Category Archives: Plants

The Flowering Fragrant Trails of Spring

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Just days after our last snows in Colorado, spring flowers start to emerge to brighten up the landscape and fill the air with lovely fragrances.  During this time of year,  I make it my mission to get outside as often as possible to fill my senses with the joy that spring has to offer — and actually surprised myself with how many wonderful many blooming trails I’ve visited lately.   Here are some of the highlights of my recent adventures in Jefferson County:

Crab Apple Route, Littleton,  April 23, 2018 – Blooming Bike Ride

A group of us got together to ride the 7 mile Crab Apple Route in Littleton — a 40 year old loop lined with crap apple trees that bloom for a few beautiful weeks in April.

 

South Platte Trail, April 29, 2018 – Crab Apple Trees just North of Hudson Gardens

The Sunday Run I attend with the Columbine’s Running Club is secretly known at the LTR’s (Love to Run) and we meet at Carson Nature Center every Sunday at 8 am, 7:30 in the summer.   About two miles down the trail, there is a tunnel of crab apple trees that bursts into white and pink blossoms at the end of April.    Running through this fragrant stretch of the trail is a worthy goal for my Sunday workout.   Once I reached the trees, I had to stop, close my eyes and take a few deep breaths to saturate my senses with the heady aroma of the sea of flowers surrounding me.

 

 

Writer’s Vista Park, Highline Canal, April 30, 2018 – Pam’s Last Marathon Training 

During my sister Pam’s marathon training this winter and spring, I often agreed to accompany her on the trail.   At her last training run before the big race, we met at Writer’s Vista Park to run one of our favorite trails.   It is a relatively flat tree-lined crushed gravel trail that winds through the backyards and horse pastures of Littleton.   As an added bonus, the crab apples trees were in full bloom.

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South Valley Park, May 5, 2018 – Trail Running Practice

Pam and I decided to participate in a trail running program this spring and so far, the training has taken us to a variety of beautiful trails in Jefferson County.   I ended up missing the group on Saturday morning (since it was rescheduled to the evening) but hit the trail at South Valley on my own and enjoyed the pleasant weather, spectacular rock outcroppings and many flowers.

 

 

Hildebrand Ranch Open Space Park, May 10, 2018 – Fly Girls Flower Run

The leader of our Thursday morning running group (Suzanne Buntrock) selects a different trail every week depending on trail conditions, weather and this time of year, flowers.   One of our favorites in the spring is the Two Brands Trail at Hildebrand Park. The park is accessible in two spots — in the Trailmark neighborhood near my house and from a parking lot just past the Denver Botanic Gardens on Deer Creek Canyon Road.   It runs along the hogback and wraps around my neighborhood of Trailmark.   This week, the flowers were blooming!

 

 

Deer Creek Canyon, May 12, 2018 – Training Running in the Rain

Our trail running group meets rain or shine and despite the morning drizzle on Saturday, we all met at Deer Creek Canyon Park.   The run up the trail was damp but fragrant and beautiful.   Many of us “power hiked” up the slippery trails but when the the path evened out, we jogged.   Dashing up the “stairs” was challenging and fun but definitely an exercise I might have skipped if alone.   The jog down was a nice reward after the two mile ascent.   We heard about a very challenging half marathon called “Fear the Deer” being held at the park next weekend.   Pam and I are committed to train and sign up to do it next year.

 

Chatfield State Park, May 16, 2018 – Walking Bennie along the River

My friend Suzanne is a naturalist guide at both Chatfield and Roxborough State Parks and we often meet to walk.   I always enjoy our get together’s because she is so familiar with the flora and fauna of the area and I inevitably learn something new.   On this day, we were walking her grand dog Benny who poked along while we looked at trees felled by beavers, enjoyed new flowers, found plum trees and choke cherry bushes and marveled at the running water in the river.   A beautiful day for a leisurely stroll in the park!

 

Massey Draw in Ken Caryl, May 17, 2018 – Fly Girls on the Private Trail

Thanks to Kim, a resident of Ken Caryl Valley, our Fly Girls group, could enjoy a morning workout on the Massey Draw Trail in her neighborhood.   Our hike/run started with blue skies and a warm morning.    The dirt trail ascended quickly and was decorated with mobs of bright flowers all along the route.    I was too busy snapping photographs and chatting with Jan to run too much.   We still worked up a sweat climbing up the trail and down.    A lovely prelude to our coffee talk at Atlas Coffee down the road.

 

 

Roxborough State Park, May 17, 2018 – Naturalist Wild Flower Training Hike

 

When my naturalist friend Suzanne mentioned that she had to attend a wildflower talk this evening, I was immediately interested.   How can I go?   Do I have I have to sign up?   It was a training for naturalist guides, she said, but she’ll call and see if I could tag along.   Yes, I was in.   She picked me up at 5 and we headed to Roxborough State Park and there, met about ten other naturalist guides.   The leader Ann handed me a sheet with a list of about 50 wildflowers and told me that we’d be attempting to see almost the entire list in the next two hours.  Wow!   What a treat and a mind bender.   We hit the trail with our list, pens and cardboard squares for note-taking.   The tree-lined trail was chock full of blooming flowers of every color — naturally growing in this spring forest.  Ann shared scientific detail of each flower we observed, the family name, species identifiers, uses by native Americans, color, etc.    Rather than being overwhelmed, I took great notes, many photos and left with the urge to come back tomorrow to solidify the new knowledge I’d gained.

 

Whew!    Its hard to believe I’ve been on so many trails and enjoyed so many flowers during this busy time of the year!   My gardens are keeping me very busy after all.   I’m within days of planting warm season crops so have been prepping plots, tending to seedlings, planting the last of the cold crops, weeding and shopping for garden provisions.   But busy or not,  I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to inhale the beauty of the season!

 

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Heirloom Tomato Seedlings for Sale or Trade – May 20

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Heirloom Tomato Seedlings for Sale or Trade – May 20
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One day’s harvest of heirloom tomatoes in August. Joy!

This is the second year I’ve attempted to grow tomatoes from seed.   I amassed a great collection of heirloom seeds over the last several years so with the help of my co-gardener, Terry, we planted two trays of tomato seeds on March 31.  With grow lights, heat mats and close attention, we had an amazing rate of germination.  After weeks of splitting dozens of seedlings, we are faced with a huge surplus of beautiful tomato plants.   I can reasonably plant about 80 at Rosedale, the donation garden at St. Philip and at home but would like to find homes for the rest.

The tomatoes were seeded to be ready for planting after the last frost date in Denver — around May 20.

If you’re interested in acquiring tomato plants, contact me at anaincolorado@aol.com.    I have about 80 to spare so quantities are limited.  You can reserve specific ones if they are paid for by the time of my porch sale on May 20.   I will have the porch sale on Sunday, May 20 and one at St. Philip’s on May 27.   $3 each.   Email me for details.

Some tips and info:

  • When planting, dig a hole deep enough to bury the tomato up to its top two branches.   The extra branches will form roots under the soil.  It is OK to bend the plant gently sideways if it is too tall.
  • Add bone meal or crushed egg shell (1/4 cup) to add nutrients to the soil.
  • Soil temperature should be about 60 degrees.   It does no good to put the plants in early — they thrive in warm temperatures.
  • Fertilize every 2-3 weeks with high phosphorous organize fertilizer.   I use worm tea or bokashi.
  • Indeterminate:  more commonly known as “vining” tomatoes, can grow anywhere from 6′-10′ tall and will continue to grow, bloom, and set fruit until they are killed by the first frost of the growing season, require lots of staking and pruning of tomato suckers, will form flowers along the sides of the shoots
  • Determinate:   often grown in a cage or even without support, as it has a more compact shape, also produce most of their fruit on the terminal end, are usually smaller and can be grown in containers.   Tend to ripen earlier.

IMG_5574[1]Abraham Lincoln: In 1923 the H.W. Buckbee seed company of Rockford, IL introduces an heirloom variety named in honor of Illinois’ Greatest Son – Abraham Lincoln.   This late-season tomato produces large, beautiful, dark red, sweet, and meaty fruits in 87-90 days.   Good for Slicing, making tomato juice and ketchup. Plant 18 inches apart in rows 3 ft. apart.  Needs staking.  Indeterminate.

 

IMG_5575[1]Amana Orange:  One of the tastiest and earliest of the heirloom beefsteaks.   Deep orange color and rich flavor make this an all-time favorite.  Matures in 85 days.  Indeterminate – vigorous vines require tall, sturdy stakes or trellises.

 

 

IMG_5594[1]Beefsteak:  9-12 ounce tomato is splendid for slicing.   Plants are large and spreading, with medium green broad foliage.  Transplant to harvest: 55-60 days.   Needs inch of water each week.

 

 

IMG_5576[1]Black Krim:  Beautiful, dark purple=black fruits have rich, old-fashioned flavor with a hint of smokiness.   Reliable and very productive.   This Russian heirloom originated in Krim, a Crimean town on the the Black Sea.   Baseball-sized fruits weigh 10-12 oz. ad have reddish-brown flesh filled with an earthy, almost smoky flavor.   Fruit sets well in heat and is the most reliable of the black tomatoes, producing even under adverse conditions from summer to fall.   Provide support for vines that reach 6 ft. or more.   Indeterminate.   Matures in 70 days.

 

img_55821.jpgBrandywine Red and Yellow Pole:  Not the shapeliest tomatoes but their extra large size and outstanding flavor has made them a favorite of tomato lovers for more than 100 years.   Beefsteak-type fruits average around a pound but can weigh close to 2 pounds.   Yellow Brandywine turns golden yellow when ripe and is meaty with a slightly tart flavor.   Red Brandywine has a rich and well-balance tomato flavor.   Indeterminate – vines reach 6 feet or more and need staking. 80 days to maturity.

 

IMG_5577[1]Cherokee Purple – Pole:  Cherokee’s rose/purple skin with green shoulders encases red brick colored flesh with just the right level of sweetness.   You’ll be harvesting large numbers of 10-12 oz. tomatoes from this well-regarded heirloom vareity from summer to fall.   The flavor is tasty, wonderful delicious, heavenly and unbelievable!   Provide support for vigorous vines that reach 6′ or more.   Indeterminate.   Matures in 80 days.

 

img_55791.jpgCostoluto Genovese:  the Italian heirloom standard for flavorful sauces.   Flat, heavily lobed shape with deep, slightly acidic flavor.   A popular choice for canning and juicing.   Indeterminate – vigorous vines require tall, sturdy stakes or trellises.   Best to let ripen on the vine.   Matures in 80 days.

 

IMG_5581[1]Golden Nugget:  extra early to ripen and takes the heat all summer long, making it a good choice for hot climates.   Abundant golden clusters of mile, sweet 3/4 inch fruit, perfect for snacking straight from the garden.   Determinate.   Matures in 55-68 days.

 

IMG_5584[1]Granny Smith Hybrid:  Great for fried green tomatoes.   Tomatoes stay green, even when ripe!   Round, 8-10 ounce fruit are firm and sweet with just a hint of tart flavor.  Great for salsa verde or eating right out of the garden.    Semi-determinate plants show strong diseases resistance.   Support with stakes or tomato cages to keep fruit off the ground.   72 days to maturity.

 

IMG_5583[1]Hungarian Heart:  Said to have originated in a village 20 miles from Budapest around 1900.   Huge pink oxheart fruits weigh upwards of one pound.   Very few seeds and almost no cracking.   A favorite for eating, canning and for making roasted tomato sauce.   Indeterminate.   85 days to maturity.

 

IMG_5586[1]Lemon Boy Hybrid:  Bright yellow fruits make an eye=catching display when sliced with red tomatoes.   Deep, sweet flavor.   Indeterminate.   72 days to maturity.

 

 

IMG_5585[1]Marglobe VF:  Heirloom, 1925.   Fruits are red, medium-sized 5-8 oz. with firm walls and good flavor.   Plants are stocky, vigorous, and have excellent disease resistance.  Determinate.  70 days to maturity.

 

 

IMG_5588[1]Mortgage Lifter:  This old-timer produces one pound, meaty tomatoes with few seeds.   Well-shaped fruits with dark pink skins.   90 days to maturity.  Indeterminate.

 

IMG_5587[1]Oxheart:  Also known as “cuore di bue” is so named because of its shape.   An heirloom variety popular in Italy and France because it is dense with few seeds, cooking down to a robust, think sauce.   It can also be a star sliced fresh atop salad greens or paired with mozzarella and fresh basil leaves.   85 days to maturity.

 

IMG_5590[1]Red Cherry Large:  Luscious clusters of bright red one and a half inch gems.   Prolific bushy plant.  Let fruit ripen on the fine for best flavor.   Matures in 75 days.

 

 

IMG_5591[1]Roma VF:  America’s most popular vegetable.   Indeterminate.   An old-time plum type tomato on a compact plant.   65 days to maturity from transplant.

 

 

img_55921.jpgPineapple:  Stunning and high-yielding variety.   These beautiful tomatoes ripen to a yellow-orange accented with hints red that go through the solid, meaty interior of the fruit.   Large beefsteak type fruits don’t have a lot of seeds but are filled with complex tomato flavor with a hint of fruitiness that’s just he right balance of sweet and tangy.   Adds eye=catching color to salads, sandwiches and salsas.   Indeterminate.  Provide support for the tall plants and their heavy fruits.   90 days from transplanting.

 

img_55891.jpgSan Marzano:  Want to know the secret of the real Italian cooks?  San Marzano tomatoes!   This is the authentic Italian past tomato.   Its superb flavor is enjoyed both in fresh sauces and processed for later use.   Great for dried tomatoes, too!  80 days to maturity from transplanting.   Indeterminate.

 

img_55941.jpgSteak:  Bushy plants.   Indeterminate.  Sandwich slicing.   Indeterminate.  70 days to maturity.

 

 

img_55951.jpgSupersweet 100:  Garden fresh flavor in every bite=sized gem.   Each beautiful ruby red fruit is exceptionally sweet.   Very prolific plants producing hundreds of tomatoes.   Disease resistance to verticullium and fusarium wilt.   Provide support for vigorous vines that easily reach 6 feet.  65 days from transplanting.   Indeterminate.

 

IMG_5593[1]Tricolor Cherry – Garden Candy:  Bite sized, beautiful and early bearing, these 3 different colored cherries are the sweetest of all tomatoes and yield abundant harvests in all climates.   Mixed seed packet offers orange Sungold, bright yellow Sweet Gold and rich red Supersweet 100.  Mature height  5-7 feet, transplant to harvest: 65 days.

 

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Repotting the seedlings on May 8. Two trays have multiplied into 10. More than we can plant! Tomatoes are growing bigger everyday and will be ready on May 20!

 

Spring in My Gardens, 2018

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Spring in My Gardens, 2018

Photos from March 30:  Lillian planting peas with her grandma, Terry.   Turning the soil in the raised beds.

Although its early May, I’ve already been working in my gardens for nearly two months.  Often the first trip to the community garden occurs on a warm day in late February or early March and snow may still be on the ground.  Many times, we’ve had to brush aside snow and chisel away at the soil to get our St. Patrick’s Day peas planted.  But not this year.   We had a rather mild winter in Colorado so the soil was uncharacteristically workable in early March.   My garden pals and I were thus at Rosedale digging early in the season and the peas went in like butter.

Photos:  Toasting St. Patrick’s Day with my mom’s Waterford goblets, picking up free compost and burlap bags at Allegro’s Coffee’s Earth Day Celebration, me posing in front of our robust garlic patch with Marilynn’s garden behind me.   She was my neighbor for 17 years and sadly died of lung cancer the day before this visit to our garden on March 16.

By March 16, we’d planted our first round of peas and spinach.   A few weeks later, we planted more peas with the help of Terry’s grand daughter Lillian as well as other cold crops including lettuce, carrots, beets, broccoli and more.   I was also surprised to find that many crops that typically don’t make it through the winter, survived — cilantro, rosemary, kale, chard, parsley.

Photos from March 16:  Ana,Terry and Susan getting ready to plant peas on a very windy March afternoon, our tomato cages all lined up where we plan to plant tomatoes in late May, the garlic patch growing between planks of wood for walking.

We’re off to a good start and busily prepping all the beds for the big warm season planting in just a few short weeks.  Although the weather can be deceptively nice in May, we still must restraint ourselves from planting our precious tomatoes, peppers and warm season crops until we’re safely past May 22.   Last year, we had about 6 inches of snow around May 20!

Photos from March 31:   Free tomato seeds earned as a volunteer at DUG free seed distribution, tomato seedlings planted on March 31, two trays of 12 6 packs of tomatoes and peppers growing under lights and on heat mats.

Timeline of Chores

  • March 9:  Map the garden
  • Order or shop for seeds
  • March 12: Volunteer at Denver Urban Garden Seeds Distribution — earn free seeds
  • Visit the plots and make plans for prepping the soil
  • March 16: Plant peas and spring crops
  • Fill milk jugs with water and pack in back of car
  • March 30:  Start seedlings — tomatoes and peppers in early April
  • April 7:  Attend Rosedale Community Garden Spring Meeting, pay fees and network with fellow gardeners
  • Turn soil, pull weeds, lay down burlap on paths
  • April 20:  Visit Allegro Coffee for Earth Day Celebration — pick up burlap bags and free compost
  • April 23:  Flower garden consultation at home with Shirley at http://www.mindful-gardener.com (More later!)
  • April 25:  Transplant seedlings to larger pots
  • April 26:  Scored 6-packs of broccoli and cabbage seedlings at King Soopers for $3.49/pack
  • May 1:  Plant spring bulbs, broccoli and cabbage; plant cover crop in the pumpkin patch
  • May 2: Plant broccoli and cabbage at St. Philip Donation Garden with Jennifer

Photos from April 25:  Susan working on repotting the tomato seedlings, tomato seedlings ready to transplant, individual seedlings in peat pots.

Photos on May 2:  Newly planted broccoli and cabbage with Jen Drews at St. Philip Donation Garden.

 

Garden Envy

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Garden Envy

In my travels, I visit gardens of all shapes and sizes and take tons of photos.  Always excited to visit my friends’ gardens, attend garden tours and visit local botanical gardens,  I just love to pick up new ideas and think about how I might apply new designs or planting combinations in my own gardens.   I am often as envious as I am inspired.  Here is a collection of some of the gardening ideas I admire:

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Teri’s tomatoes were protected from early season hail under the hoops. They are so tall and healthy.

 

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Dale’s potted tomatoes and trellised vegetables. Its a marvel what he accomplishes in a side yard.

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My neighbors at Rosedale in 2014, Diane and Johanna Montague, had such a perfectly orderly spring garden. Beautiful!

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Christine’s garden was already chock full of produce in late May – garlic, kale, berries, onions, greens, herbs. I loved how she used every square inch and had seedlings growing in egg cartons ready for hot season crops. Easthampton, MA

 

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At Nate and Ashley’s 2013 wedding in New Richmond, WI, the reception was held at a local farm. The little garden next to the house was surrounded by flowers and very organic in it design.

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My friend Mary’s squashes were trellised on these cool wooden structures. Hartland, WI. July 2017

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Centennial Gardens, University of Wisconsin, Madison. I love the order of this planter although I am realistic enough to know that my plants won’t conform to such order.

 

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I love the idea of a garden right outside the front door. The log Adirondack chairs, prayer flags and hollyhocks in the background all create a lovely vignette. Steamboat Springs Garden Tour, 2013.

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Spring Garden with lots of space to grow up. Spinach in the foreground with tomatoes in wall of water. Ute Trails Garden, May 2017

 

The Quest for the Perfect Tomato: The Maglia Rose

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The Quest for the Perfect Tomato:  The Maglia Rose

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Many passionate gardeners, including myself, propagate a variety of seedlings in early spring and after weeks or months of careful pampering and re-potting,  we often find ourselves with extra to share.  It was my good fortune that my garden pal Suzanne had extra tomato plants and offered me some  — four coffee cups containing three or more leggy 3 ft tall tomato plants which she called “Ana’s Tomatoes”.   When I asked her why, she said that they had come from a tomato I had given her last fall.   Of course, I remembered the exchange but also had forgotten the name of the tomato.

IMG_9750I recalled the box of sweet golf ball sized red and green streaked cherry tomatoes Katherine had brought to the seed exchange last fall.   I messaged her and Katherine reminded me that the tomatoes were called “Maglia Rose” after the mottled pink jersey worn by the lead racer in the Tour d’Italia.   Her husband had read about this variety in a newspaper article discussing research and rankings of heirloom tomatoes.   Ranked number one on the list, the Maglia Rose were considered easy to grow, prolific and resistant to disease.   Phil ordered seeds and has successfully grown the Magia Rose for several years.

“The Quest for the Perfect Tomato”, Washington Post, 9/15/17.

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Katherine and Phil’s crop of Maglia Rose tomatoes are very tall and hardy by late July.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/the-perfect-tomato-is-just-around-the-corner/2015/09/15/70909c22-57d4-11e5-b8c9-944725fcd3b9_story.html?

I transplanted the gifted tomato plants into earth boxes in my home garden and directly into the soil at my Rosedale Community Garden.   They were a little gangly so I propped them up with some red sumac branches from my winter pots.  So far, the plants are  thriving and full of little green tomatoes.   I see a large  harvest of Maglia Rose tomatoes in my future.

Description of the Maglia Rose:

  • Short, semi-determinate vines are good for pots and containers
  • Ready about 55 days after transplanting
  • The vines can be left to sprawl and do not need to be stakes.
  • Fruits prolifically
  • Pick tomatoes while they are light pink, which is the stage when peak flavor occurs

 

Planning My Fall Garden

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Planning My Fall Garden

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After years of planting a vegetable garden, I finally learned that one can plant continuously throughout the season.   By mid-July, garlic, peas, and spring crops have been harvested leaving room in my garden.    Planting more seeds will keep the weeds at bay and provide more crops for an autumn harvest.   Cooler autumn days are a mere month away,  so its time to gather seeds and make a plan to get those crops in while the days are longer and the temps are warm.   This method of following a harvested crop with another is known as succession and/or seasonal planting.

The following is a list of some of the crops I’ve successfully planted in late July/early August:

  • Arugula, Beans, Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Mesclun, Pak Choy, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Peas
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Crops planted in late July are taking off by late August — beans, cabbage, beets, kale.

 

There are more options including curly parsley, claytonia, turnips, mizuna, radish, endive, leeks and mache.   For a successful late fall harvest, you need to time your cold-season crops properly.   They should be planted when the weather is still warm — in late summer or early autumn — and while there is still more than 10 hours of sunlight per day.     Cold-season crops should be almost mature by the time the cold weather finally arrives in late autumn.   Protecting the vegetables with a season extender like a cold frame or hoop tunnel will enable them to hold on through the winter.

 

 

 

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Getting the cold frame ready for late summer planting of cold crops.

Here are some examples of fall crops planted from locally purchased seeds:

Scarlet Nantes Carrot

  • Days to germination:  12-18 days
  • Days to maturity:  65-75
  • Plant dates:   August 1-31
  • Harvest date:  October 10-November 15

Early Vienna White Kohlrabi

  • Days to germination:  6-12 days
  • Days to maturity:  58 days
  • Plant dates:  August 10-September 10
  • Harvest date:  October 15-November 15

Chinese Cabbage – Pak Choi

  • Days to germination:  5-7 days
  • Days to maturity:  50 days
  • Plant dates:  August 10-September 10
  • Harvest dates:  October 5-November 5

Red Acre Cabbage

  • Days to germination:  7-12 days
  • Days to maturity:  65 days
  • Plant dates:  August 1-5
  • Harvest dates:   October 6-15

Ruby Queen Beets

  • Days to germination:  10-14 days
  • Days to maturity:  55 days
  • Plant dates:   August 1-15
  • Harvest dates:  October 5-15

When its time to start,  I gather my supplies, clean up the planting area and add compost if needed.   I set aside a day in late July/early August to plant seeds.  If I have time, I’ll do a second planting a week or two later.   I make sure to map out my crops on paper and mark the rows well so I can see what’s coming up.

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My friend Jen helped me plant carrots, beets, lettuce, kohlrabi, cabbage and more.. August 4, 2017.

This last round of crops is awesome but can be a challenge to process with the avalanche of tomatoes, peppers and other warm season crops that pile up just after the first frost — late September to late October in Denver.   Make sure to set aside time for cooking and preserving in September and October.  I often invite friends over to preserve together to make it more fun.  The investment in time will be worth it.   The planting is easy and  you grow more than you can eat or preserve, share the surplus with friends or donate to the local food bank.

I challenge you to plant a fall garden and you’ll be happy with the results!

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The broccoli in the raised bed survived the frost and we harvested into November.

 

 

 

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

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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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

 

 

 

 

 

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