Cheyenne Botanic Gardens : Past Gardening Tips From our News Page

Hail Forecaster

This is a great site for a quick glance at our chance for hail each day. Spring and Summer is when hail is frequent and devastating.

Click here to view short video of one of two devastating hail storms in 2011.

What is our garden zone?

A lot of plants are sold by USDA “Plant Hardiness Zones,” so that we can more easily choose the appropriate plants for our climate. The USDA has long published a map that lays out zones across the United States and the lower the number the colder the zone.

In a new map, updated a few years ago, Cheyenne was moved from Zone 4 to a warmer Zone 5. However, we recommend that people stick to Zone 4, as the USDA mainly looks at winter temperatures and the map does not take into account other factors like wind, altitude, and precipitation. Many Zone 5 plants still have a difficult time surviving here.

Organic fertilizers

Q. Why use organic fertilizers?

A. Organic fertilizers are slower to release their nutrients so less ends up in the ground water and more fertilizer ends up helping your plants. They also are great at helping to promote beneficial soil microbes which in-turn helps you plants to thrive.

Q. Organic fertilizers are more expensive in than the traditional chemical based fertilizers. Is there any way to economize on using organic fertilizers?alfalfapellets

A. A great organic based fertilizer can be found at your local feed store. Both alfalfa pellets or meal make a great fertilizer. Alfalfa is high in nitrogen as well as other needed nutrients. Vegetables and flower beds need 2 to 5 pounds of alfalfa to every 100 square feet dug into the top 6 inches before planting. Add 3/4 cup of either alfalfa meal or pellets to each rose plant in April and early May.

You can also use pre-bagged or found well-decomposed chicken, sheep or cow manure, but don’t add more than an inch of this as it burns readily. We don’t recommend using horse manure as it has the potential of having a lot of weed seeds that will then germinate in your garden.

Growing Spinach

Spinach is easy to grow as long as you don’t grow it in the heat of summer. Started in early May, it matures in five weeks but only produces for a month and then goes to seed. You can start it from seed indoors in April, then set it out in early May and have an even earlier crop. The varieties that give you the longest harvest are those that are listed as being “heat tolerant.” Some heat tolerant varieties include: Bloomsdale Longstanding, Tyee, and Galilee. What is new in spinach varieties? Try Red Kitten Hybrid which sports red-veined glossy leaves.

Always save some seed for a late summer planting. If you sow more spinach in late August it will sprout and grow, but don’t harvest it. Rather as winter sets in do a light mulch around the plant and it will likely survive the winter. Come next spring it will start regrowing next April and you will be picking a number of harvests in early May.

To avoid a prairie seasoning crunch (dirt in the leaves), grow the smooth leaved varieties like “Tyee,” “Nordic” and “Space.” “Savoy-leafed” spinach has a bubbly looking leaf that is prone to holding on to grit. While it is showy, you really need to do a good job of cleaning it before consuming.

The best way to lay out a veggie garden


Wide bed gardening is the absolute best way to lay out a vegetable garden. This is because you will see increased yields in less space, less weeds, and your garden will need less water.

Wide bed gardening is a simple technique and it is all explained in this handout.

Getting a head start with potatoes

Chitting potatoes (also called “greensprouting”) refers to a technique that can reduce the time to harvest by 10 to 14 days. This is important in short growing climates like Wyoming. It is simple and all you need to do is place your store bought seed potatoes in a warm indoor area for several weeks to induce sprouting. Plant when the soil has warmed up to 50 degrees.

Don’t use potatoes from the grocery as they may harbor diseases. Instead, only use “certified” seed potatoes which are available at most garden centers or the garden section of department stores. They are normally around the size of a chicken egg.

Hard to find hardy roses

P1010077Where can one find the hardiest of roses for our tough gardening climate?
Most garden centers sell grafted tea roses which have a difficult time surviving in our harsh climate. One common series of rose that is commonly available and does well here is called “Knock Out.” Like most hardy roses, it is not a grafted rose. While it survives well, it is a small plant and has little fragrance.
If you have a strong passion for growing roses in our tough climate, you should be sure to visit the High Country Roses website. They carry one of the best selections of roses suited to the Rocky Mountain region. You can visit them online here or call them at 1-800-552-2082. Even if you buy locally, which we recommend – you can use their selection as a shopping guide. Still, you will find that High Country Roses has a selection that is beyond most any garden center around.

Abrupt freeze causes evergreen damage

Although this limber pine is mostly brown, its branches are pliable and likely still alive.

Although this limber pine is mostly brown, its branches are pliable and likely still alive.

Cheyenne, along with many other communities in the central and northern Rocky Mountain region saw a temperature swing of at least 80 degrees last November of 2014. The month started with record warmth, and then the temperatures dropped to an early-season cold within a two to three day period and then back to warm temperatures by the end of the month.

“The browning on the evergreen trees occurred because the plants had not gone into complete dormancy. Woody plants prepare for winter through a process called hardening off. They reach their peak cold hardiness around the end of December,” Olson said. “The frequency and severity of winter damage is determined by a number of factors, including the plant species or cultivar and its hardiness to the area, the location and conditions under which the plant is grown, and the timing of the weather extremes within the dormant period.” (more…)

Clover in lawns making a comeback

In the 1950s and 60s clover was a common component in grass seed mixes for lawns. Clover had the ability to reseed itself and stay green. It also attracted bees (which helps with overall garden pollination) and had the unique ability to add nitrogen to the soil which also reduced the need to fertilize your lawn. Clover was also was drought-tolerant and had low-maintenance qualities.

Once broad leaf weed killers became popular in the 1960s, the clover died with the dandelions. At that point lawn seed mixes dropped the clover. Now, clover lawns are making a comeback thanks in-part to people wanting more natural and chemical-free lawns.

One company (Outside Pride) has bred clover into a very small size even better suited to lawns. It is known as Miniclover® (Trifolium repens) and is a dwarf perennial clover bred to reach only four inches high. It can be a lawn alternative or mixed into your current lawn grass. Like other clover, this clover’s relationship with root microbes enable it to make its own nitrogen, feeding not only itself but reducing your overall need for nitrogen. This means your lawn will need less fertilizer. You can also create either a mix with grasses or a pure clover lawn. For seed sources click here.

Seedlings in recycled pots

It is getting close to the time when people think about starting seedlings in the windowsill or under lights. Rather than purchase new plastic pots for seedlings consider using recycled materials. Old Dixie cups or yogurt containers make great pots. Be sure to poke a few small holes in the bottom for drainage. You can also make pots out of old newspapers. This can be done with the help of a can (see link here).  There are also tools that can help you make newspaper pots that are available from garden supply companies. These do not need a drainage hole and readily biodegrade when you plant the seedling, pot and all directly in the ground.

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