It’s nearly time to get warm-season plants in the ground

Dr. Curtis Swift is a horticultural expert with the Tri River Area Extension office.

Curtis Swift cutout

Dr. Curtis Swift is a horticultural expert with the Tri River Area Extension office.

This is one of the areas at The Commons we will consider converting into a showpiece of color and texture.

4.18.10 EC

This is one of the areas at The Commons we will consider converting into a showpiece of color and texture.

Mother Nature can’t seem to make up her mind.  Is spring here or not? Regardless of her indecision I know we need to get working on our gardens.  Some area gardeners are already eating lettuce and spinach. They planted back in February as soon as the snow disappeared and are now reaping the benefits of early planting. Others haven’t even started to prepare their gardens for planting.

Whether you are doing square-foot gardening or planting in rows, it is best to mark the holes or rows where the seed will be planted, apply water to cover the spot where the seed will be placed, place the seed in the wet soil and then cover the seed with dry soil.  This ensures the seed has sufficient water to germinate while avoiding the problem of excessive weed growth and crusting of the soil surface.

With small slow-germinating seeds such as carrots it helps to place a board over the planting row to help retain soil moisture.  When the soil crusts these small seedlings will die while trying to push through the soil crust. With square-foot gardening, build a small berm around the square and rest a square piece of plywood on the berm. You can also build a low berm along either side of rows of carrots to trap and hold moisture.  Check on occasion to determine when the carrots, etc., emerge and remove the plywood.

When the seedlings emerge, continue to water the area immediately around the plant.  There is no reason to water the area between the rows until the plants are much bigger.  This technique saves water and reduces the need for weeding. Once the weather begins to turn hot, mulch can be applied to help retain moisture and keep the soil from getting too hot for root growth.  Keep the mulch away from the base of the plants to help prevent stem rot and a place for pillbugs, slugs, snails and other critters to hide.

When early May arrives, gardeners in the Grand Valley can set out tomato, pepper, eggplant and other warm season plants.  Seed of beans, New Zealand spinach and the other warm season crops can be planted.  Gardeners in Montrose, Delta and higher elevation counties and areas need to wait a bit longer before putting in these warm-season vegetables.  For specifics on when you should plant specific vegetables check out the vegetable information on my Web site at or contact the Master Gardener desk in Grand Junction at 244-1836.

By next week some gardeners should start planting their plots at the Grand Junction Community Garden at the Library on the corner of Chipeta and Fifth in Grand Junction. I had hoped to have these plots ready before now but that wasn’t possible.  The availability of these plots is made available thanks to the Mesa County Public Library District, the City of Grand Junction, Grand Junction Pipe and Supply, the Mesa County Compost Facility and Colorado State University Extension. Much of this project has been made possible due to the equipment operated and time contributed by Wayne Hopper.

These plots rent for $50 per year.  Each plot is 400 square feet in size and has access to water.  I’ll be conducting a number of gardening workshops on site and Master Gardeners and I will be available during the spring, summer and fall to answer questions on vegetable gardening.  A bulletin board is being installed at the northwest corner of the garden and workshops scheduled for the garden will be posted there. These workshops also will be listed online at and available by calling 244-1836.  This list is updated several times a week so be sure to check in on a regular basis for the updated listing.  If you are interested in one of these plots, pick up an application at the front desk of the Main Library at the corner of Grand and Fifth in Grand Junction or visit our office at the Mesa County Fairgrounds.

When you plant your potatoes, you might find the soil a little dry.  We haven’t had a good rain this past week, check your gardens and landscape and water if you find them dry.

If vegetable gardening is not your thing and you would prefer to learn more about landscaping and garden design, you should join us for the garden restoration workshops we will be conducting at Hilltop.  Master Gardener and garden designer Kathy Kimbrough will be presenting a workshop on garden renovation on Monday, April 26, from 9 a.m. to noon at The Commons, 625 27 ½ Road.  The workshop will include a presentation and some hands-on activities.  There will be a follow-up workshop the following Monday, May 3, at the same time and location.

A badly overgrown area at Hilltop will be discussed and dissected to determine what plants need to be removed and what plants should remain.  The next step in the class will be the development the landscape design to provide all season color.  Plant selection will be a prime consideration in this step.  The final step will be the installation of the planting. There is a $10 charge per class to cover expenses; please call the Extension office at 244-1834 or stop by our office at the Mesa County Fairgrounds to register.

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