Carol O'Meara - Colorado State University Extension

Carol O’Meara – Colorado State University Extension

BOULDER COUNTY – Vegetable gardeners are some of the biggest dreamers I know. Each winter, we either forget the insults to our crops or gloss over the memories of the worst parts last year.  We nod over catalogs and stare out the window, imagining the garden in its upcoming bounty.

But the garden doesn’t forget, or at least the thugs that spend their time out there don’t.  Insects and diseases that overwinter in fallen leaves or garden detritus return each season, rising from the debris to feast on our vegetables. Just as we’re dusting the dirt from our hands after planting, we see the first seedling of spring, and the sleepy dream of winter is knocked out cold by a delicate sprout that grows into bindweed or kochia.

Gardening through the challenges is just how we roll, but if you’re looking to increase your success, the best advice is: know your enemy.  Colorado State University Extension is helping you do that with its Vegetable Troubleshooting Workshop, Friday and Saturday, March 18 and 19, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Clerk and Recorder’s building, 1750 33rd St., in Boulder ( The two-day workshop is designed to cover all of the thugs, bugs and disorderly conduct that can occur in the vegetable patch.

[pullquote] What: Vegetable
Troubleshooting Workshop

When: Friday and Saturday, March 18 and 19, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (single-day purchase not available).
Where: Boulder County Clerk and Recorders, 1750 33rd St., Boulder.
Tickets: $35
available online at

Understanding your soil is the foundation of successful gardening, and Dr. Jean Reeder, retired soil researcher, kicks off the workshop with Soil Savvy, a look at the most fundamental component of a healthy garden. This class discusses how to interpret the data provided by a soil test, and how to incorporate knowledge of basic soil properties into management practices.

Reeder then dives into fertilizers and amendments, demystifying the differences between organic amendments and organic fertilizers, organic and inorganic fertilizers, and mulches and cover crops. She’ll discuss the different types of amendments and fertilizers available, criteria for evaluating the quality of an amendment, and determining whether or not plants would benefit them.

Weeds and diseases that seem to spring out of nowhere are topics covered by Dr. Tamla Blunt, Director of CSU’s Plant Diagnostic Clinic in Ft. Collins. Where weeds come from and what they want, plus which ones are common and controllable are discussed, before Blunt talks about spores, molds, fungus, bacteria and viruses. 

Problems caused by non-living factors, called abiotic disorders, are some of the most elusive problems to track down. Like Goldilocks, sometimes the plant’s worst enemy is that it’s too hot or too cold, when it wants it to be just right. Environmental, nutritional, or operator error all play into whether plants thrive or die.

Mary Small, state coordinator of the Colorado Master Gardener Program and plant pathologist, helps you learn to spot the difference between disease and disorder, plus an overview of nutrients and how they work in plants. She also tackles information on pesticides, helping you understand what organic vs organically labeled means.

Rounding out the discussion of thugs is myself, talking about insects, both pest and beneficial. Not everyone enjoys a bit of protein in their salad that comes with six legs, but not every bug is an enemy. Learn which ones are munching marauders and which ones are the good guys, and how to control – or encourage – them.

We won’t send you off on a low note, though, so stay until the end when we discuss Post Harvest Handling of your bounty. Get tips for treating your produce to the care it deserves after it’s plucked from the vine.

Colorado State University Extension, together with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides unbiased, research-based information about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development. For more information contact Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Rd., Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6238.