Colorado Master Gardeners: Blue Ribbon Gardening — a conversation with Eileen Grover | SteamboatToday.com
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Colorado Master Gardeners: Blue Ribbon Gardening — a conversation with Eileen Grover

Vicky Barney/For Steamboat Today
Produce grown in Master Gardener Eileen Grover's garden.
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CSU Master Gardeners are available to answer questions from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Thursday at the Extension Office. Stop by 136 Sixth Street, call them at 970-870-5241 or email to csumgprogram@co.r...

After reading Master Gardener Eileen Grover’s article about the Routt County Fair in the paper Aug. 9, I was inspired to drive to Hayden and wander through the exhibit hall on the last day. Wow! Clothing and jewelry, quilts and flowers, fresh vegetables and canned goods, photographs and paintings — all made by Routt County locals.

Everything was labeled and grouped by category and age. Equally impressive were the comments written on every entry by a judge and ribbons for each group. The atmosphere gave me the impression that lots of wonderful energy went into making this year’s fair a success.

I also noticed 33 blue ribbons on Eileen’s entries, which included cookies, pie, canned foods, jams, fruits and vegetables. I was so impressed that I called her to ask about her blue ribbon gardening practices.

Eileen and her husband, Bob, moved to Steamboat Springs from Texas in 2002. The mountain environment reminded her of Wisconsin and a childhood where her father tended huge gardens and her mother canned. She found herself wanting to grow plants that reminded her of that time: apple trees, red currents, lilacs, peonies, lily of the valley, sweet corn and beets. She also wanted to can beets as her mother had done, so she got to work, planting a garden and seeking advice from others.

According to Eileen, successful vegetable gardening in Steamboat started with the local Master Gardener class in 2004, where she met inspiring local gardeners, learned about mountain gardening and saw firsthand what grows best in Routt County.

Her original garden was replaced with a larger, raised-bed garden with soil she has tested annually and amends with lots of organic matter. Each year, she plants a variety of seeds and a number of each variety. She buys tomato and pepper plants since the growing season is so short.

She does her watering by hand and with sprinklers, paying attention to quantities and appropriate application for each crop. Then, she watches to see what grows best. Setbacks are expected, as some crops grow better in some years than in others.

As August approaches, Eileen looks to see what has grown well in her garden to decide what to enter in the fair. The Routt County Fair Book (available online or at the CSU Extension office) will list the possible crop categories and quantities needed for each crop. It is at this point she is glad she can select from a variety of crops and a number of plants in each crop. It is also when she becomes serious about warding off disaster in the form of wildlife and cold snaps. Covering the crops at night works well.

Eileen enjoys winning blue ribbons at the fair, but more importantly, she likes having fresh, healthy foods to share with family and friends. Her garden produces enough for her to preserve by canning, freezing and dehydration, resulting in tasty, healthy foods without preservatives or chemicals and meals she will enjoy with family and friends throughout the year.

A longtime Steamboat resident and casual gardener, Vicky Barney is a member of the Master Gardener Class of 2011.


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