Monday, July 25, 2011

Patti Douglas – Gardening and Giving by Ellen Goodnight

Patti Douglas "Raised Bed Queen"
Patti Douglas, a Jefferson County CSU Colorado Master Gardener for seven years, could easily hold the moniker of 'Raised Bed Queen' as she tends 20 raised beds in her Wheat Ridge garden. Yet there is much more to this inquisitive and giving gardener.
Born and bred in Michigan, Patti was raised on fresh fruits and vegetables from her mother's cooking to produce from an aunt and uncle's farm within biking distance. The seeds of her appreciation for good food and how to grow it were obviously sown in her childhood years.

In 1973, Patti moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado to ski and lived the mountain life which always included gardening. She moved to the Denver metro area in 1983, attended massage school, got married and had a “darling daughter”, gardening all the while.  Today, Patti still maintains an active Lymphatic Massage practice and teaches Yoga and Tai Chi.   If that's not enough, she is also an artist and a rug braider.

 For the past 22 years, Patti has tested and explored various gardening methods.  Now, rather than planting in our native clay soil, she has perfected the technique of gardening in raised beds.  After trying various box  sizes, Patti has found  2'x3'  wide boxes easiest to garden in.   “I am a short person with short arms.  So I either step into a 4' wide bed or fall into it!”

There are many benefits to raised bed gardening.    Soil problems such as clay soils, or soil with poor  drainage can be avoided by incorporating top soil and five percent organic matter to the native soil of a raised bed.   Soil compaction in the planting area is eliminated with walkways between beds.  By using soaker hoses or drip irrigation in a raised bed reduces  water consumption is lowered  and contained within the growing area.  Mulching raised beds with grass clippings and walkways with wood chips conserves moisture yet reduces weed growth   Raised beds heat up faster in spring, thereby  allowing earlier  planting than in an open garden.   The retained heat and protection raised beds provide allows gardening into late fall and early winter by  covering with glass, plastic or shade cloth .   These benefits  along with higher yields, raised bed gardening is also an  ideal  gardening method for small yards and is handicapped accessible.

 Many of Patti 's raised beds become test plot boxes for new varieties. Her property also supports several different fruit trees, one of which she has experimentally grafted. Patti has continued her explorations by planting cover crops in the winter used as green mulch.  Succession planting and storage varieties of fruit and veggies provide an extended harvest.

Patti's raised bed gardens and a 20'x20' community garden plot produce an abundance of  food. Not only does she raise food for her family, she  generously gives food to neighbors, a local food bank and all  visitors. “No one leaves my home without something from the garden.” Family and friends can hardly wait for Christmas time when they receive  Patti's  gift baskets of onions, garlic, sweet carrots, homemade jams, honey, and in a really good year a melon.   “You know you are special if you make it onto the melon list”.
 Gardening is obviously a life long passion for Patti Douglas, but giving is definitely a core value of this warm and generous Master Gardener.

Patti’s garden is one of the featured gardens on the Jefferson County Master Gardeners’ Home Grown Garden Tour  July 31, from 10:00 am. to 3:00 p.m.  For more information about the annual garden tour, call 303-271-6620 or check for a brochure and map of the tour.

More information about raised bed gardening can be found at .