Fine Addition to Your Garden

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Thinking about what I was going to grow in the vegetable garden this year got me to thinking about one of my favorite vegetables.  This delectable vegetable which my family and I relish so much is Kolhrabi (German Turnip).  I found from talking to other gardeners that kolhrabi is not that well known or enjoyed.  So I thought I would try and persuade those gardeners who have not tried this lovely vegetable to give this easy to grow vegetable a chance.

Kohlrabi is a stem plant that resembles a turnip, which is a root crop.  Kohlrabi is a edible bulb that is easily grown in the spring and fall gardens.  It has similar taste and texture of a cabbage heart, but sweeter and milder.  It can be eaten raw or cooked.  I prefer the cooked method myself.  My wife prepares it in a tasty white cream sauce.

Kohlrabi can be direct seeded or grown as a transplant.  I have tried both methods and prefer transplants in the spring since it gives you a jump on the season.  Come the end of July I will direct seed it for my fall garden.  My personal favorite variety is “Early White Vienna”.  This variety is normally ready to harvest in 55 days.  You should harvest them earlier, around 2″across, to savor their sweet, water chestnut flavor.  Do not let the kohlrabi get any larger than 5cm, because it tends to get woody.

Since kohlrabi is a cultivator of the cabbage it is susceptible to cabbage worms and cabbage loopers.  I generally protect the plants by covering them with row covers.  If you do encounter cabbage loopers you could use Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to get rid of them.  There are other insect problems associated with kohlrabi but not enough to deter me from growing this delicious vegetable.  I hope you give it a try,because I know you will love the flavor.

I Have Been Lazy

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I know I have been lazy about writing my next blog, but I have been consumed drooling over all my new gardening magazines.  Now you can’t blame me for that can you?  I am sure a lot of you other gardeners are doing the  same thing.  Those magazines give you fantasies of your new and spectacular garden you have planned for this year.    I don’t know how many times I have walked around my garden, freezing my tail off, and said to myself what I am going to grow in each bed.

Oh for the day when Spring arrives and the anticipation is over and we can all get our hands dirty in that wonderful dark, rich soil.  I am just tingling with excitement.  Ok, ok let’s come back down to earth now.  Right now we should be planning what we are going to plant and order those seeds.  Are there other things in the garden we should take care of now?  I know I continually have trash blown in my yard from Old Man Winter.  Do you have any dark and creepy insects harboring away in that pile of trash or leaves you didn’t clean up yet?  They are waiting for your lovely, juicy plants to come alive so they can start devouring them.

Getting your hands into your rich soil will come soon enough, but in the meantime look around your garden and see what you can do now in preparation of Spring.  Have you enriched your soil with amenities, dug up your failures from last year, added new mulch, or turned that compost pile? 

Spring will be here before you know and you don’t want to be lazy like me and put off chores that need to be done now.  If it wasn’t snowing outside I would be out there already (SURE).  Guess I will go back to my garden magazines and order those seeds and plants.  Happy garden dreams.

The Economic Affect on Garden Shows

I love going to garden shows this time of year, because there is not much else to do.  It is too early to start my plants and too cold to do any digging.  I look forward to them to get new ideas for my garden and see what new plants are on the market.  Yesterday my wife and I went to our annual Home and Garden show like we do every year.  We were sure glad we had received free admission passes because I think they forgot about the “Garden” half in their Home and Garden show.

The total show was nearly half the normal size of the past years.  Additionally, there were only three garden displays and they were really small.  The total show was made up of roofing companies, decorators, spa representatives and  remodeling companies.  I guess the economy is affecting everyone these days evident by the lack of participation.  I assume that the cost of entry to the show and putting up their displays was just not economically feasible this year.  It seems like all we hear anymore is that this company is laying off employees, this store is closing and another bank is in trouble.  I view my vegetable garden as a wise investment more and more.

The nurseries that we normally would see were absent.  The big elaborate landscape displays with all kinds of trees, shrubs and  flowers, no where to be found.  I had brought my camera to take pictures and a notepad to take notes in anticipation of these wonderful displays I had seen in the past.  But my enthusiasm for the show was quickly fleeting.

The only two booths of the show which did catch my eye was one on building a water feature and the second was on solar heating.  My wife and I had always wished solar heating would become more affordable since we get around 350 days of sunshine a year here.  So I was remarkably surprised that the prices are coming down and the tax incentives are going up.

I did manage to  take a few pictures of the few garden displays which you can view here.  I hope next year’s show is better or they just might as well call it the Home Decorating Show.  Oh I almost forgot, yes the people with all the vacuum cleaners were there also wanting to come into your homes and show how dirty your carpets are.  Well it is back to web surfing for new ideas and plants.

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Keeping Cats out of your Garden Beds

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It is a wonderful day here in Colorado so I thought I would see what I could do in my garden.  I found the ideal thing to do today.  I remembered last winter when we received a  lot of wet snow it made the branches on my Three Leaf Sumac really bend over.  So I thought before we received any snow this winter I better trim those branches now.

The Three Leaf Sumac is a very good drought tolerant shrub that grows good here and Zones 4-8.  Not only is it a good wind break, but the birds love the fruit clusters.  While pruning the Sumac I was attacked by my Pyracantha shrub.  Now that is how I came up with the topic to write about for today.

For a long time I have been bothered by my neighbor’s cats using my garden beds as their litter boxes.   I have tried a number of products listed in various Garden magazines to no avail.  One of the items I saw in a Garden magazine were these plastic spikes.  Well, I thought to myself why should I buy them when in my own backyard I have natural spikes from my Pyracantha shrub.  Pyracantha shrubs are normally grown as an evergreen wall shrub but,  I grow mine as an upright shrub up in my bird area because some birds, especially black birds, love the berries they produce. 

So when I prune my Pyracantha shrub I spread the thorny branches right on top of the garden beds.  To my great surprise they worked.  No longer do I have to worry about the cats in the  neighborhood using my garden beds as litter boxes.  In fact it worked so good it keeps my two dogs from running through the beds also.

As an extra benefit to using the thorny branches to deter cats when there is nothing planted.  I also use the branches when I plant my transplants and seeds.  I place the branches down the rows of transplants and over the area where I sowed my seeds.  They work as wonderful barriers from any critter wanting to disturb my plantings.

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Winter has arrived in Colorado Springs

6-25-2007-050Today I awoke to four inches of snow on the ground here in Colorado Springs.  After getting over the initial shock, my thoughts went to my garden and how this lovely blanket of fresh snow is such a blessing.  December is normally not a wet month here in Colorado so we will take any amount of moisture we can get.  The snow on my garden statues and plants created a winter wonderland of beauty.

Watching my two dogs explore the blanketed yard and garden was funny to watch since both of them are really short and their legs disappeared in the snow.  Some people can’t wait for Spring to come, but while I wait also I enjoy the magical change that snow brings to my garden.  Each shrub, tree, or dormant perennial takes on its on personality draped in a white coating of snow. 

I was excited to see that a hawk had made a visit to my garden.  It was perched on my fence probably looking for a meal while I stared in awe of its beauty.  I wish it had stayed longer until I could get my camera and take a picture.  I don’t get too many unusal birds in my garden so this was a special moment.  I invite everyone to get out into their gardens during the winter and take in the beauty that winter has to offer.

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Garden Sentry

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Colorado Newcomers and Gardening

I have lived in Colorado for 16 years but I still remember the first year I tried to garden here.  Plants I thought would grow here shriveled up and died, frost killed my first bunch of vegetable transplants and the wind blew away my tall tulips.  Welcome to Colorado my neighbors told me.  Here you have to rethink a lot about the gardening you have done where you lived before.

Unlike a lot of the coastal areas, we do not get a lot of rain.  We are considered a semi-arid state.  We also get a lot of wind here called Chinook winds.  You probably have already experienced them early in the morning when your lawn furniture tried to move to New Mexico.  Freak snowstorms is another one of our dilemmas we have to deal with.  It may be sunny when you went to work, but when you got ready to go home there is a blizzard outside.  The old saying “If you don’t like the weather now wait ten minutes” describes Colorado.  Additionally, one of the things I do like about living here, low humidity, also causes probables with our plants.    Also, one of the big challenges to gardeners here, novice or master, is our soil.  Our soil is mostly made up of clay and sand.  Even in some areas we decomposed granite.  Now doesn’t that sound lovely to try and plant your favorite variety of tulips in.  Now your probably wondering why should I even try to garden here? 

Even with all the negatives things I just said about gardening here, there are a lot of reasons to garden here.  The one I like the most is the sunshine.  Being originally from the Northeast, I love all this sunshine here especially during  the winter.  Our high elevations here provides some the highest intensity of light I have ever experience.  The plus of that is we grow some of the prettiest flowers around.

The first area I think as a new gardener to Colorado you need to address is what kind of soil do you have in your yard?  Is it sand or clay?  Or is it a combination like I have?  You talk to other gardeners that have lived here for awhile and your going to hear, you need to amend or soil.  Amend my soil?  What does that mean and how do I do it?  Soil amending is any material added to your soil that will improve the physical properties, such as aeration, water retention and struture.  This can be done by adding compost, aged manure or peat moss.  Check out http://www.ext.colostate.edu/Pubs/Garden/07235.html for more detailed information on soil amendments. 

Sure we don’t get a lot of rain here but we just have to rethink how to grow and what to grow.  Granted you may not be able to grow some of  your favorite flowers or shrubs here.  But there are so many other plants you can grow here and they will survive.  One area to look at is our native plants.  Using native plants cuts down on your watering and constant care.  Look at incorporating these trees the Colorado Spruce, Ponderosa Pine, Big-tooth Maple and Pinion Pine into your landscape.  Also, Apache plume, Chockcherry, Rabbitbrush and Western Sand Cherry do great here.  Some flowers that do well are Butterfly Weed, Early Sunrise Coreopis, Yellow Ice Plant, Purple Coneflower and numerous more.

To combat soil erosion, low moisture and humidity we have here, the use of organic or inorganic mulch is essential.  Organic mulch can be hay,wood chips, grass clippings while inorganic mulches are rock mulch or gravel.  Each one has their advantages and disadvantages.  I prefer to use organic mulches because not only do they prevent soil erosion and help with water retention, they will break down over time and improve the soil.  Once again check out http://www.ext.colostate.edu/Pubs/garden/07214.html for more indepth information on the use of mulches.

Another word you will hear a lot here in Colorado is Xeriscaping.  Basically what that means is dry garden landscaping.  Xeriscaping takes into consideration the use of the proper plants, irrigation, and soil preparation so you can have a beautiful garden while conserving water.  Xeriscaping does not mean you can only grow cactus or you have to cut out your grass and put down nothing but rocks.  Establishing a plan on how you want your garden to look is vital.  Proper planning and incorporating efficient irrigation can save you 30 to 80 percent on water savings.

Keeping an eye on the loca weather forcasts is really important, especially in the early Spring.  Our last frost date is May 15th.  I know that may come as a shock to you but trust me I have lost plants to frost putting them out too early.  One way I do get a jump on the gardening season is by the use Wall-O-Waters, Row Covers and Cloches.  It one does a good job of protecting your tender vegetation if we get a sudden cold spell.

So as you can see you can grow beautiful shrubs, flowers trees and vegetables here, you just need to learn the proper techniques for this area.  Visit local gardens, your friends gardens and demonstrations gardens and see what is growing there.  This will provide you with a wealth of information on what will grow here.  One of my favorite gardens to visit is the Colorado Springs Utilites Xeriscape Garden on Mesa Road.  Check out their website at http://www.csu.org/wa/xeri/xeriscape.jsp.

Happy New Year from Colorado

I know a lot of you are asking where did 2008 go?  Hopefully, to all you gardeners it was spent enjoying your flowers, vegetables and whatever tickles your fancy.  Didn’t do anything exciting tonight, went to a movie and then dinner afterwards.  I guess my big party days are long gone.  Just wanted to wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR and great 2009 worth of gardening. 

                                                                                                                    

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