Ups and Downs

One drawback of living at 7,100 feet is that spring drags its feet. I see the blue sky outside and assume warm sunshine to go with it. Yet, I step one foot out the door and my teeth start to chatter—as much because of the icy winds as the frigid temperatures. We may have two or more months of snow yet to endure, but I’m ready for spring. There’s only one solution.

Go down.

I can’t afford a plane ticket to Cancún, or even a road trip to San Diego, but I can drive to a (relatively) lower elevation. While the eastern states’ climate zones are determined by latitude, ours are determined by altitude. It’s amazing how much impact a couple thousand feet can have on the arrival of spring. Continue reading

Taking Your Garden’s Temperature

soil thermometerThe calendar says late April, the weekend forecast is warm and sunny, but there’s still snow melting off the trees and loitering in the shadows. With our off-again, on-again spring, how can a gardener possibly know when to plant?

There’s no foolproof formula, but a soil thermometer can help take much of the guesswork out of gardening in Colorado.

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Timing Peas

pea-vines-home-lahIt’s almost Saint Patrick’s Day, the traditional planting date for peas. Should you sow on March 17?

Not if you live along the Front Range! While St. Patty’s Day may work fine for New England, it’s probably the wrong day to plant for much of the country.

If you live in a warm climate (E.g., parts of California, Florida, and Arizona), you are far too late. Peas should be planted as a winter crop, so they can grow while the weather is cool and humidity is higher.

And if you live here in the Pikes Peak area, mid-March is much too early. Sure, peas planted now may survive and grow and produce a crop. But they may also rot in too-cold soil, waiting for temperatures at which they can germinate.

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How to Grow a Houseplant: Light & Temperature

spider-plant_home_20090908_lah_0280“Mom, can you fix it?”

My college freshman was looking at me with a dejected, mournful expression, holding the spider plant I had sent to school with her. It looked awful. Wilted, brown leaves hung limply over the edge of the plastic pot. There were no signs of life.

“Well, that one looks kind of done, but I can give you another one. I’ve got plenty of spider plants. What happened?”

The story unfolded… it was well below freezing outside, but the central heating in the dorms was turned way up. Suffocating in her room, she’d opened the window a crack. No one thought to move the plant on the windowsill. Unfortunately, tropical spider plants aren’t equipped to survive 6ºF drafts. The poor plant had succumbed during the night.

As I potted up another victim, er, spider plant, I explained to my daughter that the primary thing to remember is that plants are alive. I know this seems obvious, but too many people treat them as decorations rather than living organisms. It’s better to think of them as pets—sort of like green hamsters without the exercise wheel. They need food and water, shelter and room to grow. If you meet their needs, they’ll not only survive, they’ll grow and perhaps even bloom. It’s really not that hard.

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