The Diocese of Colorado Springs serves ten counties in the center of Colorado including a total of 39 parishes that covers an estimated area of over 15,000 square miles across central Colorado. That’s a lot of marigolds! Our church furthest west is Holy Family in Leadville, and our church furthest east is St. Catherine of Siena located in Burlington (17 miles from the Kansas border).
Whether you’re new to the area or have lived here for years, here are a few recommendations to get your garden growing in the right direction:
1. It’s all about good, rich soil — and Colorado doesn’t have any! This is dusty prairie land and rocky, gold-dust country if you’re in the mountains. If it’s naturally rich soil you’re seeking, you will have to look elsewhere. Fortunately, there is a wonderful method called amending the soil that will have your flowers and vegetables growing like weeds (a small exaggeration). Kidding aside, a serious statistic in our diocese is that 80 percent of plant problems are due to the soil. So, before planting your Garden of Eden, read the comprehensive list of research-based soil amendments specially recommended for our state found here: https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/choosing-a-soil-amendment/
2. Choosing the right plant for the right place. This seems obvious, but there really is a need to study your landscape. Sun-loving plants need at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. Many shade-loving plants cannot tolerate any direct sunlight. Small adorable trees in the nursery may grow to be mighty and eventually clash with overhead power lines. Some plants like constant moisture, others prefer a xeric environment. Knowing the needs of the plants and finding perfect placement for them will save both time and money.
3. Water. This topic should be at the top of the list. Water is such a precious commodity. It truly is a gift from God. Our forefathers prayed for rain to water the fields, and they prayed again for it to stop when there was too much. We must be stewards of our water. Don’t water the sidewalk, turn the water off between toothbrush rinsing and after boiling eggs dump the water outside (even better let it cool and water plants) instead of down the drain, the list goes on and on. Be creative and teach your children to thank God every day for the fresh water we drink. The newcomer may not know that in recent times our water has been restricted due to devastating droughts in our state. It is extremely important to choose plants wisely.
4. When to plant. God bless the grocery store. There is nothing more tempting to the gardener then seeing a fresh pot of green leaves with popping colored flowers after a long cold winter, all for a mere $5.99! Lead us not into temptation. Resist this purchase unless, of course, they will be taken to the greenhouse or kept in a place that has plenty of sun and temperatures that stay above freezing. The general rule for planting in El Paso County is May 18. Check this link from Colorado State University for your city’s first (and last) day of frost http://cmg.colostate.edu/pubs/Frost.html.
In closing, Amend, Amend, Amend, I say to you. It’s easy for us Catholics to remember AMEN-D!
(Kerry Peetz is a master gardener and member of Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs.)