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It’s time to stop being envious of your neighbor’s fresh-from-the-garden dinner parties and go green with a veggie garden of your very own. But where will it fit? And is all that weeding and watering worth it? Yes, thanks to tips from local small-space garden experts Jodi Torpey (author of Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening) and Slow Food USA’s Andrew Nowak (a school-garden specialist) on making vegetables grow in nearly any urban landscape.
Mix it up
Soils—especially Denver’s dense clay—often need to be enhanced with well-draining organic materials to prevent plants from rotting from the root up. For a new garden, add one to three inches of a low-salt, plant-based compost to the soil; mix until well incorporated up to eight inches deep.
Think outside the (garden) box
Do you have a patio that basks in sunlight all day? Put that valuable gardening real estate to use with container-friendly plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.
Keep ’em coming
Growing broccoli and pumpkins is a season-long commitment, but you can easily replant fast-growing crops like spinach (plant a new batch every three weeks), radishes (the Cherry Belle variety matures in just 24 days), and Hakurei turnips (you can start harvesting greens and small turnips in 30 days) throughout the summer.
Many veggies adore a good eight hours of sunshine per day, so pick a garden spot that gets ample rays (hint: Think southern exposure). If your house casts a long shadow, don’t fret: Cilantro, tatsoi, and kale all thrive in partial shade; even peas, beans, and chard will grow with just four to five hours of sunlight.
You could spend months browsing through catalogs for the perfect heirloom seeds and still not find one that works in your backyard’s microclimate. Fortunately, Botanical Interests—which offers organic, untreated, non-GMO seeds—is based right here in Broomfield and offers reliable results at reasonable prices.
Be a picky eater
It’s easy to have a “Well, if I grow it, maybe I’ll eat more cabbage” mindset. You’ve got limited space, though, so plant things you love to eat instead of ones you avoid at the store.
When Colorado’s bluebird spring days arrive, it can be tempting to start planting. But don’t be fooled: If nighttime temperatures aren’t reliably above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it is still too early for tender seeds.
Spring Fling: Three Events Worth Your While
1. Totally Tomato: Heirloom? Hybrid? How to choose? Get the best advice on growing the most beloved garden vegetable at this class. April 6, 6 p.m., Denver Botanic Gardens
2. Creating a Medicinal Herb Garden: Curious about how to use common plants to boost your health? Find answers (and start a few herbs) at this local class. April 22, 10 a.m., Three Leaf Farm
3. Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) Plant Sale: Shop here for organic flower, herb, and veggie starts while doing good: All proceeds help low-income families start gardens of their own. May 12–13, DUG Headquarters