Many of you may have noticed the lush garden that sprang up in the formerly vacant field to the north of the Mesa County Central Library last summer. Even if you just drove by, the vibrant colors and textures were a source of delight that only ended when the harvest concluded and the beds were cleaned up for the winter. Now, the garden is alive again and showing the efforts of the enthusiastic people who have rented the plots for the season.
"Walls of Water" and plastic draped over tomato cages protect tender plants from the vagaries of this temperamental spring, and a variety of creative irrigation systems have sprung up. Structures for supporting climbing plants have appeared, and almost everywhere you can see the first signs of green peeking up from the well-composted soil.
Several of the plots sport a variety of raised beds, including the "accessible garden" that was designed by the Multiple Sclerosis Society to showcase gardening possibilities for people with limited mobility. Several have flowers as well as vegetables and small fruits, providing instant cheer.
Most of the plots are rented for the current season, but as of this writing a few still remain available. The $75 rental fee includes the 20-by-20-foot garden plot, which has been tilled with Mesa Magic compost from the composting facility at the Mesa County landfill, and water which is supplied by the City of Grand Junction. The company and advice of other dedicated gardeners is a bonus. If you would like to learn more or to receive a contract for 2012, give me a call at 970-244-1841.
NATIVE PLANT COURSE
It has been an interesting spring in other ways, besides not knowing exactly when it is safe to plant our tomatoes. Our first Native Plant Master course, which took place on the Colorado National Monument, found that few of the native wildflowers they were expecting were actually in bloom at the right time. The weeds, on the other hand, were early. It does appear that we are in for a really great weed year around western Colorado; these remarkably well-adapted plants don't seem at all fazed by a dry winter or an unpredictable spring.
Our next Native Plant Master course takes place on the south rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, beginning June 1. There is also a course on the Grand Mesa in July, beginning on Friday the 6th. These small field-taught courses are held on three consecutive Friday mornings, and emphasize learning to identify plant families and how to use a dichotomous key.
Participants learn botanical names of plants and practice using the esoteric language of plant identification; 45 to 60 plants are covered during a course. Environmental stewardship and the problems caused by alien invasive species are also featured. There are still a few slots open for these two courses; give me a call at 970-244-1841 for additional information.
UTE LEARNING GARDEN
Finally, we are seeing the signs of spring emerging in the Ute Learning Garden, the two-and-a-half-acre garden located behind the extension office on the Mesa County fairgrounds that features plants used by the Utes as they migrated around western Colorado.
Spring in this garden means school tours, groups of teachers and students all anxious to get out of the classroom and experience the outdoors while learning about Colorado history. In addition to native plants from various elevations in Colorado, this garden includes wickiups, a shade ramada, a tipi, and interpretive signs. Trained docents are available to talk about Ute history and culture, and the uses they have for these native plants. Tours of all sizes may be arranged and tour guides experienced in the learning criteria for various grade levels are available if we have advance notice. Reservations aren't necessary to come enjoy the garden, though; it is free and open any time.
For information on participating in any of these springtime activities please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-244-1841. In the meantime, happy spring and happy gardening!
Susan Rose is horticulture educator for the Colorado State University Extension, Tri River Area.