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Gardening Woes from a Master Gardener   arrow

Mary Sellers
Colorado State University Extension Master Gardener in Larimer County
July 25, 2015


I have heard and I have asked—where did all this water come from? If you are one of the lucky ones and have a lot of cool season vegetables like lettuce and peas they are probably growing gangbuster for you (if they didn’t bolt—grow a flower stalk that make the plant taste bitter; they will do that when the weather has been doing the temperature game of ping-pong). If, like me, you planted all the “other vegetables”, such as tomatoes, chile peppers and watermelon, it has been a challenge to see if they will even produce. My chile peppers got planted at a time I thought everything would warm up, but I was a bit off. I figured it out by planting three additional plants of the same variety two weeks later. Not only did the later plants thrive (they are taller and greener than the ones I planted earlier), they bloomed faster and have set fruit.

Now if I had done my due diligence and prepared for the possibility that the weather wasn’t close to ideal, I would have taken the time to warm the soil before I planted. This could be achieved by using “walls of water”, a plastic ring filled with water that keeps the plant warmer and warms the surrounding soil. Or I could have used some type of topdressing—old newspapers, wood chips or plastic. Don’t tell my boyfriend, but I had to buy watermelon plants three times because they would disappear—literally! I thought maybe the dog stepped on it or pulled it out of the ground. No, they just melted away to nothing. I’m happy to report that watermelon #3 is hanging on and I swear it has added 4-5 more leaves in the last week. I have high hopes that it will flower right before our first frost.

I planted my tomatoes in containers this year and they have been doing well, although they are just starting to set fruit. The few wind storms we had did bend a few branches, but instead of cutting off the bent ones, I set a plant stand under them to support them. They are holding their own and I’m curious if the flowers will actually turn to fruit in that condition. I did have to throw one plant away, so I told my boyfriend he wasn’t watering it right. Turned out the drainage was bad on that container, but I realized it after the fact. I took care of the drainage by adding another hole and planted two more tomato plants and they are holding their own at this point.

I guess I just wanted to give you words of encouragement since this has been a very wet spring and summer and the challenges seem to be numerous. This is only the third time I have grown a vegetable garden—I’m much more comfortable growing flowers. That said, flowers have seen their share of problems from this weather and have been more stunted in their growth. But I know the sun will come out again—this this is Colorado!—bring on the sunshine.

If you have gardening questions, consider contacting the Larimer County Master Gardeners. They are available every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9am-1pm at the Larimer County Extension Office (1525 Blue Spruce Drive, Fort Collins; 970-498-6000) or you can email them at


The author has received training through Colorado State University Extension’s Master Gardener program and is a Master Gardener volunteer for Larimer County.


Larimer County is a county-based outreach of Colorado State University Extension providing information you can trust to deal with current issues in agriculture, horticulture, nutrition and food safety, 4-H, small acreage, money management and parenting. For more information about CSU Extension in Larimer County, call (970) 498-6000 or visit


Looking for additional gardening information? Check out the CSU Extension Horticulture Agent blog at for timely updates about gardening around the state.


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