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Summer Tips for Outdoors and Green Thumbs

Mosquito management is increasingly important, partly due to the West Nile Virus. The best time to manage mosquitoes is when they are in the larval stage. This stage, called wrigglers, lives in shallow water and feeds on microorganisms. They can be found in used tires, wheelbarrows, birdbaths, saucers under pots, ornamental pools and other places that hold standing water. Empty or flush out containers weekly to reduce or eliminate the larvae.

The mosquito-eating fish Gambusia can be released in ponds or other areas that have year-round standing water to control mosquito larvae. Gambusia may be available from your local health department or they may know of a source. Be sure not to release Gambusia in ponds and rivers that have game fish.

Microbial insecticides such as Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis israeliensis) can be effective. Bti is toxic to mosquito larvae but is not hazardous to non-target organisms. Bti may decrease midge populations and reduce fish food supply. In addition to Bti, insect growth regulators such as methoprene interrupt mosquito growth and development, preventing adult emergence. Insect growth regulators do not harm fish or other wildlife but do affect other insects and arthropods.

Use netting and screening to keep adult mosquitoes out of porches, decks and other living areas in the summer. Adult mosquito control in yards is best accomplished with pyrethroid insecticides. “Bug zappers” do not reduce mosquito populations but destroy many desirable natural insect predators. Their use is not recommended.

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Plant Select®, a program designated to seek out and distribute the very best plants for gardens in the high plains to the intermountain region, has tracked its top five sellers from 2009. They include:

Penstemon x mexicali – Red Rocks® Penstemon and Penstemon x mexicali Pikes Peak Purple® Penstemon

These are both durable hybrid penstemons selected from crosses between Mexican and American wild penstemons made by Bruce Meyers. Narrow, dark green leaves grow on attractive mounded plants. Red Rocks® sports a constant succession of bright rose flowers all summer, while Pikes Peak Purple® chimes in with violet purples. Both thrive in a range of sites and soils.

Delosperma ‘Kelaidis’PP13,876 Mesa Verde® Ice Plant

This iridescent, salmon-pink flowered sport appeared among plants of a dwarf, alpine form of Delosperma cooperi at Denver Botanic gardens. It is vigorous, compact and floriferous.

Delosperma floribundum Starburst Ice Plant

This clumping ice plant produces a dome of bright pink flowers with eye-catching white centers. It starts blooming in June and continues until fall. It is an essential small scale ground cover or edging plant for any garden.

Gazania linearis Colorado Gold® Gazania

This plant has glossy mounds of deep green, strap-shaped leaves spangled with three-inch shiny yellow flowers throughout the growing season. This selection is cold hardy and does well under ordinary garden treatment, or in unamended, dry soils as well once established.

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Be sure to check with the landlord before digging up an area for a garden.  Offer to put an agreement in writing including details of what you will plant and how you will maintain it.  Be clear that you will bear the financial responsibility of plants and maintenance and if necessary to restore it to its original condition when you move.  To convince a reluctant landlord, mention gardening classes you have taken or show photos of past gardens.  Plant an easily maintained garden.  Avoid water gardens, invasive groundcovers, vines and exotic, hard-to-maintain plants.

Apartment and condominium dwellers may be limited by covenants or other restrictions, so check with the association or management.  Pots and planter boxes come in many shapes and sizes, take up little space, and are movable and easily maintained.  Container gardening books have lots of ideas.

Purchase plants according to the amount of sun exposure you have.  Light requirements for plants to perform well are listed on the plant tags.  Plants that require full sun need a minimum of six hours of sun light, light shade four to six hours, and two to four hours for partial shade plants.  Some foliage plants do best in filtered light or continuous shade.

Other options might be to help with a neighborhood community garden, offer your gardening skills to an elderly homeowner, or volunteer your time with a local gardening club or the botanic gardens.  Take advantage of the many ways to realize the benefits of gardening for yourself and others!