It can be an overwhelming proposition for a novice grower to start
gardening in Boulder. In a city full of transplants whose idea of
gardening is putting a few seeds in the ground and letting nature take
its course, the frequent droughts, low humidity and extreme weather
changes can prove to be a daunting challenge. But Ramona Clark,
executive director for Growing Gardens, a Boulder-based community
gardens organization, offers up some good advice for burgeoning green
thumbs that could probably translate into other parts of their lives as
well — just dive right in.
“I tell first-time gardeners to try everything and try a lot of it,”
Clark says. “The things that don’t do well will be saved by the fact
that you have a bunch of plants that will do well.”
Clark says there are also practical advantages to growing a full,
varied garden. In addition to offering greater opportunities for
success, a full garden provides natural cover for plants. It also makes
weeding much easier, as there are fewer bare spaces in a full garden.
Plus, Clark reminds us, gardeners can always thin down their patch if
the plants start to get a little unruly.
For those of us not quite ready to make a full garden commitment,
Clark recommends veggies that have large seeds as the easiest to start
growing. Squash, cucumbers and other gourds make for easy-to-grow, tasty
vegetables that are perfect for first-timers.
Additionally, squash does well in the low humidity of Colorado, as it
mitigates the potential for bacteria and fungal diseases to form on the
plant. Squash and cucumbers are susceptible to frost damage, so it’s a
good idea to wait until after the danger of night frost has passed to
begin growing. Both are relatively quick growers, especially in hot
weather, so a well-timed sowing of the seeds should be able to avoid
both spring and autumn frosts, even with the unpredictable Colorado
While it is true that patience is a virtue, parents who are gardening
with children and those of us who demand instant gratification in our
lives might want to plant seeds with faster sprouting times. Beans are
perfect for children, as they have large seeds that are easy to handle,
and they begin sprouting within a few days. In addition to that magical
fruit, basil is also a quick-grower that is ideal for children or lazy
men who want to impress their girlfriends with their earthiness without
getting their hands dirty. Basil does well both potted and in the
garden, thrives in the summer and is an easy grow due to the fact that
the seeds don’t have to be thinned.
Sprouts start showing in a couple of days, making basil a great
low-maintenance, quick-reward plant perfect for those looking to get
their feet wet in the gardening world.
Ultimately, the key to a successful garden lies not in the plants you
choose but how you treat them. Clark warns against over- or
under-watering your plants, stresses the importance of good soil and
reminds us all not to get discouraged if a harvest doesn’t reap exactly
what you sowed.
“Gardening is a life-long learning experience,” Clark says. “It’s
best to just go out there and try everything you can just to figure out
what works and what doesn’t.”