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Spring Planting is in Full Swing!
I have been very busy these past two weeks planting flowers!
In case you've ever wondered exactly how this works, here's basically how I manage it. Most of the plants come from Gulley Greenhouse here in Fort Collins. I place a pre-order in October, then place a second (and third...) order in April so that when May comes around I can fill everyone's planters. I try to order complete flats of plants and then distribute them as appropriate. Last year, my dear sweet husband wrote a spreadsheet program for me which has been an incredible help with the plant inventory. greenhouses

The plants arrive at my house in early May, where I love them, care for them and talk to them until they move to their permanent homes. This year I have two of these temporary greenhouses in the backyard for plants. (That's my orange tabby cat, Gandalf, looking in on the plants.) Overall, well over 2,500 plants will pass through my hands - not even counting my vegetable garden! If you haven't received your plants yet, don't worry. I am taking very good care of them!
 
A Word About the Weather 
We are generally very fortunate with good weather here in Northern Colorado, but this area is prone to hail and thunderstorms. The Fort Collin Utilities and Stormwater rainfall monitor reports at least 1/2 an inch of rain throughout the city in the past few days. Unless your container gardens are under a roof or overhang, you can likely suspend watering for a few days. If you have an automated system, use the "rain delay" button or simply turn off the water... but don't forget to turn it back on when the rain lets up! Save on your water bill and turn off your lawn sprinklers as well.

If you're aware of an upcoming storm which may produce hail, try to move your plants under cover. That isn't always feasible either because the planters are too large and heavy or because they are attached to the irrigation system. In which case it is very helpful to the plants if you can cover them with a sheet before the hail - this helps to minimize torn leaves and broken stems. Many times, plants are able to recover after hail but it's hard on them.

Now on to this year's newsletter theme: Weeds and Wildflowers.
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Weed: Canadian Thistle
Canada Thistle (Circium arvense) is not only an annoying weed with extremely prickly leaves, this plant is classified as a noxious weed by the Colorado Department of Agriculture. Canada Thistle has an extensive and deep root system. Sprouts appear from the roots in the spring and persist the entire season. Canada Thistle is colony-forming: it may appear to be several plants but they are actually all connected to the same root system. The plants are unisexual (separate male and female plants) – so you may or may not see flowers. The flowers are purple or white and mature to become puff balls like dandelions, but smaller. Each flower can produce hundreds of seeds. Because of the extensive root system and the fact that this plant can grow roots from a stem cutting as small as 1/2-inch, this weed is very hard to control. If you find it in your yard, pull early and often. The best strategy is to exhaust the root system by removing the vegetative portion. Tilling an area infested with Canada Thistle only serves to increase the number of plants. Broadleaf herbicides, including Round-Up, can be effective but you will likely have to apply multiple times to eradicate this nasty weed.
 
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Wildflower: Dandelion
Americans’ infatuation with perfectly manicured, green lawns means this pretty, little yellow flower is usually classified as a weed not a wildflower. Certainly the Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) has some rather less-than-desirable characteristics: it has a long, deep tap root and the green rosette of leaves will persist throughout the year. It spreads rapidly and will grow just about anywhere – from the dry road-side ditch to your well-irrigated perennial garden. Before you write me off as crazy for defending this plant, consider this list of it’s positive attributes: the roots can be ground and dried, then steeped as a coffee substitute; the leaves are a nutritious spring green; the flowers can be made into a brandy-like wine; the sap from the stems can be used to treat some skin ailments; and the nectar and pollen feed many beneficial insects, especially bees. If you just can’t stand Dandelions in your yard, hand pulling using a “Dandelion Weeder” tool to get as much of the tap root as possible is still the most effective method. (The “Dandelion Weeder” tool works on all kinds of weeds, by the way!)  If you use herbicide, pick off or mow down all the flowers first; otherwise, the flowers will droop but then immediately produce seed which potentially makes your problem worse.

Although I consider Dandelion a wildflower, I don't let it grow all over my yard! A weed is any plant which is growing where you don't want it.

 
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Want to know more about weeds? Here are my sources:
 
Gift, Nancy, and Sheila Rodgers. Good Weed, Bad Weed: Who's Who, What to Do, and Why Some Deserve a Second Chance (all You Need to Know about the Weeds in Your Yard). Pittsburgh, PA: St. Lynns, 2011. Print.
 
 Whitson, Tom D., and L. C. Burrill. Weeds of the West. Laramie, WY: Western Society of Weed Science in Cooperation with the Western United States Land Grant Universities Cooperative Extension Services and the University of Wyoming, 2009. Print.

"Noxious Weed Species." Colorado Department of Agriculture. Web. 15 Apr. 2014. http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/ag_Conservation/CBON/1251618874438.