Spring Tips

Caring for your lawn

285184-33811-57The recommended height for blue grass lawns is 2 ½”-3″. Mow frequently so that no more than 1/3 of the grass height is removed during a single mowing. With this program, you will be mowing every 4-5 days in the Spring and every 7-10 days in the Summer.

Keep ryegrass, fescue and wheatgrass to a height of 2 to 3 inches. Buffalo-grass and blue grama do best if grown longer, or not mowed at all.

Remember to keep lawn mower blades clean and sharp for the best cut. Dirty, dull blades cause rough edges, which will turn grass blade tops brown, and damage the overall  health of the lawn. Lawns bounce back better from mowing if irrigated afterward.

It is also recommended to use a mulching mower, that is one that leaves grass clippings on the lawn. This adds nutrients back to the soil, and helps the lawn retain moisture.


Give your lawn a breath of fresh air

Photo credit: Minnesota Lawn Care Pro

As soon as the soils warms in Spring, it’s a good time to have your lawn aerated. Aeration, which is better for your lawn then thatch raking, will reduce soil compaction and to improve nutrient and moisture delivery.

Lawns will also benefit from more oxygen to the grasses’ root system.

If thatch in your lawn is thicker than ½ inch, core aerate with a mechanical aerator. This will improve the health and vitality of the lawn.

Leave plugs on top and break them up with a mower.

Speaking of weeds….

Did something new pop up in your garden? Did you hope it was a volunteer? Keep a close eye on your garden for noxious weeds. Invasive, aggressively-spread weeds can take over after very little time.

Some of the worst Colorado noxious weeds are:  leafy spurge, spotted knapweed, diffuse knapweed, Russian knapweed, Canada thistle, musk thistle, Dalmatian toadflax, yellow toadflax, field bindweed and purple loosestrife.

For a list and photos of Colorado noxious weeds, visit: http://weeds.hotmeal.net.

Help attract beneficial bees and butterflies

Make your garden more hospitable to bees and butterflies!

  • Reduce the use of pesticides
  • Plant nectar-rich food that blooms through the summer
  • Provide a shallow water source and a flat rock
  • Leave a small patch of bare ground for bees to establish underground nests

Bees are most attracted to white, yellow, blue, pink and purple flowers. Try planting wild lilac, western and eastern redbud, flowering quince, cranesbill, lavender, catmint, rhododendron, rose and salvia.

Butterflies need a food source all summer long, so try: yarrow, hyssop, anemone, aster, bluebeard, tickseed, foxglove, coneflower, potentilla, bee balm, Russian sage, blackeyed Susan, pincushion flower, stonecrop, spirea, verbena, milkweed and butterfly bush.

Spotting a Fido-friendly lawn

One problem troubling dog owners is urination spots in the lawn. Grass will yellow and die, often ringed by lush, dark green grass.

The dead spots are caused by concentrated salt and ammonia in the urine, which has a similar effect of burning from over-fertilization. The myth that female dogs urine is more damaging is only partly correct, they just eliminate in one area, causing a concentrated spot.

Avoiding these spots can be a time-consuming process. Some dog owners follow dogs with hose, heavily irrigate the spot, train dogs to go in a gravel or out-of-the-way area, or go for walks (and make it a neighbor’s problem!)

Reviving spots can be quickly remedied by reseeding, or just leaving them to fill in on their own. 

Plant a kitchen herb garden

Whether indoors or out, a fresh culinary delight can be found in a kitchen herb garden. It’s easy to do, and a beautiful, edible addition to any garden, patio or windowsill.

First, find a container that provides plenty of room for your herbs roots and good drainage. Place a pottery shard or rock over the drainage hole to avoid soil loss when watering.

Chose a rich, light potting mix or amend your outdoor bed with a compost full of organic matter, such as peat moss. Since your herbs are going to be consumed, only use organic fertilizers or pesticides.

Choose herbs that you know and love to eat, but group according to water needs. Also factor in that some herbs like to spread, like mint, thyme and oregano, and should be planted in containers. Perennial woody herbs, such as rosemary, are best purchased as a plant, where as annual herbs, like cilantro, can be successfully started from seed.

Harvest herbs before they flower for the best taste. You can control flowering by pinching off flower buds.

Be sure to check out our August 11th Workshop on Microgreens for more culinary inspiration!

Successive sowing in the garden

Successive sowing of seeds in your vegetable garden will ensure a harvest all season long. Plant bush beans, beets, carrots, broccoli, kohlrabi and peas now for a fall crop.

Warm season vegetables, such as beans, corn, cucumbers, melons, okra, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, pumpkin and squash should start to flower and fruit.

Removing ripe fruit will ensure these plants keep producing through the season.

Pest control the natural way

Try fighting pests with their natural enemies! Beneficial insects prey upon pests that damage your plants.

In our Garden Shop you can seasonally find ladybugs, praying mantid eggs, earth worms and nematodes. We may also be able to order predatory mites to control spider mites, tricho-gramma to control caterpillars, green lacewings to control aphids and delphastus to control white flies.

We offer Plan Bee! mason bee nests, to encourage these wonderful (and threatened) pollinators, to encourage an active population in your yard.

Got grasshoppers? Try Nolo Bait, a long-term grasshopper suppression agent made of wheat bran coated in spores. The hoppers eat the bran and become infected. This bait is safe to use around humans, pets, birds and wildlife!

Diatomaceous Earth is another natural insect control. The “earth” is actually tiny fossilized hard-shelled algae that is mildly abrasive. For insects like ants, this irritates them and causes dehydration.

Worms waste product (castings) make excellent fertilizer!

Call 970-482-1984 for availability.

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!

Start seeds now for strong, healthy plants

The winter months are an excellent time to get a head start on your garden! Seeds are a wonderful and cost-effective way to try new varieties of vegetables.

After choosing your seeds, be sure to follow specific starting instructions. Provide a draft-free 65-75 degree area, and a sunny window or full-spectrum grow light to get seedlings off to a great start. A special seed starting heating pad can help regulate temperatures and give your seedling the warm soil they love.

Fort Collins Nursery offers trays, plastic pots, peat pots, potting mix, and of course hundreds of varieties of organic, heirloom and traditional seed.

Questions? Ask one of our Garden Shop or Greenhouse representatives for ideas or recommendations to make this year’s garden something to talk about!