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Friday, November 27, 2015

Gardening with Larimer Master Gardeners, June 18

More Gardening Resources in Fort Collins and the Surrounding Vicinity
By: Susan Perry

Those of us gardeners who are fortunate enough to live in northern Colorado are surrounded by an abundance of gardening resources. Besides information from Colorado State University (CSU), we are fortunate to have additional resources in Fort Collins, Loveland and Berthoud. Among these are the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden at the City of Fort Collins building, the Gardens at Spring Creek, the Xeriscape Gardens at the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy in Berthoud, and the Jeff Peterson Xeriscape Garden in Loveland.

The Fort Collins Xeriscape Demonstration Garden was established in 1986 and is located at the City Hall Building at 300 LaPorte Avenue. It is open to the public year-round and brochures are available for those interested in self-guided tours. More than 100 plant species of turf, perennials, shrubs, and trees are located in the garden and are identified by water need: very low, low, and moderate. To view a list of plants growing there, visit php or simply take a quick tour the next time you are in Old Town.

A bit south of Old Town, the Gardens at Spring Creek (2145 Center Avenue) are located on 18 acres southwest of College and Prospect. This City of Fort Collins-owned facility is a joint public-private partnership that first broke ground in 2004, but today boasts a Plant Select® Demonstration Garden that includes more than 1,400 plants; a Xeric garden to showcase unique plants for tough conditions; the Garden of Eatin’—a vegetable, fruit, and herb garden; a rock garden; a small demonstration green roof; a children’s garden; a compost demonstration area; and community gardens. They offer a variety of educational opportunities, seminars, and events for both kids and adults. To get information about hours of operation, check php. When visiting, a donation is suggested to help defray costs.

The Jeff Peterson Xeriscape Garden in Loveland is located near First Street and Washington, near the heart of Loveland. First planted in 1995, there are almost 3500 plants representing approximately 100 species of bulbs, grasses (ornamental and turf), groundcovers, shrubs (deciduous and evergreen), trees, and vines. Open to the public, this garden focuses on educating the public about the seven principles of Xeriscape. Interpretive signs and a plant list available from the Parks and Recreation office in Loveland enable visitors to do a self-guided tour at their convenience. Additional information is available at

Finally, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy in Berthoud, located at 220 Water Avenue, has a Xeriscape demonstration garden that is open to the public during daylight hours from April through September. The gardens have more than 700 plants and 60 turf varieties that flourish in our unique Colorado climate. Five separate grass areas contain native and turf grasses, while the Xeriscape area has eight gardens displaying native, “Colorado-friendly,” and water-wise gardens. Nearby, one can see a weather station and soil/irrigation demonstration area, or visit the Colorado-Big Thompson Project Interpretive Area. Information for homeowners and landscape professionals gives tips on water-saving landscape design. Admission is free. More information is available at

While gardening in Colorado may be challenging for those new to the area, we are fortunate to have an abundance of resources available to provide information and examples of gardens that work in our tough climate. Without having to go too far afield, we can tap into the many resources available in our own backyard.

Gardening Tips
By: Sally Weisser

Tomatoes are one of the most popular plants for the home gardener. There are many types, varieties, shapes, sizes, colors and tastes of tomatoes. Below are some tips to growing the best tomatoes in your home garden:

If you prefer to buy your plants from a garden center, a large variety of plants is available. Some varieties that do well in Northern Colorado are Big Beef, Celebrity, Early Girl, and Medina. Be sure that the plant is in good condition with a straight stem, green leaves, absent of pests and has an overall healthy appearance

Before planting tomatoes, be sure to harden them off for outside conditions. This is done by keeping plants indoors and bringing them out in the sun for short periods. The time can increase daily until the plants do not burn from the summer sun. This can take a week to ten days. Plant tomatoes after the danger of frost has passed and nighttime temperatures are above 50 degrees.

Tomatoes have a deep root system and like amended rich, loose garden soil. Be sure to leave enough room between plants for air circulation. Plant tomatoes where they can receive five to six hours of sunlight a day.

Use tomato steaks or cages to support plants as they grow and bear fruit.

Place mulch (grass clippings, leaves, bark chips, etc.) around each tomato plant to maintain soil moisture.

Tomatoes can have problems as plants grow and mature. For healthy tomatoes, select disease‐resistant varieties, water consistently and evenly, apply fertilizer as needed, keep the garden clean and remove plant debris, eliminate competition of weeds and other garden plants, and rotate crops yearly.

If you should have problems with disease or pests with your plants, contact your local Extension office for assistance.

Last, but not least, enjoy the taste of those wonderful tomatoes!

Gardening Q&A
By Garth Bontrager

Question: I like to focus on a couple garden veggies each year. This year I would like a little information on cucumbers and summer squash. They are quick to mature, and can be prolific. They also take up a fair amount of space. How can I maximize my production from a few plants?

Answer: You are absolutely right about these plants maturing fast, most often 50-65 days after seed emergence. That makes them a great choice for gardeners above 5000 feet. These plants can mature in shorter seasons at higher altitudes. For extended harvests at any altitude, gardeners may want to consider starting seeds inside several weeks before transplanting. These heat-loving plants should be transplanted when the soil temperature at a 2-inch depth is 60 degrees. In addition, these plants do not like their roots disturbed, which makes transplanting difficult. Planting in peat cups, or pressed soil cups is best. Otherwise, be very careful if you choose to transplant. Stressed plants set out in cool weather can reduce yields and stunt growth, making the plant more susceptible to disease and pest infiltration. When seeding, it is just as important to choose warm days to seed, as cool moist soil can rot seed before it will germinate.

Planting in hills insures proper drainage for starts. Moist soil is necessary to start germination, but you can wait to water until you see the seeds germinate. As the plants get larger they will need more water. Remember, it is better to water once every few days with the proper amount of water then to water a little each day. It is common for plants to look wilted in the heat of the day and evening—but they probably do not need extra water. If plants look wilted in the morning, it is best to increase irrigation.

Cucumbers and squash are susceptible to aggravating attacks by insects and diseases. Properly identify what is attacking your plants before treating. Ask your local Extension office for help with identification. Once flowers are produced, it may take a few flowers before pollination actually occurs. Usually these plants produce some male flowers before the females. The fruit appears with female flowers. These plants rely mostly on honeybees to complete their pollination. Look for honeybees, and consider planting some flowers to attract the bees to your yard early and often.

Proper harvesting is essential to keeping your plant producing fruits. Summer squash are best harvested around 6” long and cucumbers between 6” and 8” long. If you don’t stay on top of harvesting, the plant may yield less fruit. To reduce the footprint of the cucumber vine, consider planting next to a fence, or installing a trellis for the plants to climb. This will save space, keep fruits off the ground and possibly make harvesting easier.

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

Larimer County Extension Service 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 cooperation between Colorado State University Extension, GreenCo and Denver Botanic Gardens.

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