“Freckles” is an heirloom lettuce that performs well in the Pikes Peak region.

“Heirloom seeds are better, right?” It’s a question I hear a lot when I’m teaching classes on growing your own veggies. Just the term “heirloom” makes us think of precious family treasures, fine antiques. “Heirloom seeds” is a phrase that sells and many seed companies take full advantage of it.

Heirloom vegetables (or flowers) are varieties that have been in cultivation a long time—decades, if not centuries—and are still being grown today. They’re what your great grandmother would have sown in her garden. They’re the antiques of the gardening world.


Mulched garlic

According to the latest report from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, “Extreme drought conditions exist from Colorado Springs and Pueblo to the San Luis Valley and over most of the plains to the southeast of the big metro areas.”

If you live here, this isn’t exactly news. The  fields are turning brown months early, wildflowers are small and sparse , and even the most aggressive weeds are wilting.

Living in the low-rainfall west, we’re used to gardening with minimal water. Xeriscaping is a household word, and basic principles of low-water gardening are widely available.


Roses, petunias, and… zucchini? Why not? While traditionally grown in a vegetable garden, summer squash’s striking appearance can provide a focal point for an ornamental border as well.

Zucchini and its relatives have large lobed leaves, blotched with white, supported by thick prickly stems. Big yellow flowers produce squash in an amazing variety of colors and shapes. Of course they’re edible—but they’re eye-catching as well. Just make sure you leave plenty of room. “Bush” squash plants grow four feet wide and two feet high.


Q: I want to plant my first vegetable garden this year. Any tips?

A: So this is the year that you want to plant a vegetable garden. You are not alone. Backyard gardens are making a comeback. Victory gardens began in the 1940’s to provide over 40% of the fresh vegetables during wartime. Food supplies were low and economic times were hard. Sound familiar?

It is good to see that we are returning to our (please excuse the pun) roots. Fresh, local and organic seem to be the buzzword these days. You want to jump in but you might be saying, “Where do I begin?”. (more…)