There’s a lot going on in my basement these days.
The eggplant and pepper seeds have germinated and the tiny plants are shedding their seed coat to show off their seed leaves. As these cotyledons grow, they’ll form their first “true leaves.”
The tomato seeds I carefully saved at the end of last season will be starting soon, too. Because tomato seeds take less time to sprout and grow than the eggplant and peppers, I like to wait a little longer.
The weather in spring is so unpredictable, it’s best to wait until the night-time temperatures have settled into a reliable 55 degrees before planting. Warm-season vegetables do best when they get off to a good start early in the season.
If you haven’t started your seeds yet, now’s the time. Plan ahead to give your eggplants and pepper seeds some bottom heat with a heating mat. These seeds will sprout quickly if they’re warm enough.
It was six years ago when I hit “publish” for the first time on WesternGardeners.com. It was a big moment then because there weren’t many gardening blogs around and certainly not many focused on gardening in such a challenging climate.
A lot has happened with my garden writing since then. Is it too much of a painful pun to say things have really grown around here?
Last year was one of the busiest for me, and it showed in the limited number of posts I wrote here.
But I had some good reasons:
Wrote another gardening book. Storey Publishing says Blue-Ribbon Vegetable Gardening will be ready for gardeners at the beginning of next year. I worked many long hours to write a book on how to grow perfect produce, and it was perfect fun to travel to the Alaska State Fair to watch the giant cabbage weighoff and get pictures for the book
The Emerald Ash Borer, first discovered in Boulder in 2013, is considered the most destructive pest in North America.
The future looks bleak for ash trees in the South Platte drainage area of Colorado.
The tiny Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is such a destructive insect pest that it will most likely ruin the urban forest as it destroys unprotected ash trees in our area.
EAB has caused the death or decline of tens of millions of ash trees in 20 states. Now it’s in Colorado.
First discovered in Boulder in 2013, EAB most likely found its way to Colorado from the Midwest in a load of firewood. So far, Colorado is the farthest state west where the EAB has traveled, according to Dr. Whitney Cranshaw of Colorado State University.
“It’s a real tragedy because it will ruin an urban forest species in an extinction event,” he says.
Are you looking for a sweet treat to give your favorite gardener on Valentine’s Day?
It’s easy to put together a lovely gift made of vegetable and herb seeds that either have a sweet-sounding name, have a sweet taste—or both.
Valentine mesclun is an assortment of colorful lettuce that can be planted before the last frost. This mix will make an attractive and delicious salad with seven red lettuces, like Red Oak Leaf, Red Salad Bowl, Rouge d’Hiver and Ruben’s Red. (Botanical Interests)
Oregon Sugar Pod peas are another sweet addition to the cool-season garden. Plant these organic seeds as soon as the soil can be worked and you’ll be enjoying these tender snow peas in about 60 days. (BBB Seeds)
A sweet melon called Hearts of Gold is fragrant and delicious. These cantaloupes prefer warm weather so they can be planted a few weeks after the last spring frost. This is an early-season cultivar that matures in about 75 days. (Lake Valley)
What’s new in gardening this year? Here are some interesting ideas I saw at the ProGreen Expo last week. ProGreen is the premier Rocky Mountain regional green industry conference held annually in Denver.
Expanded shale is the new way to amend clay soil. When incorporated into soil, the expanded shale improves soil drainage, but it can also hold water during drought. The light-weight shale doesn’t break down like organic soil amendments so it should last for many years in the landscape or even in containers. Gardeners should be able to buy either in bulk or 40 pound bags from local nurseries or soil suppliers.
The dreaded Emerald Ash Borer has found its way into Colorado, and any gardener who has an ash tree should be concerned. The Expo had quite a few booths dedicated to either new tools for detecting EAB, treatments for trees, or general information about this destructive insect. One of the main concerns from gardeners is how to treat trees without harming beneficial insects and the environment. Some products, like TreeAzin from Canada, claim to be safer than other treatments. Gardeners should wait until EAB is found within 15 miles of their ash trees before taking action.
My new Craftsy class has launched! Vegetable Gardening: Innovative Small Space Solutions is designed to help gardeners at all skill levels find creative ways to make the most of their growing space.
I’m so excited to introduce my new vegetable gardening class to you!
I’ve partnered with Craftsy, the online educational provider, to create a seven-part class on how to grow vegetables and herbs in small spaces.
This class is everything I’ve learned through trial and error on growing small-space vegetable gardens. After you finish the class, you’ll be able to grow your own fresh vegetables and herbs just about anywhere.
Learn how to assess the sunlight to find the best planting spot, discover the joys of growing in containers, find ways to grow up and use your vertical space, select the best vegetables and herbs for sunny and shady spots, apply methods to keep your vegetable garden happy and healthy, and find ways to grow fresh herbs indoors.
Gardeners from the U.S., Canada and the U.K. submitted entries for the 6th Annual Weird Veggie and Funny Fruit Contest.
A pair of overly friendly carrots grown in Lonsdale, Minn., captured the top prize and lasting fame in the annual Weird Veggie Contest. Shannon Price’s entry called “Happy Hugging Carrots” is the winner of this year’s contest.
Our contest judge, Geri Koncilja, spent the weekend mulling over the contestants from the U.S. before deciding on the top three places. Geri has provided her expertise as judge for the Weird Veggie and Funny Fruit Contest since it began in 2009. Here’s what she has to say about the top three finishers:
Happy Hugging Carrots grown by Shannon Price
“I found this one appealing and a little juicy.”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for gardeners–the 6th Annual Weird Veggie & Funny Fruit Contest sponsored by WesternGardeners.com!
What’s in your garden?
If you’ve grown a potato that looks like Mickey Mouse, a tomato shaped like a duck or a heart-shaped raspberry, you need to share it with the world.
Don’t miss your chance for some official accolades!
Every August since 2009 I’ve asked gardeners across the country to send in digital images of the crazy fruits and vegetables they pull from their gardens.
These little surprises are just one reason why gardening is so much fun.
They’ve shared pictures of intertwined carrots, eggplants with noses (and private parts), winking tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables that show what a great sense of humor Mother Nature really has.
Last year I plucked these three tomatoes from the vines of several San Marzano tomato plants. I can usually explain why a certain fruit is malformed, but these three have me stumped.
WesternGardeners.com will help usher in spring at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, presented by Mariano’s Blooms March 15-23, 2014.
Gardeners at any level can learn about the latest, hottest plants, products and ideas for beautifying their green spaces at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, presented by Mariano’s from March 15-23, 2014 at Navy Pier.
I’m so pleased to be part of the action.
I’ll be presenting my Edible Spaces in Small Places program on Sunday.
I’m just a small part of the show that includes two-dozen stunning featured gardens, a full-scale “Marketplace” filled with leading industry suppliers, nationally-recognized experts conducting sensational seminars, “Garden Gourmet” events featuring top chefs, a “Kids Activity Garden,” and amazing, professionally-decorated “Tablescapes” of outdoor beauty brought to your dining table.
The idea of planting in small places fits perfectly with this year’s show theme: ‘Do Green. Do Good.’
The results of my grafted tomato trials last summer may help you decide if you want to plant grafted varieties in your garden this year.
When I planted my tomato garden early last June, I wasn’t sure what kind of tomato season it would be. The winter and early spring lacked any measurable precipitation and the cool night-time temperatures delayed planting by several weeks.
It seemed like perfect timing to conduct a side-by-side trial of grafted and ungrafted tomatoes.
Harris Seeds invited me to participate in another round of home garden trials and the company sent three varieties of tomato plants to grow in my garden. There were grafted and ungrafted San Marzano, Pink Brandywine and Cherokee Purple.
Summary of Results
The San Marzano grafted tomato plant produced more tomatoes than the ungrafted plant.
The Pink Brandywine ungrafted tomato produced more than the grafted plant.