The key to gardening in Southwest Colorado is patience.
“Don’t get overeager this time of the year,” said John Wickham, owner of Native Roots Garden Center and Gift Shop, 26266 U.S. Highway 160.
Chris Paulson, communications director with Ohana Kuleana Community Garden, 564 E. 30th St., agrees with Wickham. The foothills of the San Juan Mountains are “a challenging place” to garden, but she says if gardeners set their expectations correctly, they will enjoy getting their hands dirty and they will learn something every year.
Now, when daytime weather beckons but it’s still too early for most plants, is a good time to build a garden’s soil, Wickham said.
It’s a good time to add bone meal, compost and peat moss, he said.
Later in the season, once plants have come up, you can boost the nitrogen in a garden’s soil by periodically adding blood meal, cotton-seed meal or alfalfa meal.
Nitrogen leaches down with watering, so it’s important to feed plants periodically through the growing season, Wickham said.
Ohana Kuleana has 45 plots for gardeners.
Plot sizes are 5 feet by 7 feet and 10 feet by 15 feet.
The cost for a plot is $40 for a growing season plus four hours of volunteer time, May 1 to Oct. 31, for the smaller plot, and $80 and four hours of volunteer time for a season for the bigger plot.
Paulson believes most gardeners from last year plan to return, but Ohana Kuleana might have two open plots for the season, she said.
Benefits of the community garden include the protection offered by deer fencing, free water, on-site porta-potties and advice from fellow gardeners.
Anyone interested in a plot at Ohana Kuleana should visit its website and click on the “join the garden” tab at the top of the page.
Availability of plots is on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The importance of community gardens, Paulson said, will be growing in Durango as home prices rise and more apartments and condominiums are built to accommodate newcomers and young families.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellation of many of the educational sessions typically scheduled for all gardeners at Ohana Kuleana, but they should return this year, Paulson said.
Educational sessions will begin with a session about mulching May 22, and more sessions will be scheduled later in the season.
From 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Ohana Kuleana will hold its Welcome to the Garden Potluck.
The event will feature a seed exchange and educational demonstrations. The price of admission is to bring a dish for the potluck, Paulson said.
Wickham said it is OK if a garden’s cold-tolerant plants have sprouted, such as spinach, greens, cabbage, broccoli, radishes and beets.
But with Durango’s average last freeze coming on June 3, it’s best to wait until early June to plant tomatoes, peppers, squash, pumpkins and melons.
“It’s pointless to buy a whole bunch of plants if they’re going to freeze,” he said. “The average date for the last freeze in Durango is June 3. A lot of people who move here don’t get that.
“Our growing season is 90 days,” he said. “Some heirloom tomatoes don’t fit our season. You won’t get a ripe one unless you have a greenhouse.”