Spring Tips

Protect from frost, cold

Frost blankets can protect large areas from frost, but can also collect snow and crush breakable stems

Even the hardiest of vegetables and flowers need protection from frost and freezing temperatures. In Northern Colorado, the average last frost occurs in mid-May, and in Southern Wyoming it can be as late as the first or second week of June. In Autumn, the first average frost usually occurs within the first week of October in Fort Collins, and Southern Wyoming can freeze as early as the last week of September. When is comes to protecting tender plants, don’t let those 70 degree days fool you!

What will survive a frost?

Most early spring bulbs resist the unpredictable weather, but the actual blooms are more likely to be damaged. The same goes for vegetables; early season crops may thrive in cooler conditions, but may be devastated by a hard cold snap (typically 28 degrees Fahrenheit and warmer is safe for most frost-hardy crops, but any colder and they risk damage).

What won’t survive a frost?

Warm season annuals and vegetable including petunias, zinnias, tomatoes, peppers, and beans do not like cold temperatures. Make sure they are well-protected in the event of even a light frost. The blossoms of many fruit trees are also at risk from frost and freeze. While the health of the tree should not be compromised, a late frost or freeze may damage the blossom or any newly developed fruit. 

How to protect plants from frost damage

  • There are many ways to prevent cold damage to your plants. Frost cloth, whether laid directly over plants or attached to a structure, can provide a few degrees of protections in a light freeze. There are a variety of options for frost cloth including bags to wrap individual shrubs or larger pieces of frost cloth sold by the foot. 

    Hot Caps are a heavy-duty waxed paper cap that creates a mini greenhouse for seedlings

  • Hot Caps to cover tender (but hardened off) crops. Even an upside down nursery pot can cover plants overnight. Just remember to remove any covering during the day so sunlight can get in.
  • Season Extenders (often referred to as Wall-O-Waters) create a very warm environment for individual plants, not only protecting plants from frost but also creating extra warmth during the day, warming soil and accelerating growth.
  • Using black plastic to cover soil in vegetable gardens will also warm the soil, prevent moisture loss and keep weeds at bay. You can do the same in landscape beds with a layer of mulch.

There are a variety of options for frost protection

What if there’s snow?

Snow during a frost event can be a blessing and a curse. Snow can actually benefit some plants, especially spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils, as it creates a layer of moisture on the plant that can keep cold air from drying and causing further damage. 

However, snow can also be very heavy! Especially on trees and shrubs, avoid using frost cloth if temperatures may be so low that it won’t be much help (the benefits of frost cloth are questionable for fruit blossoms in anything below about 28 degrees). Frost cloth can collect a lot of snow, weighing the tree down and creating a tremendous risk of broken limbs than can negatively affect the health of the tree for years to come. Don’t risk your tree’s long-term health in an effort to save a few blossoms!

 

As always, if you have concerns about protecting your plants, stop in or give us a call. We are here for you, no matter the weather!

Cool season vegetable gardens

Late March is a great time to start planting cool season vegetables. Cool season crops prefer cool daytime temperatures of 60 to 80 degrees, and down to 40 degrees at night.

Semi-Hardy vegetables such as beets, carrots, cauliflower, parsley, parsnips, potatoes and Swiss chard are less tolerant of a frost, and may need some additional protection. Using mulch, Season Extenders and covering with row covers will help protect veggies from low temperatures. The most cold-hardy, such as broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, onions, lettuce, peas, radish, spinach and turnips, can withstand a frost.

Cool-season crops will stop producing when temperatures are high in the summertime, but keep in mind you can plant another round of crops in late summer for a fall harvest!

We have an extensive selection of cool season veggie seeds from great companies like Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., Beauty Beyond Belief, Botanical InterestsRenee’s Garden, Seed Savers Exchange, and Territorial Seed Company.

We also have spinach, lettuce, and kale starter plants grown here at Fort Collins Nursery by our wonderful production staff.  More starters like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and various greens will arrive later in the month of March.

Shrub roses for summer color

Looking for beautiful color all summer long? Try adding a shrub rose for summer color, even in a harsh location. Some of our most popular shrub roses to try include Morden Sunrise, Winnipeg Parks, Hope for Humanity, Sunrise Sunset or a Knockout.

Shrub roses do well in most parts of Colorado and are the hardiest of rose varieties. Choose a full-sun area with well-drained soil. Avoid areas with other shrubs to cut down on root competition.

Make sure to amend the soil when planting, digging a hole about twice the size of the container wide a deep. Click here for our handy planting guide

Shrub roses also benefit from early spring pruning. Remove dead, diseased or winter-damaged canes, and open up areas for air circulation and shape. There is no need to cut back shrub roses to the ground like the hybrid roses. Past-bloom flowers develop into attractive rose hips, which add a dab of winter color and food for birds.

Ask a nursery tree and shrub representative for more tips, fertilizers and maintenance on shrub roses.

Planting Guide for Trees & Shrubs

Fall is an ideal time to plant deciduous trees and shrubs. Going into winter, the plants go dormant, allowing them to use all of their resources for root establishment. Once, planted, the success of your new trees and shrubs is, quite literally, in your hands. It sounds like a lot of pressure, but don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Follow the guidelines in our Planting Guide, and you’ll be on your way to the greenest thumb on the block! 

Click here for the Planting Guide

Fertilizing Veggies

Fertilizer_NLAs vegetables grow in your garden, they remove important nutrients from the soil that are necessary for development.  Adding fertilizer will help replace elements like nitrogen and phosphorus to aid in growth and yield.  There are many methods of fertilizing and many types of fertilizers out there so you have a number of options to achieve the desired results.

The two basic categories of fertilizer are organic and conventional (synthetic) fertilizer.  Both methods will work but there are some pros and cons to consider for each. The major reason to choose an organic vegetable fertilizer is to build up your soil for the long haul. Organic fertilizers do not result in salt buildup in the soil and run a significantly lower risk of causing fertilizer burn on plants. The main disadvantage is that organic fertilizers often come with a higher price tag, and because they tend to dissipate more quickly once applied, may need to be applied more frequently. A conventional fertilizer, by contrast, may cause salts to build up in soil over time. However, many conventional fertilizers are less expensive than organics and are formulated to be slow-release, meaning one application can feed plants over a much longer time period than an organic fertilizer. As always, it is important to do some product research and read the instructions carefully before use. Consult one of our experts if you have doubts on how to use the product.

Please keep in mind that adding nutrients that are not needed can result in deficiencies of other nutrients and can damage your plants.  For this reason, over fertilizing can be worse than not adding enough.  The only real way to judge your soil’s needs is to have a soil analysis completed. Locally, the CSU soil lab will do an analysis for a small fee and you can pick up a free testing kit here at Fort Collins Nursery.

Staking and Supports

StakingSupport_NLNow that you put in the time and effort to plant your garden, don’t forget to give your plants the additional support they need to thrive through the summer. Support structures such as garden stakes, trellises and cages encourage a healthier crop and provide many benefits to the plants like proper air circulation and additional sunlight.

For some basic rules and tips on supporting specific plants, check out this link from Burpee.

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

 

 

Tomatoes: A taste of summer

One of the most popular additions to any vegetable garden is homegrown tomatoes. Nothing beats the taste of a juicy, sweet tomato that has ripened on the vine.

At Fort Collins Nursery, we offer a huge variety of tomato plants and seeds to satisfy your hankering. Our varieties include: Beefsteak, Cherry, Roma, Brandywine, Lemon Boy, and more! Call us at 970-482-1984 for availability.

Tomatoes are tender plants. We recommend using a Season Extender or Hot Kap to protect against cold temperatures. We also offer frost cloth.

Don’t forget to keep tomatoes off the ground with a sturdy tomato cage, garden stake, tomato tower, or even try a Topsy Turvy, and hang them upside down! Whiskey barrels also make excellent containers for indeterminate tomato plants ­– they’ll just grow and grow!

Did you know tomato plants like salty soils?

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 (credit anna). 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.

Test soil before amending

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!