Durango BOtanical Society

Building Public Gardens Committed to Demonstration and Education


How Does Your Vegetable Garden Grow?

02 May 2019 8:42 AM | William LeMaire (Administrator)

When we succeed in the vegetable garden, there’s nothing like it for wholesome, tasty food and, uh, bragging rights. When we fail, well, we can always blame it on the deer, weather, climate change, or a hungry Yeti. Vegetable gardening is especially challenging here in the Four Corners region with rocky, clay-laden soils, big swings in temperature, and a paucity of rain. The key to success with your veggies, says Darrin Parmenter, Horticulturalist and La Plata Extension Director for Colorado State University, is planning and aligning what you plant with what you most want to eat and have time to grow. (Click Read More for full post)

Parmenter was speaking to an audience of over 50 people at the first in the 2019 Great GardenSeries,sponsored by the Durango Public Library, the Durango Botanical Society, and the Colorado State University Extension Office.  The next in this Series will be June 5, when Kami Larson talks on “Good Bugs vs. Bad Bugs” at the Durango Public Library, 6:00-7:30pm.

Before deep diving into frost schedules, soil temperatures, soil structures, and the merits of raised beds, Parmenter noted an overlooked part of vegetable gardening strategy is planning. For example, what does my summer calendar look like? Your garden can take minor stretches of neglect but not a series of extended trips. So either have a reliable, saintly neighbor or reconsider the size and scope of your plantings. Also, simply grow plenty of what you really like; if four items seem to dominate your summer table, then focus on those items. Volume also might depend on your level of interest in canning or other forms of preservation. Or, perhaps simply donate some of your surplus to many local organizations that feed the hungry.

While most of us keep an eye on atmospheric conditions and temperatures, it is easy to overlook the importance of your garden soil and its condition and temperature, says Parmenter. Sand on the beach, for example, has no structure; veggie gardeners, on the other hand, want soil particles that join together with a kind of crumb-like structure. Adding organic matter is the best way to improve structure. 

Parmenter also urges gardeners to pay attention to the temperature of their soil. Taking your soil’s temperature does not necessarily require elaborate equipment, a kitchen meat thermometer can do the trick too. He showed a slide with a variety of soil temperatures aligned with a number of popular vegetables. Getting the soil temperature right for planting is a significant aid to quick germination and getting a healthy vegetable crop. Obtain a copy of this slide and perhaps other slides in his Great Garden Series presentation by emailing him at Darrin.parmenter@colostate.edu.  The presentation is also available at http://www.co.laplata.co.us/government/departments/extension_offices_c.s.u.

Parmenter shares vegetable gardening tips with over 50 local gardeners. The Great Garden Series is a collaboration of the Durango Public Library, the Durango Botanical Society, and the CSU La Plata County Extension Office. The next presentation will be June 5 on "Good Bugs vs. Bad Bugs."

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