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Page C4 - April 22, 2010 - Lawn & Garden Guide - Teton Valley News

Teton Valley News - Lawn & Garden Guide - April 22, 2010 - Page C5

Gardening challenges Continued from c1

“I wanted to share what I learned about growing in the Valley with others,” she said, and the column was a perfect medium to address the rigors associated with mountain gardening. Marcell also has a passion for cooking and shared her favorite recipes in her articles. She purchased a Sunshine, cedar-framed greenhouse about three years ago which allows her plants to get an early start. She’s a member of Seed Savers Exchange and grows her plants from heirloom seeds, which are seeds that have a history of being passed down within a family. She found that plants from hybrid seeds are not as hardy as heirloom. Growing her “plant starts” ultimately became a business for her about three years ago, when she created Green Ideas. She now sells flower, vegetable and herb starts. She said she plants her gardens in 10-inch raised beds, which have been effective as the soil in her yard in Victor is quite rocky. She covers her beds with a special gardening cloth over arched PVC pipes for the entire season. “The cloth allows sunlight in and keeps the soil moister,” she explained. This practice extends her growing season to about mid-October, she said. She grows a variety of herbs such as basil, thyme, sage, tarragon and chives. She also grows numerous vegetables such as broccoli, beans, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, tomatillos and a variety of flowers. “Last season we had fresh tomatoes through December,” she said. Her trick? Marcell explained at the end of the season, she wraps the green tomatoes in newspaper and stores them in a cool room, they gradually ripen and contain the same fresh taste and flavor as her garden-picked tomatoes. Marcell said her grandmother and her parents taught her about the importance of maximizing every inch of your gardening space. “Even though my mother has a small space for her garden in town, back in Vermont, it is amazing what her garden yields in produce and flow-

Microclimates In other parts of the Valley, however, gardeners face a different set of challenges and in some cases certain benefits, which not all gardeners here enjoy. Judy Allen, a gardener, educator and freelance writer, specifically purchased her property because of its location at the mouth of Darby Canyon. “The air flow coming through the canyon mixes up the layers of warm air and cold air” so it’s milder and beneficial to gardening. Allen said she’s been involved in all phases of organic gardening since the movement began in the 1980s, and she worked at one of the first organic farms in California. She lived and gardened south of Jackson for 16 years, which she described as a “more extreme season,” and moved to the Valley 11 years ago. Allen said she has taught a variety of classes on high altitude and organic gardening for years, including therapeutic programs at Red Top Meadows in Jackson. Allen said one of the most important and key elements in understanding gardening here is to know what microclimate you are located in the Valley, which will show you the potentials and limitations of what you can plant. In selecting what vegetables to plant, Allen said “there are generally two categories, those that are frost sensitive and those that are frost tolerant.” Frost tolerant vegetables such as peas actually grow quite well here, she said, with some being able to tolerate an inch or two of snow, which she described as “time released water.” In contrast, she said, are frost sensitive plants which need protection, like a row cover or a cold frame. Although the microclimate your garden is located in will determine what you can and can’t grow,

TVN File photo

Photo courtesy of Johanna Marcell-Miller

Clockwise from upper left:

there are additional factors that can be surprising beneficial.

Judy Allen works the dirt in one of her garden beds at Darby Canyon Gardens. Allen says understanding microclimates are key to gardening success in Teton Valley.

“One of my students coined the phrase of ‘nanoclimates’ of areas around and close to a house that can be like a banana belt,” she said. The area around her house along the south-facing wall “really cooks” and she is able to actually grow grapes.

Newly planted garden.

Allen said that there is no “growing season” here as in other parts of the country, and she instructs gardeners to look for plants and seeds that have shorter days to maturity. She said she just finished teaching a five-week intensive class on high altitude gardening and also offers classes on growing herbs. She has also taught classes through the community college in Jackson.

Flowers blooming in the greenhouse. Greenhouse from outside with shade cover.

Allen said while there may be a few rules with respect to successful gardening in the mountains, “I can’t give a ‘recipe’ to growing as there are too many variables.” She said gardening in the mountains is more about having an awareness of the conditions and challenges that gardening here poses, rather than a how-to prescription. Allen said a lot of newcomers to the valley get discouraged at the growing challenges and in many situations, it was a case of trying to grow the wrong plant. In addition to the classes she offers, a few years ago she created Darby Canyon Gardens, and has 18, 50 square-foot garden beds that she rents to gardeners for $30 a season on her property. Gardeners get the benefit and advantage of growing in a great microclimate, and the soil is well amended and nutritionally rich. This season half of the beds are already

Photo courtesy of Johanna Marcell-Miller

Photo courtesy of Johanna Marcell-Miller

reserved. Interested gardeners can contact her at (208) 354-3199. Allen said vegetables need a “chocolate cake soil,” which is very rich and teaches gardeners that they’re asking a lot of the soil to grow a huge amount of food in a very short time, and to remember that “you’re growing soil as much as you’re growing vegetables.”

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Although high-mountain gardening in the Valley can involve formidable conditions and factors, gardeners such as Marcell and Allen demonstrate how these challenges can be successfully surmounted.

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She said one of the keys to successful gardening in the mountains is for gardeners to learn to rely on their own instincts and become “experts” of the conditions and challenges of their own sites. “Gardening is always an experiment each year and there’s never a controlled set of conditions,” she explained, and there should always be an element of adventure.

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ers,” she said. Marcell said she practices “companion gardening,” where plants that are compatible with each other are planted next to each other. Smaller plants are placed under larger plants that can provide shade and protection, for example. Marcell said that her combination of using her greenhouse, season extender techniques, maximizing her plants within her space and planting covered, raised beds have enabled her to successfully garden under challenges faced by gardeners in Victor. Marcel may be contacted at (208) 787-9894.


gardener. A transplant from Vermont, Marcell moved to the valley in 1992, engaged in what she describes as “homeowner gardening” until 2005, when she realized she wanted to take her gardening practices to a more serious level. She completed the Master Gardener series of classes and then fulfilled her required 30 hours of community service by writing a series of columns, the “Gardener’s Corner” for the TVN.

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2010 Lawn and Garden  

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2010 Lawn and Garden  

2010 Lawn and garden