Last year's vegetable garden at Swan's Nest was a more rewarding experience than I had anticipated. As I carried my little basket to the garden several times a week to harvest arugula, lettuces, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, broccoli rabe, and mesclun for salads, sandwiches, or stir-fries, I felt like a mini-farmer, and could only imagine how farmer around the world must feel while harvesting crops that will feed hundreds or thousands of people. I also discovered what fun it was to create small packages of my harvest and share it with friends, while proudly saying “I grew this in my garden”.
With this experience in my back pocket, I started planning this year’s garden while there was still snow on the ground so I could get a jump on all the other gardeners planting from seed. Standing in my winter jacket in our nearby Walmart, perusing through racks and racks of seed packets, was exhilarating as I envisioned how many rows of vegetables would fit in our raised garden beds.
We have a very short growing season in Breckenridge, Colorado. Situated at 9,300 feet elevation, we ‘officially’ have only 29 frost-free days, though my experience is more like two to two-and-a-half months, depending on the year. With this in mind, my first priority when selecting seeds was personal preference, and the second was the number of days until harvest. If the number of days exceeded fifty, the packet went back into the rack – with one exception. Part of the fun of gardening is experimentation, so I purchased packets of zucchini squash (57 days), cucumber seeds (60 days), and kaleidoscope blend carrots (75 days), just to see what would happen.
My husband, Randy and I arrived in Breckenridge from our home in Dallas on June 20, and I immediately set to work weeding our two raised beds in preparation for planting. Thankfully, I purchased bags of rich garden soil in the spring so I could immediately amend the garden. But, the best thing of all, was the arrival of my sister, Judy and her husband Mike Thompson the following day. Judy is a master gardener, and Mike brought his years of expertise from their own vegetable gardens. Mike completed the weeding, helped turn the soil and mix in the new soil, and added a metal garden trellis I had stored in the barn.
Judy and I formed the rows, laid out the seed packets, moved them around a few times until I was satisfied with their position in my overall garden plan, and planted each row. She showed me how forming an indentation in the rows with a long two-by-four not only formed straight rows, but created the perfect depth to plant each variety of seed before covering them with soil. We inserted small stakes at the end of each row to identify the plants, and within a few hours, the garden was planted and ready to be watered. I was amazed that five days after planting, the first tender leaves of lettuce poked their way through the soil, and within two weeks, the garden sported row-after-row of little green plants. My garden was on its way!
Please check back soon for further details on my summer vegetable garden – what worked and what didn’t. As all gardeners know, it’s always an adventure.