Many gardeners in the Pikes Peak area have been complaining of undersized tomato plants, underperforming basil, wimpy peppers, etc. As usual, weather challenges us when we garden here, and this year, we have a rather unusual combination – chilly temperatures and (at times) over-abundant moisture. The last few summers have been warmer than average, so we’ve been caught off guard by conditions that are pretty comfortable for the gardener, but not so much for the warm-season vegetables and herbs!

A fellow Colorado gardener that I know of who gardens (with wild success) above 8000 ft always says “A tomato never wants to go below fifty degrees in its life – maybe even sixty!” (She, of course, uses cold frames, hoop houses, green houses, etc for all her gardening. To learn more about her garden, visit her web site here: I suspect that the minimum-temperature rule for peppers is even ten degrees warmer than for tomatoes.

So, what’s the big deal? We’ve been over sixty degrees since the middle of June, right? Well, we have been for day time highs. But you have to also consider night-time temperatures. Even at the lower altitudes, night-time temperatures in our region dipped below fifty degrees several times in the past few weeks. This has helped keep our houses cooler, but it has definitely affected those hot-weather loving plants like peppers, tomatoes, and basil.  


peas_packet.jpgA visiting friend from Nashville (recently upgraded from Zone 6 to Zone 7 on the new USDA hardiness map!) reminded me of how different spring planting can be all around the country. She’s been gardening for weeks back at home, while things are just barely getting going here. But this certainly is the time of year that people start to want to plant.

So, what can we plant? Here is an easy summary of spring vegetable planting dates in our Zone 5b Colorado Springs area based on information from Colorado State University Extension (those in Monument, Black Forest, etc may want to add a week or so): (more…)

For all you die hard gardeners next month Larry Stebbins the director of Pikes Peak Urban Gardens (PPUG) will be giving a class entitled “Fall Veggie Class”.  This class is the first in a series of six classes Larry will present throughout the winter.  The “Fall Veggie Class”  will not only cover Fall Veggies, but also what worked and what did not work in the garden this year.

Just like the rest of the U.S. we have had some unusual weather to deal with this past summer.  First our May was cold and damp then came the heat in June followed by the rain in July.  It was a challenging year to be a Colorado Gardener.  Larry is a great speaker and just full of knowledge about growing vegetables here in Colorado.  Go to to register and attend the class.

Don’t let a lack of space stop you from growing fresh vegetables. Even if you only have a small yard or live in a condo or apartment you can enjoy fresh and tasteful vegetables from your own garden. Most people think you need a big gardening space to grow your favorite vegetables, but you don’t. Picking the right type of vegetable and a variety of containers you can grow succulent vegetables too.

When choosing your vegetables look for varieties that will grow well in small places. Choose bush beans instead of climbers. Choose from the many determinate tomatoes out on the market. You are not limited just to determinate varieties, you can also grow indeterminate tomatoes like Brandywine, Celebrity, Better Boy and many more. With the indeterminate varieties will have to install a trellis. There are many dwarf varieties of vegetables on the market. (more…)

Springtime not only brings thoughts of flowering crocus, daffodils, tulips and planting vegetables, but of spring cleaning in the garden.  Left behind from fall and winter are masses of leaves, twigs, needles and blown trash stuck in every nook and cranny in our gardens.  Spring is the time to clear away the debris so new life can emerge from the warming soil to once again brighten our gardens.

While doing your Spring cleaning in your garden not only be vigilant with your cleaning, but also look for overwintering insect eggs.  One in particular is the Mantids or you may know it by its commonly referred name the “Praying Mantis”.  If you are fortunate enough to discover one do not destroy it.  The Mantids are one of the best beneficial insects to have in your garden. (more…)

veg_garden_empty.jpgQ: I notice some gardeners turning over the soil in their veggie beds. Isn’t this the wrong time for that?

A: Actually, this can be the perfect time to work and amend the soil in parts of your vegetable beds (the ones that aren’t currently growing vegetables, of course!). Here are some of the reasons you might consider amending your vegetable bed now.

We’ve had a couple of articles on growing garlic in this blog: (more…)


'Carmen' peppers in container

Q: I want to grow some vegetables in containers this year. Any tips?

A: Space comes at a premium in most gardens. Soils can be a problem – too much clay, too much sand. Light and moisture requirements are not ideal. Pests invade with a vengeance. What’s a vegetable gardener to do? Try gardening in containers. Luckily for us, plant growers and equipment suppliers have responded to our requests with a wide variety of patio-sized vegetables and the containers. (more…)

It is not quite time to plant your onions yet, but it is time to make sure your soil is prepared and that you choose the right onion plant for our growing season.  Onions are best grown in a raised bed at least 4 inches high.  If you do not have raised beds, ensure the soil is loose, well-drained soil of high fertility and plenty of organic matter.  Onions grow best with a pH between 6.2 and 6.8.

There are three types of onions and they are characterized by day length.  Long-day onions, which grow better in the northern states, quit forming tops and begin to form bulbs when the day-length reaches 14-16 hours.  Short-day onions, which grow better in the southern states, will start making bulbs earlier when there are only 10-12 hours of daylight.  Intermediate-day onions, which are great for the mid-state gardens, require 12-13 hours of daylight to form bulbs.  We want to plant intermediate-day onions in our area.  Three varieties that do well here are:

  • Sweet Candy Red(red onion)
  • Super Star Hybrid(white onion)
  • Hybrid Candy(yellow onion) (more…)

Q: Earthworms gross me out. What good are they?

Photo: Joseph Berger,

Photo: Joseph Berger,

A: We hardly notice them most of the time… they’re out of sight, underground, aerating the soil, creating humus, increasing fertility. It’s only after a rain storm, when the ground is saturated, that they come up for air. Then we see their desiccated carcasses strewn across the pavement. Robins eat them, anglers use them for bait, and little kids bring them home in their pockets as pets. Most of us dissected one in biology, carefully counting the five aortic arches while debating the coolness of being squeamish. Yet, for all their inconspicuous habits, earthworms play a major role both in our gardens and in the wild.


lettuce.jpgQ: I had a great time growing my own vegetables and lettuce this summer and want some advice on expanding my garden next year. Where do I begin?

A: Whether you were a first time vegetable gardener or an experienced Front Range gardener, this is a great time to review your current gardening season and make some notes for next year! Evaluate your garden using the criteria listed below.

Performance: Many types of vegetables perform superbly in the Pikes Peak area. Cold weather crops such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower excel. Peas and potatoes may be planted before last frost and thrive. Spinach and lettuce planted successively provide salad greens all season and root crops such as carrots, beets and turnips are always dependable. Zucchini and beans produce more than we can eat or give away. Tomatoes, peppers, chilies are a bit more difficult to grow in the area; but not impossible. Learn from your garden this season and apply that wisdom to your garden next season. (more…)