Spring and gardening is just around the corner

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Whew, what a winter it’s been. My way of coping with the continuous snow and mud is to think about and be grateful for the abundance of moisture we have and how that will be really appreciated this spring and summer. I also start planning now for the garden and doing the many things I can to be ready for planting season.

You can also attend one of the upcoming gardening classes to learn more about gardening and landscaping at high altitude. See below for the class schedule.

But it’s way too early to be digging here at 7,500 feet elevation, and snow and cold temperatures are likely to be in our forecast for quite some time. The average last frost date for Pagosa Springs is June 22, meaning that there is a 50 percent chance of temperatures dropping below 32 degrees after June 22.

But there are things that gardeners can do now to prepare for the growing season and satisfy that itch to dig. Many gardeners keep logs from previous years noting what they planted where, varieties that worked well and those that didn’t, notable weather events, insect and disease problems and how they were addressed, etc. These journals can be very helpful in learning from experience and building on previous year successes.

Now is the time to pull out those journals think about what you will do differently this year or varieties that you want to replace with other choices. Even garden design can change, such as adding some container gardens to your in-ground or raised bed designs. Be creative and don’t be limited by what you have always done. Pay close attention to microclimate opportunities in your landscape that may allow you to try less-hardy varieties or bring plants into bloom early.

If you are starting a new garden this year, think about creating raised bed gardens rather than in-ground gardens. Raised beds can solve many problems for mountain gardeners and are especially beneficial if soils are poorly drained or are very rocky and hard to dig. Just be sure to start with good weed-free soil and find the design, materials and layout that work for your landscape and budget.

For more detailed information on building raised beds, visit the CSU website at http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/gardennotes/713.html.

Starting plants from seed

Another thing you can do to start off the growing season is to start some of your plants from seed.

If space is available near a sunny window, start seeds four to eight weeks before the plant-out date, which in our area is June 22 for warm-season crops and May 17 for cool-season crops that withstand a low temperature of 24 degrees.

Late February is too early to begin starting seeds, but you can plan out your indoor growing area and purchase seeds of your chosen varieties. You can extend the growing season on either end by building a number of different types of covers for your plants including row covers, high and low tunnels, greenhouses and grow domes.

For more detailed information on starting plants from seed, visit the CSU website at www.ext.colostate.edu and download Fact Sheet No. 7.409, “Growing Plants From Seed.”

Choosing vegetables for your garden

Even though it is way too early to plant outdoors without a season extender of some sort, you can still grow a mango tree indoor or choose vegetables you are going to grow, select varieties and purchase the seed.

If you want to start gardening in April, choose cool-season vegetables that will survive our late cool night temperatures.

Get your tools ready

In what condition did you leave your gardening tools, hoses, gloves, etc., at the end of last season? Gardening tools, lawn mowers, etc., need regular maintenance and may need to be cleaned and sharpened. Tool maintenance is not the most enjoyable of gardening activities, but one that will pay off when the season gets off and running.

Gardening and landscaping series continues

Winter is a great time to think, plan and learn about how to grow successfully at high altitude.

Whether you are a novice gardener, new to Pagosa Country or want to plant a landscape this spring, these classes are for you.

All classes are located at the Extension building at the Archuleta County Fairgrounds, run from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and cost $20 per class. Preregistration is required by calling 264-5931. Class topics and dates are as follows:

• March 2: “Tree and Shrub Selection, Planting and Maintenance,” taught by Roberta Tolan, Extension agent in Archuleta County.

• March 9: “The State of our Forests,” including insect pressures and trends, and fire mitigation, taught by Kent Grant, Colorado State Forest Service, and Matt Tuten, Pagosa Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service.

• March 14: “Vegetable Gardening in the Mountains,” taught by Darrin Parmenter, Extension agent in La Plata County.

4-H cookie dough is back

It’s cookie dough time again and your favorite flavors are back. Don’t miss this opportunity to support your local 4-H program and have your favorite cookie dough ready for baking in your freezer.

Whether it’s mint chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, snickerdoodle or peanut butter, we have the flavor for you.

And,we are bringing back some of last year’s specialties including soft pretzels, cinnamon rolls, pumpkin rolls and cream cheese coffee cake, all for only $17 per item.

Place your order with your favorite 4-H member or call the Extension office at 264-5931.

CPR and first aid classes

CPR and first aid certification classes are now being offered monthly by the CSU Extension office on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6 to 10 p.m. Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the Extension office at 264-5931.