JERRY Katz stands at the intersection of recreation and home improvement.
The double duty subject? Gardening and landscaping.
Katz learned the multiple benefits of working in the garden or yard to make things grow during his high octane career as a trial lawyer. Katz found that working in his garden after a long day in court was a pleasant antidote to the stress inherent in his line of work.
Katz came to enjoy his gardening so much that he decided to retire from the legal profession and open his own organic landscaping company, Jerrys Wildflowers.
He specializes in utilizing Colorado wildflowers to enhance residential properties while holding tight to the principles of organic gardening. In this way, he addresses aesthetics, property values, the environment and healthy lifestyles.
Katz benefits from the talents of his wife, Susie, who is an artist and helps create landscape designs for clients.
Gardening has long been a passion of Katz.
I always gardened and I got my kids involved when they were young.
I planted mostly with seeds, and the kids saw the seeds become plants that would flower. We would see the vegetables ripen and then we would eat them fresh, right after picking them.
It was a large garden, and we would laugh when we would find a zucchini no one had seen that was as big as a kids baseball bat.
Now, years later when we eat together, the kids sometimes will reminisce about how wonderful our organic vegetables tasted. Gardens teach kids how to watch the natural world and to make things grow. The wildflower gardens attract hummingbirds, butterflies and other insects that interest kids. Kids love to be outside and pick flowers and vegetables.
KATZ feels wildflowers are the answer to several ecologic and economic concerns.
The number one issue facing Front Range landscapers today and in the future is sustainability, Katz says.
Where water is precious, we need to create landscapes that work with the environment.
Unfortunately our lawns are an unsustainable crop that take too many worrisome chemicals to keep green. You water, fertilize and cut everything off and dump it and start the cycle again.
Everyone expects that water will cost more in the future. There may not be enough water to sustain lush lawns at every home, business and median strip.
Since lawns are responsible for the largest percentage of our household water bill, many homeowners are reducing the size of their lawn and putting their efforts and resources into perennial flower gardens and organic vegetable gardens..
For flower gardens, many experts favor natural landscaping that combines Colorado wildflowers, plants and ornamental grasses.
These natives all thrive in our dry summer-cold winter climate, and our alkaline, mostly-clay soil. Beautiful wildflower gardens capture the spirit of the natural world.
Katz thinks sunny wildflower gardens are spectacular because of their vivid, brassy colors.
Cosmos, poppies and alyssum are annuals that re-seed themselves each year. Perennials including Indian paintbrush, black-eyed Susan, daisy, and lupine, add more great colors and shapes.
Sunny gardens often are xeriscape.
Some plants flower late (asters, Shasta daisy, coneflowers) but can stand up to the hottest days.
The afternoon sun is very intense in Colorado, and some plants can only tolerate the morning sun. We say that a sunny garden needs six hours of sun a day, but as little as four will do if they are the last four hours of sunlight.
Katz says that shade wildflower gardens are more delicate beauties and include columbine, daisies, pinks and poppies. Shade gardens are not xeriscape but the water savings are still substantial.
Ornamental grasses grow in the driest parts of this region and play a big role in natural gardens, Katz explains.
We see some plantings where there are more grasses than flowers.
The ornamental grasses are the sleepers of the garden, used all summer as boundaries and screens, but from late August to October grasses add excitement to the garden as they turn red, orange , yellow or gold.
Katz points out some popular plants this spring:
Did you notice a pretty yellow plant showing up in flower beds? They are called basket of gold and they have a great color. Phlox is a prolific spring ground-cover that comes in many different bright colors of magenta and pink.
Denver has world class tulips! Tulips originate in central Asia countries that include Afghanistan. Just like Colorado, they have dry summers and cold winters. In Holland there are wet winters that sometimes kill the bulbs. And that is why Denver tulips are to die for. Promise to plant some this fall!
ORGANIC gardening is the only way to go, according to Katz.
We live in a world where we suspect that there are too many chemicals in our environment. We do not know where our food comes from. We are more and more dependant on processed food.
Many old farms became real estate developments and there has been little local produce available.
In organic gardening compost is used as a natural fertilizer instead of chemical fertilizer. Today, there are municipal programs that accept material for composting. Some people purchase composting equipment. Many have compost piles of leaves, grass clippings, pine needles.
Every July, I soak my compost pile for a few hours and cover it with black plastic. The compost pile is in the sun and for weeks it smells like a vegetable soup with spoiled ingredients cooking. The compost is ready in the fall.
Gardeners call this compost black gold.
He offers a recipe for an organic vegetable garden that never has weeds:
Pick a site with lots of sun.
Till the soil, augmenting with a planters mix of topsoil and compost.
Cover the garden with black plastic.
Punch a small hole in the plastic for each vegetable you plant.
The black plastic keeps in the heat and retains moisture. The vegetables thrive and you never weeds.
Katz shares some additional gardening tips:
When you are planting, always immerse the ball of the plant for a minute or two in water before it is planted in the ground. It is a great start for a new plant.
Seeds need to be lightly covered and moistened when planted.
If you are planning a garden, dont plant 12 different plants. Rather, plant four different plants in clusters of three. Repetition of a few key plants adds clarity to a design with enough variety for interest.
Flower and vegetable gardens go well together. Wildflowers attract the bees that pollinate the flowers of squash and tomatoes.
Finally, Katz advises:
If you are planning a new garden, consider an area that establishes a closer connection between the home and the new garden. So plant the new garden near an eating or sitting area or outside a window where you may want to linger and watch Colorados natural world.