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 2001 South Chambers Road * Aurora, Colorado 80014 

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Every autumn our store offers an entertaining environment called Nick`s Fall Fest

Our garden center is transformed into a giant pumpkin patch complete with tons of pumpkins for purchase and an array of fun for the whole Family and class groups!

CLICK HERE for School Field Trips, Class and Group Reservations  |  CLICK HERE for our Fall Fest FAQ

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Chile & Salsa Recipes

nick`s chile fest

Green Chile Enchilada Casserole

Recipe #1 [click here to print]

Green Chile Enchilada Casserole
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 3lbs. Roasted Green Peppers peeled and chopped
  • 1 -22oz. Can Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 2 lbs. Cooked and shredded chicken breast
  • 2lbs. Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tbs. Flour
  • 2 tbs. Oil
  • 36 Corn Tortillas
  • 1 cup Wate
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Chopped Onion (Optional)
  • 1- Can Sliced Olives (optional)

Directions:

  1. In med. Frying pan mix oil and flour keep mixing until flour is a light brown color.
  2. Then, add 1 cup water and 1 can of mushroom soup.
  3. Now add chopped peppers, salt and pepper then let sit and slowly boil.
  4. Now, warm the corn tortillas in a pan with 2 tbsp of oil warm a few seconds per side and then place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
  5. Add oil to your pan as needed to warm all tortillas.
  6. Preheat oven to 325°.
  7. Next, in a 9”x12” baking pan place 6 warmed tortillas on the bottom then add a layer of the green Chile mushroom sauce that has been simmering, then the shredded Chicken, the cheese, onions and olives.
  8. Then place 6 more warmed corn tortillas on top and repeat adding chile, chicken, etc…until you have 3 or more layers and until the baking pan is ¾” full from the top.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes on the 325° then allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Green Chile Stew

Recipe #2 [click here to print]
Green Chile Stew
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs Cubed Pork or Beef roast
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 2 Garlic Cloves or 2 tsp Powder
  • 2 tsp Salt (more or less as desired)
  • 1 lb Roasted Chile of your choice (remove roasted layer, seeds and stem)
  • 2 T Flour
  • ½ tsp Cumin
  • 4-5 Med-Lg Potatoes (diced)
  • 2 Med-Lg Tomatoes
  • ¼ Onion (chopped)
  • 1 Small Bunch Cilantro (optional)

Directions:

  1. Fry meat of choice in oil on medium heat in a large skillet.
  2. Add potatoes and onions when meat is close to being done. 
  3. Once meat is cooked thoroughly move to large pot and add chile, 2 cups of water, tomatoes and cilantro.  Cook over medium heat. 
  4. Thoroughly mix flour and 1/2 cup of water. 
  5. Add flour mixture and cumin to stew. 
  6. Cook covered on medium heat for 45 minutes.  Stir occasionally and add water as needed.  Enjoy!

Green Tomatillo Salsa

Recipe #3 [click here to print]
Green Tomatillo Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 Jalepenos
  • 10-12 Tomatillos (remove outer leaves)
  • 1 Garlic Clove or 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 Small Bunch Cilantro (optional)
  • 1 Lime or Lemon (juice only)
  • 1 tsp Salt

Directions:

  1. In large saucepan boil tomatillos about an hour or until soft. 
  2. In the same saucepan boil jalepenos for about ½ an hour. 
  3. Blend tomatillos, jalepenos, salt, garlic, cilantro, squeezed lime or lemon juice in a blender or food processor. 
  4. Salsa may be thick, add water and blend as needed to desired texture. 
  5. Once cooled, refrigerate overnight for best flavor.

**ingredients & portions may vary according to desired taste**

Red Salsa

Recipe #4 [click here to print]
Red Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 10-12 Roasted Green Chiles of your choice (peel off roasted layer, remove seeds & stem)
  • ½ Small Onion
  • 1 Garlic Clove or 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 Small bunch of Cilantro (optional)
  • 1 tsp Salt (more or less as desired)
  • ¼ tsp Cumin
  • 5 Med-Lg Tomatoes

Directions:

  1. In a large saucepan boil tomatoes in 6-8 cups water until soft.
  2. Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor.
  3. When cooled, refrigerate and Enjoy chilled!

**Adjust ingredients & portions to desired taste**

N.M. Green Chile

Recipe #5 [click here to print]
New Mexico Green Chile
Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups roasted & peeled chopped green
  • Chile peppers
  • 10 oz. canned tomatoes crushed with juice
  • 2 cloves - fresh garlic minced
  • 1/8 Cup bacon drippings or lard
  • 1/8 Cup Flour
  • Salt to taste
  • 2lbs. Cubed cooked pork or meat of choice

Watch a video of this recipe being prepared to your right!

Directions:

  1. In a dutch oven, heat bacon drippings until hot. 
  2. Add flour until it looks like elmer's glue. 
  3. You may not need all the flour. 
  4. Brown flour until Carmel brown; if you don't brown well enough, chile will look chalky.
  5. Add water, whisking until all lumps are gone.  Add tomatoes with juice, chilies, garlic and salt.
  6. At this point, chile may still be too thick; add a little more water; not too much.  Add meat and let Simmer for 10 minutes.

Ta Da and Enjoy.


 

N.M. Red Chile

Recipe #6 [click here to print]
New Mexico Red Chile

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups water
  • 10 ea. Dry roasted red chilies from ristra
  • 2 cloves - fresh garlic minced
  • Salt to taste
  • 2lbs. Cubed cooked pork or meat of choice (optional)
  • 1 “Pinch” Oregano (optional)

Directions:

  1. Remove 10 peppers from your dried red chile ristra.
  2. Remove stems from peppers and place in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove chilies from boiling water and place in blender also add garlic, salt and water to blender.
  4. Blend for 2 minutes then pour into a pot over medium heat for 10 minutes, if chile seems thick add water.
  5. Add meat and let simmer for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.

Serve and enjoy.

chef lindita

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Monthly Gardening Tips

Gardening tips, tricks, how-tos and unique ideas hand-picked by Nick's knowledgeable staff!

October

nicks-october-gardening-tips

  • Indian summer kicks in after a spate of cold weather, offering a show of color as leaves turn. 
  • Freezes start to threaten tender plants like tomatoes.  To extend the season, cover them at night when frost is forecast. 
  • Continue to plant fall bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, dutch iris, grape hyacinth, fritalia and allium.
  • Apply lawn Winterizer food.
  • Deep root water trees and shrubs before going into dormancy.
  • End of October, mulch perennials and roses for winter protection.
  • Dispose of annuals in the garden after the frost has killed them.
  • Try to get trees and shrubs in the ground by the middle of October.
  • Decorate for fall with pumpkins, corn stalks and straw bales.
  • Average temperature in October:  High/Low  66.2/36.8.

November

nicks-november-gardening-tips

  • Apply tree wrap to protect young trees from sunscald.
  • Mulch perennials and roses if you didn’t in October.
  • Prune dead or diseased branches from trees.
  • Deep water trees & shrubs and perennials every  four weeks from November thru March.  Water on a mild day when the ground is not frozen.
  • Apply dormant oil to kill overwintering insects.
  • Cooler temperatures and shorter days mean slower growth for houseplants.  Water and fertilize according to the plants needs.

December

nicks-december-gardening-tips

Please stay tuned - December Gardening Tips Coming Soon!

January

nicks-january-gardening-tips

  • Deep water trees & shrubs and perennials every  four weeks from November thru March.  Water on a mild day when the ground is not frozen.
  • Start perennial and wildflower seeds indoors for transplanting in May.
  • Feed our furry friends bird food.
  • Fertilize indoor houseplants every 3 to 4 weeks.

February

nicks-february-gardening-tips

  • Deep water trees & shrubs and perennials every  four weeks from November thru March.  Water on a mild day when the ground is not frozen.
  • Apply a dormant spray to Ash and Aspen trees and Lilac shrubs to control overwintering insects.  
  • Plant pansies in the garden the end of February for early spring color.
  • Continue fertilizing indoor houseplants every 3 to 4 weeks.
  • The end of February start seeds indoors such as peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi, cabbage, kale, parsley, collards, onion seeds and annual flowers.

March

nicks-march-gardening-tips

  • Prune trees and shrubs except plants that flower in the spring since you will be cutting off the blooms.
  • Remove tree wrap the end of the month.
  • Deep water trees, shrubs and perennials on a mild day.
  • Cut back ornamental grasses and butterfly bushes.
  • Mid March plant onion sets, seed potatoes, garlic, shallots, bare root rhubarb, asparagus, strawberries, pea seeds.
  • Plant trees, shrubs, hardened off perennials, pansies and hardened off strawberry plants.
  • End of March plant tomato plants in the garden using a “wall o’water”.  This will protect them from the freezes.
  • Mid March to the end of April, apply pre-emergent to prevent weed seeds from germinating.
  • Start seeds indoors.  Use grow lights and heating pads for good germination.
  • Apply “Merit” like Bayer Tree & Shrub Spray to prevent and cure insect damage for up to one year on trees and shrubs.

April

nicks-april-gardening-tips

  • April is the best time to plant new trees and shrubs.  Be sure to improve the soil with compost.
  • Plant hardened off perennials, Pansys, Violas, Alyssum, Dusty Miller, Snapdragon and Dianthus.  These plants can withstand the light frosts.
  • Plant Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Lettuce, Peas, Rhubarb, Brussels Sprouts, strawberry plants and perennial herbs that have been hardened off.  Also plant onion sets, seed potatoes, garlic, shallots and asparagus roots.  These can take the light frosts.
  • Tomatoes and peppers can be put outside with a wall o’water.
  • It’s time to plant seeds of peas, turnips, carrots, beets, spinach, swiss chard, lettuce and radishes.
  • Start fertilizing roses, trees and shrubs when leaves appear on the branches.
  • Mid April is the best time to start fertilizing your lawn.  Use a fertilizer with a pre-emergent (weed and grass preventer) to prevent weed seeds from germination.
  • April is a good time to seed or overseed an existing lawn.  Do not use a pre-emergent if you are going to seed.  Keep area moist for good germination.
  • Core aerate lawn before fertilizing.  This helps improve the lawn’s vigor and health.
  • As weeds start to actively grow in the lawn, spray with Fertilome Weed Free Zone. Excellent cool weather weed killer.
  • Apply Florel Fruit Eliminator when fruiting trees are in full bloom, to prevent fruit set.
  • Prune roses approximately 1 to 2 feet above the ground.  Don’t prune climbers except to remove dead, weak or diseased canes.
  • Plant spring bulbs such as dahlias, begonias, lilies and gladiolas.
  • Apply “Merit” like Bayer Tree & Shrub Spray to prevent and cure insect damage for up to one year on trees and shrubs.
  • Average temperature in April:  High/Low  61.4/34.4.

May

nicks-may-gardening-tips

In the garden, everything is coming to life!

  • Plant perennials, trees and shrubs.
  • Early May plant plant Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Lettuce, Peas, Rhubarb, Brussels Sprouts, strawberry plants.  Remember to “harden off” plants before planting outdoors.  Seed corn, snap beans, pumpkin, summer and winter squash.
  • Mid to end of May, plant annuals and veggie plants!
  • May sometimes plays with your emotions.  Late frosts are common.  Be prepared to cover and protect frost sensitive plants.
  • Moderate temperatures in May is a great time to plant sod.  Make sure to adequately amend your soil with a good compost.
  • As weeds start to actively grow in the lawn, spray with Fertilome Weed Free Zone. Excellent cool weather weed killer.
  • Apply “Merit” like Bayer Tree & Shrub Spray to prevent and cure insect damage for up to one year on trees and shrubs.
  • Apply Fertilome F-Stop to prevent and cure fungus in the lawn.
  • Sharpen your mower blade and raise the cutting height, leaving your grass 2 ½ to 3 inches tall.
  • Apply wood mulches around trees and shrubs and perennials to conserve moisture.
  • Average temperature in May:  High/Low  70.7/44.1.

June

nicks-june-gardening-tips

  • In the garden, June is prime time for plant growth.  Tree roots and tops are growing; some are flowering and setting fruit.
  • Watch for hungry bug infestations.  Apply necessary controls.
  • Continue planting annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs. 
  • Give your lawn a feeding.  Apply a weed & feed if weeds are present.
  • Fertilize annuals, veggies and perennials periodically. 
  • Fertilize shade, flowering, fruit and evergreen trees once a month til August.
  • Apply lawn weed killer if necessary.
  • “Dead head” plants periodically to encourage more blooming.
  • Prune lilacs after they are finished blooming.
  • Apply mulch to plants to conserve moisture and cut down on weeds.
  • Average temperature in June:  High/Low  81.8/53.

July

nicks-july-gardening-tips

  • Watch for roller-coaster weather now that it’s hot and dry.  Hail storms occur this time of year, so keep a pile of old sheets handy to swing over your favorite plants. 
  • Plant annuals and perennials.  Fresh new plants arriving weekly!
  • If possible, plant trees and shrubs in the evening or early morning, rather than during the heat of the day, to lessen transplant shock.
  • Continue fertilizing plants.
  • “Dead head” plants periodically to encourage more blooming.
  • Plants in containers and in hanging baskets dry out quickly, so check for water often.
  • Inspect trees, shrubs and plants for insect or disease.  Apply necessary controls.
  • Average temperature in July:  High/Low  88.1/59.

August

nicks-august-gardening-tips

  • Last feeding for trees, shrubs and roses.  
  • Plant Iris rhizomes mid to end of August and dig and divide existing ones in the garden. 
  • Plant perennials.  Fresh new plants arriving weekly!
  • If possible, plant trees and shrubs in the evening or early morning, rather than during the heat of the day, to lessen transplant shock.
  • Fertilize lawn for deep green color.  Be sure to water in good.
  • Plant cool season veggies such as spinach, lettuce, cabbage, peas, radishes, and carrots for a fall crop.
  • Check the veggie garden for ripening fruit.
  • Make sure plants are well watered.  August heat can take a toll on plants.
  • Average temperature in August:  High/Low  85.9/57.4.

September

nicks-september-gardening-tips

  • Soak up time in the garden!  Days are growing shorter and cooler.
  • A lot of fall-flowering is at its peak, so admire the color.
  • Excellent time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials.  Less heat stress on them.
  • Plant Mums, pansies, asters and ornamental kale for fall color in the garden.
  • The end of September is time to plant fall bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, dutch iris, grape hyacinth, fritalia and allium.
  • Divide and transplant established perennials.
  • Protect late maturing tomatoes from early frost.
  • Spray weeds in the lawn with Fertilome Weed Free Zone.
  • After frost kills top growth of dahlias, cannas, tuberous begonias, callas, and gladiolas: Dig and store bulb in sphagnum peat moss or vermiculate and store in cool or cold environment.
  • End of September or October apply lawn Winterizer food.
  • Average temperature in September:  High/Low  77.5/48.2.

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Nick's Blog

nicks blog

Tips for Growing Roses in our Region

By Jodi Torpey

Roses have been cultivated for thousands of years and they continue to cast their spell on gardeners. Whether a rambling rose spilling over a fence, climbing roses winding their way up an arbor or miniature roses in a container, each has a way of complementing its surroundings. With more than 150 different species of Rosa to choose from, there’s sure to be a lovely, fragrant rose just waiting for you.

Colorado’s weather may seem to conspire against gardeners who like to grow roses. Consider the extreme temperatures swings over the winter, from freezing one day to warm the next. That wild weather can confuse even the hardiest of perennials. The combination of intense sunlight and drying winds can also suck the life right out of delicate rose canes.

The key to overcoming Colorado’s challenging conditions is to select hardy rose varieties. For example, experts recommend shrub roses that are as easy to plant and grow as a perennial shrub. Old Garden roses also hold up well in our difficult climate.

Roses that grow on their own roots, instead of grafted roses, are the go-to for some area gardeners because they’re known for their hardiness. Selecting roses that grow in a colder Hardiness Zone (like 3 or 4) is another trick for growing roses around here.

If you do plant grafted roses, like Hybrid Tea roses, make sure the graft or bump at the base of the plant is one or two inches below ground level. Planting deeper, plus adding a layer of mulch, will help the soil hold in moisture during the winter. Be sure to water in winter whenever the temperature is above 40 degrees and there’s a lack of snow cover.

Success with roses also has to do with where you plant them. Be sure to give roses at least six hours of sun a day and in soil that’s amended with compost so it’s crumbly and well-drained. Fertilize roses when they start to bloom.

Give roses about one-inch of water a week and direct it to the rose’s roots. Avoid wetting leaves to prevent foliar diseases.

If you’re looking for an especially hardy rose, try the Plant Select recommendation called Ruby Voodoo Rose. This fragrant shrub rose was bred especially for its delicious deep rose scent. The flowers are equally beautiful with their dark pink, double blossoms.

The Ruby Voodoo Rose needs drier soil than most other hybrid roses. Plant in full sun in a mixed perennial border where it can dry out between waterings. It blooms heavily in June and can grow five feet tall unless pruned annually.

Do you have a favorite rose (or three) to recommend? Please add your suggestions here!

growing roses

Hardy Perennial Flowers from Plant Select

By Jodi Torpey

The tall, fragrant shrub growing next to the Clearwater River in Idaho was used by Native Americans for bows, arrows, tobacco pipes, cradles, and combs. In the 1800s it was one of nearly 200 plant species first recorded on Lewis and Clark’s epic Corps of Discovery Expedition. The plant later was named for its discover, Capt. Meriwether Lewis.

But it took nearly 200 years before Lewis’ Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii) was elevated to an elite status through the Plant Select program.

Plant Select is the cooperative program between the Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado State University (CSU), and a network of landscape and nursery professionals. The program’s goal is to find, recommend and introduce the best plants for gardeners in our region—and beyond. The program began in 1997.

Each year up to 10 plants are chosen for the program, and now there are more than 100 beautiful, drought-tolerant plants in the Plant Select program for gardeners to add to their gardens. They include xeric perennial flowers, grasses, vines, shrubs and trees.

All of the plants have undergone testing at trial gardens located around our state. When you see the sunburst Plant Select logo at the garden center, you know that plant is backed by extensive research and is recommended because it performed well in tests for cold hardiness, insect and disease resistance and ornamental features.

One of the most popular Plant Select introductions was Turkish veronica, a hardy groundcover that features small purple flowers. Turkish veronica was introduced during the program’s first year.

This year the program has some extra-special offerings. Carolyn’s Hope is a pink penstemon that’s easy to grow and has a long blooming season. Royalties from the sales of this Plant Select perennial flower will benefit breast cancer research at the University of Colorado Cancer Center.

Another beautiful addition to the Plant Select lineup is the Undaunted Ruby Muhly ornamental grass. This tall grass features beautiful clouds of ruby-colored flowers that glow in the sunlight. The nationally-known horticulturists, Lauren Springer Ogden and her husband Scott, bring this grass to gardeners for use as a specimen plant or in mass plantings.

If you want to add some zing to the flower garden, add a few Hummingbird Trumpet Mint plants. These plants grow in low mounds and feature clusters of eye-popping scarlet-orange flowers.

Plant Select has also added some smaller rock garden-type plants that are perfect for container growing. The new Petite plants this year include Dalmatian Pink Cranesbill, Dwarf Beach-Head Iris and Dwarf Pinion Pine.

The Plant Select website (http://plantselect.org) lists all of the plants the program has recommended since its beginning. You can create a customized plant list to print out to make shopping easier. There are even a number of free downloadable xeriscape garden designs that make it easy to plan and plant a gorgeous garden.

I’ve planted many of the xeric perennials from Plant Select in my landscape and it would be hard for me to pick a favorite. I’m especially fond of Ruby Voodoo rose, Redleaf rose, Partridge feather groundcover, Sunset hyssop, the Pawnee Buttes sand cherry…

What’s your favorite Plant Select perennial? Please share your ideas here!

plant select plants

Growing Herbs in Containers

By Jodi Torpey

If I could grow only one culinary herb in my garden each year, it would have to be basil. Not only is it easy to grow, but it’s one of the most versatile herbs for use in the kitchen.  A packet of seeds produces enough fresh basil to keep my creative juices flowing all summer long.

One of the best methods I’ve found for planting basil is to grow it in containers on my patio. Basil can grow with just a few hours of morning sun each day. I simply sprinkle the seeds on top of a container of potting soil, cover seeds with a thin layer of soil and then keep the seeds moist.

Basil will sprout and grow quickly. You’ll be able to start clipping basil to use fresh when plants have three to five sets of leaves. Once plants get growing, you can cut them back to encourage healthy new growth and branching. Pruning also keeps the plants from flowering, although the flowers are delicious, too!

Of course, there are many other culinary herbs that you can grow in a container garden and containers of herbs can be as beautiful as they are useful. Just make sure your container is large enough to keep plants from quickly drying out and there are drainage holes in the bottom to avoid soggy roots.

The key to creating an attractive herb container is to use the same principle as planting a container of flowers: select thrillers, fillers, and spillers.

Start with a tall “thriller” plant, like upright rosemary. It’s a thriller in more ways than one with its tall form and narrow, aromatic leaves. Flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, French lavender, chives, and other herbs that have an upright habit will look good planted in either the center or toward the back of the container.

Fillers are planted next. These are the herbs that will complement the taller plants. Parsley with curly or ruffled leaves makes an especially eye-catching filler. Sage, sweet basil, and chervil are also flavorful fillers.

Add the spillers last. These are the plants that will cascade over the edge of the planter or basket. Thyme and oregano are two good spillers because of their creeping habit.

You could also choose to plant a container that features one kind of culinary collection, like different colors and flavors of basil or mint. Another idea is to fill the container with plants that all have lemon in their names like lemon verbena, lemon thyme, and lemon balm.

What are your favorite herbs for a container garden? Please share your ideas here!

growing herbs in containers

How to Grow in Raised Planting Beds

By Jodi Torpey

Planting a garden in raised beds may seem like a modern-day gardening invention, but raised planting beds have been around for centuries. There’s evidence of raised bed gardens in ancient Rome where an Emperor’s gardeners planted warm-season fruits, like melons, in portable raised beds that could be moved indoors during cold weather.

Those early gardeners understood the advantages of planting in raised bed gardens. If you’ve tried just about everything to get plants to grow in your garden’s poor soil, raised beds offer a convenient alternative.

Instead of trying to amend soil that’s either too clayey, too sandy, or just too darn difficult to work with, raised beds can be filled with the choicest soil. You can add the perfect soil to create an ideal planting space.

Another advantage of raised beds is they can be placed anywhere in your yard to take advantage of the sunniest planting spots, even the front yard. Because the beds are above ground level, they also warm up faster in the springtime, so you can get a jump on planting vegetables and herbs.

Raised beds are also easier to maintain because dense plantings help keep weeds out.

The biggest disadvantage with planting raised beds is they dry out more quickly than a traditional garden bed because all the sides are exposed. Mulching can help maintain some soil moisture and finding ways to insulate the sides could also help.

Here are some ways to make the most of your raised planting beds:

  • Beds can be made of wood, bricks, cinder blocks, stacked stones, cloth smart pots, or even on four-legged elevated beds that you can work in while standing up.
  • Be sure each raised bed is the right size. You want to be able to reach the center from all sides without stepping in or kneeling on the bed and compacting the soil. Typical widths range from 2 ½ to 3 ½ feet. Some gardeners like the look of 4 x 4 square boxes.
  • If you have lots of shade in your yard, make the most of a warm microclimate by placing the bed near a fence that can absorb and reflect heat.
  • Be sure to break up the existing soil and dig it in deeply with the soil you use to fill the raised bed. Different layers of soil can make it difficult for roots that want to grow deep and they’ll be stopped at the soil interface.
  • If you place the raised bed near trees you may need to add a liner or thick layers of overlapping material (like cardboard) to keep tree roots out of the raised bed.
  • Mulch with dried leaves, untreated dry grass clippings or straw.
  • Use your raised beds for planting different kinds of vegetables, herbs and flowers.
  • When planting vegetables in raised beds, plant in blocks rather than rows to make better use of the existing space.
  • When planting flowers, go for the layered look with tall plants in middle of the bed, then medium-tall, short and ground covers around the edges where they can drape off the sides.


Do you have any tips that work for planting in raised beds? Please share them here!

raised beds

Six Steps to Spring Lawn Care

By Jodi Torpey

After a long winter, my lawn is ready for a makeover. How about yours?

If you want to get your lawn off to a great start this spring, here are six steps to help you get growing:

1. Get out the rake. Raking the lawn is a good first step to remove dead grass, fallen leaves and other debris from the lawn. If your lawn shows signs of thatch, like brown spots and general thinning, it may be time to use a power rake to lightly go over the lawn. The rake will remove the layer of built-up organic matter that sits between the leaf zone and the soil, usually caused by compacted soil.

2. Loosen the soil. Aerating, also called core cultivation, helps invigorate the lawn. Aeration reduces soil compaction, improves water infiltration, encourages root growth and helps with seed germination.

A machine removes plugs of grass at regular intervals over the lawn surface. You can either rent a machine or hire a lawn maintenance company to perform this task. Leave the plugs on the lawn to decompose and help fertilize the lawn.

3. Manage weeds. It’s best to tackle grassy weeds, like crabgrass, with a pre-emergent herbicide in spring after the soil has warmed. With proper timing, one application will eliminate these troublesome weeds all summer long. It’s better to apply pre-emergent herbicides sooner rather than later. Apply either before or after aeration and water in well.

Because most pre-emergent herbicides can also kill germinating grass seed, delay adding grass seed to the lawn until late summer or early fall.

4. Add grass seed. Overseeding is used to make turfgrass thicker, especially if the lawn has been thinned by dry weather, wear-and-tear traffic, insect pests or improper mowing practices. Apply a good quality, compatible grass seed after the lawn is aerated to give maximum seed-to-soil contact and to improve seed germination. Be sure to keep the seed moist, but avoid saturating the grass. It will take about 10-14 days for seeds to sprout.

5. Add fertilizer. Fertilizers add the nutrients your blue-grass lawn needs. Nitrogen is especially important if you want a thick green lawn. Use a balanced fertilizer that has nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, iron and sulfur. April is a good time to fertilize, especially if no fertilizing was done in fall.

6. Water smart. If you use automatic sprinklers to water your lawn, be sure to inspect your system at the beginning of the season. Make sure there aren’t any leaks, all the sprinkler heads are in place, the nozzles are adjusted and the system is working efficiently. Monitor the weather and adjust the system for less water in spring and fall and more in the heat of summer.

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spring lawn care

Planning your Vegetable Garden

By Jodi Torpey

When thinking about your vegetable garden, planning counts because placing and spacing of plants are two of the keys to gardening success. Good planning can make the difference between a healthy, productive garden and one that makes you wonder why you planted a garden in the first place.

Site the vegetable garden where plants will get between 6-8 hours of direct sun each day. Some vegetables, like lettuce and spinach, can grow in less sunlight; but tomatoes, peppers and eggplants need a lot of sun and heat.

Amend the soil with organic matter, like compost and well-aged manure, to make a medium-rich fluffy soil that will give plants a good start. Dig in deeply and remove any clods, rocks, roots or other debris.

Be sure to plant tall vegetables on the north side of your garden. That way the taller plants won’t be shading the shorter ones as vegetables grow. Check plant labels or seed packets to make sure you’re planting short vegetables and herbs in front and the taller ones in back.

Research shows planting in blocks of vegetables makes the most of your garden space, instead of planting in rows. Plan to space plants by their mature size and give them enough room to grow and air to circulate around them to keep them healthier.

Plant root vegetables, like beets and carrots, and spinach and lettuces in smaller blocks. That way you can keep seeding plants successively every week or 10 days. It’s more fun to be harvesting some plants while the next crop is growing than to have to eat an entire summer’s worth of spinach all at once. After you harvest the smaller section, replant for a continuous crop all summer.

Be sure to plant herbs and flowers in your vegetable garden, too. Some crops, like squash and tomatoes, need help from pollinators to set fruit. Flowers help attract bees and other pollinators to your garden so they can get to work.

Now’s the time to plan cool-season crops. Keep track of your planting dates and when crops should be ready to harvest. Before you know it, you’ll be harvesting some homegrown greens in just a few weeks’ time:

Arugula
Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Chard
Kale
Lettuce and other greens
Onion sets
Peas
spinach
potatoes
radishes

Once the weather warms to a consistent 50-55 degrees of night-time temperatures, it’s time to plant your warm-season crops:

Beans
Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Herbs
Peppers
Pumpkins
Squashes
Tomatoes

You can also plan for a fall garden starting in the middle of summer. Count back from the average day of the first frost for your area. For example, in Denver the first frost can be the second week of October or a month earlier or later. Once you have a general idea of that first frost date, plant another round of cool-season crops that will mature in fall.

The Colorado State University Extension has many free, downloadable fact sheets that can give you more information and help growing a successful garden. (http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/pubs.html#garden)

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basketgoldpurplephlox

How to Maintain a Healthy Lawn

By Jodi Torpey

Do you think of your lawn as a piece of old green carpet or as the perennial groundcover that it is?

Most folks forget that a lawn is made up of many individual plants that are all begging for some attention. With the right amount of TLC, your lush green lawn can increase the value of your home by 5-15 percent, according to the Professional Lawn Care Association.

In our climate, lawns need some kind of care during all four seasons. There’s aerating, fertilizing and watering starting in spring, mowing and managing weeds through summer, aerating and fertilizing in fall and watering during dry times in winter.

One way to keep your lawn healthy over summer is to top dress it with compost. Spreading a thin layer of compost, about ¼ to ½ inch deep, over your lawn gives your soil a boost of nutrients, helps feed beneficial soil organisms and works to hold in moisture.

Compost will also help reduce the need for weed killers because a thick, healthy lawn is the best way to prevent weed seeds from finding a place to land.

You may think watering your lawn is the key to keeping it healthy, but good mowing practices are just as important. Resist the urge to mow grass blades shorter than 2 inches tall. Mowing lower can damage or kill grass roots. Keeping grass taller (about 2-3 ½ inches tall) helps shade the roots so they can grow deeper and need less water.

Remove only 1/3 of the grass blade during each mowing. This may mean mowing more than once a week, but your lawn will be healthier and thicker.

Speaking of mowing, if you use a mulching lawn mower, you can leave your grass clippings on the lawn instead of bagging them. Leaving grass clippings on your lawn after mowing reduces the need for extra fertilizer because clippings quickly decompose and add nutrients to your soil. (It also means you’ll be sending fewer bags of yard waste to the landfill.)

Another key to maintaining a healthy lawn is by watering deeply and infrequently. Frequent shallow waterings keeps grass roots close to the surface of the soil where they can dry out quicker.

Water only when your grass needs it. Test the soil moisture by pushing in a screwdriver about 6 or 8 inches deep. If the screwdriver goes in easily, the grass won’t need extra water. If the screwdriver goes in only a few inches, it’s time to water.

For a bluegrass lawn, apply fertilizer four times during the year: mid-March to April, May to mid-June, mid-August to mid-September, and early October to early November (while grass is still green).

The fall application is what gives lawns the nutrients needed to green up quickly in spring. Use fertilizer in the recommended amounts. Excess lawn fertilizer becomes a major source of pollution when it washes off lawns and into the storm water system.

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Top Perennial Flowers for Spring Color

By Jodi Torpey

One of the best flower combinations I’ve planted for spring color happened by accident. One year I planted the lovely low-growing perennial called basket of gold. The next year I planted several containers of creeping phlox. I wish I’d planted these perennials together sooner.

Basket of gold is a little treasure, with its dense green foliage and small, bright yellow flowers. The phlox has small lavender flowers, but the brilliant pink phlox would’ve been a nice choice, too.

The combination makes for a stunning spring flower display that returns year after year.

But you don’t have to wait for a happy accident for these spring bloomers to appear in your flower garden. You can plant this colorful combination together right now.

Use them as a border in front of taller perennials, plant them in your rock garden or add them along the walk that leads to your front door. These garden gems will creep and crawl to fill in the space with a super splash of spring color.

After the first blooms fade, the plants leave behind a lush green groundcover. If you trim the spent blossoms, there may be a second, smaller blush of flowers later in the season.

Once you’ve added these colorful groundcovers, keep going.

Flowering shrubs provide plenty of potential for spring color, too. One of my all-time favorites is Forsythia because its vivid golden-yellow flowers boldly announce spring has finally arrived.

Forsythia is an all-purpose garden shrub that can serve as an attractive specimen plant when planted alone or it can be used along a border as a flowering hedge when several shrubs are planted together.

While shopping for flowering shrubs, you might want to look for those that can add even more oomph to your garden. There are many shrubs, like Nanking cherry, Serviceberry and Golden currant, that burst forth with brilliant flowers in spring, then set fruit that attracts wild birds to your landscape in summer.

After a full season of beauty, these deciduous shrubs shed their leaves, but their beautiful bare branches give structure to the garden all fall and winter.

Do you have any favorite flowering combinations for spring? Please add your suggestions HERE!

basketgoldpurplephlox

Planting Cool Season Crops

cool season vegetablesBy Jodi Torpey

If you’ve had enough of winter, then it’s time to celebrate spring. Even if there's a light dusting of snow on the ground, it's time to start thinking about planting your cool season garden. Really.

March 17 typically signals the day to plant cool-season vegetable crops like carrots, lettuce, spinach, peas, radishes, broccoli, cabbage, onions and turnips. Getting outside to plant a spring garden, no matter its size, will banish winter-time blues and give you some fresh, good-for-you veggies.

These hardy vegetables can tolerate a light frost, and some can survive a hard freeze. Most of these cool weather crops can be planted anytime from 2 to 4 weeks before the average last spring frost.

You can either start by planting seeds or buying ready-to-plant cool season crops, like onion sets, that makes planting even easier.

Soil temperature plays a role in planting these early crops, so check to make sure the soil is diggable and is fairly dry. I've had good luck in the past planting a variety of leaf lettuces and spinach in my patio container garden.

This works well for me for several reasons: I can move containers into the sunniest spot on the patio, monitor the greens more closely, and toss a cover on the container garden if the weather turns especially cold. The containers are also right out the backdoor, making it easy to clip and bring inside.

An easy way to plant some cool-season greens is to use a garden fork to scratch the surface of the soil, sprinkle part of a package of seeds about 1/4-inch deep, lightly cover with soil and sprinkle with water. It will take about a week or so for the seeds to germinate.

If you have a spot along the sunny side of a fence, peas make for good planting there, especially if the bed is raised. There are lots of peas to choose from including shelling (or English) peas, sugar snap peas and snow peas. Choose several varieties or just the ones you prefer to use in your cooking.

To guarantee a long season of harvesting peas, plant early, midseason and late varieties. Some peas can be ready in just 50 days.

For best results, soak seeds overnight before planting to make for easier germination. Train peas to climb some kind of support, mulch and keep them moist. It's especially important to water when the plants are in blossom and producing pods.

What would you like to add to your spring garden this month?

Growing Healthy Houseplants

houseplant
By Jodi Torpey

Have you taken a good look at your houseplants lately? Are there yellowing leaves, brown leaf tips or leaf drop? If so, your plants are trying to tell you something.

Many houseplants, like philodendron, palms and ferns, are tropical plants and they don’t like cold weather any more than we do. A winter’s worth of low light, fluctuating indoor temperatures and dry air means plants need some extra special care.  

Besides adding greenery to the indoor scenery, healthy houseplants provide the vital function of exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen to improve indoor air quality. Plants also filter common toxins and keep our green thumbs in shape for gardening season.  

Houseplants do so much for us, they deserve a little TLC. Here’s how to give your houseplants a boost of good health by adjusting temperature and humidity, lighting, watering and fertilizing.

Temperature and Humidity

Houseplants prefer a consistently temperate indoor climate. In general, houseplants do best when daytime temperatures are 65 to 70 degrees and 60 to 65 at night.

Keep plants away from entry doors to protect them from cold drafts and make sure leaves aren’t touching chilly windows. Some plants may need to be moved to a warmer spot, as long as it’s not near hot air vents, fireplaces or radiators.

Humidity, the amount of water moisture in the air, benefits people and plants alike. Experts recommend an indoor humidity level between 30 to 40 percent. While some homes are equipped with a whole-house humidifier, a portable room humidifier can also do the job.

Placing plants on trays of moist gravel and clustering them close together can also increase the amount of humidity around plants. Although it works temporarily, misting isn’t an effective way to sufficiently increase humidity levels.

Light  

Light levels change from winter into spring and some plants may need to be moved to a sunnier window. Because plants will grow toward the light source, be sure to turn plants every so often to prevent them from becoming leggy or misshapen.  

If you have blooming houseplants, like begonias, fuchsias or African violets, consider supplementing natural light with fluorescent or plant grow lights. Artificial lighting is usually placed one foot above plants. Expose plants to about 16 hours of light each day.  

Water

Did you know over watering is the reason most houseplants meet an untimely demise? Instead of watering on a regular schedule, adapt your watering habits to match the plant’s needs. Some plants need consistently moist soil; others need soil that dries a bit between waterings.

If you’re not sure when to water, allow the upper one inch of soil to dry before watering again. Discard any excess water that drains into the saucer.

Fertilizer

Spring is the time when houseplants start growing again, so it’s time to begin fertilizing. Use an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer. Spring is the time when houseplants start growing again, so it’s time to begin fertilizing. Use an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer.

One last thing, show your plants how much you care by dusting their leaves with a soft, moist cloth. Not only will they shine, but you’ll be able to catch any plant health problems early so you can nip them in the bud.

Growing Seeds Indoors

starting seeds

Start Seeds Indoors for Early Planting

By Jodi Torpey

When you live in a region with short summers, it pays to get a head start on planting. The best way to get started is by sowing warm-season vegetables indoors.There’s nothing complicated about starting seeds indoors. There are just three basic steps: seeding, growing on, and hardening off. You don’t need a lot of expensive equipment to get started, either. I start my tomato and pepper seeds in the basement and grow them under ordinary shop lights.

The best time to start seeds is about 6-8 weeks before the average frost date. (May 15 is usually the last frost date for Denver. Mountain residents have a later last frost date.)You’ll need seeds, a good quality seed-starting mix and small containers. Now cover the counter with newspapers and get going. Select the tomato, pepper, eggplant and other warm-season vegetable varieties you want to grow.

Fill containers with the seed-starting mix and moisten it. Plant seeds a quarter-inch deep in potting mix; spray with a water mist; cover with plastic wrap. Set containers in a warm place, out of direct sunlight, until seeds germinate. When seedlings emerge, remove the plastic cover and move containers under lights or to a sunny spot. Transplant to individual containers when seedlings have two pairs of leaves. Harden off (acclimate) seedlings to the garden by placing them outside in a sheltered place for several days after weather has warmed. You may need to bring plants inside at night. As soon as the night-time temperatures are a reliable 55 degrees, it’s time to plant.

I always plant some new-to-me tomato varieties in my vegetable garden every year.
What do you recommend I add this season?

Cutting Back Perennial Grasses

ornamental grass

Spring Gardening Tips for Ornamental Grasses

By Jodi Torpey

Ornamental grasses ask so little from gardeners and give back so much. They offer nearly four seasons of interest to our gardens and require hardly any maintenance.

That is until it’s time for some spring cleaning in the garden.

Most ornamental grasses are perennial performers, and after winter they need to shed their old foliage so they can start growing again. Gardeners can help encourage healthier grasses by cutting back the old growth to make way for the new.

Besides growing a healthier plant, cutting back ornamental grasses in spring encourages earlier growth. That’s because the plant can spread out to let the crown to warm up faster.

It’s best to cut back grasses before they start growing. You don’t want to shear off any new growth while you’re cutting back the old. It’s a good idea to pull on a long-sleeved shirt and a pair of gardening gloves. Some ornamental grasses have sharp leaves.

  1. Stand back and visually divide the grass into thirds. You’ll want to leave about one-third of the grass standing.
  2. For easier handling after the grass is cut, bundle the leaves together and tie with a rope, twine or bungee cord. Tie about two-thirds of the grass into the bundle.
  3. Use pruning shears, an electric hedge trimmer or hand pruners and cut across the plant, leaving about one-third standing.
  4. Take the bundle of grass to the compost bin for shredding or place it in a large trash bag to chop and use for mulch later in the season.

An added benefit of cutting back ornamental grasses is you can see if there’s any die out in the center of the plant. This is fairly typical with older perennial grasses and it’s a sign the plant needs dividing.

Depending on the size of the plant, use a trowel or a shovel to carefully dig up half of the grass, including plenty of roots. Transplant to another part of your garden or pass along to another gardener.

Cutting back and dividing perennial grasses is a great way to spring forward on your early season garden clean up.

What tips do you have for taking care of the ornamental grasses in your landscape?

Six Easy Steps to Growing Onions

onionsBy Jodi Torpey

There’s no crying in onion-growing. That’s because it’s easy to grow onions in your vegetable garden when you start with healthy onion sets.

Onions are a cool-season, biennial vegetable and onion sets make planting simple. An onion set is a small bulb that will grow into a larger bulb, because it’s already gone through one bulbing process. Here are six steps to homegrown onion success:

Step One: Select the onion varieties meant for the region, like day-neutral types. These onions will know when to start forming their bulbs once they’ve received their preferred number of daylight hours.

Step Two: Plant onion sets in early spring ( about 4-6 weeks before the last freeze date) in a garden spot that has rich, well-drained soil and gets full sun. Onions will grow as big as their space allows.

Plant onion sets about 1 inch deep and space plants so there’s no crowding. Make sure their limited root system can spread out (about 4-6 inches). Onions can also be planted in raised beds.

Step Three: Be sure to show your onions a lot of love. In addition to soil that’s well-amended with compost and other organic matter, onions need a consistent supply of fertilizer while they’re growing. Some gardeners say onions may need as much as twice the amount of fertilizer as other garden-grown vegetables.

Step Four: As bulbs start getting larger, side-dress the onion patch with additional nutrients. Use a balanced fertilizer or good quality compost and apply in a shallow channel near the onion rows, then cover with soil. Take care to keep fertilizer away from the foliage and bulbs themselves.

Step Five: Keep watering the onions to allow nutrients to slowly reach the roots. Don’t let plants dry out or bulbs may split. If leaves start to yellow, plants may be getting too much water. Keep onion bed weed-free with mulch and avoid cultivating or pulling weeds that can disturb the onion’s delicate root system.

Step Six: When onions start pushing the topsoil away, stop fertilizing and let bulbs grow. Some of the bulb will start to show above the soil, but resist the urge to re-cover it. As soon as onion tops begin to topple over, stop watering and get ready to harvest.

Dig onions when most of the green tops have fallen, but before the foliage dries completely.

Any ideas for how you’ll use all of your delicious, home-grown onions?