Released in March, Flora—a free AI texting service (sign up online) created by Boulder-based fertilizer company Love, Plants—provides instant answers to your botanical queries. But does the cheerful chatbot receive a green thumbs-up from a human expert? To find out, we interviewed Flora and then asked Jenny Cavanaugh, founder of edible-garden consultancy Denver Kitchen Gardens, to weigh in on its responses.

5280: Hi, Flora! Novice gardener here. What are the easiest vegetables to grow in Denver?
Flora: Hey there, budding green thumb! Denver’s got that mile-high sun but can throw some curveballs with cool temps. For veggies, start with radishes, spinach, and lettuce—they’re not fussy and love a quick chill. 🌱✨
Jenny Cavanaugh: Radishes, spinach, and lettuce are low maintenance, but they generally prefer cool, spring temps. In Denver, the transition to summer can be abrupt, so diversify your seeds with cool- and warm-season varieties of those veggies.

I’ve heard that Denver’s soil is extra tricky. How can I make it more fertile so that I have happy veggies?
Flora: Oh Denver, with your cowboy boots and soil swagger! Your soil can be a bit like the Wild West—lean, mean, and sometimes too alkaline. What to do? Add organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure to improve soil structure and add nutrients. A little peat moss can help lower the pH if it’s too high. Regular [at-home] soil tests will keep you on track, partner. And remember, happy soil equals happy veggies. It’s like a hoedown for roots! 🤠🌻✨
Cavanaugh: Adding organic matter to your soil is a great strategy, but too much of a good thing can be a problem. Send your soil off to a lab to have it analyzed so you can understand what, precisely, you need.

Is it better to plant in raised beds or in the ground in Denver?
Flora: Raised beds in Denver are like the VIP lounges for plants—they offer better drainage, control over soil quality, and a quicker warm-up in spring compared to native soil, which can be tough as cowboy boots. In-ground gardens can work, too, but they may need more amending and TLC to get the soil just right. So, do you want the penthouse suite for your plants or the charming fixer-upper? 🌆 🛠️🌼
Cavanaugh: Flora hit the mark here. I’d add that the key to a raised bed is to fill it with quality soil and compost, not dirt.

How can I get rid of weeds without harming my plants?
Flora: Weeds, the uninvited guests that never leave! Here’s how to show them the door, gently:

  • Mulch magic: A thick layer of mulch can suppress those weedy party crashers.
  • Hand-to-hand combat: Pull them out by hand, getting as much of the root as possible.
  • Boiling water: A hot surprise for paths and cracks—but keep it away from your plants!
  • Vinegar solution: A spray of vinegar can bid them farewell, but it’s non-selective, so shield your plants.

Remember, it’s persistence over pesticides. Keep at it and your garden will be a weed-free wonderland! 🌿🚫🌷
Cavanaugh: Flora’s weed management strategy is pretty darn good, but she did make a mistake. Pesticides won’t do a thing for your weeds—it’s herbicides that you use for plants.