Vegetable troubleshooting workshop prepares you for spring

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Carol O'Meara - Colorado State University Extension

Carol O’Meara – Colorado State University Extension

BOULDER COUNTY –Pursuing the dream of the perfect vegetable garden is a Don Quixote-esque exercise in Colorado. If the heat doesn’t crisp your crops, an unseasonable snow squall freezes them; hail, micro-bursts, and gale force winds are common. Yet still, we persist in unvanquished hope that the garden will be effortless this year.

Mother Nature always brings us back to earth. Insects and diseases that overwinter in fallen leaves or garden detritus return each season, rising from the debris to feast on our vegetables.  Like a zombie horde they munch through the vegetables like a buffet of brains.

Gardening through the challenges is just how we roll, but if you’re looking to increase your success, the best advice is: know your enemy. Colorado State University Extension is helping you do that with its Vegetable Troubleshooting Workshop, Friday and Saturday, May 12 and 13, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Best Western Plus Plaza Convention Center, 1900 Ken Pratt Blvd., in Longmont (https://2017-vegetable-garden-troubleshooting.eventbrite.com). The two-day workshop is designed to cover all of the thugs, bugs, and disorderly conduct that can occur in the vegetable patch.

Understanding your soil is the foundation of successful gardening, and Dr. Jean Reeder, retired soil researcher, kicks off the workshop with Soil Savvy, a look at the most fundamental component of a healthy garden. This class discusses how to interpret the data provided by a soil test, and how to incorporate knowledge of basic soil properties into management practices.

Reeder then dives into fertilizers and amendments, demystifying the differences between organic amendments and organic fertilizers, organic and inorganic fertilizers, and mulches and cover crops. She’ll discuss the different types of amendments and fertilizers available, criteria for evaluating the quality of an amendment, and determining whether or not plants would benefit them.

Weeds, diseases, and operator errors that seem to spring out of nowhere are topics covered by Dr. Tamla Blunt, Director of CSU’s Plant Diagnostic Clinic in Ft. Collins. Where weeds come from and what they want, plus which ones are common and controllable are discussed, before Blunt talks about spores, molds, fungus, bacteria, and viruses.

She’ll also discuss problems caused by non-living factors, called abiotic disorders, some of the most elusive problems to track down. Like Goldilocks, sometimes the plant’s worst enemy is that it’s too hot or too cold, when it wants it to be just right. Environmental, nutritional, or operator error all play into whether plants thrive or die.

Rounding out the discussion of thugs is myself, talking about insects, both pest and beneficial. Not everyone enjoys a bit of protein in their salad that comes with six legs, but not every bug is an enemy. Learn which ones are munching marauders and which ones are the good guys, and how to control – or encourage – them.

We won’t send you off on a low note, though, so stay until the end when we discuss Post Harvest Handling of your bounty. Get tips for treating your produce to the care it deserves after it’s plucked from the vine.

Do you have a passion for potatoes and an interest in research? CSU Extension is looking for participants to trial potatoes in their home garden. Participants must be willing to grow two types of potatoes, 10 plants of each type for a total of 20 plants and fill out a form on growing, cooking, and eating the potatoes. For details or to sign up, e-mail comeara@bouldercounty.org.

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