Small Acreage: Q and A with CSU Master Gardeners |

Small Acreage: Q and A with CSU Master Gardeners

Q: I would like to plant a tree in my yard. Hopefully, one that will grow quickly. Any suggestions?

A: With trees, there is often a trade-off between speedy growth or strong internal wood. Trees that are known to grow quickly are often more prone to storm damage and a shortened lifespan.

Trees such as willow, cottonwood and silver maple are notorious for their speedy growth but may split or lose a branch in high winds or snow loads. A few trees that are suitable for conditions we experience along the Front Range handle this trade-off well and provide a reasonable rate of growth without sacrificing longevity.

For a taller shade tree, you might consider Chinkapin Oak, sycamore, honeylocust or Northern catalpa.

Slightly smaller shade trees include the linden or Callery Pear.

Most of these trees will grow approximately .43-.44 inches in girth per year, reaching approximately 6-7 inches caliper (diameter of the trunk) by 16 years of age.

For more information on tree varieties and planting tips see

Q: I do not have space for a large garden but would like to grow some vegetables in pots this summer. Do you have any suggestions for things that will do well in containers?

A: There are plenty of vegetables that will perform well in pots on a patio provided there is adequate sun and routine watering.

Warm season vegetables (which can be planted after the danger of late spring frosts have passed) are good candidates but cool season crops such as lettuce, spinach or chard are also possible. Cherry or slicing tomatoes are a popular favorite — consider determinate varieties such as Sweet 100 or dwarf varieties of slicing tomatoes such as “Patio,” “Tiny Tim” or “Window Box Roma.” Even with dwarf varieties, tomatoes will benefit from staking, trellising and pinching the tips of vines to keep them compact.

Peppers (one to a pot), cucumbers (provide a trellis), summer squash and beans also do well in containers provided compact or patio varieties are selected.

For a fun change of pace, try growing potatoes. Place 8-10-inches of potting soil in a large pot (at least 5 gallons). Plant 2-3 potato eyes 2-3 inches from the bottom and water. Wait until the plants begin to emerge and then cover the stems with more soil (leaving the top leaves exposed). Continue this technique until the soil has reached the top of the pot.

Finally, don’t overlook herbs as an option for container gardening. Basil, thyme, oregano, sage, chives and more will thrive in a sunny spot and provide you with fresh flavor and seasonings for your kitchen.

At this time of the season, you may want to choose plants that have already been started by a grower versus direct seeding to maximize what you can yield from your patio “patch”.

For more information on container gardening, see CSU Garden Notes #724 at

Gardening Tips

1. Our average frost date along the Front Range is May 10-15 for elevations up to 5.700 feet. Add one day for every 100 feet of elevation gain.

2. “Close” or “low” pruning of established roses can be done in the next few weeks. Prune and remove all dead, diseased or undesirable wood. Trim back to “live” wood which means you should see only pale green/white wood inside the canes. Use nail polish or white glue to coat the cut end of the cane to deter borers from attacking the canes. This heavy pruning will stimulate new growth along the canes. Fertilize roses in May and then once a month until mid-August.

3. Seed beets, carrots, Swiss chard and sweet corn. You can still seed broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and spinach if you didn’t get them planted in April.

4. Prune and fertilize lilacs, forsythia, rose of Sharon, quince, flowering almond and plum and other spring flowering shrubs immediately after flowering. These plants start forming the buds for next years’ flowers shortly after blooming and waiting until fall or winter means you will lose blossoms the following spring.

5. Core-aerate your lawn to allow air, water and nutrients to reach the root zone and to reduce compaction. Compacted soil grows goosegrass, prostrate spurge, knotweed and broad-leaved plantain better than it will grow turfgrass. Wait until we’ve had a soaking rain or snow, or water your lawn before aerating. You do not need to remove the cores from the lawn. ❖

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