Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tips for Selecting a Healthy Tree

For balled and burlapped trees:
  • Do not purchase a tree with circling roots at the trunk.
  • Pick a tree with a firm ball of soil.
  • The size of the root ball should be adequate for the size of the tree.
For containerized trees:
  • Do not purchase a tree with circling roots at the trunk.
  • If there are pruned roots in the pot, they should be no wider than a finger.
For bare root seedlings:
  • Roots should be fibrous and moist
  • Deciduous seedlings will have roots almost equal to the length of the stem.
All newly purchased trees need to have the following:

  • A healthy central leader.
  • Have wide-angle crotches for strength.
  • Free of disease and pests.
  • Branches well distributed around the trunk.
  • Do not purchase a wilted tree specimen.
  • Do not purchase a tree with open wounds or mechanical injury anywhere on the bark or main trunk. 
Ask the business selling the trees about the history of the tree.  Questions such as where did the tree originate?  How often do you water the trees? 

The picture below shows some of the worst mistakes someone can make when attempting to give your new tree a good start.  The burlap, wire cage and twine are restricting the root system from becoming established in its new home in the soil.  The burlap and wire cage can be cut back by one third and the twine cut once the ball is in place and pulled out.  In the west, especially during periods/seasons of extreme drought the burlap will not rot.  The wire cage and the twine take hundreds of years to disintegrate.
                                          Picture taken by Linda Langelo

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sowing Seed for Spring Transplants

Once you have decided on what you will grow in the garden then you need to start planning on when to start sowing your seed.  Research the average frost dates in your area and start planning the average weeks you will need to grow transplants of the crops you want in time for their appropriate outdoor temperatures.

To get the highest percentage of seed to germinate, here is a list of what crops do the best at an optimal temperature.

Crops that germinate the best at 70 degrees Fahrenheit are as follows:
  • New Zealand Spinach
  • Leeks
  • Celery
  • Celeriac
  • Salsify
Crops that germinate the best at 75 degrees Fahrenheit are as follows:
  • Asparagus
  • Lettuce
  • Onion
  • Parsley
  • Pea
Crops that germinate the best at 80 degrees Fahrenheit are as follows:
  • Beans including Snap Beans
  • Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage including Chinese Cabbage and Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Chicory
  • Endive
  • Kale
  • kohlrabi
  • rutabaga 
Crops that germinate the best at 85 degrees Fahrenheit are as follows:
  • Lima Beans
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Eggplant
  • Pepper
  • Radish
  • Swiss Chard
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips
Crops that germinate the best at 90 degrees Fahrenheit are as follows:
  • Muskmelons
Crops that germinate the best at 95 degrees Fahrenheit are as follows:
  • Cucumbers
  • Okra
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash
  • Sweet Corn
  • Watermelon
With the exception of sweet corn and okra, all the other crops under the 95 Fahrenheit germination temperature do better with a direct sowing out in the garden.

Once the seeds start emerging from the soilless media remove the plastic cover keeping the moisture level high for germination.  If you don't remove the plastic cover (or whatever you use to help keep the moisture in the media) the moisture can cause fungal diseases. 

As you seedlings are growing you need to gradually harden them off or acclimate them to outdoor conditions such as full sunlight and the appropriate temperatures. 


Consider the following factors before planting your windbreak:

  • Height of your windbreak reduces wind speed.
  • Density of your windbreak can reduce the wind speed up to 70% & minimum rows for a windbreak are three.
  • The width of the windbreak gives the windbreak the best density.
  • The a narrow windbreak with great height can equal the density of a wide windbreak unless there is a gap from a dead tree.
  •  Shape of the windbreak could be vertical or stair-step pattern.
If you decide on a vertical windbreak pattern place the tallest trees on the upwind side giving a modest increase in the area protected.

If you decide on a stair-step windbreak pattern with shorter trees on the upwind side and tallest trees on the downwind side provides better efficiency in lifting winds which alleviates less swirling and dumping of wind in the protected area.

What is considered the protected area? Take the height of the tallest tree and measure an area 10 times the height of that tree.  That is the area protected on the downward side of the windbreak.

Here is a great list of information from an article called "Growing Multipurpose Trees on Small Farms." Bangkok, Thailand from a Forestry/Fuelwood Research and Development Project 1992.  Winrock International.  This list seems applicable to the practical side of tree selection:

  1. trees that tolerate harsh environments
  2. have a bushy, deep crown but that still allows some wind protection
  3. keep lower limbs for a long time
  4. have strong roots
  5. grow quickly --this is opposite the next point.  Trees that grow quickly are often short-lived and weak wooded.
  6. live long 
  7. tolerate pests and diseases
  8. not harbour pests that affect nearby crops
  9. not have roots that compete excessively with nearby crops for water and nutrients
I will add trees that are in our native range tolerate the harsh extreme weather conditions than non-natives.  Select natives without creating a monoculture.

Windbreaks do more than just reduce wind speed.  They retain water and gives soil protection.  They can increase crop yields which vary from crop to crop.   They provide shelter for livestock and create a habitat for wildlife.

What trees are recommended in northeast Colorado for windbreaks?

Here are a few recommendations:  Upright Junipers, Eastern Red Cedar, Pinon, Bristlecone, Hackberry, Bur Oak, English Oak, Tatarian Maple, Sumac, Hawthorns and Canyon Maples.    Ponderosa, Colorado Blue Spruce and Austrian Pines are also on the list for tallest evergreens.  However, these three have had the most problems tolerating our extreme drought conditions and are the first effected.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

A 2014 Introduction: 'Windbreaker' Big Sacaton

This is a wonderful grass for its upright, sturdy habit.  At a height of eight feet high and six feet wide, it is a foot taller and wider than the original Sporobolus wrightii.

This windbreaker can be used as a living fence.  It is however, a herbaceous perennial.  The Plant Select Program tested this plant.  It is now listed as a Plant Select Plant because of its ability to adapt to the extreme conditions in Colorado.

The Los Lunas Plant Materials Center in New Mexico originally bred this plant to be a wind barrier according to Megan Shinn of Horticulture Magazine. 

The best part of all is Sporobolus can be grown in garden loam, clay or sandy soil.  It has a watering range from moderate to very dry. 

Sporobolus and plants like this are also great sound and dust barriers.  When the wind blows in Colorado, the dust comes with it. 

Make room for Sporobolus wrightii in your garden.  You will find that it does not need a lot of care.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dessication or Anti-Dessicant?

In the west the extreme weather conditions can make it difficult to hydrate a tree or shrub exactly when it needs to be.  Between the periods of freezing temperatures there is a thaw.  Hopefully, you can find a way to water the trees and shrubs during this thaw.  Sometimes that thaw may not even be above freezing but close to it. So what can you do?  Anti-dessicants such as Wilt-Pruf, Transfilm, Stressguard and Vapor Guard can help.

Apply Anti-dessicants as the temperature drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and you have 24 hours before freezing temperatures arrive. Begin the treatment in November and end in March.  Since these anti-dessicants are organic and breakdown in light and heat you will have to reapply.  Again, you need to be careful that you have a 24 hour period before freezing temperatures return. 

Anti-dessicant is not to be used on Blue Spruce for they already have a wax coating on their needles.  Cedar, cypress and pines all benefit from the use of anti-dessicant.  However, arborvitae show mixed results when anti-dessicant is used on these shrubs.  For perennials, you can use this on rose canes and hydrangea stems to prevent winter burn.

Sometimes, it may be more practical to use other plant material to lessen the amount of exposure to the extreme weather conditions.  Low evergreen ground covers can be protected in this way. For taller evergreen shrubs you might want to think about burlap instead of anti-dessicant.

Remember the important thing is slowing down the evapotranspiration or water loss that occurs in winter.  Start out by taking the time in the fall before the ground freezes to water your trees and shrubs so that they start out the season hydrated.  One of the other benefits of hydrated trees and shrubs is less breakage in high winds.  When cells are turgid, branches are more flexible. 

Time factors, cost and the size of your landscape will also determine which option works best for you.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Recycling Benefits All

To name just a few of the positive outcomes for recycling aluminum, paper, plastic and glass:

Reduced deforestation
Conservation of energy
Recycling creates jobs
Reduces the size and need for landfills

For example:

When one aluminum can is recycled this can save enough energy to power a 100-watt bulb for almost four hours or a television for three hours.

If you still don't recycle here are two things that might make you consider recycling:

E-waste makes up for 70% of toxic waste in landfills. Lead being one of the main elements of toxic waste.

The other elements in cell phones are copper, silver, gold and palladium.  You would have to collect a million cell phones to get 75 pounds of gold. 

Read more by going to the following websites:

Monday, January 6, 2014

Going Native with Fruit Bearing Shrubs

Here is a small selection of fruit bearing native shrubs to add to your garden in 2014 which are more native to Colorado. 
  • Golden Currant or Ribes aureum
This shrub grows to a height of 3-6 feet and a width of 3-4 feet.
It grows best in zones 3-6.
Tolerates drought and wet soil.
Prefers moderate moisture.
Grows in a range of soils.
Grows in sun to part shade.
This plant will sucker.
Remove suckers if spreading is not desired.
  • Clove currant or Ribes odoratum
This shrub grows to a height of 6-12 feet and a width of 6-8 feet.
It grows best in zones 4-8.
Tolerates clay and drought.
Tolerates alkaline soil.
Prefers moderate moisture.
Grows in sun to part shade.
This plant will sucker.
Remove suckers if spreading is not desired.
  • Nanking Cherry or Prunus tomentosa
This shrub grows to a height of 6-10 feet and 12-15 feet.
It grows best in zones 3-6.
Tolerates some drought.
Tolerates alkaline soils.
Prefers moist, well-drained soils.
Grows in full sun.
  •  Chokecherry or Prunus virginiana

This shrub grows to a height of 20-30 feet and a width of 15-20 feet.
It grows best in zones 2-7.
Tolerates a wide range of soil types and textures.
Prefers dry to medium, well-drained soil.
Remove suckering if spread is not desired.
The leaves, stems, bark and seed are all toxic.
The meaty flesh around the seed is not toxic.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Buzz about Pollinators

You may think pollinators are just bees when in fact pollinators are butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, birds, bats, small mammals and lastly but most important are bees. 

Why are bees so important, particularly honey bees?

  • Honey bees are responsible for 1.2 to 5.4 billion dollars in agriculture productivity in the US according to Pollinator Partnership.
  • A honey bee worker can produce up to 1/12 a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
  • The Queen honey bee lays up to 1,500 eggs per day or up to 1 million in her lifetime which is 3-4 years.
  • A worker bee who collects pollen may only live three weeks because they visit 50-100 flowers in one trip or up to 2,000 flowers in a day.  During drought years when plants are struggling and may not produce as many flowers, bees have less of a resource to sustain them.
                  Picture by Brian Talamantes,CSU Weed & Agronomy Agent

According to Pollinator Partnership about 75 to 95% of plants need help with pollination, the following are items recommended by the Xerces Society and Pollinator Partnership for the role you play in helping pollinators:

  1. Create natural habitat areas by agricultural farms, urban agriculture and community gardens all will increase their yield.
  2. Plant the right plants and create a diversity of bloom with some areas of habitat for native bees for nesting.  These include brush piles, old tree stumps and open sandy ground.
  3. Stop the use of both organic and non-organic insecticides because both can harm pollinators including removing noninvasive wildflowers.  This takes away the ESSENTIAL nectar and pollen for hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. 
Visit the Xerces Society  and Pollinator Partnership for more information about pollinators. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Did you know fun horticulture facts?


Did you know that bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the planet? 
  •  47.6 inches in a 24 hour period.

Did you know the redwood or Sequoia sempervirens is the world's tallest-growing tree?
275 feet in height and 25 feet in width

Bristlecone Pine:

Did you know that bristlecone pine or Pinus aristata is the world's oldest-growing tree?
4,600 years old

Trees and carbon production:

Did you know that an acre of trees can absorb as much carbon as is produced by a car driven up to 8700 miles? 


Did you know that a mature birch tree can produce up to a million seeds in a year?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What about Astro Turf?

Weeds and debris including wood chips in the artificial turf.
During times of drought in the west, artificial turf seems like a good alternative.  It is a good replacement on sports fields, in areas difficult to grow grass and areas with high traffic.  However, there is still maintenance required with the artificial turf.  Having artificial turf reduces fertilizer usage, chemical inputs and mowing.  In a different way it is not any less maintenance then living turf.  Listed below are some of the things that you still need to do when maintaining the artificial Turf:

  • Leaf collection
  • Debris removed
  • Pet feces and urine deposits
  • Other wind-blown dirt

Photos by Linda Langelo
The picture above of the soccer field illustrates one of the uses of  artificial turf.  There are several others listed below:
Field Hockey
Military Marching Drills 
Marching Band
Physical Exercises
Physical Education Activities
The main things to do when you have an artificial turf field according to AstroTurf Products Manual is follow some of the simple rules:
  • Keep it clean.
  • Install a fence around the turf to control access (this field does have a fence-right side of picture).
  • Post signs prohibiting smoking or carrying food or drink onto the turf.
  • Provide trash and litter cans nearby.
  • Observe recommended load limits for static and rolling loads, especially when turf is wet.
  • Repair minor damage promptly before it becomes a larger problem
  • Follow all recommended maintenance and cleaning procedures.
There is a whole list of different equipment used on artificial turf such as sweepers and vacuums.  Then there is a list of chemicals to avoid such as Clorox and other highly acid cleaners.  And not to mention, ultraviolet rays breakdown the artificial turf.  Purchasing a cover extends the life of the turf and reduces the cleaning of the artificial turf.