This Could Be "The Year of the Garden" by Larry Stebbins, Director, Pikes Peak Urban Gardens

Now is the time to pledge to grow more of your own vegetables. This is like a New Year's Resolution only  tastier than most. If you follow a few simple steps you could be eating a juicy, sweet organic salad before the end of May and ripe tomatoes by August! Yep, even in Colorado Springs.

First select a site. It needs sun all day. Don't listen to those folks that say you can grow in partial shade. The more sun the better. No respectable farmer would plant his crops under a sprawling tree and neither should you. OK you have located a spot that is very sunny. Now make sure it is close to a source of water, near a faucet or spigot. The land should be level. This will make your prep work easier. If your yard slopes you may have to build a terrace garden but that is another topic.

You now need to decide how big to make your "urban farm". Bigger is not necessarily better unless you have the time and resources to tend it. A garden that is 20 ft by 20 ft if properly planted can grow over 200 pounds of produce in a summer. The average adult eats about that amount of fresh veggies in a year. That size garden usually takes about an hour a day to maintain. Start small and save room for future expansion.

Once the site and size are determined we recommend building 4 ft wide by 8 ft long raised beds that are at least 6 inches tall but first you must prepare the site. Remove any sod or weeds and save that for your compost pile (don't throw it out because this will break down and be a good addition to your garden next year). If the soil is good you may still need to add some amendments and rototill or dig them into the existing soil. You only need to rototill the area where the raised bed will be situated. We recommend good aged compost or well aged cow or alpaca manure. Add about a three to four inch layer of this material to your soil and work it down 8 to 10 inches.  Build your raised beds out of recycled untreated lumber or you may have to buy some from the local hardware. Now nestle the raised bed in the prepared area. You can actually dig it down an inch or two. Use some of the loose tilled soil surrounding the bed to fill your bed up to almost level.  

You are now ready to plant. Of course don't be in too much of hurry you need to wait until the proper planting times. Onions go in the ground in mid to late April and all other root and leafy crops can be planted by seed in late April to early May. The warm weather crops like tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and beans will need to wait until all danger of frost has passed, usually mid to end of May.

To learn more about organic gardening you can visit our web site at: 
www.ppugardens.org. then to "Garden Tips". Perhaps you just like eating fresh organic veggies. If so you can come see us at our demonstration vegetable gardens at  Harlan Wolfe Ranch, 907 W. Cheyenne Rd. We will be open about mid May and through the first frost. See our web page for details and times.

Above: Raised beds built with 2 inch by 12 inch pine lumber. The beds are 4 ft wide and 8 ft long.

Below: Larry Stebbins with a mix of Candy, Red Candy Apple and Superstar white sweet onions.

My granddaughter, Madison, with a newly harvested Candy onion.

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Tags: beds, gardening, organic, prep, raised, soil

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Comment by Pula Davis on February 29, 2012 at 4:55pm

Really informative article, Larry, thanks.

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