Vegetable Gardening

Plant for Pollinators During National Pollinator Week

swallowtail on zinniaHappy National Pollinator Week to you!

It’s time to celebrate all that pollinators do for gardeners by doing all we can for pollinators.

Insect pollinators, like honey bees and butterflies, do much of the important work in our gardens. They fertilize plants by feeding on or walking through flowers, moving pollen from one part of the plant to another.

It’s estimated that 80 percent of plant fertilization depends on pollinators. Without their help we wouldn’t have much in the way of the fine fruits and vegetables we grow in our gardens.

Pollinators need our help to stay healthy and active. Are the bees buzzing, butterflies floating, and hummingbirds darting from flower to flower in your garden? Whether on a tiny balcony, small patio or large backyard garden, you need to encourage activity by planting flowers that provide nectar and pollen all season, from early spring to first frost.

Organic Gardening Tip Protects Cucumber Seedlings

plastic berry boxI hate it when something eats my cucumbers before I do. Especially before they even get the chance to grow into those cool fruits.

Cucumber seedlings are especially attractive to garden pests, but I think I’ve found a simple, organic gardening method to outsmart the hungry critters, like cutworms and birds.

Last season, the trouble cropped up right after planting the seeds.

I’d soak the seeds overnight to soften them a bit for planting, then I’d prepare the garden bed, plant the seeds, and celebrate seeing the first seedlings pop up from the ground.

The next day their heads would be missing, leaving a tiny stalk standing.

My first thought was that cutworms were feasting on the cucumber seedlings, so I tried protecting them with collars, toothpicks, and other homemade guards.

But when these defenses failed, I knew I had other pests, probably birds and squirrels were snacking on the seedlings.

Organic Gardening Tips for Slugs

slug treatmentsBe on the lookout for slugs in your garden.

The rainy weather is sure to bring out these slimy critters. Slugs may look like harmless pinkish-blobs of goo, but they can cause a lot damage in the garden.

These disgusting pests usually appear in my garden after prolonged periods of rainy weather.

It can sometimes be difficult to find slugs because they do their damage overnight and hide out during the daylight hours. You can use a flashlight to go slug hunting at night or look for slugs along plant stems and under leaves in the early morning hours.

You can also search for their clusters of clear, round eggs by looking under rocks.

Slugs will feast on anything from vegetable and flower seedlings to ripe fruit. I’ve even found their telltale chewing damage on ornamental plants. Look for missing leaves or irregularly-shaped holes on the edges or in the middle of leaves.

How to Save Money While Gardening

Small budget gardenerLandscape designer, horticulturist and author Maureen Gilmer’s book, The Small Budget Gardener: All the Dirt on Saving Money in Your Garden hit the bookstores a few years ago, but her frugal gardening advice will never go out of style.

In fact, you can snatch up a copy of her book at a bargain, too. I found new and used copies of this great little guide on Amazon for under $1 (plus shipping).

The Small Budget Gardener will appeal to any gardener who wants to save money on gardening. And that describes just about every gardener I’ve ever met. Who isn’t looking for ways to find inexpensive or free alternatives for soil amendments, tools, seeds, plants and garden structures?

The author writes from her own money-saving experiences and recommends all gardeners pretend they live 30 miles from town, as she once did. That means every trip to the store to buy gardening gear is carefully considered before hopping in the car.

How to Grow Vegetables in Small Gardens

vegetable and flower basketWhen people tell me they wish they had the space to grow a vegetable garden, I always respond the same way:

If you have a small sunny space, you can grow just about anything you want.

I’ve learned this is true after many years of experimenting with small-space gardening. My growing experiments have taught me that plants will grow just about anywhere, if gardeners give them what they need.

Need proof? Last spring I planted a complete flower and vegetable garden in hanging basket. I recycled a hanging basket from a previous season and filled it with two kinds of flowers, a yellow cherry tomato plant and a big bunch of fernleaf dill.

The basket was beautifully delicious!

If you think you don’t have the space for a vegetable garden, think again. Look for a sunny spot on your patio, deck, balcony, backyard, front yard or wherever you have a small garden space. If you don’t have a spot on the ground, look up. The sun might hit a spot on the fence or a strong wall for a hanging container like mine.

Save Water with Container Gardening

container gardenGardeners in drought-stricken areas are wondering if they should plant a vegetable garden this season.

It’s a good question because research shows that up to 60 percent of household water is used outside.

And up to 40-50 percent of that water is wasted because of inefficient irrigation systems and methods.

I live in a part of the country that experiences cyclical droughts, so I’ve had plenty of time to rethink my outside water use.

I work hard to make sure every drop of water is put to good use, so my advice to gardeners struggling with that question is to go ahead and plant. But first come up with a plan for using less water in the garden.

One of the best ways I’ve found to save water is by planting in containers instead of an in-ground garden. I’ve found that container planting works in just about any small space garden, it’s more convenient, it saves gardening time, the containers are portable and they’re easier to maintain.

Start the Gardening Season with the New Edition of The Colorado Gardener’s Companion

Colo Gardener's Comp 2nd Ed Final Cover 72ppi blog The second edition of my first book is ready in time for gardening season!

I worked over the winter months to fill this new edition with more of everything to help Colorado gardeners grow great gardens starting now.

The Denver Post newspaper calls the new edition of my gardening book an “an essential manual” for gardeners.

What’s new in edition two?

The new edition features a colorful cover image of one of my flowerbeds from last summer.

That image, taken by John Pendleton, shows off some of the annuals and perennials that grow in one of the hottest, driest parts of my backyard.

In addition to a new look, there’s more of everything else, too! Since the first edition was published in 2007, a lot has changed in the wonderful world of gardening.

So I updated all of the information, included new technologies, expanded plant lists, added new resources and included about nine more inspiring gardens to visit.

How to Start Vegetable Seeds for Gardening

pepper seed sprouting 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.

Thanks for Six Years of Reading

Flower gardenIt was six years ago when I hit “publish” for the first time on 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

Sweet Seeds to Love for Vegetable Gardening

ValentinesAre 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)

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