Timely Tips

CWC Garden

Master Gardeners provide useful information to help your gardening efforts all year long.

Spring Is In The Air!

Spring is almost here!  Daylight savings (6am becomes 7am) starts on Sunday, March 8th & the 1st day of Spring is Friday, March 20th.  Below, you will find reminders, tips, and useful links to help you prepare for emerging perennials, warmer weather, and sunsets on the deck.


Watering:  Due to our semi-arid climate, desiccating winds, intense sunshine, and extended periods without moisture, it is often necessary to water manually when your sprinklers are valved off.  Keep an eye on your trees, shrubs, perennials, and turf, especially those facing south.  If your soil is dry and the weather is nice, at least 40°F, then consider watering mid-day with a garden hose, soaker hose, sprinkler, pail, or watering can.  Click here to learn more about Winter Watering.

Garden Tools Maintenance:  This is a great time of year to inventory your garden tools.  Have you been good?  Are there any tools you wish you had?  Here is one of my favorites.  
If no shopping is required, you may still need to sharpen your tools.  You can do this yourself or take them to a professional.  The garden centers usually offer this service.  You can find a list of local garden centers below.

Lawn Maintenance:  Does your turf need help?  It may be time to aerate, overseed, and fertilize.  Learn how to renovate your lawn.

Pre-emergents:  Are you sick of weeding?  If you aren’t growing your plants from seed, then you may want to consider using a pre-emergent.  Pre-emergents are herbicides, so keep that in mind before you buy, and be sure to follow the label.  They inhibit, and mostly prevent, seeds from emerging.  March is a great time to scatter pre-emergent in your flower garden.  Your desired plants will thrive and your back will thank you.  Instead of gloves on your hands, you’ll have time. Time to sit back and enjoy your beautiful gardens.

Written by: Jaclyn Peterson, Douglas County Master Gardener

Meet the Natives

native flowerDo you enjoy the great outdoors?  Would you like to learn more about some native plants that call Douglas County home?  Here are a few to watch for between now & May.  I already found my 1st Spring Beauty on Sunday, February 8th.  It was on a south facing slope in Sedalia, just west of here, but still in Douglas County

Written by: Jaclynn Peterson, Douglas County Master Gardener

Fall Doesn’t Have to be the End of it All!

By: Susan Hardin, DC Master Gardener

Gardeners want to enjoy their passion as long as possible.  Looking for plants that give four seasons of interest can be difficult (but not impossible!)  Knowing when trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals or bulbs flower is important.  By doing a little research it is possible to ensure that there is always something to enjoy.  Blooms that catch the eye are not the only thing to consider though.  Think about interesting foliage color or texture as well. Even grasses, after they’ve put on their seed heads and changed color, can enhance the fall and winter garden by providing interest and structure with their bronzed glory and soft movement.

Sometimes, when the weather isn’t quite so hot, many wonderful and overlooked plants will peak.  Late-blooming bulbs will pop up with the gift of flower, perennials will provide color and nectar, plumes of ornamental grasses will sway in the breeze, and the fruit and berries from shrubs or trees will attract wildlife.  The book “The Garden in Winter” by Rosemary Verey may very well change the way one thinks about “off season” gardening. 

With the shift of adding edibles to the existing landscape, the growing and harvest season for vegetables can be extended.  If the garden is seen as an active system that provides and feeds in addition to looking good, that is a bonus!

So what could be planted?  Vegetables: cabbage, lettuce, radishes.  Bulbs: (need to be planted in the spring): dahlia, gladiolus, lily, and alliums.  Perennials: anemone, yarrow, lavender and catmint to name just a few.  Shrubs: Blue Mist Spirea, hydrangeas, Rose of Sharon, or Russian Sage.  Taller shrubs and trees: maples and sumacs add interesting fall color, leaf texture and shape.

Following are links to some Colorado State University horticulture resources that may be helpful:
Spring-Planted Bulbs, Corms and Roots: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07411.html
Vegetable Planting Guide: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/gardennotes/720.html
Your Autumn Garden: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/columngw/gr120811.html
Fall-blooming perennials: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/columngw/gr130907.html
Blooming color by season: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/color.pdf

Gardens are three-dimensional and that is one of the reasons that it is so rewarding and why trying to provide year-round interest can be complicated and demanding.  A garden is alive.  Just remember, that every moment of every day there are soft, subtle changes in the color on each leaf, petal, stem or trunk…make the most of it!

Russian Sage

By Kimberleigh Anders Douglas County Master Gardener

Russian Sage is an herbaceous perennial that grows extremely well in our Zone 4 climate.  Late summer and early fall are when Russian Sage is at its peak.  When the annuals are looking tired and it is time to deadhead the other perennials, Russian Sage will give your yard some bright lavender color and is attractive swaying in the breeze.  It can grow from 3-5 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide. I have some in my yard and yellow finches are frequent visitors (along with the bees!).  Excellent drainage and full sun are ideal, although very light shade is tolerated.

Russian Sage shows off well in a back border of flowers or a corner of the yard with a little breathing room, since its suckers spread outward from the perimeter of the plant.  One or two might be placed in a corner where they can grow into large clumps without interfering with other plants.

It is native to central Asia in an area that includes Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Tibet.

It attracts butterflies, is drought tolerant and dear resistant.  Prune Russian Sage back in the spring after new growth has emerged. Cut back to the lower three to four shoots to encourage more shoots to form from the base.

Vole Damage in the Lawn

By Kimberleigh Anders Douglas County Master Gardener

What are those pathways of dead grass in your lawn?  They weren’t there last summer and now are visible as the snow melts.  They are damage caused by voles.  Voles burrow through grass runways under the protection of the snow. The potential for the most damage coincides with the years of the heaviest snowfall.  The pathways run from burrow to burrow, but sometimes lead to trees where the voles cause damage by gnawing the bark off all around the base.  

They look similar to deer mice, but are stockier and short-tailed.  They are 4 to 8 inches long and vary in color from brown to gray.  They primarily remain underground, so the chance of actually seeing who is damaging your lawn is unlikely.  Voles are active day and night throughout the year and do not hibernate. They usually live between two and six months.

In the fall, the possibility for spring vole damage can be reduced by mowing closer to the ground right before you put your lawn mower away for the winter as voles tend to prefer long-grass habitats. In the spring when you are dismayed by the meandering lines of dead grass, the best action to take is rake, fertilize and water the area.  If this isn’t working, the population may be larger and needs further measures. 

According to the CSU Fact Sheet, methods that may be effective included - Capsaicin (Hot Sauce Animal Repellent, Miller Chemical and Fertilizer Corp.) is labeled to protect various woody plantings from voles. The following home made repellent has also proven to be quite effective in keeping most animals away from given areas and plants. It must be reapplied after three to five days.

Hot Pepper Repellent Recipe
• One chopped yellow onion
• One chopped jalapeno pepper
• One tablespoon cayenne pepper.

Boil ingredients for 20 minutes in two quarts of water. Let the solution cool and then strain through cheesecloth. You can apply this with a tank-type sprayer or a spray bottle.

Also trapping has known to be effective.  Use mouse snap traps to remove small populations of voles from lawns. Place traps perpendicular to runways with the trigger mechanism in the runway and bait the trap with small amounts of peanut butter or a mixture of peanut butter and rolled oats. Set traps in the fall before most damage occurs.

See http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/natres/06507.html for more information.

The appearance of vole damage is aggravating, but the repair to your lawn is usually attainable.  So as soon as the snow melts in the spring get out there and get rid of those rodents!

Hybrid Tea Rose Change Color?

Hybrid tea roses are the most popular garden rose and what is commonly used in florist bouquets.  Rose gardeners buy hybrid tea roses for their particular characteristics.    Color, fragrance, susceptibility to diseases and flower size can determine the selection.  It is disappointing to enjoy the perfectly selected rose for years and then one summer it may bloom a totally different blossom, almost always inferior.  The problem is not your gardening skills.  Most hybrid tea roses are grafted onto hardier stock roses.  When a hybrid tea rose begins flowering in a different color, the root stock has bloomed and not the grafted plant.  Any growth originating from below the graft, which is the bump on the stem, will be the root stock.  If it is vigorous, it can kill off the grafted plant.  At this point, the original grafted rose will not come back.  At times, the grafted cane blooms and the inferior root stock cane blooms also.  In this instance, find the main stem and carefully dig below the graft.  Carefully tear off, not prune, any suckers growing from below the graft, because pruning encourages growth.  This situation happens infrequently, but does explain why there is different rose blooming in your garden.

Kimberleigh Anders
CSU Douglas County Master Gardener

Pull Those Weeds in April

April is the 3rd snowiest month in Colorado.  However, it snows and then melts on balmy days frequently during the spring months and the ground doesn’t remain frozen.    If you are just itching to get into your garden, take advantage of a warm spring afternoon and do some weeding.  The ground should to be thawed, not frozen.  When the ground is moist, the roots pull out easily.  Of all the times to spend toiling over creeping weeds, it is more pleasant when you can’t do much else in the garden.   So lather on some sunscreen and head out into the sunshine!

Kimberleigh Anders
CSU Douglas County Master Gardener

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