cattle.jpgPurchase hormone and antibiotic-free manure for a small donation to Project COPE.

This is a joint venture between Colorado Springs Utilities and Ranch Foods Direct to benefit Project COPE. Project COPE provides utilities payment assistance to families and individuals struggling financially due to a personal crisis or emergency. Project COPE is the only local organization that dedicates its entire funding to utilities payment assistance year-round.

Here are the pertinent details:

When: Sep 28, 2012 – 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. – while supplies last
Where: Summerland Gardens, 124 E. Cheyenne Rd, Colorado Springs, 80906 (map)
What: 75 tons of aged, antibiotic-free manure from Ranch Foods Direct and Callicrate Cattle Co.
Cost/Donation: $20 per half yard OR $5 for two bags. Cash, check, and credit cards accepted.

How: Bring a truck, trailer, bags, or five gallon buckets to get as little or as much as you would like.

Why: Organic manure, like the material found on Callicrate’s Kansas ranch, is an excellent addition to soils, providing the nutrients needed for healthy, sustainable gardens and landscapes. Manure increases the soil’s water-holding capacity and promotes healthy populations of soil-building microorganisms.

For more information (including reserving manure), visit

And for information on using manure in your garden, see Colorado State University Extension’s Garden Note #242: Using Manure in the Home Garden

Submitted by Carey Harrington, Certified Colorado Gardener

hail2013.jpgWelcome to our third annual hail post! Why bother writing about hail AGAIN? Well, interestingly, the way we try to work in our gardens after a major hail storm can vary depending on the timing of the storm – when, in the growing season, it occurs. Looking back, the 2011 hail post was written in early July; last year’s was in mid-June. And here we are, in late August 2013, just starting to toy with the idea that we might have escaped major hail this year. But no……

Parts of central Colorado Springs saw quite a bit of hail early last week (on Aug 12), leaving my garden with the tell-tale scent of shredded cilantro and mint, and then a very large, serious thunderstorm yesterday dropped hail as large as golfballs in neighborhoods to the north (my garden, luckily, was spared). And in between those two dates, many smaller storms dropped hail over several places in Colorado Springs. (more…)


Dead green ash trees (July 2013)

All through our (usually) dry winters, we’ve been beating the drum to get people to winter water their turf AND their trees. With our ongoing drought and irrigation restrictions, we find ourselves in the surprising position of having to remind people to “summer water” their trees.

Most of the trees in our area have been introduced and can have a tough time thriving even when we are not in drought. After several consecutive years of drought, super late hard freezes this year, and watering restrictions, our trees are having a tougher time than ever surviving. Many trees that have been on the edge of survival for the past few years have finally died this year and others are very close (like those trees in the downtown medians with about a quarter of their normal leaf cover). (more…)

sprinklertimer.jpgAutomatic sprinkler systems can make irrigating our landscapes (especially lawns) much easier, and they can also help us water more intelligently. In our area, we are usually encouraged to water lawns early in the morning or late at night. This is simple with a sprinkler system timer that can be set for any time of the day or night. Consistent watering is also important, especially during drought (a.k.a. now), and the timer easily takes of care of making sure your lawn is watered when you are away on vacation. In a previous post, I described rain sensors that can be added to your system so that it won’t run during or immediately after a storm. You can even find sprinkler controllers that incorporate weather sensors that turn the system off during high winds and incorporate local ET data to set sprinkler zone times. (more…)


New Landscape Fabric in a Tree Lawn

Homeowners are being sold acres and acres of landscape fabric in our area this spring. Maybe they are looking for an easy way to cover their landscape in a year with watering restrictions, figuring that a no-water-needed configuration of landscape fabric and mulch is the best alternative to turf. Or maybe they’ve just been fighting weeds in an area for so long that just covering it with something seems the ideal solution.

Landscape fabric comes in a seemingly endless variety of weights, thicknesses, and synthetic materials (mostly plastic). Sometimes it is called weed barrier or weed blocking fabric. After moving into my house over twenty years ago, I discovered what was probably the original “weed-blocking” fabric, a layer of black plastic bags under river rock in my tree lawn (the area between the sidewalk and street). Edges of the plastic showed between rocks, and big tall weeds thrived! Once we decided to remove the rock-and-plastic landscaping, just under the plastic we found a layer of roots from the green ash tree that lives in the tree lawn. The soil was bone dry, and the roots were doing their best to search for needed water. (more…)


Leafless Green Ash in Late May 2013

“What’s the deal with the trees this spring?!”

After the spring of 2012’s phenomenally warm temperatures and early leaves and blooms, you, like many, have probably been wondering about some of the still-leafless trees this late spring. Yes, the overly chilly temperatures have slowed some leafing down a bit, but there is more to the story than that.

You may have noticed some of our earliest leafing (and flowering) trees starting to do their thing in early-to-mid April. Then…duhn, duhn, DUH! We had (at least) three late hard freezes about a week apart in April. (more…)

Prunus virginiana_Chokecherry_LAH_003If I could create one perfect plant for the Pikes Peak region, what would it be like?

Of course, I’d want it to be attractive. It should adorn itself with cheerful spring flowers, good-looking foliage, and intense fall color. I’d add persistent fruit or berries to feed the birds and provide winter interest.

My perfect plant should be easy to grow; I’d want it to thrive in our native soils with little or no supplemental water. It must be hardy to at least 8,000 feet, and still handle summer heat waves.

I’d create a versatile plant that could be trained as either a medium-to-large shrub or small tree. Deer resistance would be a bonus. And I’d want it to be readily available from local garden centers (at a reasonable price).

Well, it seems that Somebody beat me to it. There is a perfect plant for this area—the common Chokecherry.


“Freckles” is an heirloom lettuce that performs well in the Pikes Peak region.

“Heirloom seeds are better, right?” It’s a question I hear a lot when I’m teaching classes on growing your own veggies. Just the term “heirloom” makes us think of precious family treasures, fine antiques. “Heirloom seeds” is a phrase that sells and many seed companies take full advantage of it.

Heirloom vegetables (or flowers) are varieties that have been in cultivation a long time—decades, if not centuries—and are still being grown today. They’re what your great grandmother would have sown in her garden. They’re the antiques of the gardening world.


Forsythia_DBG_2764Just when you don’t think you can stand another minute of bare branches or dead, brown-gray foliage, spring heralds its arrival in a burst of dazzling yellow. All over town, forsythias reassure us that the growing season has finally arrived.

Originally from eastern Asia, where they have been cultivated for centuries, forsythias were collected for western gardens in the early 1800s. Most current garden varieties are hybrids of two species, Forsythia suspensa and F. viridissima. The problem is that the resulting cultivars aren’t reliably hardy in much of Colorado.

Happily plant breeders have been hard at work. ‘Northern Gold’ and ‘Northern Sun’ are both the product of a cross that includes a very hardy (but not very showy) Korean species. The resulting bushes retain the spectacular floral display of their other parentage, and survive down to USDA zone 4, or even 3 with a thick mulch or good snow cover. That’s plenty of hardiness for the Front Range. ‘Meadowlark’ is another cultivar hardy to zone 4.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m sure it’s no surprise to any of you that we are in the midst of a severe drought (especially not if you’ve been reading this blog!). You may be surprised to find out that we are actually in a worse situation than we were before the 2002 growing season, the first time we had watering restrictions. But here is the scoop; we’ve had two consecutive years of severe drought and two consecutive years of low snowpack. This has left us with 1.5 years of “demand storage” in our reservoirs as of Feb 28 (and by “us,” I mean those who buy their water from Colorado Springs Utilities). The utility company likes to keep at least two years in storage, and they’re sure that if we have another summer similar to last year’s in precipitation levels and heat AND another winter with low snowpack, we will dip below one year’s storage if we don’t take action now. Hence they’re looking for all of us to use 30% less water outdoors than last year. So we will be operating under the stipulations of one of the drought stages outlined in the Water Shortage Ordinance, including water restrictions. (more…)