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This summer is turning out to be more of a maintenance year than actually doing a lot of gardening.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still growing a couple of veggies and have worked on weeding and putting new plants in my perennial beds, but it’s not the all out gardening of years past.  In the perennial bed close to the deck, I planted a Charles Jolly Lilac and a Miss Kim Lilac.  I added another peony (white) to complement the magenta peony that is already established.  The Russian Sage I planted a few years ago is doing good this year…..amazing what weeding and some water will do for plants!

The big garlic bed was a no-show this year.  I think the voles that tunneled in ate most of the cloves or at least enough of the clove so that they could not produce new garlic.  I still have some garlic that I planted in another area that is doing well, in fact, today I harvested the scapes off of them.  The bulbs should be ready to harvest in another month or so.  I think I will try to plant the garlic for next year a little earlier so it has time to sprout and set roots before winter.

I still have 10 roses that have survived from the rose trial several years ago.  I noticed today that a couple of them have flower buds and a couple have produced some blooms.  Yay!!  The lupines by the greenhouse are going gangbusters.  At the start of the season, the lupines were covered in aphids and I wasn’t sure they would make it through, but a little help from some insecticide solved that problem.

The research potatoes seem to be doing well in the grow bags.  This weekend when I was watering, a few of the potatoes look like they got scorched by something.  I am not sure what is causing that.  It doesn’t look like a disease.  It might be insect feeding from the lygus bugs that I found on the potatoes or maybe since the deer have been in the garden nibbling on the potatoes, they peed on the plants??  Who knows?  I’ll keep an eye on the potatoes and hope it doesn’t get any worse.

Last weekend I watered the peas I planted this spring and was really excited as they had flowers so I knew I would get some peas.  This weekend…….I think the deer got in the garden and had a feast on my peas.  The peas had been eaten down to about a foot from the soil level.  Rat b**stard deer!  The good thing about peas is I can grow some more into the fall so I should still have a harvest, albeit a small one.

My big achievement this weekend was getting the first raised bed built.  I still have to fill it with soil, but it is in place and ready.  I found the bricks at the store that have slots to slide boards into and also a 1/2 inch hole in the middle to be able to put rebar or similar through to stabilize the stones.  The bricks take a 2″ x 6″ board (I used kiln dried–not treated), cut to any length you want.  I used 5 foot lengths to make the sides and 4 foot lengths to make the ends.  I had to level the area since we do live on a mountain and things are on a slope, but it wasn’t that difficult.  Because I had to level the area, I used the bricks 3 high so the bed is 18″ tall.  I don’t have to put soil up to that level, but wanted a sturdy foundation for the bed.  I laid down chicken wire before putting everything in place to prevent voles and ground squirrels from being able to tunnel up into the bed.    And it looks really nice!

If you live in town, the bricks in the middle of the sides probably aren’t necessary, but since there are large mammals, like deer and moose, making their way through my garden, I wanted to make sure the bed would survive.  The added bonus of the rods through the bricks is that next spring when it’s planting season, I can get some bendable poly tubing and place it on the metal rods and use it to make the bed a small hoop house with deer netting or row cover to keep the critters from eating the veggies.  I think this raised bed will work well and I might even be able to get another one built before winter.

I knew I was taunting Mother Nature this week when I purchased potting soil so I could plant potatoes this weekend.  I volunteered to trial 2 varieties from the San Luis Valley Research Station Potato Breeding Program and wanted to get them started since the potatoes were sprouting.  My plan:  to use 10 gallon grow bags, with one potato or piece per bag so there would be plenty of room for tubers to form.  This morning when I woke up, it was foggy with just a bit of mist.  foggy start 5.7.16

Since it was foggy, I decided to start this process in the garage.  I figured I could fill the grow bags with potting soil, plant the potatoes, water and then carry the grow bags out to the garden.  It was misty rain, not real cold, so this could be a good plan.  I got the first variety planted, labeled and moved out to the garden.  first group of potatoes 5.7.16This is where the extreme gardening part comes in.  First, I had to get the potting soil out of my car and because I watered the grow bags in the garage and carried them out, this turned out to be my weightlifting exercises for the day.  Walking back and forth from the garage to the garden gave me my steps for the day.  Plus all the bending to fill the grow bags with potting soil worked my lower back and hamstrings.

After this first variety was set out, I took a little break.  By the time I got back to planting the second variety of potatoes, it was hailing with thunder.  So it looked like there was a little bit of snow on the ground. hail 5.7.16

I have muck boots so it wasn’t that bad.  I figured that by the time the hail was finished, I would have the rest of the grow bags filled with potting soil and the potatoes planted.  Never let it be said that mountain gardening is easy.  By the time I was ready to bring the second variety out to the garden, it looked like this:  all potatoes out with snow 5.7.16

It had stopped hailing and started snowing.  Big, wet flakes. I finished moving the grow bags out to the garden……..why stop now, just because there is a little snow?  I got out the frost cloth and took that out to cover the bags so they won’t freeze.  I checked the forecast for the next two weeks and the daytime temps are supposed to be in the 50’s and 60’s and the nighttime temps won’t get below 32F so the potatoes should be protected.  But this is what happens when trying to rush the gardening season up here.  Finally, this is what the potatoes look like covered in the frost cloth:  potatoes covered with frost cloth 5.7.16

As I write this, it is still snowing and there is about an inch or so accumulation on the garage roof.   Yes, mountain gardening is not for the faint of heart.  It is an extreme sport!

So it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post.  I figure I had better get caught up.  Last year’s potatoes were harvested early due to the fact that the ground squirrels or chipmunks figured out how to climb up the potato cages and get inside to eat the growing tubers.  I had a few carrots to harvest and not many tomatoes from the greenhouse.  But this is another year and another gardening season begins.

I had my first chance this past weekend to get out into the garden to survey what Mother Nature had wrought this winter.  The big snows have melted except in the shaded parts so it was easy to check out the garden.  The voles have been very active this year.  I planted the majority of my garlic last fall in a different area  of the garden and it looks like the voles have made a lot of trips through that area.  I hope they didn’t eat too many of the cloves that were planted.  I did not see any little green sprouts coming up in that area.  I have another smaller area with garlic and they have sprouted and are coming up nicely.  No vole damage in that area.

I weeded in the walls o’ water and around them (in the big garden) so I could get the peas planted, which I did.  And that was great, because last night we had another 2-3 inches of snow.  The peas will be well watered and I hope they sprout soon.  After I finished that project, I moved over to the greenhouse to check things out.

4.25.16

This was the view that caught my eye as I headed to the greenhouse.  There were several plexiglass pieces blown out of the greenhouse by the wind.  This picture shows the largest piece from the east side.  There were two other smaller pieces, one from the roof and one from the south side of the greenhouse that were also blown out.  The dead aspen fell at the edge of the potato cages, with just some minor crunching of the top of the hardware cloth cages.  The poor lupines under the plexiglass managed to survive and were growing very nicely.  I hope that they survive this spring snow now that they are not protected by the glass.

On the positive side, the daffodils by the greenhouse are almost ready to bloom.  The daffodils planted in the large garden are emerging and should bloom around the end of May.  It appears that most of the roses survived the winter as did the bearded iris.   Most of the lupines up by the greenhouse have nice leaves. It’s spring, and I hope the weekends stay nice so I can continue to get things cleaned up.  I’m hopeful………again.

I have one word for my garden this weekend…….discouraging!  We had so much rain/snow in May that the weeds (thistle, grasses) are taking over.  I’ve just identified two of my nemeses, can anyone guess the other one?  Critters!  The little darling’s (she says sarcastically).  So what happened this week?

Well, the ground squirrels or chipmunks have managed to dig into my greenhouse and have proceeded to strip one pot of chard, two separate pots of basil seedlings and have munched on at least one tomato plant.  They are also nibbling at my greens (mesclun mix, microgreens).  I’m not really sure what to do about them, other than fill the holes back in to make it harder for them to get in the greenhouse.

Last weekend, I was so happy as my lupines were producing flower stalks and getting ready to show their colors.  This week, they looked like this:

IMG_20150627_174752182I don’t know whether it’s the ground squirrels or deer that have managed to chew their way through all the flower heads on my lupine.  I only hope they will produce more.  The flowers are really pretty.

I weeded some of the large perennial garden today and planted Liatris and Hosta.  The thistle and grasses were taking over so it was time to pull them out of there.  I guess I’m the perennial optimist.  I keep weeding and planting and am hopeful that plants will survive.

There are good things about the garden this week.  Some of the iris are finally blooming and looking fabulous.  My peony came back in great shape and has flower buds.  The geraniums I planted in pots on the deck a couple of weeks ago are blooming.  The potatoes are going gangbusters.  The Purple Viking potatoes I planted a month ago are really tall!  I planted the potatoes in stages, so they are not all at the same growth stage, but they are looking great!  The carrots have germinated and are starting to get bigger.  The garlic are all up and doing well, although they haven’t produced scapes yet.  That will probably happen in the next week or so.  The peas in the walls o’ water are coming on.  It looks like they may flower soon and then we’ll have peas.  I think all of my roses that I replanted last year are coming back.  Hopefully, they’ll produce some flowers.  I’m also hopeful that with all the lush grass around, the deer will leave my garden alone and not try to eat all my plants.

I guess there is more good than bad happening in the garden this week, so that makes me happy.  I think now it’s time for a margarita!

Finally!

Well, The weather has finally warmed up a bit from the May snowstorms and rains so I finally got all of my potatoes planted. I put together 6 more tubes/cages so I would be able to plant all of them. I planted the first variety a month ago, then it got cold for a weekend, I went to visit my mom and sister over Memorial weekend so finally last weekend, I was able to get my gardening on. I wanted to clean out an area that was on the east side of the greenhouse to put the new tubes. Digging up all that grass was tough!! But I got it all out, chicken wire laid on the ground (to keep the ground squirrels from digging into the tubes from underneath) and tubes staked in and wrapped. Then I put mulch on top of the exposed chicken wire. Wrapping the tubes in plastic helps keep the soil from drying out and, as I have discovered, makes a slick surface so small critters can’t climb the wire of the hardware cloth tubes.

The grassy area that needed to be cleaned.

The grassy area that needed to be cleaned.

End of day 1 digging grass

End of day 1 digging grass

Finished!!

Finished!!

I must admit that I am an over-achiever when it comes to potatoes. I planted 19 varieties total this year. That’s really too many. Next year, I’m scaling back on the potatoes (she says now). But if you are a gardener like me, you just want to try them all. Most of the potatoes I planted are considered short season, meaning they can be harvested in 60-80 days. That’s just about right for this elevation since I figure we have an average of 90 frost free days a year. Once they are ready, I can leave them in the tubes even after frost (but not freeze) which will help set the skins for storage.

In other veggie news…….this year, I did plant carrot seeds in three of the tubes (not with the potatoes) and they are starting to germinate. My parsnips overwintered, but I am not sure how they will taste. They might be rather bitter. I harvested the first round of greens from the greenhouse today and those will go in the salad for dinner. My peas that are planted in the walls o’ water are growing well. They have not been discovered by critters. And all my garlic is finally up. I’m looking forward to scapes on the garlic soon……..they are wonderful in stir-fry dishes.

Next weekend I’ll plant the tomatoes and herbs that I’ve started. Those will go in the greenhouse. I changed up my tomato varieties a bit this year, using determinate and cold-hardy/short season varieties. I have several different varieties of basil, which will help make marvelous marinara in September. I also want to try some broccoli rabe, rapini and a purple broccoli, but I have to figure out where to plant it. I’m glad the weather is (mostly) nice enough to be able to get out into the garden now.

I posted last month on the unusually warm weather we were having up here. I also mentioned that we needed a few nice, wet spring snowstorms since the winter has been kind of dry. Well, I got my wish. Except, it was all in one storm. Two weeks ago we had a snowstorm that dumped about 3 feet or more of wet, heavy spring snow. In some places there is still over a foot of snow on the ground. It’s great for the garden, but not so great when you have to shovel all that wet stuff. And now, today, there is thunder with a 60% chance of rain. It’s definitely spring in Colorado…….if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes and it will change.

I did make it out to the greenhouse to check on the greens I planted 3 weeks ago. I planted some butter lettuce, microgreens, mesclun mix and chard in the containers in the greenhouse. They were just a bit drought stressed, but they seem to be doing well. And some of the peas that I planted outside in the walls o’ water are finally sprouting. They’ve been protected from the coldest temps, which is good. I also have some parsnips seeds/seedlings that held over from last summer and they are starting to grow as well. I can’t tell if the daffodils and lupines are in good shape, they are still covered in snow.

Looks like it will be a couple of weeks before I can do much else out in the garden. I need to wait for the snow to melt, the soil to dry out a bit so I don’t compact it when walking through the garden. Looks like I’ll have time to make some more potato cages and get ready for when I can get out to plant.

The last couple of weekends up here have been unusually warm for this time of year. In fact, I think this is the warmest I have seen it this early since we’ve lived up at this elevation. Last weekend I cleaned up all the pots on the deck so I could put out some annuals later this spring. I tried to go out in the garden, but it was too wet to do anything. This weekend, I figured it was time to get out and inspect the garden to see if the soil had dried a bit and what, if anything, I could do. Turns out…..quite a bit for March.

I cleaned out the greenhouse, getting it ready to move new plants in in a couple of months. I need to get out today and repair the plexiglass that broke out over the winter. Luckily, the pieces that came off, came off in one piece and did not break up, so they are reusable.

I noticed the lupines and daffodils around the greenhouse are starting to come up. I think it’s a bit early for them, so hopefully we won’t get any really bad storms. The bearded iris are starting to nose up as well. I hope they do well since the deer discovered them last year and ate the leaves. I thought that they were mostly deer-proof, but apparently not much is totally deer-proof up here.

In the big garden, the iris are starting to come up. The garlic that I planted last fall is starting to show a few stems here and there. I cleaned out the pea stems from last year and actually planted new peas in the walls o’ water. The soil is not frozen anywhere in the garden which is most unusual for this time of year. I also got some daffodil bulbs last November but it was too late to plant them out in the garden at that time so I overwintered them in the garage. They got a good chilling period so when I planted them out yesterday, they were starting to produce stems and should produce some nice flowers in about a month or so.

I still hope we get some nice spring snows up here. The added moisture will help, otherwise it will be a really long spring/summer up here. And I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. We’ll have to wait and see.