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The Garden in July

By A Year in the Garden, Education

by Senior Education Specialist Judy Elliott

July is one of the hottest months in Denver, with temperatures ranging from the mid to high 90s during the daytime to lows in the 60s at nights. There are some years in which we are lucky enough to receive a bit of moisture from monsoon rains, but this is a sporadic occurrence. Humidity is generally very low, making it seem ‘hot and dry’ throughout the month.

Additionally, daylight hours, after the vernal equinox in June are decreasing, with a loss of about 45 minutes from the beginning to the end of July. Since plants use sunlight, with the process of photosynthesis to produce food in the form of sugars and starches, that accumulate in the leaves, they begin to react to light changes in many ways. Some exhibit signs of stress by sending up seed -stalks, signaling the end of their lives, others send out chemical signals that seem to magically attract pest insects, others slow down their growth and seem more prone to diseases.

This is a month of transition, providing moments of reflection that allow us to evaluate our current garden plan, proactively plan for renewal of soil and spirit, and actively learn from our environment. 

L |Leap into learning 

E| Evaluate your current plantings and soil conditions

  • Realize that all plants have a life cycle, seed to maturity, and respect their needs. 
  • Replace cool-season crops such as salad greens, peas, and radish with beans
  • Consider planting one more summer squash seed to provide strong growth that may resist late-season diseases
  • Renew straw or leaf mulch as needed to prevent erosion, soil compaction, and lessen the effects of diseases. Remove lower leaves & secondary stems from tomato plants so no branches or leaves touch the soil surface.
    • Water that splashes onto lower leaves which may be showing leaf spots or other signs of disease can transmit diseases to the foliage above.

A | Arm yourself with strategies that allow your plants to survive in the heat 

  • Keep plants growing actively with sufficient leaf cover to prevent ‘sunscald’ of unprotected fruit
  • Use kelp (liquid seaweed) either as a foliar (leaf) spray or soil drench to provide a supply of micronutrients to stressed plants
  • Space warm-season crops such as squash far enough apart so that mature leaves act as a ‘living mulch’, shading the root zone.

R | Replant crops that are no longer productive + renew the soil

  • As peas become unproductive, cut off vines at soil level & leave their roots in the soil to feed the microorganisms. The vines can either be chopped & used in the compost pile or left around crops as a mulch
  • Plant a second crop of beans in place of salad greens and radishes that were removed. Beans, such as peas, add nitrogen to the soil
  • Plant summer cover crops, such as buckwheat, that are a haven for beneficial insects and promote soil health. Before they ‘set seed’, cut stalks down at ground level, leaving roots in the soil
  • ‘Top dress’ all crops with handfuls of landscape-based compost, lightly cultivating it into the soil at the base of plants

N | Nourish your spirit by slowing down and creating peaceful places of reflection

  • Bring in a bale of straw or old chair to create a peaceful place that encourages you to visit more frequently
  • Add artistic touches (painted rocks as plant markers, colorful flowers, unusual trellises, or growing containers) that feed your soul

Do remember that gardening is a process, not a race, not a contest. Your role is to nurture, give back and, hopefully not repeat the same mistake each year.

Quick Garden Tips

  • Consider the use of ‘shadecloth’ over your tomato cages for a few hours during the heat of the day. Shadecloth is permeable to light and water but a strategy that aims to limit the burning effects of late afternoon sun intensity. The cloth can be attached to tomato cages with clothespins
  • Handpick Japanese beetles in the early morning hours, when they are more sluggish, and drown them in buckets of soapy water. They are also a preferred culinary delight for chickens! 

Live virtual Q + A with Jungle Judy is back!

By Education, News

Last year during COVID, we started a virtual Q + A series with our own Senior Education Specialist ‘Jungle Judy’ Elliott to an overwhelmingly positive response! So we’re bringing the series back!

Our live Q + As through Zoom allows you to bring Judy right into your garden to get your gardening questions answered, seek troubleshooting tips, and get best practices for organic gardening in the heat of the summer.

REGISTER FOR A Q + A SESSION

Weed Identification

By Education

Now that it’s heating up and we’ve had a lot of rain, our gardens – and weeds! – are flourishing. Learn how to identify common weeds and how to ensure that they are organically managed for maximum production in your garden!

The Garden in June

By A Year in the Garden, Education

by Senior Education Specialist Judy Elliott

June, a month in which temperatures range between the mid-80s during the day to mid-50s at night, is a prime month for growing most garden veggies, flowers, and herbs. Rain is usually low to non-existent, with humidity also low. It basically is beginning to feel ‘hot and dry,’ and early spring-planted crops, such as salad greens, are approaching the limits of their preferred growing conditions.

You can extend their lifetime by picking outer leaves for your meals, a process that stimulates the growth of new, inner leaves. After a time, however, they develop a bitter taste, signaling that their ‘edible’ journey is ending. In the case of spinach, which matures in less than 40 days, the shape of its leaves changes from broad and rounded to one that resembles an ‘arrowhead’. Shortly after those ‘weird’ leaves begin to grow, the plant sends up a stalk that soon opens into flowers and then seed-heads as pollination occurs. You will notice the same process with lettuce.

It’s helpful to know that although our veggies provide copious quantities of nutritious meals, their true purpose in life is really to produce seeds for a new generation. Respect their life cycle and continue to provide the conditions that allow your June garden to flourish.

F |Feed the soil, yourself, and your community 

  • For a garden to flourish, continue to attend to the soil community. Make sure you have distinct ‘walkways’ within your plot to minimize soil compaction
  • Consider planting cover crops such as buckwheat that can enrich growing conditions for roots and, additionally, feed soil micro-organisms

L| Learn new gardening techniques

  • In June, all crops should be mulched, both cool and warm season. Use straw, any remaining fall leaves, even weeds that have not gone to seed. Mulched soil decreases the effects of erosion that occurs from strong winds and overhead watering, moderates soil temperatures, and, additionally, can lead to fewer problems from diseases later in the season.
  • Try planting small amounts of romaine lettuce (more heat tolerant than most other varieties), near bush beans. The beans provide needed shade for the ‘greens’ and, additionally provide a source of nitrogen for their neighbors.

O | Opportunities abound

  • Surround yourself with flowers and herbs that nourish soil, provide homes for beneficial insects, and repel pests. Buckwheat, planted between rows of crop, is used as a ‘cover crop’ to enrich soil. Cut it down prior to flowering, leaving its foliage & stems on the soil surface as a mulch & roots in the soil to feed the microorganisms.
  • Asters, zinnias, marigolds, chamomile & dill have flowers that provide nectar & pollen for beneficial insects that then lay their eggs on the plants. The larvae are fierce predators of pests
  • Garlic and onions have strong oils in their leaves that help to repel pest insects

U | Understand connections between basic organic gardening practices and thriving crops

  • Take a ‘preventative’ instead of a ‘reactive, crisis’ approach. Healthy soils really do provide the foundation for a bounteous harvest. There is no magic bullet that substitutes for deeply–rooted crops, properly spaced, watered at the base of the plants, and mulched to cover bare soil. Begin to envision your plot as a balanced, diverse micro-community

R | Practice season-wide renewal 

  • Replenish the soil environment by lightly spreading handfuls of compost (‘top–dressing’) around all crops on a monthly basis. Carefully use a hand trowel or garden hoe to scratch it into the soil (pulling back mulch if necessary). 
  • Replant early beans with a second crop, plant another summer squash seed by the end of the month
  • Remove early spring crops that are no longer actively producing 
  • Pinch back basil to delay flowering

I | Imagine the possibilities

  • Investigate the wealth of knowledge in your community gardens, neighborhood, or DUG’s ‘Mighty Network’ gardening platform
  • Investigate the life cycles of garden insects by ‘turning over a leaf’ and noticing the variety of eggs and larvae that call the shady surface ‘home’.
  • Feel the difference between soil that is covered by mulch and areas that are exposed to constant overhead watering and the effects of wind and erosion. Mulched crops are healthier.

S | Simplify your gardening season

  • Grow what you like to eat, can preserve or share with others. Don’t try to mimic the variety of crops shown in seed catalogs. Be realistic with your efforts, fine-tuning your expectations with the amount of time you can devote to nurturing the space on a regular basis
  • Cultivate garden ‘buddies’ who can help with seasonal tasks and/or jointly grow sprawling crops such as cucumbers or winter squash

H | Handle challenges with humility

  • Resolve to treat every step in the growing process as a learning opportunity. The best gardeners ask questions, recruit help from others and celebrate their journey as a life-long experience of giving back more than they take

Garden Tip

Create Opportunities to Linger!

Colorful flowers not only provide gathering places for beneficial insects but also stimulate our senses with visual and olfactory messages that encourage us to ‘stay awhile’. As we spend more time in our plots, we begin to notice early signs of insect damage or disease and can more easily attend to management strategies.  Consider using small tree stumps, straw bales, or even old folding chairs in your plot to custom design your ‘home away from home.’

Water Conservation in Community Gardens

By Education, Grow a Garden, Summer

Colorado has the fourth fastest-growing population in the United States.1 At the same time, Coloradans use 208 gallons of water every day, while the average national per capita water use is 179 gallons per day.2 In Denver, landscape irrigation accounts for 55% of residential water use, and the EPA estimates that more than 50% of water used in outdoor landscapes is wasted due to poor irrigation practices.3,4 Because of the enormous potential for improvement, water conservation programs often target outdoor water use.

Denver Urban Gardens encourages community gardeners to take water conservation into their own hands by watering smarter.

The first step is becoming aware of how we use water and how water is used by the soil and plants. In the vegetable garden, we can follow a few simple guidelines and become experts at reading our plants and environmental indicators so that we use just the right amount of water, no more and no less.

Water when the plants and soil need it, not out of habit.

With the exception of the beginning of the season when young plants and seeds are establishing themselves, vegetable gardens should only need to be watered 2-3 times per week. Even in the heat of summer, gardens do not need to be watered daily. Though it may not be intuitive, we are actually watering the soil, not our plants. Plants absorb water through their roots in the soil, and plant roots grow towards water in the soil. When a gardener provides smaller amounts of water on a frequent basis, the roots have no reason to expand into a strong, expansive system. This practice can be very detrimental to plant growth and is an ineffective use of water. The smarter technique is to water less frequently, but deeper. This practice, especially employed early in the growing season, encourages plants to grow deeper roots that will help them to maintain strength during the hotter, dryer periods later in the growing season.

In the heat of the day, plants may look droopy, and soil often looks dry from the surface. Before going straight to the hose, take a moment to dig into the soil to determine if the buried soil is as dry as the surface. If so, it’s time to water. Before doing so, use a hand tool to lightly break up the crusty surface of the soil between plants so that water can easily penetrate. This can be done on a weekly basis to encourage soil health throughout the season.

Get to know your soil.

Water must first be able to enter the given soil, and then the soil must have the capacity to hold the water so that it is available for the plants. Clay soils are dense which makes it difficult for water to enter the soil. Once water does percolate into the soil, clay soils will hold water much better than sandy soils. Water percolates through sandy soil very quickly, but also dries out faster, so plants will require more frequent watering. Learn more about how to determine what soil texture your garden has here.

Whether you have clay or sandy soil, adding compost breaks up dense clay soils making it easier for water to penetrate and improves the water holding capacity of sandy soils. Soil enriched with compost can result in a 20% decrease in water usage. Add 1-2 inches of compost to the garden in the springtime.

Water by hand.

The EPA estimates that gardeners who water by hand use 33% less water than those who use automated irrigation systems.5 Hand watering allows gardeners to respond to changing soil moisture conditions as watering occurs. For instance, when water begins to pool on the surface, stop watering. Wait for the pool to disappear and then try watering again. If the soil accepts the water, then continue watering until water has penetrated just beyond the root level. You may need to dig around with your hands initially to get a sense of how much water is needed for your soil. This practice uses water more efficiently by getting water into the target area, which reduces fugitive water and is more beneficial to plant health. Be sure to target water towards the soil at the base of the plants, being careful not to water the plant’s foliage.

Reduce water loss.

Evaporation is water loss from the soil surface and transpiration is water loss from the plants’ foliage. To limit evapotranspiration (ET), plan your garden so that the leaves of mature plants are just barely touching. This limits the amount of exposed soil that is susceptible to evaporation. Mulch so that you have little to no soil exposed on the surface. Mulch reduces the amount of soil exposed and in turn reduces the amount of water needed, particularly in sandy soils. Newspapers, straw (my personal favorite), dry grass clippings that have not been treated with chemicals are all relatively inexpensive and free mulch options. As mulch decomposes, it increases the organic content of the soil, which provides a consistent source of nutrients throughout the season. ET is highest during the heat of the day. Watering before 10am or after 6pm allows plants to better access the water provided to them, opposed to the water evaporating before it gets down into the plants’ root zones. Water loss can also occur from loose hose connections. Make sure to tighten your hoses and use o-rings in the base of the hose so that water isn’t dripping unnecessarily. O-rings can fall out of hoses or dry up in our climate, but replacements can be purchased at any hardware store.

So this summer, push your plants to their limits. It will make them stronger in the long run. Water deeply, only 2-3 times each week. Challenge your fellow gardeners to model responsible gardening practices by collectively using as little water as possible. For example, set up a watering schedule for common areas in your community garden so that overwatering does not occur. Water conservation will help your garden have less weeds, lower water bills, and help to maintain a positive image of community gardens across the city. Every drop saved is one more drop saved for a time when we may need it even more than now.

Sources:

1 http://www.census.gov/popest/data/state/totals/2011/index.html

2 http://wwa.colorado.edu/western_water_law/docs/CO_WatandGrowth_NRLC.pdf

3 http://denverwater.org/SupplyPlanning/WaterUse/

4,5 http://www.epa.gov/greenhomes/ConserveWater.htm#landscaping

Click here to read DUG’s general guide on water conservation in gardens.

Click here to return to the Spring 2012 edition of The Underground News.

Creating a Paradise for Pollinators

By Education, Grow a Garden, Summer

Bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, wasps, beetles, flies, and even bats are some of our most important pollinators. As they visit different plant species, collecting nectar and pollen to provide nutrition for their offspring, they provide important services to both plants and humans.

Flowering plants complete their life cycle, producing seeds and fruits with the help of these important visitors. To encourage their feeling at ‘home’, we can create a habitat to support them, offering their preferred food, water, shelter and space.

Some important things to consider include:

Creating season-wide food sources targeted to your pollinators

Provide nutrition throughout the season by planting flowers that bloom from early spring through fall. Consider perennial and annual flowers with different colors, shapes and sizes, including ones with tubular or bell shapes, in addition to flat surfaces to attract the widest variety of pollinators. Local plants (the natives), match the needs of nearby pollinators. Many of the double hybrid flowers have pollen, nectar, and even scent bred out of them and are not as attractive to local pollinators.

Plant in clumps, rather than individual plants to make it easier for pollinators to find their food source. Planting several varieties of milkweed will provide treasured habitat and food source for the endangered Monarch butterfly. Many commercial agriculture operations use genetically engineered crops, virtually eliminating large stands of milkweed that were previously available for these beautiful butterflies. Simple strategies like planting parsley and allowing it to flower will provide habitat for the Black Swallowtail butterfly. Consider utilizing trees, native ornamental grasses, and groundcovers which all offer nesting, resting and shade benefits for a pollinator habitat.

Eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides

The over usage of chemicals has contributed to the decline of pollinators, with systemic insecticides that are absorbed within plant tissue being most dangerous. The number one threat to pollinators is ‘neonicotinoid’ or ‘neonic’ pesticides. Not only are they most toxic to bees, butterflies, and other insects, but they’re systemic. When applied, these poisons make their way throughout the entire plant, including the pollen and nectar.  Provide a safe haven in your habitat by practicing ‘regenerative gardening,’ using the basic principles of organic gardening and sustainability. 

Instead of chemical fertilizers that can pollute our water supply, use compost to provide a season-wide supply of major and minor nutrients. Compost-enriched soils promote deeply rooted plants that use water more efficiently, feed soil microorganisms, and ultimately lead to healthy soil, healthy food (and pollinators) and healthy people.

Cover the soil with mulches and cover crops

Use straw, alfalfa, and cover crops such as buckwheat or crimson clover to provide a blanket to cover and protect the soil. As cover crops begin to flower, they are highly attractive to pollinators for nectar and pollen and, additionally, provide areas for shelter. Diverse heights and seasonal plantings of cover crops offer appropriate homes for beneficial insects.

Create nesting sites

A garden that is ‘overly neat’ is not as attractive to pollinators as one that respects the nesting and shelter needs of its visitors. 

Pollinators such as ‘ground bees’ need access to the soil surface as they excavate nest tunnels in sunny patches of bare ground. Grassy patches provide nesting for bumblebees and other insects to overwinter. Many native bees use abandoned beetle tunnels in logs, stumps, and branches and even chew out the centers of dead raspberry canes to establish nests.

Provide water sources

Shallow birdbaths filled with small pebbles or rocks help to provide ‘landing spaces’ for small bees to gain a needed source of water.

Be sure to empty and refill these frequently to prevent stagnant water, which attracts mosquitos.

Plant suggestions

Early season:

  • Trees: Fruit trees such as apple pear, peach, plum
  • Shrubs: Serviceberry, Sulphur flower
  • Perennial flowers: Penstemons, yarrow, blue flax, wallflower

Mid-season:

  • Trees: Black locust, linden, honeylocust
  • Shrubs: leadplant, chokecherry
  • Perennial flowers: Asters, Showy milkweed, blanket flower, salvias, harebells, coneflowers
  • Annual flowers & herbs: marigolds, zinnias, bachelor buttons, dill, cilantro

Late season:

  • Shrubs: Rabbitbrush
  • Perennial flowers: Rocky mountain bee -plant, Blue giant hyssop, goldenrod, plains coreopsis
  • Annual flowers: All sunflowers

Taking small steps to diversify your plantings, decrease or eliminate the usage of pesticides and chemical fertilizers and create a habitat oasis that welcomes our pollinator friends is an earth-friendly strategy that connects us to the broader efforts to step lightly upon the land and recognize our part in the interconnected matrix of pollinators, food, and sustainable landscapes.

The Garden in May

By A Year in the Garden, Education

by Senior Education Specialist Judy Elliott

May, one of our main planting months, has our temperatures all over the place, ranging from 77 – almost 90 degrees daytime to the mid 50 degrees at night.  Thanks to the ample March snowfall & precipitation in mid-April, plants of all types, including copious quantities of weeds are flourishing. 

Let’s think on the positive side. Their leaves, using the process of photosynthesis, capture atmospheric carbon dioxide (yes that same gas that contributes to climate warming), storing it in the roots which then release nutrients to feed the diverse community of soil microorganisms. So weeds can actually be thought of as providers of ‘free food’. We just need to manage them before they produce seeds or remove their underground creeping stems or long ‘taproots’ (like found in dandelions). As we get ready for another gardening season, let’s look more closely at what the month may have in store for us.

Do remember to focus on ‘prevention’ strategies.

P |Prepare for seasonal weather challenges

  • Hail always occurs! To prepare for that, don’t transplant all seedlings at one time, succession plant short maturing crops such as salad greens & peas, give crops time to grow new leaves, remove damaged outer leaves
  • Other hail strategies: Erect windbreaks of fallen branches near crops to break the force of pounding wind, hail & rain. Have spun polyester row-covers, such as ‘reemay’ on hand or utilize coverings similar to ‘micromesh’ for protection
  • Denver weather often ‘springs into summer’, rapidly heating.

R| Be Realistic about your layout and plantings

  • Set – up your plot in sections, planting small quantities of cool-season crops such as peas, salad greens, radish, beets & green onions. 
  • Set up a system of ‘internal pathways’ (designated areas that welcome feet) to lessen soil compaction. 
  • Use the information on the backs of seed packets to inform you about how deep or far apart to plant seeds.  Crowded seedlings lead to conditions that promote disease & insect infestation
  • Don’t plant more than you can eat or share.  One tomato plant can yield up to 40 lbs. of fruit

E | Evaluate past successes and challenges

  • ‘Harden off’ all transplants for a week to successfully acclimate them to outdoor growing conditions, including strong wind and sunlight.
  • Challenge yourself to water all plants at soil level, avoiding overhead watering
  • Mulch early-season transplants, such as broccoli, cabbage & cauliflower soon after planting them. Wait for cool-season seeds (salad greens, green onions, beets, carrots) to germinate and then mulch with straw. Mulch warm-season crops such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants several weeks after planting them

V | Visit your garden often to notice changes 

  • A well – designed garden encourages us to ‘slow down’ and appreciate the interconnected community of soil, plants, and critters
  • Harvest produce on a regular basis.  Carefully pluck individual outer leaves of leaf lettuce to promote further growth. Check peas daily to extend their period of production.  When plants are no longer productive, remove them and replant the space to a warm-season crop such as cucumbers
  • Encourage productivity by lightly cultivating the soil around all plants on a weekly or bi-weekly basis prior to watering.  This promotes deeply rooted crops that utilize water and nutrients more efficiently.

E | Encourage biodiversity 

  • Plant flowers (marigolds, zinnias, bachelor buttons, cosmos) and herbs (dill, cilantro, chamomile) to attract a variety of beneficial insects (ladybugs, green lacewings, bees & butterflies) that help keep pest insect populations to a manageable level
  • Plant different crops (not just a single one such as tomatoes) to create a balanced plant ‘community’ Rotate plant families (especially the potato, tomato, pepper & eggplant family) to prevent the build-up of soil diseases

N | Notice first emergence of pests 

  • Identify beneficial and pest insects in all of their life stages. ‘Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs” by Colorado’s esteemed entomologist, Whitney Cranshaw, provides in-depth information
  • Learning a bit about insect growth patterns lets you utilize strategies to ’pick them off or keep them out’.

T | Tap into the wealth of knowledge in your fellow gardening community  

  • Community gardeners often have a lifetime of accrued gardening knowledge and wisdom to share. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 
  • Challenge yourself to learn one new tip each season and, along the way, perhaps not repeat the same mistake of the prior year
  • Join DUG’s online gardening community to assess gardening tips throughout the season and involve yourself in classes that provide unique earth–based ideas.

Garden Tip

Keep them out!

Prevent damage from many pests that damage your crops by physically excluding them. Products such as:

‘Reemay’, or its equivalent, are lightweight row -covers, composted of spun polyester & can be placed directly over transplants or seeded rows to prevent insects such as aphid & cabbage butterflies from feasting on your crops.

If the crop requires pollination, such as peas, simply remove the covering. You can water directly through the fabric & it not only provides adequate sunlight transmission but also provides several degrees of frost protection.

The Garden in April

By A Year in the Garden, Education

by Senior Education Specialist Judy Elliott

April, like March, is a month of ‘wild weather’, alternating from moisture-laden snow, drying winds, and even rain/snow mixes (yes, Denver does experience rain at times) to a range of temperatures between 65 degrees in the daytime to 35 degrees nighttime.

If you think that sounds confusing for us, imagine the delicate dance that our trees, perennials and early-season veggies must navigate to survive. Perennials and trees (including fruit trees) have a ‘built-in’ time clock that responds to increasing daylight hours, sunlight intensity, and (for fruit trees), a number of hours below freezing for fruit buds to appear. Once those swelling buds open and leaves unfurl, it almost is a signal for more unsettled weather to descend.

One of the challenges in April appears to be our warming climate, and, concurrent increasing drought situation. It’s all too easy to be lulled into a false sense of complacency regarding our changing climate, especially if tree limbs are bowed down with spring snows. For the entire year, Denver receives between 9 – 11” of water but in the past few years, strong winds & rapidly warming temperatures in spring have made less of that available. With greenery emerging daily our thoughts turn to the process of ‘growing’. 

April is the month to ‘GROW.’

G |Grow to fit the season

Understand the variety of needs of cool-season seeds + transplants.

  • Note: Cool-season crops include peas, lettuce, spinach, radish, cilantro, parsley, chard, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips) while warm-season seeds & transplants include squash, corn, beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, basil, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers.

Denver’s last spring frost can be as late as May 15. Don’t plant warm-season crops until nighttime temperatures are between 55 & 60 degrees.

  • For fast-growing cool-season seeds, such as salad greens, utilize ‘succession planting’, in which small quantities of seeds are planted every few weeks until mid-May, to extend the planting/harvesting window.

Join the DUG network at community.dug.org  to connect with other gardeners on their growing journeys! This platform is meant as a ‘give and take’ with our community offering their advice and posting challenges.

R| Respect the soil

Set up a system of ‘internal pathways’, with 3 ‘ wide planting areas separated by designated walkways (about 2’ wide) to prevent soil compaction within the growing areas.

  • Prior to planting, dig 1.5 – 2” of plant-based compost (not manure) into planting areas. Walkways don’t need to be amended. 

Plan for the inevitable ‘spring into summer’ of warm weather by having straw mulch available to place around cool-season crops.

O | Own and understand the ongoing commitment of gardening

A successful garden requires constant nurturing, not just watering.

  • Plant only what you can care for or use.

Consider the benefits of sharing garden care with another gardener.

W | Welcome the wonder + joy of growth 

Plant flowers and herbs such as zinnias, marigolds, chamomile, fennel + cilantro which produce a sense of riotous color, and also flowers that entice beneficial insects to visit.

  • Flowers have a calming effect on our senses and cause us to ‘pause’, bend down and ‘stay awhile’, noticing changes in veggie growth that may signal the need to handpick that ‘caterpillar’ before it munches the entire leaf. 

Appreciate not only the harvest but also the learning steps along the way.

Garden Tip

Know when it’s time to ‘dig your soil’.

Don’t rely upon daytime temperatures as a sign of when to begin your gardening work. For a more reliable measure that deals with soil moisture:

  • Use a hand trowel or regular shovel to dig down several inches and obtain a small quantity of soil
  • Make a tennis ball-sized mound with the soil
  • Drop the ‘soil ball’ from about a foot in height
  • If it stays together as a ‘ball’, it’s not time to dig your soil. Wait several days and try the test again
  • If it breaks apart (shatters), go ahead and ‘dig in’
  • Our soils are usually high in clay, warm slowly, and have very tiny soil particles. If you dig your garden soil too early (i.e., the soil still stays together as a ‘ball’) it may dry like an adobe brick and make it difficult for smaller seeds to germinate

Remember, patience really does pay off!