FCN Blog

Win a Cherokee Purple Tomato planter!

IMG_1381Contest ends July 8th, 2016.

Was spring a little too hectic and you didn’t get your tomatoes started in time? Fear not!

Image courtesy of Johnny's Seeds

Image courtesy of Johnny’s Seeds

We are giving away a nice big grafted heirloom tomato in a grow bag, ready for your patio! This grafted heirloom Cherokee Purple tomato is sure to be vigorous and satisfying.

Want To Create Magic In Your Garden? Attract Pollinators

By Deb Courtner

Zinnia_Monarch_NLNothing delights a gardener like the sight of pollinators flitting from one plant to the next.  These fascinating creatures transform a mere garden into an animated celebration.

Which plants attract these winged beauties–those butterflies, hummingbirds and bees?  It depends on which pollinator you want to entice.

Butterflies, for example, need host plants, such as milkweed, butterfly weed, rabbitbrush, chokecherry and hawthorns, to provide egg-laying sites and food for the caterpillars that will eventually become butterflies.  Then once the caterpillars reach adulthood, they want showy plants that will provide a perch and plenty of nectar.  Some of their favorite nectar producers are zinnias, butterfly bushes, serviceberries, rose of Sharon, lilacs, hollyhocks, hardy hibiscus, salvia, asters, coneflowers, daisies, sunflowers, and blanket flower.  Generally speaking, they like brightly colored flowers with open centers.

Hummingbirds, with their long tongues, prefer tubular flowers–especially red ones.  They go absolutely gaga over hyssop.  They also like columbine, penstemons, snapdragons, bee balms, foxgloves, daylilies, lilies, delphiniums, petunias and weigelas.  Additional nectar sources include butterfly bushes, pincushion flower, verbena, catmint and tall garden phlox.  And don’t forget herbs, especially those in the mint and sage families.  Hyssop is a member of the mint family, as you can tell from its smell.

Then there are bees that, like hummingbirds, have long Coneflower_Bee_NLtongues.  These prolific
pollinators revel in many of the same flowers as the hummingbirds, and they particularly enjoy blue mist spirea.  But they also like some large, open flowers, such as zinnias, cosmos, daisies and coneflowers.  Color-wise, bees prefer blue, purple and yellow flowers, particularly with strong fragrances.

When planning a pollinator habitat, note that flower selection isn’t the only consideration.  Other factors to keep in mind include:

  • Hanging a hummingbird feeder.  Provide an additional source of nectar for your winged friends. Be sure to clean the feeder at least twice a week with hot, soapy water to prevent mold.
  • Planting for successional bloom.  Plant a variety of flowers that bloom in spring, summer and fall, so that pollinators will have a continuous food supply.
  • Eliminating pesticides.  If you can’t avoid using a pesticide, apply the least-toxic one available, and spray at night, when pollinators aren’t active.
  • Providing a salt lick for butterflies and bees.  Create a shallow puddle in your garden, and mix a small amount of salt (preferably sea salt) or wood ashes into the mud.  The salt will provide valuable minerals for pollinators.
  • Creating a shelter from inclement weather.  Plant some shrubs and taller perennials, such as Joe Pye weed, to create shade and protection for pollinators.

Once you create a comfortable environment for butterflies, hummingbirds and bees, your garden will come alive with magic and wonder.

The June Paradox: Get Busy Relaxing

By Jesse Eastman

Events_NL

If early spring is for planning, and May is for planting, what’s to be done in June? My opinion, as a very tired nurseryman, is that June should be spent enjoying the fruits of your springtime labor.

This doesn’t mean you just stop gardening in June. There are always more projects to be done in the yard. Pests are always a threat, and won’t wait until you’ve had a good rest. Weeds will take up all that May moisture, combine it with increasing temperatures, and shoot skyward in the blink of an eye, but then again, so will all the beautiful flowers you planted in April and May.

Just as June heralds the start of serious plant growth, it also signals the beginning of summer activities! This is the time of year when we can go out and appreciate all the beauty that is created by our collective horticultural efforts. For me, this means attending outdoor events where I can be surrounded by all the wonders nature has to offer.

Roses_NLHere at Fort Collins Nursery, our slate of June events is packed full. Starting with a June 11th class on roses, we want to make sure your June is as productive as it is relaxing. We are bringing in Roger Heins, a former VP at Jackson & Perkins Roses, to share his wisdom on selecting and caring for roses.

Concert2_NLFollow up a bit of learning with an awesome concert! Liz Barnez returns to the Rock Garden stage on June 16th for a benefit concert for Project Self-Sufficiency. Enjoy tunes for a good cause beneath the summer night sky, surrounded by plants along the banks of Dry Creek and the Poudre River.

PS-S_NLJust a few days later, Saturday June 18th, attend the 13th Annual Loveland Garden Tour & Art Show. Visit unique yards and gardens, take careful notes, and then make your way straight to Fort Collins Nursery where 15% of all sales on June 18th will be donated to Project Self-Sufficiency.

Come back on Sunday, June 19th, and purchase a tree for dad for Father’s Day. Any tree purchased on the 19th is eligible for free or discounted planting, so dad can enjoy his special day instead of digging holes. While you’re here finding the perfect tree, don’t miss our popular Fairy Gardening classes, but be sure to register early, as these classes fill up quickly!

FeaturedGarden_NLFinally, as June winds down, come see the amazing gardens on display for the Junior League of Fort Collins 34th Annual Garden Tour. This year’s homes are located in the neighborhood along east Elizabeth St. between College and Lemay, a classic neighborhood that is sure to delight with its mature and intricate landscapes!

I hope you’re as excited for what June holds as I am. I’ve planted my veggies, fertilized my lawn, repaired my irrigation, and I’m ready to revel in some summertime fun!

 

Container Gardening with Tomatoes: Tips to Success

Container_TomatoesBy:  Jaime Haines

Container gardening is a fantastic option for people who do not have space for a garden or want to garden on a small scale.  Tomatoes, being one of the most popular vegetables for Colorado gardens, are a great option for container gardeners.  Here are a few tips and tricks to ensure a successful container-grown tomato.

Plant

When choosing your tomato plant, determinate varieties with small to medium sized fruit such as cherry or paste tomatoes are ideal.  Determinate tomatoes will stay smaller and more compact, thus being more manageable in a container.  If you’re feeling creative, search for varieties like “Tumbling Tom” that will trail out of a hanging pot.  Once you locate your tomato variety, look for a sturdy plant, as indicated by a stocky stem without flowers or fruit.  If only lanky plants are available, do not despair!  Simply snap off a few of the lower leaves and bury the stem more deeply into the dirt to help it grow a larger root system.

Pot

Pots come in a variety of materials, all of which will host a tomato plant happily.  The key is to select a pot with adequate space.  If the tomato will be alone, look for a minimum of a 14” diameter and a 12” depth.  Be sure to have more than one drainage hole as tomatoes do not like sitting in too-wet soil. Also, don’t forget to buy a cage or stake to support your tomato plant!

Soil

The easiest method for getting a well-balanced soil is buying prepackaged potting soil.  Look for contents of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite or perlite to ensure a well-balanced mix.  If you’re an ambitious gardener or have several pots to fill, making your own soil can be more economical and calls for a mixture of similar ingredients to the prepackaged soils.

Location

Tomatoes love the sun!  While they prefer eight or more hours, they can grow in conditions as low as six hours of sunlight.  When first bringing your tomatoes outside, be sure that the nights are reaching a minimum of 50 degrees and it is at least a week after the last chance of frost.  To avoid shock, it is best to spend a week hardening off your tomatoes to prepare them for nature’s wind, direct sunlight, and changing temperatures.

Also check that your tomato receives the right amount of water.  Because containers dry out quickly, you will likely need to water thoroughly every day to keep the soil moist (not saturated).  On the other hand, tomatoes are sensitive to overwatering, so put them in a covered location if you know a downpour is coming.  When watering, do so in the early morning so the tomato has time to soak up the water.  Be sure to water the soil, not the leaves, to prevent blight and fungus.

Fertilizer

When buying a fertilizer, look for a 5-10-10 blend (5% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, 10% potassium) that is slow-release.  The nitrogen helps develop healthy foliage; the phosphorus helps with roots, buds, and fruit; the potassium helps with seed production; and the slow-release feeds the tomato for an extended time.  While you can fertilize more frequently, there are three key times that you won’t want to miss.  First, fertilize your tomato plant two weeks after planting with one fourth of the package’s recommended amount.  For this first fertilization, a 10-10-10 blend is ideal, but the 5-10-10 blend you use for the other fertilizing times will work as well.  Then, fertilize when the tomato begins flowering.  Finally, fertilize when the tomato begins growing fruit (not after you start harvesting).  Follow the package directions to know how much to use.

Stop by Fort Collins Nursery to find all of the supplies you’ll need!

Happy planting!

Drip irrigation makes summer watering a snap

By Jesse Eastman

Drip_Irrigation_NLYou may know the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When it comes to gardening, preventing your plants from drying out is worth well more than a pound of veggies, flowers, and a beautiful landscape. Keeping plants watered throughout the summer can be expensive and challenging. Hand watering takes time and sprinklers can be wasteful. Drip irrigation is a great solution that delivers the right amount of water exactly where it needs to go. It can be run on a timer, allowing you to enjoy your summer without the stress of constantly worrying about your garden. Here’s a few tips to get you started:
• Know your plants
While some plants thrive in dry conditions, others can be quite thirsty. A drip system allows you to give each individual plant the right amount of water for its specific needs. If you’re unsure how much water your plants will need, ask your garden center professional for advice. Another important consideration is the soil. Sandy soil tends to drain water away more quickly than soil that is either heavy with clay or rich in organic material.
• Draw a plan
Sketch out each flower or garden bed, including the dimensions of the bed, how far it is from the nearest water source, and how many plants you need to water. This will allow you to purchase the correct supplies the first time. Rows of small plants, such as lettuce, radishes, and many annual flowers can be best served with soaker hose, while larger individual plants like tomatoes, squash, and many landscape perennials, shrubs, and trees are better served with individual emitters.
• Have a budget
Depending on the size of your garden and what you’re growing, you can spend as little as $20.00 on a 4’x8’ bed for something basic. Depending on how intricate you want your system to be, you can certainly spend more. Proper care and maintenance of your system, including winterizing it in the fall, can reduce upkeep costs in the long run. Whether you want to spend a lot or a little, the multitude of options available to use with drip irrigation makes it accessible for budgets of all sizes.

Benefits of Planting Early

By Jesse Eastman

SpringPlanting_NLWhile a savvy gardener can successfully plant virtually any time of the year, there are certain seasons that are particularly well-suited for planting, and paying attention to what and when you plant can greatly increase your success in the landscape. I’ve written before about the benefits of fall planting, especially for deciduous trees and shrubs (read more here). Another prime planting season is early spring. While some of the reasons for early spring planting are very similar to fall planting, getting plants into the ground in March and April has some unique benefits that can help your yard move from good to great!

  • Availability
    Generally speaking, early spring is the time of year when most nurseries and garden centers have received tons of new stock, but most customers aren’t shopping yet. If there’s a particular plant you’ve been having a hard time finding, now is the time to look. Even if you call and the plant you want isn’t ready yet (we start our perennial production in late February), you can often call to reserve rare plants. That way, they are available to you when everyone else is wishing they had gotten an earlier start. If you are looking for a plant that we don’t normally carry, the earlier you let us know, the more likely it is we can find it from our network of suppliers. Just like we run out of certain plants as the season progresses, our vendors’ supplies tend to dwindle as we move into the heart of spring.
  • Root Establishment
    The first step in most plants’ spring growth cycle is a push of new roots. This generally happens before any visible top growth or swelling of buds takes place. By planting before it is warm enough for top growth to occur, you can ensure that this root growth is taking place in the ground, where the plant will live, instead of in the pot, where those roots will get more bound up and dense the longer they grow.
  • Reduce Transplant Shock
    Planting early and letting your plants enjoy a jump-start on root growth also reducing the initial stress of transplant shock. Transplant shock is a general term for the stress that a plant experiences when it is moved, either from one location in your yard to another, or from a pot into the ground. The planting process can inadvertently damage the small hair-like roots on plants and exposes roots to potentially dry and damaging air. It also usually involves a transition into an unfamiliar soil, which takes time for the plant to adjust to. If the plant has time to overcome these stresses before it has produced foliage and other new growth, it can then focus more of its effort on healthy top growth instead of on surviving transplant shock.
  • Improve First-Year Performance
    Plants that have time to settle into their new home and overcome transplant shock are now ready to grow. Imagine you plant a perennial in late May that normally blooms in early June. It may still be suffering mild transplant shock by the time it is supposed to be blooming. This means you will likely see fewer, if any flowers in the first year it is in the ground. Compare that to the same perennial that is instead planted in mid-March. By the time it is ready to bloom in June, it has had three months to settle in, and its bloom will be much more satisfying!

Special Orders

February is the time of year when plant lovers get to dreaming, and if you’re dreaming of rare or hard-to-find plants or seeds, we can make your dreams come true! Whether you’ve been browsing seed catalogs and want to save some money on shipping, or you want a strange and unusual shrub or tree that you’ve never seen for sale, get in touch with us and we can poke around in the back alleys and remote corners of the plants world for you.

Seeds_NL Seeds

Get an early start on your garden by planting seeds this winter.  Seeds are less expensive than starter plants and come in hundreds of varieties not typically available as starts.  Perhaps more importantly, growing from seed gives us a sense of accomplishment and something to do over those long winter months!

Fort Collins Nursery has a huge selection of flower and vegetable seeds arriving throughout the month of January.  You’ll find all your favorite varieties from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Renee’s Garden, Botanical Interests, Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. and Seed Savers Exchange in stock all winter long.

Looking for something different to plant this year?  Check out hundreds of interesting varieties from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.  who specialize in rare, hard to find seeds from around the world.  Examples include Berkeley Tie-Dye Green Tomato, Scarlet Kale, Chinese Red Meat Radish, Blue Potatoes and Missouri Pipe Corn.

Looking to support a great cause by simply purchasing your seeds?  Check out the extensive catalog from Seed Savers Exchange, a non profit (501(c)(3) status) organization dedicated to saving and sharing seeds.  Seed Savers maintain a collection of more than 20,000 heirloom and open-pollinated vegetable, herb and plant varieties.

This month we are adding Johnny’s Selected Seeds to our inventory, giving you even more planting option for your home and garden.  Johnny’s is known for their high quality standards and were one of the original nine companies to sign the Safe Seed Pledge.  Among serious home gardeners and market farmers, Johnny’s is considered one of the most respected sources of seeds and growing information.  They have a vast catalog consisting of thousands of delicious fruits, vegetables, herbs and beautiful flowers.

We are happy to special order any Baker Creek, Seed Savers or Johnny’s Selected Seeds that we do not already have in stock.

Plants

Send an email to scott@fortcollinsnursery.com with your special plant requests, and he will check the market from our myriad of vendors and growers to find what you are looking for.

 

The Hawthorn: Rich with Color

By Julie Carlson

Edited by Jesse Eastman

Originally published in Vol. 1, Issue 4 of Fort Collins Nursery’s TreeTalk Newsletter

5fedac36-6c05-4ad1-ab4b-2b6062764e1cThis past fall, many of you came to the nursery seeking plants that add fall color to your yards. You’d seen it all around town – from the flaming rose-red of Burning Bush or the orange heat of Tiger Eyes Sumac to the brilliant yellows of Ginkgo or Honeylocust. These shrubs and trees offer up dramatic leaf color, but another plant can add even more richness to the landscape than mere changing leaves.

The Hawthorn is traditionally known as a shrub – many an English 0a2ae966-d0e1-4c88-b227-34462fcae45f-photocredithedgerow is comprised of Hawthorns. The English Hawthorns are also easily cultivated as ornamental trees and work well at adding interest to a yard as single specimens. Crimson Cloud Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata ‘Crimson Cloud’) is one such Hawthorn that has miniature maple-shaped leaves of glossy dark green and flowers of striking white-eyed magenta pink clusters. A close relation to Crimson Cloud is Toba Hawthorn (C. mordenensis). It is pearled with double white fragrant flowers maturing to a medium pink. Also remarkable about the Toba is its unusual tree trunk that develops seams over time and eventually looks like four or five trunks fused together.

f96f0f06-9555-4a7f-b35b-d07f4cf3e8dcThese two varieties of English Hawthorn are most showy in the spring because of their flowers, but other Hawthorns have an even more splendid color display in late summer and autumn. The Hawthorn is aptly named forbaaa8ec1-cf29-4235-8b63-7add43a8e96d its haws, or red berries that develop in late summer, and on many Hawthorns hang on the bush or tree into winter. These small red fruits are a profusion of color. On Russian Hawthorn (C. ambigua) they dangle like a wealth of rubies offsetting its sparsely-leaved twisting branches. Thornless Cockspur Hawthorn (C. crusgalli inermis) accentuates its widespread branches of shining rounded leaves with half-inch coral gems.

The Hawthorn genus does not disappoint those who are set on intense leaf change either. Some, like Thornless Cockspur and Russian offer up yellows and gold fading to russet, while Washington Hawthorn (C. phaenopyrum) turns a scarlet orange bordering on red.

154779fb-127f-449f-9174-e675aea4ff85Of course the leaves eventually drop, leaving behind bare thorny branches. The thorns add texture and silhouette, and berries on some hawthorns persist – continued color as we welcomed winter and begin to think of snow-covered landscapes and bedecked trees. The Hawthorn is naturally ornamental throughout our harsh winters.

Hawthorns are a truly visual treasure of flowers, interesting leaves, fruit, and structure. They are also very hardy, many of them tolerating and even thriving in Colorado’s poor soil, cold winter temperatures, and dry climate. Most varieties are disease resistant as well and supply a low-maintenance shrub or tree for someone looking for a plant that is unique. For those who are planning for years of color, look no further than the impressive Hawthorn.

What is a plant really worth?

By Jesse Eastman

We have a small note hanging on the wall in our office. I don’t know where it came from, but it’s been here longer than I have. It’s one of those things that’s funny but also incredibly true, the kind of thing that makes you smile to yourself as you knowingly shake your head. It reads: 

Pay-The-Price_ImageIf folks only knew how many –

Hours of thinking

Days of digging

Weeks of sunshine

Months of coaxing

Years of experience

Oodles of headaches

Bushels of rich soil

Gallons of water

Hundreds of backaches

Thousands of heartaches

– It takes to produce a pretty plant – they would gladly pay the price.

DSCN3581All humor aside, it pretty much sums up the process of growing plants. We take a lot of pride in the process, and it allows us to grow the best plants available. But it ain’t easy.

Thinking: Each plant we grow and sell starts with thinking. What plants do our customers want? Will they survive in this climate? How many should we grow? Once we’ve thought ourselves into convulsions, we move on to step two.

Digging: We don’t actually do much true digging anymore – most of our plants are grown in containers, so our equivalent is the potting process. Still, it’s pretty rigorous. In 2015 we put a staggering number of plants on our benches that were grown right here onsite. This includes over 50,000 1-gallon perennials, over 5,000 trees and shrubs, and almost 6,000 vegetables and strawberries.

Sunshine: Colorado is a very sunny state, yet somehow rarely sunny when we really need it. For example, if we get a long stretch of cloudy cool days in May like we did in 2015, tomatoes quickly develop edema, where they get water-filled blisters along the stem. We like the sun. We need the sun.

Coaxing: It takes a lot of coaxing to grow plants. You hope for conditions to be perfect. You talk to them, encouraging them to be vigorous. You tinker with fertilizer, hoping to give them that extra little boost.

DSCN2886Experience: Thankfully, we have some very experienced people behind the wheel, and that experience is key to producing a plant that not only looks good, but is healthy and strong. We learn from past mistakes and amplify past success.

Headaches: Our experts gets the lion’s share of the headaches. The saying “ignorance is bliss” exists for a reason. The more we know about potential problems, the more sleep we lose worrying about them.

Soil: Good soil is a key component to our process. The potting soil we grow our plants in is mixed locally by Organix Supply, and it is formulated specifically to create the best possible growing conditions for our plants in conjunction with the fertilizers we use and the specific mineral contents of our well water. In one year, we use 240 cubic yards of soil. That’s 5207 bushels, in case you’re counting.

Water: To go along with all that soil is a lot of water. Plant in pots get thirsty – a lot thirstier than they’d be if they were growing in the ground. One of my worst dreams is for our water systems to fail and us not to notice. On a hot day in August, that could be the quick death of thousands and thousands of innocent plants!

Backaches: Caring for all of the plants is a physical job. We have to move them from here to there. We have to haul hoses all over the place. Our nursery is an 11-acre property, and we go darn near everywhere on foot.

Heartaches: The backaches are abundant, and when things don’t go right, they are accompanied by equally painful heartaches. When the floods of September 2013 struck, thousands of plants washed away. All of that time, that thought, that backache just swirled away in
a torrential mess.

And yet we continue. It doesn’t make us rich. It’s never easy. But it is a joyful work, and an important one. And if we keep our focus on the pleasure plants bring, it will always be worth it.

What to do with old Christmas trees

According to the National Christmas Tree Association,  between 25 million and 30 million real  Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. each year. If the average height of a Christmas tree is 7 feet, that means that in the next month, 37,000 miles of Christmas trees will be disposed of in one way or another. The Earth is only 24,900 miles around at the Equator. To put it lightly, that’s a lot of trees!

Most municipalities in the U.S. offer some kind of recycling program for dried out Christmas trees, and the variety of uses for those tired old trees is truly astonishing. Probably the most common way trees are recycled is via the wood chipper, producing mulch that is then distributed to residents or used in city projects (this is what the City of Fort Collins and Larimer County do). Here’s a few other neat ways that Christmas trees are reincarnated:

  • Take your tree out back and let it dry out. The needles make a great mulch, and can help acidify our alkaline Colorado soil. Use the wood in your fireplace. If you don’t have a fireplace, ask around. I bet you know someone who would be happy to have some free firewood.
  • Stake your tree upright in the yard and string it up with popcorn or other bird treats for a wonderful winter wildlife feeder.
  • On beaches where sand erosion is a serious environmental problem, old Christmas trees are used along with short sections of fence to create windbreaks, allowing the natural rebuilding of sand dunes, a vital ecosystem for many delicate species of plants and animals. This is especially useful in areas damaged by hurricanes, such as the Gulf Coast in Alabama following Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
  • Old Christmas trees are used in a number of different ways to create habitats for animals. They are  sunk in the shallow waters of lakes and ponds to provide nursery habitat for young fish. Under the guidance of the Division of Wildlife, they can be bundled together and placed in forest areas where they provide cover for small animals like birds, rabbits, ground squirrels, and the like.
  • Old Christmas trees are used for fuel in biomass heating systems and power generators.

There are probably many other creative ways to recycle Christmas trees. If you have a great idea, we’d love to hear about it! If you just want to drop your tree of somewhere and be done with it, The City of Fort Collins and Larimer County are offering free tree recycling until January 18, 2016. Here’s what to do:

  • Remove all decorations, including tinsel, lights, tree stand, nails, and plastic bags.
  • Take your tree to one of the following free drop-off locations:
    • Edora Park, 1420 E. Stuart St. (Tennis court parking lot)
    • Larimer County Landfill, 5887 S. Taft Hill Rd. (Monday – Saturday, 8a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
    • Rolland Moore Park, 2201 S. Shields St. (Parking lot, S.E. corner)
    • Streets Department, 625 Ninth Street (S.W. corner of Lemay Ave. and E. Vine Dr.)
    • Fossil Creek Park, 5821 S. Lemay Ave.
    • Wellington Recycling Drop-Off Site (corner of 6th Street and Grant Ave.)
  • All free tree recycling ends on January 18, 2016, so don’t wait. Besides, the longer you wait, the more dried needles you’ll have to dig out of your carpet.