Cheyenne Botanic Gardens : Past Gardening Tips From our News Page

Clover as a lawn

In the 1950s and 60s clover was sold in your turf mixture because the clover has the ability to make nitrogen fertilizer out of the air in the soil and thus provide free fertilization to the turf.

Along came broad-leaf pesticides like 2-4,D or “Weed-B-Gone” ® that would selectively kill all broad-leaf weeds like dandelions without hurting your turf. These pesticides also killed the clovers.

Over time, people have decided that a lawn solely made up of grass is preferred and now actively spray every time they see another broad-leaf plant sprout up in the turf.

Now clover is making a comeback as people are starting to shun pesticides and fertilizer. One such clover is being sold as a replacement for lawns is known as “ Miniclover®” (Trifolium repens). It is a proprietary dwarf perennial clover bred to reach only four inches high. It can be a lawn alternative or mixed into your current lawn grass. Clover’s relationship with root microbes enable it to make its own nitrogen. Thus, if you add it to an existing lawn you will need less fertilizer. You can also create a pure clover lawn. For seed sources search the internet for “miniclover.”

Why clover?
* It improves the soil by fixing or making nitrogen from the air in the soil
* It sends down deep roots for drought-tolerance
* It grows fast
* It is environmentally friendly
* It grows in part shade and sun
* It withstands foot traffic
* If you plant only clover and eliminate all grass, you don’t have to mow
The Downside?
* It flowers, so you’ll see little white flowers in your lawn that some may think is unsightly
* The flowers may attract bees and if you step on a flower you might get stung
* There is no broad-brush chemical way to eliminate other weeds like there is with broad-leaf weed killers used in grass

Russian connections

If you are looking for a large, beautiful, trouble-free perennial, consider growing “Russian Sage.” It is also known as ‘Perovskia’ named after a Russian governor. It has aromatic leaves and lavender blue flowers that bloom from mid-summer until frost.

It is shrub-like, reaching up to 5 feet. In spring, prune it to six inches and it will fully grow back in summer. Russian sage prefers full sun.

Pruning precautions

IMG_0945With the warmer days of spring, avoid the temptation to prune spring flowering shrubs such as lilac, forsythia, and spirea. Pruning before these plants bloom prevents any show of flowers later this spring and early summer.

Instead, wait to prune until the week after their flowers have faded later in spring. Be patient on these plants and focus on pruning other non-spring blooming trees and shrubs.

Growing Coleus

Coleus are plants that are solely grown for their colorful, showy leaves. Leaf colors include red,coleus orange, yellow, bronze and mixtures of colors in interesting patterns. The leaves are as bright as any flower. They grow outside in the summer and indoors as a houseplant. Pinch them to create a bushier plant. To make more plants, place a cut stem in water and it grows roots.

There are many different Coleus varieties to suit your space. You can find  low-growing, trailing types; midsize selections; and tall plants that can reach a few feet in height. Some coleus cannot take full sun while others have been bred to tolerate sun. The only way to tell is to look at the catalog description or plant tag. If it says it can take full sun, then it probably will. If not, don’t do try it as it will burn the leaves.

If you have a coleus and want more plants simply place a cut piece of stem with a few leaves on the upper stalk in a glass of water and it will soon grow roots into the water. After it produces a number of roots you can then pot it up into soil.

The Coleus is a close relative to mint but without the minty fragrance. You can tell the relationship by noting that both mints and coleus have very distinctive square stems.

Gravel in the bottom of your pot?

img_0419Do you put gravel in the bottom of your houseplant pots to improve drainage? Studies show this doesn’t help drainage and takes away from the space needed for root growth. The most important thing every potted plant needs for drainage is a hole in the pot’s bottom. A small piece of window screen placed over the hole prevents soil from coming out. Also, regularly empty standing water from the saucer.

Recycle your Christmas tree into the garden

img_0585Recycle your holiday trees as mulch. Simply remove all the branches and then lay the branches in your flower and vegetable img_0587beds or around your trees and shrubs. The needles will eventually drop and continue to provide a nourishing and acidic mulch (acid materials are good in our alkaline soils).

The trunks of the trees can be used as firewood or constructed into a garden trellis on which you can grow sweet peas, beans, edible peas, cucumbers or even a hops vine.

Dust, home maintenance and houseplants


Do you see a lot of dust in the house? Perhaps it is time to inspect your furnace air filter. (more…)

What good are houseplants?


Besides providing a look of green there are other advantages to having houseplants.

Researchers at NASA have found that living houseplants can remove several toxic chemicals from the indoor air. These toxic airborne chemicals that houseplants absorb include benzene, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide. Having houseplants in your home or office, will likely improve the air quality and thus improve the health and livability of your home or work.

Other research has found that where there are offices with interior plants, they experience reduced absenteeism by 10%. Another study in Norway found that interior office plants headaches, reduced fatigue, coughs, dry throats and increased overall well-being. It was also found that houseplants increased humidity and reduced odors.

The good news is, there is a houseplant for every micro-climate in your home, from sunny rooms to shady rooms- there is a plant for you. There are also low-maintenance houseplants like succulents and cacti.

Houseplant placement

img_0385Q. Is it a good idea to clump your houseplants into one place or just have one plant here and another one there?

A. There is no hard rule. But the main thing is that first and foremost, your plants should be in the best place for their needs in terms of light. However, if you do have a number of houseplants with the same needs, they might benefit from a bit of togetherness. It also makes watering easier. By grouping houseplants together in a room, you can not only create a good-looking dedicated green space, but also the plants can enjoy a more humid microclimate when among each other.

Planting bulbs is easier with the right tool

bulbstulipThere’s no reason to hand-dig holes for new bulbs this autumn—not when there are many simple labor-saving tools can make quick work of a time-consuming chore.

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