Climate Change

The Xeric Transect is Where We Live, Work, Play

The theme for the 15th Annual Water Conservation and Xeriscape Conference is the “Land Use, Water Use Connection” and includes the transect from the natural environment to the urban environment.

The weather in Albuquerque is warmer than it was when we left Denver yesterday, but that’s not due to global warming or climate change. It’s always a bit warmer here in late February when the Xeriscape Council of New Mexico puts on its annual conference.

I look forward to this conference every year, not only to escape the chillier Denver weather, but to hear well-regarded experts talk about water issues. For the first time in several years, there seems to be more optimism in the tone of the presentations.

That’s not to say we aren’t still in the midst of a water crisis, but it just seems there’s more hope in working together to find solutions.

Plants, Sculpture Mingle at NC Botanic Gardens

These Happy Gardeners welcome visitors to the North Carolina Botanical Gardens at Chapel Hill.

happy-gardeners-blogEven though I’m back from my travels to North Carolina, I wanted to share a bit more of my trip because I visited so many wonderful public and private gardens and saw so many plants I’d never seen before.

We had but a short time at the North Carolina Botanical Gardens, part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

I only caught a glimpse of the the gardens’ new environmentally-sustainable visitor education center as the bus pulled into the parking lot.

It was then a mad dash to the gardens to see as much as possible in 40 minutes flat.

I’m afraid I didn’t get too far into the official collection of North Carolina native plants, because I was enjoying the herb garden too much.

Hail storms are another gardening challenge

A healthy garden can be destroyed by a hail storm in a matter of minutes.

storm-damage-blogThe thunderstorm last night in the Denver Metro area was a destructive one. High winds, drenching rain and hail destroyed the hopes of many gardeners who woke up to find their gardens in shreds.

I heard from one gardener this morning who told me the community garden she was working with in Lakewood was “completely destroyed last night in the hail storm…bad day in the neighborhood.”

This is another one of the challenges of gardening along the Front Range in Colorado. The eastern half of the state is especially prone to severe hail storms because of where the plains sit in relation to the Rocky Mountains and clashing wind currents from the east create a perfect thunderstorm.

How to tell good bugs from bad bugs

My copy of Good Bug Bad Bug has seen a lot of use in the garden.

good-bug-bad-bug-blogHave you ever wished you could tell the difference between insect heroes and insect villains in your garden?

There aren’t many gardeners I know that haven’t wanted a little extra help in identifying what’s nibbling on the roses or who’s causing damage to the broccoli. That’s why Jessica Walliser wrote her nifty field guide called Good Bug Bad Bug: Who’s Who, What they do, and How to Manage them Organically.

This book is especially helpful now that we’re seeing more than the usual suspects in the garden. Invasive insect species are spreading from their normal habitats and moving across the country so gardeners may not be familiar with some of these new pests.

Jessica’s book includes color pictures, on water-proof pages, that make it easy to take the guide into the garden for a better observation. Each insect labeled as a pest has a complete description, information on how to spot the damage and the plants they attack.

Gardeners and Rocky Mountain weather

June is known for its wild weather patterns from late frosts to thunderstorms and hail.

rocky-mountain-gardening-blogWhen he wrote “The Complete Guide to Rocky Mountain Gardening,” Herb Gundell knew from experience that “you can’t count on the weather, seasons or soils of the Rocky Mountain territory, so don’t let any weather changes take you by surprise.”

It could be a coincidence, but yesterday was the anniversary of one of the latest frosts in the Denver area. Imagine how gardeners coped with that in 1951.

Herb’s book was published in 1985, but it still serves as an excellent resource for how to garden in the Rocky Mountains. I like his common-sense approach to everything from the unpredictable weather, varying climates and growing seasons. His down-to-earth advice about improving poor-quality soil can make the difference between success and failure in the garden.

One of his Rocky Mountain tips is helpful today after an especially rainy day yesterday and a night so chilly the furnace kicked on:

Plant Irises for a Spring Garden Show

I think these irises are as beautiful as any orchid.

iris-blogIrises have been part of the landscape for so long it’s easy to take them for granted. Cultivated for hundreds of years, and a staple of grandma’s garden, the bearded iris is the perennial that keeps on giving.

These easy-to-grow plants are colorful, drought-friendly additions to any landscape. The plant’s upright leaves add vertical interest throughout the season and the flowers come in a dazzling array of colors, color combinations, shapes, sizes and bloom times. They also multiply each year.

Irises also serve many purposes in the landscape. Tall irises are traditionally planted along fences or in corners as specimen plants. But mixing heights and bloom times can add color to the garden throughout spring.

Irises can also fill in areas where it’s difficult to put other plants, like the edge of a sidewalk or along the driveway because they can take the heat.

My Garden is a Happy Home for Squirrels

A litter of four squirrels has found a happy home in my garden.

squirrel-kids-blogOne day John and I looked out the office window and saw a little squirrel head poking out of the opening of the wooden squirrel nesting box at the corner of the garden. Then another head poked through. And another. And then one more.

The squirrel box was one of the last projects my father-in-law made for me and he would be delighted to know that it’s made such a hospitable home for these four juvenile squirrels.

It’s so much fun to see them chase through the garden in the morning, jumping from the picket fence to the arbor and then playing hide-and-seek. We watch them from inside our house as they take turns at the squirrel feeder chomping furiously at sunflower seeds or hanging upside down at the “squirrel-proof” bird feeder. I love to watch them take long drinks at the birdbath.

Push Mowers make mowing Reel Fun

My lawn mower is quiet, easy to push and doesn’t pollute the air.

reel-mower-blogMore than 50 million Americans start their gasoline-powered lawn mowers each week to neatly clip their lawns. But they’re also polluting the air in the process.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says small lawn mower engines are big polluters. Most people don’t associate air pollution with mowing the lawn, yet emissions from lawn mowers, and other outdoor power equipment, are a significant source of pollution.

“Today’s small engines emit high levels of carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. They also emit pollutants that contribute to the formation of ozone.”

Last year we parked our gas guzzler and bought a mower that uses alternative sources of energy for mowing, like walking and pushing.

The push reel mower we selected is made by Sunlawn and I love it. It’s quiet, easy to push, does a nice job of cutting and is so safe the dog can be on the lawn while I’m mowing. Plus there’s no running to the gas station to fill the gas can.

CobraHead–My Favorite New Gardening Tool

The CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator is advertised as “the best tool in earth.”

cobrahead-weeder-blogThe Easter Bunny didn’t leave any chocolate eggs for me this year, but I didn’t care. Instead, I found a CobraHead in my Easter basket. After using it for the first time yesterday, I decided it’s my favorite new gardening tool.

I was dreading the chore of clearing one flower bed of the grass that had crept in among the Siberian Iris, Basket-of-Gold and other perennials. At one point I considered digging up the entire bed and replanting it.

But that seemed too drastic a measure and I didn’t want to expend that much time or energy. So, I picked up the CobraHead and went to work.  I dug through the soil, pulling the blade toward me and the grass came right up.

Tomatoes May Be Future Economic Indicator


Smart gardeners should plant extra tomatoes for canning or freezing this year.

I haven’t heard much about the continuing drought in California, but what happens there this year, will have a lot to do with the price of canned tomatoes next year. That’s why smart gardeners should add a few extra tomato plants to their gardens this season.

California has a $35 billion agriculture industry and consumers in the U.S. rely on the state for half of our fruits and vegetables–including tomatoes. The continuing drought may make it difficult to plant and grow tomatoes this season, which could lead to fewer and more expensive canned tomato products next year.

This is the third year in a row for California’s water woes which is causing produce problems. Without water farmers won’t be planting crops like tomatoes.

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