Master gardener recommends mixture of vermiculite, blended compost and peat moss |

Master gardener recommends mixture of vermiculite, blended compost and peat moss

Salad bowl garden

— Tegan Anderson has only recently figured out how to coax vegetables into growing in Routt County, but her display on how to make a "salad bowl garden" was among the most popular May 19 when the Master Gardeners from Routt County CSU Extension hosted an audience of more than 30 people at Bud Werner Memorial Library intent on growing their own food on small plots of land, or even no land at all.

Anderson has only lived in Routt County a little more than a year, and though she was an experienced gardener when she arrived, she quickly learned that Steamboat's growing season of 39 frost-free days, combined with clay soils and desiccating winds, presents its own set of problems.

So, she enrolled in classes through the extension office and recently became a freshly picked Master Gardener. She was brimming with confidence last week as she showed off a couple of small tabletop planters stuffed with ready-to-pick salad lettuce that were planted indoors just three weeks ago.

If ever there was a "spring" in which to plant indoors, 2016 is it.

"You feel like you're growing something while it's still cold outside," Anderson said.

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One of the keys to successfully growing lettuce in a small container indoors is ensuring the plants receive six hours of sunlight per day, Anderson said. Those who don’t have a room with windows on several sides might consider a grow lamp.

When purchasing a bag of soil, think light and fluffy. Veteran Master Gardener Adele Carlson advises a recipe of one-third blended compost, one-third vermiculite and one-third peat moss.

"We're trying to get away from all peat moss," Carlson said. "It's a nonrenewable resource."

Carlson was advocating an intensive system of growing food called the "square-foot garden," developed by author Mel Bartholomew and recommended by Michigan State University.

Carlson showed the crowd at Library Hall a box made of one-inch-thick boards marked off into a grid by string, with each 12-inch square within the grid devoted to a specific variety of plant. Gardeners can grow 16 carrot plants in a square, for example. Carlson finds the system ideal for herbs.

"Anybody can do it, anywhere," Carlson said. "It's great for condos."

Plant a mix of salad greens and herbs, each within its own square foot of soil, and "a couple can pretty much have a salad a day all summer," she said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1