Meet Steamboat’s Master Gardeners: Adele Carlson
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.
Arriving in Steamboat in 1982, Adele Carlson, 64, is the horticulture supervisor for the Home Ranch and Clark Property Management Co., meaning she knows what grows in Routt County.
Steamboat Living: Tell us about the Home Ranch garden
Carlson: Our farm-to-table program was the vision of general manager Clyde Nelson. He started thinking about it 10 years ago as executive chef, but 2012 was our first summer producing with the “potager” garden outside the dining room. In 2013, we added the hoop house and fenced in 2 1/2 acres, which we now call Clyde’s Farm. Last year, we added an outdoor kitchen, chicken coop, another set of raised beds, an orchard, hops, a pond, strawberries and raspberries. This year, we’ll add more raised beds, hopefully as a children’s garden, as well as blueberries and cherries. We should have about 4,000 square feet in production this summer.
SL: What do you like about gardening?
Carlson: I love being outside. Gardening is very rewarding and challenging. I love working with the soil, figuring out what plants work, which don’t, seeing the harvest of vegetables and the flowers we use for ambience in our lodge and guest rooms. There’s always something to do and learn.
SL: How did you get into gardening?
Carlson: I took the Master Gardener class in 2007 when I was landscaping and doing weed control in the pastures. That’s where I learned the basics for vegetable gardening. Each year we put in 24 volunteer hours and 12 hours of education. My education hours are primarily on food production. I joke that I’m divided in half…one half producing organic food for our farm-to-table program and one half controlling weeds to have better hay for our horses and cattle.
SL: How unique is the Home Ranch garden?
Carlson: Few guest ranches have a farm-to-table program. Clyde and Craig Singer, our chef de cuisine, have an amazing ability to take whatever we produce and turn it into mouth-watering dishes. Food is one of the reasons people come to the Home Ranch. Also, we get to interact with the guests daily. On Mondays, I do a tour of Clyde’s Farm for anyone interested, and guests can visit it anytime. It’s a great opportunity to talk about the farm and educate people on their food.
SL: Any hints for building a greenhouse?
Carlson: We have a Rimol 30-foot by 72-foot hoop house, cathedral-style with an automatic vent. The roof works great for shedding snow. We went back and forth on two things: whether to put in the automatic vent, which I’m glad we did as it opens incrementally as the temperature rises; and whether to heat it — we didn’t, but are now looking at retrofitting it to stay in production year-round. Cold season crops survive in it during the winter, but they don’t thrive, which is also due to a lack of light.
SL: What are the main benefits of a greenhouse?
Carlson: Season extension. Our growing season is so short here that anything we can do to lengthen it is a plus. We grow herbs, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers and squash in the greenhouse in the summer and into the fall. When the outside beds are being put to rest for winter, the greenhouse is still going strong. We can also grow cool season crops earlier and later.
SL: Any favorite vegetables?
Carlson: All of the cool season crops do great here —greens, kale, chard, spinach, broccoli, root crops (carrots, turnips, beets), potatoes and some herbs (parsley, cilantro, sage), strawberries and raspberries. Most summer squash and cucumbers also do great. My favorites are raspberries, carrots and cucumbers for their fresh-picked flavor. I’ve also started growing red orach, a type of spinach that handles the summer heat better than spinach.
SL: Any growing hints?
Carlson: Raspberries do great here as long as you keep up with patch maintenance. The best varieties are the ones that bear fruit the second year of a cane; the berries are ready for harvest from the end of July into September. Once the canes have produced fruit they die back. Removing them, mulching every fall and tying up the canes for winter helps prevent breakage from snow loads. Cucumbers do better if they’re trellised and the leaves pruned if they get too dense. They’re also susceptible to spider mites so watch for leaf discoloration and tiny webs. A variety of carrots can overwinter as well. If they’re planted someplace protected without a lot of snow, they can be dug throughout the winter and are very tasty.
SL: Any landscaping hints?
Carlson: Create microclimates for planting perennials. I do this with rocks. Arrange good-sized rocks with gaps for soil, allowing plenty of depth for roots. Fill the gaps with good soil and plant the perennials or scatter wildflower seeds. The rocks warm up during the day and help keep the soil warm at night, giving us the option of trying some plants from warmer zones.
SL: What common mistakes do people make?
Carlson: Planting the same crop in the same place year after year without amending the soil. There are several ways to combat this — amend the soil each year, putting the used nutrients back into the soil, and use companion planting or crop rotation. I try to follow the rotation of root, fruit, leaf and legume.
SL: Any other advice?
Carlson: Keep experimenting, never give up, and talk to your neighbors and friends. Gardening in Routt County is always a learning experience and work in progress. Something may work great one year and then be a complete failure the next.
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