Sustainable Landscaping

Time to Celebrate Pollinator Week

Happy Pollinator Week to gardeners everywhere!

When you’re in the garden this week, be sure to thank a bee. That’s what Pollinator Week is all about.

The third week in June is designated as National Pollinator Week and there are celebrations planned from coast to coast to raise awareness of the valuable contribution provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats, and beetles.

Pollinators are responsible for one out of every three bites of food that we eat.

In the U.S. bees alone undertake the astounding task of pollinating over $15 billion in added crop value, particularly for specialty crops such as almonds and other nuts, berries, fruits, and vegetables.

In northern Colorado, the Colorado State Beekeepers Association, Northern Colorado Beekeepers Association, Boulder County Beekeepers Association and BBB Seed Company are partnering with 16 nurseries, garden centers, and stores for a special event on Saturday, June 23, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Six Tips for Organic Lawn Care

It’s time to take the safe lawns pledge.

That lush green lawn that looks so natural is kept that way unnaturally because of a diet of synthetic chemical fertilizers and toxic herbicides.

This year, instead of taking care of the lawn in the conventional way, gardeners should challenge themselves to use fewer chemicals in their landscapes and take an organic approach to lawn care. Instead of feeding the grass, ask “What can I do to feed the soil?”

Building healthy soil is the goal of an organic lawn. Synthetic chemical fertilizers may make the lawn look green and healthy, but chemicals don’t help the soil or feed the beneficial organisms that live there.

Here are six ways to get started on an organic lawn care program:

1. Loosen the soil. Core aerate your lawn at least once a year. Aeration is the mechanical process of pulling small cores of soil out of the ground. Opening up the soil surface allows water and important nutrients to move into the root zone. Core aerate with equipment that pulls plugs three or four inches deep on four-inch centers.

Gardening on the Cheap in Cheyenne

A big thank you to the Laramie County Master Gardeners in Cheyenne, Wyo., for the fabulous Western hospitality they showed us during our recent trip there. John and I had a wonderful time getting to know our new friends to the north–just 90 minutes from Denver.

The group invited me to visit on April 21 and present my “Gardening on the Cheap” program at the beautiful new public library. I enjoyed getting the chance to share my 10 tips for being a cheerful cheapskate in the garden. The other frugal gardeners in the audience shared their tips and asked some really great questions, too.

We were impressed by all the nice folks we met in Cheyenne, but I can’t thank Roberta Bolton enough for making all the arrangements for our visit. Even though we could’ve driven home that evening, she helped turn a one-day trip into a two-day stay…

High Style Birdhouses for Gardening

The beautifully-designed Bodega Birdhouses are featured in the Spring 2012 issue of Leaf Magazine. The magazine says these birdhouses are part of a collection of “contemporary, environmentally responsible affordable items with high style” offered by online retailer aHa! Modern Living.

The birdhouses come in three styles, including Bungalow (shown here), Tower and Chalet. Each stoneware birdhouse is carefully constructed, using recycled materials for the teak roofs.

I’m delighted to offer these birdhouses as an aHa! affiliate.

Leaf Magazine is the new online free garden and design magazine that features gorgeous images and interesting design ideas for every kind of garden and landscape. Gardeners (and garden designers) can sign up to get every new issue of the magazine delivered to their email inbox.

If you’d like to add some high style to your gardening efforts, click on the Bodega Birdhouse images to the right for more information about these adorable birdie abodes.

Early Blooms Good for Bees

The earliest blooming shrub in my yard is this cold-hardy Nanking cherry.

Last week I wrote about the Cherry Blossom festival in Washington being two weeks ahead of schedule because the trees are already in full bloom.

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?

A Victory for Bees in Thornton

Thornton, Colo., is all a-buzz because the city council just passed an ordinance allowing backyard beekeeping in the city limits.

We heart our honeybees!

That’s the sentiment of Thornton residents interested in keeping backyard bee hives.

A group called Thornton Loves Bees worked hard to convince the city council to adopt a backyard beekeeping ordinance.

Dan Finerty sent an email in January asking for help in the effort to get a responsible beekeeping ordinance passed by contacting members of the city council.

I was happy to send messages to all the council members, thanking those who supported the ordinance and asking the other council members to reconsider their opposition.

Beth Humenik, council member for Ward 3, replied to my message. She had a list of questions about beekeeping that included how many hives are allowed in Denver, what kind of restrictions are in place, timing of bee swarms, amount of honey produced, concerns about super honeybees, and educating neighbors about sprays and pesticides that are harmful to bees.

Saving Water While Gardening

Now’s the time to start planning for ways to conserve water in your garden.

The little green sprouts in my front yard are whispering to me that spring is on its way. So I’ve started thinking about how I’m going to be more water-wise while gardening this year.

One of the most sobering facts I learned during my master gardener training is that there will always be a drought somewhere in Colorado.

In 2002 that hard fact struck home as gardeners coped with one of the most severe droughts on record.

The outdoor watering restrictions implemented that summer made me consider every drop of water I used on the lawn in the flowerbeds and vegetable garden, too.

Many of my favorite landscape plants didn’t make it through that summer. Others simply disappeared over the equally dry winter.

But those plants that remained, like Rocky Mountain penstemon, were the hardiest of the hardy. And I plant more like them every year.

How to Plant a Miniature Rock Garden

Do you love the look of a rock garden, but don’t have the garden space to create one? A simpler solution is to plant in a container that looks like a rock, but it’s not.

Hypertufa planters look like they’re made of stone or rock, but they’re lightweight containers made from cement mixed with other materials like vermiculite, perlite, peat moss and sand.

You can Google around to find instructions for mixing up your own containers or you can do what I did and let someone else make one for you. I bought my planter at a garden club plant sale, but I’ve seen these at garden centers, too. My planter is a rectangle 21″ long x 14″ wide and 5″ deep.

The most attractive miniature rock gardens include a variety of shallow-rooted plants in different shapes, sizes and colors. Some produce tiny blooms that add to their appeal. Succulents, alpine plants and various groundcovers do especially well in hypertufa containers.

Watering Rocks Solve Key Gardening Problem

My “Best Of” gardening selection at the 2012 ProGreen industry tradeshow is a new portable drip irrigation system called Watering Rocks.

There were a lot of new gardening products featured at ProGreen last week, but one of my favorites is a low-tech portable watering system called Watering Rocks.

Each Watering Rock is a self-contained drip irrigation system. Just place the rock in a part of the garden that’s difficult to water and fill the container with water.

Water will slowly seep from the rock into drip lines and adjustable drippers to water plants deeply. Watering Rocks are available in one-gallon, two-gallon and five-gallon sizes.

Gardeners fill the Watering Rocks by placing a hose in the holes at the top of the rock or they can connect an existing drip irrigation system for automatic filling. The amount of water can be adjusted to match plant needs.

Another handy feature is that liquid or soluble plant food can be added to the water for automatic fertilizing, too.

New Gardening Ideas from ProGreen 2012

ProGreen is the annual regional green industry expo that includes more than 100 seminars, 650 tradeshow booths and plenty of networking.

Every year I get to participate in the ProGreen Expo as a master gardener volunteer. After my volunteer duties end, the fun begins.

Not only do I get to attend an entire day of classes, but I also get to tromp around the tradeshow to see all the new gardening products, gadgets and new plants nurseries and garden centers will have for gardeners this year.

Here are some of the highlights of the tradeshow. Next week I’ll feature my top 3 new products for gardening.

ProGreen judges selected Bella Bluegrass as the best new product for 2012 and I can understand why. This new bluegrass, from Graff’s Turf Farms, requires 50-80% less mowing than other bluegrass varieties. Mowing less saves money on fuel and means lower emissions. In addition, Bella is drought-tolerant and helps with erosion control.

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