Monday, March 24, 2014

Advice to gardeners: avoid mixing lettuce planting and geopolitics

Wyomingites know that spring is several different seasons in one. One day (Friday) can be 60 degrees with the scent of real or imagined wildflowers in the air. The next day (Saturday) can be 20-something with grey skies and sideways-blowing snow. The next morning (Sunday) can bring a car encased in ice and snow that takes ten minutes to scrape off and even longer to warm up for a very short trip to the Loaf 'n' Jug to get a newspaper.

Just a typical spring weekend in the Cowboy State. It will be warmer this afternoon but windy, of course.

Moisture is a good thing in this land of little rain. But it can be a dangerous time for calving and planting and driving. Snow-wise, we're not out of the woods until Memorial Day, which also is the magic date for planting your summer garden. I always cheat the calendar by a couple weeks. Most of us high-altitude gardeners have discovered methods to lengthen the growing season. Our friends just bought a house in east Cheyenne that came with a small greenhouse equipped with seeding beds, tools and a heater. It's what we all need. Greenhouses should be as ubiquitous as two-car garages.

While it's stressful to be a Wyoming gardener, we have many resources at our disposal. We have lots of trained master gardeners. Cheyenne has its wonderful Botanic Gardens, which will be under construction during the next year. A big new building is being added along with resources for us challenged gardeners.

And we all have stories to tell. "Summer of 2012 -- that one was a bummer, with back to back hailstorms following a spring drought. But last summer -- I had a bumper crop of tomatoes. You never know."

Now I know what farmers talk about at donut shops in Worland and Torrington. That and Obama the socialist.

I do not sprout my own seeds. I tried but have always had better luck when I buy seedlings from local purveyors and at the annual Master Gardeners Plant Sale and Kaffeeklatsch, usually held on a snowy/rainy/foggy Saturday in mid-May.  I also buy seedlings from local growers such as the woman on Snyder with the Xeriscaped front yard and backyard filled with greenhouses (can't remember her name off the top of my head). You can find others at the Master Gardeners sale and farmers' markets. I think that the Grant Farms store will still be in business on Lincolnway. The Wellington, Colo.-based Grant Farms declared bankruptcy last year but was purchased by another Colorado farmer -- so who knows? And, if you're not a localist and dig bargains, Lowes and Menards and King Soopers are stick seedlings at bargain prices. I buy my seeds in different places. It's best to buy seeds that can withstand the dry, cool climate. But green beans seem to be green beans and grow well here. Same with snow peas and lettuce and spinach. I use seeds for all of my leafy veggies. I haven't found any that won't grow here. I haven't had any luck with head lettuce, so I've quit trying. Besides, head lettuce is passe. The more exotic the leafy varieties you can grow the better it is for your hipster image (if you have one).

Hipster gardener: "I'm growing Crimson Crimean variety this year in solidarity with the Crimean farmers who don't want to be Russian."

Me: "I heard that they all want to be Russian. I'm growing the Ukrainian Yellow variety in solidarity with all the Ukrainians who survived Stalin and didn't ally with Hitler and are angry with Putin."

HG: "Good luck with that."

It's not easy mixing gardening and geopolitical tensions.

Best advice: Eat your leafy greens. It's all good when it comes from your own garden.


RobertP said...

Good luck Mike. I did pretty well with the tomatoes last year and had good luck with Cantaloupes for the first time.


Michael Shay said...


We'll have to compare notes as the growing season approaches. I always try something new each year. Maybe cantaloupe.

Guy Miflin said...

I love in a similar climate. It can change hourly! I have to protect my flowers and a variety of things all the time. It is worth the beauty though.