Growing one’s own food is back in vogue. Community gardens are springing up in cities, suburbanites are trading lawns for lettuce, and even the White House is cultivating everything from arugula to heirloom tomatoes.
If you’ve never grown vegetables before, the task may seem daunting, but it really isn’t that hard. For one thing, there’s plenty of advice available. However, not every suggestion deserves a place in your yard; some sources are more reliable than others. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of plain hogwash being circulated as garden advice.
If you are planning on growing vegetables—or fruit, or any kind of garden, really—I highly recommend you do some research before beginning. It’s a good idea to look for local sources of information, as growing conditions vary so much from place to place. Generalized gardening books and magazines are helpful, but most tend to be slanted toward the eastern part of the country. Growing anything in Colorado is a much different challenge.
As a Colorado Master Gardener, I was constantly reminded that Colorado State University (CSU), and the other universities with extension programs, provided research-based information. It was our job as Master Gardeners to disseminate that information to the general public.
Whenever someone called our horticulture hotline with a question, our first source of information was always CSU’s extensive database. If we didn’t find what we needed there, we’d widen the search to include other near-by universities—those with growing conditions similar to Colorado’s. Only if that search also failed to yield the answers we needed, did we turn to other sources of information.
Although all of us were enthusiastic, experienced gardeners, we didn’t draw on our personal experience without making it plain to our client that our advice was anecdotal, and not necessarily scientific nor accurate.
While El Paso County’s extension service is on hiatus at this time, most of those well-trained Master Gardeners (now called Certified Colorado Gardeners) are still around, and eager to help you get started. Check out their blog for timely advice appropriate for our region.
You can also go straight to CSU for an extensive assortment of web-based fact sheets and other resources.
Master Gardeners in many areas present gardening classes for the public. These classes are a great way to learn how to grow plants of all kinds. Check your local newspaper, or look online for programs offered in your part of the country.
In addition to the ones I list below, I’m sure additional classes will become available as the growing season nears. I’ve personally taught veggie gardening classes for churches, homeowner associations, and other civic groups around town.
If you’re in the Pikes Peak area, Monument’s Lewis Palmer District 38 is offering a series of garden classes through their adult education program, starting in early February. Many of these classes are being taught by mothballed Master Gardeners (including myself). The series covers all aspects of high altitude gardening, including two evenings focused specifically on growing vegetables.
Colorado Springs’ Horticultural Art Society is offering a veggie gardening class on Wednesday, January 13, at the East Library in Colorado Springs. Larry Stebbins, the Director of Pikes Peak Urban Gardens, will share his “best kept secrets” on successful vegetable gardening in the Pikes Peak region. The class is free, and runs from 7 – 8:30 pm.
Finally, be sure the check back here for regular posts on how to grow your own food. I’ll do my best to only provide thoroughly researched information, to help you have the best garden possible.