Summer Tips

5 Tips for Peach Success

Nothing defines these hot lazy days of late summer better than a sweet juicy peach. Did you that the only thing better than a Colorado-grown peach bought at a farmer’s market is a peach grown in your own yard? Peaches make excellent landscape trees, are easy to care for, and you get the freshest peaches imaginable! Here are 5 tips to help you successfully grow your own juicy delights.

  1. Fall Planting
    While peach trees can be planted successfully nearly any time of year, the highest success rate is found in fall-planted trees. The soil temperature stays elevated long after our daytime temps have dropped, encouraging root growth. The trees are going dormant, so they don’t need to spend energy supporting fruit and foliage, and can instead divert all their energy to getting a healthy root system established. This allows them to overcome transplant shock while they’re dormant and sets them up to grow like mad the following spring!
  2. Trunk Wrap and Winter Watering
    This advice is true for all trees, and peaches are no exception. Colorado winters are dry (even our snow has a very low moisture content), but the sun can still be intense. Use a trunk wrap to protect the bark from drying and splitting from November to March. Make sure to use products designed for this purpose, as improper wrapping may cause more damage than no wrap at all. Water your peach trees 1-2 times per month throughout the winter to prevent the roots from freeze-drying in the ground. This is especially critical for new trees that have been planted within the last 3 years.
  3. Watch for Pests
    Peaches and other stone fruits are prone to a number of pests in this region. With prompt treatment, none of these pests are particularly problematic, but left unchecked, they can ruin your dreams of homegrown peaches. Some of the most common pests include aphids, cytospora canker, and peach-tree borer. For more information on managing these pests, click here:
  4. Structural Pruning
    Fully ripe peaches are full of juice, and consequently can be quite heavy. Periodic pruning of trees helps ensure a stable structure that won’t break under the load of all its fruit and can prevent a litany of problems that can result from ugly limb breakage. Maintenance pruning can also help more sunlight penetrate the canopy of the tree, which encourages better fruiting. For tips on pruning fruit trees, click here:
  5. Fertilizer
    It takes a tremendous amount of energy to produce a good crop of fruit, so feeding your trees is an important step in guaranteeing an abundant crop. We discourage the use of any fertilizer other than a root stimulator in the first two years after planting (we don’t want to encourage limb growth that the roots are unable to support). The third year a peach tree is in your yard, it’s time to start feeding it. We generally recommend low-nitrogen fertilizers for trees and shrubs, our favorite is Jirdon Tree & Shrub Fertilizer (4-10-10). It is always a good idea to get a soil test done prior to major fertilizer applications in order to pick the best fertilizer for your specific soil environment. Here’s a great article from the CSU Extension on fruit tree fertilizing: If you’re having trouble figuring out what’s best for your peach tree, just call us or stop in, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have!

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

Seed planting for fall crops

Kale_NLAs we reach the mid-point of summer, it is time to start planning ahead and planting seeds for fall vegetable crops like cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, kale, carrots and brussels sprouts.  With lower levels of light, more consistent moisture, and the occasional light frost, cool weather crops can excel well into the waning days of fall.  With some careful planning, you can keep your garden productive well into fall and even winter.   At Fort Collins Nursery we have a number of great seed varieties from great companies like Botanical Interests, Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.Seed Savers Exchange and Territorial Seed Co.  Before you get started it is important to know the following information:

Average First Frost

In Fort Collins, the average first frost date is October 2nd.  For those of you in other surrounding areas you can look up your average first frost date through the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Days to Maturity

To find out the best dates to plant your seeds, you will need to calculate when to plant your vegetables so they’ll mature before being killed by frost and cold.  To find the optimal date, simply subtract the days to maturity from the average first frost date in your region.  For example, for a vegetable like beets that take 60 days to reach maturity, you would need to plant your seeds between August 3rd based on our October 2nd average first frost.  Most seed packs will list information on how many days until the crop reaches maturity.  A quick Google search will also yield several examples of vegetable planting guides like this one from CSU Extension.

Cold Hardiness

Certain varieties like broccoli, beans and winter squash are more susceptible to frost while kale and cabbage are more tolerant.   If you’re worried about losing your crops to premature frost, you may want to choose from the more cold tolerant crops.

 Heat Stress

As the summer temperatures start to rise above 85 F., many of our plants will inevitably start to feel the adverse effects of heat stress.  Heat stress occurs when temperatures are hot enough for a sufficient period of time to cause irreversible damage to plant function or development.   Signs of heat stress include wilting, yellowing leaves and drying up.  Plants will also drop leaves,, flowers, blossoms and fruits in an effort to conserve water.  Unfortunately there isn’t much that can be done for trees and plants that have sustained heat related injury but there are several things we can do to help minimize or prevent heat injury in the future.

It is important to deal with heat stress as soon as you notice it. First, check the soil several inches below the surface to see if it is already damp. If the soil is damp but your plants still look wilted, do not add more water – many plants simply wilt in intense heat (tomatoes are notorious for this), and will perk up once temperatures drop in the evening. However, if the soil is dry, it is important to water your plants immediately (don’t wait until your next scheduled watering cycle as irreversible damage could set in rapidly). Plants in containers should be watered daily and even twice a day in extreme heat. Make sure to give them a good soaking. Trees and shrubs should be watered regularly and deeply with a long slow trickle to ensure all the moisture is absorbed into the root systems. If water is running off dry compacted dirt, give it a short watering to moisten the surface and hit it again later with a more thorough soaking once the ground is able to absorb. Applying organic mulch is a great way to lock moisture into the soil to prevent evaporation and regulate soil temperature.  Shade cloth and ground covers will also provide your plants with a little instant relief.


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.

Mum’s the word

Looking for some late-summer, early autumn perennial bloomers? Add a colorful chrysanthemum to your flower bed or fall container garden! Fort Collins Nursery offers hundreds of these prolific, hardy and beautifully bushy perennials.

Mums come in a wide variety of colors, from yellow, pink, magenta, red, lavender, and more. Blooms on mums typically last for weeks providing a late-summer boost when other flowers have given out.

Fort Collins Nursery also offers a great selection of colorful asters, also a hardy late-summer and autumn bloomer. Small, abundant, star-shaped flowers tower on 2-3 foot plants, providing a nice backdrop in perennial beds.

Both mums and asters appreciate full sun, and a good dose of compost when planted. They also prefer to be watered at their base. Watering from above, onto the leaves, can encourage powdery mildew.

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?