Native Plants in a Suburban Setting

Inspired by Douglas Tallamy’s book Bringing Nature Home, this spring I decided to create a native pollinator garden in my 1960s suburban Denver yard. It was my first adventure in using all native plants.

Most yards in my neighborhood are primarily turf and evergreens with some popular but non-native blooming shrubs or perennials. As Dr. Tallamy explains, these plants are mostly unpalatable for our native pollinator friends at their various life stages. 

As the new neighbor on my block, I wanted to showcase a native pollinator habitat that was beautiful and naturalistic without looking “wild” – a common complaint about native plant gardens.  The Habitat Network and National Wildlife Federation websites gave me tips on how habitat gardens can fit into a typical suburban landscape. 

For the garden site, I chose the side yard between the house and street — a long, narrow space that resembled a landing strip.  It had thirsty turf, an overgrown arborvitae, and a narrow foundation bed with a few struggling shrubs and a dwarf blue spruce.  It also had full sun – perfect for many Colorado native plants.

Besides southern exposure, my site analysis showed heavy clay soil, average drainage with no slope from the house to 15’ out, and westerly winds.  In addition, it was easy to see that the side yard served no purpose for my family – making it a good site.   

From there, I looked at specific examples of garden and plant designs on the websites of Plant Select, Colorado Native Plant Society (CoNPS), and Resource Central.  These gave me ideas for shape, dimensions, and plant placement. 

I was finally ready to design the garden.  CSU Extension Fact Sheet #7.228 on xeriscaping and Garden Notes #411 and #413 on water wise landscaping were useful resources even for my smaller project.  Native plants and xeriscaping work together well, giving me both the habitat and water-savings I wanted.

Keeping in mind my budget and the available labor (my husband and me), I decided to  simply enlarge the existing foundation bed into a half-oval shape twice its original size and fill it with blooming perennials.

By enlarging the existing bed on level ground, I eliminated the need for terracing which would have added expense.  I did decide to use sandstone pavers as stepping stones through the new garden giving it some hardscape interest.

Now that planning and design were finished, I was ready to move on to the next phase in my suburban to native adventure.

Join me in July when I share the fun and sometimes challenging experience of researching, selecting, and installing native plants in my pollinator garden.

By Ann Winslow, Denver Master Gardener volunteer since 2019

https://content.yardmap.org/learn/making-messy-look-good/

https://www.nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife/Create/At-Home

https://plantselect.org/design/downloadable-designs/

https://conps.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/NativeGarden-Front-Range-4-11-2016.pdf

https://resourcecentral.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Naturally-Native-2020.pdf

https://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/garden/07228.pdf

https://cmg.extension.colostate.edu/Gardennotes/411.pdf

https://cmg.extension.colostate.edu/Gardennotes/413.pdf

Easy-to-Grow Container Basil

My summer garden wouldn’t be the same without a container of basil growing on the patio. Not only is basil a beautiful plant, but it’s one of the most versatile herbs around. The fresh leaves get tossed into green salads, stacked with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes for a Caprese salad, blended into pesto, and plenty more.

One packet of basil seeds means dozens of fresh summer recipes. (Photo by Jodi Torpey)

Every year I grow a container of basil so I can clip the fresh and fragrant leaves all summer. This method of container planting is one of the simplest and least expensive ways to plant basil, and it uses only one packet of seeds. My favorite is the Genovese basil because of the large leaf size.

The basil plants grow well with a limited amount of morning sun, then afternoon shade to keep tender leaves from burning.

Any container that can hold a good quality potting soil and has holes in the bottom for drainage is a potential for planting. My go-to basil container is a plastic window box that has a matching tray to catch water. Paper coffee filters cover the drainage holes to keep soil in.

Here are the three planting steps:

  1. Sprinkle (broadcast) the entire packet of seeds evenly over the top of the potting soil. Gently pat down and cover seeds with a very thin layer of potting soil.
  2. Spray the seeds and top of the soil with water from a spray bottle or plant mister. Spraying keeps the seeds on top of the soil.
  3. Spritz daily or whenever the soil starts to dry out until the little plants begin to grow. Continue gently watering the container with a watering can or hose and nozzle.

Basil seeds sprout and grow quickly. Start clipping the leaves when plants have three to five sets of leaves. Don’t worry about pruning the leaves, because that encourages healthy new growth and branching, plus it keeps plants from flowering too quickly (although the flowers are tasty, too).

Fertilize with your preferred water-soluble plant food or gently dig in a slow-release fertilizer about once a month to keep plants green and healthy.

One of my favorite quick salads is sliced garden-fresh tomatoes, topped with several tablespoons of snipped basil leaves, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and served at room temperature.

How do you like to use the fresh basil from your garden? Please share your recipe ideas in the comments section below.

By Jodi Torpey
Denver Master Gardeners since 2015

Four Health Benefits of Gardening

It’s been a spring like no other, hasn’t it? I hope you and yours are healthy, safe, and enduring the challenges brought about by COVID-19.  Since health and well-being are more critical than ever right now, let’s take a look at four important physical and psychological benefits of gardening.

Increase the “Happy Chemical.” Fresh air and sunlight (with proper protection) increase serotonin levels in the brain, which researchers believe decreases anxiety and depression and contributes to a general sense of well-being.  No wonder serotonin has earned the happy chemical nickname.

Feel the (moderate) Burn.  Whether you work out religiously or need encouragement to get to the gym, gardening tasks can increase mobility, muscle tone, and stamina. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) a 150 pound person burns 378 calories during an hour of general gardening.  Digging, planting, and spading involves upper body, back, and leg muscles; weeding entails lots of lunges and squats; raking uses upper body muscles and done vigorously, you will get a good aerobic workout.

Fresh is Best. Growing your own fruits and vegetables is an excellent way to increase access to healthy foods, teach children about nutrition, explore new food options, and reduce the intake of herbicides and pesticides.  

Life-long Learning. I’ve been a Colorado Master Gardener for several years and am always humbled by how much I don’t know – and grateful for the opportunities to continue to learn. Seeking new information and being curious keeps our brains working at optimum levels. If you want to learn more about gardening, check out Colorado State University Extension Gardening Webinars – new, no cost and open to all.

Stay well and enjoy playing in the dirt.

For more information:

Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis. Preventive Medicine Reports, March 2017.

The Research is In: Yes, Gardening Totally Counts as Exercise MindBodyGreen.com

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Written by Linda McDonnell, a Denver County Master Gardener

Meet the Garden Squad—New Master Gardeners part 2

Meet the Garden Squad is a way to get better acquainted with some of our CSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers.

Here’s your chance to meet and greet the new crop of Denver Master Gardeners from the Class of 2020. Class members were invited to introduce themselves by answering one of 10 questions to help us get to know them. Please welcome them to the Garden Squad!

Kimberly Bischoff had no trouble deciding which world-renowned garden she’d like to visit. “The Gardens I would like to visit again (and again) is Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia. I loved every minute of my 4 hour stroll through the tulips!”

Alan Moores selected his favorite gardening quote by American novelist, gardener and garden writer Jamaica Kincaid: Nature abhors a garden. Alan says, “It gives me some perspective on my role, and that of the food I grow for my table, as ‘introduced’ species in this world, especially on the Front Range.

Jessica Harvey (shown with her husband Richard) says her favorite dish to prepare every summer “is a fairly easy one that utilizes multiple things I love growing—a pesto, tomato and cream cheese sandwich!”

Thanks to our new Master Gardeners for their photos and gardening insights. 

By Jodi Torpey
Master Gardener volunteer since 2005

Meet the Garden Squad—New Master Gardeners part 1

Meet the Garden Squad is a way to get better acquainted with some of our CSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers.

Here’s your chance to meet and greet the new crop of Denver Master Gardeners from the Class of 2020. Class members were invited to introduce themselves by answering one of 10 questions to help us get to know them. Please welcome them to the Garden Squad!

Rhianna Kirk finds exceptional joy from being close to nature. She shares her favorite gardening quote:
“Gardening… cheaper than therapy AND you get tomatoes.”

Aleka Mayr credits three role models for inspiring her to plant and grow. “Both my grandmothers and my mother have been my inspiration, and have shown me planting and growing can happen in an urban apartment, a rural farm, and even a vacant lot in the middle of Manhattan.”

Dudley Clark misses being able to grow rhododendrons in his Colorado landscape. “I have lived in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Virginia where they grow like weeds….year round greenery, wonderful flowers in a range of colors from white to deep purple and not much maintenance…remove spent flowers to encourage growth. Every few years I pay an outlandish price for a ‘rhodie’ at a Colorado nursery, plant it in a shady location, watch it struggle through our scorching heat and plummeting temperatures and finally succumb to the edict wrong plant, wrong place.”

Ashley Hooten (shown with husband Michael) says her favorite summer-time recipe is a “simple and easy Caprese salad with homegrown tomatoes and fresh basil! So delicious and fresh!”

Thanks to our new Master Gardeners for their photos and gardening insights. Watch for Meet the Garden Squad–New Master Gardeners part 2 later this week!

By Jodi Torpey
Master Gardener Volunteer since 2005

CSU Denver Extension Plant Sale Fundraiser!

plant saleCSU Denver Extension will be having a no contact and social distance plant sale fundraiser for May 21st and 22nd!

We are excited to offer up some of our favorite varieties of sweet and hot peppers for $6 a plant. To learn more about the varieties of peppers available and to order your plants please visit our website: https://denver.extension.colostate.edu/…/csu-denver-plant-…/

All the money raised from the plant sale and donations goes to support the Denver Extension office.

We look forward to seeing you soon and thank you for supporting our office and programs!

Murder Hornet: Reality for Coloradoans

murder-hornets-with-sting-that-can-kill-land-in-us

Image via Kenpei/Wikimedia Commons

Recently a report on the discovery of the large, native Asian hornet (Vespa mandarinia) in Washington state and British Columbia went viral. The New York Times dubbed it the “murder hornet” because of its striking appearance and size (about 2″ in length, wingspan of 3″), assumed threat to the honeybee population and quarter inch stinger to inject venom into humans.

Dr. Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University’s Entomologist and Extension Specialist, offers a constructive look at the Asian hornet and cautions us to look past the dramatic, attention-grabbing headlines.

Cranshaw notes the following:

  • Traps and controls have been developed in Asia and can be adapted for use in the very small outbreak in Washington and British Columbia.
  • While some insects relocate to new areas via packing materials, wood or other carriers, this hornet does not hitchhike well. Given that, to reach Colorado, it would need to navigate difficult terrain from Washington. This is considered unlikely.
  • The insect is a woodland species which lives in low altitude, moist environments. It is not likely to thrive or adapt to the semi-arid Rocky Mountain region. If it did get transported here, it is doubtful it would survive.
  • It is a generalist predator and honeybees are just one of its many predatory targets. Whether the giant Asian hornet will pose any greater threat to honeybees than existing predators remains to be seen. But it is possible that colonies in the wasp’s preferred woodland areas could be the most vulnerable honeybees.

Cranshaw and other entomologists caution that “Murder wasp” is an unwarranted, fear-inducing name. While imposing and unique for its appearance, the Asian hornet’s potential impact needs to be kept in perspective and is not expected to live up to the recent hype.

Additional Resources:

USDA New Pest Response Guidelines

“What’s In A Name? CSU Entomologist Says Title is All Buzz, No Sting”  KUNC Radio Interview with Dr. W. Cranshaw, May 12,2020

Written by Linda McDonnell, a Denver County Master Gardener

 

Container Vegetable Gardening

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Colorado State University

Want to grow vegetables but have limited outdoor space or no “dirt” of your own?  Like the ease of growing in pots versus in the ground? Sounds like container gardening is made for you. Here are some helpful tips for successful gardening in pots.

What to Plant

Peppers, squash, greens, potatoes, basil are among the many plants that grow well in containers – check this Planttalk Colorado publication for details and inspiration. When purchasing plants or seeds, look for cultivars described as compact, dwarf, patio or bush. Determinate tomato varieties work well but I also have great success with ‘Sun Gold’, a sweet, prolific indeterminate cherry tomato. (Determinate varieties tend to ripen all at once while and grow on bushier plants, while indeterminate ripen over a longer period and tend to be larger plants.)

Where and When to Plant

Generally, vegetables and herbs need 6-8 hours of sun a day. Placing your container on a strong dolly with wheels allows you to move the plant to find the ideal space. A dolly also helps you quickly shelter your plants from Colorado’s wicked summer hailstorms.

Warm season vegetables such as tomatoes should be planted when evening low temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees. Don’t rush things – in Denver, this generally means late May, even though Mother’s Day weekend is touted as the kickoff to the gardening season.

What Container to Use

squash

Colorado State University

The larger the plant, the larger the root system.  Salad greens successfully grow in pots that are 6-12” deep and at least 18” wide, while a tomato needs at least a depth and width of 14-16″ or more. Larger pots are less prone to drying out rapidly and because they hold more growing medium, the plant receives more nutrients and has plenty of room for root development. Generously sized, heavy containers anchor large plants in the wind and will help avoid tipping and broken branches.

Plastic, glazed or unglazed clay pots or wood whiskey barrels are popular choices. Unglazed clay pots can require more frequent watering, especially in the hottest part of the season. No matter what your container is made of, it must have good drainage holes.

Don’t forget to add support for vining or large plants – stake, cage or trellis your plant just as you would if it was in the ground. These plant aides are easiest to add before the plant needs it. Wrestling a metal cage over a sprawling plant is not fun and may not be successful. I’ve tried.

Soil and Fertilizer

Use potting media specifically for containers and/or vegetables, often labeled soilless.  “Soilless” potting soil sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?  Just like traditional potting soils, it can contain peat moss for nutrients, vermiculite for water retention and perlite to aide in air movement around the roots. The mixture will weigh less and is good to use in heavy containers.

Container veggies grow vigorously and therefore require lots of nutrients. Some mixtures contain time release fertilizers, which help plants get off to a good start, but will not feed plants for the entire season. Excellent information on using soluble and time-release supplements  in our region can be found here.

Penn State Extension noted that time release fertilizers release nutrients faster in warm weather; a pellet fertilizer labeled to last 4-5 months will only last 2 months if the temperatures are above 85 degrees.

According to Colorado State University, “Organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion or blood meal can also be used if desired but may be available too slowly for actively growing plants or may develop sour aromas that attract pets and pests.”

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Parker County Texas Master Gardeners

I’ve always added gravel or broken clay shards to the bottom of  pots for drainage.  Turns out, it’s not necessary or even advisable. Studies by Washington State University and others found that a layer of inorganic material drives excess moisture up to the roots rather than helping with drainage.  Excess moisture suffocates roots and reduces oxygen flow.  So, this year, I’m simply covering the drainage holes with pieces of metal screen to keep soil from leeching out. Paper coffee filters can do the trick too.

When to Water

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this often-asked question. A best practice is to check plants daily, ideally in the morning. Poke your finger into the soil, if it is starting to dry out at your first knuckle, water at the soil line till water flows out the bottom of the pot. Consider factors such as temperature, wind, reflective heat from surrounding hard surfaces, and as mentioned earlier, the type of container used. In the heat of the summer, you will likely water every day, possibly twice.

Do not allow vegetables to dry out completely – they may not forgive you!  Results of underwatering can include deformed  fruit, poor growth, disease or even loss of the plant.

Conclusion

So there you have it, a round up of solid research-based advice for container gardening. Growing edible plants in pots is rewarding and can yield excellent results. It’s a reliable method for experienced and beginning gardeners alike.  If you’ve never given it a try, its a fun summer activity which can provide plenty of healthy, tasty rewards.

 

Written by Linda McDonnell, Denver County Master Gardener

Meet the Garden Squad—Connie Rayor

Meet the Garden Squad is a way to get better acquainted with some of our CSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers.

Meet Connie Rayor

Connie Rayor is a CSU-Denver Master Gardener Emeritus who still volunteers for the Habitat for Humanity outreach program. (photo provided by Connie Rayor)

Connie Rayor thinks she’s been a CSU-Denver Master Gardener for 26 years, but who’s counting when you’re having so much fun?

Fun seems to be Connie’s watchword when it comes to being a Master Gardener. She’s been involved in just about every outreach project since she began volunteering years ago. In fact, some of the programs weren’t on the Master Gardener radar until Connie got involved.

“Oh, the early days were great,” she said.

Xeriscape may be a well-established method of landscaping now, but in the 1980s it was a new idea. Tasked with finding what xeriscaping was all about, she thoroughly researched the process so it could be put into practice as part of the Master Gardener program.

Connie was also instrumental in setting up the first Master Gardener information booth at the Cherry Creek Farmers Market.

“We had lots of customers coming up to talk to us and they were delighted to see us there. We didn’t have all the materials they do now, but we did have some materials. That was a fun gig, let me tell you.”

Another enjoyable project was being on the Garden Line 9 television show in the early years, she said. The Master Gardeners group would go in on Saturday mornings and be on camera as people called in with their gardening questions.

She said it was “great fun” to field questions on the fly. “We wouldn’t know what they were going to ask.”

But of all the projects she’s been involved in, starting the Habitat for Humanity outreach program is the one that’s closest to her heart. Early on she had taken a tour of some of the homes in the Habitat program and was surprised to see such pitiful landscaping.

“There were these miserable little junipers there, and I asked about the plants. It wasn’t anything I did with thought, I just asked if they’d like some help with them.”

During the first several years, Master Gardeners supervised on planting days, helping direct how to properly place and space plants in the landscape. But now Master Gardener volunteers teach landscape maintenance classes to new Habitat for Humanity homeowners. Connie developed the original landscape maintenance manual that’s been updated over the years.

At a time when she could kick back and relax as a Master Gardener Emeritus, Connie’s still involved in teaching the landscape maintenance classes about three times a year. Together with Master Gardener volunteers Marti Holmes and Beth McCoy, the team teaches how to care for trees, plants, lawns and how to deal with insect pests among other topics.

“It’s been glorious working together with them,” Connie said. “It’s really been the highlight of  being a Master Gardener. It’s my very favorite long-term project because it provides a real service.”

Connie recommends that Master Gardener apprentices get involved in a project or task they’re really interested in, instead of just putting in their hours. “It will make you a better Master Gardener and create a lot of satisfaction,” she said.

Connie’s love of gardening started as a kid helping her mom in the vegetable garden at their west Denver home. Her lifelong love affair with gardening really took off after she retired as a Denver Public Schools teacher.

After retiring, she followed her husband Harold into the Master Gardener program, but then he dropped out. He had retired earlier and joined because he knew how much she liked to garden.

While she’s unable to do much gardening these days, two of her three daughters and her grandson, Daniel, still carry on the tradition.

“He lives in Boston and was showing off the seedlings he planted in the community garden,” Connie said. “He’s taken a Master Urban Gardener class, but he still calls me for gardening advice.”

By Jodi Torpey
Master Gardener volunteer since 2005

Vegetable Growing Tips for Beginning Gardeners

New to vegetable gardening? We’re here to help!

A group of experienced CSU-Denver Master Gardeners answered the call to help new vegetable gardeners plant and grow their first gardens. These tips cover most of the basics for the best chance of success growing fruits, vegetables and herbs this season.

Their advice covers how to get your garden started, what to plant, when to plant, where to plant, how to care for your garden and a primer on growing tomatoes.

John Ashworth

John H. Ashworth, Master Gardener since 2014, shares his thoughts on various veggies that do well in Colorado vegetable gardens:

Radishes are the ideal crop to start with, especially if you get your kids involved. Radishes emerge very quickly, even in cold soil, and are ready for eating in 30 days or less.

Carrots can do well here, but can struggle if you have heavy clay soil in your garden. Before you plant in clay soil, mix in a healthy dose of play sand and mix in well. This will allow the carrot roots to grow down without extensive use of a garden fork for cultivating. Plant the shorter, stubbier carrot varieties, Nantes and half Danvers, if you have heavy soil.

Basil seeds can be started indoors under lights or in a sunny window, but  DO NOT plant them outside too soon!  Wait until early to mid-June. Basil grows well in containers — I plant ten basil plants in a large pot and get enough to make pesto all summer long. Be aware that Japanese beetles love basil, so pick the beetles off the plants early each morning.

Tomatoes are heavy feeders and like rich soil. Add compost and fertilizer (either well-rotted steer manure or a balanced chemical fertilizer) to the planting hole. Fertilize every few weeks. Because our climate is dry and lacks humidity, some tomato varieties, like large beefsteak tomatoes, tend to split open prematurely. Instead, try Sungold cherry tomatoes, Early Boy or Early Girl varieties, or any of the heirloom varieties such as Brandywine,  or the Eastern European varieties such as Black Krim or Polish paste tomatoes.

John’s final piece of advice: Above all, have fun!

Mary Carnegie, Master Gardener since 2002, is also the Garden Leader for the Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) Park Hill School garden. Her top three tips for new gardeners are concise and to the point:

1. Be willing to get your hands dirty; stick your finger in the soil to see if plants need water.

2. Know the “safe” planting dates; don’t plant too early. (CSU Extension’s Vegetable Planting Guide can help with planting dates.)

3. Learn as much as you can about watering and mulching. (CSU Extension’s Watering Guide and Mulches for Home Grounds are two good resources.)

Rikki Hanson

Rikki Hanson, Master Gardener since 2014, says something that stuck with her as a beginning gardener is that “Colorado gardeners do it for the challenge. Lucky for me, I like a challenge.” To meet that challenge, she advises to start small.

1. Start with a few veggies that you enjoy eating. Have a mix of things that grow quickly and slowly, that way you can enjoy the fruits of your labor sooner while you wait for the big-ticket items. Radishes and lettuces are great fast-rewards foods.

2. Make a plan for watering: early in the morning or after 6 pm. This is especially important when you have seeds and seedlings. We have a very dry climate that lends itself nicely to mulch.

3. Find the joy in your own plot of Earth. Vegetable gardening is something to be enjoyed and to help you destress!

Jill Fielder

Jill Fielder, Master Gardener since 2012, is happy to share her trio of tips:

Tip 1:  Many vegetable plants need sunlight to grow sturdy and strong. Planting  sun-worshiping  vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplants in less than full sun (about 6-8 hours of sun) sets one up for heartbreak. Tomato plants aren’t going to be vigorous and productive in 3 or 4 hours of sun no matter how much you will it. If you don’t have adequate sun in your space, choose plants that will thrive in partial sun (3-5 hours) such as lettuces, chard, spinach, scallions, kale, beets, Asian greens and radishes. In Colorado basil, thyme, chives, mint, oregano and parsley grow beautifully with just morning sun.

Tip 2:  Find a place for bunching onions or scallions (also called Welch onions, spring onions and green onions). These onions are super easy, speedy and fun. They can be grown from seed or slender starts from the nursery. Choose the customary white variety or scoop up the pretty deep red ones if you can find them. Plant in mid spring and you can eat the greens during the summer (snipped into eggs, stir fries and salads) and harvest the whole onion plants in the fall. Left in the garden, they’ll usually overwinter.

Tip 3:  Start seeds for ruffled, loose leaf lettuces outdoors early, even if there will likely still be frosts and maybe snow. Lettuce seedlings are remarkably tough. Depending on the lettuce variety, leaves can be ready in 40-55 days. Don’t let your precious garden space go unused in the spring!

Elizabeth Gundlach Neufeld

Elizabeth Gundlach Neufeld, long-time gardener and Master Gardener since 2017, reveals her 8 tips for tomato growing. These are the key points she wishes she would’ve known years ago when it comes to planting tomato seedlings:

1. Choose seedlings that are strong and relatively straight.

2. Harden off all seedlings for a good week after purchasing. “Hardening Off” means leaving them outside, in a sheltered location, with little exposure to the elements. Be sure to water the seedlings to keep moist before planting.

3. When ready, plant tomatoes in a trench. Cut off all the leaves and small branches EXCEPT for the top 2 inches. Plant the rest sideways in the trench. Those fuzzy little hairs on the stem will become roots! Planting the tomatoes more-or-less horizontally will produce greater numbers of roots and lead to a stronger plant.

4. Here’s the hard part. For the subsequent 3 weeks, remove ALL the flowers. Doing this allows the plant to spend its energy producing a strong root system. I sometimes compare this to humans in the following way: Although, say, young teenagers may be physically possible to bear children, they are not ready to. Similarly, the tomato plant needs to mature in the ground before producing tomatoes.

5. Pinch off all ‘suckers’ in indeterminate varieties. Suckers appear in the crotches of the tomato branches and can harm the overall plant by weakening the main stem.

6. Stake or cage the plants! Because you’ve trench-planted and picked the blossoms, the main stock will be thick and able to support many more tomatoes.

7. Water tomatoes ONLY at the bottom at soil level, trying not to wet any leaves. Keep only moderately moist. They will likely not need watering every day.

8. Enjoy the harvest!

A big thank you to John, Mary, Rikki, Jill and Elizabeth for generously sharing their hard-won secrets to vegetable-growing success.

Of course, Master Gardeners are available to answer specific questions through the Denver Master Gardener Helpline at 720-913-5278 or email denvermg @ colostate.edu. Also, please take a minute to review the list of Free CSU Extension Spring Gardening webinars and our new Grow & Give program.

By Jodi Torpey, Master Gardener since 2005
Photos provided by each gardener