Mid-April Greetings from Harlequin’s Gardens
Spring has arrived! Yesterday we passed a lovely old apricot tree in full bloom. But wait! – maybe summer is here? – there was a hummingbird hard at work sucking nectar from the apricot blossoms!
We thought we’d blog about bees this month, but that will have to wait. In the rush of spring coming on so fast this year, perhaps it is best to talk about what to do now.
Clean Up: cut down the dead stems and stalks of your perennials and compost them. The ornamental grasses should have been cut down to 6” or so a month ago, but do it now if it is not done, maybe to 10” now. Ground covers may have dead leaves and bits, but cutting them out with clippers would take too long; try just rubbing them with your gloved hand and watch them quickly fill in and look better.
Weeding: it is most effective to weed now while weeds are small. It is especially important to dig out the weed grasses at this time, so you are not pulling up desirable plants with your weeds later. Use a soil knife or a sharp trowel so you can get close to your plants without badly damaging their roots while removing competing weeds. Some people really like knee pads while weeding, others like to squat which stretches out the back muscles. Bindweed will be pushing up soon; it is important to prevent it from having an opportunity to feed its roots. So use a long knife-weeder or trowel that can cut the root at least 3”-4” below the surface. This will give you time to do other things before the bindweed needs to be cut again in 2-4 weeks. If you dig it again before the tops are more than 2” tall, the root will be stressed and that will give your perennials and shrubs a chance to grow, leaf out and shade the bindweed, suppressing it even further. Careful application of a 20% Vinegar non-toxic herbicide can also burn the foliage back to give the desirable plants a head start.
Soil Preparation: Right now is a great time to add organic matter to the soil – the clay soils are not too wet and gummy, and the gravelly soils are still moist and soft. Be sure to use mature composts. Avoid manures with a smell (the odor tells you that they need further composting) or raw wood material that will rob the soil of nitrogen if incorporated into the soil.
Most of our Colorado soils are rich in phosphorus and potassium, but deficient in organic matter and nitrogen. We recommend composts locally made from local materials, such as: EcoGro (made from landscape and beer wastes), Eko Compost (made from well-composted chicken manure and wood wastes), or composted dairy cow manure. And we recommend composted cotton burs for breaking up dense clay soils. We also recommend organic fertilizers made either from animal manures (like Nature Cycle) and from alfalfa (like Alpha I or Bradfield’s). Other valuable organic materials to add to the soil are: kelp meal, cottonseed meal, and rock dust. In early May you can fertilize your roses with locally formulated and produced Mile Hi Rose Feed.
These organic composts and fertilizers will support soil life and will help build healthy soil with improved aeration and long-term nutrition, which translates into healthier plants and more nutritious food.
Many of you have your vegetable gardens prepared and are raring to go. Harlequin’s Gardens is well-stocked with seeds for you from Botanical Interests and Abbondanza Farm. Now is the time to sow seeds for beets, lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach, carrots, parsnips, kale, onions, radishes, turnips and salad greens. And it’s not too late to plant Sugar Snap peas. To protect seedbeds from drying out and also protect from squirrels and birds, we sell Seed Guard light-weight row cover fabric. Seed Guard is also very useful for covering plants of broccoli, kale, and other cabbage-family members to protect from cabbage butterflies (they lay their eggs on the undersides of the leaves – then they hatch into cabbage loopers, which feed voraciously on the leaves).
Now is also the time to set out plants of vegetables that prefer or can tolerate cool weather, and we are extremely well stocked with cool-season vegetable starts – Broccoli (8 varieties!), Cabbage (5 varieties!), Cauliflower (both white and purple), and Kale, Brussels Sprouts, Radicchio (3 kinds!), Tatsoi, Pak Choi (aka Bok Choy), Mizuna, Lettuce (in small pots and pre-planted Cutting Salad boxes), Chicory, Watercress, Arugula, Leeks, Nasturtiums, etc. Go to ‘Plants’, then ‘Edibles’ on our website for descriptions of the varieties.
Potatoes and onions can be planted now, and this year we are offering three varieties of ‘seed’ potatoes – Yukon Gold, Red Sangre, and Purple Majesty, and three varieties of onion seedlings – Copra, Ailsa Craig and Rumba. Asparagus crowns are in, plants of two heirloom varieties of rhubarb (Victoria and Glaskins Perpetual) are ready, and we have dozens of varieties of culinary and medicinal herb plants. Russian Comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum) is always in short supply, but right now we have some beautiful Comfrey plants in quart and gallon containers. Russian Comfrey is an extremely useful medicinal plant and is also highly valued for making nitrogen-rich compost and biodynamic ‘tea’ for plant vitality. A little later in the season we will have plant of ‘True’ Comfrey, (Symphytum officinale, True Comfrey is very rarely offered and is considered the supreme Comfrey for medicinal use.
For those of you who want to get a head-start on your tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, we have begun to bring out some tomato and pepper plants, and this first modest selection will soon be followed by an avalanche of varieties of every color, size, flavor, shape and origin. But first, come and get your Solar Caps – the best protection for your early plantings of warm-season vegetables. (a vast improvement over Wall-o-Water).
We like to include some tasty edible flowers in our salads, such as Violas (we have dark red, yellow, blue and purple-black varieties), Nasturtiums (two varieties are ready, and several more coming along soon) and Calendula (ready soon).
Speaking of flowers, you may have noticed that we carry plants of several self-sowing annuals, such as Larkspur, Batchelor Buttons, California Poppy, ‘Lauren’s Grape’ Poppy and Evening-Scented Stock. You may wonder ‘why not just seed these in the garden?’ And, of course, direct seeding is definitely an option, but it must be timed correctly. Some gardeners find that they can start a ‘colony’ of these wildflowers more successfully by beginning with a few plants, which will bloom and produce copious seeds that will distribute themselves in the area at just the right time. Enough of the seeds will find perfect niches in the soil, and the next year(s), a self-sustaining colony is established.
Our classes are rapidly filling up, so come in or call 303-939-9403 to reserve your place for any classes that interest you. A few of the classes coming up soon are:
Sun, April 18, 10 am : Ecological Garden Design, part 1
Sun., April 18, 1:30 pm : Raising Backyard Chickens
Sat., April 24, 10 am : Ecological Garden Design, part 2
Sun., April 25, 1:30 : Wild Edibles & Medicinal Weeds
We invite you to come and celebrate with us at our May Day Festival on Saturday May 1 and Sunday May 2.
On Saturday, come out for some delightful entertainment – first, at 10:30, the Maroon Bells Morris Dancers will perform their lively, ancient May Day dances to make the crops grow. Then at 12 noon we will have the classic harmonies of the Coconuts Barbershop Quartet. And at 1:00, Margot Krimmel will play heavenly melodies for us on her harp.
On Sunday, be sure to bring your kids, as we will also be celebrating World Laughter Day (don’t you think we can all use a good laugh?). Refreshments will be served, and Denver Magician Stuart Hayner will amuse and amaze us with his Magic Show at 1:30. He will also be around afterwards to create balloon-animals for the children. Mikl may juggle, one never knows when. And at 2:30 the Boulder Irish Session Band (including Eve Brawner) will play lively, authentic Celtic music.
Coinciding with the May Day Festival will be our Plant Sale which begins May 1st and continues through Friday May 7th (please note we are closed on Mondays). We will have lots of great plants including a special members-only section. During the May Day Sale, members will get first pick of the unusual and specialty plants Mikl and Eve have propagated, which are often in short supply, for only $2.25 each. The following week these plants will be available to everyone at the regular prices of $3, $3.50, and $4. During the May Day Sale, members also get 10% off roses (except quart size).
We are looking forward to seeing all of you, and we wish you a green and growing Spring!
Mikl & Eve Brawner