Monday, April 26, 2010

Vegetable Gardening Advice From a Pro by Janet Shangraw

We’ve had a few warm days, the grass is greening up, and the trees are beginning to bud. Gardeners may be dreaming of colorful spring blooms, but the serious vegetable gardener has not only been planning the vegetable garden for months, they have prepared the beds, organized efficient irrigation, have been carefully cultivating their own select plants from seeds for weeks now, and probably have their cold season vegetables already planted.

The gig is up.  Apparently, I am NOT a serious vegetable gardener.  I am simply gazing longingly at my garden, and starting to think about what I’d like to grow this year.  So for inspiration, I interviewed Boulder County Extension Agent Carol O’Meara who IS a serious vegetable gardener! 

Carol is the Boulder County Extension Agent specializing in Horticulture and Entomology, better known as the “Bug Babe”.  She has an extensive vegetable garden and harvests and processes foods each season to feed her family for the entire year. 

Carol’s Fun, Interesting Veggies to Try:
·      Green Doctors  - a cherry tomato that gets rave reviews!  This tomato consistently wins blind taste testings -  YUM.
·      Pacman Brocolli – cold season veggie that tastes much better out of the garden than from the grocery.  Carol says it has a nutty, sweet flavor.  Be sure to harvest before the florets on the main head are fully opened.  Then harvest from the side shoots which will produce smaller heads. 
·      Blacktail Mountain Watermelon – Performs well in the metro Denver area and tastes great.
·      Homegrown garlic – Carol says that she grows enough garlic “to feed a small Tuscan village”.  (Watch for a blog this fall about planting and using garlic from your garden!)

Most Common Pitfall for Novice Vegetable Gardeners:
‘Go Big or Go Home’ does not apply to beginning vegetable gardeners.  Carol warns about starting with a garden that is too large.  It can be overwhelming and before you know it, your garden can be inundated with weeds. 

Helpful Tips
·      Pay attention to soil temperature.  Be sure that warm season crops are not planted until the soil temperature is between 55 and 60 degrees F.  Cool season crops need soil temperatures between 45 and 50 degrees. Using black plastic around the plant can help warm the soil. The Wall-of-Water® also provides protection for plants. Check out CSU Extension’s Garden Notes for more information.
·    The right way to plant a leggy tomato…..this is a revelation for me! Plant it horizontally.  Yes, I know it sounds crazy, but it makes sense.  Dig a trench 2 to 3 inches deep.  Place the plant horizontal with only the top two or three sets of leaves showing above the soil.  Pinch off the lower leaves below the soil line before planting.  The plant will root out along the stem in the warm soil near the surface and provide better support for the mature tomato plant. 
·    As with any kind of gardening, soil preparation is key.  Amending the soil with compost is a top priority. Another helpful CSU Extension resource is Vegetable Garden: Soil Management and Fertilization.  
     You can find more information on deciding where to put the garden, what to plant, when to plant, when to harvest, information about raised bed gardens, container vegetable gardening and more on the CMG website.
   So now along with my usual herbs, zucchini and a few struggling tomatoes, I plan to venture out and try some ‘new to me’ varieties.  I can’t wait to start cooking from the garden again!  Thanks, Carol!!