The Vertical Vantage to Gardening for Success

My “Vertical Vantage” presentation at the Gardening for Success Conference in Cheyenne is coming up April 15. Here are the main points to inspire the Laramie County Master Gardeners to grow up:


• Maximizes garden space
• Solves design dilemmas
• Hides problems and eyesores
• Frames or directs a view
• Tames a large landscape
• Unlocks a garden’s potential



simple bamboo trellisKEY VERTICAL ELEMENTS

Arbors and trellises

Walls and fences


o Layer up, not out
o Create top, bottom, middle layers
o The middle layer is the most important
o Don’t rely on flowers alone


Garden Art


• Match plant form to function: vines, attractive flowers, climbing roses, exclamation points, tall and small perennials, skinny trees, shrubs and container plants.
• Visit and search the database for plants by type, height, hardiness, flower color, flowering season and more.




How to Grow Microgreens Indoors

Here’s a delicious indoor gardening project to keep you busy until it’s time to plant outside.

It’s easy to grow a container of microgreens indoors. If you start today, you’ll be eating fresh microgreens in about two weeks.

You’ll need these materials

  • 1 packet microgreen mix or sprouting seeds like broccoli or pea
  • 1 shallow plastic container with holes punched in the bottom (like a clear lettuce or spinach container, minus its lid)
  • 1 tray or second container to catch any excess water
  • Loose, well-draining seed starting mix or potting soil

Get growing instructions

  1. Punch holes in the bottom of the shallow container for drainage; place on tray.
  2. Fill container with several inches of soil (about 2 or 3 inches).
  3. Moisten the soil and allow excess water to drain.
  4. Scatter seeds over the top of the soil; cover with a thin layer of soil.
  5. Water gently to keep seeds from moving around in the soil.
  6. Place container on a sunny windowsill or under grow lights placed several inches above the top of the plants.
  7. Keep soil evenly moist, but not overly saturated; don’t let seeds dry out.

Look for seedlings to sprout with their first leaves in about a week.

When plants are about 2 inches tall and have one or two more sets of leaves, use scissors to clip greens.

Rinse and toss on salads, use instead of lettuce in sandwiches, sprinkle into stir fry dishes, add to omelets, or create your own special recipe.



How to Show Wild Birds Some Love

bird seed heartLove is in the air and it can swoop into your landscape with a little creative planning.

All it takes to attract wild birds to your garden is a little creative planning, especially if you can think like birds and know what they like.

I can’t imagine my garden without wild birds hopping along the path, chirping from tall trees or flying full speed across the yard.

In addition to filling feeders with different kinds of wild bird seed, I’ve planted many fruiting shrubs and perennial flowers to attract my feathered friends.

Some gardeners try to prevent sunflower seeds from sprouting in the garden, but I encourage it. Once the weather warms, masses of sunflowers spring up practically overnight–the result of filling feeders through winter. The bright yellow flowers light up the garden all summer and when the flowers fade, birds appreciate the small dried seeds that are left behind.

The seeds, fruits and flowers I plant attract a diverse group of birds. Of course there are sparrows, but I’ve seen blue jays, blackbirds, doves, finches, flickers, rock pigeons, juncos and even hawks. But each time I catch sight of a hummingbird at the Sunset hyssops (Agastache rupestris), my heart simply soars.

The tube-shaped orange flowers are a main attraction from mid-to-late summer. These hardy perennials can tolerate a dry garden once they’re established and they offer a nice root-beer like fragrance, too.

Serviceberry is a favorite shrub for the birds, especially robins. This tidy shrub is one of the first to bloom in spring and the first to provide a feast of berries. Robins also fall for the dried berries on the Virginia creeper and honeysuckle vines, too.

Another shrub that grows beautifully in my Zone 5 garden is Nanking cherry. This cold-hardy shrub features fragrant white flowers that attract bees and other pollinators in early April. Later, after the shrub is thick with green leaves, the birds and squirrels enjoy all the small sour cherries that cover the branches.

Even if your garden is a small space, like a patio or balcony, you can plant a mini-backyard habitat. Simply fill containers with a high-quality potting soil, plant with several varieties of long-blooming, nectar-rich flowers, and add a small birdbath. It won’t be long until birds start stopping by.



Happy Healthy New Gardening Year

happy face made from vegetables

January is the time of year when many folks promise they’ll change their eating habits. They resolve to make fewer stops at the fast-food drive-thru, limit the unhealthy snacks kept in the cupboard, and add more fruits and vegetables to the grocery shopping cart.

Most vegetable gardeners will tell you the easiest way to keep those promises is to plant and grow a vegetable garden.

And research backs that up.

Results from community gardening studies show that a majority of community gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables than non-gardeners. They’re more active, too.

I learned about the “Gardens Growing Healthy Communities” research project when writing an article for the February issue of Colorado Gardener newsmagazine. In that article I interviewed researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder and at Denver Urban Gardens. The research project, funded by the American Cancer Society, will help answer the question, “Can community gardening prevent cancer?”

My interest in the relationship between planting vegetables and good health continues to grow. My most recent gardening articles include planting purple vegetables for good health on the blog, growing winter onions for Out Here magazine, and planting for the health of it for GreenView’s Gardening How-to website.

This gardening season, I’ll be busy with more gardening + health related content, and you’re invited to come along to my Incredible Edible Yard class at the Denver Botanic Gardens, January 20, 2018, 10:30-12:00.

You’ll discover how to transform an ordinary yard into a beautiful and delicious foodscape. My class includes the simple steps for beautifying your landscape by adding fruits, vegetables and herbs in unexpected ways. You’ll learn how to integrate edible plants into flower beds, small spaces and other gardening places, as well as ways to replace conventional ornamental plants with appetizing alternatives. The dozens of design ideas, for yards of all sizes, can transform any ordinary landscape into a garden of eatin’.


Watch for the inaugural issue of Edible Denver magazine when it hits news stands in March. Look for my article with ideas for planting and growing a garden filled with healthy spring vegetables.



How to Have an Old-Fashioned Holiday

The plants we like to grow in our gardens hold special symbolism at Christmas time. Many of our favorite fruits, berries and nuts are much more than the sweet treats we enjoy in December. 

Dried orange slices are old-fashioned ornaments, first used because they look like little sun wheels that help brighten dark winter days.

Mistletoe, holly, and winterberries are some of the typical evergreens we use to decorate both indoors and outside. However, other plants helping with the seasonal celebration include all the exotic spices mixed into our holiday baking. Citrus fruits, nuts, berries, and herbs are also essential ingredients.

Plants that originated in far flung parts of the world found their way into our homes and our hearts at holiday time. It’s like a global celebration of the garden.

“Every plant’s history hangs like a treasured ornament from the world tree that gives us a home in the universe,” writes Christian Ratsch in the preface to his fascinating book called Pagan Christmas.

Have you ever noticed how many Christmas ornaments and decorations are either made from or made to look like apples, acorns, cranberries, popcorn, and nuts? These symbols of the garden have been used as decorations for hundreds of years because of their value as food sources in winter.

People showed their love of hazelnuts by decorating them with features and hanging them on trees to symbolize little angels. When used as Christmas decorations, walnuts were considered a symbol of both fertility and immortality.

Oranges, pomegranates and lemons also have a long history of being used at holiday time. These fruits originated in the Mediterranean region and represented their grower’s prospects for a good harvest for the year.

Orange pomander balls, decorated with whole cloves, added fragrance to freshen the air when hung from mantels and trees. Dried orange slices are still fashioned into ornaments because they look like little sun wheels that help brighten dark winter days.

As you get ready to celebrate the holidays, think about all the plants that bring us so much joy this time of the year: vanilla, cinnamon, chile peppers, cloves, anise, cardamom, and most especially the cocoa fruit and all its many forms of chocolate.



Rosa Blanca Brothers Win 2017 Weird Veggie Contest

Two eggplants with personality from North Carolina take the top prize in the 2017 Weird Veggie & Funny Fruit contest. Congratulations to Romelle Peterson for growing these guys! 

Weird Veggie winner 2017

“You mess with the little red guys, you mess with the Rosa Blanca Brothers!!”

Romelle also deserves special recognition for entering this tomato that looks like a catcher’s mitt. And another tomato that resembles a Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle. There sure must be something funny in that North Carolina water!

“Strike 3 ‘Mater!”

Second place goes to this crazy crop of carrots from Utah gardener Nancy Dixon:

Knot quite sure what these carrots had in mind.”

The third place winner is this optimistic tomato grown by Philip Fei in his New Jersey garden:

“Thumbs up from my tomato!”


Thanks to all the good-natured vegetable gardeners who entered this year’s contest! Entries came from around the country and included odd apples, twisted carrots, curly chile peppers, an inside out tomato, a pepper with ears and more. Some will surely end up in the Weird Veggie & Funny Fruit Hall of Fame.

The winner gets the grand prize of a selection of top gardening books and other gardening goodies. The runners-up receive a selection of vegetable and herb seed packets to get a start on their weird veggies for next season.

See you next year!



Got Weird Veggies or Funny Fruit for 2017?

It’s time for the ninth annual Weird Veggie & Funny Fruit photo contest sponsored by! The contest celebrates all the oddball produce grown in vegetable gardens, like these Pepper Pants. (See past winners: Weird Veggie & Funny Fruit Hall of Fame.)

Anything funny growing in your garden?  Here’s how to enter:

  1. The contest begins on August 21 and ends September 22 at 10:00 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time.
  2. Send (in focus) digital photos of your home-grown, crazy-looking fruit or vegetable to Jodi @ A limit of 3 images per person, please.
  3. Give each entry a silly descriptive name; include your city and state; the contest is open to gardeners residing in the U.S.
  4. The winner will be notified by email on September 25.
  5. First place gets the top prize; runners up receive something, too.

By entering the the 2017 Weird Veggie & Funny Fruit contest, you grant permission to use the submitted photos for promotional purposes during or after the contest, with attribution, but without compensation. For more information, post your question here or email Jodi @



Are You America’s Best Gardener?

boot blog

Could you be one of America’s Best Gardeners?

Maybe! That’s if you’re willing to enter your indoor garden, ornamental garden or vegetable garden in the 2017 America’s Best Gardener contest, sponsored by Seedlingers.

Not sure your garden can stand up to the competition? Perhaps a $10,000 grand prize will convince you to enter!

America’s Best Gardener is the premier event for recognizing and celebrating the talents of gardeners from across the country. And I’m pleased to say I’ll be one of the judges deciding the three top winners from this season’s photo entries.

Even though it’s early in the year, the contest is already open for entries. All the rules and details are on the Americas Best Gardener website.

Be sure to watch for more information and updates here as the season grows on.

Good luck, Gardeners!



Happy New Gardening Year 2017


Welcome to 2017 and a brand new gardening year. What plans do you have for the coming season?

A snowy start to the new year is a good time to brew a cup of tea and spend a few minutes thinking about the garden. Perhaps some of my latest ideas will help inspire you:

This week I wrote about one of the newest trends in preserving the harvest, although it’s also one of the oldest. My post at may help you find new ways to stick to this year’s resolutions or it might help you find new ways to prepare the next bumper crop of zucchini as you Resolve to Enjoy Fermented Vegetables in the New Year.

If you’re contemplating what to do with your winter landscape, this post on my Lowe’s Mountain Region blog gives tips for taking care of trees and perennials during the winter. In Winter Gardening Helps Protect Trees and Plants, I’ve also included ways to enjoy the beauty of your winter garden.

If you’re looking for a way to chase the winter blues away, try growing citrus trees indoors. A Living Gift for the Holidays, written for Nick’s Garden Center, includes all the best practices for growing dwarf fruit trees.

Another blog post I wrote for Nick’s is How to Create Winter Container Gardens. It’s not too late to use your creativity to fill an empty container or two to keep the patio from looking so bleak. If the container soil is frozen, simply warm it up with some boiling water and then add your greenery to enhance the scenery.



Gravenstein Apple wins 2016 Weird Veggie Contest

How ’bout them apples?!

A double Gravenstein apple put the Funny into the 2016 Weird Veggie & Funny Fruit contest sponsored by

Rena DeMello of Corvallis, Oregon, grew this apple in the small orchard on her mini-farm. The contest judge thought the picture of her apple still on the tree looked like a “friendly alien” with its two “eyes” and smirky grin.

Rena’s “pear” of apples was likely caused by two ovules that formed on the same flower. Horticultural experts say that cool temperatures while plants are flowering are often the cause of funny-looking fruits like this one.

There were plenty of funny fruits and weird veggie entries in this year’s contest. All the entries celebrated the wonderful oddball produce gardeners find in their gardens around the U.S. and Canada.

Here are the runners-up for 2016:



Second place in the contest goes to Apri Hitchcot, grown by Kathy McGuire of La Grande, Oregon.

Her apricot with what looks like a prominent nose bears a resemblance to the famous director known for his rotund profile.


Third place goes to the pepper that wanted to be a mushroom, grown by Aaron Watkins of Hueytown, Alabama.


Special recognition, and a place in the Weird Veggie & Funny Fruit Hall of Fame, goes to Edward Carrothands. Ashton King grew this six-fingered purple carrot in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

I think you’ll agree this is one of the craziest carrots to ever get pulled from a vegetable garden!

Thanks to all the gardeners who submitted their weird entries for this year’s contest. It was one of the best in terms of the diversity of fruits and vegetable entries — and the types of environmental conditions that caused their super-silly shapes.

Keep planting and growing! Here’s hoping you’ll find something weird in your vegetable garden next season!



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