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How Does Your Garden Grow?

So if your green thumb is itching to get started on a great flower or vegetable garden for the summer, remember, there is much that can be done now to prepare.

Mike Estes, owner of Rick’s Garden Center, is enthusiastic about vegetable gardening in general and says there are many benefits to getting the ball rolling early. “Vegetable gardening has gotten stronger in the past few years for a variety of reasons,” Estes says. “Economics and better control over what is going in your food are the leading reasons.”

Estes says it is not too early to start planning. Now is the time to be looking through seed catalogs to determine what you want to grow, and then drawing up a plan based on how much space you need and how much is available in your garden. Seed charts are readily accessible at local garden centers and online to help with this process. Creating sketches of your garden will keep you excited while you wait for warmer temperatures to return.

When choosing the list of plants you plan to grow, check with a professional to ensure the seeds you have chosen will produce within our growing season. Many prefer starting the process early to help give the seedlings a jump start .“If you have trouble getting through the winter months, it can be therapeutic to start seeds indoors,” Estes says. “You really get a feeling of self-satisfaction when you begin harvesting your own food and realize it tastes better and has more flavor than the produce bought at the grocery store.”

The spring months are also a great time to get prep work done in anticipation of a successful growing season. Robin Boutilier from Good Earth Garden Center says it is critical to continue with winter watering once or twice a month. “Guidelines call for one inch of water per month to keep the plants that are already in the ground hydrated,” Boutilier says. “You can also water new beds that have not yet been planted to help anchor them.”

There are flower seeds that can be started indoors but just as with vegetables, Boutilier warns to read the seed packets first. “If you are new to gardening, seed packets now have a wealth of information to help you,” she says. “There could be a history, how many days to germination and days to maturity, as well as other pertinent information on the packet.”
Planning a flower garden can be even more exciting because of the color choices and heights to consider. Boutilier suggests getting help with your plant choices to ensure you have considered all factors including sun exposure, deer tolerance and general blooming times. “You can visit a garden center or hire someone to help you but have in mind the types of flowers you like or the look you’re going for beforehand” she says.

And equipment preparation is important no matter what type of gardening you will be doing this summer. Now is the time to take inventory of containers, replacing any pots that cracked over the winter months. Warmer spring days allow for cleaning up mulch, leaves and other debris that collected in garden beds. And it’s a good time to get tools sharpened and gloves replaced in anticipation of mid-May planting.

In addition to the local garden centers and online resources, the Colorado State University Extension for El Paso County offers several ways to help gardeners. The Colorado Master Gardeners have a help desk that is staffed by volunteers. They can assist with tree, lawn, and garden problems, answer questions, provide solutions and make recommendations that are based on best practices. During the winter, master gardeners are available on an as-needed basis by calling 719-520-7684 or emailing CSUmg2@elpasoco.com. They also offer gardening books that are designed to assist with gardening in the Pikes Peak Region. Visit the CSU Extension online at http://elpasoco.colostate.edu.