Thursday, November 29, 2012

More on Water Conservation

How could you conserve water?  Colorado State University has a fact sheet titled, "Water Conservation in and Around the Home" by R. Waskom and M. Neibauer. 

Did you know that when you operate a conventional washing machine you use between 35 and 50 gallons per load?  Do you only use the washer when there is a full load?  Do you select the minimum water volume per load?

Did you know that a newer front-loading machine uses between 18 and 20 gallons per load?

Did you know running the dishwasher when its full can save you up to 1,000 gallons of water?


Did  you know that a leaky faucet can waste anywhere from 192 gallons/month to 429 gallons/month?                    
  • 60 drops/minute = 192 gallons/month
  • 90 drops/minute = 210 gallons/month
  • 120 drops/minute=429 gallons/month
These and other interesting household water use information can be found at the following web address:  http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/pubs.html

Or type in Colorado State University Extension Website and click on Fact Sheets and Publications.  Once you are on the fact sheet page, then click on the topic heading titled - water. 

I encourage you to read and do your part to conserve a very precious commodity.  We need to conserve water in drought and at all times for our future generations.  We need to keep our water clean as well. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How much water do you use on your lawn?















 Photo by Linda Langelo


This information is based on research and provided to inform people and raise awareness.  I hope that it encourages everyone including homeowners, lawn maintenance services and landscapers to be more aware of how much water is used.  In times of significant drought, I would hope that we would aim to be conservative with our resources and therefore better stewards of the earth for future generations. 


When considering how much water you use on your lawn, it is based on the type of grass you plant. The following is a breakdown based on three main types of grasses:

Kentucky Bluegrass:  1/2" every third day

over 5,000 square feet = 1,500 gal/watering = 18,500 gal/month

Turf-type tall fescue: 1/2" twice/week

over 5,000 square feet = 1,500 gal/watering = 12,500 gal/month

Buffalo grass: 1/2" every 2 weeks

over 5,000 square feet = 1,500 gal/watering = 3,000 gal/month


These figures are from Denver Water published in 2003. The above picture is a lawn established with buffalo grass taken by the area horticulturist.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Favorite Fall Perennial

Here it is at the end of October and we have fall color of blue flowers along with its striking bronze-red foliage. A great herbaceous perennial with a common name of Leadwort which grows to 6 to 10 inches tall with a phlox-like flower and spreads to cover a foot to a foot and a half of area. Its botanical name is Ceratostigma plumbaginoides. This perennial tolerates clay soil, but it will not tolerate continuous wet soils that are not well-drained. It is truely low maintenance. You will not need to deadhead the flowers or cut the stems back to the ground. What could be more ideal? It grows in zones five through nine. It is not a native since its country of origin is China. An ideal location will be in a sunny to partly sunny area. The picture was taken in such a location. The area receives morning sun and by two o'clock in the afternoon this perennial is in shade. In the spring this perennial is late to leaf-out. You might think it is dead and then it springs to life. This plant would do well under trees that allow the plant to receive afternoon shade. It helps with erosion control and would do well on slopes. It will be beneficial to grow in rock gardens and in your herbaceous border amongst bulbs. Give this perennial a try.   Above photo taken by Linda Langelo.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall Crocus, Fall Color


Photo by Linda Langelo

Crocus speciosus 'Oxonian' with its deep violet blue flowers and darker veins will add some rich color to your garden. Just when you think everything is finished flowering. There are a number of different species that will bloom from September into December. They need to be planted in a protected area with some sun and some shade and a light covering of mulch. The Crocus speciosus 'Oxonian' grows in zones 4-9. Enjoy the color.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Best Trees Suited For Northeast Colorado

What is one of the most popular questions asked in our area? What trees grow best in our area is one of the most asked questions. From traveling over the last several years through the Golden Plains area, we have a good variety of tree species that do well throughout our area. But to determine what grows best in your landscape, it is recommended to do a soil test and determine the exposure of the location you wish to plant a tree. These two factors have the most bearing on how well the tree will do. When these two factors are the most compatible to the tree’s requirements, your tree will have a healthy start and with any unforeseen environmental stresses will stay healthy. Bur oaks are one of those trees. But no one wants to wait a lifetime to see it grow even to a decent height of 20 feet. Bur oaks have the largest acorns of all the native oaks according to the National Forest Service. This tree is easy to grow. It grows on dry uplands and sandy plains or fertile limestone soils and moist bottomlands. The bur oak wood is a hardwood and is marketed as white oak. The bur oak’s range is vast. It grows in eastern United States and the Great Plains. It is the most drought resistant of all the North American oaks. After this summer’s drought and heat, you need a tree that can endure. Bur oaks have been known to hybridize with nine other oak species. These are white, swamp white, gambel, overcup, swamp chestnut, chinkapin, English, post and live oak. Littleleaf Linden trees are moderately drought tolerant in comparison to bur oaks. The Littleleaf Linden can grow to about 60 feet high by 40 feet wide. They have a wide range of soil where they will grow well. Sandy soil, loam, clay, acidic, alkaline, well-drained and occasionally wet. Other than being susceptible to verticillium wilt, Littleleaf Lindens do not have any serious diseases. Many trees are susceptible to verticillium wilt particularly maples. Verticillium wilt can cause dieback of branches and death to the entire tree. This is a soil-borne fungus. Once inside the tree this fungus blocks the conductive tissue so that water cannot flow through the limb(s) and then wilts. The tree may have other symptoms beforehand such as slow growth, small yellow foliage, and scorching and heavy seed crops as chronic symptoms. Acute symptoms can be leaf curling, drying, red or yellow between the leaf veins, wilting and dieback. Powdery mildew and anthracnose are leaf diseases and can be easily controlled. Powdery mildew is a white coating caused by a fungus on the leaf. Anthracnose is also a fungus which has a red-purple margin around a tan/brown area. The American Sentry Linden is a smaller size linden which can grow to 40 feet high and 25 feet wide with a narrow straight trunk. All Lindens share in the characteristic where their limbs tend to droop or curve towards the ground, especially the lower limbs. A lot of people favor the honeylocust. The most popular is the Thornless Honeylocust ‘Shademaster’ which gets to a height of 50’ with a width of 40’. People favor these types of trees because they are fast growing and want the shade to cover their yard quickly. However, there is a down side of a short-life span and weak limbs. Weak limbed trees do not withstand ice and snow storms or high winds. But despite this fact, the honeylocust has been used for windbreaks. And lucky for us with our alkaline soils, honeylocust do well in soils with a pH of 6.0 to 8.0. Honeylocust are also used for erosion control. This tree has become so widely used that it is used as a replacement for the American Elm. Another better replacement for the American Elm is Zelkova serrata, the Japanese Zelkova is also in the elm family and is rated as hardy in zone 5. I have seen only one of these in our area and it is growing in town in Burlington, Colorado. If you have lots of honeylocust and own a farm or ranch, your cattle and/or hogs may readily eat the fruits of honeylocust. The honeylocust is in the legume family and produces long bean pods at the end of the season. The beans in these pods contain about 12 to 13 percent protein. Other livestock will eat the young vegetative growth according to the National Forest Service. There is a high competition for the fruits since gray squirrels, fox squirrels, white-tailed deer, bobwhite, starlings, crows and opossum feed on these fruits as well. Other trees to consider are trees in the Plant Select® Program. A smaller tree that does well in our area is a Russian Hawthorn, Crataegus ambigua . This tree will be stay in the height range of 12 to 24 feet with a width of 6 to 12 feet. It requires moderate to xeric water. It will grow in soils that are sand, clay or loam. This tree has attractive bark, foliage and flowers. The fruit which is eaten by birds is a red fruit in the fall. The leaves have a golden color in fall. The Seven-Son Flower, Heptacodium miconioides is another small tree with a height ranging from 12 to 20 feet with a width of eight to 15 feet. The water requirement is moderate. The soil requirement is sandy or loam soil. The best attraction for this tree is the fragrant white flowers that bloom late in summer and then the persistent cherry-red sepals in the fall. This is a fast-growing tree. This is unusual member of the honeysuckle family which is very adaptable in a wide range of climates. This tree is not native, but collected at Hangzhou Botanical Garden during the 1980 Sino-American Expedition. Lastly, another Plant Select® tree, Clear Creek® Golden Yellowhorn, Xanthoceras sorbifolium ‘Psgan’ will grow to a height of 18 to 22 feet and a width of 10 to 15 feet. The water requirement is moderate to xeric. The soil requirement is garden loam, clay or sandy soil. This has white flowers with yellow centers that turn maroon. The leaves are ferny. The tree/shrub develops into a vase-shaped habit. This is especially hardy. This strain was developed at Green Acres Nursery in Golden, Colorado. This is a fast growing tree. With this small selection of trees listed in this article, they can make a spectacular landscape. The more variation you add in your landscape, the better the chance will be to keep your landscape healthy and not be devastated when a host or disease comes along and wipes out the only variety of tree you planted such as the elm.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Indoor plants and their effect on cleaner air

NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA)  collaborated in a joint study based on fifteen indoor plants.   Dr. Bill Wolverton, a former research scientist of NASA,  lead a team of researchers for two years testing house plants and their effect on removing indoor pollutants from homes and offices.

The three main pollutants present in homes and offices are the following:

  • Benzene
  • Formaldehyde
  • Trichloroethylene
Where do these pollutants originate?  Our furnishings, office equipment and building materials.

  • Benzene found in gasoline, inks, oils, paints, plastics and rubber as well as in the manufacturing of detergents, explosives, pharmaceuticals and dyes.
  • Formaldehyde found in particle board, urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI), in consumer products treated with UF resins such as grocery bags, waxed papers, facial tissues and paper towels.  These UF resins are used as stiffeners, wrinkle resisters, water repellents, fire retardants and adhesive binders in floor coverings, carpet backings and permanent-press clothes.  In addition, formaldehyde is also in heating and cooking fuels like natural gas, kerosene and cigarette smoke.
Different plants help remove different pollutants.  Here is a listing of what each of the plants do:

  • English Ivy, Dracaena marginata "Janet Craig", Dracaena "Warneckei", Chrysanthemum, Gerbera Daisy and Peace lilies removes benzene.  Peace lilies also remove carbon monoxide from the air.
  • Philodendron, Spider plant, Golden Pothos, Bamboo palm, Corn plant, Chrysanthemum and Mother-in-law's tongue removes formaldehyde.
  • Gerbera Daisy, Chrysanthemum, Peace lily, Dracaena "Warneckei" and Dracaena marginata
Decorate your offices and homes with plants.  Now, I know what you are thinking, that you would probably kill the plant with forgetting to water it or not enough light.  Well, you are in luck. 

Low-light level--  Corn plant, Pothos, Bamboo Palm, Mother-in-law's tongue and Chinese Evergreens.  All these plants need for low-level light is a north-facing window or less than 50 foot candles.  This translates into two feet from a north-facing window from April to September or if using a south-facing window six to ten feet back from the window or one foot to the side April to September.

Medium-light level-- Dracaena, Philodendron, Peace lily all take 500 to 1,000 foot candles or two feet of a north-facing window from April to September and two to six feet back or one foot to the side of an east or west-facing window.

High-light level-- Spider plant, Chrysanthemum and Gerbera Daisy all take over a 1,000 foot candles or two feet from a south-facing window from October to March and two feet from an east or west-facing window all year.

Watering requirements for these plants is fairly easy.   Wait for the soil to become dry before watering again.  However, there are two exceptions to this general rule.  Philodendron likes to be  moist, but well drained.   You should reduce the water in winter with a Philodendron.  Chrysanthemum likes to be watered regularly and kept evenly moist. 

Fertilization requirements for these plants vary depending on light levels and their genetic make-up.    

Chrysanthemums need fertilization if there are no blooms on the plant.  Fertilize once every other week until blooms develop. 
Philodendrons are heavy feeders.  Fertilizing at half strength and feeding on a regular schedule will keep them healthy.
Spider plants need fertilizer every two months in high light and every three months in medium light.
Corn plants only need fertilization in spring and through the summer once or twice a month and then no fertilizer during the winter months.
Pothos require the same fertilization schedule as corn plants.
Dracaena plants require fertilization in spring and summer once or twice a month and then once a month in the fall and no fertilizer during the winter months.
Bamboo palms require fertilization in spring and continue through the fall.  Do this once a month and no fertilization in the winter.
Mother-in-law's tongue requires fertilization in spring through the fall and then no fertilization in the winter.
Peace lilies need a regular monthly fertilization throughout the year.  Brown spots on the leaves is an indication of over-fertilization.
Gerber daisies need a fertilization of every other week.  They can last up to six months indoors.
Chinese evergreens need a regular fertilization once a month from spring through fall and then no winter fertilization.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Vegetable gardening in September and October

Tasks for September:

Harvesting!  Most vegetables are at their best for a short period of time.  This means the vegetables are palatable and have nutrition.  
  • Peas, corn, beans and cucumbers are at their best for a short time.Harvest peas when the pods are full.  Beans are harvested when the pods are tender.  This means do not let the beans get too large.  Corn should be in the milk stage.  Cucumbers are best when harvested at a small size. 
  • With radishes, beets, carrots and turnips, they should be picked also at a small size. 
  • Parsnip can be left in the ground for winter. 
  • If you have cauliflower, tie the leaves over top as soon as the head starts to form. 
  •  As for broccoli, as soon as the head is compact it is time to harvest.  Remember, light frosts improve the taste of your broccoli. 
  • If your summer squash is still growing, harvest when it is small and tender. If your endless Zucchini is still producing pick when the fruit is 6-8 inches long.  With winter squash and pumpkins, apply the thumb nail test before picking.  If your thumb nail can puncture the skin, your winter squash or pumpkins are not ready.
  • Don't forget how nutritious and delicious beet and turnip greens are.  
 A critical tip while harvesting your vegetables:

  • Cutting and bruising your vegetables will cause decay to occur faster.
  • Lettuce, radishes, tender carrots and greens can be crisped by plunging them into cold water immediately after harvesting.
Tasks for October:

Understanding storage conditions for your vegetables will keep your harvested vegetables from spoiling.   Store vegetables in a dark place.  Check frequently for spoilage.  Using a basement storage area or room and/or an outdoor storage cellar.

  • Harvest and store your root crops in October.
  • Clean the garden of any refuse such as leaves and stems.
  • Harvest and store pumpkins after the frost nips the vines and before the pumpkins are frosted.
  • Mulch your parsnips by placing a few inches of dirt or leaves over the row.
  • Onions can be stored in netted bags or on trays in outbuildings that do not get to freezing temperatures.

Critical tips for storing your vegetables:

  •  Keep a storage chart handy for vegetables and fruits.  Refer to a local Extension Service, they should have access to a chart for temperature and relative humidity requirements.
  • Correct temperatures for proper storage will lengthen the storage for your vegetables.  Purchase and outdoor thermostat for the storage area.
  • Correct humidity will maintain freshness and help prevent some of the shriveling.  Purchase a simple humidity gauge for the storage area.
Requirements for storage area:

  • Chose a place with at least one window for ventilation and with the ability to block out the light.
  • A basement with a furnace is good for ripening green tomatoes at 65 degrees, but not ideal for vegetable storage.
  • Store apples and pears in a separate area from vegetables since they release a large amount of ethylene gas.   Secondly, fruits absorb odors from vegetables such as potatoes and turnips.
Both fruits and vegetables can be stored on shelves or in wooden crates or boxes.  If you have flooring that will allow you to place an inch or two deep of sand, this will help you keep the humidity up.  You can moisten the sand on a regular basis.  A number of fruits and vegetables need 90 to 95% humidity.  Some fruits and vegetables that need this high humidity are as follows:

Apples, Apricots, Blackberries, Blueberries, Peaches, Peas, Sweet Peppers, Radishes, Rhubarb, Spinach, Corn, Cucumber to name a few.

Other Alternative Storage Methods:

A second refrigerator, an unheated garage are other areas to consider for storage.  In ground storage can take many forms including burying a metal or plastic garbage can with straw and plastic bags around the produce for insulation purposes and odor absorption.

This is all another type of food preservation to enjoy the "fruits" of your labors throughout the year and save on the grocery bill.




Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Pear Tree - Pyrus calleryana 'Cleveland Select'

This tree is best used in restricted sites because of its narrow shape.  This is a more improved cultivar over the Bradford pear.  This cultivar is less prone to structural issues of poor branch unions. The very best thing about Cleveland pear trees they need little maintenance, but they do grow quickly. However, unlike their Bradford pear tree predecessors, they seem to be able to handle snowstorms and high winds.  

This Cleveland Select is a somewhat drought tolerant tree.  For the most part, they have deep roots, but they can also be somewhat laterally spreading.   It is frost hardy and disease resistant.  It prefers fertile and well drained sites.  It can tolerate  both acidic and akaline soil conditions with an occasional flooding.  Pyrus calleryana is in the Rosaceae Family.  They are hardy to zone 5. 

Cleveland pear trees grow to a height of 30 feet.  They will grow about four feet per year.  However, on the eastern plains, they may do that in a very wet growing season.  They have an oval shape and are an excellent shade tree from spring through fall.  For fall color, they have a nice red coloration.  In the spring the tree comes to life with white blossoms. 

As an added benefit, these trees tolerate urban conditions and adapt to coastal conditions.  Give this new cultivar Cleveland Select a try.  

 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Heat Stresses in the Vegetable Garden


Summer has been extremely hot in Kit Carson County this year and I have been fielding a lot of calls regarding tomatoes that are not setting on blossoms.  Tomatoes do not need a specific day length in order to flower.  Temperature is the determining factor. The optimum temperature for fruit set is 65 to 80 degrees F.  Wide swings in temperatures from day to night such as we are experiencing (95+ day to 65 night) have an adverse effect on blossom set, sometimes causing plants to drop their blossoms.


 Tomatoes, eggplants and peppers are all affected by the high temperatures with a condition called “sticky pollen”.  The heat changes the shape of the pollen proteins and makes it difficult for the pollen to leave the anthers (the part of the plant where it is produced).   Even though it seems like we have plenty of wind to move pollen around, the plants will do well with a gentle shake from the gardener!  The best time to shake your tomatoes, eggplants and peppers is early morning or late evening.  Coincidentally this is also the best time to be watering in the garden. 


Keep in mind that fruit production in the garden requires more nutrients.  Approximately 40 to 50% of the nitrogen requirements for tomatoes can be added to the soil before you even plant the garden.  But if your soil is less than 3% organic material, you may need to add nitrogen during the growing season.   Now is a good time to feed the garden with a water-soluble nutrient, especially one that includes potassium.  Potassium will improve the quality of the produce as well as help the plants better utilize the water you are applying.  Follow the instructions on the package for proper application.


Since the fruit is about 95% water, tomatoes use large volumes of water during fruit set.  As much as 1.5 to 2 quarts of water per plant per day may be needed from fruit set to harvest!  Irregular watering may result in cracked fruit.  Mulching and regulated lengths of watering time can help with this important aspect of gardening.


For more information log on to the following websites:








Article by Lisa Brewer,  Colorado Master Gardener



Cottony Oak Gall

Cottony Oak Gall picture by Linda Langelo

The picture above are the galls produced by the cynipid wasp in the Hymenoptera Family.   These wasps are very difficult to control.  They are always found on the undersides of the oak leaves. They are often woolly with a white-tan color and along the midvein.   The wasps usually pick bur oaks or Quercus macrocarpa as the host.   The picture below shows the wasp.


In the spring when the leaves are newly expanding, the females lay eggs in the leaf and the new larvae cause abnormal growth development of the galls by injecting plant growth regulator chemicals.  This growth is a reaction to the chemicals.  Once the galls are formed, this protects the developing larvae.  The insect becomes difficult to reach.  Overall, plant mortality is often low.  The best control of these wasps is other wasps that parasitize them. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Our Living Soil

Our topsoils  normally contain about 1% organic matter.  According to professors in the Department of Crop and Soil Science in Cornell University and University of Vermont,  as organic matter decreases in our soils, it is difficult to grow plants.   What happens?  Below is the list of negative impacts to our soil without organic matter applied regularly:

  • Water retention lessens
  • Fertility lessens
  • Compaction increases
  • Erosion increases
  • Parasites, diseases and insects also increase
Then what happens.  We spend money to control the parasites, diseases and insects.  We spend money to divert the eronsion and possibly loose crops.  Then there is still the compaction and low fertility.  We apply other fertilizers and other expensive fixes to help alleviate. 

Soil is a living organism. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Time to plant for your fall garden

Do you like cabbage or broccoli?  How about spinach?  These are just a few of the cool season crops you can grow in your garden, if you are not too tired from growing all the cool season crops in spring and then the warm season crops in summer. 

If you don't do well with growing the cool season crops in the spring, what would be the point of doing it again in the fall?  Here are few things to consider:

  1. Temperatures are more tolerable.
  2. Fewer pests.
  3. Frost enhances the flavor.
  4. Frost increases the sweetness of the kale and collards.
  5. Less weeds. 

Overall, fall garden is much easier and less effort.  So start sowing the seed!   Here is a list of crops to try:

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Collards
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Escarole
  • Endive
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Leeks
  • Oriental Vegetables
  • Garlic
  • Arugula 
  • Mustard
  • Turnips
  • Kolhrabi
  • Rutabaga

Be sure to check on the final hard frost and count back 8 to 12 weeks.  This will give you from 56-84 days or so.  With broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts it is best to start with transplants.  These crops are referred to as cole crops or crops in the Cruciferaceae Family.  This also includes mustard.  Most recently, the family is now referred to as the Brassaciae Family.  All the flowers of these plants have the same flower parts.  Think of it this way.  All the flowers in the pea family have the same parts whether the flowers are on an edible pea or a sweet pea flower or another member of the family. 

For broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kolhrabi and kale, start the seeds in mid-July.  Use starter fertilizer on the transplants.  This can increase your yields by 20%.  The preferred growing temperatures are 60 - 70 degrees.  In a more mature stage, broccoli and cauliflower can tolerate some frost.

All the cole crops are intolerant of dry soils.  They are shallow rooted and like moist, well-drained soil.  If the soil drys quickly, these crops can acquire a stronger flavor.

Unless the snow in northeastern Colorado comes early, fall crops can bring you a great harvest.  With garlic, leeks and spinach, these crops can winter over.  Brussel sprouts can produce a harvest into December. 

The oriental vegetables are similar to the cole crops in their cultural practices.  It is recommended to side dress with calcium nitrate three weeks after planting at a rate of 1.5 to 3 lbs per 100 foot row.  For any of the root crops listed, side-dress with ammonium nitrate for 30 days prior to harvest.  Before preparing the planting area, the best recommendation is to have your soil tested.  Then you have a baseline.  You can make more accurate adjustments.

Happy fall gardening!  Be sure to contact your local Extension Agent, if you need more information or have any questions. 


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Echinacea Disease



Ever heard of a phytoplasma?  These are single celled microorganisms that live in the phloem of plants.  This phytoplasma is similar to a bacterium. This phytoplasma has no cell wall.  It can infect over 300 plants in 48 different families.  Some of those plants are listed below.  The picture above is typical of aster yellow in Echinacea.  Picture taken by Linda Langelo, Horticulture Program Associate in the Colorado State University Extension, in Golden Plains Area.

One of the more well-know phytoplasma is called aster yellows.  This is vectored by the aster leafhopper and other leafhoopers.  This leafhopper migrates from the southern United States to the northern United States.  It is seen annually in many northern gardens. 

Weeds such as horseweed, dandelion and Queen Anne's Lace can harbor the aster yellows phytoplasma.  There is an incubation period of aster yellows within the leafhopper before it can tranmit the disease.  This also occurs within the plant before the disease appears.  The leafhopper feeds on plants that already have the aster yellows or the casual phytoplasma.  The disease circulates in the leafhopper's body.  When it reaches the leafhopper's salivary glands will it be able to transmit the disease.  The time frame for this to occur can be from 10 days to 3 weeks.

Aster yellows has many hosts besides the weeds mentioned above.  There are many ornamental plants and vegetables.  Among the ornamental plants are asters, anemone, centaurea, chrysanthemum, coreopsis, delphinium, echinacea, gaillardia, limonium, phlox, scabiosa and veronica.  Among the vegetables damaged by this disease are head lettuce, carrots, New Zealand spinach, cauliflower, cabbage, dill, endive, escarole, onion, parsley, parsnip, potato, squash, tomato, pumpkin and celery.  With all of the different crops listed above, the lettuce and carrots are effected over other crops. 

Removing the infected plants is the most effective help control the disease along with growing less susceptible plants.  These plants include nicotiana, geraniums, salvia, cockscomb, portulaca, verbena and impatiens.   Remove weeds within the garden area.  Some weeds are symptom-less and can harbor the disease.  The leafhoppers will carry the disease for their lifetime.  The leafhoppers are difficult to manage in the home garden.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Squash Bugs They are back!



It does not seem to matter whether the temperatures are 95 degrees fahrenheit or 115 degrees fahrenheit since these pests hide under the base of the plant where it is shaded and cool.  Squash bugs do make their appearance as the warm temperatures of summer begin. 

The aduts are grayish in color.  The top picture is an adult squash bug measuring 11/16 of an inch.  The picture of the underside of the leaf is showing squash bug nymphs which are pale green.  Both suck sap from the stems and leaves.  This feeding leaves injuries which kill and collapse the tissues.  At first, this feeding causes a yellowing on the foliage which later turns brown.  Then the wilts and dies. 

These squash bugs are a member of the leaffooted bug family or Coreidae.  The members are moderate to large sized with a prominent head possessing piercing-sucking mouthparts.  Most of the members have a pronounced flattening of the hind legs. With the exception of the squash bug, most members of this family feed on seeds primarily.   Squash bugs feed on curcurbit crops.

How do you control these pests?  Any pyrethroid insecticide should help control them.  If you do not have pets, then you can place Diatomaceous earth at the base of the plant.  Remove any debris that is under the plants. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cottonwood Shoot Blight

Description:

If you see new shoots which are blackened and curled to resemble a shepard's crook, these are the signs of shoot blight of cottonwoods, aspens and poplars.  The new leaves will develop irregular brown to black areas before they curl.  After the leaves are affected, then the fungus spreads down the new shoot causing cankers to create the shepard's crook.  The death of these new shoots causes distorted new growth.  Continued annual infections will continue to distort the growth and create a shrubby growth.

The spores of this fungus overwinters in fallen leaves.  Sometimes the spores can be blown in or during extended wet periods secondary infections can reach other parts of the tree because the rain.  High humidity is a favorable condition for this to take hold in limbs below 6 to 8 feet from ground level. 

Control: 

The best control is to rake leaves in the fall away from the cottonwood, aspen or poplar. The uninfected growth becomes more resistant to the disease as the season progresses.  Prune infected shoots in dry, warm weather.  Apply sulfur in wet weather and with temperature < 60 degrees F.



Elm Fungicide

American Liberty Elm, Holyoke, Colorado


For all those with American Elms, you know that in 1983 DuPont Company appointed Elm Research Institute the sole distributor of Elm Fungicide.  This fungicide is said to be 95% effective when used as an annual treatment.  This chemical is the same as Lignasan BLP or methyl 2-benzimidazolecarbamate phosphate.  The Elm Research Institute states that the phosphate portion of this chemical is a source of nutrient for the elms.  They also state that this chemical in non-toxic.


Since 1975, there are over 100,000 American Elms doing well in this country because of annual treatments with Elm Fungicide.  If you recently purchased an American Liberty Elm, the Elm Research Institute recommends that you treat the tree annually. It already is highly resistant to Dutch Elm Disease.  The Institute states this will further insure the tree against infection.  They recommend doing so when the tree reaches a 5 to 6 inch diameter at a one foot distance above ground.  The best time to apply the fungicide is immediately after it leafs out each Spring.

Burlington Community Garden

Come and visit.  Raised beds are a great way to start early and continue late into the season.


Buckets and used tires can also be raised beds.  A great way to recycle.

Here is a way to really conserve water.

Join us.  Contact Linda Langelo at (970)854-3616 at Phillips County Extension.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Water is our most precious commodity.

What does water do for us and our plants??? 
 
Water serves as the primary component of photosynthesis and transpiration.  In other words, without water, plants would not take sunlight and make it into sugars and starches and feed themselves.  If plants do not feed themselves, we in turn do not have any food supply, along with our animals and livestock.

Water serves as a solvent to move minerals from the soil to the plant.  Water is the only universal solvent because it dissolves more substances than any liquid.  Water moves chemicals, minerals and nutrients whether in plants or humans or other organisms.

In plants, water is 90% of the weight of a plant.  In humans, water is 60% of a human body's weight.

Can we live without water?  NO.

Can we produce water --- clear, pure water found in nature?  NO.

When environmental drought situations occur, if we cannot live without water and we cannot produce water, then we need to think about conserving water.    Water is the essence of all life.

When extreme droughts occur year after year with no or below average percipitation, then we need to change our thinking about the plants in our landscapes and the crops we grow.  Here are suggestions:

  • Grow plants within their native range.
  • Plant drought tolerant plants
  • Know their water requirements
  • Know their soil requirements
We all have plants that we have that are our favorites.  We want them in our gardens and landscapes knowing their requirements do not match their requirements.  We think we can keep them healthy and alive.  But eventually, they die.  Some will adapt for awhile.  Plants can tolerate a situation for a time. 

Our native environment has its own beauty.  Enhancing that native environment with other plants that need more than what the environment can give, this is a recipe for disaster.  If you are new to Colorado or are looking to make changes in your landscape check out http://plantselect.org.  These plants do not require lots of fertilzer or pesticides or tremendous care.  They are lower maintenance.  Some require supplemental water in extended dry periods.  Some are totally xeric.  You can also find information at Colorado State University Extension Fact Sheets.  There are fact sheets on native plants for the landscape.  These include shrubs, trees and perennials.  Happy plant hunting.  But remember, conserve our water for it is the essence of all life. 

Oak Tatter or Not?

Oak tatter deforms the leaves so that most of the leaf tissue which should be present but isn't.  The leaf tissue becomes very thin along the major veins of the leaves.  The picture above shows a distortion along the major vein in the leaf.  But the leaf is not thin or missing tissue along the major veins.  Pictures above taken by Linda Langelo, CSU Horticulture Program Associate.  Compare to the picture below which is a picture of Oak tatter:

The overall appearance of the crown or top of the tree's limbs will be a lacy appearance.  Pictures from ISU Plant Disease Clinic.

According to Iowa State Universtiy, this disease does not  appear to be related to disease or insect activity, but a physiological deformity caused by adverse environmental circumstances.  The oak tree will recover in time.  This is a foliage problem of recent years.  The problem can happen with low temperatures when buds are developing.  Wind injury can also be a factor at that time.

The final result of the deformity of the first set of pictures is herbicide damage. 

Flea Beetles are out and about!


These insects create a shothole by chewing small holes in the leaves of many different plants.  Their first choice are vegetable crops, then flowers, shrubs and trees.  Though there are many species of flea beetles each species has a specific preference for a different type of plant.  Some flea beetles prefer broccoli and cabbage.  Other flea beetles prefer potatoes and tomatoes.  Above picture can be found at http://insects.about.com .

The adults spend the winter in the ground.  They use protected sites as well as hide under leaves.  The adults are attracted to their host plants by chemicals the plants produce.  The adults will feed over several weeks and then lay eggs around the base of plants.  Once the larvae appear the feeding continues.  The larvae will attack small roots and root hairs.  So watch for these little pests as the weather warms in midspring.  

After the larvae complete their stage in about a month, they pupate.  When these adults emerge from the soil, then we have a second generation of flea beetles in one season.   For all the "shotholing" that
these beetles do on plant leaves, they only effect vegetable plant yields when they  destroy about 10 to 20 percent of the leaf surface.  Repeated attacts can kill plants.  Ornamental plants, edible greens, young seedlings and potatoes can benefit from treatment.

There are various ways of managing flea beetles.  Row covers or screening are good to decrease numbers.  Vacuuming the plants frequently can help control numbers.  Insecticides that are useful are spinosad, permethrin and bifenthrin.  Diatomaceous earth is an effective repellent, but not to be used if you have pets.

So watch for these pests.   They jump like a flea when they are disturbed, but look like a beetle.  Go to Colorado State Universtiy Extension Fact Sheet 5.592 Flea Beetles for more information.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Earth Kind Roses



Earth Kind roses are aptly named.  They are kind to the earth.  The picture above features Carefree Beauty. Texas Agri Life Extension Service states this is a designation given for roses demonstrating superior pest tolerance and landscape performance.  This type of roses limit the amount of fertilizer, water and insecticides necessary to produce a beautiful healthy rose.

For a rose to be designated in this category, they are placed in a trial garden.  The roses are not treated with chemical fertilizers or pesticides and only when it is extremely dry do they receive any supplemental water from a drip system.

To date there are 21 varieties that are labeled as Earth-Kind.  They cover all categories of roses.  These include hybrid teas, floribundas, polyanthus and shrubs.

Listed below are five of the most adaptable Earth-Kind roses:

Sea foam            - rambler grows to 10'
Carefree Beauty - shrub that grows to 6' with pink flowers.
Perle d' Or          - polyantha
Belinda's Dream - shrub that is very vigorous with pink flowers.
Marie Daly          - dwarf shrub grows to 3' by 3' wide.

Texas A&M Agri Life Center puts the roses to the test for eight extensive years of field trial data and research.   Now six other universities have joined in the research.  These are Colorado State University, Iowa State, Kansas State, LSU, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska. 

The best cultural tips for keeping Earth-Kind roses healthy are planting them in a site with eight hours of sun, good air circulation and a foot of open soil all the way around their base.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Reveille versus Kentucky Blue Grass

Reveille is a cross between Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis) and Texas Native Bluegrass (Poa arachnifera) developed by a Dr. James Read of Texas A & M.

Some advantages to this new cross are as follows according to Tony Koski, CSU Turf Specialist:

  • the grass remains vigorous in growth with the warmth and heat of summer
  • better traffic tolerance because it maintains good growth during the heat of summer
  • deep, extensive root system which helps with drought resistance and recovery from foot traffic
  • extensive and rhizomatic system which allows this grass to be a better choice for traction in sports and to be mowed at a lower height than Kentucky Bluegrass in summer weather.
  • less irrigation required

Named varieties of the Hybrid Grass are as follows:

Spitfire (Seed Research of Oregon)

Reveille (Gardner Turfgrass)

Longhorn (Scotts Turf-Seed)

This Hybrid Grass will do well up to 9000 feet in altitude.

Please go to the following link for additional information:

http://csuturf.colostate.edu/Pages/Master_Gardener.htm

Monday, April 9, 2012

Participate in the Golden Plains Area Citizen Scientist

What is a citizen scientist? Science-based projects often begin with a question best answered by numerous observers. Some projects target a specific audience, such as a school group or a whole community, and evolve to meet that group’s needs. You, the volunteer or citizen who wish to join in collecting data get to be the scientist. You get a training session on the data which you will be asked to collect. The data you collect will help Colorado State University Extension gather more information about insects, plants and trees. In turn, you become educated on a science-based project.
In the Golden Plains Area, Extension is offering participation in three projects:
1) Monitoring the locations of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
2) Monitoring the locations in the five counties in the Golden Plains Area of walnut trees
3) Growing an heirloom variety of tomatoes and monitoring and recording weekly data
The first project, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is an insect of Asian origin that was accidentally introduced into North America. It has now spread over 20 states. Extension needs a handful of volunteers in each county wishing to help us monitor this pest. It has been spotted in Fort Collins this past year in October 2011. This insect can do damage to fruit crops and soybeans. According to Rutgers University in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland this insect has resulted in severe damage to apple and pear producers.
The second project, monitoring locations of walnut trees and monitoring for Thousand Cankers Black Walnut Disease. This involves a broader base of volunteers. If you own a walnut tree, we would like to know. You could help us monitor Thousand Cankers Black Walnut Disease. An insect called the walnut twig beetle tunnels into the bark of trees creating cankers. The cankers are caused by a fungus.
The third project, growing an heirloom variety of tomatoes requires a limited number of volunteers in each county. If you wish to participate, you will learn cultural information and what data to collect on a weekly basis.
For any of these projects, you do not need a computer to log-in the data on-line. Extension or other volunteers can help us add the data to a spreadsheet. If you wish to help in any of these capacities, we would welcome your interest, assistance and observations. The information collected will help Extension gather important data for our local area. This will be published in fact sheets and published in other publications. So, a citizen scientist is learning some aspect of science and volunteering as our area- wide eyes and hands with data collection. You are now a scientist. If you are interested in volunteering in any of these projects, please call the Phillips County Extension Office at (970)854-3616 and ask to speak with Linda Langelo.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Community Gardens




In Akron, Colorado the picture to the left shows the beginning of a community garden. The community players were people who work for the county, Colorado Master Gardeners, Washington County Connections, the local greenhouse and other community residents all came together to start implementing an old vacant lot. A run down building was taken down on this lot and the city needed to place a frost-free faucet on the lot for water.
All these community players came together to build a dream. This dream was to create access to fresh food for the seniors and low-income families, the Washington County Connection which is the local resource center and teach young children how to grow their own food.
In the picture to the left, this is the children's garden. Regularly, under the direction of the owner of the local greenhouse and a local Colorado Master Gardener children were educated on growing plants throughout the season.
The sections in this garden were kept in small managable squares of 4' x 4'. By keeping the spaces smaller the participants were not overwhelmed with gardening. The squares embrace the raised bed concept as well.
We were in cooperation with Kansas State University with a Brownfields Grant. We were scheduled for having field plots in this garden to test for levels of contaminants in the crops grown here. After the testing, we could not participate in the funding because the contaminant levels were within a safe range or below normal. Being a vacant lot with an old structure recently removed, sometimes contaminants such as lead can be found a above normal levels.
When starting a community garden, this is one of the things to bear in mind. Test the soil. You have a starting point with all your nutrients: nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus and the micro-nutrients. With a starting point, you know what needs to be added and how much needs to be added. Do soil testing every 5 years to keep a clear picture of understanding your soil composition.
Other than soil composition, what is the composition of the landscape within your community garden? What does it represent? The picture to the left demonstrates how participants bring their own creativity to the garden. This creativity builds a certain cultural dynamic within the community garden. In every garden having rules is necessary. A few rules to set parameters such as clean the tools before putting them back in the garden shed. Pick only what you can use for your family at one harvest. Rules for safety and consideration for others are important. You do not want your rules to stifle a creative and fun garden space.
The Akron community garden was started in 2010 and was filled with participants immediately. It is now a source of great pride for the town of Akron.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Phillips County Event Center Garden


In Holyoke, Colorado at the Phillips County Fairgrounds, there is a Plant Select demonstration garden outside the Phillips County Extension Office. This garden was funded by Colorado Garden Show, Inc. This is an educational garden that demonstrates to the public a variety of plants that do well in our landscapes.
Beyond the plant select plants in the garden there are herbs and host plants for butterflies as well as hummingbirds. The plants used in mass arrangements within the garden. Since this garden is located at the entrance to the Extension Office, we want the color and textures to draw people to our garden.
Other features have been added such as two birdbaths, benches and statues. Every plant is labeled. So if you ever travel to Holyoke, Colorado come visit our Plant Select garden.

Visit our Plant Select Gardens


Come and visit our Plant Select gardens if you are ever in Washington County and stop in the fairgrounds in Akron, Colorado.
What is a Plant Select garden? Plant Select is a cooperative program administered by Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University. The purpose of the program is to seek out, identify and distribute plants the best plants for our landscapes and gardens from the intermountain region to the high plains.
Throughout the state of Colorado there are several demonstration gardens like our demonstration gardens in Akron, Colorado. Each garden trials plants selected from a short list of 7 plants. These seven plants are selected by a committee. Each garden volunteer(s), Extension Agent or Colorado Master Gardener reports on how the plants performed each year. There is a comprehensive list of information from around the state on how a particular plant performed for that year.
Certain plants have become more popular because of this program. The yellow and purple ice plants have gained such popularity. Other plants such as Apache Plume have been a native to our landscape for years and now because of the exposure are being used in the landscape.
These plants are helping people lessen the amount they spend on water usage, fertilizers and pesticides. In doing so people contribute to a cleaner environment. The less fertilizer we use, the less nitrogen there is around to contribute to sewage and contaminate the water supply with nitrate. According to the United States Geological Survey too much nitrogen in the form of nitrates in drinking water is harmful to infants and young livestock. In infants it can cause blue baby syndrome because infants under 4 months do not have an enzyme to help with oxygen transport in the blood.
Overall, these plants lower the maintenance of a garden. Go to the website http://plantselect.org and view the wide range of perennials, annuals and woody plants there are to chose from for your landscape.
And the next time, you are in Akron, Colorado go over to the fairgrounds and view the gardens. All plants are labeled.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January is the time to sit back with all your catalogs and add plants that add flavor to your cooking: herbs. If you do not want a separate herb garden, then plan the herbs of your choice in areas where you have empty space. While doing this, keep in mind the requirement for caring for herbs is full-sun and well-drained soils. Herbs make good companion plants that contribute to the health and flavor of other plants as well as repel insects.

Once your herbs are planted, keep cutting them frequently in the first stage of their growth called the leaf stage. Harvesting herbs at the right stage is very important with a few exceptions. Picking your herbs at the leaf stage gives you the opportunity to capture optimal flavors. If you wait until the second stage of growth, the flowering stage, the leaves slow down or stop growing. Once the leaves slow, the taste changes and they can yellow. The tastes can change to grassy, woody and bitter. Who would want to eat herbs at this point? Flowers do have their purpose. At the flowering stage, some herbs are used as fragrant garnishes for salads or deserts.

What can herbs do for you besides add flavor to your food? Herbs are a natural food. Food that has nutrients, enzymes, proteins, vitamins and minerals which your body uses. Eat well and you have a better chance of staying well. So why not add herbs to your garden for fragrance and to enhance the flavor of the foods you love and add nutrients to your diet from a fresh food.

What herbs should you add to your garden? The kitchen herbs are the basic essential herbs for cooking. There are eight essential kitchens or culinary herbs: basil, coriander/cilantro, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme. Basil, cilantro and rosemary are all annuals. Mint, oregano, sage, tarragon and thyme are perennials.

Basil is an annual which you can easily reseed in the garden each year. It is a very aromatic herb which can be used as a culinary herb, condiment or spice. The best way to use basil is fresh, or if not fresh, then dried. During the growing season, it is important to keep basil watered on a regular basis. Basil is intolerant of water stress. It is also best to keep cutting basil. The first main cuts should remove up to half the stem. And keep pruning to keep the basil bushy. If you wish to plant basil in the vegetable garden, it will improve the flavor and growth of tomato plants. Repelling thrips, flies and mosquitoes, basil is also beneficial for peppers, oregano, asparagus and even petunias.

Coriander aka Chinese Parsley is often mistaken for parsley and easily reseeds itself each year in the garden. With this herb, Cilantro refers to the leaves and Coriander refers to the seeds of the plant. The leaves are best used fresh, added to the dish before serving. When the leaves are dried or frozen they spoil rapidly. The seeds are used in cooking as well. As a member of the carrot family, coriander using this in the vegetable garden to repel aphids, spider mites and potato beetles.

Mint is a perennial herb which can be very aggressive in the garden. Create an underground barrier or place the mint in an area where it can go wild. Some of the mints are hardy, such as peppermint which can grow in zone 3. Spearmint, on the other hand, tolerates the heat best in zone 11. Mint can be used in teas, with lamb, added to fruits such as berries and melons, and even vegetables such as beans, carrots, potatoes and peas. If you wish to use mint in the vegetable garden, you can use cuttings of the plant around any member of the brassica family which would be cabbage, cauliflower and kale. Mint deters a number of pests including cabbage moths, ants, rodents, flea beetles, fleas, aphids and improves the health of tomatoes and cabbage. The flowers of mint attract hover flies and predatory wasps.

Oregano is a perennial which can seed itself in your garden. The ideal soil is well-drained and slightly alkaline with full-sun exposure. Oregano is a slow grower. It is good to keep the soil free of weeds around the plant to help oregano get established. Like Basil, keeping the plants pruned will keep them bushy and full. If you wish to plant oregano amongst your vegetables, it is very versatile. It can be beneficial for most all crops, especially cabbage.

Rosemary is difficult to start from seed. It is best to take cuttings of this every year to keep inside for the winter. Rosemary will not tolerate our cold winter temperatures. A temperature of 30 degrees Fahrenheit is about the lowest temperature before the plants are damaged. Rosemary can be used to enhance any food. The key words are any food. Rosemary is often added to meats, but is equally great with salads and desserts. So add rosemary to lamb, veal, rabbit, poultry, fish, eggs, pickles, fruits, jellies, jams and cookies. If you wish to use rosemary in amongst your vegetable plants, they deter cabbage moths, bean beetles, and carrot flies. So place your rosemary next to cabbage, carrots, and beans.

Sage is another strongly flavored herb that is a perennial which requires slightly alkaline, well-drained soil and full-sun. Every spring sage needs to be pruned back. Take away half of each stem. This way it will retain a bushy habit. For its culinary uses, sage can be used in salads and omelets. Since sage is a rather strong flavored herb like rosemary, the best way to use it is lightly, if you have no experience with it. To use sage lightly, we need to use the younger leaves and sometimes you may want to use only 1/3 of the leaf. For those with experience in using sage, using the older leaves will bring its strongest flavor out in cooking. If you wish to plant it in the vegetable garden, sage deters cabbage moths, flea beetles, beetles and carrot flies. So plant it next to broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and carrots.

Tarragon is a perennial herb with an aromatic smell similar to anise. It is an herb that is difficult to grow from seed. It is best grown from a root division. If tarragon is not divided regularly, the roots can choke the itself out. Besides that, it thrives on neglect. Our climate of hot and dry in the summer is what tarragon prefers. Tarragon is one of the basic herbs used by the French in their cooking. Tarragon is used with chicken, fish, lasagna and eggs. The most interesting characteristic of tarragon is its scent and taste. Insects dislike both, so tarragon is used as a companion plant. Tarragon has the ability to enhance both flavor and growth of nearby vegetables in the garden.

Thyme is a perennial herb that can be picked at any time of the year, but as one of the exceptions, the best time is when it is in bloom. It prefers full-sun and well-drained soil. It can be easily started from seed, stem cuttings or division. Thyme is used in soups, sauces, poultry stuffing, fish and other meats. Thyme can be dried or frozen without damaging the quality of the herb. Thyme is said to deter cabbage worms, if you choose to use it as a companion with cabbage in the vegetable garden.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Heirloom Seed Saving

Do you save heirloom seed? Once upon a time, families saved seed because it was a way of life. Without doing so, the family would starve. There were no major seed companies distributing seed before industrialization came along. During the Dust Bowl, Russian immigrants came from their homeland with seeds sown in the lining of their clothes. Varieties from their country were grown here. They brought a wheat variety called Turkey Red Wheat. This is a hardy variety that is planted in the fall and harvested in the spring.

Today seed is grown and then saved in governmental and non-governmental seed banks throughout the world. Among the 1,460 seed banks in the world, one of the largest seed banks is Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa. From 13,000 members, they have 1 million varieties of seed. They have varieties of apples from the early 1900's. Since that day, we have lost in cultivation about 80% of the older varieties.


In Longyearbyen, Norway, deep in the Arctic Circle constructed beneath the permafrost sits the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is designed to withstand earthquakes and even a nuclear strike. It currently houses more than half a million seeds, many of which may survive as long as 2,000 years at the -18C temperature. It is operated like a safety deposit box, seeds are only available to be withdrawn by the country or institution that provided them.

U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Center for Genetic Resource Preservation in Fort Collins has their own seed bank ranked one of the top in the world. This seed bank houses the parents of all the hybridized seed of modern times. Additionally, there are about 40,000 new varieties added each year. Even native seeds are placed here from the Center for Plant Conservation from St. Louis, Missouri.

Why save the seed in the first place? Seed-physiology scientists believe that climatic changes due to global warming will wipe out about 40% the world's crops. The scientists will be able to pull from this huge seed bank to help breeders and researchers as they have in the past when a disease or drought or some other catastrophic issue destroyed a crop.

If you wish to learn more about saving your own seed from heirloom crops, Colorado State University Extension has an on-line fact sheet titled Seed Saving, numbered 7.602.

When saving seed from heirloom crops, here are some common sense tips:

Pick mature and disease free vegetables.
Dry at room temperature. Do not dry the seeds in or on paper towels.
Store in a cool, dry place. Temperatures are best kept below 50 degrees Fahrenheit but above freezing.
Store in a glass container or a white envelope.
Don't forget to date and label the envelope using pencil or permanent ink.
Keep good records of your seed saving.

Happy seed saving!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Labyrinths

What kind of a tool is a labyrinth? A labyrinth is a circuitous pathway. You enter and exit from the same point. The design of a labyrinth combines that of a circle and spiral. Throughout the ages, the labyrinth has been used for centering, healing and meditation.

There are many classical patterns of labyrinths. Read about the many different patterns by going The Labyrinth Society on-line to see photos and find more in-depth information.

Labyrinths serve to help with right and left brain functions. A labyrinth focuses on right brain tasks of intuition, creativity, imagery and solutions to problems. As the left brain functions focus on logical thinking and analysis.

While walking a classical labyrinth the movements required mediate the functions of the left and right brain and bring them into balance. One does not over-power the other. The left brain does not over analyze and the right brain does not get too emotional or over imaginative.

Many different people have used a labyrinth for grief, loss and letting go, morale building, team building, healing anger, violence, illness and lastly, celebration. What is it about this type of tool that can transform one's life? In the physical walking of these labyrinth patterns, it takes our minds out of ego into a relaxed state for both left and right brain. So overall, the two hemispheres of the brain work together. That is a true state of balance. When we become focused while walking through a labyrinth we come into present moment. At that point, our energy is focused and we begin to see things clearer in our objectivity. It is this objectivity that helps us gain balance.

Enjoy learning and creating your labyrinth.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Get Rid of Kitchen Waste: Vermicompost

Worms need food too. Want to get rid of your kitchen waste? The preferred worm for composting your entire kitchen waste is a brandling worm, Eisena foetida or a red wiggler Lumbricus rubellus.

Why not earthworms? Earthworms, Allolobophora caliginosa, like garden soil and spend their time at the bottom of compost pile, so they would not be the best benefit for composting. According to New Mexico University Extension, there can be up to 500,000 earthworms in an acre of land. These earthworms can recycle 5 tons of soil or more a year. That is what they do best.

Brandling and red wiggler worms eat compost and manure. This passes through their bodies and is excreted as castings or worm manure. These castings are organic material rich in nutrients.

How do you get started? You can use wood or plastic recycled containers or spend lots of money and get something fancy for the kitchen. The trick is that compost bins for kitchen waster should be no deeper than 8 to 12 inches. Red wigglers are surface feeders. When you go to add bedding and food wastes it packs down in bins which are deeper. This forces air out and creates an anaerobic condition which causes the bin to smell. You always want to keep it an aerobic condition with lots of air.

How big to make the bin? This is determined by the number of people in your family and how much food waste is produced every week. So the rule of thumb is to provide one square foot of surface area per pound of waste.

What types of materials can be used for a bin? Plastic or wood are good. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Wood is a better insulator if you are keeping the bin outside. Do not use redwood or other aromatic woods because they kill the worms.

Plastic can keep the compost too moist. It has no insulating properties. Plastic is easier to keep clean. It is also easy to create drainage and air holes in plastic as well as wood.

The air and drainage holes should be ¼ to ½ inch in diameter on the bottom and sides of the bin. Rest the bin on cinder blocks, brick or gravel in a tray underneath the bin to catch the drainage. You can purchase special plastic worm bins that have several layers with the bottom layer having a faucet that allows drainage into a container. The liquid being drained at first is excess water and compost tea, later as the food waste is being composted. This compost tea can be used on indoor plants or to fertilize any plants in your landscaping.

What can you use for bedding materials?

Shredded newspapers, envelopes, but remove the plastic windows, computer paper, or cardboard, shredded leaves, straw, hay or dead plants, sawdust, peat moss, compost or aged composted manure. Bedding material high in cellulose is best to use. These materials include plants and paper. These materials help aerate the environment for the worms.

How many worms do you need to add to the bin?

Two pounds of worms can recycle a pound of food waste in 24 hours. Just add the worms to the top of the prepared bin and they will make their way into the bedding. Cover the bin with a lid or burlap because worms do not like the light. They become paralyzed and can die.

What can I add to the bin for waste?

The worms can compost any type of shredded yard waste and many kinds of food: pulverized egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags, vegetable and fruit waste, grass clippings, manure and sewage sludge.

Do not add chemicals or insecticides of any kind. Do not add raw meat, bones, dairy products, garlic, onion or spicy foods. Do not add too much citric fruit as well.

It is best to use a food processor to break the food into smaller pieces and speed up the composting. Do not add food to the same place in the bin. Add food to different areas of the bin so it does not accumulate in one spot. In about 2 to 3 months the bedding material will be composted. At that time separate the composted material from any new material still in the bin. Move the composted material to one side, add fresh bedding material and wait until the worms move over to the new material then collect the composted material. Do make sure that food is covered over in the bedding material each time you add it. Otherwise, it will attract other insects and pests. Again, covering the bin with burlap and straw will help deter any pests.

What is the optimal temperature at which to keep the bin?

Bedding temperatures between 55 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit are the best. Keep the worms from freezing. Keep the worms from getting soaked by the rain if the bin is stored outside. The worms will drown. Covering the bin with straw in the winter or even in the summer is best to prevent the bedding material from drying out. If placing your bin in the garage or basement remember to keep it between those critical temperatures of 55 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.

How much will I reduce my family’s garbage by using a worm bin?

The Environmental Protection Agency states that on average most families throw away about 1.3 pounds daily. The challenge is to see how much you can reduce the garbage each week. Can your family get the garbage down to half a bag of trash? The biggest challenge will be what to do with all the plastic packaging. About 1/3 of all our packaging is plastic. If what you are throwing away is just all non recyclable plastic, you are doing a great job recycling and composting which in turn reduces your environmental footprint.