Tips on Small-Space Organic Gardening from Personal Family Farmers

Tips on Small-Space Organic Gardening from Personal Family Farmers

I waited until Mother’s Day to plant my garden, but every weekend since then, it’s been rainy here!  Here’s hoping this weekend I can get some tomatoes and peppers in the ground.

In the meantime, I talked with the owners of Personal Family Farmers, a cool, family-owned Colorado company that builds raised-bed gardens for Coloradans and fills them with their special blend of rich soil. Check out their tips for growing the best organic food (and their recipe for what to do with all those cucumbers!) below.

What inspired you to start Personal Family Farmers? Did you see a need that wasn’t being met?

In 2009, Catherine realized that if she could choose to do one thing for the rest of her life, her true calling, it would be to garden for herself and others. The idea then dawned on her that she wanted to help people grow food for themselves. With this idea, she collaborated with Dale to come up with Personal Family Farmers. The mission is to help as many people to grow organic food for themselves as possible.  In 2009 this business model was non-existent.  Now there are a couple companies offering garden installations, but nobody else makes custom soil like Personal Family Farmers. (More on the soil later.)

I’ve always heard that Coloradoans should wait until Mother’s Day to plant to avoid a late freeze, so what should I be planting right now?

There are three major planting times in Colorado. The first is around mid-April. During this time kale, collards, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, radishes, peas, beets, carrots, chard, onions, turnips, mustards, arugula, and cilantro. These vegetable varieties are frost tolerant and are happy to grow in the cold. The second planting is around May 15th (our average last frost), which happens to be around Mother’s Day. This is when you plant all the other vegetables that were not mentioned before such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons, and so on. The third and best time to plant vegetables is late summer around the end of July and beginning of August. You can plant everything that you planted back in April plus warm season vegetables that are successively planted such as bush beans.

What are some of your favorite varieties that grow well in our area?

Some of our favorite varieties that also grow well in our area are red winter kale, lacinato kale, royal burgundy bush beans, wild arugula, tat soi spoon mustards, sun gold tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, hungarian yellow wax peppers, black krim tomatoes, genovese basil, tulsi basil, just to name a few.

What makes your soil so special?

Our soil gets most of our attention. 80% of all garden and yard problems are soil related. We put a lot of time gathering high nutrient compost. Our soil mix has minimum of 6 sources of compost in each batch. Those sources include: llama, alpaca, goat, sheep, cow, chicken, mushroom, yard waste, rabbit, and worm castings. Our soil contains absorbent materials (peat moss and vermiculite) and as a result it cannot be over watered, it requires less water, stays loose and breathable.

Who is your average customer?  Who is PFF best for?

Our average customer is a beginning gardener who has a desire to eat organically and view sourcing things locally to be important.

There are a couple of weeks mid-summer when EVERYTHING is ripe and ready at once.  Do you have a favorite recipe for dealing with abundant produce that I could share with my readers?

We often have pickling cucumbers coming out of our ears. Our favorite recipe is:

Stuff a Qt. mason jar with pickling cucumbers. Add 2 cloves of garlic, 1Tbsp of salt, 1 Tbsp of vinegar, and fill jar with water. Let jar sit in closet for about 7 days. Refrigerate and enjoy.

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