June 2024


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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Gardening with The Masters


Things that go bump in the garden: Bats, snakes, and toads

Gardening Article

By: Kathie Hopkins

Colorado State University Extension Master Gardener in Larimer County

BAT4Bats: The often maligned bat is a gardener’s best friend! The North American bat species are nocturnal mammals that devour more bugs than birds and bug zappers combined, and they do not suck blood from animals or humans. They specifically search out night-flying insects, such as moths and mosquitoes and a bat will devour up to half its body weight in insects each night.

The bat is a timid creature that avoids human contact so you rarely bump against them in the garden, and it does not want to fly into your hair! Plus, bats have a lower incidence of rabies infection than other animals like skunks and raccoons. Although you should avoid contact with a bat that you believe is acting strangely and inform your local Humane Society of the behavior.

Another benefit of bats in the garden is their excrement, which is known as bat guano and is highly valued as an organic fertilizer. The bat guano has been analyzed and typically contains 10% nitrogen, 3% phosphorus, and 1% potassium, which is similar to the composition of packaged fertilizer.

The savvy gardener will make considerations to entice bats to the garden. Bats require food, water, and shelter to call your garden their home. And since the insects are already available, you can add some night-blooming flowers to augment the existing nectar and insects at night; and then see the bonus of another level of color in your garden. Some of the night-bloomers you might consider include the four-o’clock flowers, Nicotiana, datura, moonflower, evening primrose, and cleome.

The water source for bats may be anything from a simple bird bath to a pond or water fall; choose the design that fits your style and budget. Bats will find their own shelter around shutters or downspouts, and they will not chew a hole to get into the attic. They may also nest in a bat house which you can obtain at your local nursery or you may build your own. To build a bat house, use a rough, nontoxic wood (plywood or cedar works well) for easier access. The bat house should be at least 2 feet tall, 1 foot wide and 3 inches deep and should be mounted on a pole or building that is 10 to 15 feet above the ground in a sunny area so that heat is absorbed during the day. Information on building a bat house is at http://www.ext.colostate.edu/sam/wildlife.html

Snakes:There are approximately 25 species of snakes in Colorado and two of these are venomous, including the western rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) and the massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus). The massasauga is in the southeast part of Colorado, while the western rattlesnake is found in much of Colorado. The common garter snake (Thamnophil sirtalis) is nonvenomous and a bonus for the gardener. Information on identifying and managing snakes is available at http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/natres/06501.html

The ability to identify the type of snake will ease your mind when you bump across this guy in the cool, shady parts of the garden and then you can enjoy the benefits of a garter snake. The common garter snake eats huge amounts of insects, and also enjoys frogs, toads, fish, and earthworms. They come in a variety of colors and patterns and the common garter snake will have three long, horizontal stripes down the length of its body (they don’t have a rattle!). They are not poisonous, but may attempt to bite you if handled or frightened. Be aware of the type of snake you may see, and you will be more able to respect the garter snake as an ally for your garden.    Toads: The lowly toad is another beneficial creature which may surprise you and go bump in the garden. Toads are amphibious and require moisture to survive which may seem impossible in our high-desert environment. However, they gravitate to the area best suited for their needs and act as a natural prey on slugs, insects, and snails.          In order to attract toads to your garden, think of shelter, water, and avoiding chemicals in the yard. The shelter should offer some moisture such as under high tree roots or under loose rocks. And you can also create a toad house to make them more welcome. The water source may be a pond or shallow impression in a rock and some high grass near this water will also help shelter the toad. If you are interested in identifying toads, see http://ndis.nrel.colostate.edu/herpatlas/coherpatlas/cdow_herpetofaunal_atlas_species_toads.htm

Many gardening creatures such as the bat, garter snake, or toad may surprise you and go bump in the garden, but being aware of these visitors, and implementing the actions that will encourage their habitat in your garden will decrease some of those pesky insects.

Gardening Tips

By: Susan Roseveare

Colorado State University Extension Master Gardener in Larimer County

Ah, the first days of spring! My calendar says I can plant my peas, spinach, and lettuce St. Patrick’s Day. So I did. And I waited and I waited and nothing came up.   One month later (around mid-April), I replanted all my cool season crops and two weeks later they were up. I also started cucumbers and melons in my greenhouse the first of May. One month later they had their first true leaf. A couple weeks ago I threw some compost in my garden which included some melon seeds and they germinated within 10 days. What made the difference between my greenhouse and my garden?

Soil temperature is a huge factor in seed germination and something all gardeners should be aware of. The soil warmed up by at least 10 degrees between March 15 when I first planted and April 15 when I did the second planting. My soil was a bit cooler because I had a foot of mulch on it and hadn’t removed it before I planted the first crop.

Mulch is something you should add after planting, but it can also keep the soil abnormally cool after a long winter. Two weeks before planting, spread or remove the mulch. Raised beds also help elevate soil temperature. Refer to Colorado Master Gardener Garden Notes #143 for more information on the effects of soil temperature on seed germination at www.cmg.colostate.edu.

Gardening Q&As

By: Deana Wise

Colorado State University Extension Master Gardener in Larimer County

 Q: I am starting to see black spots and yellowing of the leaves on my roses. What should I do?

A: Due to the current wet weather we are experiencing this spring and early summer, your roses may be suffering from a disease aptly named black spot (Diplocarpon rosae). According to Wallis and Lewandowski in the Department of Pathology at Ohio State University, black spot is a common fungal disease that occurs on roses under warm, humid, wet conditions. Certain types of roses such as grandifloras, hybrid teas and miniatures are more susceptible while some of the shrub and Rugosa types have shown some resistance.

Black spot begins as dark, roughly circular spots on the upper side of the leaves. The leaves will turn yellow and eventually fall off. This weakens the rose and can affect flower production. Severe infestations can also affect petals, canes, fruit and petioles.

The fungus reproduces by spores, which on fallen leaves can splash up to contaminate new leaves and spread the disease. The spores can also be spread by wind. Wallis and Lewandowski state black spot spores can germinate and infect new leaves in as little as one day under ideal conditions. Symptoms will occur in four or five days and spores will be produced in 10 to 11 days. This life cycle will continue as long as the perfect conditions continue. Luckily for us, Colorado is a semi-arid state and these wet periods are not as prevalent as in other parts of the country.

Wallis and Lewandowski list several ways to manage this disease. When applying fungicides, read the label and follow the directions. These chemicals can cause plant stress and death if used incorrectly.

  • Avoid overhead irrigation, water in the morning and provide adequate air circulation to the plants by proper spacing and pruning.
  • Remove and dispose of infected leaves and canes as they occur (do not put infected plants in the compost bin; throw them in the trash). A thorough cleaning of all debris is also recommended in the fall. Spores will overwinter in fallen leaves and damaged canes.
  • Purchase black spot resistant roses whenever possible. A list of resistant roses can be found at http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/3000/pdf/3072.pdf.
  • Fungicide controls are effective if used in conjunction with proper sanitation practices. These chemicals prevent new spores from germinating on unaffected leaves; they will not protect already infected leaves. These fungicides will need to be reapplied every 7-10 days in rainy weather. Fungicides labeled for the control of black spot of rose include: Captan, Chlorothalonil (Ortho Garden Disease Control, Bonid Fung-onil Multipurpose Fungicide), Mancozeb, Myclobutanil (Spectracide Immunox Multipurpose Fungicide), Potassium bicarbonate (Bonide Remedy), Propiconazole (Bonide Infuse, Ferti-lome Systemic Fungicide), Thiophanate-methyl (Ferti-lome Halt Systemic Fungicide), Copper hydroxide (Hi-Yield Copper Fungicide), Copper salts (Bonide Liquid Copper Fungicide), Lime sulfur, neem oil and sulfur.

Black spot can be controlled on Colorado roses. Look for the symptoms, remove diseased leaves, treat with a fungicide if necessary and hope for sunny days.

The authors have received training through Colorado State University Extension’s Master Gardener program and are Master Gardener volunteer 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 in Larimer County, call (970) 498-6000 or visit www.larimer.org/ext

Looking for additional gardening information? Check out the CSU Extension Horticulture Agent blog at www.csuhort.blogspot.com for timely updates about gardening around the state.

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

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