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Test Your Colorado Gardening IQ

Do you know your gardening stuff?

Colorado State University's Master Gardeners know their stuff, but they say that the process of learning it through Master Gardener training can be a humbling experience. This is especially true for someone who has gardened 30 years.

Humbling, yes, but also divine, according to Master Gardeners. Experts from Colorado State University, with decades of Colorado gardening research and experience, train volunteer Master Gardener for three months each winter. Then, when you call Colorado State's Cooperative Extension offices, these Master Gardeners answer your questions about yard and garden issues.

Now, it's your turn to be a "Master Gardener for a Day." Below are a few frequently asked questions to test your knowledge of Colorado gardening. Answers follow.

Colorado Gardening IQ Test

  1. Which of the following soil amendments is recommended for Colorado's Front Range?
    1. Wood ashes from your fireplace to add potassium.
    2. Gypsum to break up the clay.
    3. Coarse organic matter to separate clay particles.
  2. Which of the following evergreen plants perform poorly in Colorado?
    1. Rhododendrons and hollies.
    2. Junipers and pines.
    3. Spruces and firs.
  3. When should I water my lawn?
    1. Every three days from spring to fall.
    2. When footprints in the turf don't spring back quickly.
    3. Deep water once a week.
  4. What type of grass is not recommended for Colorado's Front Range?
    1. Kentucky bluegrass.
    2. Zoysia grass.
    3. Tall fescue (turf type).
  5. What two fruits are the most reliable fruit producers in the Denver area?
    1. Apricots and strawberries.
    2. Sweet cherries and blueberries.
    3. Plums and apples.
  6. How high should I mow my lawn?
    1. 2 1/2 inches all year long.
    2. 3 inches in the summer and 2 inches in late fall and early spring.
    3. 1 inch all year.
  7. According to Colorado State University field tests, what bait attracts the most slugs?
    1. Solution of 15 percent sugar water.
    2. Budweiser beer.
    3. Yeast and water.
  8. At what soil depth can 95 percent of tree roots be found?
    1. Top 6 inches of soil.
    2. Top 18 inches of soil.
    3. Below 2 feet.
  9. How far do deciduous tree roots spread?
    1. From the trunk to the dripline (outer reach of the branches).
    2. Tree roots grow mostly down, not out.
    3. Outward 2 to 3 times the spread of the dripline.
  10. Which group of vegetables performs best in less than a half day of sunlight?
    1. Root vegetables, such as carrots and beets.
    2. Leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and spinach.
    3. Fruiting vegetables, such as tomatoes and squash.


  1. c) Organic matter, such as compost and peat, separates clay particles so water will drain. It also benefits sandy soils by holding more water. Gypsum (calcium sulfate) does not improve the drainage nor anything else about Colorado soils. Wood ashes are undesirable because they increase the already high alkalinity of our soils and add potassium which is too abundant in Colorado.
  2. a) Broadleaf evergreen plants such as rhododendrons and hollies burn in the low humidity, drying winds and bright sun of Colorado winters. Native and many introduced junipers, pines, spruce and firs thrive here.
  3. b) Footprinting in lawns is a sign of wilted grass and signals that it is time to water. Watering every three days is too frequent for cooler periods. Irrigation clock settings should be adjusted to water less frequently for the cooler spring and fall seasons and more often during summer's heat.
  4. b) Zoysia grass is not reliably hardy in Denver and some winter dieback can be expected. It often is dormant and straw-colored for 8 months of the year and less desirable than cool season grasses such as bluegrass and tall fescue.
  5. c) Plums and apples bloom late enough to set fruit after danger of frost has passed. This is unlike early-blooming apricots and peaches that may produce fruit in only one or two years out of five. Blueberries grow in acid conditions and do poorly in alkaline Colorado soils. Sweet cherries and strawberries grow well here.
  6. a) Research shows that lawns with a 2.5 to 3 inch leaf blade thrive because grass has a greater leaf surface for photosynthesis. Mowing to 1 inch is too short. Varying mowing heights by the season is unnecessary.
  7. b) Of all brands tested, slugs prefer Bud. Place in a saucer sunk into the ground with the lip at ground level and hope your dog doesn't develop a taste for beer.
  8. b) Most tree roots grow in relatively shallow soil (12 to 18 inches), especially in our poorly aerated clays. Use care when digging under trees and think twice when temporarily burying tree roots with fill soil during construction projects.
  9. c) More tree roots extend outward than downward, unlike the inaccurate diagrams seen in many older books that picture roots in the shape of an upside-down pyramid. Water large trees well away from the trunk. Your neighbor may be watering your tree for you!
  10. b) Vegetable gardeners, faced with increasing shade from maturing trees, should plant shade-tolerant, leafy vegetables. Fruiting vegetables require the most sun. Your mother always told you to eat more spinach!

How did you score?

If you scored 1 to 6, go back to gardening school. A score of 7 to 8 earns you a passing grade. Those scoring 9 to 10 receive the golden garden trowel award. Happy gardening!

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010