by Sam Doll
Now that fall is nearly upon us, it’s time to start thinking about planting grass seeds! Don’t know what you are doing? Don’t worry. We are here to help. Here are our 5 tips to successfully plant grass seed this season!
1. The Season Matters
While some warm-weather grasses, like bermudagrass, should be planted in early summer, most grasses need mild weather to successfully germinate and survive. Freezes and harsh heat can kill off your baby grass before it has a chance to become established. Late Spring and early Fall, when the soil temperature is between 50 to 80 degrees, is the best time to plant most grass seeds.
2. Find the Right Seed
Find the grass that will suit your lifestyle and location. Some mixes, like our Green Manure and Cool Season Cover Crop, are great for restoring the soil nutrients in your soil. Some, like our Colorado Supreme Turf Grass Mix, are better for heavy foot traffic. Native and drought-tolerant grasses are great for creating a sustainable and low-maintenance landscape. Make sure to consider your soil type, climate, amount of sun, and intended use when picking a grass mix.
3. Prepare Your Soil
Once you’ve chosen your site, use a shovel or a sod cutter to remove the existing plants and grass from the area. Remove any debris and rocks you see, till the soil, and fill in any low spots. You want your soil to be broken into pebble-sized particles.
Rake the site to even out the soil and remove small debris. Be careful when bringing in new topsoil to make sure it doesn’t contain unwanted weed seeds.
Optional: You can send a soil sample to your local extension office to have it tested to see if you need any soil amendments. As for pH, you generally want to keep the soil between 6.0 and 7.0.
4. Seed and Fertilize
Once your site is prepped, it’s time to seed. Using a drop spreader or a broadcast spreader, spread half the seed lengthwise over your site, then use the other half and spread crosswise over your site. A recommended seeding rate will be listed on the seed tag.
Feeding with starter (weak) fertilizer the same day as you spread seed will provide proper nutrients for early growth and establishment. Make sure the site stays moist, but not soggy, through germination.
Different mixes require different maintenance. Generally, once the grass reaches 5-6 inches (for turf type), it is recommended to cut it to encourage even growth. Water and fertilize as needed.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is one of the most commonly recognized hummingbirds in North America, especially in the eastern half of the country where they spend their summers. They are the only hummingbird to breed east of the Great Plains. Commonly found in open woods, forest edges, parks, gardens and yards their familiar green and red plumage, make them easy to identify.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are 3-3.75 inches in length and weigh around 10-13 ounces with a life span of about 4-6 years. These speedy little birds flap their wings 53 times per second, can hover in mid-air and fly upside down and backward. The males have a striking bright red or red-orange iridescent throat. The males’ upperparts and head are bright green. The female’s underparts are plain white and upperparts green, but they lack the brilliant red throat of the male.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feed mostly on nectar and insects. They are strongly attracted to red and orange flowers, like those of trumpet vine, red columbine, bee balm, scarlet sage and many Penstemon varieties. They happily feed from nectar feeders too.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are solitary birds that only come together to mate. The female builds her cup-shaped nest about 10-20 feet above ground in a well-camouflaged area of a shrub or tree. Here she will commonly produce 1-2 broods of 2 white eggs per year. The incubation period is 10-16 days. The female, alone, will care for the young for 2-3 weeks before they are mature enough to leave the nest.
In early fall, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird will begin its migration to Mexico & Central America crossing over 500 miles of water in their nonstop journey across the Gulf of Mexico. They can become a little more aggressive near food sources in late summer as they begin preparing for the journey.
To attract more of these lovely birds to your yard keep a clean and full nectar feeder, plant more nectar-rich flowers in their favorite colors of orange and red, limit insecticide use and provide a water source such as a mister or shallow fountain for these birds to bathe and preen in.
Let us help you plant more nectar-rich hummingbird attracting flowers with our Wildflowers for Hummingbirds Mix.
By Engrid Winslow
“The first ear of corn, eaten like a typewriter, means summer to me—intense, but fleeting.” ― Michael Anthony
There are two flavors of summer that I will unapologetically eat until bursting with absolutely no apologies because they haunt my food memories in the dead of winter. One is tomatoes fresh from the garden and the other is sweet corn.
Sweet corn is a vegetable that originated in the Americas and has spread worldwide. Originally referred to as maize the cultivation of corn was introduced in South America from Mexico in two waves: the first, more than 6000 years ago, spread through the Andes. Evidence of cultivation in Peru has been found dating to about 6700 years ago. The second wave, about 2000 years ago, spread corn through the lowlands of South America. Around 4,500 B.C., maize began to spread to the north; it was first cultivated in what is now the United States at several sites in New Mexico and Arizona, about 4,100 B.C.
During the first millennium AD, maize cultivation spread more widely in the areas north. In particular, the large-scale adoption of maize agriculture and consumption in eastern North America took place about A.D. 900. Native Americans cleared large forest and grassland areas for the new crop.
Corn is used in many foods including grits (in the South), polenta (in Italy), cornstarch, chowder, cornbread, cornflake cereal, hominy, popcorn, corn dogs, tamales and tortillas. But fresh sweet corn on the cob has to be the most popular and is a sure sign of summer.
Be sure to visit a farm stand that picks their corn daily and cook and eat it on the same day it was picked. The intensity of flavor will be at its peak and you won’t want to go back to the supermarket for corn ever again. Resist the urge to open the ears as that can cause the ears to dry out. Just feel for firm kernels and fill up your bag to overflowing with fresh, delicious sweet corn.
Last year a friend shared her secret to cooking corn easily and I now use this method exclusively. Instead of boiling a pot of water, shucking the corn and trying to remove all of the silk, use your microwave. Just pop un-shucked corn into the microwave for 4 minutes per ear, up to four ears at a time (16 minutes). Let cool slightly and then see how easily the shucks and silk come off the cooked ears. From there you can do all sorts of things with it. It’s easy to scrape off the kernels with a sharp knife and stash them in the freezer to bring back a taste of summer when you need it the most.
Here is one of my favorite ways to combine my two summer favorites – corn and tomatoes. It is delicious and you will want to make it as often as possible while these two summer vegetables are at their peak.
CORN AND TOMATO SALAD
Slice one pint of cherry tomatoes and salt generously (at least 1 teaspoon)
4 ears of corn, prepared as above and scraped from the cob
6-7 leaves of fresh basil, chiffonade
The key to this mixture is to set the salted tomatoes to the side for at least 30 minutes so that the tomatoes give up some of their juice and become slightly jammy. Add cooled corn and basil and enjoy. It keeps well and is one of the best things you will ever eat.
There are many add-ons you can do for this salad. It’s great with a few squeezes of lime juice, a drizzle of olive oil, or you can add chopped sweet onions, drained and rinsed black beans and cotija cheese for a great vegetarian taco or salsa fresca for fish tacos, a dip or topping on grilled fish or chicken. You can also substitute the cilantro, chopped parsley or thyme for the basil.
“A light wind swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine. “ Anne Bronte
By Engrid Winslow
“If you can mock a leek, you can eat a leek!” ― William Shakespeare, Henry V
Since you planted leeks in the spring, now is the time to pat yourself on the back and enjoy the harvest. One of the simplest ways to enjoy leeks is to sauté them in butter and olive oil with mild peppers. It is also a good idea to slice them thinly and freeze them for adding to soups and stews during the winter.
Leeks are related to onions as they are both in the Allium family) but have a much more mild flavor. The Hebrew Bible talks of leeks, and reports it as abundant in Egypt. Dried specimens have been discovered at archaeological sites in ancient Egypt along with wall carvings and drawings, which indicate that the leek was a part of the Egyptian diet from at least the second millennium BCE. Texts also show that it was grown in Mesopotamia from the beginning of the second millennium BCE. The leek was a favorite vegetable of the Roman Emperor Nero, who consumed it in soup or in oil, believing it beneficial to the quality of his voice.
Some of the most common uses of Leek are as an ingredient of cock-a-leekie soup, leek and potato soup, and vichyssoise, as well as plain leek soup. But here are a couple of other ways for you to enjoy your harvest of leeks:
LEEKS AND CHICKEN
4 TBL extra-virgin olive oil 4 medium leeks, white and tender green parts, thinly sliced
1 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 2-inch pieces
¼ cup flour, plus 1 TBL more, if needed 3 cups chicken stock
1 tsp fresh thyme, leaves only 2 TBL nonfat plain Greek yogurt
4 tsp Dijon mustard 1/3 cup water
Salt and pepper
Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a skillet and add leeks, sauté for a few minutes until they begin to wilt, then add 1/3 cup of water and cover. Let the leeks steam for up to7 minutes until very soft and melted, stirring every minute. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Empty leeks and mushrooms into a separate bowl or plate.
Season chicken with salt and pepper and toss in ¼ cup of flour. Heat remaining oil in skillet and brown chicken until golden brown, add stock and thyme and simmer until chicken is just cooked through (about 1 more minute). Transfer chicken to bowl with vegetables.
Simmer the stock over moderate heat until reduced by half, 4-5 minutes. If the sauce is not thick enough, mix 1 tablespoon flour into vegetables and chicken. If too thick, add additional stock. Return vegetables and chicken to skillet and simmer until warmed through, about one minute. Blend yogurt and mustard together and stir into the stew. Season with salt and pepper, if needed and serve over rice.
by Heather Stone
Mid- August to Mid- September is the prime time to start planning and planting your fall vegetable garden and your cool season vegetables. Even though it’s still hot outside, the nights are getting cooler and the days shorter. Now is the time to get those quick-growing, cool-season vegetables in the ground. For bountiful late-season harvests here are a few guidelines to follow.
-Know which crops to plant and when. Here’s a list of our favorite cool-season vegetables and their days to maturity.
- Kale should be planted 85 – 90 days before the first frost. The leaves can handle a few light touches of frost and become sweeter each time.
- Carrots can be planted 80-85 days before frost. They can be harvested when young and tender. Even after the cold temperatures shrivel the tops, they can be dug, sweet and juicy, from the ground throughout the fall.
- Beets can do double duty with green tops for salads and tasty roots as well. Plant seeds about 65-70 days before frost, depending on the type you choose.
- Leafy greens such as spinach and leaf lettuces, arugula, mustard greens and Swiss chard all do best in the cooler temperatures of fall. Plant seeds about 50-60 days before frost depending on the type of green chosen. These can be harvested when young and immature for delicious baby greens.
- Radishes are always great to spice up salads. These are fast-growing and can be planted 30-35 days before the first frost. Pull them when young and tender.
-Keep moist. The garden will dry out more quickly in the warm days of late summer than it did in the spring. Keep a close eye on new plantings to make sure those seeds or seedlings stay well-watered. A light covering of grass clippings or straw can serve as mulch, helping to retain moisture. Using a light row cover over newly planted areas can also help retain moisture, provide shade and protect against light frosts further down the road.
Fertilize once a week with an organic fertilizer with nitrogen and enjoy delicious salads and veggies all fall long.
We are deep into August. Here are a few tips and reminders about where should we be focusing our time and efforts in the garden this month to make the most impact.
For many, August in the garden is an explosion of flowers, fruit and vegetables. Keep on top of harvesting! A daily inspection of zucchini plants ensures none escape your eye and turn into what more resembles a baseball bat than a vegetable. Check tomatoes for blossom end rot and adjust watering if needed.
- Start gathering recipes for the crops you have in abundance. Hit up some of your favorite websites or blogs for recipe ideas. Check out our reader shared recipes here.
4. Side-dress your warm-season crops with a little compost to give them a boost to finish out the growing season.
5. Now is the time to plant another sowing of cool-season vegetables like lettuces, chard, kale, radish, spinach, arugula, beets, carrots and peas. This doesn’t have to take long and you’ll thank yourself later when you have fresh salad greens throughout the fall. Plant another row of bush beans too for a fall harvest.
6. Keep weeds under control in both the perennial and vegetable gardens. Weeds rob moisture, nutrients and light from our desired plantings.
7. Keep perennials deadheaded and cleaned up. Tuck a pair of pruners in your pocket while walking through and enjoying your garden. I little clean up here and there helps keep pests at bay and saves on time later.
8. Continue to care for your plants in pots by deadheading, removing dead and diseased foliage and regularly fertilizing.
9. Take notes and/or pictures of what worked and what didn’t in your garden. These reminders will help next spring when it’s time to plant again.
10. Start planning your fall bulb plantings.
by Heather Stone
If you have space, make room for a hill or two of watermelons in your garden. They are easy to grow and like any fruit and vegetable, they just taste better when they are plucked straight from the garden. Besides, nothing says summer quite like a juicy slice of watermelon.
Here are a few tips for successfully growing watermelon.
- Choose the right variety for your climate
Most watermelons need 80-95 days to ripen, but some varieties require even longer. Choose one that works for your area. You can get a head start by starting seeds indoors about three weeks before your last frost date or by purchasing established plants. Plant outside when all chances of frost have passed and the soil temperatures are in the 70’s.
- Give them room to roam
Watermelons need lots of room to ramble. It is not uncommon for vines to reach up to 20 feet in length. The vines don’t like to be regularly moved so pick a spot where you can let them roam freely.
- Know when to water
Keep plants moist when starting off and until fruits begin to form. Watermelons are fairly deep-rooted plants, so in some climates, you might not need a lot of extra moisture except during extended dry periods. When watering, water at the roots and try to avoid getting the leaves wet. This helps to keep down on the spread of fungal diseases. Once the fruit has begun to set, experts say to hold off on the water to concentrate the sugars in the fruit, giving you a sweeter melon.
- Know when to harvest
It’s not always easy to know when your watermelon is ripe. To start, check the “days to harvest” of your variety and begin to check for maturity when plants have reached that age. The color of the bottom spot where the melon sits on the ground will turn from white to yellow as the melon matures. Also, watch for the rind to turn from a bright, slick appearance to a more dulled look. The skin or rind should be tough enough that a thumbnail won’t pierce the skin. After picking, chill for best flavor.
By Engrid Winslow
Mysterious holes in the leaves of your favorite rose? Earwigs buried deep in the leaves of your lettuce? Flea beetles mangling your perennials and vegetables? Most people are averse to creepy crawlies in their gardens but, please, BEFORE you reach for the chemicals to blast them into the stratosphere, consider that all of the insects are essential to having a healthy garden and planet. So here are a few suggestions for less toxic remedies of getting rid of garden pests to try in your garden.
Slugs – small saucers of beer tucked under leaves will attract them and they will fall in and drown. Slugs aren’t picky so don’t waste a craft brew on them – Coors works just fine.
Earwigs – There are a couple of things you can try for these and one is a small saucer of soy sauce with a little bit of vegetable oil and you’ll get the same results as with the slugs, above. You can also roll up several sheets of newspaper and get them fairly wet. Slide them under your plants in the evening and throw them away in the morning.
Aphids – These are a very weak, soft-bodied insect that feed on tender new foliage and buds. You can bet that if you have aphids, you will soon have a host of ladybugs feasting on them. If you can’t wait, then use soapy water with a few drops of oil and spray or dab on the foliage. You can also use garlic spray.
Flea and other beetles – Diatomaceous earth is a mineral composed of the skeletal remains of tiny sea creatures. It has edges that are sharp and will pierce the bodies of beetles and cause them to dry out. It will harm beneficial insects and earthworms, so use sparingly. Also, don’t breathe it into your lungs.
Other insects – Use a lightweight row cover to protect young plants and the ones that are being chomped on the most.
There are other products available at most garden centers now that gardeners are more aware of the consequences of the use of most pesticides to insects, animals, fish and even people. Some of the best tools in your arsenal are: (1) creating biodiversity and selecting plants that attract pollinators and (2) nurturing the soil by using products such as compost and nettle teas. Recognize that most pests run their course if you are patient and wait for their predators to show up.
by Heather Stone
One of my favorite plants began blooming this week, Lacy phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia. It has many common names including lacy scorpionweed, tansy leaf phacelia, blue tansy, purple tansy and my favorite, bee’s friend. Clusters of light blue-violet flowers that unfurl in a fiddlehead shape sit atop attractive fern-like foliage. Reaching heights of 1-3 feet and blooming for 6-8 weeks this fast-growing wildflower is an excellent addition to any garden. It also makes an excellent cut flower.
Native to the southwestern United States, this easy to grow annual does well in hot, dry conditions but easily adapts to a variety of site conditions. Lacy phacelia seeds germinate readily in 15-30 days. Sow seeds early in the spring while there is still a possibility of frost. Ideal soil temperatures for best germination are between 37-68 degrees F. Press seeds gently into the soil at a depth of ⅛-¼”.
It’s not only the lovely blue-violet flowers that make lacy phacelia one of my favorite plants. Lacy Phacelia is well known for its ability to attract bees and butterflies to an area. It is a heavy nectar producer and is listed in the top 20 pollen-producing flowers for honeybees. Having this source of high-quality nectar and pollen means you’ll be attracting many native bees, bumblebees, honey bees and butterflies to your garden. I have these flowers growing near my front porch and just this week I counted 4 different varieties of bees on the few flowers that just started blooming.
Trying growing lacy phacelia near your vegetable garden to increase your yields.
Lacy phacelia also does well in containers. These containers can then be moved to different areas of the garden that need pollination. The benefits of Lacy phacelia as a cover crop are becoming more popular. It is widely used in Europe as it aggressively outcompetes weeds and absorbs excess nitrates and calcium from the soil. But it’s most important contribution is its pollinator-attracting power.
Lacy phacelia readily self sows so removing flower heads before they set seed helps limit any unwanted volunteers. Though when you see these beautiful flowers and how many pollinators they attract to the garden you might want to let a few of these wildflowers go to seed.