Sustainable Landscaping

Happy New Gardening Year 2017

welcome-to-new-gardening-year

Welcome to 2017 and a brand new gardening year. What plans do you have for the coming season?

A snowy start to the new year is a good time to brew a cup of tea and spend a few minutes thinking about the garden. Perhaps some of my latest ideas will help inspire you:

This week I wrote about one of the newest trends in preserving the harvest, although it’s also one of the oldest. My post at VegetableGardener.com may help you find new ways to stick to this year’s resolutions or it might help you find new ways to prepare the next bumper crop of zucchini as you Resolve to Enjoy Fermented Vegetables in the New Year.

If you’re contemplating what to do with your winter landscape, this post on my Lowe’s Mountain Region blog gives tips for taking care of trees and perennials during the winter. In Winter Gardening Helps Protect Trees and Plants, I’ve also included ways to enjoy the beauty of your winter garden.

How to make aerated compost tea for your garden

compost for teaIf you’re a gardener who’s been conscientiously composting your kitchen waste and using the rich, crumbly material as a soil conditioner in your garden, it’s time to take your composting to the next level.

By mixing that earthy concoction with water and allowing it to steep, you can create a beneficial tea loaded with the nutrients that plants love.

Digging compost into flower and vegetable beds is an important part of any gardening program, but why stop at adding millions of beneficial bacteria to the soil when you add billions of bacteria instead?

The process of brewing compost into tea not only makes the organic matter more effective, but it improves its usefulness, too.

Compost tea can be used as both a foliar spray and a soil drench.

  • As a foliar spray, the tea’s soluble nutrients give the plant a healthy boost and help control plant diseases like black spot and early blight.

What’s so special about honeybees?

close up of a beeToday may be the official end to National Pollinator Week, but the work of bees — and gardeners — continues.

Please keep adding plants to your garden that attract bees with the nectar and pollen they need.

Stop using pesticides in your garden that can harm bees.

Register your pollinator garden with the Pollinator Partnership Network so we can reach 1 million gardens by 2016.

And while you’re at it, consider all the ways honeybees are special:

Bees evolved from wasps, but bees are chubbier and usually quite hairy.

All bees have some branched hairs on their bodies.

Cave paintings show that for thousands of years, people all over the world have risked physical harm in the pursuit of honey.

It’s safe to be around bees in the garden while they’re foraging for food.

Worker honey bees transform floral nectar into honey by adding enzymes and reducing the moisture.

Behold Some Important Facts About Bees

bumblebee on sunflowerI hope the idea of National Pollinator Week has inspired you to consider ways to help the pollinators in your garden. If you’re looking for even more inspiration, there’s a book I’d like to recommend to you. “Letters from the Hive: An Intimate History of Bees, Honey, and Humankind” is a book from Dr. Stephen Buchmann, an important member of the Pollinator Partnership. The book (Bantam, 2005) will give you new insight into the hive and the vital role bees play in our history, culture and kitchens.

I had the chance to interview Dr. Buchman in 2005 when his book was first released. This interview originally was published in The Denver Post newspaper at that time.

The most overworked and under-appreciated garden helper is the bee.

Like their human commuter counterparts, bees leave their nests early each morning to go to work. Their day is spent flying from flower to flower searching for nectar and pollen. At dusk they return home to rest before the start of another busy workday.

Moth emerges from garage, lives to tell about it

empty cocoon When John was trimming the red twig dogwood shrubs earlier this season, he found a cocoon clinging to one of the newly pruned branches.

The cocoon looked like a tightly wrapped bunch of leaves and it had some weight to it, too.

He left the cocoon, still attached to its branch on the patio table for me to find. To keep it from getting soaked in the daily deluges we experienced throughout May, I moved the cocoon and branch into the garage and left it on my workbench.

Then I promptly forgot about it.

That is until one day last week when he called me outside to see a moth that was lying on the ground.

“I was in the garage and felt something fluttering at my feet,” he said. “I saw this moth and moved it outside. I hope it’s okay.”

“It looks like it’s drying its wings,” I said. Then I took a few pictures and went back inside the house.

Solitary Bees Like These Simple Homes

homes for solitary beesThere’s no place like home for a solitary bee, or so the old saying should go.

While this week in June is set aside as National Pollinator Week, we really should celebrate pollinators every week of the year.

One way to celebrate is to invite bees into your yard with little bee houses.

The simple “insect hotels” in the picture are part of a display at the Denver Botanic Gardens. There’s a wide variety of found materials here — from bricks to dried bamboo stalks to grasses.

“Many of the more than 500 species of bees native to the region use cavities like these to build their solitary nests,” the signage explains.

The display at my house isn’t as elaborate, but I still have plenty of bees. Orchard mason bees are one of the solitary bees that are especially fond of my landscape.

These bees are smaller than honeybees and have a shiny bluish-black color.

Bats are Important Pollinators, too

two batsDuring National Pollinator Week, it’s important to celebrate all of our pollinators — including bats. If you’ve ever enjoyed a refreshing margarita, thank a bat. The blue agave plant, from which Tequila is derived, depends on bats as pollinators. Because bats are valuable, but often misunderstood, I thought I’d republish my bat article that originally ran in The Denver Post in 2005.

When Merlin Tuttle was growing up in Tennessee he made a remarkable discovery. The gray bats that resided in a nearby cave were migratory. His observations contradicted everything he had read about the bats.

“I got my parents to take me to the Smithsonian, where I politely informed leading authorities that I had found gray bats that seemed to migrate,” he recalled. “They were impressed with my observations, gave me several thousand bat bands and suggested I band them to see where they were going.”

The National Pollinator Network Needs Your Garden

bee on flowerPlant and bee counted!

We’re celebrating National Pollinator Week and need gardeners across the country to join in.

You don’t have to have a large garden; any size garden is an important part of the gardening network to help take care of pollinators like bees, butterflies, birds and even bats.

Every seed or  plant that helps feed our pollinators counts.

In fact, your garden can count even more toward the One Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.

By 2016 we hope there will be at least 1,000,000 pollinator gardens registered at the Pollinator Partnership website.

The One Million Pollinator Garden Challenge is the goal of the brand new National Pollinator Garden Network. The network is a collaboration between more than 20 different conservation organizations, gardening groups and seed companies.

One of the National Pollinator Garden Network organizations is one I’m very familiar with — the National Wildlife Federation. For more than a dozen years my landscape has maintained its status with the organization as a certified backyard habitat.

Plant for Pollinators During National Pollinator Week

swallowtail on zinniaHappy National Pollinator Week to you!

It’s time to celebrate all that pollinators do for gardeners by doing all we can for pollinators.

Insect pollinators, like honey bees and butterflies, do much of the important work in our gardens. They fertilize plants by feeding on or walking through flowers, moving pollen from one part of the plant to another.

It’s estimated that 80 percent of plant fertilization depends on pollinators. Without their help we wouldn’t have much in the way of the fine fruits and vegetables we grow in our gardens.

Pollinators need our help to stay healthy and active. Are the bees buzzing, butterflies floating, and hummingbirds darting from flower to flower in your garden? Whether on a tiny balcony, small patio or large backyard garden, you need to encourage activity by planting flowers that provide nectar and pollen all season, from early spring to first frost.

How to Transform a Landscape into a Xeriscape

frontyard xeriscapeAbout 16 years ago, after months of house hunting, the realtor stopped in front of a little ranch-style house and I instantly knew I was home. This one definitely had curb appeal and it spoke to me.

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.

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