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Ornamental grasses flattened by heavy snow

You know those fabulous ornamental grasses we all plant for great winter interest? Well, this is just a friendly reminder that it’s time to cut them down so they can get going with this season’s growth. They’ll grow anyway if you don’t cut them down, but they sure won’t look too nice (surely you’ve seen those poor parking lot ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grasses that never get any attention after planting – getting shaggier and more dismal each year with green shoots pressing up through many years of dead leaves? Maybe if we all travelled with loppers in our cars, and we each agreed to cut down just one, we could make a difference!).

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Action shot! Giant sacaton halfway through cutting process.

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peas_packet.jpgA visiting friend from Nashville (recently upgraded from Zone 6 to Zone 7 on the new USDA hardiness map!) reminded me of how different spring planting can be all around the country. She’s been gardening for weeks back at home, while things are just barely getting going here. But this certainly is the time of year that people start to want to plant.

So, what can we plant? Here is an easy summary of spring vegetable planting dates in our Zone 5b Colorado Springs area based on information from Colorado State University Extension (those in Monument, Black Forest, etc may want to add a week or so): (more…)

wallowater.jpgYes, yes, we have now officially passed the (trumpet fanfare) “average last frost date” for our area – approximately May 15. I’ve been watching lots and lots of tomato plants leaving the big box gardening centers for the past several weeks. And Memorial Day weekend is probably the biggest week for garden centers everywhere – lots and lots more tomatoes and annuals will be heading out to home landscapes. (more…)

Amending vegetable bed

Q: As a new gardener, I find early spring overwhelming! What should I do to increase my chances of a successful garden this year?

A: I approach each spring with the desire to overcome last year’s gardening challenges, lay a perfect foundation for my new gardening efforts, and try a few new plants and landscaping ideas.

Laying the perfect foundation in any project is one of the most tedious parts of any project because it is usually unseen, but I vow that this year I want to approach it with a new enthusiasm. Last fall I cleaned all of my gardening tools and put the rust-susceptible ends of tools in buckets of sand laced with oil. During the winter I looked at catalogs chocked full of seeds, new plants, landscape paraphernalia and gardening tools.

Now, it’s time to do garden variety “spring cleaning’, a.k.a., laying the perfect foundation for a new garden. I know this can be accomplished in 10 easy steps, so here we go. (more…)

Do you love fresh spinach from the garden, but it gets too hot too soon and it bolts?  Growing Swiss chard in your garden is a wonderful alternative.  Though it is a cool season crop, unlike spinach, Swiss chard withstands higher temperatures and water shortages.  It is very nutritious, vitamin rich and very easy to grow.  It is not only great in your vegetable garden, but it can be used as an ornamental plant.

You can eat Swiss chard just like spinach.  Either in a fresh salad or cooked.

Like all vegetables Swiss Chard loves full sun, though it can tolerate some shade.  Additionally it prefers well-drained soil with lots of organic material, it does not like acid soil.  It tolerates infrequent water better than spinach, but performs and tastes better with regular watering. (more…)