Meet Steamboat’s Master Gardeners: Mary Kaye Schoeneman |

Meet Steamboat’s Master Gardeners: Mary Kaye Schoeneman

John F. Russell

Sure, a lot of us have gardens. But few among us have sprouted with the pastime like Jack’s proverbial beanstalk, taking the activity to new levels. These are our local Colorado Master Gardeners, a registered service mark of Colorado State University Extension used to identify official accredited volunteers. They’ve completed the necessary coursework and are some of our town’s best. We canvased three of them for some of their tips.

When Mary Kaye Schoeneman arrived in Steamboat in 1980 with a nursing degree and a pair of skis, she wasn’t planning to grow roots in Routt County. But friends encouraged her to stay, sparking an affinity for gardening at high altitude.

Steamboat Living: How did you get started?

Schoeneman: My parents and grandparents always had wonderful gardens, and I love watching things grow. I love flowers, but as soon as I had my own acreage, I started growing vegetables. Gardening is relaxing and addictive — the more success you have, the more encouraged you are to try other plants and locations.

SL: Describe your garden

Schoeneman :We have a 7-foot-high fence around our vegetable garden. All of our veggies are grown in 4-foot by 8-foot raised beds. Each season, we add new plants to grow.

SL: How was last year with all the rain?

Schoeneman:It wasn’t a banner season for vegetables, especially in South Routt. It was cold and wet. Then came the grasshopper infestation. We had success with carrots, beets, lettuce, onions, chives, asparagus, rhubarb and raspberries — our raspberry bed is new, so it’s still getting established. The kale, kohlrabi, spinach, bokchoy and zucchini were all destroyed.

SL: You’re a connoisseur of growing tomatoes?

Schoeneman:Last May, I bought and transplanted a tomato plant, and it lived on the deck under an awning all summer. It languished. As fall approached, we brought it indoors to a sunny window, and it flourished. I named it Tom. I water it well, talk to it each day and fertilize it. To pollinate, I gently flick the blossoms with a ball point pen. I’ve gotten about 30 tomatoes from it. I’ll try to save some seeds and start them in late April.

SL: How about flowers?
: My specialty is perennials. I get seeds from friends who have lived here a long time. I also buy “high altitude” grown stock. Flax is one favorite, but when I planted it in a daisy bed next to the horse pasture, the horses ate it. Every season, I move flowers around and start new beds.

SL: Any advice for those starting out?

Schoeneman:New gardeners here get impatient with the shortness of our season. The process takes time. Get seeds that will flourish in our brief growing season. Do your homework and explore your particular area to determine which plants will produce for you. Also, be water wise. We use a system that mists the plants about 15 minutes each night depending on natural water fall. Start with good soil and experiment with light and how rain reaches the area, and note any micro-climates that may exist. For flowers, select ones that are drought tolerant. Daisies and hollyhocks are two go-to’s, but hollyhocks are biennials. Talk with a CSU Master Gardener: we’re always willing to help.

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