Plant Garlic this Fall

Nothing smells as inviting as fresh garlic sautéing in a pan. These tasty bulbs can be added to nearly any style of cuisine, or even roasted and eaten by themselves.

Fall is the time to plant garlic for next year’s harvest! This over-wintering bulb needs at least four to six weeks to establish itself. Plant garlic cloves about 12 inches apart in loose, amended soil with plenty of organic matter. Garlic will do best if planted when soil temperatures are 40°F, but before the ground freezes.

Each garlic clove will produce a bulb in the summer. After the leaves have turned brown, garlic is ready to be harvested. Harvest is easiest with a digging fork to loosen the soil without disturbing or damaging bulbs. Drying garlic, or curing, can help your harvest last for up to a year. The biggest and healthiest cloves can be replanted again in the fall.

Keep soil moist but not too wet, which will rot garlic bulbs. Make sure to keep the beds free of weeds, which competes too much with the bulbs.

Fort Collins Nursery has garlic varieties arriving in September, but they don’t last long! Stop in and get planting!

Growing Pumpkins

GiantPumpkins2012Pumpkins, with their edible flesh and long storage life are a warm season crop. They require a long growing season of nearly 85 days, so it’s best to start them indoors from seed. About a week after the last frost (on average May 15 along the northern Colorado front range), pumpkins can be planted outdoors. But be careful, pumpkins do not like their roots disturbed. We recommend starting them in a natural peat-pot (offered in the garden shop) that can be planted directly in the soil.

Choose an area in your garden or yard that receives plenty of sunlight, and has at least 8 ft. x 8 ft. for pumpkin vines to spread. Soil should be rich with organic matter, but not over-fertilized, which can stunt fruit growth.

Pumpkins will start to develop after blossoms are pollinated, so encourage pollinators to visit your garden with other flowering plants. Also avoid using pesticides in and around your garden, since also harm  beneficial insects as well as pests.

To increase the size of giant pumpkins, pick a few nice-sized fruits and cut back the vine just beyond them. This will help all the resources of the plant to be devoted to the growth of those remaining pumpkins.

Interested in entering our annual Giant Pumpkin Contest? See our Calendar of Events and check the month of October for the exact date. Get growing!

Helpful Links:
PlantTalk Colorado – Growing Great Pumpkins
Rocky Mountain Giant Vegetable Growers
Big Pumpkins
Old Farmer’s Almanac: Pumpkins
You Tube:  Larry Checkon, the world record holder for the largest pumpkin

 

 

Growing Sunflowers

GiantSunflower2012Sunflowers are not only an attractive flower, they also have rich history providing edible seed crops. Sunflowers do best when planted directly in the soil, after night temperatures warm to above 50 degrees. As their name suggests, need plenty of sunlight (minimum of 6 hours per day). They will also turn their flower heads to follow the sun from east to west.

For giant sunflowers, make sure to chose an area in the yard near a fence or support structure. Sunflowers tend to become very top-heavy as seeds develop, sometimes pulling themselves over. Watering sunflowers deeply but infrequently encourages deep root development (which will also help them stand upright). Sunflowers can also be utilized for shade and structure for other vegetables in the garden.

In order to keep birds and squirrels from helping themselves to sunflower seeds, paper bags, nylon mesh or nets can be placed over the flower heads. The best bet is to plant a few extra for wildlife to enjoy, and you to enjoy watching them.

Sunflowers tend to attract aphids, which will feed on the plant and cause some stunting. Instead of using a pesticide, which can harm beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies, try spraying aphids off with a jet of water.

Interested in entering our annual Giant Pumpkin and Sunflower Contest, Sat., Oct. 5, 2013? Get growing!

Winter Care for Woody Shrubs, Trees

Don’t forget to water your woody trees and shrubs! Pick a day through the winter that is over 40 degrees and water thoroughly through the winter.

Late winter is also a good time to prune deciduous trees and shrubs. Thinning cuts help encourage growth and increase the amount of light reaching inside branches.

Winter is also a great time to look at shape and structure of deciduous trees, find pest infestations and prune weakened branches (before Spring storms decide which branches should go for you!)

Before Amending, Get a Soil Test

Soil tests are one of the most essential keys to a successful landscape. Many people add an all-in-one fertilizer every spring, thinking one application and forget about it. This can actually build up nutrients to levels that lead to plants’ decline.

Besides basic at-home test kits available at the nursery, we have the added benefit of Colorado State University’s soil testing lab kits. For a small fee, CSU will run a complete diagnostic for the exact breakdown of your soil’s nutrients and deficiencies.

A complete report is issued, detailing pH, salts, lime, texture, organic matter, nitrogen, phosphorus and other minerals. They also recommend specific steps to take to balance soil.

Bring in your report to Fort Collins Nursery, and we can help fill your soil’s needs!

Winterize Your Lawn, Trees and Shrubs

Lawns will especially benefit from fall fertilization with a healthier root system, which will mean a dense, green lawn in the spring. In Northern Colorado, lawns can be fertilized right up to Thanksgiving (late November).
Trees and shrubs do best with a complete fertilizer, after leaves have fallen. Autumn is also a good time to add iron fertilizers for iron deficiencies, which is indicated by yellow-colored leaves throughout the growing season. When in doubt, ask one of our knowledgeable staff to help you choose the fertilizers that are right for your landscape.

Adjust Watering Schedule for Autumn, Winter

Winter WateringEven though winter is here and plants are dormant they still need winter watering in our high desert climate.

We recommend thoroughly watering trees, shrubs, lawns and perennial beds at least once a month. Remember to water when temperatures are above 40 degrees, and with enough time for the water to fully soak into the soil.

Added water, along with a thick bed of mulch, will help protect plants throughout the harsh winter months.

Newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials are the most at risk. Try to water these 2-3 times a month. Fall-laid sod will also need extra moisture.

Finally, make sure that you disconnect and drain your hose after watering to avoid freezing pipes and to prolong the life of your garden hose. Please contact us with any questions. 

Autumn Clean Up

This is the time of year to clean up the garden in anticipation of winter and a carefree spring.

Fallen harvests attract unwanted pests. Raccoons, mice, insects and fungus take advantage of your plants for food and habitat. Clearing out vegetable gardens to reduce chances of attracting pests.

If you want to encourage wildlife, leave seed pods, berries and rose hips on plants. A water source is also appreciated. Also leave ornamental grasses untrimmed until the spring.

If plants have any diseases present, throw them in the trash. Many foliage-based diseases can survive the winter in compost bins. Toss out any weeds, such as dock, vine weed and dandelions. These stubborn weeds spread seed or remain dormant, only to resurface in the spring.

Save fallen leaves to use as mulch or to add to the compost pile. Add the last few rounds of grass clippings to the pile, they’ll help add nitrogen.

To prepare your plants for winter, reduce irrigation, but don’t cut it out entirely. Colorado winters can be dry, so give plants 1-2 soakings per month until spring.

Use tree wrap to prevent sunscald on thin-barked trees after late October. Remove wrap in early spring, when budding occurs.

Winterize with Rose Collars

Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora, and other grafted roses need more winter protection than other varieties. Prune back long canes in November to protect them from snow damage, or wait until mid-April and leave the rose hips for winter interest. Remove debris from the base of the roses, and use a rose collar to hold soil, compost, straw or bark over the rose crown. We carry rose collars, which can be reused year after year. In the spring, the collars can also be used to protect starter tomatoes.

Plant Bulbs in Autumn for Spring Color

Every Autumn, our garden shop is taken over with a diverse selection of bulbs for Spring color! Tulips, daffodils, iris, crocus and more are available in a rainbow of colors. These bulbs can be planted up until the soil freezes, but shop early for the best selection!

We also offer amaryllis and paper white bulbs that can be forced to bloom in the Winter months. Call or stop by for availability, and chat with one of our knowledgeable staff for how-to tips.