Author Archives: anaincolorado

About anaincolorado

Hi, I am an avid gardener both at home and at Rosedale Community Garden where I've had a plot for 19 years. I am very interested in learning more about gardening, how to preserve it, incorporating farm fresh produce into my cooking and living a healthy lifestyle. In addition, I am a Master Community Gardener through Denver Urban Gardens and am a shareholder at the Chatfield CSA. In 2015, I spearheaded an effort to start a community donation garden at St. Philip's Lutheran Church -- a project I will share on my blog. I am eager to share what I've learned and the adventures I had learning new things and interacting with the garden community.

How Many Vegetables Do You Need to Plant to Feed Your Family?

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0fc367b7cf7b927cc4d111279738629e-600x0-c-defaultHomegrown Pantry:  A Gardener’s Guide to Selecting the Best Varieties & Planting the Perfect Amounts for What You Want to Eat Year-Round, Barbara Pleasant, (Storey Publishing), 2017.

Although I’ve gardened for years, I’ve never really sat down to figure out how much of each vegetable I need to grow to feed my family during the harvest season and how much I need to preserve for the winter.  My inexact method has always been to fill up the space in my garden with things I like, with plants that I buy and grow from seed and hope it all works out.    Sometimes, I have way too much and other times, not enough.

While on a family vacation last week and away from the constant work of my gardens during this busy time of year, I had the chance to visit to the local library and found some great books to read.  About gardening, of course!  The Homegrown Pantry peaked my interest because it spells out how many plants you need to grow of each variety to feed each individual in your household.   After looking quantities of plants on the list, I understand why many farm kids grew up with such huge gardens — half acre or larger!  While I will never have a garden as big at the days of yore, these guidelines are so helpful that I wanted to share them with everyone.   And put them in a place I can always reference.

How much to grow

Plant Per Person For preservation and storage Preparation
Asparagus 15 plants freeze, pickle, dry
Beans – Bush 15 row feet per person freeze, pickle, pressure can, dry
Beans – Pole 5 row feet per person
Beets 5 row feet per person 20 row feet per person Place in cold storage, pickle, ferment, can
Broccoli 3 plants per person for fresh eating 9 plants for freezing freeze
Brussel Sprouts 4 plants per person More for storage freeze
Cabbage 3-4 small heads per person for spring 5-10 per person for fall crop ferment, freeze, pickle, dry
Carrots 20 row feet per person refrigerate, place in cold storage, freeze, pickle
Corn 50 row feet per person freeze, can, dry
Cucumbers 8 plants pickle
Garlic 30-50 plants per person cool storage, dry, pickle
Kale and Collards 3 plants per person in Spring 9 plants per person in fall freeze, dry
Kohlradi 5 row feet per person in spring 5 row feet per person in fall freeze, dry, ferment
Onions 40 bulbs per person cool storage, dry, freeze
Parsnips 10 row feet per person cold storage, freeze
Peas – snap 15 row feet per person freeze, pickle
Peas – snow peas 10 row feet per person freeze, ferment
Peas – shell peas 20 row feet per person freeze, ferment
Peppers 5 sweet pepper, 2 hot per person freeze, dry, can, ferment
Potatoes 20 row feet per person cool storage, dry, can
Pumpkin 4-6 plants per person freeze or dry
Radishes up to 15 row feet refrigerate, ferment, pickle
Rhubarb 3 plants freeze, can, dry
Rutabaga 10 plants cold storage, freeze, ferment
Spinach 5 row feet per person in spring 10 row feet per person in fall freeze or ferment
Summer Squash 4 plants per person dry, freeze, can
Sweet Potato 12-14 plants per person cool storage, freeze, dry
Swiss Chard 4 plants per person in spring 4 plants per person in fall freeze
Tomatoes 6 plants per person freeze, can, dry
Turnips 12 medium turnips cold storage, freeze, pickle, ferment
Winter Squash 4-6 plants per household cool storage or freeze
Blueberries 5-6 plants freeze, can, dry, ferment
Grapes 3 plants per household dry, can, freeze, ferment into wine
Raspberries 6 plants to start freeze, can, ferment into wine
Strawberries 25 plants freeze, can, dry, ferment
Apples 3-4 dwarf, 2-3 standard dry, freeze, juice, can, ferment
Cherries 1 standard tree, 2 dwarf trees freeze, dry, can
Pears 1-2 trees dry, can, freeze
Plums, peaches, nectarines 2 trees freeze, can, dry, ferment

 

Vegetable/Fruit Per Person For preservation and storage Preparation
Asparagus 15 plants freeze, pickle, dry
Beans – Bush 15 row feet per person freeze, pickle, pressure can, dry
Beans – Pole 5 row feet per person
Beets 5 row feet per person 20 row feet per person Place in cold storage, pickle, ferment, can
Broccoli 3 plants per person for fresh eating 9 plants for freezing freeze
Brussel Sprouts 4 plants per person More for storage freeze
Cabbage 3-4 small heads per person for spring 5-10 per person for fall crop ferment, freeze, pickle, dry
Carrots 20 row feet per person refrigerate, place in cold storage, freeze, pickle
Corn 50 row feet per person freeze, can, dry
Cucumbers 8 plants pickle
Garlic 30-50 plants per person cool storage, dry, pickle
Kale and Collards 3 plants per person in Spring 9 plants per person in fall freeze, dry
Kohlradi 5 row feet per person in spring 5 row feet per person in fall freeze, dry, ferment
Onions 40 bulbs per person cool storage, dry, freeze
Parsnips 10 row feet per person cold storage, freeze
Peas – snap 15 row feet per person freeze, pickle
Peas – snow peas 10 row feet per person freeze, ferment
Peas – shell peas 20 row feet per person freeze, ferment
Peppers 5 sweet pepper, 2 hot per person freeze, dry, can, ferment
Potatoes 20 row feet per person cool storage, dry, can
Pumpkin 4-6 plants per person freeze or dry
Radishes up to 15 row feet refrigerate, ferment, pickle
Rhubarb 3 plants freeze, can, dry
Rutabaga 10 plants cold storage, freeze, ferment
Spinach 5 row feet per person in spring 10 row feet per person in fall freeze or ferment
Summer Squash 4 plants per person dry, freeze, can
Sweet Potato 12-14 plants per person cool storage, freeze, dry
Swiss Chard 4 plants per person in spring 4 plants per person in fall freeze
Tomatoes 6 plants per person freeze, can, dry
Turnips 12 medium turnips cold storage, freeze, pickle, ferment
Winter Squash 4-6 plants per household cool storage or freeze
Blueberries 5-6 plants freeze, can, dry, ferment
Grapes 3 plants per household dry, can, freeze, ferment into wine
Raspberries 6 plants to start freeze, can, ferment into wine
Strawberries 25 plants freeze, can, dry, ferment
Apples 3-4 dwarf, 2-3 standard dry, freeze, juice, can, ferment
Cherries 1 standard tree, 2 dwarf trees freeze, dry, can
Pears 1-2 trees dry, can, freeze
Plums, peaches, nectarines 2 trees freeze, can, dry, ferment

The Ice Saints of May

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IMG_9717I was not surprised when a Spring snowstorm blew through Colorado on May 18 and 19th.  This happens almost every Spring despite weeks of lovely sunny warm weather.   Because of this, I never ever plant any warm season crops until Memorial Day weekend.   On Wednesday night May 17, temperatures dropped below freezing and the next day snow fell heavily in the city and more in the mountains.   In the preceding weeks, the sun had been shining and we’d all been wearing shorts and digging in our gardens.   Many eager gardeners who’d  been seduced into filling their pots with Mother’s Day flowers and seeding their plots with warm season crops, had to scramble to protect everything from the impeding storm.

In the days before weather forecasts on radio and TV, gardeners of northern Europe would look to the feast days of the “ice saints” as a guide to planting their gardens.   I was alerted to this weather folklore by my German friend who is familiar with this historical planting guideline.   I did some research and from “Marlies Creative Universe”,

http://mcuniverse.com/2010/what-are-the-ice-saints/    I found this reference:

The “Ice Saints” Pankratius, Servatius and Bonifatius as well as the “Cold Sophie” are known for a cooling trend in the weather between 12th and 15th of May. For centuries this well-known rule had many gardeners align their plantings after it. Observations of weather patterns over many years have shown, however, that a drop in temperature occurs frequently only around May 20. Are the “Ice Saints” not in tune anymore? The mystery solution is found in the history of our calendar system: Pope Gregory VIII arranged a calendar reform in 1582, whereby the differences of the Julian calendar could be corrected to the sun year to a large extent. The day of the “Cold Sophie” (May 15) was the date in the old calendar and corresponds to today’s May 22. Therefore the effects of the “Ice Saints” is felt in the timespan of May 19-22. Sensitive transplants should only be put in the garden beds after this date.

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Being of Irish descent, I was not aware of this folklore but from personal experience, I know that planting warm season crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, pumpkins, corn, cucumber and many flowers is not safe until late May.   When the storm arrived this year, I knew the feast of the ice saints were here.   No matter what the weatherman says, no planting until after the feasts of the ice saints!

Tom Watson Trail and Maruca Sale — Running and Fun Shopping!

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After so many years of trying to stay in shape while juggling a family and many other demands, I finally figured out what really motivates me to get out the door.   Its not an inviting sunny day, a directive on my workout plan or the threat of a race.   Its most definitely getting together with friends and doing something fun after the workout — coffee, breakfast, beer or in today’s case, shopping at a popular biannual factory sale of fabulous, incredibly discounted handbags.   Dangle something fun in front of my nose and I’ll hit the trail for an hour in anticipation of my reward!!!

https://bouldercolorado.gov/parks-rec/tom-watson-park

Today’s carrot was shopping at Maruca’s biannual factory sale following our workout.   Our eager group of runners assembled at a home in Littleton to carpool up to Boulder for an hour run on the Tom Watson Trail.   The views of the Flatirons and Boulder reservoir were spectacular and we enjoyed lovely cool weather.   After a little bagel picnic in the park, we headed over to the Maruca headquarters to take our place in line.   Twice a year, this manufacturer of really cute handbags, totes and zipper cases holds a factory sale.   The rock bottom prices attract a long line of customers.   This was the first time I was able to go and was so excited to see all the goodies!

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Being a resourceful shopper, I dipped into the box of remnants and came home with a bag full of scraps and cording   So far, I’ve sown together some coordinating pieces and drafted some patterns to make my own pocketed zipper bags.   Tune in later for some photos of my creations!

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http://marucadesign.com/

 

Seasonal, Succession and Companion Planting – Workshop at Ute Trails Garden, 5/7/17

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Seasonal, Succession and Companion Planting – Workshop at Ute Trails Garden, 5/7/17

13177550_1116499921748060_2580476015789243526_nSince becoming a master gardener in 2013, I frequently give workshops at local community gardens.   Today, I had the opportunity to give a workshop at Ute Trail Garden in Lakewood where several of my friends garden.   I am sharing the outline of my program for those who could not attend or would also like to learn about seasonal, companion and succession gardening.

The following are methods used by successful gardeners to maximize their harvest, minimize pests and promote healthy soil.

Companion Planting

  • Some plants grow well together, others do not
  • Some plants, especially herbs, act as repellents, confusing insects with their strong odors that mask the scent of the intended host plants.
  • Dill and basil planted among tomatoes protect the tomatoes from hornworms, and sage scattered about the cabbage patch reduces injury from cabbage moths.
  • Marigolds are as good as gold when grown with just about any garden plant, repelling beetles, nematodes, and even animal pests.
  • Carrots, dill, parsley, and parsnip attract garden heroes — praying mantises, ladybugs, and spiders — that dine on insect pests.
  • Much of companion planting is common sense: Lettuce, radishes, and other quick-growing plants sown between hills of melons or winter squash will mature and be harvested long before these vines need more leg room.
  • Leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard grown in the shadow of corn
  • Sunflowers appreciate the dapple shade that corn casts and, since their roots occupy different levels in the soil, don’t compete for water and nutrients.

Seasonal Planting

  • Cold season vs. warm season crops
  • Last frost date – keep track – generally mid-to –late May in Colorado
  • Cold season crops can be planted before the last frost and some can overwinter under mulch examples: lettuce, kale, carrots, spinach, radishes, onions, sweet peas
  • Warm season crops are planted after the last frost and some need the soil to be warmer examples include pumpkins, squashes, many flowers, beans, basil, corn, sunflowers, tomatoes, peppers, melons

Succession Planting

  • Benefits of succession plantings: maximize space,  extend  harvest window, maintain a continuous supply
  • Make the most efficient use of space and timing to increase productivity
  • Two or more crops in sequence.After one crop is harvested, plant another in the same space.      Plant lettuce every 3 weeks; two crops of carrots
  • Interval succession planting.  Make repeated plantings of the same crop, planting the same variety at timed intervals.     Succession Planting Interval Charts.
  • Two or more crops concurrently.  Plant several different varieties, typically with different maturity dates    Sometimes referred to as “intercropping” and “companion planting.”
  • Same crop, different maturity dates. Plant several varieties, with different maturity dates — early, mid season, and late — at the same time. As they mature over the season, you harvest them one after the other.

Handout on Companion Planting:

01_Integrated_Pest_Management_and_Companion_Planting

4 X 4 Plot Planting Plan with Cold and Warm Season Crops:

4 X 4 Garden Plan

Vegetable Companion Planting Chart:

http://www.ufseeds.com/Vegetable-Companion-Planting-Chart.html

Pictures of Ute Garden:

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My friend Laura Stevens is one of the leaders at Ute Trail and gave me a tour of the community garden. Here she is in front of her plot. I love how she used thyme for her paths!

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Can I Show You My Jugs and My Rack?

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Can I Show You My Jugs and My Rack?

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Honestly, it’s not as bad as it sounds.   I am referring to the milk jugs and the new light rack I am using to grow seedlings for my garden.  When I found myself asking my garden pals this weekend if they wanted to see my jugs and my rack, I got a few laughs but I didn’t realize how totally funny it sounded until a male garden pal laughed and said, “Yes, I want to see your jugs and your rack!”   Oh, geez, this is a  slightly dirty spin on my garden projects — which are dirty to begin with!

The exciting news is that my experiment of using milk jugs as little greenhouses has sprouted success.   Thank you to hometown Wisconsin friend Maggie Strunk Leyes for inspiring me.   Here are two jugs with little sprouts inside:

I am also stoked about my new grow lights which arrived via Amazon last week and have been shining on my happy crop of tomatoes, eggplant and peppers.   The green glow of the lights has prompted some to ask if I’m growing marijuana plants.   But, although it is legal to grow 6 pot plants per adult in Colorado, I am not growing weed.

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Pilates and The Balanced Life Sisterhood

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Pilates and The Balanced Life Sisterhood

17952978_865590493209_5858890779627771490_nAnyone who knows my workout routine knows that I love my Pilates.  I’ve tried yoga and even have a daughter who teaches it but prefer Pilates for two reasons:  you can talk to your neighbors during class and it focuses on core strength in plain English (no fancy names).   I started going to Lisa’s class at Ken Caryl Community Center about ten years ago and soon became a regular.   Most of my working out tends to be very active — running, swimming, biking, skiing, boot camp, weight lifting, etc. but surprisingly, I found that Pilates offers a great balance to all the pushing I do in very active sports and actually, helps me feel better and takes away a lot of the aches and pains.   After a few years of regular Pilates, I actually measured three quarters of an inch taller!

There are two types of Pilates:   on the reformer and on the mat.   I do Mat Pilates which is done on the floor using an exercise or yoga mat and employs controlled breathing during body weight resisted movement to build core strength.   A typical class lasts about 45-60 minutes.

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After going back to work last year, I was unable to attend my regular class and could only manage to squeeze in a few evening classes a month.   I was excited to hear about an online option from a gal in my running group.  For a low monthly fee, Robin Long, a Pilates instructor based in Boulder (now Santa Barbara) teaches classes five days a week.    After hearing about her program, I immediately checked it out and signed up for a mere $9/month.    I love the flexibility of Robin’s program as well as her encouraging upbeat personality, shorter workouts designed for busy moms and women and well as the support offered by her online community known at the Balanced Life Sisterhood.

14199258_10100593985355466_8713261057227829023_nhttps://thebalancedlifeonline.com/#

In addition to the daily workouts, Robin offers lots other cool things like:

  • Special live streamed workouts on Periscope
  • A monthly mission like getting organized, being mindful, setting goals, etc.
  • A weekly digest email
  • A new spa retreat in Santa Barbara
  • Facebook posts with personal updates
  • Special free programs like the 21 days challenge in February 2017
  • A blog
  • New healthy recipes each month.  Here’s a family favorite:  https://thebalancedlifeonline.com/slow-cooker-chicken-tacos/

slow-cooker-chicken-tacos.pngSlow Cooker Chicken Tacos

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, preferably organic
  • 15 ounces low-sodium black beans, drained
  • 14 ounces frozen corn, preferably organic, straight from freezer
  • 16 ounces mild store-bought salsa, preferably organic
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, minced
  • Whole wheat tortillas (optional/we used corn to keep it gluten free)

Directions:

Add all ingredients except the cilantro and tortillas to the slow cooker. Mix well.

Cook on low for approximately 8 hours undisturbed. Prior to serving, shred chicken, add cilantro and mix well.

Here’s another link to one of Robin’s YouTube workouts:

If you’re interested in trying Pilates, I encourage you to check out Robin’s free workouts available on her website or on YouTube.   I think registration for the Balanced Life Sisterhood will open up again in September 2017.   It so awesome to feel stronger with her 10-35 minute home workouts.  Let me know what you think!

 

 

Running on the East West Trail

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Sweeping Views of the Snow-capped Front Range and Pike’s Peak

I am always amazed when I have the opportunity to try a new running trail  and today was such a day.    Shari Zimmerman, a member of my running club, knew about the East West Trail in Highlands Ranch from her son who lives nearby.   And several weeks ago, when she described the beautiful mountain views and the lovely hilly trail, our group was eager to check it out.   And today was the day!

The East West Trail is tucked in the stunning Back Country neighborhood just past Mountain Vista High School on Wild Cat Reserve Parkway.   It is a soft surface trail approximately 19.5 miles long stretching from Red Stone Park to Ridgegate Parkway with future connections to Lone Tree and Parker.   We carpooled the 20-30 minutes from our homes in Littleton and Lakewood and parked at Red Tail Park just off  2674 Pemberly Avenue.   When we arrived, the park full of school children and the sun was shining.   A another warm blue-sky Spring Colorado day!    By 8:05 am, the 10 of us had hit the trail.

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http://www.douglas.co.us/documents/east-west-regional-trail-info-and-map.pdf

We knew from Shari’s description that the trail was an uphill climb for almost a mile.   And she’s wasn’t kidding!   With a pounding heart, I jogged and walked up the steep grade in about 12 minutes and at the top, was greeted with a sweeping view of the snow capped Front Range and clear views of both Pike’s Peak to the south and Mount Evans to the West.   Wow!   Vistas like this just make me love Colorado and appreciate my good fortune to live here.   After catching my breath and reading some of the trail signs, my companions and I continued on the public trail for another 20 minutes and turned around.

Along the way, there were narrow dirt paths shooting off the main trail with signs warning nonresidents to stay off  the private property.   I wondered if my sister Pam’s ls.jpg residence in Highlands Ranch would qualify her (and her guests) to use these trails?   For today, we enjoyed the wide, well maintained public trail.    On the way back, most of us were able to run a bit faster. – a real treat!   After an hour on the trail, we met back at the parking lot and all headed to Pierre Michel French Bakery  for breakfast.   What a delight to enjoy French pastries, omelets, quiches and coffee at this lovely local restaurant!

http://www.pierremichelbakery.com/

After I got home and did a little more research, I was happy to find that there is a East-West Trail Half Marathon and 10k on June 10.   I will  have spend some more time training on that big hill before I register!

https://raceroster.com/events/2017/10512/east-west-trail-half-marathon-and-10k

 

 

Falling Head First Into The Garden — The Usual Early Season Psychosis

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April is a heady time of year for me.   Passionate discussions about all aspects of gardening (in-person, on the phone, via text message), frequent visits to local nurseries, intersecting projects and conversations, early morning inspirations and a parade of dirty shoes, gloves and digging clothes littering my floors are all signs that my brain and energy are focused on one subject – THE GARDEN.   Fortunately, the days are getting longer, I have time to work on a myriad of projects and garden geeks eager to talk and share surround me at every turn.

Making Lacto Bacillus Serum – organic fertilizerIMG_9452

  • Contacted John Swain, the horticulturalist for the Denver Golf Courses and designer/planter/co-manager of the donation garden at Harvard Gulch Golf Course and passionate home gardener.   A winter has come between our last fact filled gardener conversation so we had a lot to talk about.   As always, he is a fountain of enthusiasm and information and turned me on to two important sources as well as the benefit of using lacto bacillus serum in the garden (labs for short):
  • The Unconventional Farmer:   http://theunconventionalfarmer.com/
  • Build a Soil:  https://buildasoil.com/blogs/news/8634877-gil-carandang-lactobacillus-serum-recipe
  • Labs are a workhorse of beneficial bacteria (which is edible) and has multiple applications including — speeding decomposition in the compost pile, unclogging drains, treating powdery mildew on squash plants, eliminating odor in animal bedding and most importantly,  “Improves growth of plants when applied as foliar spray and soil drench. Improves their efficiency in uptaking nutrients so naturally, growth is enhanced. With the use of these microorganisms, the nutrients you spray or drench to feed your plants become more bio-available and easily absorbable by the plants. Technically, you can say that plants do not use organic nutrients directly. Microorganisms convert organic nutrients to their inorganic constituents which the plants utilize. Utilizing microbes, you will notice better plant growth and health.”   -The Unconvential Farmer.
  • Labs recipe:  I mixed myself up a batch and its still incubating.   Its easy to make and the recipe can be viewed on the link about from the Build a Soil website.   Basically, you wash rice and take the water and fill a Ball jar about 75% full and cover with a paper towel — make sure air can get in.   Store it on top of the refrigerator and after a few days, the liquid will separate.   Siphon off the center layer adding 1 part serum to 10 parts milk and put in another container, cover tightly and let sit for another few days.   Once curds appear, you can strain the liquid with a cheesecloth (the curds can be fried up and eaten).    You add 1 part serum to 20 parts water to spray in the garden.   Store in the frig or add molasses to store at room temperature.  Stable for about a year.

Garden Hacks

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  • Strawberries and asparagus grow happily together; plan to add strawberries to my new planted asparagus patch
  • Used my mole cages to sift compost into my cold frames
  • Sprinkle carrot and beet seeds together every few weeks to have a continuous crop
  • Marijuana growers have to dispose of growing mix are harvesting the plants; the vermiculate and soil less mix is great mixed into raised beds and helps lighten the soil
  • Dryer lint can be put in the compost pile
  • I used paint stirrers for marking seeds and plants.   Pick them up for free every time I stop at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

Progress at Rosedale Garden – my 19th year in this community garden!IMG_9438

  • Planted purple and green asparagus in two 8 inch deep trenches this week; once sprouted will cover with 3 inches of dirt
  • Peas planted on March 15 finally sprouted, planted a third row on April 7
  • Prepped more beds and mapped out where everything is going
  • Seeded pumpkin bed with winter wheat; won’t be planting there for two months
  • Garlic planted in frozen soil in late December is up and growing; looks like its going to make it!
  • Susan has been making videos of me at the garden and I am learning how to edit them!

Opening up the St. Philip Donation Garden

  • Scheduled a work day for this Sunday to get started prepping the beds at St. Philip.
  • One volunteer came and we cleaned up two beds, added fresh compost and planted peas, onions and a variety of cold crops.   Watered and talked about plans.
  • Three plots are spoken for with another two gals potentially interested in volunteering in the donation beds.
  • This is our third year and I’m sorry that I’ve lost my partner of the first two years, Lerae Schnickel to another church ministry.   She was great to work with and its hard to move forward without her support.

Helping at a Jovial Gardens Neighborhood ProjectIMG_9480

  • Jovial Gardens is a really cool Denver-based organization that helps build gardens in neighborhoods.   One of their goals is to decrease food scarcity in the urban environment and  grow food for local food banks.  The group originally started in Edgewater, a suburb on Denver, and organized gardens in more than 40 yards in the neighborhood.   https://jovialconcepts.org/about-us/
  • My friend and master gardener, Teri Connelly is working with Jovial to install gardens in the yards of a number of her neighbors in Arvada.   Today, I had the chance to visit on a work day and saw work in progress in at least 6 yards.   The enthusiasm and excitement of the neighbors and volunteers was awesome.   Teri shared that in one front yard garden they harvested almost a 1000 pounds of organic produce last year.   I would love to start such a program in my neighborhood (Trailmark)  in Littleton.

Seedling Update on the Home Front

  • My experiment of seeding tomatoes and peppers for the first time has had mixed results.   All but one of the 12 varieties of tomatoes I planted has sprouted.   It took less than a week.   I learned that they need a heat mat and lights!IMG_9484.JPG
  • 8 of 11 peppers sprouted this week.   More time needed?
  • The tomatoes are very leggy but John Swain told me that they need grow lights and that its not too late for them to stabilize.
  • I only have one grow light so I’ve set it up for 14 hours alternatively above the trays of peppers, then the tomatoes.   Ordered a 4 foot rack with light from Amazon yesterday so hope it arrives this week.
  • Nothing has sprouted in the milk jugs I planted last week.  Time will tell

 

 

 

 

 

Climbing Before Coffee: Morning Workout at Philip S. Miller Park

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Climbing Before Coffee:  Morning Workout at Philip S. Miller Park

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After climbing the infamous 2000 steps of The Incline in Manitou Springs several years ago, I was excited when a new shorter set of stairs opened in Castle Rock in 2014.   When my Thursday morning running group decided to visit this 200 step staircase, I was thrilled and eager to add this challenge to my list of “firsts — one which is definitely more my cup of tea (or coffee)!

17796027_10210990169223604_4876917730550741267_nAt 7:30 am this morning, our group met at Safeway parking lots near our homes in Littleton to carpool the 25 minutes down to Philip S. Miller Park in Castle Rock.   When we arrived just after 8, the sun was just rising above the backside of the west facing climb and the parking lot was with filling with other equally dedicated climbers.   I was surprised to find the staircase situated in an expansive new park featuring a zip line course, hiking trails, sports fields, an amphitheater, a sports center with a pool, fabulous playgrounds and more.   What a great place to bring a family!

stairsAfter all nine of us assembled, we started the shaded climb.   I was pretty sure that I would not be running up the steps and happy to find that none of the other runners in our group were running either.   Climbing up the first 50 steps, spaced at a more gradual incline,  was relatively easy.   The next section was steeper and little more challenging. Many of us stopped every 10-20 steps to take a breath.
Thankfully, the steps were marked at intervals of 10 so by the time I got to 170 and my heart was pounding, the remaining steps seemed manageable.    The morning sun blazed in our faces as we reached the top and once our eyes adjusted, were greeting with a magnificent view of the small town of Castle Rock to the east, the front range the to west and snowy Pike’s Peak to the south — a fabulous reward for the 10 minute climb.

 

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After a few long minutes catching my breath, I remarked that I must not be in as good a shape as I thought despite running, hiking, skiing and generally leading an active life.  There were nods of agreement among us and chuckles about how hard we all were breathing.   Nothing like a stair climb to test one’s limits!    We waited for everyone to reach the top, took a group photo and headed down the trail on the south side of the hill.   I was pleased to see stunning view of Pike’s Peak on the hike down.   The second time up, I was able to pace myself better and challenged myself to climb 50 and 20 steps at a time.   Enjoyed a few minutes in the Adirondack chair at the top too!chair

By 9 am, we’d all climbed enough laps and resolved to return to run the trails in the park too.    As the last of us reached the bottom, the sound of sirens approached.   Red trucks arrived and a crew of firemen headed up the steps to assist a young man who’d fainted at the top.   Fortunately, the ladies in our group were all OK and ready for coffee.  We loaded up our vehicles and headed north on Highway 85/Santa Fe for a breakfast rendez vous at O’Brian’s in Sedalia.   Was happy to see a few cowboys drinking coffee and a historical photo of a horse hitching post outside this local eatery.    Fun times with the Columbines!

http://www.columbines.org/

http://crgov.com/2051/Philip-S-Miller-Park

 

 

 

 

 

Heat Mats, Seeding Trays and Milk Jugs: Sowing Spring Crops

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Heat Mats, Seeding Trays and Milk Jugs: Sowing Spring Crops

IMG_9147In between the last of the winter snows and the increasingly balmy days of Spring, I am a frenzy of activity – enjoying the season’s last ski days, March break with my kids and preparing to garden.  By early March, I am staging my seed packets of cold crops for planting, cleaning up the winter debris blowing around my yard and making the season’s first trips up to my community garden in downtown Denver.   St. Patrick’s Day approaches as the optimal plant date for peas and I often find myself shoveling aside snow and chiseling away at frozen earth to bury the precious seeds on or near that date.   This year, Colorado had an unexpectedly warm and dry March so my garden partner and I were able to turn our beds and slide the pea seeds in with ease – a welcome surprise!

Seed Trays and Heat Mats

IMG_9376On the home front, I planned to start seeds after taking a few years off.   In the past, I grew a ton of seedlings but found that transplanting them brought mixed results.   Was it really worth it?, I asked myself.  Generally, I find that direct sowing works best for most of my crops – greens, broccoli, cucumbers, pumpkins, basil, flowers, squashes, gourds, beans, etc.   But since I still have to purchase hot weather plants like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, I thought about seeding them at home.   The only sticking points for me is the fact that these hot weather plants need special conditions to germinate; namely warm soil and more light.   Armed with a heat pad, a sunny window and packets of a dozen varieties of tomatoes and peppers, I decided to go for it.

So on March 24, I planted two trays of peppers and tomatoes; one with a heat mat and the17309369_10210917844015519_6103681504834658385_n other without.  Most of the varieties I planted need to be started 6-10 weeks before transplanting into the garden when the soil temperatures rise above 60 degrees at night. No matter that the average last frost date is generally considered to be May 15 in Denver, I don’t ever put in my tender crops before May 22 or Memorial Day weekend.    And even then, I’ll use Walls of Water just to make sure.  I can tell you stories about getting the plants all in on May 20 and an ice storm arriving that night.   Better safe than sorry.   By March 29, the tomatoes on the heat mat had sprouted but none of the peppers in the cold tray.    Was the soil not warm enough to germinate or do the peppers take longer?   Just to be safe, I found an inexpensive heat mat at Walmart ($24.99) and set it up.   As of today, March 31, no peppers have sprouted.   We’ll see what happens this week.

Milk Jugs Make Green Houses

After posting a photo of my seed trays on Facebook, my friend Maggie Leyes shared that she starts all her seeds in milk jugs and sets them outside.    She shared a link to a website with instructions which I promptly checked out:

http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2012/01/what-to-winter-sow-and-when/

I was surprised to find that even tender crops stay warm and toasty in the milk jugs (even when covered in snow) so I thought I’d give it a try.   Following directions, I cut the milk jugs almost in half leaving a 2 inch “hinge”, punched some drainage holes in the bottom, and added soil less potting mix.   I put two varieties of seeds in each “greenhouse”, taped the pieces back together, labeled the jugs, nestled them in a recycled lid and placed them outside in the rain and impending snow.  We’ll see what happens!IMG_9375