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Posted: July 01, 2009

Entirely Homegrown: Meetings with gardening consultant, greenhouse builder slated

The latest segment in one man's quest to subsist on his Denver backyard garden for one month

Mike Taylor

The most encouraging development so far, with exactly one month until I try subsisting only on what I grow myself, occurred last week when I blanched and froze one plastic bag of spinach and one bag of broccoli.

It was a good feeling, having those two bags stockpiled for August, the target month of the backyard-only diet. But then I did some nutritional research in my “Better Homes & Gardens” cookbook. Based on volume estimates of those two plastic bags of greens, I’ve got about 100 calories of food – about 1/20th of the average daily requirement. There better be a whole lot more vegetables where that spinach and broccoli came from.

My two biggest concerns remain:
1)    whether any of my four young hens will be laying eggs by Aug. 1 – and preferably a lot sooner so I can start stockpiling, and;
2)     whether any actual potatoes are growing underneath my 30-some potato plants. The visible part of the plants are growing magnificently, some of them as tall as 2 ½ feet, green and bushy. But like I said, I have no idea what’s going on underground potato-wise.

I’ve noted before, the business purpose of this backyard homegrown experiment is to introduce some local businesses as various challenges arise. A while back I interviewed Pat Karns of Colorado Pure Distilling to talk to him about how I might make potato vodka, even though Colorado Pure Distilling uses beets or corn to make its custom-label vodka.

Two more local experts are on the agenda for ColoradoBiz TV segments. Early next week I’ll meet with Joe and Lara Frankovich, owners of The Organic Backyard, a Parker-based business that helps backyard gardeners get the most out of their plots – perhaps even enough to feed the whole family, according to Joe, who has a degree in plant biology and a landscape design certificate. He markets himself as “Joe the Gardener.”

I’ll follow that up later next week with an interview with Cheryl Longtin of Nexus Corp.,  a Northglenn-based greenhouse manufacturer that is perennially one of the top woman-owned businesses in the state. Although obviously you don’t need a greenhouse to grow vegetables in Colorado, Cheryl will explain the benefits of having one to lengthen your growing season, and what you should look for when you’re shopping for one.

Look for those segments coming up on ColoradoBiz TV.

In the meantime, if anybody can tell me how to stop predators (cats? squirrels? foxes?) from getting in my fenced-in garden and trampling my corn, I’m all ears (pun intended).

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Mike Taylor is the managing editor of ColoradoBiz. He writes about small-business money issues and how startups are launched. Email him at

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Readers Respond

How does one become a Garden Consultant? Thank you. Bill Phelps By Bill Phelps on 2012 12 09
To deter cats you need to plant a decoy...there are plenty of flowering plants in the catnip family that will keep them occupied (or not;) elsewhere. By Lori on 2009 07 21
Pam, I think Amy or Cheryl touched on the topic of greenhouse durability during the interview, but I have to say I don't remember the specifics. The original taping was about 12 minutes, I think, and we cut it down to 3:40 or so. I was surprised by the affordability, too. If I ever bought one, I'd probably get the $1,900 one because it doesn't require a foundation and you can move it pretty easily to a place of optimal direct sun. (Well, plus it's a lot cheaper.) I've got a lot of trees in my backyard so I'm lucky to get six hours of direct sun a day even in the summer, and the ideal sunny spot probably changes in the fall when the sun moves south. By Mike T. on 2009 07 14
Mike, Excellent video on greenhouse manufacturer Nexus. I didn't realize they were so reasonably priced. I have a small enclosure, around the water pipes and water heater in my garage, to keep the pipes from freezing in the wintertime. It cost under $100 to buy the materials and run a duct from my home heating system to the enclosure. My only question would be in regard to how well the greenhouses stand up to severe weather, like hail. Did you cover this topic with them during your interview? By Pam Burrell on 2009 07 14
Hi Mike. I have neighbors who are avid fishermen, and they provide me with a steady supply. Their favorite "fishin' hole" is Chatfield Dam. I immediately freeze the fish parts and entrails for use in the spring. I also throw pieces into my compost pile. By Pam Burrell on 2009 07 08
I'll have to tell my neighbor; I made a bit of fun of her when she did it (you have to admit, it does look a bit odd), now I'll owe her a blueberry muffin! By Vicki Felmlee on 2009 07 08
Pam, I've heard a little bit about planting complementary crops together like that, but not in the detail you describe. That sounds great. Where would you get fish pieces and entrails? From a restaurant kitchen or grocery-store butcher, or just save them yourself? I'll have to remember to try that next year. I seem to remember reading in elementary school about the Native Americans saving the pilgrims from starvation by teaching them that fish-fertilizer trick. As far as Vicki's suggestion on the plastic forks - I bought a box of them for about $1.25 and staked them up and down my corn rows. So far no more predators! By Mike T. on 2009 07 08
Hi Mike. I look forward to following your progress. Have you ever heard of the "three sisters" American Indian style of gardening/planting? You place corn, squash, and bean seeds together in one hole ... along with fish pieces and entrails. The rotting fish acts as a natural fertilizer. You won't believe the results. You'll yield larger, tastier, and healthier plants. Your corn stalks will be sturdier also since the plants support each other. I plan to mine my garden with plastic forks to guard against the rabbits who invade my beet patch every year. What a great suggestion! Pam Burrell By Pam Burrell on 2009 07 07
Yes, and I just had a thought, you can probably go to Goodwill or some such and get 'real' metal forks for next to nothing and go that way, too. So far, "Mitch" isn't too bad, he only crows in the morning when he knows I'm outside, then only for a few seconds. Of course, I'm sure he's just gearing up. I emailed our local 4-H coordinator, perhaps a 4-H kid might want him...but Craig's List is Plan B. By Vicki Felmlee on 2009 07 02
Hey Vicki! Thanks for the suggestion on the toppled corn. I'll give those plastic forks a try. Yeah, you can definitely tell when you've got a rooster, can't you? I had one in my flock that probably woke up the whole neighborhood at dawn for about five days, till I put him up for adoption on Craigslist. I had a taker about two hours later. By Mike T. on 2009 07 02
Hi, Mike! I, too am wondering when I'll see my first eggs from my first lil' flock. Had some news, I have one rooster (hopefully no more than that), he started crowing one week ago Friday. Drats. On keeping unwanted furry critters out of gardens, my neighbor has had quite a bit of success with plastic forks, the kind you use for picnics. She pushes them into the ground, tynes-up (with just the tynes above ground), and spaces them pretty close together. The little beasties have a hard time not pricking their paws. It's cheap, easy, organic, etc. By Vicki Felmlee on 2009 07 02

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