By Jaye Sudar
WALSENBURG- Saturday afternoon saw a crowd of 91 turn out to listen to Cord and Penn Parmenter explain the joys of gardening at high altitude. Packed in like sardines, we listened to tips on how to overcome wind, climate, critters and zucchini glut.
Their good-natured banter drove home lessons learned over seventeen years of hard work, lessons that were taken to heart and no doubt acted upon in some aspect by bedtime.
Recycling was a keynote. Rather than spend money on fancy glass bells or peat moss pots, look around and see what you can use. Clear umbrellas, milk jugs, building scrap, plastic packaging and even newspapers have a place in the gardening process. As Penn was fond of saying, "It may be ugly for two weeks in your garden covering your seedlings, but when you take off that milk jug, you have a really beefy squash plant." Her point was to reuse the packaging you have whether it is milk jugs, yogurt pots, plastic sheeting, or newspapers (especially, those that use soy inks).
They spoke of gardening to suit your house or farm. Consider the idea of double dug beds, where you fluff the soil deep down but conserve the topsoil. Look into the micro-climates around your area and work with them. Purchase seed that is grown for high altitudes. No one would think to grow orchids in Huerfano County, but columbines would be a given. Same idea goes with seeds and bedding plants. Buy locally grown plants already adapted to this area..
If you need landscaping materials, look to rockfalls or arroyos where the county road crews might appreciate a few less rocks to haul off. Instead of hauling that lumber to the transfer station, build raised beds with it. Turn your trash to treasure.
How does this fit in with the lifestyle of a localvore? It′s all about Recycle, Renew, Reuse. Look at what you have in your own backyard. Growing your own food is a wonderful pleasure. Building a greenhouse you can heat with thermal mass (water in those milk jugs) and passive solar is economically viable for many of us. Better yet, when the crops start coming in, join a farmer’s market and sell those extra zucchini or radishes.
Most impressive for many of us was the reuse of the white elephant also known as the empty hanging basket. Penn and Cord advocated putting in some pine duff and seed starting soil and then sprinkling a mixture of leafy greens seeds. Cover them over and put a plastic bag over the soil to act as a greenhouse. In a week or so, you′ll have fresh baby greens on your table to eat with dinner. They do this year round. How much more local can you get than your kitchen table?
This first gardening workshop was a joy. The next one will be in La Veta on March 21. The topic will be organic gardening and community gardening. Hope to see you there.