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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Master Gardner: June 2015

Now is the Time for Perennials

By: Sally Weisser
Colorado State University Extension Master Gardener in Larimer County

Perennials are the mainstay of gardens everywhere and now is the perfect time to plant them. They are rewarding to grow, and unlike annuals, they return every year. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors with various foliage textures and colors. With some planning you can have beautiful color from spring into fall with some winter interest. Perennials can be planted anytime that the threat of frost has passed and a month before the first hard frost in the fall. Now is a perfect time to plant perennials into the landscape. Planting in May and June allows the plants to become well established before winter.

After you have chosen the site for your new perennial plantings, there are a number of things that must be considered before you begin planting. If this is a new bed, then you should check your soil for the need for soil amendments. Most Colorado soil will need organic amendment like compost, peat, and aged manure. The next step is plant selection. Decide on a color scheme. Pastels are cool and calming while bold colors can pop a landscape. Repeating a color in your landscape can pull your landscape together and add continuity. Some homeowners like to bring their inside house colors to the outside to have a complete palate of colors. Monochromatic landscapes can also have a big effect. Let your imagination and creativity be your guide.

In considering plant selection, check the tag for valuable information. Make sure the plant is hardy for your area. Generally the Fort Collins area is Zone 4, which has a minimum temperature of -20 F to -30 F. It is also helpful to choose plants that thrive in your region. Plant Select® is a collaborative program between Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens and The Green Industry of Colorado designed to seek and distribute the very best plants for Colorado and can be a valuable resource in your plant selection.

Another consideration is light exposure. A bed that is in full sun will get at least six hours of sun a day; a bed that receives part sun/part shade need at least four hours of direct sun a day. Light shade is the shade provided by a building or tree. Medium shade is under a tree that allows some light in and dark shade is under a dense tree that receives very little light. Your perennial planting bed may have one of these light exposures or a combination. Be sure to select the right plant for the right light exposure to ensure that the plant thrives.

Plants should be grouped into areas with the same irrigation requirements. Perennial beds usually need a separate irrigation system from the lawn irrigation system. A drip system or soaker hoses can supply a slow timed released amount of water. Organic mulch applied after planting will help maintain moisture in the soil longer and decrease watering times.

The plant tag will also tell you the bloom time of your plant. Choose plants that bloom in spring, some that bloom in the summer and some that bloom in the fall to have continuous color throughout the growing season. Also consider adding perennial grasses, flowering or evergreen shrubs, or trees to add texture and winter beauty to your landscape. Deadheading spent blooms on a regular basis can extend the bloom time of your plants. Plants that are deadheaded will continue to bloom through its season.

Be sure to consider the mature size of your plant when choosing plants for your landscape. The plant tag will describe the height and the width of the plant when it is fully grown. Be sure to space the plants according to mature size when placing them into the landscape. When you are selecting plants for your landscape, be sure to choose happy healthy plants. Avoid plants that are limp, spotted, have holes in the leaves, or have insects on them. If the plant is root bound, loosen the roots by scoring with a knife. Do not select plants with significant root issues.

Once your plants are in the ground and mulched, they should be fairly low maintenance. New plants will need to be watered more often than well-established plants. Keep your beds weed free so that your perennial roots are not competing with weeds for water and nutrients. Also consider garden art to enhance your perennial garden. A well placed birdbath, bird feeder, or garden chair can enhance the beauty of your garden. Enjoy your new area! For more information, visit the CSU Extension website at www.ext.colostate.edu and refer to Plant Talk scripts #1072 and #1602 and Fact Sheet #7.405.


Gardening Tips

By: Kim Richards
Colorado State University Extension Master Gardener in Larimer County

Mulching the vegetable garden can be very beneficial, and may reduce irrigation need by 50%. There are three ways to do this.

  1. Grass Clippings: A base layer of newspaper will help control the weeds, but is not necessary. Then add grass clippings in thin layers and allow them to dry out. Additional layers can be added weekly. Do not use grass clippings that have been treated with herbicides or pesticides in the past month.
  2. Black Plastic: Used for tomato, pepper, eggplant and melon crops in Colorado. Because it warms the soil, it isn’t recommended for other crops. Crops should be planted early so the plant growth shades the plastic before the summer heat arrives. Be careful not to over-irrigate crops since there isn’t any surface evaporation.
  3. Straw: It’s important to use weed free straw. It’s an excellent mulch for potatoes, eliminating the need for mounding.

As a note, do not use wood or bark chips in growing beds since they will interfere with future seedbed preparation. More detailed information is available from Colorado Master Gardener GardenNotes #715 at www.cmg.colostate.edu.


Gardening Q&As

By: Craig Seymour
Colorado State University Extension Master Gardener in Larimer County

One neighbor has tied the daffodil foliage into a knot and another has already cut them back. Which is the correct way to handle fall bulb foliage after they bloom?

DaffodillThe correct way is to leave the foliage of crocus, daffodils and tulips as is until it dies back on its own and then tidy up the garden. Fall planted bulbs use the stored energy in the bulb to emerge, form vegetation and flower in the spring. Once the flowers are spent they should be deadheaded so all the plants energy can be returned to the bulb. By interfering with natural food production the food reserves will be diminished reducing the bulbs vigor for next year. Refer to ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07410 for more information on fall bulbs.

I received a flowering miniature rose for Mother’s Day. It is no longer blooming and the leaves are yellowing and dropping. What can I do to save it?

If you look closely there are four to six plants in the small pot. Even with the best of care, it is doomed as an indoor plant. However miniature roses are very winter hardy, disease resistant and perform very well in the garden or planters. By separating the plants and placing them strategically in a flowerbed you can enjoy your miniature blooms for years to come outdoors.

Our bluegrass lawn is still very wet. When do I know when to turn on the sprinklers?

A simple home test is to push a six-inch long screwdriver blade into the lawn. It will only penetrate the soil to the level of soil moisture. Watering is required when the screwdriver only penetrates an inch or two. Another option is to follow the lawn watering guide published in area newspapers. Lawns are seldom uniform in retaining moisture so there are likely certain spots that will be drier and may need additional watering.

I would like to plant a tomato but those for sale are so tall. Can I still plant tomatoes?

Yes. Tomatoes prefer soils warmer than 60 degrees, so now is an ideal time to plant. Tomatoes are a unique plant in that the stems can sprout roots. To plant a tall tomato, other than those already in large pots, remove all the stems except the top leaf cluster and the next two lower stems and also remove any blossoms and fruits that have set. Next dig a hole deep enough so only the leaves are exposed or a shallower angled hole where the plant can be laid on its side with the top curving out of the soil. The tomato plant will adjust and you will be enjoying tomatoes this summer. For detailed instructions on growing tomatoes click on ext.colostate.edu/mg/717.

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 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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