Get the jump on the spring garden

Energized by the first truly spring-like week we’ve had this season, I spent a lot of time in the garden these past few days. Yes, I know there’s still snow in the shady spots and the ground alternates between frozen and muddy muck, but there’s still a lot you can do in the early spring garden to save time and energy later in the season.

A few things to do now, rather than later:

  • A general whole-yard pick-up. This can include dog poop, trash that has blown into your yard, that old rusted fire pit you meant to throw out last year, and toys that have been buried under the snow since October. Doing this first is guaranteed to make you feel better about being in the yard for the next couple of tasks on the list…
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Garden Primer 4 – Starting Plants from Seed

My indoor seed-starting setup
Tending to my seedlings last winter

With this post, my garden primer series transitions from the planning stage to the doing stage. I will be writing about what I’m actually doing in my garden as I do it, so if you’re in Zone 5-ish, you can probably follow along in your own garden! So, if you’ve been following along with this series, you’ve already figured out how much garden space you have, how many vegetables you want to plant, and considered whether you’d like to have a container garden this season.

Now it’s time to talk about starting seedlings. Whether you’re starting seeds in a couple of cottage cheese containers in a sunny window or hoping to start most of your vegetables from seed this year, the process is pretty much the same, and so are the benefits. Improved selection of varieties, a desire to know that your food was started in chemical and disease-free conditions, and the need to garden when there’s still snow on the ground are all reasons to start vegetables from seed. Read more

Planning the Perfect Pot Garden – Primer Part 3

This is a great example of container gardening, taken from Permaculture 4 Renters.
This is a great example of container gardening, taken from Permaculture 4 Renters.

I’ve already talked about growing herbs indoors to beat the winter blues, but I know a lot of gardens in urban landscapes are looking to maximize growing space using containers (no, not that kind of pot!) to garden outside too. Whether you’re planting a few herbs in a sunny windowsill inside or growing a large container garden in your yard, a few tips will help make things easier. Read more

Garden Primer Part 2 – How Many Vegetables Do I Need?

vegIt took me longer than I’d hoped to get this post out. Part of my struggle was that choosing the veggies for your garden is such a personal choice. But a conversation with a friend last night helped me really focus in on how I choose veggies for my garden.

Start with the limiting factors
If you live in Lyons, you can’t grow bananas outdoors, no matter how badly you’d like to. If you live in an apartment, you probably can’t manage an apple tree. If you live in a suburban house, you likely don’t have room enough to grow wheat or barley. So start your veggie planning with identifying your limitations. Last week, I wrote about figuring out how much garden space you have, and how much you need. Read more

A Vegetable Garden Planning Primer

gardenI spent about two days of my time off of work planning next year’s vegetable garden. Yes, I realize it’s early January, but I like to start seeds beginning in February, which means I need to get my seed orders in now! That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s too late for you to get started on your vegetable gardens for this-coming year. In fact, the perfect time to start planning is right now, and I’m going to give you some tips that will help you get started.

First, What Went Wrong Last Year

Last year, a couple of things went wrong with my vegetable gardening plans. First, I tried to go in on a giant seed order with all of my gardening friends. Although I think we saved some money on shipping, and had some fun getting together over the garden catalogs, we placed our order later than I like, it took us forever to divide up the seeds (we split single packets of seed among as many as six of us, which was kind of nightmarish!), and I bought way more seed than I needed because I wanted to try a few plants of everything my friends were trying. Read more

Beat the winter blues with a little green

Our herb garden lives in the kids' play room
Our herb garden lives in the kids' play room

I may still have a little chard, carrots, oregano, and rosemary alive in the garden, but my garlic’s planted, my horseradish is harvested, and outdoor gardening season ’09 is pretty much officially done. Although Seeds of Change has apparently lost its mind and started sending spring seed catalogs in November (!!), it’s early, even by my insane gardening standards, to begin plans for next year’s garden. So what’s a bored gardener to do to beat the winter blues?

Well, last weekend, I got a great deal on some end-of-season herbs from the last Farmer’s Market of the season (sniff, sniff) and planted an indoor herb garden to keep the kids and I occupied until we can reasonably start planning next year’s garden and starting seedlings in January. All it took was some leftover pots, a little potting soil, and a sunny window. Read more

A little more on root cellaring

carrotsA few weeks back, I was interviewed for an article in the Boulder Daily Camera called Preserving Your Roots about home root cellaring. I got quite a few questions from friends about one particular part of the article: storing carrots. Since I harvested a full 5-gallon bucket’s worth of carrots this week from our community garden patch, I had the opportunity this weekend to document the process of preparing these carrots for a winter of storage and thought I’d share it here.

Although I have often peeled, chopped (or grated), blanched, and frozen carrots in the past, by April, I’m desperate for something with a bit of crunch. Two years ago, I tried taking the last of the late fall carrots from the farmer’s market, sealing them tight in zip-top bags, and storing them in our extra fridge. They lasted until March, but took up a ton of space that I might have used on another scarce commodity in Colorado winters–good fruit! Read more

My 15 minutes of fame…

If you read the Boulder Daily Camera, you might have seen a familiar face on today’s front cover. Actually, three familiar faces: myself, Gabriel & Lily. I was interviewed last week about my efforts to cellar onions, garlic, squash, and potatoes over the winter using a system of shelving and lidded bins. Little did I know that I’d get a blurb on the front page pointing to a pretty cool story a few pages later! Take a look to learn more about building your own root cellar. And check out another great article on how to figure out what you need to store for the winter.

End of season tomato primer

PICT5358If there’s one thing tomato-growers in colder climates fear, it’s early frost that strikes with lots of green fruit still on the vine. According to the Purdue Cooperative Extension, optimal ripening temperature is between 68-77, and it hasn’t been getting nearly that warm here this last week, and the nighttime temperatures just keep on dropping, meaning frost will be here soon.

Here in Zone 5, I face this every single September, so this year I went looking for tips on what to do. Read more

Getting started with garlic

Now that we’re all duly depressed over the upcoming frost, it’s time to start focusing on what the avid gardener can do to beat the fall/winter blues. As the powdery mildew overtakes the squash and the last of the harvest trickles in, I start looking to next year’s harvest and the first thing I do is plant next year’s garlic crop.

Last October, we planted a roughly 5×7 foot plot, and have been harvesting from it since early June. We dug the remainder–a full 5-gallon bucket full–and will dry the best of the bulbs for cold storage and blend the rest with oil & freeze for later use.

Here in Zone 5 (and just about anywhere that gets freezing temps in the winter), garlic should be fall-planted, usually in late September/early October. Read more