June 9, 2021

It is time for planting warm season vegetables. They require higher soil and air temperatures and are always planted after the last frost date. Here in Longmont that date is generally May 15. So, planting tomatoes, peppers, summer squashes, pumpkin, eggplant, cucumbers, melons, and beans should be safe. Once planted, many will grow and continue to produce until late summer or even early fall.

The cool season vegetables may need to be pulled now as the nights stay warmer.

Look for:

  • Yellowing and drying out leaves
  • Greens tasting bitter and radishes being tough
  • Greens bolting, i.e., producing flowers and seeds

When planting seeds or plant starts where cool season vegetables have been planted, refresh the soil with compost.

Now, when those pesky pests arrive (and they will), the university extension services recommend a program called Integrated Pest Management or IPM. It is a science-based approach that reduces the need for pesticides.

First, Cultural Control: Plant the right plants in the right place and plant varieties that are best for our region. Also, look for varieties that are disease and pest resistant. Encourage beneficial insects to be in the garden by inter-planting flowers such as marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, salvia, and yarrow. These will attract lady beetles (Lady bugs) Lace wings, parasitic wasps, and hover flies which will eat destructive bugs like aphids, thrips and spider mites that feed on your plants. Unfortunately, the pests usually appear first before the help arrives. So be somewhat patient. In addition, water appropriately and do not over fertilize.

Second, Mechanical Control: Physically remove pests by hand pulling or spraying water on aphids. Sometimes just removing the stem that has been infected is enough.

Third, Chemical Control: Pesticides should be used when other non-toxic control methods have been exhausted and once a pest problem has developed to a point where it is severe enough to require action. Consider using botanical pesticides and synthetic organic compounds such as oils, soaps, and detergents. And lastly, use the least toxic pesticide necessary for the project and follow label directions.

In July we will look at what vegetables that will take us through fall and general garden care.

Colorado State University is offering a free, online vegetable gardening course. If you are interested, the deadline for registering June 14. Click here to register.

May 11, 2021

The weather so far in May has been really crazy, tempting us to plant our tomatoes and annuals. Hold off on those warm season vegetables and annual flowers for several more weeks. Nighttime temperatures should be consistently in the 50s, which, hopefully will be in late May.

When you do plant out your vegetable garden, consider interplanting with companion plants. Companion plants are plants that complement one another in terms of growth and production. For example, one plant may attract an insect that might protect a companion plant. Another plant may act as a repellent for a bug that might be harmful to the plant next to it. Some of the more common beneficial flower companions are marigolds, nasturtiums, alyssum, and zinnias. They attract beneficial insects and deter unwanted pests.  Vegetables like tomatoes do well with basil. Radishes interplanted with other vegetables work as a trap crop to flea beetles. 

Click here for a great resource called the The Spruce to learn more about companion planting.

There are also vegetables that should not be planted with each other. Beans and peas, for example, do not do well with onions and garlic. Potatoes may stunt the growth of summer squashes. And tomatoes do not do well with cold crops like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, and kohlrabi.

It is a good idea to lay out your garden on paper before planting so that you can take advantage of companion plants and what vegetables not to plant with others.

In June we will look at warm season vegetables and what to do with those pesty pests in your vegetable garden!

April 18, 2021

April is here and the weather is right for planting cool season crops. You have had your soil tested and added organic matter to enrich the soil. A couple weeks prior to planting is good time for applying most organic fertilizers as it gives the nutrition time to spread throughout the surrounding soil. Unlike synthetic fertilizers, organic fertilizers don’t create high levels of salts, such as nitrates, which disturb or even kill beneficial soil organisms. Organic fertilizers release nutrients slowly and naturally and there are many choices available at local nurseries. Ask for advice.

If you’re going to be direct seeding your beds, you are not going to want to mulch yet so young plants can germinate. However, if you will be using starts/transplants, mulch once you’ve done your soil preparation. A thick layer of mulch (shredded leaves or straw, e.g.) can protect your prepared soil against weed seeds and other problems.

With our crazy Colorado up and down temperatures, planting frost-tolerate spring vegetables is the way to go. Historically, we have experienced frost up until mid-May so holding off on any warm season vegetables like tomatoes or peppers is smart. Peas, broccoli, kale, arugula, cabbage, spinach, carrots, radishes, scallions, cilantro, and lettuce are examples of frost-tolerate vegetables that can be planted now. Colorado State University Extension has an excellent planting guide that will explain in more detail how and when to plant vegetable crops.

You can find this guide, CMG GardenNotes #720 Vegetable Planting Guide.

Next month we will look at preparing for planting popular vegetables like tomatoes and planting companion crops.

march 17, 2021

Spring cannot be too far behind and we are all getting anxious to start our gardens. But the first thing to think about is your soil. “Good” soil is the key to success in the garden. The number one recommendation is to have your soil tested (once every 3 years is sufficient.) Testing should be done for in-ground gardens as well as raised beds. Colorado State University Extension offers soil testing for a minimal charge. (CSU Soil Testing) The results will give you a good idea of what nutrients are plentiful and what is missing so that adjustments can be made. Organic recommendations will be made in the April post. If you plan to have your soil tested, do so sooner than later as testing backs up in the soil testing lab.

If you are building raised beds (or gardening in containers) and need to fill your bed with soil, here are some suggestions. . .

  • If you are building raised beds (or gardening in containers) and need to fill your bed with soil, here are some suggestions. If you purchase your soil do so from a reputable dealer. Don’t go on the cheap. Select a soil mix high in organic matter and with good water holding capacity. It can be purchased in bulk or bagged. When purchasing a soil mix, inspect the materials that compose the mix. For most raised beds, a blend of half compost and half topsoil can be used to fill the bed. The compost will provide organic matter. Avoid a strictly topsoil composition since its composition can be varied as there is no legal definition for topsoil. A soil depth of no less than 10-18 inches is the minimum amount suitable for growing most vegetables.

    If you are really energetic, you can build your own soil. A good recipe would be 1/3 good quality topsoil, 1/3 quality compost, and 1/3 vermiculite or perlite. There are numerous calculators online to help you determine the amount needed for your bed. Again, purchase your materials from a reputable dealer and don’t go on the cheap.

    When April arrives, we will discuss amending the soil and planting some cool season vegetables.

february 10, 2021

February is the month to start planning your vegetable garden whether it be in containers, raised beds, or in-ground. Planning includes deciding which garden type; selecting the garden location; deciding on the size; determining the types and varieties of vegetables to plant; and planning where, when, and how much of each vegetable to plant.

    • Container gardens are excellent for beginners as well as advanced gardeners. Things to consider are the type of container (bigger is better), hours of sunlight, good potting soil (not garden soil), drainage, and vegetable types that do well in containers.
    • Raised beds are another option. They generally produce higher yields and need less watering and weeding and can be built out of construction lumber. Four feet is ideal for the width because it allows you to reach in without stepping in and compacting the soil.  The length can be determined by what your space requires.
    • In-ground is the most classic.  You must, however, consider the size of the garden and how much space you have (start small), soil type, drainage, and how much sun the plot will get during the growing season.

    Next decide which vegetables you enjoy and would be practical to have in your garden. This is an excellent guide from Colorado State Extension which will help you make those decisions.  (CSU Vegetable Planting Guide) And now is the time to purchase seeds. Lettuce, green beans, peas, carrots, radishes, squash, chard, and kale are super easy to grow from seed. If you choose not to plant from seed, vegetable starts are always available and are sometimes more practical.  And it is always helpful to draw a layout of your garden so you can see the where and how much of each vegetable you want to plant.


    If you have any questions, email Suzanne.  Next month we will look at soil preparation and how to go organic!