterpillars when they hatch.  I know what you are thinking, I am also a vegetable gardener also and the thought of caterpillars in my vegetable garden creating havoc on my cabbage, greens and other plants is quite scary.  You can have a successful vegetable garden and a butterfly garden at the same time.  What I do is plant some dill, asters, parsley and fennel right in the butterfly garden.  This way I hope they will confine themselves there and not my vegetable garden.  They don’t always cooperate but if you are not too squeamish about picking up caterpillars, just relocate them from the vegetable garden to your butterfly garden.  Now isn’t that was gardening is about, getting your hands involved in nature.

 

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Ever wanted to start a Rock Garden

Have you ever had the idea you wanted to start a rock garden?  Myself when I thought about rock gardens I thought about cactus and living in Arizona.  Never in my mind did I think that a rock garden could be beautiful, low maintenance, easy and not just a bunch of cactus.  This past October I visited Sunscapes, a nursery in Pueblo, Co. that is primarily dedicated to the growing of plants for rock gardens.  Boy was I shocked when I saw such a wide variety and sizes of plants you could put into a rock garden. 

Of course there were cactus but so much more.  After a quick tour we were given the opportunity to purchase some of the plants.  Of course me being a plant lover I bought around twelve plants.  I had no idea at the moment where in my garden I was going to put them but what the heck they were gorgeous.  Guess that is the moment of building my own rock garden in my yard came to life.  I never had a rock garden before like I said so I asked some of the other Master Gardeners who have one a lot of questions.  I started out small but I am proud of my little rock garden. Here I thought I was done with my projects for the summer.  Check out Sunscapes website to order some of their plants http://www.sunscapes.net/index.htm

After our tour and our buying spree was over we were very fortunate that the owner took us over to his house in Pueblo and showed us his rock gardens.  I was totally blown away with the wide variety of plants and the size of his gardens.  He had plants stuffed everywhere and in anything he could find.  So if you are looking for a new project for the upcoming gardening year, think about a rock garden.  Check out the web for ideas or find you a good book life.

Here are some picutres of the rock garden in Pueblo Co.

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Rock garden plants in troughs

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Forcing Garden Bulbs Indoors

Soon it will be Christmas and then New Years, but right after the holidays is when I start thinking about the Spring garden.  I know it is too early to do anything in the garden, but if you are like me you want to do something resembling gardening.  One of the things I have done for years is forcing bulbs indoors.  There are many ways to force bulbs and a number of bulbs that can be forced.  Today I started forcing four Hyacinths that I kept when I was planting bulbs in the garden back in October.  It will be a while before the outdoor bulbs will bloom but you can have some of that beauty indoors

So what I did I took my four Hyacinth bulbs and put each one in a glass vase designed for hyacinths or crocus.  The vases are filled with water just so the bottom of the bulb touches the water.  Once each vase is filled and a bulb is placed in the vase place them in a cool darkened room (preferably 50 degrees F) for 4 to 8 weeks until the roots develop and the top elongates.  Once this happens put the vases in a bright window and watch as magic appears before your eyes as the stem grows and the flowers form.  Before long you will have beautiful, fragrant flowers inside to tied you over till your outdoor gardens starts to bloom.

Once the flowers are done discard them, clean your vases and have them ready for next winter.

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Out in the Garden today

The recent snow we received has helped the moisture content in the garden.  But along with that we received some cold north winds which can play havoc on our plants if not properly protected.  If you have planted new shrubs or trees this year continue to water them, even if they are classified xeric, as some of them take can take up to two years to become established.

If you have a bird feeding station make sure you fill it regularly due to our recent snow and cold temperatures.  We can’t forget our bird friends during the winter.  We want to make sure they survive and come back in the Spring to eat our unwanted bugs.  Also make sure they have fresh water.  A heater for the birdbath is a great addition to keep the water from freezing.

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