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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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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Oh Hail!

hail_home_plh-1It was the house-shaking boom of thunder that first caught my attention. As my ears recovered, I heard a drumming on the roof, a steady beat that rapidly got louder and louder. More flashes of lightning. More thunder. I stopped chopping up celery for the stir-fry I was making, and looked outside. Sure enough, that wasn’t just rain I was hearing. It was hail.

Vicious icy balls almost an inch in diameter were pelting the house, bouncing on the driveway, burying the flower borders. I switched windows so I could see my veggie plot. That was a mistake. It’s such a helpless feeling to watch a lovingly tended garden, the beds I had so carefully weeded just hours ago, turn into lime sherbet.

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Grow Veggies, Save Water

community-gardens-bearcreek-lah-003According to a recent report from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, “Extreme drought conditions exist from Colorado Springs and Pueblo to the San Luis Valley and over most of the plains to the southeast of the big metro areas.”

If you live here, this isn’t exactly news. The fields are turning brown months early, wildflowers are small and sparse, and even the most aggressive weeds are wilting.

Living in the low-rainfall west, we’re used to gardening with minimal water. Xeriscaping is a household word, and basic principles of low-water gardening are widely available. (I’ve written several posts on it too—just type “xeriscape” into the search bar.)

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Eating Locally in Colorado?

How much is local?
How much is local?

All over the country, foodies are advocating the wonderful benefits of eating locally. Save on transportation costs (both financial and environment). Know where your food came from and who grew it. Fresher is healthier. There’s no shortage of good reasons to base one’s diet on food produced within a hundred mile (approximately) radius. In fact, several noted authors have written books on the topic.

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Carrots

800px-Karotten-1Carrots thrive in my garden. I have sandy soil that is dug and amended about 18 inches deep. The sawdust I added years ago is now dark humus. The roots are safely underground, and when hailstones pummel the ferny foliage it bends rather than breaks.

Growing carrots is easy, once they germinate. When planted in cool soil, the seeds can take three weeks before sprouts appear. Yet, if you wait too long, it’s very difficult to keep the seedbed damp as the weather warms. My solution is to plant around May 1 – 15, then use a drip irrigation mister attached to a timer to keep the soil from drying out.

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Plan Now for Spring Sanity

garden03-plan-lahAre you tired of gardening? We’ve had a longer-than- average growing season this year, and the weather is still warm enough to encourage flowers to bloom and pumpkins to turn orange. If your kitchen counter is piled high with zucchini, and you’re actually getting a tad tired of vine-ripened tomatoes, this is the perfect time to plan next year’s garden.

Most gardeners wait until spring to decide what to grow. This is a dangerous mistake. In spring, we’ve been staring at a brown and dead landscape for the past many months. Anything green seems like a miracle.

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Landscaping with… Zucchini?

Squash blossom @home 2008sept23 LAH 253Roses, petunias, and … zucchini? Why not? While traditionally grown in a vegetable garden, summer squash’s striking appearance can provide a focal point for an ornamental border as well.

Zucchini and its relatives have large lobed leaves, blotched with white, supported by thick prickly stems. Big yellow flowers produce squash in an amazing variety of colors and shapes. Of course they’re edible—but they’re eye-catching as well. Just make sure you leave plenty of room. “Bush” squash plants grow four feet wide and two feet high.

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Quick and Easy Coldframes

Panel bed vented LAHWe all want to plant our veggie gardens now, but winter hasn’t quite let go of the Rockies. While last week was in the 60s, it’s snowing as I write this, and snow and frost are distinct possibilities for several more weeks.

This is the time of year when we suffer most from greenhouse envy. Yet, for a minimal amount of money, time and effort, you can build a mini-greenhouse right over your garden beds. Here’s how I went about it.

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Eating Your Landscape

Rhubarb surrounded by dianthus in a 4x4 ft bedCrunchy, greenish tomatoes at $2.75/lb. Wilted, road-weary lettuce and limp green beans. We’re supposed to eat more veggies, but the offerings at the local supermarket aren’t very appealing. You’d like to grow some of your own food but you don’t have room for a vegetable garden. What can you do?

Try edible landscaping! While it’s traditional to sequester our food plants apart from the ornamentals, many fruit and vegetable plants are very attractive. Let fruits and vegetables take center stage in your garden, as well as in your kitchen.

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