Diane Prather: Spring arriving later than usual

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Diane Prather

Most Northwest Colorado residents agree that the spring of 2010 has been “wacky,” for lack of a better word.

A late spring caused the usual garden planting to be postponed for two weeks, or if gardens were planted at the usual time, plants frosted (after perhaps more than one planting) and then were damaged by sudden hot winds.

Ervin and Arloa Gerber, who live west of Craig, planted their tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers in Walls-o-Water and as a result have some tomatoes “way over the tops” of the walls.

Arloa said the rest of the garden is “slow.”

“Once it warmed up, everything has done pretty good, but it took awhile,” she said.

The Gerbers start plants such as tomatoes, peppers, cabbages, cucumbers, broccoli, and cauliflower inside in the spring and then transplant them when it warms up.

This year, after transplanting, it frosted and warmed up too soon and the weather was too harsh for some of the plants like broccoli and cabbage, and the plants died. The Gerbers had to replace them with purchased bedding plants.

Arloa said the frost of about three weeks ago nipped the tomato leaves that were above the water walls, frosted the leaves of the potatoes a bit and perhaps a “bean or two.”

Craig resident Iva Decker always raises a bountiful garden and exhibits vegetables at the county fair. This year, however, she’s had some challenges.

“It’s the worst garden I’ve ever had,” she said. “It’s an awful year. We’ll be getting snow pretty soon — in July.”

Decker also starts garden seeds in the spring and relies on hot houses to get the plants going before transplanting them.

But, her early tomatoes froze in the hot house this year. Now, however, the hot-house tomatoes and peppers are starting to bloom.

She has harvested lettuce from the hot house, and lettuce in the outside garden is about four inches high. Iva has picked spinach and strawberries, too. The garlic looks good.

Decker also reported that some potatoes in the outdoor garden are about 10-inches tall. Others are just peeking through the ground. Her carrots are two-and-a-half inches high, the corn is nine- or 10-inches tall, and the peas are blooming and putting on pods.

The Chinese cabbage looks good, too, but she’s having trouble getting the zucchini started.

As far as fruit trees are concerned, Decker’s apricot fruit froze, and she can’t see any apples on the trees, but the cherry bushes are “loaded up.”

In Hayden, Kathy Hockin’s garden is about a month behind. She said her peonies are fabulous, but the wind tore the iris’ apart. In her greenhouse, Hockin has four different types of tomatoes, four different kinds of peppers, two different kinds of cucumbers, and a planter filled with herbs.

She has planted squash, cucumbers, beans, and peas in the outside garden, but hasn’t had much luck with lettuce. Carrots are coming up from the last year’s seed.

This year, Hockin turned a dog run into a greenhouse that she made from a frame and purchased plastic, and when the season starts getting cool she plans to use some Christmas lights “about as big as a thumb” to keep a little more heat in the greenhouse and thus gain a little more growing time.

“Zilch” is the way Craig resident Galord Flies described his garden this year.

“I just couldn’t get in the mood,” he said. “I don’t know whether it was the weather or me. Maybe I’m just lazy.”

Nevertheless, Flies planted squash, radishes, two rows of beets, and a couple rows of beans and carrots.

When asked about the Pritchard garden, Glenn said, “It’s pretty good, except that the rabbits and chickens found it.”

The chickens and domesticated rabbits wiped all the leaves off the grapes and got the blueberries and peas. However, inside the Pritchard’s large greenhouse, where the rabbits and chickens don’t have access, the grape plants have grown three feet.

Glenn and Audrey Pritchard start gardening plants in their greenhouse and then transplant them into a variety of stock tanks and truck and tractor tires that are filled with soil. For example, five horse tanks are filled with tomatoes that grow in about three feet of soil. A great big tractor tire is the home for asparagus, squash is growing in truck tires, and sheep water tanks are filled with Swiss chard.

The Pritchards have had several helpings of lettuce, spinach, and carrots already. Glenn said the tomatoes planted outside are already two-feet high and transplanted green beans (wrapped in wire to protect them from the rabbits) are blooming. Okra and pac choi are also doing well.

Glenn said that their garden is located on a south slope, and their place is 10-degrees warmer in the daytime as compared to Craig. During this time of year, the temperature stays in the middle 50s at night. When it looks as if there might be a frost, Glenn and Audrey cover their plants with sheets and blankets that the drape over arrow shafts (put into the ground so the covers won’t mash the plants).

And so that’s a sampling of gardens at present in Northwest Colorado. One wonders what the fall will bring.

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