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Green Thumb Guidance - Outdoor Living for Any Season

by Cory Dudley

 

 

 

Here in Colorado, as we already know this fall, it can be 75℉ one day and 25℉ the next.  We can get more than 300 days of sunshine during the year and it’s important to take full advantage of the weather no matter what season.  Here are a few tips to make your outdoor living space cozy and enjoyable any time of the year.

 

Warmth

The biggest factor if you will go outside and use your patio will be, is it warm enough?  Provide a fire pit (built-in or moveable) for your family and guests to huddle around.  Fire places can also be a great spot for a cozy outdoor couch to make it really feel like an outdoor living room.  You can also purchase portable outdoor heaters that can be placed in the specific locations on your patio.  Another option can be heaters that are mounted on a pergola or enclosed patio to give you warmth without the fire.

 

 

Lighting

 

Adding a little of bit of ambiance will really invite you and your guest outdoors when nights become longer.  Place a few path lights along your front entry but also along your back patio to help guide your guests.  Uplight your evergreen trees or place uplights on a wall to soften your landscape.  Cafe lights strung from your pergola or trees can add a playful look as well.  Be sure to not light up your entire backyard so you can still see the night sky but a few here and there will help light the way to your outdoor space.

 

 

 

Furniture

Outdoor furniture can be just as important as your couch inside. Your family will end up spending a lot of time lounging outside if you have something comfy to sit or lay on.  Also, it’s a great time to set up a nice dining table for family dinners or even a Thanksgiving dinner in the brisk fall air.  Places like Christy Sports, Fruehauf’s or All Backyard Fun have a wide selection of outdoor patio sets.

 

Comfort

As with any space you use, you want it to be inviting and comfortable.  Add blankets, pillows and warm drinks as you lounge outside in the sunshine.  Though the air is brisk, it’s a great time to soak in some vitamin D and relax.  Outdoor speakers could also be nice to add soft music on your patio.

 

Grill or Outdoor Kitchen

Cooking outdoors isn’t just for summer barbeques anymore.  Gas grills and outdoor kitchens make it really easy to light up the grill for any weekday dinner.  It is also nice to be able to be with your guest in your outdoor living room while you are cooking.  These built in kitchens can complement your home and really add value to your property and be something you can always use no matter the weather.

 

 

Swim Spa or Hot Tub

 

There is a reason hot tubs are so popular year round - they are warm and relaxing.  Whether you are the only one soaking or you have invited all your friends, a hot tub is a warm way of enjoying your backyard any time of the year.  If you are looking for something a bit bigger consider a swim spa for soaking or exercising. 

 

 

 

 

Enclosure

 

If you really want to make your outdoor living space feel cozy, add a pergola or covered patio.  This will add shade, protection from the rain or snow and make it feel like your very own outdoor living room.  

 

 

 

 

Bring the Fun

 

Set up some backyard ladder golf, cornhole or bocce ball for your guests to enjoy in the cool fall air.  You can also mount a T.V. under a shade structure to watch Sunday football with friends.  Host a movie night to watch your favorite films on a projector screen or wall while you lounge on the patio furniture or lay on a blanket in the grass.

 

 

 

Garden

Your garden doesn’t have to look grey and dull all season.  Make sure you plant trees, shrubs and perennials that have winter interest for color and texture.  Evergreens will add rich greens, while grasses can sway in the wind.  Add chrysanthemums for a pop of color in the fall with pansies and ornamental kale as annuals.

 

Celebrate

Take advantage of the sunshine and carve pumpkins outside in the fallen leaves.  Decorate your home with pumpkins, squash and corn stalks.  Host a holiday party that is both indoors and outdoors so your guests can use the fire pit and outdoor kitchen.

 

 

Kristen Whitehead, owner of Helios Landscape Design, writes featured blog posts for our monthly newsletter on everything plant-related! She's happy to guide you in your next garden design effort.

 

 

Green Thumb Guidance - Spring into the Bulb Game

by Cory Dudley

 

It's hard to believe we are in the last weeks of summer here in Colorado and I know our gardens (and people) are tired and ready for the cooler days.  However, hang on to some of that energy to plan and plant for next spring!  Fall is the best time to plant your bulbs for that pop of color in the spring!  Visit your local nursery for a variety of different bulbs you can use in your yard - my favorite is The Flower Bin or order online from High Country Gardens.  For now, here are a few bulb planting tips.

 


 

Selection

There are some many different types of bulbs, from giant crocus to Dutch tulips, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes - so choose your favorites!  Pay attention to the bulb when you selecting the ones for your yard.  Bulbs should be big, plump and health with little brown spots that show damage and mold.  You definitely get what you pay for when it comes to bulbs so it’s best to individually pick out bulbs rather than large pre-selected bags.  Remember to get a lot of them!  It’s best to plant 50+ of one kind all together to make a visual statement.  Try not to get to many varieties it will look polka dotted and not thought out.

Some of my favorite varieties include: Tricolor Crocus Wild Crocus, Cheerfulness Double Daffodil, Purple Sensation Allium and Double Late Tulip.

 


 

Location

 

Choose an area that is sunny to plant your bulbs.  It’s important to remember that even in early spring there can be sun under a deciduous tree that has not gained it’s leaves yet and could be an ideal spot for planting.  Avoid planting in areas right near driveways where you might be shoveling your snow.  Plant in masses or drifts to have the most impact.  Most bulbs have smaller flowers so plant plenty of them together to add that pop of color in your yard.  Add them to areas where you see the most - near your front door, walkways or your rock garden.

 

 

 

How

Plant bulbs in September or October so they have a chance to establish before the ground freezes.  Plant your bulbs in loose, well drained soil that has been amended with an organic soil and add phosphorus at a rate of ½ lb per 100 sf of 0-46-0 fertilizer to help establish rooting.  Pay attention to the specific directions based on the bulb type you selected for planting but in general, plant 3-4x the bulb height with pointy side up.  You can either individually plant each bulb in a hole, or dig out a drift area that you can plant 50+ bulbs at the same time.  Make sure to water in your bulbs after covering with soil and you can cover with 3” of wood mulch for winter protection.  Remember to mark the areas where you planted your spring blooming bulbs to not disrupt them when planting other plants.

After you have had your bulbs for 2 years, sometimes the blooms do not produce the same and results in a smaller flowers.  This is when you can divide and transplant to other areas in your yard.

Keep ahead of the planting game and add bulbs this fall to add that bright pop of color in the spring.  I guarantee that after a cold grey winter, these flowers will truly brighten your yard and make your property stand out.

 

 

Kristen Whitehead, owner of Helios Landscape Design, writes featured blog posts for our monthly newsletter on everything plant-related! She's happy to guide you in your next garden design effort.

 

 

Kristen Whitehead, owner of Helios Landscape Design, writes featured blog posts for our monthly newsletter on everything plant-related! She's happy to guide you in your next garden design effort.

Green Thumb Guidance - 7 Steps to Xeriscape Gardening

by Cory Dudley

 

Xeriscape (pronounced zera-scape) is a coined term from the Denver Water Department, Colorado State University and Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado used to describe landscaping with water conservation as the main objective.  Xeriscape is a term from the origin “xeros” meaning dry.  Water conservation in the western states has been very important in recent years.  It is thought that 50% of all household water is used for irrigation of turf and plant areas.  Unfortunately, many people think ZEROscaping and rip out all of their sod and replace with a sea of rock.  This is NOT xeric and will create a hotter environment and damage your plants. 

With careful planning, implementation and maintenance you can have a stunning low water landscape!

 

 

  1. Plan - Before you do any landscape improvements you want to first think of a plan.  Take an inventory of the existing site: where are there the greatest exposures to sun?  Are there any slopes?  What are the existing plants and materials?  You can come up with a plan to place certain plants to reduce the amount of water needed in your yard.  You don’t have to rip out your entire landscape, just be mindful of what you can keep and add to improve your site.

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Plan Example2.JPG

 

  1. Soil - Colorado tends to have very heavy clay soil that is not a suitable medium for plant growth.  Typically, the clay soil is so dense that water will easily runoff and the plants will not be able to use it.  Add organic matter to improve the nutrient and water holding capacity.  When you are adding a new turf area, take the time to till and amend the soil using good organic matter before you plant - your plants will thank you for this and you will be able to use less water.  Keep water on your site by creating gentle swales with the soil.  This will add interest to you yard while reducing runoff. 

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  1. Turf -  The traditional kentucky bluegrass lawn is the biggest water waster and most time consuming when it comes to maintenance.  Avoid planting narrow strips of grass, islands of grass and lawns against your home - these shapes are hard to water efficiently.  If it’s important for you to have a space to kick the ball around, just be mindful of how much grass you need and the size and shape to reduce the amount of water needed.  There are many low water grasses out there as an alternative to the traditional: CSU Extension: Ornamental Grasses – 7.232  

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  1. Water - A properly installed irrigation system can dramatically reduce in your water bill.  Use your landscape plan to mark out where the sprinkler system should go based on your plant’s water needs.  For trees, shrubs and perennials, it’s best to have a drip line so the plant gets the proper amount of irrigation directly to the root ball with less evaporation. Make sure your turf areas have the correct amount spray and are not overlapping onto sidewalks and hard surfaces - this will lead to a huge amount of water waste.  Water timers, water sensors and rain gauges are just a few examples of technology used with your irrigation system that can help efficiently water your yard.  Hire a professional irrigation designer to modify your current system or install a new one to efficiently water your landscape.

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  1. Plants - Proper plant selection and placement is key to a successful yard.  Use low water plants for our Colorado climate that have been carefully selected for their ability to flourish in your yard with limited amounts of water.  Check out Plant Select to discover beautiful plants that will thrive in your yard.

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  1. Mulch - Properly mulched yards can improved the soil, reduce the weeds and reduce water useage.  Adding organic material to improve the soil and adding a 3”-4” layer of wood chips looks beautiful but will also break down and improve the nutrient content of the soil.  Adding wood mulch around your trees and shrubs will cool the surrounding areas and help reduce evaporation when you water your plants.  If weeds are a major concern in your yard, add weed barrier fabric and a layer of mulch on top.  Decorative rock can also be used in high wind areas but can increase the surrounding temperature.

  1. Maintenance - Maintenance is required to keep your xeriscape garden happy and healthy.  Pruning and weeding will be needed in garden beds to maintain the health of your plants. When mowing your lawn, grass clippings can be mulched in your grass to add back nutrients.  It is important to water your new xeric plants until they get established - usually about 1-2 years.  Use organic maintenance methods to improve the soil, keep beneficial insects and reduce runoff waste in your area.

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It’s important to conserve our precious resource here along the Colorado Front Range but it’s also important to have a beautiful landscape that you love and can enjoy.  These steps will help you cut your water bill and help improve the environment around you. Check out your favorite local nursery for material and plant ideas and for more inspiration the Denver Botanic Gardens and Plant Select.

 

 

 

Kristen Whitehead, owner of Helios Landscape Design, writes featured blog posts for our monthly newsletter on everything plant-related! She's happy to guide you in your next garden design effort.

 

 

 

Green Thumb Guidance - Native Flora in Your Own Yard

by Cory Dudley

 

 

If you have been up hiking in our foothills this summer you’ve probably snapped a few pictures of the views, soaked your feet in the cold streams and felt the fresh breeze but have you looked a little bit closer to the plants around you?  If you have, there may have been some that you recognize and could already be in your very own yard.

 

 

The native plants along the foothills in Colorado have adapted to some of the harshest weather and climate in the nation: drought, hail, freezing temperatures.  When you see these in the hillside thriving it means they can also do well in your yard. Not only are these plants beautiful, but they will also require little water and maintenance to grow. 

It is also important for many homeowners to take pride in the fact that their home projects can be built out of local materials so why not do the same for your landscape.  We should be proud of the types of plants Colorado has and celebrate the biological diversity while giving these plants a chance to reclaim their native habitats.

 

 

Here are a few of my favorite native plants you can find at your local nursery and plant in your yard:

Trees

  • Serviceberry - Use as a specimen tree in the front yard or a screening plant.  With white showy flower in the spring and a brilliant orange in the fall you will surely enjoy this plant.  The persistent berries also provide food for wildlife
  • Rocky Mountain Juniper - It’s always important to have some evergreen texture in your yard.  Don’t shy away from the word “juniper”, this tree doesn’t have to be sheared, it will provided habitat and when placed in the correct location it will act as a wind shield

​​Shrubs

  • Kinnikinnik - This small semi evergreen shrub is a great ground cover.  Kinnikinnik does well on slopes and in hot and dry locations.  The leaves will turn a beautiful burgundy color in the winter.
  • Lead Plant - Hardy shrub that will provide you with some beautiful purple flowers in the Spring  and Summer
  • Red Osier Dogwood - Great shrub for mass plantings.  The main attraction for the dogwood is the brilliant red stems that stand out against the white snow in winter.​

 

 

Grasses

  • Blue Grama (Blonde Ambition Grass) - This ornamental grass is definitely a favorite of many.  The eye-catching seed heads appear in mid summer and the grass grows to only be about 3 feet tall.​
  • Switchgrass - This grass has a beautiful burgundy fall color that withstands most heavy snows.  This plant is a little taller, standing at 5’
  • Little Bluestem - Blue/green blades with a beautiful fall color. 4’-5’ Tall. 

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Perennials

  • Butterfly Milkweed - Flower: Orange or Pink, H 3’ x  W 2’
  • Chocolate Flower - Flower: Yellow, H 18” x W 18”
  • Purple Coneflower - Flower: Purple H 3’ x W 18”
  • White Yarrow - Flower: White, H 2’ x             W 3’
  • Yellow Evening Primrose - Flower: Yellow, H 18” x W 2’  

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Use these plants and other natives to help your yard beautifully stand out from the rest while saving water and allowing the native flora to reclaim their spaces.  For more information on which plants are native to Colorado and can be used in your landscape, visit: https://conps.org/

 

 

Green Thumb Guidance - Outdoor Spaces

by Cory Dudley

 

It’s that time of the year, BBQ’s, pool parties and casual hang outs in the backyard.  June 21st is the first day of summer - is your yard ready for the season?  There are a few simple tricks you can use to spruce up your backyard and make it THE place to hang out this summer.

 

 

Outdoor Living

Your porch or patio is the place where you and your family and friends like to have dinner, play games and enjoy frosty beverages - this is your outdoor living room.  Make this space as comfortable and inviting as you would for your indoor living room.  Here are few key things you can add to make it cozy:

 

  • Furniture: What will you be using the space for - dining, lounging or sunbathing?  Get a dining set that is sturdy enough to withstand the high winds and buy colorful cushions to accessorize.  There are many sizes and styles of lounging furniture to fit your unique personality and size of the space you have.  
  • Focal point:  There should be an area that your family gathers around and something that draws attention.  Whether it is a fire pit, water feature or a combination, it should be something that leads your guests to your outdoor living area.  
  • Sun/Shade:  Pergolas and shade structures can allow people to use the patio even during the hottest parts of the Colorado day.  Add curtains to soften the look and screen even more.  Place a tree on the southwest side of your home to create shade for those hot evenings.
  • Lighting:  It is amazing what a little landscape lighting can do to your outdoor living space.  A string of cafe lights or a few path lights can make it more welcoming for your guests at night.  Make sure to only light the paths downward to not interfere with our starry night sky.
  • Potted plants:  Keeping the plants on your patio or deck can help soften the hard surfaces.  Add a pop of color with bright annuals or create your very own herb garden that can be close to your kitchen
  • The yard:  Cut down on your water usage and plant xeric plants in your garden spaces.  Keep some grass for the dogs and kids but if you don’t need it, create a beautiful rock garden or butterfly garden instead.  Add focal point trees like the Weeping White Spruce or an Eastern Redbud to add height, shade and drama while cutting down on your water usage.
  • Personality:   What are you into?  Do you love fish?  Add a pond closer to your deck or patio to enjoy the water and life.  Do you have old furnishings like windows or doors?  Hang them as privacy screens to separate spaces.  Do you love wildlife in your yard?  Add a bird bath or feeder closer to your outdoor living room

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With a few simple additions to your outdoor living room you can work with what you have or update your new home’s yard space.  Add your own personality  to your outdoor living spaces and it will surely be the place where all your relatives, friends and neighbors will want to be!

 

 

Kristen Whitehead, owner of Helios Landscape Design, writes featured blog posts for our monthly newsletter on everything plant-related! She's happy to guide you in your next garden design effort. 

 

 

Affordable Landscaping Projects That Pay Off When Selling

by Cory Dudley

 

It's a fact - well-landscaped homes sell for 5.5% to 12.7% more, according to research conducted at Virginia Tech. But how do you decide which projects to tackle and which to pass up? What will give you the most bang-for-your-buck, so to speak? What's truly worth the headache? Professional landscaping can cost an arm and a leg, and take planning, time and coordination to make happen. 

Luckily, you have options! Here are 7 cheap landscaping ideas that will liven up your lawn without emptying the savings account..

 

Hire a FREE Landscaper

You could hire a landscape architect to plan out your garden beds and the shrubs along the walkway, but sometimes it isn't always in the budget at $50-170/hour. Instead, chat with the experts at local garden centers, like The Flower Bin in Longmont, CO. Typically, they'll advise you on planning if you buy plants from them!

 

 

Buy Plants in Bulk 

Once you've chosen the right plants for your landscaping, don't go too crazy with dozens of varieties. You'd be amazed by how effective just a handful of additions can be in improving the overall feel! PLUS, it allows you to buy 4-6 plants in bulk, saving you lots of money. Sites such as NatureHills.com, for example, regularly announces discounts of 15-30% when you buy five or more of the same plant. It adds up!

 

Emphasize Outdoor Lighting

There's no need to hire a contractor to install anything excessive, but at least take the time to replace burnt out bulbs with something that has a welcoming glow. Remember - many people shopping for a home work all day and will be visiting yours at potentially dark times of day.

 

Make a Good First Impression

We all have a tendency to judge a book by it's cover, and homes are no exception. If the lawn is completely out of control, covered with weeds and dried out, people automatically assume the interior is as neglected as the exterior. Start by trimming shrubs, cutting the grass and taking care of any weeds you have staking their claim. An easy homemade weed killer can be mixed up in no time: white vinegar, 1-2 cups of salt and a bit of dish detergent.

 

 

Find Free Mulch

Bright, fresh mulch adds a lot to a flower bed and doesn't take too much effort to put down, plus it strengthens the soil below. But it can be quite expensive at $15-65 per cubic yard. Luckily, there are options. Craigslist often has listings in the free section for haul-away materials that were left over from someone else's projects. FreeCycle also has local listings for similar offers. Some cities even offer free mulch to those who can prove residency with a utility bill, Longmont being one of them! You can find more information HERE.

 

Focus on Low Maintenance

The more water your landscaping requires, the more difficult it can be to keep up with for you and those coming into the home after you. A sustainable design will not only cost you less money on the front end, but it will be a huge bonus to those that are looking to buy. Invest in easy, drought-tolerant plants that thrive in dry conditions.

 

When In Doubt, Choose Gravel

Concrete may seem like the obvious choice for areas such as sidewalks and driveways, but it's often expensive and not always the most affordable choice. Pea gravel makes for a sufficient alternative, as does decomposed granite. Keep an open mind and don't go with the rest of the concrete-crowd. 

 

 

 

Green Thumb Guidance - Be Good to the Bees!

by Cory Dudley

 

While you are lounging on your patio looking out onto your garden, the bees are out there working hard.  Buzzing from flower to flower, they do the hard work - pollinating your garden for you.  However, it is no secret anymore, the bees you expect to be there in your landscape are dying off at alarming rates.  Millions of bees are disappearing and this will have huge consequences on our environment.  Not only do bees support biological diversity in our natural ecosystems but we depend on them for our food.  Estimates show that agriculture relies on bees for nearly ⅓ of our human food crops.  We rely on bees to pollinate everything from apples to strawberries to the alfalfa used to feed cows.  There are no substitutes for these hard working individuals.  If we do not have bees, we don’t have food...

 

 

 

Native pollinators and domesticated bee populations are declining for a variety of reasons.  Habitat loss, disease and excessive and inappropriate use of pesticides and insecticides are some of the contributing factors.  The use of neonicotinoids (neonics) is a class of insecticides that has had a devastating effect on the bee population.  Neonics can be found in many common insect sprays for your lawn and garden.  These sprays affect the central nervous system of insects resulting in paralysis or death.  Though you may be attacking those grubs in your lawn, you will also end up damaging your beneficial insects - bees!  It is imperative that we take the necessary steps to help save our bees and other local pollinators.

 

 

 

 

 

If you want to make a difference in your own yard there are few simple things you can do...  

1.) Do not apply any pesticides in your yard.  Use organic and natural pest management methods in your own landscape.  

2.) Buy organic plants and seeds.  Most of the plants we buy at big box stores have had neonics sprayed on them during the growing process and these chemicals can be stored in the soil and foliage for months.  Locate your local nursery for organic options.

3.) Create and plant a pollinator garden.  Bees are attracted to large groupings of flowers during the growing season.  Try to stagger your flowering plants to have flowers all throughout the growing season for the hard working bees.  Some of my favorite flowers that will attract the bees include:

  • Fruit Trees: Apples, Crab Apples, Plums, Pear, Catalpa, Redbud
  • Shrubs: Russian Sage, Mock Orange, Blue Mist Spirea, Serviceberry,
  • Perennials: Agastache, Bee Balm, Catmint, Iris, Thyme, Yarrow
  • Vines: Trumpet Vine, Honeysuckle and Silver Lace Vine

 

For more information on how you can help save our bees visit:

 

A garden is only as rich and beautiful as the integral health of the system; pollinators are essential to the system - make your home their home."  - Derry MacBride, National Affairs and legislation Chairwoman, Garden Club of America

 

 

Kristen Whitehead, owner of Helios Landscape Design, writes featured blog posts for our monthly newsletter on everything plant-related! She's happy to guide you in your next garden design effort. 

 

Motivational Monday - Health Benefits of Flowers

by Cory Dudley

 

 

The majority of people enjoy having fresh flowers in their home. Something about the color brightens your mood as soon as you walk through the front door! But aside from simply being beautiful, fresh-cut flowers have many benefits from our overall well-being and health. Here are just a few reasons why you should incorporate them into your everyday life this spring,...

 

1.) Emotional Health Improvement 

Whether you buy them for yourself or your partner surprises you once a week with that fresh bouquet, flowers can give you a quite immediate mood boost. They tend to remind us that we are cared for and being thought of, either by others or as a ritual of self-care. 

Various scents can inspire and trigger emotional responses or changes in mood, too! Several common flowers are rather smelly (in a good way!) and have mood-related affects. Lavender and rose both help to reduce stress & anxiety, the lily flower helps those suffering from depression by creating a feeling of modesty and security, freesias inspire a happy and uplifting feeling.. The list goes on and on! You can create your own unique 'blend' and keep them in a central location of your home to reap the benefits.

 

 

2.) Aid in Relaxation & Stress Reduction

It's not wonder that lots of people suffering from the blues turn to nature and gardening for relief - being surrounded by beautiful scenery or scented flowers can be cathartic and can go a long way in reducing stress! Lavender and chamomile work especially well in bringing on these desired effects, whether fresh or in a sachet and placed in your pillow.

 

 

3.) Aid in Memory & Concentration

If you're anything like me, you lose your train of thought here and there. It turns out that keeping flowers indoors may help with concentration and memory; plants oxygenate the air, which provides more air for your brain cells to operate efficiently, making you feel smart and quick. Bouquets are a fine choice, as are long lasting plants and even succulents.

 

 

What are you waiting for? Head over to one of Longmont's several local flower shops and specialists and bring home a bouquet tonight! The fine folks at Longmont Florist are always happy to help create the perfect arrangement for you, or they have some already built if you need a quick in-and-out. The Flower Bin has a much larger array, with tons of ability to customize - but beware! You can easily lose track of time here.

 

Green Thumb Guidance - Building Soil Compost 101

by Cory Dudley

 


 

Compost is the black gold for our landscapes. Compost is a simple way to add nutrients to your soil and fuel for plant growth. This black gold is the breakdown of organic matter into an end product of rich, humus, material that can be used in your yard. Compost is a great way to reduce waste in the landfill, reuse your organic materials and build your soil.

Broken down organic material adds nutrients back to the soil much like a fertilizer you would purchase - except this is something you created! Soil with added compost retains moisture, adds oxygen and breaks up the tough soil we have here in Colorado.

According to EPA, “Food scraps and yard waste currently make up 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away, and should be composted instead”. Homeowners have a lot of excess organic matter including: kitchen scraps, leaf piles and plant debris. Instead of adding this into your trash bin, (which won’t break down in the landfill) this can be recycled in your backyard and turned into a valuable source of life and nutrients for your plants. If done right, the compost bin won’t smell bad or take a lot of work.

The Breakdown Microbes are working hard to chomp down that organic material. The heat generated from the compost pile allows these hardworking microbes to thrive. It’s important to have the right carbon (brown) to nitrogen (green) ratio in your compost bin. Try to add roughly ⅔ brown material to ⅓ green material.

Brown materials (carbon) include:

- Dried leaves

- Hay

- Wood shavings

- Straw

- Shredded paper

- Woody twigs <¼” in diameter

- Hair or dryer lint

- Coffee grounds and filters

- Tea bags

 

Green materials (nitrogen) include:

- Fresh plant trimmings

- Fruit and vegetable scraps

- Eggshells

- Fish or blood meal

 

Avoid:

- Meat

- Dairy

- Dog or cat feces

- Wood Ashes

- Weeds

- Large fruit stones

 

 

Requirements

Like most living things, the microbes in your compost pile require appropriate temperature, moisture and nutrients.

- Create a pile or bin about 3’x3’. Piles smaller in size will not insulate the hard working microbe population enough to raise the temperature to 130-150 degrees necessary to kill seeds. There are many ways to create a compost bin: wood pallets, wire mesh, plastic pre-made bins, etc.

- A good compost pile should be about as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Keep the pile hydrated and cover if needed to retain moisture. Select a location in your yard for your compost pile that is partially shady to help with moisture retention.

- Add the “green” and “brown” in layers no more than 6” thick. Think of it as a compost lasagna (yum!). Keep adding this material to maintain the right carbon to nitrogen ratio.

If you want to speed up the breakdown of materials in your compost pile, turn the materials occasionally with a fork to supply oxygen to the pile. Your compost is ready to use in your yard once the materials have broken down into a dark, rich, organic material. It should smell nice and earthy. Your plants will love you when you add this black gold to your landscape.

 

 

For more information on backyard composting, I recommend Gaia's Garden, A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway and CSU Extension, Composting Yard Waste Fact Sheet.

If you don’t have space for your own compost bin I’ve got news! Longmont has gone “Loco for Composting”! This spring, Longmont has introduced curbside composting for your convenience to dispose of all your yard and kitchen waste. This is a new addition to cutting down waste in our communities and the landfills by creating compost we can get back and use in our own yards. City curbside collects anything in a basic compost pile but also collects things you generally wouldn’t compost yourself: meat, dairy products, pizza boxes, compostable plastics and larger yard debri. Check out LOCO for Composting to sign up and for more information.

 

 

Kristen Whitehead, owner of Helios Landscape Design, writes featured blog posts for our monthly newsletter on everything plant-related! She's happy to guide you in your next garden design effort. 

 

Green Thumb Guidance - Starting Your Veggie Garden

by Cory Dudley

 

There is nothing more rewarding than the taste of a just-picked, homegrown vegetables from the garden.  Not only do you feel great about growing something from seed but you know exactly where your food is coming from plus you might save a bit off your grocery bill.  If you have an area in your yard or a ceramic pot on your patio, try growing some veggies!

 

 

This year I am starting my very own vegetable garden.  I am so excited but also a little overwhelmed on exactly HOW to do it.  What should I plant?  When should I start my seeds?  When can I start planting outside?   There are so many great resources out there so I have done some research and I have put together a few key points about starting your own seeds for your vegetable garden...

 

Seeds

The first thing you will need to get started is seed.  Head on down to your local garden center (I got mine at The Flower Bin) and check out their seed section. There are so many varieties to try but if you are new at seed starting, try not to go overboard and pick only a few of the more common (easier to grow) veggies.  Check out the back of the seed packet for more information on germination and time to harvest.  If you do not use all of the seed this year be sure to store packets in a cool, dry place to use next year.

 

Soil/ Container

The growing medium for your seeds is very important.   Buy a seed starting soil mix from you local nursery or hardware store.  I bought soil the Flower Bin uses to grow all of their veggies and flowers so I know it must be the black gold.  I also bought compostable seed trays with a watertight container that can be reused every year.  This can also be purchased at your local nursery or online.

 

 

Sunlight

You will want a south facing window for the growth of your seeds with an ideal temperature between 65 and 75 degrees.  If you don’t have a great spot in the sun for your trays, a grow light will also get the job done.

 

Water

Keep the soil in your trays moist but never too wet.  The watertight container acts as a greenhouse so some of the water will be kept in.  When the soil needs hydration, use a spray bottle to water from the top or you can pour water in the tray and the soil will uptake from the bottom.

 

Timeline

You will want to look on the back of your seed packets for more information about timing for sowing your seeds indoors, outdoors and harvesting.  Below is a generic timeline of what you should be expecting to plant and transplant for your veggie garden this Spring and Summer.

 

March

Now is the time to start planting your seeds indoors.  8 weeks before the last frost, which is typically May 15th in Boulder County.

Indoors, sow: eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, lettuces, peas, sweet corn & celery seeds

 

 

April

By now, the temperatures should be warming up but there is still a chance of frost so be prepared to cover your crops.

Indoors, sow: runner beans, zucchini, pumpkins, squash, melon, cucumbers

Outdoors, sow: cabbages, cauliflower, spinach, kale, onions, carrots & early lettuces

 

 

May

Overnight frost still may be a threat though there are higher daytime temperatures.  In early May, begin to harden-off (What does hardening-off mean?) the seeds you have raised indoors.  Plant heat loving veggies outside after Mother’s Days.

Outdoors, sow: green beans, runner beans, cauliflower, cabbages, beets and annual herbs

Outdoors, plant: tomatoes, peppers, celery, eggplant, lettuces

 

 

June

Frost SHOULD be over by now. Plant anything else you wish to harvest in the summer or fall.  Thin out new seedlings if they become overcrowded.

Outdoors, plant: cucumber & sweet corn and any other remaining seeds or seedlings you plan on harvesting in the fall.

 

 

Think about this year’s vegetable garden now and you will have time for plan and purchase materials needed for a happy healthy garden for a great harvest this year.  For more information on growing your own veggies check out The Urban Farm Co. and their master planting guide. Colorado State University has some great notes about vegetable planting and another great resource is "Grow Vegetables" by Alan Buckingham.  If you have any questions or tips and tricks on growing your own vegetables I would love to hear them as I am also on the seed starting adventure with you this year.  

 

Happy growing!

 

 

Kristen Whitehead, owner of Helios Landscape Design, writes featured blog posts for our monthly newsletter on everything plant-related! She's happy to guide you in your next garden design effort.

 

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