Archive for the ‘cold hardy’ Category

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!


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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.

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Well…….I did it. I got out the big guns yesterday and used a grass selective herbicide on the smooth brome in my garden. It will take about 10 days to 2 weeks to start seeing results, but I am hopeful. I got up early to spray and it’s a good thing, there was no wind yesterday morning. That doesn’t happen very often but it was perfect timing yesterday. I didn’t do anything else in the garden yesterday because I wanted the herbicide to dry before I went back out.

So, out I went this morning and I am hopeful once again. The potatoes are recovering from the freeze last week and are putting out new growth. They got hilled up again this weekend, which will be the last time this season. Now I just need to keep up the watering.

Frosted potatoes slowly recovering

Frosted potatoes slowly recovering

The cabbage and aspabroc that I put walls o’ water around last weekend are doing much better. Out of six plants, five of them have put on new leaves. They’re trying to make it. The peas are going gangbusters with the walls around them. Nothing is nibbling on them and the soil is staying moist so they have really jumped up.

The tomatoes in the greenhouse are trellised and are doing great. I have 4 pepper plants that were loaded with aphids this morning, but I washed most of them off the plant with water and crushed a lot of them. I hope they don’t find their way back on to the plants.

Something is eating my lupine. I thought they were deer resistant, but I don’t think this is deer damage. This lupine has been there for about 3 or 4 years and was starting to look fabulous. Don’t know if it will survive this.

My bearded iris have nice flower buds and should be blooming in the next week or so. Looking forward to seeing the colors.

My next big project is to do something about the ground squirrels. They are out of control. They are now digging into my greenhouse, not just out in the big garden. Hopefully all the containers in the greenhouse are high enough off the ground to deter the little ^&^%^&$$%(*@#@#’s. I’m hoping that once the grassy weeds are gone and they don’t have the vegetation cover, they will move out of the garden to someplace else. We’ll see. As always, one can only hope.

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I know it has been quite a while since I have posted anything here, so I figured that an update from the mountain was warranted. I was hoping to plant potatoes this weekend, however, the forecast is calling for a winter storm warning starting about 6 p.m. or so tonight and also forecasting low temps in the 20’s for the next few days. So I am going to hold off planting so my seed potatoes don’t freeze. And I’ll try to get them planted next weekend.

I’m changing things up this year. The past few years I have tried to grow tomatoes outside and last year had decent success for 8600 feet elevation. But this year, I think I will do tomatoes in the greenhouse only and am trying to grow cool season veggies outside. Three weekends ago, I planted pea, broccoli, chives, Chinese cabbage and Chinese mustard seeds in the area previously occupied by tomatoes. I diligently watered and covered them with the frost cloth (supported by the upside down tomato cages) in the hopes they would germinate. The tomato cages are serving dual purposes. The will hopefully support the peas as they climb and they are also supporting the frost cloth so it doesn’t lay on the seeds.

The following weekend I arrived home and discovered the toll the hellatious winds had taken on my frost cloth and tomato cages. All the tomato cages were blown over, the frost cloth laying on the ground and a ground squirrel running for its burrow. Not a good start to the weekend. I was very disillusioned. But as a gardener, never say never. And as my husband says, you can’t rush the season up here.

The same weekend I planted pea, etc. seeds, I also planted parsnip, carrot and beet seeds in three of the tubes that I used last year to grow potatoes. I am also making more cages/tubes for potatoes and other veggies as these seem to work really well, especially if I use chicken wire under the tubes so the ground squirrels and voles can’t tunnel up under and into the tubes to eat the veggies.

Last weekend, I changed out the soaker hoses, replaced some of the hose fittings and started watering again. I left the frost cloth off the seeds since rain was predicted for this week. And, indeed, this week there was a nice bit of rain that watered the seeds and this weekend I see one variety of peas are starting to sprout as well as the Chinese mustard and Chinese cabbage. The garlic that I planted last fall is finally starting to nose up out of the ground. The shoots are about 3-4 inches tall. I’m encouraged!! There is progress in the garden.

I’m also getting the greenhouse ready for the warm season plants. Since the soil temperatures and even the air temps don’t get warm enough for warm season crops, I grow them in the greenhouse. I hope to have a fabulous crop of pepper varieties this year. I want to try my hand at canning salsa this year.

I’m pretty sure I won’t get anything else done in the garden this weekend with the storm coming in, so I will take the opportunity to make some comfort food for dinner tonight. Once I get the potatoes planted, I’ll post an update on the varieties.

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Let’s see what’s been happening in the garden……..the potatoes sprouted in the tubes and I have hilled them up with some more potting soil. I debated whether to use hay, straw or potting soil and ultimately decided to use potting soil so the tubers that would be forming would not dry out with the winds that seem to continually blow up at our house. I may have let some of the potatoes get a little high before hilling them up, but I think they will survive. I ended up planting quite a variety of potatoes. The red varieties are Colorado Rose, Desiree, Red Pontiac, Sangre. Purple Viking is a purple skin with white flesh that is supposed to be quite tasty. Bintje, Carola, Nicola, Yellow Finn, Kennebec, Crackled Butterball are all yellow flesh potatoes. Masquerade is one of the newest releases from David Holm, the potato breeder at the San Luis Valley Research Station in Colorodo. This potato was described to me as ‘looking like an anasazi bean’. I’m anxious to see it when I harvest.

All the tomato cages with walls o’ water are installed. I planted 4 varieties of tomatoes a couple of weekends ago, covered them with the frost cloth which I thought I had secured, and the wind promptly blew the frost cloth and turned a couple of the cages on their sides so I had to do some repair work to make sure things were stabilized. Once I had the frost cloth stabilized, I planted the remaining varieties of tomatoes. This year I planted Lizzano, Roma, Pomodoro, Yellow Brandywine, Brandywine, Indigo Rose, Green Doctors, Black Krim, Zapotec, Amana Orange, Lemon Boy, Cherokee Purple and Purple Calabash. I am also trialing a variety of “Mighty ‘Mato”, a grafted form of tomato that is supposed to be more drought and cold tolerant than a normal tomato. The variety of grafted tomato is Chocolate Stripe. I hope that the frost cloth will provide a bit more protection of the tomatoes so I can actually harvest some outside grown tomatoes this year.

Starting to stabilize the frost cloth over the tomato cages.  I used a 2 x 4 and cardboard strips to nail the cloth to the wood.

Starting to stabilize the frost cloth over the tomato cages. I used a 2 x 4 and cardboard strips to nail the cloth to the wood.

Both ends of the frost cloth are stabilized.

Both ends of the frost cloth are stabilized.

Frost cloth placed over the tomato cages.  The stabilized ends are at the east and west ends.

Frost cloth placed over the tomato cages. The stabilized ends are at the east and west ends.

A couple of long 2 X 4's are laid across the top of the frost cloth and tomato cages to keep it from blowing off.

A couple of long 2 X 4’s are laid across the top of the frost cloth and tomato cages to keep it from blowing off.

The eggplant is also planted. It seems to be doing much better under the frost cloth as well. It has new growth coming out and hopefully will have a few eggplants this year. The varieties of eggplant this year are Long Purple, Millionaire, Udmalbet, Listada de Gandia and Fengyuan Purple. Normally, all I plant is the Long Purple, but wanted to branch out and see if I could grow other varieties this year.

It’s been a productive couple of weekends. I’ll let you know what’s growing in the greenhouse in the next post!

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It’s been about a month since my last post, so I think it’s time I caught everyone up on a little of what is happening in the garden.  I got pretty bold and planted my potatoes the third weekend in May (18th-19th).  The soil temps had warmed up enough, so I added some fertilizer and gave the soil a once over with the rototiller and got the tubers in the ground.  This year I only have 12 varieties of potatoes:  Rio Grande Russet, German Butterball, Yukon Gold, Mountain Rose, Sangre, Russian Banana Fingerling, Colorado Rose, Nicola and Yellow Finn (www.potatogarden.com) are the main varieties.  I have a few other varieties, but didn’t plant many tubers of those varieties so harvest may be slim on those.  So far over half of the varieties have sprouted.  This is a good thing, but I am really hoping the remainder of the potatoes start sprouting soon as well.

I put out 18 walls o’ water to be able to grow tomatoes and eggplant outside this year.  They don’t always protect the plants from frost, but they are protected from the wind which is important.  In the walls o’ water, I have 11 varieties of tomatoes and 4 varieties of eggplant.  These got planted the first weekend in June.  I have a couple of walls left so that I can plant another variety of tomato that I just started a couple of weeks ago (rather late to start, I know).  The varieties of tomatoes include Brandywine, Black Krim, Zapotec, Black Cherry, Japanese Black Trifele, Green Doctors, Mortgage Lifter, Cronkovic, Mr. Stripey and Gold Medal (www.rareseeds.com, www.seedsofchange.com, www.groworganic.com).   The tomato variety that I just started is Indigo Rose, a new cultivar just released last year.  The websites listed above are where I get the majority of my tomato seed.

The eggplant varieties are a couple that I have previously grown, and two that are new this year.  The two that I have previously planted and really enjoy are Rosa Bianca and Long Purple (Japanese-type eggplant).  The two new varieties this year are Beatrice and Nadia.  The seed came in a package of several different varieties, so I am curious to see what they actually look like when the fruit is produced.

All four apple trees did come back this year.  I was afraid I had lost 2 or three of them, but they must be tough little soldiers.  They leafed out and were starting to flower two weeks ago but of course, living in the mountains has it’s drawbacks.  We experienced an extremely cold night June 10th.  Temperatures dipped into the ‘teens for a period of time so the tops of the potatoes that had sprouted received some frost damage as did three of the tomatoes (Brandywine, Mr. Stripey and Black Krim)  in the walls o’ water.  I think I may have lost one eggplant (Long Purple) and all the flowers on the apple trees were killed with the cold temperatures.

All in all, not a bad start to the year.  I’ll update on what’s in the greenhouse and the rest of the garden another time.

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I must admit that I love gardening.  It feeds a part of me that nothing else can.  It feels good to be outside, sunshine on my face, working the soil.  Planting little seeds or transplants that will transform into these marvelous plants that produce food to feed us.  And today, I finally was able to spend some quality time in the garden.  The new area for potatoes had compost added and was tilled last fall, left to rest over the winter and today, has potatoes in it.  Today the thistle was pulled from the patch (you don’t want to till thistle as each little piece will make a new plant and it is a horrid weed to try and get rid of), some fertilizer added and tilled once more.  Twelve potato varieties are now planted in this new area.  And I have them labeled so I can remember what I have planted.  I can’t wait for them to sprout.  This is the earliest I have planted potatoes, I don’t usually plant until the first of June, but the temps have been higher than normal the past month or so, so the soil has warmed up enough to be able to plant some things.  And even though we are still getting down into the 30’s at night, it is not cold enough for the soil to freeze.  We had some great moisture yesterday which will help the potatoes sprout. 

The potato varieties include Russian Banana Fingerlings.  Four red varieties:  Sangre, Colorado Rose, Mountain Rose, and Red McClure. Several yellow-flesh varieties:  Yukon Gold, Yellow Finn, Nicola and German Butterball.  I also got some assorted fingerlings from a friend that I planted as well as some Rio Grande Russet.  I was looking for some Purple Viking potatoes, but haven’t looked real hard yet so I may be able to plant those as well when I find them.  There are still a few slots left in the potato patch in case I find another variety.

All the apple trees have survived.  I had thought that I was going to lose at least two of the trees, but all four are leafing out.  This is good, it means that these may well be cold hardy for our area.  I don’t know if they will flower or produce fruit this year (or any other year for that matter), but I’m always hopeful.  I don’t know if you can see the leaves of the apples in the photo, but they are there.  The grapes are another story.  I do not see any buds that look like they will leaf out at all on any of the vines, either the table grapes or the wine grapes.  However, it may be too early for the grapes.  I’ll just have to wait and see what happens.  If the grapes don’t make it, I may be able to use the cordon system to plant some pumpkin and winter squash varieties to see how they do up here.

But in the perennial beds, the Shasta Daisies are making a great comeback as are the Echinacea, Liatris, Red-hot Poker and Bearded Iris.  And if you think the cold temps and high altitude will kill mint, forget it.  The mint is coming back gangbusters.  I will definitely have to weed it out as it will take over that whole perennial bed if given half a chance.  In another perennial bed, the peony is coming back.  It’s the first peony that I have ever planted that returned the following year.  Who knew that I would have to move to the mountains to get a peony?  Granted, it’s in a protected area, but still, it came back.  I hope it flowers this year.  I know that the peonies along the front range at lower elevations have or are blooming now, so I expect that mine won’t bloom for at least another month.

All in all, it was a good day in the garden.  Just what I needed.  A feeling of accomplishment and looking forward to another season in the garden.

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