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Embracing Nature’s Way: Integrated Pest Management

Integrated Pest Management is like the Gandalf of gardening – a wise, all-encompassing strategy that balances the forces of nature to keep your greenery flourishing. At its core, IPM is a holistic approach that combines biological, cultural, and physical/ mechanical control methods to manage pests and diseases. Instead of reaching for a pesticide or other control products, we tap into the power of Mother Nature herself to maintain a thriving and balanced ecosystem.

Some of our IPM practices include:

  • Biological: Releasing ladybugs or other beneficial insects inside our greenhouses, or hoop houses to feast on those insects that are a bother; aphids, scale, mealy bugs, leafhoppers, etc. We also let spiders do their good work eating larger insects, like grasshoppers.
  • Cultural: Reducing watering if fungal or pest problems crop up.
  • Mechanical: Manually removing bugs from plants by hand or with water (aphids, mealy bugs, scale, potato bugs, etc)

While we lean into biological, cultural, or mechanical solutions, the last part of IPM is responsibly utilizing chemical products to rid of pests. This means we use more natural controls, such as Neem oil or Spinosad Soap, before other products. It is also important for us to factor in when pollinators or other beneficial insects may be around. So we try to spray when these individuals are not active. We also follow recommended application methods to avoid pollution of our environment or incur undue costs.

Why does Rick’s Garden Center Choose IPM Over Pesticides?

Environmental Harmony:

  • Pesticides can disrupt your garden’s delicate ecosystem – effective, but with unintended consequences. IPM, on the other hand, dances with nature rather than against it. By embracing natural predators, beneficial insects, and environmentally friendly practices, we create a harmonious balance that keeps the pests at bay without harming the environment. By mostly avoiding synthetic chemicals, we reduce the environmental impact and create a garden that’s both beautiful and a haven for beneficial insects and wildlife.

Economic Sense:

  • Let’s face it – pesticides can burn a hole in our pockets. IPM, however, is cost-effective in the long run. By relying on natural solutions, we reduce the need for constant reapplication of expensive chemicals, improving our bottom line.

Happy and Healthy Plants:

  • Picture this: a garden where plants are not only surviving but thriving. That’s the magic of IPM. By addressing the root causes of pest problems and fostering a healthy soil environment, we ensure that your green companions are resilient and ready to face whatever life throws their way.

Community Connection:

  • We believe in building a community that shares our love for the earth. By choosing IPM, we invite our customers to join us in creating a garden that is a testament to the power of working hand in hand with nature.

At Rick’s Garden Center, IPM isn’t just a gardening strategy – it’s a philosophy. It is about embracing the rhythms of nature and inviting others to join us toward a more sustainable future. So, next time you visit, know that you are not just buying plants; you are becoming a part of our eco-minded family.


An Interview With Melody Daugherty

In mid-November, I met Melody Daugherty at a local gathering spot in Manitou Springs for a hot beverage.  Dressed similarly to our regulars who have landscaped or gardened in the region for several decades, you can tell she is a woman who is connected to the earth. Melody wears little jewelry or makeup, but rather has a sunkissed glow. Her bright blue eyes light up as she recounts her story of becoming passionate about preserving pollinators and their habitats.  Melody Daugherty grew up in rural Wisconsin where she had a strong tie to the outdoors and the living beings around her.  “I used to sit in a field where I grew up, and there were so many invertebrates around. It was loud, like a drumbeat,” she recalls. “The world is very different from when I grew up. The community really showed up for each other and I was surrounded by people that just loved the earth. Capitalism was not the orientation. This care for others was a heart issue and there was inherent value for every living thing that was not turned into maltreatment of animals or plants.” This drumbeat that she experienced as a young girl has become a calling for her now.    

Melody has had her own landscaping business for over a dozen years. She credits the native seeds and plants surge to her awareness surrounding the plight of the pollinators.  Another pivotal circumstance that jump-started her innate desire to become an advocate for the pollinators is the massive invertebrate pollinator die off in 2018-2019.  Approximately 75%-95% (depending on sources) of pollinators in the region died. This was shocking to Melody but also to many of the beekeepers in the Manitou Springs area. Beekeeping has been a tradition for many families in the region for generations. When this die-off occurred, a group of concerned beekeepers gathered in Manitou. Melody and other members of the Manitou Springs Pollinator Project attended their meeting. The Manitou Springs Pollinator Project was created by Beth Chorpenning.  It was a club of local residents committed to grass roots activism to do something on behalf of pollinators before it became the Manitou Pollinators, a 501c3 non-profit. The grief experienced in the beekeeping meeting sparked her further commitment to the cause of Manitou Pollinators. She knew that she had to do more.

Shortly after the meeting of the beekeepers, Daugherty read a news article about the Butterfly Pavilion, and how they were looking for municipalities that were interested in becoming Pollinator Districts. Without even calling or emailing to make an appointment, she hopped in her car and drove there. After arriving at the Pavilion in Westminster, CO, she asked to talk to the director and “bing, bang, boom, we were brought into the certification process!” This certification process is tailor-made to fit any community that applies, no matter the size. After speaking to the Butterfly Pavilion and seeing the rigorous universal metrics used to assess a community throughout the certification journey, she knew she could trust their process. After this, the real work began. Melody met with innumerable business owners, residents, non-profits, the City of Manitou Springs, faith communities and more. Buy-in from all of these various parties took five years, but in 2023, Manitou gained the distinction and honor of becoming the world’s first recognized Pollinator District! She continues to meet with new stakeholders since she realizes it takes communities absolutely committed to pollinators and their habitat to make a difference.

When chatting with Melody, I notice she uses the language of accountability, justice, duties and responsibility often. I asked her if this is an intentional use. “Oh absolutely! I view my work with the Manitou Pollinators as part of two of my obligations. One is to my Indigenous Elders, and the other is to the pollinators themselves.” Melody is a Traditional Indigenous Elder with duties and responsibilities to the Cherokee and Anishinaabe of Canada. Her Elders guide, instruct and offer the wisdom to support her environmental and conservation work with the land, the Manitou Pollinators and Manitou Springs Municipal Certified Pollinator District. Several of the things that she continually works on include, the ethics of how the organization operates, the breadth of community involvement, future generations as a forefront, and how their efforts impact other species. This work is very spiritual—a ministry for her. Many non-Indigenous people may not grasp this level of meaning in her work, and this is one of the gaps she must broach in her conversations with others. As she transitions to talk about her second obligation to the pollinators, she lights up referring to them as her sisters and brothers or her relatives. “They are the reason I do this work.  The land and our relatives take care of us, without asking for a dime. One out of three bites of food is a result of pollination!”

Daugherty has learned a lot through her efforts in Manitou’s certification as a Pollinator District. “I have learned to take risks when feeling inadequate or scared. ‘Be scared and do it anyway’ mentality. I need time to step away from situations and chill out. This time allows me to figure out a way to do it anyway.” Throughout this journey, she recognized that it required a “different wisdom,” one that requires “being in a relationship” with her community, the pollinators, and the land. As mentioned previously, this project took immense collaboration and conversation with innumerable stakeholders throughout the Manitou Springs community. “Another lesson that I learned was how to figure out where to meet people where they are at. Not everyone comes to the table with a passion for pollinators.” Daugherty concedes, “Pollinators are political.” As an introvert, she has had to learn creative ways to connect with people and adjust through conflicts. Many of her strategies involved asking about others’ bonds with nature. “Some of people’s connections were that they gardened, others had children who loved the outdoors, hiking, camping. Even golfers have a connection with nature that I can tap into. It is always about the common ground before bringing them to how to protect the pollinators.”

When asked if she has any wisdom for budding activists, Melody laughed, “Get lots of sleep! There are going to be times when you feel like you are at a breaking point. Honor that feeling, lay down your work, and sleep. Then this is when you make a choice of how you show up next.” She also advocates that it is “especially important for women activists to have mentors.” Her mentors include her Indigenous Elders, and she finds great comfort and spiritual mentorship in Desmond Tutu.  His living example of not stopping in the face of Apartheid was his greatest teaching to her. After talking to Melody, one gets the sense that she is never alone or lonely—standing on the shoulders of so many others who have come before her. Her mother’s legacy especially, continues to be a significant influence. She vividly remembers an incident where her mother introduced environmental justice to her at a young age. “We were all in a car driving behind this guy in a truck. The man hit a dog with his truck. My mom followed and chased this man until he pulled over. She got out of the car and gave this man an earful. My mom was the first person to teach me to care about all the living beings and to hold the cruel accountable.” Daugherty also shared that her mom started the first in-home care program for elders in their rural community. ” I was taught early on that this check-in on our elders was out of love.”

After first recommending that readers check out the Manitou Pollinators webpage, as well as the Butterfly Pavilion resources, she asserts that every person has the capability of helping the pollinators. “My advice is to grow plants. Grow them in containers outside if you have an apartment, a condo, or just a small growing space. There are so many options! Grow food plants—the plants the pollinators gain nutrition from. Also, protect larger pollinator habitats. This includes trees where they mate, lay eggs, nest, and have shelter from weather, including hail (referring to birds). There are 964 different types of native bees. Pollinators also include moths, beetles, and flies. They need our help—planting plants is the best way. They need an oasis that they can hop, fly, or travel to. If your neighbor has a garden, that is not enough. They need corridors so they can travel from one safe habitat to another. Everyone is part of this solution!” Melody has a whimsical side as well. She played along when asked what type of pollinator she would be. Without hesitation, she replied, “For this season only—I would be a hummingbird. I like to travel long distances, especially to warm climates. They are beautiful, athletic, and almost gymnastic-like. They also sound so cool.” 

While many people felt doom after the incredible die-off of pollinators in 2018- 2019, Melody used her emotions to fuel a more beautiful reality. Daugherty believes that there is power in our smaller actions. “Change is possible. We do this every day! Micro decisions that impact the big picture; it is not just how we vote in elections. Of course, our daily decisions are not a replacement for voting.” When asked if she thought there was hope for our future, she replied, “Mother Nature never lies. Colonialism brought us to this current level of denial and lying about the current situation. Climate change is a breakdown of relationships. When like-minded people who care get together and do something about it, change is created. Sometimes things feel overwhelming. The problems of our world are so big, bigger sometimes than we thought. It can be scary to look at the bigger picture, but when we reach out to each other for help and create community, create relationships, more often than not, the community understands. They get behind us in our change-making. There is hope for us- yes. We all love.” 

While talking to Melody Daugherty, her calm resolve to impact her community shines through. Her unwavering commitment to the success of the Manitou Springs Municipal Certified Pollinator District inspires a shift in mindset for us all. What small things can we change for the better? Daugherty’s activism proves that love can change the world, even if only one Pollinator District at a time.


Resources:

Manitou Pollinators webpage: https://manitoupollinators.org/

Butterfly Pavilion webpage: https://butterflies.org/

Pollinator District information: https://butterflies.org/pollinatordistricts/

Rick’s 2023 Winter Reading List

By Katherine Placzek

Winter is the perfect time to curl up with a book. Our staff has accumulated our favorite plant reads so you can get a stack of books from the library or your favorite local bookstore. All you need is a blanket and to start the tea kettle!


Plan a Colorful Garden for our Rugged Terrain:

Pretty Tough Plants:135 Resilient, Water-Smart Choices for a Beautiful Garden

by the Experts at Plant Select

Plant Select, the country’s leading brand of plants designed to thrive in high plains and intermountain regions, wrote the book on hardy high desert gardens- literally! This book will help you make a list of plants to seek out when it warms up. With amazing photos, each plant is described with specifics that are important for garden design, such as growing zones and light requirements. The selected plants include perennials and annuals, groundcovers, grasses, shrubs, and trees. Drool over each page, and complete your winter garden dreaming with this essential book!


Relish Edible Garden Designs:

Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans That Will Change the Way You Grow Your Garden

by Niki Jabbour

Based on actual gardens designed by celebrated gardeners and renowned landscapers, each of these 73 gardens offers unique solutions for your own garden. The garden layouts are illustrated, and list the edible plants included. You will find a pepper garden with over 24 pepper varieties, a garden that is in harmony with a chicken coop as its central feature, a cocktail garden, a balcony garden, and so many more niche ideas. Regardless of your space or experience, you will find something that will be new and exciting to you! Explore new species of eggplants, climbing tomatoes, edible flowers, and a plethora of ways to showcase the bounty in your vegetable garden.


Live an Insect’s Perspective:

The Bees

by Laline Paull

Throughout this novel, you will fall in love with the main character, Flora-717, a female bee in a honeybee colony. While scientific in many ways, it is a suspenseful and fantastical story in its own right. Experience predatory insects, pesticides, birds, weather, seasonal changes, human interactions, and the hive mentality from the perspective of a worker bee. The Bees will change how you view the life of a honeybee!


Drool Over Houseplants:

Plantopedia: The Definitive Guide to Houseplants

by Lauren Camilleri & Sophia Kaplan

This is a wonderful introductory guide for the houseplant enthusiast! 130 plants including foliage plants, succulents, and cacti are profiled. While as educational as a textbook, this book also doubles as a coffee table book due to its incredible images! You will be able to keep your houseplants happy and vibrant after reading this informative book. Plantopedia is a great gift for any houseplant lover!


For the Fledgling Plantswoman:

The Earth in Her Hands: 75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants

by Jennifer Jewell

If you are inspired by seeing other individuals who are molding the future of the plant world, check out this beautiful book. 75 women are interviewed on their backstory of how they debuted in the plant world. Each individual is given a multi-page spread, and vivid pictures are included. You will meet nursery owners, photographers, vegetable farmers, flower farmers, activists, researchers, florists, plant breeders, seed collectors, and a myriad of other professionals.


A Mystery that Involves a Plant Poisoning:

A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons

by Kate Khavari

This lighthearted mystery introduces you to the world of Saffron Everleigh, who has just become a research assistant at the University College of London during the early 1920s. Plant lovers will enjoy the scenes located in various gardens, arboretums, and greenhouses. After a poisoning occurs, our fearless heroine is caught in the middle since her mentor is the main suspect. She undertakes the task of clearing her mentor’s name with her dashing sidekick, Alexander Ashton. This is the first book of a series, so feel free to get emotionally attached to the characters.


Calling All Beginning Vegetable Gardeners: 

The Kitchen Garden: A Month by Month Guide to Growing Your Own Fruits and Vegetables

by Alan Buckingham

This book is a great foundation for beginner and intermediate vegetable gardeners. The author provides you with detailed crop planners, indicating when to sow and how to care for more than 60 veggies, herbs, and fruits. Every month is broken into tasks. Discussion on growing zones occurs, so you can acclimate to the monthly tasks based on your region. Basic composting, Hugelkultur, and crop rotation processes are also covered. The author shares tips on maximizing your garden plot if sloped or uneven terrain is a concern, which is common in this area. Buckingham especially trains you in gardener’s foresight strategies. Get your feet wet and your hands dirty with this book!


A Gardener’s Contemplation:

Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education

by Michael Pollan

This was one of Michael Pollan’s first published books. If you know him as a food writer or culture shifter, reacquaint yourself with him as a gardener. His amusing stories have a retro feel due to their publishing year but are still relevant to how societal norms influence our lawns, yards, and gardens. He talks about the dichotomy between the wilderness and a garden. The book makes you consider the role that your yard plays in this conversation.


How to Start a Flower Farm:

Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest and Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms

by Erin Benzakein with Julie Chai

In Erin Benzakein’s debut book, you will be absorbed by the gorgeous photographs of colorful flowers, and her thoughtful design. Benzakein’s generous spirit shines through, as she guides you from a beginner’s understanding into the intricacies of large-scale cut flower farming. While reading the book you will learn about helpful tools of the trade, planting/care staples, the harvesting processes, and the art of flower arrangements. Soon enough, you will be dreaming of dahlias, zinnias, poppies, daffodils, anemones, ranunculus, and more!


A Throwback:

Silent Spring

by Rachel Carson

Initially released in 1962, this book helped the public understand the impact of pesticides. Rachel Carson, an American biologist, writer, and conservationist, researched the impacts of post-World War II pesticides, including DDT on songbird populations. Through the publication of this book, her audience was able to push for a nationwide ban on DDT. If you are able to pick up a physical copy, the illustrations are exquisite! The images were drawn by Lois and Louis Darling. Naturalist Sir David Attenborough expressed Silent Spring as a book that has changed the scientific world- a classic read for any gardener! 


A Reason to Plant Natives:

Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard

by Douglas W. Tallamy

Written by Dr. Douglas Tallamy, a professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, this book will convince you to plant native plants in your yard. Tallamy explains why various insect larvae are keystone species, especially for bird populations. The book details how the landscape is changed when invasive or non-native plants are incorporated, and how natural food sources for wildlife are erased. This can be changed easily by planting native plants that provide dense nutrition as well as protective habitat corridors within the urban setting. Native plant guides and resources are provided throughout the book. Overall, a convincing and empowering read.


Learn to Garden on a Shoestring:

The Dirt Cheap Green Thumb: 400 Thrifty Tips for Saving Money, Time, and Resources as You Garden

by Rhonda Massingham Hart

This little book is chock full of clever ways to garden! The author is frank on how to save money while building a beautiful and productive garden. Enjoy humor and advice on the best ways to stretch your dollar, from starting seeds to preserving produce. The author explores all gardening, including edible and ornamental. Even seasoned gardeners will find resourceful tips in this helpful guidebook.


Rick’s Deep Freeze Guide

In preparation for our first deep freeze coming this Sunday, Rick’s Garden Center would like to remind our fabulous customers to take some steps beforehand to help your plant friends and tools out.

  • Water in outdoor trees, shrubs and perennials and cover root balls with mulch.  Do not mulch up to the trunk.  Moist soil conducts earth heat better than dry soil.  The mulch will help keep in the heat and protect the sensitive root ball.
  • Rose bushes, mulch up to the graft union at the base of the rose trunk.  You can use a rose collar or just pile up mulch up to and above the graft union.  The graft union will look like a bulging area on the main trunk just above the soil line.
  • Bring in any tropical plants, cacti or succulents that are not at least a zone 5 inside.
  • Check and move any plants that are blown on by heat vents.  This will dry out the foliage in no time!
  • Outdoor trees, shrubs and perennials planted in pots should be insulated with burlap bags or mulch and placed against a south or west wall of your home.  Avoid watering these before the freeze.
  • Water in newly established lawns and grass.
  • Go ahead and plant those mums you bought in the ground..  They may come back next year!
  • Disconnect and drain all hoses and drips lines from spigots
  • Cover newly planted bulbs with leaf, needle or straw mulch.
  • Blow out that sprinkler system!
  • After the freeze, you do not have to pull up all of the dead material, so that pollinators and other insects have a place to overwinter.

Small Pot Sizes, Mighty Plants

Here in the nursery at Rick’s Garden Center, we tend towards smaller pot sizes. In the nursery business, pots are sized according (loosely) to their volume in gallons. A #5 pot, therefore, holds roughly 5 gallons of soil. It should be noted that these sizes are not standardized; a #5 pot can be anywhere from 3.4 to 5.4 gallons. Our shrubs are typically in the #2 to #5 pot size, and our trees tend to be #5 to #15. These sizes are smaller than what some other nurseries offer, especially in trees. There are a handful of good reasons for this, and I’d like to explore those with you now.

First is affordability. Smaller-sized pots hold smaller plants, and smaller plants cost less. The less I spend on any one plant, the more plants I can buy. It’s important to us at Rick’s to get plants into the hands of as many people as possible, and keeping our nursery stock small in size helps us accomplish this. Smaller pots even pay off in sweat equity; a smaller rootball means a smaller hole to dig and much less weight to move around. Planting small can save both your wallet and your back.

Another reason has everything to do with establishment. Establishment is the magic moment when your plant reaches outside its root ball and lays new roots in the surrounding soil. Smaller trees and shrubs establish faster and use less water in the process. Trees typically take one year per inch of caliper to establish. Caliper is the measure of the trunk’s diameter 6 inches above the soil line. That is to say, a 1” caliper tree will take one year to reach establishment, while a 2.5” caliper will take 2.5 years or more. This means that a #5 pot tree will catch up, and possibly eclipse the growth of a #15 pot tree since the #5 pot tree will establish much faster than the #15 pot tree will. Also, it takes much less water to soak a #5-sized root ball compared to a #15 or larger pot size. Multiply that by the number of times you need to water your plant until it establishes, and the water savings from planting small becomes apparent–especially when you consider the establishment period is much longer for larger plants. At Rick’s, we believe that water-wise landscaping practices should be the norm.

Finally, by keeping smaller pot sizes we can carry more varieties of plants. Our footprint at Rick’s nursery is modest compared to other nurseries. Keeping pot sizes small means we can fit more plants in the same space, which equates to more awesome varieties of trees and shrubs for you to shop. In this nursery, we think variety is the spice of life, and we like our plant selections to be as spicy as possible!

In the end, the only argument in favor of planting large specimens is our need for instant gratification. The impact a large specimen plant can make on a new landscape is undeniable; however, we hope that this blog post inspires you to consider a smaller pot size for your next landscape plant purchase. Happy planting!

Fern Care Guide

Light

Most fern varieties naturally grow on the floor of thick, forested areas so they prefer a bright but indirect light. Given the delicate nature of their leaves, they can easily burn if put in direct sunlight.

Temperature

Ferns should be kept in a temperate environment – they prefer daytime temps between 65-75 degrees, and can have nighttime temps no more than 10 degrees lower (55-65). If the temperature is often above 75 degrees, they will be okay but may require more frequent watering. If temperatures fall below 50 degrees, they risk being cold-shocked which is rarely survivable.

Humidity

This is the trickiest aspect of keeping a fern in Colorado. They require a humid environment in order to keep their foliage from crisping up and falling off. A fern should be kept in humidity levels that are consistently above 60%. There are a few ways to accomplish this:

  • Keep your fern in a closed terrarium – This is the easiest way to ensure your fern has optimal temperature and humidity levels.
  • Give your fern a humidity tray to sit on – By filling a saucer with washed gravel and a very small amount of water and then setting your potted fern on top, you can create a temporarily humid environment immediately around your fern. When using this method, ensure that the soil is not touching the water through your pot’s drainage hole. The water will have to be refilled about every other day.
  • Give your fern a humidifier – A humidifier is a great choice for people who have many plants that prefer a more humid environment than Colorado has to offer. There is a great variety to choose from – small, single-plant serving models, to ones that can raise the humidity of a large room.

Watering

Ferns prefer to stay in moist soil. It is important to maintain a good medium between letting the soil dry out and keeping it wet. The best way to tell if your fern needs to be watered is by sticking your finger into the top layer – if the top 1 1/2 inches are dry, then you should water. As with most houseplants, it is much safer to err on the side of underwatering than overwatering.

Fertilizer

Ferns are very light feeders, so they do not need to be fertilized often. For the best results, feed your fern a balanced houseplant fertilizer once every month starting mid-spring through the summer. It is best to not feed your fern during the fall and winter, as they are most sensitive to over-feeding at this time.

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