Tag Archives: Denver

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!

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

 

 

The Creation of Mario’s Garden At Harvard Gulch Golf Course

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The Creation of Mario’s Garden At Harvard Gulch Golf Course

As a leader at Rosedale Community Garden, I often booked the golf clubhouse across the street at the Harvard Gulch Recreation Center for classes, meetings and big events.   Along the way, I got to know the manager of the golf course, Jessie Moisson and we often talked about gardening.   Jessie had been thinking about starting a garden near the clubhouse and last Spring, when I mentioned the possibility again, he was ready.   Jessie quickly scheduled a meeting with me and the chief horticulturalist of the Denver golf courses, John Swain and Mario’s Garden was born.  The garden was named in memory a beloved little squirrel who visited often and was befriended by the golf staff.

IMG_4573John, Jessie and I met in mid-May and discussed how to transform the spot once occupied by a fish pond, the surrounding beds as well as an adjacent rose garden into a vegetable garden to feed the hungry.   I helped map out some plans and with a generous budget and access to a greenhouse, Jessie and John sprang to action shopping for seeds and plants.   Within two weeks, they’d built raised beds with recycled railroad ties, filled them with fresh garden compost and laid out a new irrigation system.   It was so exciting to be a part of such a project; one that literally went from zero to mach five drive in less than a month.

By mid June, tomatoes, beans, peppers, a patch of three sisters (corn, squash, beans), lettuces, carrots, melons, zucchinis, kale and more was planted and sprouting.  The excitement of Jessie and John was palpable every time I came by with a jug of bokashi from Rosedale.   Bokashi is a fertilizer created from “cooking” organic waste anaerobically in large covered buckets.    Mixed with water, it provides a wonderful fertilizer albeit very stinky.   We all reveled in the fecundity of the plot and marveled at the huge harvest.

As the harvest started to come in by early July, Jessie was in search of a benefactor.   After exploring several options, he opted to deliver produce to Cafe 180, a local restaurant that cooks healthy organic meals and customers pay what they can afford.   Later in the season, he donated a huge cache of produce to the Rosedale Garden Harvest Sale.   In my estimation, Mario’s Garden was a beautiful bountiful success.   For the two main caretakers, it was a huge labor intensive project.    As the beginning of a new garden season approaches, I plan to pop in to talk to Jessie and cheer him on in hopes that the garden will continue for a second season.

I took a lot of photos of the garden during the summer and here they are:

In the beginning.   Early May 2016:

Construction underway.   Early June 2016.

Plants and seeds in.   Late June 2016.

The Dogs Days of Summer — August — Garden Growing Like Crazy!

Golf clubs used to stake tomatoes!17424663_10210847950908235_1798747453826736108_n

Bountiful Harvest and Friends in the Garden — September 2016

Images of the 2015 Annual Rosedale Community Garden Sale

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Images of the 2015 Annual Rosedale Community Garden Sale
Susan MacNicholas is the Sale Coordinator

Susan MacNicholas is the Sale Coordinator

Each summer, Rosedale Community Garden hosts a big harvest and yard sale in late August which is often followed by another harvest sale in late September.   This summer, the two sales were consolidated into one big event on September 19.   The event brings together Rosedale’s large community of gardeners and showcases what we do best — organic vegetables, fresh cut flowers, heirloom garlic, children’s activities, yard sale treasures, bakery, jams and booths featuring jewelry, Earthlinks and local crafts.   Kudos go to this year’s organizer, Susan MacNicholas, for successfully bringing together many diverse elements and people.    What a great day!   The photos I share capture the essence of this beloved community event.

Friday Night Tagging Party

This event enables gardeners to drop off their yard sale items the afternoon/evening before the sale and brings together a team to sort and tag in preparation for the next day.  Having the opportunity to sort through the merchandise, enjoy good company and pizza and beer on a pleasant night in the garden is incentive for many to turn up to help.

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Sale Day

On this brisk sunny autumn morning, the crews started to assemble at 7 and by 9 am, the tables, tents, merchandise and volunteers were all set up and ready for business.   The day was perfect with sunshine and steadily warming temps and a steady stream of neighborhood customers.   By 2 pm, the ARC truck arrived to pick up the spare yard sale items and the the break down crew was busy putting everything away.

Dave Conant, Emeritus leader of Rosedale Garden and founder of our Project Angel Heart donation program.

Dave Conant, Emeritus leader of Rosedale Garden and founder of our Project Angel Heart donation program.

Dave posing next to a hoop house for sale.

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Clay Pot Irrigation: A Workshop on Water Conservation

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Here are some examples of authentic ollas produced in Albuquerque.

Here are some examples of authentic ollas produced in Albuquerque.

Water conservation is always an issue in dry, sunny Denver.    As a leader in the community garden, I have worked with the committee for years to encourage gardeners to incorporate water conservation methods in their gardens — mulch, soaker hoses, drip irrigation, watering earlier and later in the day, hand watering, etc.     I am always looking for new ways to reduce water usage so when a fellow gardener introduced the idea of using clay pots to irrigate, my interest was peaked.    Here are some photos from the Clay Pot Irrigation Workshop given by Rosedale Gardener, Syd Uphoff, at our garden several weeks ago.   I am definitely planning to test drive some ollas in my garden this year.

Syd is talking about how to use the olla's to save water in your garden.

Syd is talking about how to use the olla’s to save water in your garden.

The cost of making your own ollas is significantly less than purchasing the authentic pots.    The cost to make your own is under $7 each.

The cost of making your own ollas is significantly less than purchasing the authentic pots. The cost to make your own is under $7 each.

Here are some examples of authentic ollas produced in Albaqueque.

Here are some examples of authentic ollas produced in Albaqueque.

The order form for ollas in New Mexico.

The order form for ollas in New Mexico.

Syd demonstrates how to seal the two terracotta pots with silicon caulk.

Syd demonstrates how to seal the two terracotta pots with silicon caulk.

A larger ollas made to hold a gallon and a half of water.

A larger ollas made to hold a gallon and a half of water.

Here are the olla's buried up to the white paint which seals the top from water evaporation.

Here are the olla’s buried up to the white paint which seals the top from water evaporation.

The smaller olla hold a gallon of water.

The smaller olla hold a gallon of water.

Ollas need to be filled 2-3 times a week.    You plant within 12-15 inches of the olla and the roots will grow close.   Seeds should be hand watered until they have roots.

Ollas need to be filled 2-3 times a week. You plant within 12-15 inches of the olla and the roots will grow close. Seeds should be hand watered until they have roots.

The rocks on top keep water from evaporating.

The rocks on top keep water from evaporating.