Tag Archives: DUG

Spring in My Gardens, 2018

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.



Life in the Garden, “Exclusively Yours”, July 2016

Life in the Garden, “Exclusively Yours”, July 2016


Its been a busy garden season and with the big harvest this year, I’ve been too busy to write.   But today, I received a copy of an article that features my garden exploits and want to share it.   Several months ago, my sister’s friend Tyler, asked if she could interview me about my experience as a master gardener for an article she was writing.   I answered a few quick questions late at night so she could meet her midnight deadline — and forgot all about it.

Fast forward three months and I receive an email from a Wisconsin woman wondering if she could hire me to help plan her son’s garden in Denver.   Of course, that’s the kind of thing I do — plan gardens — but I wondered how she’d gotten my contact information.   In her email, she mentioned an article in “Exclusively Yours”, a local magazine I grew up reading in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.   In an effort to locate the article, I googled and called the magazine, called my mom and sister who live in Wisconsin.   Nothing.  Finally, my new fan emailed a copy and it all came back to me.

Its fun to share my passion for gardening with everyone I know.   In the article, I mention the master gardening program at Denver Urban gardens, my donation garden at St. Philip Lutheran Church, the new donation garden I helped plan at Harvard Gulch Golf Course and more.   Check it out.  Please contact me if you want to talk gardening or need help getting yours started.  anaincolorado@gmail.com.



Between Harvest and Kitchen


11834934_10206248836413247_1252265432375814819_oSeveral months ago, I had the opportunity to attend an awesome 2-day workshop entitled “Garden Troubleshooting” at the Denver Urban Gardens headquarters.   We learned about good bugs, bad bugs and a variety of plant diseases and disorders and how to address them.   Many of those lessons have come in handy for me this summer.   But now that its harvest time, I find myself referring to the section on when and how to harvest and how to store my produce.   Thanks to Carol O’Meara of the Colorado State University Extension in Boulder County, I have a better handle on how to harvest and store my produce.   Here is some of what she shared with us in the her workshop, “Between Harvest and Kitchen”.

Three Golden Rules:

  • Keep it cool
  • Keep it wet
  • Handle with care


Too Much Cooling is a Bad Thing and can cause high respiration, uneven ripening, off flavor, pitting, premature rotting, discoloration or woody tissue, fungal disease

Chilling Injury Thresholds

  • 45 F:           beans, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant
  • 45-50 F:     melons
  • 50 F:           tomatoes/winter squash
  • 55 F:            sweet potato (put in frig for 2 weeks to make sweeter)

Curing:  a short time in a warm, dry place which toughens the skins, dries surface, improves flavor and texture and heals cuts.

  • potatoes, pumpkins, winter squash (is sweeter later); except for acorn squash which gets stringy
  • onions need 5-7 dayss at a dry 70-80 F
  • sweet potatoes need 5-7 days at 80-85 F and humid


Snap Beans

  • pod diameter, not length determines quality
  • harvest after dew evaporates
  • avoid tearing or damaging pods; don’t squeeze them
  • keep harvested pods out of the sun
  • cool within 2 hours of harvest
  • store in refrigerator with humidy pad (damp paper towel)


  • water consistently
  • heads should have dark or bright green closed (no yellow) florets

    Broccoli is ready to harvest.

    Broccoli is ready to harvest.

  • compact, firm to hand pressure
  • steams bright green with no discoloration
  • rapidly cool and store cool

Brussel Sprouts

  • spouts found at base of leaf
  • harvest at 1-2 inches diameter
  • sprouts mature form bottom of stalk up
  • harvest individually
  • front sweetens flavor, but avoid letting them freeze
  • cool


  • green husk, dry brown silk
  • loses sugar rapidly in heat
  • pick in early morning, cool immediately
  • eat soon
  • store at 32 F in humidity for up to 5 days


  • before seed matures
  • look for firm, glossy pods
  • when pressed with fingernail, indentation remains
  • fresh, green calyx


  • cut water when leaves brown
  • harvest when leaves are 2/3 brown

    I waited for the stems to dry after clipping off the garlic scapes several weeks ago. Ready to dig up the garlic cloves.

    I waited for the stems to dry after clipping off the garlic scapes several weeks ago. Ready to dig up the garlic cloves.

  • don’t wash bulbs with water — will ruin
  • cure garlic in dry, warm location for 7-10 days
  • cut stems to one inch
  • can freeze in glass, leave papery outer skin


  • Count the days.   roughly one month after the plant flowers, melons begin ripening.
  • should be full -boidied and heavy for their size; some changes in fruit color yellow to tan
  • muskmelons slip from the steam easily when ripe
  • watermelon belly turns cream or yellow and the tendrils closet to fruit wither
  • cantelope:   neeting, count days from flowering, fruit behind bloom female once flower closed — 40 days
  • muskmelons slip:   smell it, stem will have crack 2/3 around (slip stage); time to sling if trellised.


  • harvest young 1/4 inch to 1 inch for fresh use; 1- 1/2 for pickling or when tops have fallen over and necks are shriveled for storage
  • air dry in single layers in shade for 3-4 weeks; remove tops
  • don’t wet, wait a day to cure
  • storing — onions vary in storage capability, more pungent types with high soluble solids contents store longer, mild onions with low soluble solids contents are rarly stored for more than a month,
  • store at 32-50 F or RH 60-70%


  • clip from plant
  • more susceptible to sunscald, water loss and heat damage after harvest
  • store at 40-45 F, high humidity
  • paprika is a dry blend of peppers, remove seeds


  • stop irrigation 2-3 weeks prior to harvest
  • remove vines before digging tubers
  • cure for 2 weeks in 45-60 F dark room – this will set skins
  • prevent sun exposure which will green skins and is toxic
  • can store up to 10 months in proper conditions
  • store at 39-45 F, 95-98 percent RH, air circulation

Root Crops


  • clip tops for storage at 33 F in high humidity
  • mulch carrots for fresh pulling into winter, hill a foot of straw over shoulders after ground cools in fall
  • dig and store before ground freezes
  • parsnips like to get cold
  • can use carrot tops in salad


  • harvest at 1.5-2 inchues, pull fall planted beets before first freeze
  • clip tops to 1 inch before refrigerating up to two weeks
  • do not store in frozen ground

Parsnips, horseradish, turnips

  • improve in flavor with light freezing
  • at temps 28-34 F starch converts to sugar
  • mulch with straw and leave in ground into winter
  • pull and use before Spring


Harvesting Tomatoes

  • harvest when fruits are uniformly red, but before end softens
  • ripe fruit sinks in water (useful when gauging ripeness of green tomatoes)
  • when to let the season end — frost protection works best on tomatoes already coloring up, green ones are harmed by chill
  • if there is a run of cold nights, pick off green tomatoes and leave the blushed ones on the plant

    Tomatoe ready to pick.

    Tomatoe ready to pick.

Speed Up Ripening

  • thinning — immature fruit won’t size up or ripen by season’s end, so snip off blossoms and young fruit to leave the plant’s energy to full-grown tomatoes
  • new shoots and overloads of mature tomatoes also slow ripening prune off suckers and young stems, then pluck a few green tomatoes for ripening on the counter
  • on run of cool nights, pick off green ones to let blush ones ripen
  • cut back water to the plants to hasten vine ripening
  • pull the plant from the ground and hang it upside down in a dry, sheltered area.   Fruit should be harvested before completely ripe and allowed to finish on the counter or it may fll from the vine and create a mess

When Frost Hits

  • once hit by frost, tomatoes break down quickly and are not suitable for canning
  • cut off the bad spots, then use immediately in your favorite recipes or chop and freeze them for winter dishes

Green Tomatoes for Storage

  • pick green tomatoes for strage from healthy vines or pink ones to ripen on the counter
  • prevent problesm from rot:   harvest when plants are dry, avoiding fruit that is diseased or has insect damage
  • clip tomoatoes from the wine, many heirlloms have “knuckled” stems that tear
  • mature green tomatoes stores best — those that are full-sized, glossy light green to white with a whitish star on the blossom end
  • tip:   dark green tomatoes are immature and should be used right away as fried green tomatoes, in relish or stewed

    The final tomatoe harvest before the hard frost.

    The final tomatoe harvest before the hard frost.


  • breakers:   should your tomatoes begin to color at the blossom end, know as a “breaker”, it will continue to ripen quickly for you on your counter and taste close to vine ripened
  • pinks:   colored up but not fully ripe will ripen on the counter
  • sort tomatoes into groups that will ripen at the same speed — mature green, breakers, pinks and red

Countertop Holding/Ripening

  • at room temperature, red tomatoes are ready within a day or two
  • pinks (3-=60 % colored) will be ready in 7-10 days
  • mature greens and breakers, up to 14 days

Storing Green Tomatoes

  • clip stems short, wash gently and pat dry.  Store in a box with good ventilation at 55-68 degrees (frig too cold)
  • check tomatoes frequently for spoiling
  • to store longer, wrap tomatoes in newspaper and place 1-2 layers deep in a box.  Keep in a cool, 55-60 degree room, out of sunlight.

Winter Squash

  • speed ripening by cutting back water to the plant slowly over a few weeks so you don’t interrupt growth of young squash
  • pluck blossoms from the plant to allow the plant to pump energy into the fruit
  • watch for signs of maturity, such as stem drying out or the rind turning a deep color
  • harvest when the skin toughens and isn’t dented by pressure from a fingernail; stem turns tan
  • cut stem from vine with sharp knife, leaving stem attached to squash (w/o stem, squash decays around stem scar)
  • cure 10 days in dry room, 75-85 F

In Garden Storage

  • beets, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, celery, endive, cos or romaine lettuce, kale, leeks, and onions can withstand the early light frosts store for several weesk under a heavy (1 ft. mulch)
  • Pits/Mounds:    dig a 6-10 inch deep trench, layer 3-4 inches of straw, place cabbage, carrots, beets, celeriac, kohlrobi, rutabagas, turnips, and winter radishes on top of much, cover with 12 inches straw, then 3 inches soil; once you open mound, ALL produce must be removed and used within 2 weeks

Root Cellars

  • store potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips, rutabagas, winter radishes, kohlrabi, parsnips

Recommended Storage Temperatures and Relative Humidity Levels

COLD AND VERY MOIST  (33-40 F, 90-95% RH)

Beets, Brussel Sprouts, Carrots, Parsnips, Turnips, Rutabegas, Leeks, Celeriax, Winter Radish (Daikon), Sunchokes

COLD AND MOIST (32-40 F, 80-90% RH)

Potatoes, Apples, Cabbage

COOL AND DRY (32-50 F, 60-70% RH)

Garlic, Onions, Dry Beans


Winter Squash, Pumpkin, Sweet Tomatoes









Starting a Community Donation Garden at St. Philip’s Church

Starting a Community Donation Garden at St. Philip’s Church

IMG_8596 Nearly two months after breaking ground on the new community donation garden at St. Philip’s, I am finally taking a breath to share how this project got started.    Several years ago, the concept of starting a community garden on the expansive property of our church was conceived by Tiffany Briggs, an active church member that I knew from the Prayer Shawl Knitting group.   We discussed it several times and energy began to mount.   At the time, I was too busy with my Denver community garden as both a leader and the manager of three plots, to invest much energy in another project.    Fast forward several years, Tiffany had moved away and I was finally retired from eight years as a leader at Rosedale Garden.   With a chunk of time and psychic space now free in my life, the conversation about the garden began again.  A church member and friend on the board encouraged me to get a proposal together and apply for a grant from the church endowment committee.   She felt that the time was right, internal support was present and that with me to champion the project, it could fly.IMG_8460

Bringing over 18 years of community garden experience as well as my training as a master gardener to the table helped me to put together a coherent, clear-sighted proposal very quickly.   The thought of speadheading a new garden project that would initially provide locally grown produce to the Sheridan Food Bank was exciting and challenging.    The first hurdle was to get agreement from the property committee to work a specific 30 ft X 60 ft site in the back of the church.    After several rounds of maps, walking the property and even a presentation given by my husband who sits on the committee, the land was approved by the property committee.  The second step was to obtain funding for soil admendments, raised beds, seedlings, and all the other various items one needs to start a garden.   I submitted a proposal for $1500 in late April and received notification on May 10 that a grant of $1000 was approved.    The Care and Compassion Committee also donated $250 to the project.

IMG_8417With little time to waste but out of town from May 10-17 to attend my 30th college reunion in Massachusetts, I scheduled ground breaking for May 24.    I wrangled a handful of volunteers including my husband, children and my church supporter and her family to get started on that Sunday morning.    Dave and I opened up Home Depot at 7 am to purchase the wood for 8 raised beds and by 3 pm, he had them all built.    The unusually rainy May had softened the ground and enabled the rest of the crew to dig out the normally concrete hard sod over the course of the next two weeks.    After Xcel Energy mapped out the areas with buried electricals, we placed the raised beds over those areas and decided to plow the unaffected areas later in the season.   By May 29th, two trucks of garden mix were delivered and everyone I could recruit including my 10 and 13 year old boys helped fill in the raised beds.IMG_8400

By early June, we had eight raised beds filled and planted with seeds, purchased and donated plants.   And several weeks later, we rototilled a 12 X 15 foot patch and planted it with donated plants from Creekside Gardens and Denver Urban Gardens.    At the time of this writing, the garden is healthy and ready to burst with broccoli, lettuce, zucchini, tomatoes, herbs, squashes, cucumbers and more.    We’ve already donated several pounds of lettuce, squash and herbs to the Sheridan Food Pantry with much more to follow this week.   God has truly shined upon this project with good weather, few pests and generous volunteers and contributions.

I will share much more about our new donation garden and future plans in the weeks to come.



Master’s Presentation: Putting the Garden to Rest

A class photo of the master gardeners taken at the end of our last class on April 24.

A class photo of the master gardeners taken at the end of our last class on April 24.

Giving my 3 minute talk.

Giving my 3 minute talk.

On the last day of our 12 week master gardener program, several students and I were assigned to give a 3 minute presentation.    My topic was “putting your garden to rest”; a topic I needed to learn more about.    In years past, I have been guilty of running out of steam and spending as little time as possible cleaning up my plot before winter sets in.    I usually remove the old plants and compost in situ.   I collect up the tomato cages, roll up the hoses and go home.

Reading up on this topic was eye-opening and made me realize that I need to pay some attention to certain steps that might create a better spring planting season.   Here are some things I learned:

  • Remove annual crops and trim perennials; chop up and compost
  • Remove diseased plants like tomato vines and those infested with pests
  • Fortify soil with chopped up leaves, compost, grass clippings
  • Till soil 4-6 inches with pitch fork to disrupt any pests at burrowed underneath — wait until after several frosts
  • Plant cover crops like hairy vetch and winter rye in October, turn under in April before they go to seed
  • Clean garden tools with brush, oil handles and store in dry sand
  • Drain and remove hoses; put away tomato cages
  • Prepare area for planting cold crops in spring
  • Assess what went right and what went wrong
  • Celebrate!!!

As sad as it is to see the class end, this last day was a lot of fun.   The presentations were interesting and informative.    The potluck food was delicious.   And Emily Frost’s  trouble shooting discussion and group exercise were very thought provoking.    Having been in the thick of Rosedale’s leadership transition this last year, I can certainly attest to challenges of working with a variety of strong personalities in a community garden.

I especially enjoyed the variety of visual aids from Sharon’s brightly colored posters of 6 tips for organic gardening to Ruben’s 3 M’s — Mulch, Microorganisms, Moisture to Nick’s presentation about olla’s and  Rosedale’s upcoming workshop of using this ancient form of irrigation.    I look forward to the next phase of becoming a master community gardener which involves putting in 30 hours of service.    I am excited to reconvene with the group this summer and in the autumn to share stories and experiences.     Thank you to Shannon Spurlock, coordinator of the program, for a wonderful experience.

Photos from Volunteer Morning at Jefferson High School Community Garden

The team of gardeners working at Jefferson High School Community Garden.

The team of gardeners working at Jefferson High School Community Garden.

Using recycling salad containers as mini green houses to germinate seeds.

Using recycling salad containers as mini green houses to germinate seeds.

Recycling old prescription bottles to house seeds.

Recycling old prescription bottles to house seeds.

The new plots with fresh compost tilled in.

The new plots with fresh compost tilled in.

IMG_0403 IMG_0400

Recycling mini blinds to plant markers in the garden.

Recycling mini blinds to plant markers in the garden.

Tilling fresh compost into the virgin plots.

Tilling fresh compost into the virgin plots.


Distributing the new compost to the garden plots.

Distributing the new compost to the garden plots.