What to Do in the Rockies


April

YARD FOOD

If you're not yet harvesting your own produce, make this the year to start. Leslie Bennett (pictured) - garden designer and co-owner of Star Apple Edible + Fine Gardening (starapple edibiegardens.com) in Oakland - tells you how to get growing.

Focus on the soil "You are what you eat: If your soil isn't rich and nutritious, your food won't be rich and nutritious," Leslie says. First, check for toxins like lead; she likes the standard soil test ($10; umass.edu/soiltest) from University of Massachusetts, Amherst. (If you do find lead, plant your vegetables in containers or high raised beds filled with clean soil.) Once you've tested the soil, add plenty of organic compost.

Plant what you like "Start small, with something you know you love - if you love mint, try some different varieties," Leslie advises.

Add perennial flowers "Not only do they provide year-round beauty, perennial flowers also attract much-needed pollinators and beneficial insects," Leslie says. And they look good alongside veggies and fruit - grow them with edibles in beds, borders, or pots.

Just grow it "If somethingyou grow dies, it doesn't mean you have a black thumb," Leslie says. There are lots of reasons that plants die - disease, bad weather - so don't give up. "Keep at it, and the veggies will come! It just takes commitment and a bit of confidence, both of which grow with the time you spend in your garden." -JULIE CHAI

TRY POTATO TOWERS

Save space by growing spuds up, rather than letting them sprawl on the ground. Here's how we did it:

1 | Dig several inches of compost into the soil and place seed potatoes 6 inches apart in a i6-inch-diameter circle.

2 | Make an 18-inch-diameter cage from 4-foot-wide flexible galvanized fencing. Set over potato circle and stabilize with 2 pieces of rebar (available at hardware stores) or sturdy stakes sunk into the ground outside the cage on opposite sides. To make it pretty, wrap with bamboo screening (we got ours from a home improvement store). Cover seed chunks with 6 inches of mixed straw and compost (about V3 straw and 2Ii compost), then water.

3 | Keep the mix moist and add more strawcompost mix as potatoes grow - leave only the uppermost leaves exposed.

4 | By the time plants reach the top of the tower, they'll flower, maybe even produce (inedible) fruit, and eventually die. Stop watering when foliage fades and wait 2 to 3 weeks to give potatoes time to harden. Then lift the cage to collect your tubers, which will cascade down in a perfect pile, -JOHANNA SILVER

HOT CROPS TO START NOW

Looking to mix up your edible lineup? Consider these - we grew (and loved!) all three in Sunset's test garden last year.

Spanish Padron' peppers Plants produce tasty peppers - prized for tapas - early and all season long. Harvest when peppers are 2 inches or less (before they become spicy). reneesgarden.com

'Cardinal' basil You can pinch the flowers to encourage bushier leaves. But with oversize, puffy deep purple blooms, why would you? We'd grow It for its looks alone. seedsofchange.com

Aunt Molly's ground cherries The plant grows like a sprawling tomato and forms tart, huskwrapped fruit that you harvest once it falls to the ground, seedsavers.org -j.s.

How to plant perennials

1 | Dig a hole as deep as and 1 to 2 inches wider than your plant's container.

2 | Remove the plant from its pot, and if the roots are matted, gently loosen them.

3 | Place the plant In its hole - the top of the rootball should be even with the soil surface. Fill in around it with soil, then water thoroughly. -J.C.

What to do this month

SOW WILDFLOWER SEEDS Choose from an array of varieties and mixes of difficult-tofind wildflowers from Seeds Trust (seedstrust. …

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