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Spring-like temperatures make you think of gardening

By Roberta Tolan
PREVIEW Columnist

Our recent spring-like temperatures are tricking us into thinking that we should be digging in the garden. But it’s way too early for that here at 7,500-foot 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 F 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 micro-climate opportunities in your landscape that may allow you to try less-hearty 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.

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. Early March 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 # 7.409 Growing Plants From Seed.

Even though it is way too early to plant outdoors without a season extender of some sort, you can still enjoy choosing which 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.

4-H cookie dough sale

The annual 4-H cookie dough sale and fundraiser is underway through March 12.  Every 4-H member participates in selling $14 tubs of cookie dough to people in our community and beyond. All funds raised will be dispersed between the five different 4-H community clubs and the 4-H council. The money will be used for sending 4-H members to educational programs such as: YouthFest, Leadership Development Conference, Colorado 4-H State Conference, community service projects, scholarships for 4-H member re-enrollment fees for next year, or other individual club projects.

4-Hers are selling these great flavors: triple chocolate with white and dark chips, snicker doodle, monster cookie, peanut butter with chocolate chunks, chunky chocolate chip made with m&ms, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, sugar, and white chocolate macadamia. New this year is white chocolate cranberry.

The cookie dough comes in three-pound tubs (about 96 0.5 oz. cookies each) that can be refrigerated or stored in the freezer. The cookie dough can even be eaten raw because it is made with pasteurized eggs instead of raw eggs. The cookie dough is an easy, quick snack and can be used for unexpected company or potluck functions when you have limited time to make something.

If anyone would like cookie dough, contact the CSU Extension office at 264-5931 or any 4-Her.

CPR and first aid

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 6-10 p.m. Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the CSU Extension office at 264-5931.

We will also schedule classes on additional dates with five or more registrations. Cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid, $55 for individual CPR or first aid and $35 for recertification with proof of current certification. The type of first aid information provided will vary by the needs of the audience.

This story was posted on March 6, 2014.