To Seed or Not to Seed?

Pepper cotyledons vs leaves LAHGardeners seem to come in two varieties: those who buy seeds, and those who buy transplants. Which are you? Are you the do-it-yourselfer who prefers to start your plants from seed, nurturing each and every flower and vegetable from infancy? Or are you more the no-nonsense, practical type who figures that there’s no point in fussing when you can so easily purchase transplants? There are pros and cons to each approach.

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Pretty Poinsettias

Poinsettias_20091218_PLH_5602Everywhere we turn, we see red. Poinsettias decorate our homes, churches, businesses and stores. How did a tropical plant become such a pervasive symbol of Christmas? Are poinsettias poisonous? And what should I do with my plants once the holidays are over?

With their bright red color (although they also come in salmon and white now), it’s not surprising that we like to brighten a dreary winter landscape with poinsettias. It’s  too bad they’re only available during the holidays; they’ll live for years given the right care.

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Thanksgiving Mums

Happy Thanksgiving! The table is set and the aroma of roasting turkey fills the air. You hear the doorbell and go to answer it. Sure enough, your dinner guests have arrived bearing pumpkin pies, hearty appetites… and a potted chrysanthemum.

Familiar as corsages and potted gift plants, chrysanthemums are the iconic fall bloomer. Available in a wide range of colors, from white through yellows to reds, pinks and purples, there is a shade for every garden. Orange, russets and golds are particularly appropriate for this time of year. Forms vary just as much. Spider mums have long petals forming shaggy heads, while others resemble simple daisies. Most garden varieties have double flowers such as the ones pictured here. All in all, the US National Chrysanthemum Society recognizes thirteen bloom types. The flowers are supported by stiff stems approximately two feet high and adorned with elongated heart-shaped gray-green leaves with uneven edges.

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Spinach

spinach_dbg_20100417_lah_2909True confessions… I am allergic to spinach. Very sad, I know. So, I don’t grow it. Everything I’m about to tell you about spinach cultivation I learned from such wise gardeners as David Whiting, Colorado State University professor and State Coordinator for the Colorado Master Gardener Program, and Diane E. Bilderback, one of my favorite garden writers (and, along with Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, author of my favorite veggie gardening book, Garden Secrets).

The first tricky thing about spinach is when to plant it. Being extremely day-length sensitive, it is sure to bolt when it receives 14 or more hour of daylight per day. You can squeeze in a crop as soon as the weather is warm enough (and thankfully, spinach is relatively hardy), or wait until days are getting shorter again and plant for a fall harvest.

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My Favorite Lettuce Varieties: Loose-leaf Lettuce

misting lettuce @home LAH 001Red, green, plain or fancy, tall, squat, and very delicious, lettuce is my favorite crop. Because I plant so much of it, I’ve experimented with dozens of varieties. And since there are hundreds to choose from, I’ve only scratched the surface. I’m always open to your suggestions.

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Which Varieties are Best for Colorado?

seed-catalogs_lah_2733Seed catalogs are beginning to arrive in our mailboxes. With all the brightly colored photos of perfect vegetables and flowers, it’s tempting to order one (or more!) of each. Most of us, however, have limited garden space. We need to make some hard decisions.

Which varieties should we order? What will thrive in Colorado? Which ones really taste the best?

Most catalogs have some sort of icon indicating which variety does best across the country. The problem is that we don’t live in the rest of the country. We live in Colorado. Our soils, weather, water, even the quality of light here are all different from most of the United States. When a company recommends a product that grows well in Pennsylvania, or California, or Arizona, there is no assurance that it will do as well here.

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Subscribe to Good Eating

264-wheelbarrow-of-veggies-closeup-nxMy daughter supports it in Idaho. My brother-in-law supports it near Denver. My friend supports it here in Colorado Springs—maybe it’s time I join the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement too.

Let’s say you’re eager to enjoy locally grown, organic produce but you don’t have the time or room for a garden (or you just hate yard work). Your first inclination is to head for the neighborhood farmer’s market. But there’s another option. You can buy a share in a farm.

This is how CSA works: one or more small, family farms grow a variety of produce. How much variety depends largely where they are and what will grow there. The growers estimate how much they’ll harvest over the season, and divide the yield into family-sized portions.

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Wind

windy_5

I know that wind is merely “air in motion,” but why does it have to be in such a hurry?

Here in Colorado, the wind has been blowing for weeks now—and not just gentle breezes, but howling gales that topple trees and suck every drop of moisture from already desiccated soil. First a dry winter, now this ceaseless wind.

As a gardener, there are times when I’m totally frustrated by too much wind. It stunts the growth of tender new shoots (I’m not trying to create bonsai tomatoes, but sometimes that’s what I get) and makes working in the garden a miserable experience.

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