Fall Gardening in the Grand Valley

Fall in the Grand Valley:  leaves turning, rabbit brush blooming, a few chilly nights. Apples have replaced peaches at farm stands. The Mesa has had its first dusting of snow.  Color Sunday has come and gone, and it’s time to prepare your gardens for winter and a strong start for next spring. Here’s your to do list for these last few warm days:

Your lawn. A healthy lawn is more resistant to disease and insects. Prepare it for winter survival, and a strong start next spring with Winterizer from Fertilome.

20161012_143419

Your veggie garden and other annual plants. Once frost has toasted your annuals, it’s time to pull them up. If you’ve had issues with disease or insects in those plants, bag them for the trash. Otherwise, they’re good to compost. Pulling dead plants out lessens the areas problem bugs have to overwinter. This is especially important for your squash plants—pulling and disposing of the dead plant material is the first step toward fewer squash bugs next season.

When veggie beds are cleaned of dead plant material, now is a great time to lay down a layer of compost and turn it in, or plant a cover crop, like winter rye. Veggies are heavy feeders, transferring soil nutrients to those peppers and tomatoes you’ve been enjoying. Amending your soil helps return nutrients to the soil as well as improving soil texture and water retention.

If you have ceramic glazed pottery, it’s a good idea to remove the soil, or move pot and soil to a place where they will not get wet. Wet soil freezes and thaws during the winter and can crack the glaze of your pretty pots.

20161012_163850

Many annual plants, such as marigolds, make seeds that can be collected when dry. Collect these, removing leaves and stems, and store them in labeled Ziploc bags in your fridge to plant next spring after frost danger has passed.

You can also save seed from heirloom tomatoes. There is a bit of a process to follow for success, but totally do-able. This video explains the process clearly.

Potted tropical plants, like hibiscus, jasmine, and geraniums can be brought inside for the winter. Before frost, check them for insects, and treat them with a systemic insecticide to be safe. When inside, place them in a bright sunny room, and water as needed, fertilizing once a month.

Dahlias, gladiolus and other tender, summer-flowering bulbs must be lifted out of the ground. Brush off excess soil and store in a cool, dark, dry place until next spring. Replant them when frost danger has passed.

Perennials. Unless you have perennials you keep in your garden to provide seeds, shelter for winter birds, or those you like for structure or interest in the winter garden, now is a good time to trim them back and prune out dead stems.

Fall planting. Fall’s cooler weather makes it a great time to plant! Trees, shrubs and roses are often found at sale prices. Be sure to amend the soil as you plant and use a root stimulator to encourage strong root growth prior to winter. It’s also a great time to plant perennials, pansies and spring-flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. Pansies often reseed themselves and sometimes will even survive the winter to provide color next spring. Salad greens and root crops can survive a light frost and extend your garden season, especially inside a cold frame.

20161012_14351820161012_143540

Weeds. Continue your weeding vigilance until they are well and truly dead. Weeds, unlike desirable plants, can tolerate a pretty hard frost. Weeding done now makes next spring’s weeding a bit easier. You might also consider putting down a preemergent and watering it in to smother weed seeds laying in wait in the soil.

20161012_163625

Leaves. Rake up leaves and compost or dispose of them, or use a mulching mower to chop them into tiny pieces. Leaving them on the lawn invites fungus and insects. This is the same reason to not use them to mulch your perennials. Leaves have a tendency to layer and pack down, holding in moisture that can rot a perennial.

Rain barrels. Now that Colorado allows for their use, keep in mind that they can split when they freeze. Empty them, clean them of any residual algae or mud, and store them for the winter.

Garden tools. Clean tools and apply a light layer of oil to prevent rust. Store them where you can find them easily next spring!

20161012_163427-2

Chemicals. Even organic gardeners have some sort of fertilizer and bug killer around. Most chemicals are good season to season if stored properly. Liquids must be prevented from freezing—freezing draws water out of the solution and will not properly go back into the solution when thawed, making your chemical ineffective. Dry or granular chemicals should be protected from moisture. Plastic bins work great for this. Be sure to leave all chemicals in their original containers.

20161012_16345620161012_163440

When the snow flies, you can sit back and enjoy, knowing your garden has been safely tucked in for the winter. Anticipate the next season by keeping track of what worked and didn’t this year and making plans for next season. Seed catalogs and a new gardening season will be here before you know it! Your friends at MGG will be here to help, starting in mid-March!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under amendments, General gardening, pests, soil

Create a Magical Birdbath Fairy Garden

Birdbaths just don’t last forever.  I inherited a very beautiful, and very heavy birdbath from friends a few years ago.  It had a teeny-tiny crack, which resulted in a teeny-tiny slow leak, but no biggie.  Once I had it wrangled into a location near a happy snow berry shrub, I knew it was there to stay.  Until this spring.  When I filled it with water and all the water just ran out the bottom.  The snow berry cheered–“extra water for me!”  I frowned and started thinking of how to save it.  Find a sealer?  Patch it with concrete?  Then while cruising Pinterest, the solution happened.  This birdbath, now with drainage, wanted to be a fairy garden.  Indeed, it’s never been more lovely.

20150502_124610

To get started, I piled some gravel in the bottom to assist in drainage, and then filled the bowl with good quality potting soil.  (I’m a huge fan of Happy Frog products, so I used Happy Frog Potting Soil.)

20150428_142904

20150428_143029

Then off to Mt. Garfield Greenhouse to collect plants.  I walked the aisles and tried to think like a fairy might.  Which flowers would fairies enjoy?  I ended up with a selection that included some penstemon, vinca, vinca vine, alyssum, scavola, and a pretty petunia.  I also collected a few other annual flowers for filling in.  I hate to not have enough and not be able to finish my projects.  I’m an immediate gratification sort of gardener.  20150502_114822

I got my pretty selections home, collected my fairies and fairy stuff from the house where they’d been over-wintering in my houseplants, and set up camp by the birdbath.  I have accumulated a nice collection of fairy stuff over the years.  This year adding a couple of fairies and my new favorite fairy accessory–the fairy hatch!  A tree trunk that opens up to reveal glittery spiral stairs!  Squeeee!

20150502_121153

I set the larger fairy structures in place and then arranged plants around them (still in their pots) to see what would fit and give me the magical little garden I was hoping for.  I left a space in the middle, thinking some sort of path should be there.  When I got the look I was after, I potted the plants in the bowl, filling in with my back-up plants to really fill it out.

20150502_114805

Then I placed the fairies and smaller accessories, and built a little garden path from pink shale borrowed from the rock expanses of my yard.  (I live in an area with very poor soil, so most of my “yard” is rocked.)  Some of the smaller accessories are purchased, but some are scavenged and “found” objects.  Add to your fairy garden by looking for shiny things that a fairy might find and bring home, pretty rocks, or maybe shells.  Use your imagination in their placement, creating their purpose.  A teepee stack of mulch chips could be a firepit.  A large shell filled with water could be a pond.

20150502_123157

I think my birdbath fairy garden turned out quite nicely.

20150502_121245

20150502_123429

20150502_123523

It was immediately visited by a hummingbird and a bumblebee.  A garden spider had taken up residence by the afternoon.

20150502_184805

The fairies are happy.

For more inspiration cruise our Fairy Gardens and Miniature Gardens board on Pinterest, and the Fairy Garden page on our website.

Leave a comment

Filed under fairy gardening, General gardening, soil

Gardening with Ollas

I, like most gardeners, like to try new things in my garden.  This year Mt. Garfield Greenhouse carried a new product that represented old-school technology–the Olla (pronounced oy-ya)–from Dripping Springs Ollas.  Ollas have been used by native cultures for decades as a way to farm crops in dry areas.  The idea is to bury an unglazed terra cotta vessel, fill it with water, and let that water move through the vessel into the soil to water plants around it.

I don’t have irrigation water, so I must use domestic water in order to garden.  My husband set up a mini-soaker hose system in our raised beds, operated on a timer to water the garden 3 days a week, once in the early morning, and again in the late evening.  The system works great to conserve water, and is enough for great plant growth and productivity.  However, in the scorching summer heat, the soil doesn’t stay as evenly moist as tomatoes would like, resulting in blossom end rot on the fruit.  This year, I wanted to see if ollas could help with maintaining soil moisture through the hot season.  So, at the start of the season, I purchased four ollas for the two 8×4 raised beds I planned for tomatoes this year–two ollas per bed.

I buried them up to their necks about a foot and a half in from the ends and centered from the sides, filled them with water and replaced their lids.

plant up to neck

Tomatoes and marigolds were planted around them.

plant around it

2 in a 4x8 garden

The hardest part about using ollas, was that my plants got so huge it was hard to find the ollas to fill them!  At the end of the season, I pulled the plants and uncovered the ollas.

uncover

Check out the roots growing around the neck of this olla–all the ollas had roots growing to them like this–the plants LOVED having this water source!

roots at top

Here’s a look at the roots surrounding the bottom of the olla.

roots at bottom

Roots had actually become attached to the ollas, and stayed on them after I pulled them out.

clinging roots

I let the ollas sun-dry on my deck for a few days, and I’m storing them in the garage for the winter to prevent freezing and cracking.

drying out

The result?  Blossom end rot almost non-existant!  Hurray!  I’m buying more ollas for the rest of my garden beds next spring.  Ollas help me keep soil moist and plants happy even on the hottest days.  I had a great tomato crop this year, with minimal loss due to blossom end rot–the only rot happened when the ollas dried out when I was out of town for a couple weeks.  Because my gardens are on a watering system, I filled the ollas every other week or so.  If you plan to use ollas as your only watering source–something that really works–you’ll need to fill them more often.  Soil composition and drainage as well as soil and air temperature will affect how often you’ll need to fill them.  Ollas can also be used in large container gardens!

See Mt. Garfield Greenhouse for ollas for YOUR gardens next spring!

5 Comments

Filed under drought, General gardening, soil, tomatoes, water-wise landscaping

Get Sprouting!

“Sprouts are one of the most complete and nutritional of all foods that exist. Sprouts are rich with vitamins, minerals, proteins, enzymes, bioflavonoids, antioxidants, phytoestrogens, glucosinolates and other phytochemicals.

Their nutritional value was discovered by the Chinese thousands of years ago. Sprouts are one of the most concentrated natural sources of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and amino acids(protein) known.”  (Source and specific nutritional charts for specific sprouts here.)

So, sprouts are good for you…AND they’re easy and fun to grow right on your kitchen counter!  New for this season, Mt. Garfield Greenhouse has sprouting seeds and a super easy-to-use sprouter from Botanical Interests.  Perhaps you’ve seen them, been interested, but were unsure how they work.  I bought a sprouter and seeds and took them home for a test-drive to share with you.

sprouter and seeds

First, disinfect the outside of your seeds with a bleach solution, as suggested on the back of the sprouting seeds packet, or use a solution of 2 TBSP cider vinegar in one cup of water.  Soak 1 TBSP of seed in the disinfecting solution for 10-15 minutes.  Drain and rinse until you no longer smell vinegar.  I used a “sprouting lid” from a set I’ve had since the 70s to rinse and drain the seeds.  (I know, former hippie.  Don’t judge.)  At this point, soak the seeds in plain water over night.

soak seed in vinegar solution

Drain the seeds and spread the them into the sections of the sprouter.  (The tiniest seeds wanted to stick in the jar and all over my fingers as I scraped them out–don’t worry if you don’t get them all in the sprouter.)  Place the lid on top and leave it on your counter top.  Rinse twice a day through the diffusing lid with the bottom off.  Replace the bottom and wait a little bit, then drain off the excess water.

spread rinsed seed in sprouter

all layers in

Two days later, your sprouts will look like this:

2 days later

After 4 days, like this:

4 days later

And after 6 days, you’ll have sprouts you can enjoy!

6 days later

I like to make these yummy pita sammiches with sprouts.  Just grab some sprouts and tear them out of the sprouter (the roots will have penetrated below each level), rinse off the seed coats and add to the sammich or salad or whatever you’d like!

rinse seed coats out

make a yummy sammich

The smaller sprouts (sandwich mix and radish for me) were ready before the bigger sprouts (peas and sunflower), So far, radish are my favorite.  I was hoping they’d show some color, and perhaps they would if I had them in brighter light.  But no matter–they were wonderfully spicy and yummy!  Perfect for the other flavors in the sammich!

Leave a comment

Filed under sprouting

Heidi Mae’s Garden: Late Winter, Early Spring

The Vernal Equinox is tomorrow, March 20, 2014.  Spring brings hope for a planting season to come, but here on the Western Slope, Winter hangs around in the shadows and promises at least a few more hard frosts and possible snow.  Still, warmer days invite a gardener outside.  Gardens can be cleaned of last year’s litter, soil can be turned and amended, perennials can be trimmed back, and you might be rewarded with a few slivers of green.

I went on a search for a bit of green earlier this week, and found cilantro had sprouted from last year’s seeds.

cilantro

Perennial herbs like tarragon, chives, garlic chives and parsley were peeking out.  Parsley is a biennial.  The first year it makes leaves, and in the second year, it will bloom this year, set seeds and die.  No amount of plucking off the bloom stems will stop it.

tarragon

chives

garlic chives

parsley

My rhubarb is looking great, strawberries overwintered really well this year, and the hops vine I had hoped to contain in a wooden planter (hops will NOT be contained!) is showing a few green tips.rhubarb

strawberry

hops

I’m looking forward to getting my beds amended and a few cool season crops like potatoes and peas planted in the next couple of weeks.  Mt. Garfield Greenhouse recently opened for the 2014 season.  Garden season is right around the corner!

Leave a comment

Filed under amendments, General gardening, vegetable gardening

Heidi Mae’s Garden: Harvest

Here we are mid September.  Where did the summer go?  This time of year I can barely keep up with the produce coming out of my garden.  I confess to a huge pile of zucchini and patty pan sitting on the counter and a big bag of beans in the fridge; waiting patiently to be dealt with.  So pretty though, right?!

baskets

bounty

Needless to say, I’ve been busy.  Tomatoes, including cherry tomatoes, are washed and frozen to make sauce later as soon as they are picked.  I have kept up (sort of) with basil; already making pesto for the winter.

pesto

I’ve already canned a batch of Dilly Beans with some of the beans and made a few batches of hummus.

dilly beans

I’ve roasted, steamed, peeled and frozen Big Jim chiles and poblanos.

roasting chiles

roasting poblanos

Peppers have been the star of my garden this year. I’ve made stuffed peppers a couple of times, and have otherwise kept up with them by leaving them in the garden until  need them.

valencia

peppers

Buttercups are starting to size up; I picked the first one last weekend.  They’ll keep for a bit, hopefully well after fall becomes winter.

buttercup

Thankfully, I’m staying ahead of squash bugs and horn worms, but a couple of my tomatoes caught a virus this year, cutting back my overall production there.  One was a Mortgage Lifter, the other a Cherokee Purple–both heirlooms and therefore a bit more susceptible to such things.  The fava bean experiment has ended.  Even after the construction of a shade structure and hand watering, they weren’t happy, refused to set and got black on the edges.  I admitted defeat and pulled them out.  My potatoes died back, so they’ve been dug as well, with a much happier outcome than the poor little favas!

I’m alternately dreading the impending frost (Still have lots of green tomatoes!) and kind of looking forward to it (kinda ready to be finished with the “putting up” part, what AM I going to do with all this squash?!).  I know I’ll miss having fresh veggies anytime I want them.  But, everything that gets canned and frozen now will bring happy memories and flavors of warmer days when the snow flies.  Fingers crossed for a late frost.  🙂

Previously,  in Heidi Mae’s Garden:

Getting Started

Sprouting

Goodbye Cool Season, Hello Warm Season

Bring on the Heat

Midsumer Fantabulosity

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under General gardening, pests, squash bugs, tomatoes, vegetable gardening

Heidi Mae’s Garden: Midsummer Fantabulosity

Monsoon season has given us a break from the 90s and 100s and the garden is lovin’ it!  It’s all about production right now; what all the work and care and squash bug hunting was hoping to achieve.  So lovely to head out in the cool of the morning, harvest basket in hand, and “shop” in the freshest produce market around.  I’ve been cooking with my fresh veggies, roasting, peeling and freezing green chiles and washing and freezing tomatoes to make pasta sauce later.

beans

beets

big bertha

roasting chiles

20130806_172418

20130805_114200

I talk to my plants as I harvest, tress up, and pluck bugs.  “Aren’t you beautiful!”  “Oh look at how much you’ve grown!”  “Why hello there, zucchini!”  I think they like it.  I don’t care if the neighbor kids catch me.  Not even worried that you think I’m crazy, because I bet at least some of you do the same thing.  🙂

Gardens are really, really pretty; overall and close up.  My garden tends to look a bit formal, being in raised beds.  However, you know how some plants can be, spreading their seeds everywhere.  I allow a few of those seeds to stay where they land.  The volunteer dill, hollyhock, marigolds, and sunflowers add a bit of wildness I like.  Here’s a little tour of my garden at the peak of its fantabulosity–Aug 7, 2013.  (Some of my squash are planted in between perennial in a different spot.)

garden 8-7-13

Aunt Ruby's German Greens

baby round zucchini

zucchini

basil

buttercup

coriander-cilantro seeds

dill

female patty pan flower

patty pan and male flower

patty pan jungle

grafted San Marzanos

hollyhocks and strawberries

marigolds

parsley

poblanos

royal burgundy beans

tomatillos

sunflower

How are your gardens?  What are you harvesting and enjoying right now?

Wanna see how this garden got started?  Check out other posts from Heidi Mae’s Garden:

Getting Started

Sprouting

Goodbye Cool Season, Hello Warm Season

Bring on the Heat

1 Comment

Filed under General gardening, vegetable gardening