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Friday, November 27, 2015

Gardening tips from Larimer County Master Gardeners

Gardening for all ages

By: Shari Thomas
Colorado State University Extension Master Gardener in Larimer County

Did you know that gardening is one of America’s favorite pastimes? Many people enjoy the benefits of being outside, growing their own food, and feeling a sense of accomplishment and purpose in their gardens. Gardening can also provide a way of socializing with others. Sometimes, however, gardeners experience physical or other challenges which limit their ability to pursue these activities. Karen Spencer, an Occupational Therapist at Colorado State University, recently held a workshop to discuss “strategies to enable gardeners of all ages and with all abilities” to pursue and enjoy their favorite pastime. These strategies are known as “Adapted Gardening. ”

Gardening is very physical. We bend, stoop, reach, lift and carry, using many parts of our bodies, and we are often outside in the elements. There may be specific individual conditions that affect someone’s ability to garden, such as an inability to stand or bend over for long periods. On the other hand, there may be characteristics of the physical environment that limit gardening — have you ever tried to dig a large hole in our hard-pack clay? Or found yourself suffering from too much sun? Generally, it is easier to change the characteristics of the physical environment to match the abilities of the gardener.

Consider building raised beds or containers/window boxes for an easier reach for someone gardening from a chair or stool. Wider walkways between beds would provide better access for a wheelchair or scooter. Maybe a partial sunshade would make being in the garden more comfortable. And don’t forget about tools. A wheelbarrow may be too big and unwieldy, but a bucket or canvas tote may be just right. Adapted gardening means the experience may happen in a new or modified way. It will help to be flexible and creative to find what works.

Before you make changes, make sure you understand the problem first and consider many solutions carefully before choosing one. Some very interesting new tools are available but may not be exactly what you need. By using adaptive gardening principles, nearly everyone can enjoy this favorite pastime. To see a nice example of an adapted garden, visit the garden adjacent to the Occupational Therapy building on the CSU oval.

Gardening Q&As

By: Garth Bontrager
Colorado State University Extension Master Gardener in Larimer County

Q: I just don’t have a green thumb. I have nice soil and I like planting a garden, but it never does very well. What advice do you have?

A: Gardening can be very therapeutic and relaxing. Even if the results are irregular we can enjoy the exercise and fresh air. However, great results are a benefit to make gardening more fun and rewarding. A green thumb can be learned! Here are a few vegetable tips to get you off to a good start.

Vegetables are often divided into groups. One group is called the hardy vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, onions, lettuce, peas, radish, spinach and turnips. These veggies grow even when temperatures are in the 40s, so they have a long growing season. They will even tolerate a light frost. Semi-hardy plants like carrots, beets, parsnips, potatoes and chard can grow when temperatures hover a little below 50 degrees, but are less tolerant of frost. The “tenders” are warm season plants. These crops need warm and even hot temperatures to thrive. Vegetables and fruits such as beans, corn, cucumbers and summer squash need temperatures above 60 degrees. Crops such as cantaloupe, eggplant, peppers, pumpkins and winter squash, tomatoes and watermelons not only need temperatures 70-95 degrees, but are intolerant of cool winds which can stunt their growth.

Make sure to take the soil temperature at 4 inches deep (6 inches for beans) at 8 a.m. before you plant seeds. Germination temperatures are very important to determine the right time to plant. Something to consider with those hardy and semi-hardy plants is a mulch to keep the temperatures cool. You could also side-dress with thin layers of untreated lawn clippings or covered newspapers. Heat-loving plants like black plastic along roots to warm the soil. Both mulches serve the dual purposes of keeping moisture in and weeds out.

A few more tips: beans must have lots of water when flowering and fruiting—1/4 to ½ inch per day! Beans don’t like too much nitrogen either, unlike potatoes which thrive with some extra nitrogen, and potassium and phosphorus—especially later in the year. Root vegetables need aged organic compost and lots of organic matter in their soil. Also, as their shoulders become exposed they will need mulch to protect them from the sun, or mound a little soil. Leafy vegetables are a lot of fun, too. They need 1-1 ½ inches of water per week, but thin them as you harvest to create more space between plants. You can plant batches of greens in spring, summer and fall for continuous harvesting. Mulch fall seedlings with thick layers of organic mulch like leaves or straw to over winter them.

There’s plenty more information on the CSU Extension website to help you with your yard and garden; visit

Gardening Tips

By: Sally Weisser
Colorado State University Extension Master Gardener in Larimer County For publication: May 15, 2010

Roses are beautiful and elegant flowers that can grow in most Colorado communities with a little care and planning. Follow these five tips for growing roses.

1. Purchase cold hardy, disease resistant varieties. Roses are sold in nursery and garden centers, retail departments and even grocery stores. Mail order companies usually sell bare root plants that are planted in the early spring. Potted roses can be planted any time after the last killing frost of the season.

2. Select a site that gets at lease six hours of sunshine and has good air circulation. It is important to select a site that has wind protection, as we all know that the wind in Larimer County can be fierce. The site should also have good drainage and plenty of room for the roots to grow, without competing for space from other tree and shrub roots.

3. Plant potted roses in well drained, composted soil in a hole that can accommodate the root system, usually about 18 inches wide and 12 inches deep, depending on the size of the container. Remove the plant from the pot carefully and place in the hole with the bud union at or slightly below ground level. Cover the plant with loose, loamy, moist soil and top off with 3 to 4 inches of mulch that does not touch the plant.

4. Water roses deeply once a week (twice a week in the heat of the summer) and fertilize twice a year. Fertilize roses when new growth appears in the spring; not when the plants are dormant. Fertilize again at peak bloom. Do not fertilize too close to fall, as this does not give the plant time to harden off growth for winter.

5. Prune roses in the spring when buds first start to appear on the canes. Remove dead and blacken canes back to green wood with clean cuts, leaving the canes eight to ten inches tall. Because winters can be severe, canes can be even as short as 2 to 3 inches.

Roses can be relatively easy to grow if you do not let their reputation intimidate you. More people are growing roses in their landscapes. Most importantly, enjoy your rose garden and the fruits of your labor indoors.

The authors have received training through Colorado State University Extension’s Master Gardener program and are Master Gardener volunteers for Larimer County.

Larimer County is a county-based outreach of Colorado State University Extension providing information you can trust to deal with current issues in agriculture, horticulture, nutrition and food safety, 4-H, small acreage, money management and parenting. For more information about CSU Extension, Larimer County, telephone (970) 498-6000 or visit .

Visit PlantTalk Colorado ™ for fast answers to your gardening questions! PlantTalk is a cooperative venture between Colorado State University Extension, GreenCo and Denver Botanic Gardens.

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