Monday, August 31, 2009

Vegetable Gardening Classes Offered

The C.S.U. Golden Plains Area Extension Service is offering classes in vegetable gardening to anyone interested in raising their own produce. Vegetable gardening is a wonderful way to relax, spend time outdoors, connect with children and/or grandchildren, and even get a little exercise! It also offers the added bonus of fresh tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc. for your table!! What could be better than that?

Extension Horticulture agent, Linda Langelo, and Kit Carson County Master Gardener, Lisa Brewer, will be offering many classes in the coming months. Most of the classes will be held in the old gift emporium at Old Town in Burlington. A small fee of $10.00 will cover the costs of materials and handouts. In addition to these classes, there will be some hands-on workshops next spring at Williams Floral & Garden Center in Burlington.

Some of the class topics will be on designing your garden, raising and using herbs, vermicomposting, raised bed and container gardening, small fruit and berries, water-wise gardening, preserving your harvest, and many more. Each class will last from two to three hours and you will come away with good information that you can adapt to your particular gardening needs.
If you are interested in attending one or more of these classes, please call the Burlington Extension Office at 719 346-5571 to register.

Fall 2009 schedule of Classes:

Sept. 12th – “Staring Early & Finishing Late” – extending the growing season with micro-greenhouses and harvesting the garden twice.

Oct. 3rd – “Gardening with Heirlooms” – the pros and cons of raising heirloom varieties of tomatoes, squash, peppers, etc.

Nov. 7th – “Powerful Pumpkins & Super Squash” – growing, cooking and canning pumpkin and squash for nutrient dense, low calorie dishes.

*All classes will begin at 10:00 a.m. at Old Town in Burlington

The Mountain Pine Beetle Arrives on the Plains

The Colorado State Forester for the northeastern region of Colorado, Norland Hall, announced the mountain pine beetle was found in Willard, Sterling and Fort Morgan over the last couple of weeks in August. The picture to the left shows a close up dorsal view from the USDA Forest Service.
Yes, the mountain pine beetle has been concentrated in the Rocky Mountains and Black Hills areas. For the past few years, those residing on the plains have watched the devastation from a front row seat. However, this bark beetle which is only about ¼ inch long with black or brown coloring. The larvae are yellowish-white with no legs and dark heads.
These beetles attack ponderosa, lodge pole, limber and occasionally scotch pines. If you have any of these trees in your landscape keep the trees healthy. The best natural defense is a healthy tree. Healthy pines are less attractive to the beetle. Other natural defenses are woodpeckers and clerid beetles. Mother Nature can help control outbreaks by providing extremely cold temperatures. However, when planting your landscape use a diversity of trees in your plan and properly space the tree to match its mature height and width. Overcrowding adds stress to the trees. To create an analogy for you, picture the idea of having a family of ten live in a two bedroom home with no basement and two bathrooms.
In our current economic state, everyone is looking for a bargain. Firewood for some people is the primary way they keep their homes heated in the winter. These beetles have devastated acres of trees and are providing a cheap source of firewood. Firewood is being sold from acres of those ponderosa trees from Colorado and Wyoming. If you purchase firewood from such a source, remember if the bark is still intact, there may be mountain pine beetle larvae still alive and active in the firewood.
The signs to watch for are a popcorn-shaped masses of resin on the trunk where the beetles initially attack and have started tunneling. Notice any sawdust in the bark crevices or on the ground. Woodpecker feeding is another piece of evidence with pieces of bark on the ground. Woodpeckers also feed on other larvae as well. In May or June the crown of the pine would turn reddish-brown and would be a late symptom of attacks the previous season.
If you have any questions or see the popcorn-shaped masses of resin on the bark or fresh sawdust, please feel free to contact your local Extension office.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What is Swiss chard?

Swiss chard is a member of the Beet family that does not produce an edible root, but rather produces edible crinkly leaves. This is not a popular vegetable because people do not know what to do with it or even know what it is.
In the Holyoke Community Garden, we are growing the 1998 All American Selection called Bright Lights. The stem colors or petioles of Bright Lights range in color from orange, red, white, yellow, gold, pink and striped. It takes 55 days to maturity. Swiss chard is excellent as an ornamental.
Swiss chard can grow in any soil type, but likes the soil to stay evenly moist. It will grow in any day length and temperature. The seeds can be planted in spring an inch deep and 4 to 6 inches apart. If the soil is high in organic matter, this will keep the soil moist.
There are no major disease or insect problems occasionally aphids and leaf miner. Aphids can be hosed off with water or sprayed with insecticidal soap.
This crop will provide a full season of harvesting once the leaves get to be about 4 inches tall. Harvest the outer most leaves. Once you harvest it, it is best eaten fresh, but you can freeze, can or dry it.
Swiss chard has the bitterness of beet greens and a salty flavor of spinach leaves. But with swiss chard, you can eat both leaves and stalks. The stalks need to be cooked slightly longer than the leaves.
The vitamin content of Swiss chard starts with the highest percentage of vitamin K, then A and then C. Besides these, magnesium, manganese, potassium and iron are also high percentages within this vegetable. Other nutritional benefits of lesser levels are calcium, copper and dietary fiber, B6, B2, B5, B1, B3, folate, zinc, tryptophan, biotin and phosphorus.
With this easy to grow vegetable, there is a far greater benefit with a full season of harvesting.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A native---Cleome

This is a native of the western region. Right now it is blooming in Sedgwick County in Julesburg along the roadside growing among the fenceline into the fair grounds.
This plant can be found on dry sandy soils along roadsides and waste places. The bees appreciate the nectar from the blossoms of this plant. However, livestock stay away from the plant because it has an unpleasant odor. The flowers are attractive in gardens. This is as an annual.
The common annual that you can purchase from Burpee is called Cleome hasslerana and can flower from early summer until fall. It takes full sun and likes a dry location in the garden. The Queen series has violet and rose colors. This plant can get 3 to 4 feet tall or taller and needs to go in as background in your garden or as a focal point. It does not need dead heading and can reseed next year, but may not come up in the same location. The more popular name for it is Spiderflower.
Other seed mixes that you can purchase of this annual are called Sparkler Mix with white, purple and pink. It is best to just sow the seed directly. This annual takes little care. And the best part is that it should be considered as a xeric plant.
As for the plant's cultural assets, the Indians used the plant for food and making pottery paint. The whole plant was boiled to make into cakes of black dye. The seeds were eaten raw or cooked. The seeds were ground into a meal to be used as mush or used in flour for bread-making. The shoots, leaves and flowers were used as potherbs.
Do not underestimate such as easy to care for plant in your annual borders next year!