Thursday, February 25, 2010

Consumer sources of garden information

Consumers are mining the internet for more and more garden information. If you are online reading Front Range Food Gardener, exploring online seed catalogs and university plant information websites, you’ve helped vault the internet from fifth to second most used source for garden information in the last year.

The national Garden Trends Research Report just released by the Garden Writers Association Foundation asked “Which of the following are your sources of gardening information?” Consumers rated top sources to be friends (43%), internet (29%), magazines (22%), books (22%), retailers (19%), newspapers (13%), blogs (7%) and other (18%).

I always urge people to look at the source of the information. Anyone can throw up a website or blog so look for who is writing. Is it a credible university, nursery, plant society, government agency or similar source?

There are certainly knowledgeable amateur gardeners but critically think through their recommendations and interpretations before buying their information. You can always run your own experiment and try growing one plant their way and one “normally” to see if there is any difference.

Do check if they are writing about plants in your hardiness zone and environment. This is why Front Range Food Gardener is localized to Denver and other Front Range Colorado cities. Our climate is challenging. While experiences elsewhere can inform us, they always need to be interpreted for how well they translate to our environment and soils.

Low elevation humid climate plant growing even in the north doesn’t always copy to high and dry plant growing in Colorado. Likewise growing in acid eastern U.S. soils doesn’t mean plants will perform similarly in alkaline Colorado soils.

Check back for more garden information and share your garden experiences on this blog. Note your city location so others can interpret how well information applies to them. We can all help each other be more successful food gardeners.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Vegetable varieties for high elevation Front Range areas

Larry Stebbins of Pikes Peak Urban Gardens recently spoke at the green industry ProGreen conference at the Colorado Convention Center. His favorite vegetable and herb varieties are listed below. If they grow at Colorado Springs elevations, they must be special. Varieties mentioned first in bold type are favorites. Other adapted varieties follow. If a variety is new to you, try it this season.

Artichoke Globe: Imperial Star (annual, 85 days from seed)
Asparagus: Jersey varieties
Basil: Genovese, Sweet Basil
Beans: Kwintus Pole, most bush varieties (Blue Lake, Tendergreen), Kentucky Wonder Pole
Beets: Detroit Dark Red, Bulls Blood, Chioggia
Broccoli: Premium Crop, Pacman, Early Dividend
Cabbage: most all, try Chinese varieties
Carrot: Mokum, Ya Ya, Kaleidoscope, Nelson, Danvers Half Long, Burpee A#1, Sugarsnax
Corriander: Santo
Corn Sweet: Bodacious, Ambrosia
Cucumber: Cool Breeze, burpless varieties
Garlic: Spanish Roja, Inchelium Red, Chesnok Red, Chet’s Italian
Kale: Red Russian, Redbor
Lettuce: Buttercrunch, romaines, leaf lettuces, mesclun mixes
Mustard: Osaka Purple, Mizuna
Onion: Candy, SuperStar White, Red Candy, Lisbon White Bunching, Copra, First Edition, Red Zeppelin
Parsnip: Hollow Crown
Peas: Sugar Ann, SugarSnap, Oregon Sugar Pod(snow pea), Garden Peas (Maestro, Wando and Marvel),
Pepper Sweet: Carmen, Green Bell (most varieties), Fooled You Jalapeño
Pepper Hot: Mexibell, Anaheim, Big Chile, Jalapeño, Mucho Nacho, Garden Salsa, New Mex Joe Parker
Potato: Russet, Yukon Gold, Red Norland
Radish: Cherry Belle, French Breakfast
Rutabaga: Laurentian
Spinach: Giant Noble, Tyee, Space, Melody, Bloomsdale
Squash Summer: Magda, zuchinni (most varieties), yellow, crookneck,
Squash Winter: Early Butternut, Table King or Table Ace Acorn, Buttercup, Spaghetti
Swiss Chard: Ruby, Rhubarb, Bright Lights, Neon, Fordhook
Tomato: Big Beef, Sweet Million or Sweet 100’s, Celebrity, Fantastic, Early Girl, Better Boy, Mortgage Lifter, Sweet Baby Girl

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Chile peppers - back to the future

If you love to grow chiles and eat Mexican food, you will want to know about New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute. They have cleaned up the ‘Big Jim’ and ‘6-4’ chile varieties to yield 10 percent more and have 20 percent more flavor! The resulting heritage varieities are what these chiles used to be like before seed lines wandered off type. The fruit grown from CPI’s seed more closely resembles the flavor many may remember from years ago – and higher yield is an added bonus.

Do you have trouble maturing chiles in your shorter growing season area? You will be interested in NuMex Espanola Improved, a variety adapted to fewer days to maturity growing.

See the CPI Shop 2010 catalog for seeds as well as books and posters. Note also that they carry more than just chile peppers. Sweet, paprika, jalapeno, Cuban, Caribbean, ornamental and many other types of pepper seeds can be found in their colorful catalog pages. Pepper enthusiasts can also get the T-shirt and salsa.

CPI’s online catalog is fun to browse even if you have no thoughts of growing peppers this season. Before you know it you may just find a pepper that you have to try in your garden.

Photo credit - Caged pepper plant- Carl Wilson