Like many gardeners in a cold climate, I always have to start my tomato seeds indoors early each spring. I typically start in March if I want to have tomato plants ready for transplanting into the vegetable garden in May.
In more than 30 years of gardening, this year is the first time I’ve seen a tomato seed volunteer to sprout on its own in my garden. It must’ve been the warm temperatures starting around the end of February that signaled this little tomato seed to start growing.
To say I was surprised to see it so early in the season is an understatement. Tomatoes are tropical plants and they prefer to grow in hot weather. In fact, I have to wait until nighttime temperatures consistently hit the 55-degree mark before setting tomato transplants outside.
However this miracle tomato started growing in almost freezing temperatures without any kind of plant protection!
After the first 95-degree day, I noticed every squash plant had blossomed overnight. Each plant had several large squash blossoms, with plenty of buzzing bees, because they were so happy to get the kind of overnight heat they like.
Vegetable gardeners who have trouble growing in conventional in-ground vegetable beds, may want to give container gardening a try.
From my experience, vegetable gardeners have more control when gardening in containers — in spite of the weather.
This year’s container vegetable garden is about two weeks behind last year’s garden. In 2014 cherry tomatoes were ripe enough to eat in mid-July; this year, it was August First.
There were just two ripe-red tomatoes, but they were worth the wait.
The house was shaded by a large ash tree on one side of the yard and a small maple on the other. The lawn was lush and emerald green. In my excitement I failed to notice the yard had no sprinkler system.
I might as well confess, I’m a really lazy gardener, so I had no idea the amount of hose-dragging that lawn would need in order to stay green.
This is Colorado after all. Despite the amount of snow that falls in the mountains each winter, the state’s average annual precipitation is only 17 inches. That means we almost qualify as a desert. But with average precipitation, and a little irrigation, our lawns can be just as rich and thick as any to the east.
Have you ever wished for a simple solution for keeping gardens watered? Then Watering Rocks is for you.
Gardeners are always on the lookout for innovative solutions for ongoing gardening problems.
One of my top gardening issues is finding ways to get water to the plants in the dry corners of the garden without installing an irrigation system or adding a water connection in these out-of-the-way spots.
A portable watering system would be a perfect solution. Something that looked good in the garden, but would be able to handle watering chores during hot, dry summers.
Watering Rocks to the rescue.
I saw some of the first Watering Rocks at an industry trade show several years ago. That’s when I met Jim Whitis, a fellow gardener and inventor of this clever way to keep plants watered slowly over time. I immediately saw the potential for a simple, portable irrigation system that could be customized to fit any dry spot in the garden.
Attention, Gardeners! Science needs you to join the army of citizens advancing the body of scientific knowledge.
Citizen scientists are the extra eyes researchers need to help look for nine-spotted ladybugs, note the first tulips in spring or keep watch for endangered arboreal toads. They partner with scientists to provide valuable data that helps answer real-world questions.
Volunteers can join any number of organized efforts to use their backyard living laboratories to observe plants, insects, birds or other animals and report their findings. Researchers say citizen scientist initiatives help identify signs of climate change, track migrating species and monitor the health of animals and the environment.
Whether you prefer to watch birds or bees, monitor blooming plants or count the spots on ladybugs, there’s a science project waiting for you.
For example, citizen scientists in Boulder are helping real scientists at the University of Colorado gather data on bees for a program called “The Bees’ Needs.”
What if we had a drought and the lawn didn’t notice?
Because of the continuing drought, gardeners in the Denver metro area will have twice-a-week lawn watering restrictions starting April 1–no fooling.
Along with these restrictions will be higher water bills for using more water on other parts of the landscape, too.
I remember the summer of 2002 and how difficult it was to keep the garden going with limited irrigation. It was fortunate I had already removed a good deal of lawn the summer before, replacing with low-water perennial flowers, shrubs and bulbs.
I’ve dusted off some of the water conservation tactics I used the last time we had Stage 2 drought restrictions and plan to rely on them again this summer. Here are some of my top tips for gardening in a drought:
Happy Fourth Anniversary to WesternGardeners.com!
I wrote a short post about the predicted drought conditions in the West, with the headline: Warmer, Drier Forecast is Daunting!
It seems like I could have written that headline yesterday, too.
Over the last four years I’ve written a lot about conserving water in our landscapes from planting water-wise flowers, trees and shrubs, to ways to use water more efficiently in the garden.
Those tips are even more relevant today.
Of the 449 posts I’ve written, I’ve been surprised by the one that’s been most popular: my simple recipe for Pickled Jalapeno Peppers. That one post continues to draw hundreds of gardeners looking for ways to use their home-grown jalapenos.
The earliest blooming shrub in my yard is this cold-hardy Nanking cherry.
The same thing is happening in my backyard with a mini-version of the annual event.
The lovely white flowers on the Nanking cherry shrub burst open late last week, two weeks ahead of schedule.
In one way this early blooming is a good thing. I noticed quite a few honeybees enjoying this early-season source of food. I also appreciate being able to look out my office window and see something so beautiful where empty branches stood just a week ago.
But it’s a worry, too. Is this a warning signal about a warming climate?
These famous trees that line the Tidal Basin typically bloom from March 26 to April 10.
I stopped by on April 11 and almost all the blossoms were off the trees because of a big windstorm the previous weekend.
I’m glad I had the chance to have my own mini cherry blossom festival.
This year the trees have already bloomed–a full two weeks ahead of schedule.
Trees aren’t the first things you think of when you think about New Mexico, but Albuquerque’s urban forest is a important environmental tool.
Nick Kuhn, city forester, was one of the speakers at the New Mexico Xeriscape and Water Conservation Conference in Albuquerque last month. I guess it never occurred to me that cities in the southwest would need foresters, but by the time Nick finished his talk, I was a believer.
Nick explained that even the southwest needs an urban forest and street trees are valuable “solar-powered environmental tools.” Each tree is a natural resource for economic, social and environmental benefits.
However, in the city of Albuquerque many residents have stopped thinking of trees as an important part of the ecosystem equation. With water at a premium, and a big push to conserve it, many think that a treeless yard saves water. But nothing could be farther from the truth.