Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: Gardening (Page 2 of 4)

Evergreen Sunroom Garden


The growing season in west Colorado is pretty short. Evergreen, where we currently live, is in zone 4b. The last frost is in late May, and the first snow fall is usually in September. Compared to central North Carolina, which is zone 7b, the growing season is cut down to half. And the plants and vegetables we can grow in the mountains are very limited.

To extend the growing season and get more fresh vegetables, many people here have green houses. As you might remember from this video tour, we have a pretty large sunroom included in our rental. The tenant who lived here for 14 years built a big rock flower bed in the sunroom and maintained a very successful garden.


The sunroom can accumulate a lot of heat. It only takes a couple hours of sunshine for the inside of the sunroom to reach 70 degrees. Therefore, I have never seen the water in the dog water station freeze. I have never had a green house before, so I am pretty shocked by the magic a simple structure can do to change the course of nature. Or look at it in another way, how amazing is the sun, that we just need to steal a little bit of its wonder to sustain our living.

As soon as I returned from my oversea trip, we brought back a bag of soil, gathered the egg shells we had been saving since moving in, and grabbed some herbs from a local nursery.


This rental is a temporary stay for us (we have found another place in Evergreen – cannot wait to show you the pictures!), so we decided to plant herbs instead of vegetables. We picked out lavender, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, mint, chives, stevia, and a couple annuals to mix in some color.

Almost all of these plants require full sun. But I do not want to under-estimate the power of a few pieces of glass windows. Without proper ventilation, the sunroom can get to 90 degrees in a couple hours. To make sure that these tender plants are ready for hot and dry afternoons, I left them at their designated spots, and watched them for a few days.


The new soil was worked in, and the eggshells are grounded and added into the soil as well. The herbs got a good nice drink every morning. After a few days, almost all of them showed new growth, as if they were saying,”we like it here!”

Planting a garden is always a precious moment. Holding young, tender plants in my hands, just like holding a new baby, brings gratitude, a sense of new hope, and excitement. Regardless how well they may grow in the future, at this moment, it is good. After planting, the scent of lavender and mint lingered on my figures for hours. Mixed with the smell of fresh, wet soil, it is really the happiest perfume in the world.

The first I planted is the mint. We had such a wonderful mint garden back in North Carolina and it reminds me the happy days there.



I never had stevia before and am excited to try it out.


Lavender, basil and chives








A couple weeks have passed after planting. We since had a couple snow storms, but the herbs are doing very well. Here are them today:




They have shown quite some new growth and the flower seeds I planted right after moving-in sprouted as well. We might not be here long enough to enjoy all the fresh herbs and flowers, but I am glad that we made this place a bit sweeter than that we came to.

A three-year garden recap

I have not been gardening long – we always rent and did not have the money or freedom to plant until we moved into our current rental in the summer of 2012. Our first gardening experience was this front yard beautification in the summer of 2013 (with help from professionals):

June 2013, front garden with cannas, lantana and a dwarf palm tree

Which, did surprisingly well the following year:

Summer 2014, Lantana

We have since learned some tough lessons from this garden – it is on the north side of the house and as you can see from the first picture, the part of the garden next to the house never gets any direct sun. Actually, except from June to August, 40% of the garden is in constant shade. In addition, the soil is cold and is heavy clay that never drains well. More plants died here than thrived, mostly during winter and because of rotten roots, including the cute palm tree and lantana (my personal favorite). We have since replaced half of what we originally planted. And this is what looks like a few days ago:

April 2016, front yard garden, Lilies, cannas, hibiscus, gardenia

We have since put down some rosemary bushes in the center of the yard where the palm tree used to be. Rosemary does not do well in clay soil but I have seen it as perennials here. So we are given it a try this year and hope it makes the center evergreen piece in this garden.

One success we had in this garden is hibiscus. We got the non-tropical ones and they overwinter very well. They actually do not mind saggy soil at all and really enjoy themselves at the sunny spot in this garden. They have been given generous and elegant big flowers whole summer throughout which attracted many butterflies. They do, however, attract beetles like crazy and definitely require daily attention to remove bugs and dead flowers for continuous bloom.

June 2015


April, 2016

We also enjoyed growing lily here which is actually in partial shade:

May, 2015
May, 2015

We got so many in such a short period of time so we gave them to everyone at my work and it made people so happy. Cannot wait for them to bloom again this year!

Our second garden is this little underplant area in the middle of our circular driveway:

June 2014, underplant in the driveway

Did not look so hot did it? But these plants are tough and just keep giving us surprises. It has been doing better and better each year and this is what it looks like last week:  

Much. Better. 🙂

We also tried to grow vegetables. yet so far it has not been going so well. We have many woodland critters who have been keeping a much closer eye on our fresh produce than we ever could. We have be successful with growing and producing cherry tomatoes (again, producing, not harvesting), and this year we decided to get our hands on peppers and cucumbers:

Summer 2015
April, 2016
April, 2016
April, 2016

If there is one thing gardening has taught me, is respect. Respect the plant, respect the nature. There is no other thing I could do but to provide what the plant need and to assist nature. That means be patient, be vigilance, be gentle, and be forgiving. 2016 has just started and we have already seen success and failure. We could not wait to see where 2016 takes us!

Succulent Explosion

I had a great weekend last week. Our two-year wedding anniversary was Saturday, and Sunday was hubby’s 33th birthday. I spent both mornings gardening while hubby spent these mornings in his favorite way – snoring in bed. 🙂 It was also cooler last weekend after a couple weeks of hot days, so all of our dogs were outside snoring next to my veggie pad. It was really no better way to spend my weekend mornings.


One thing I did was to re-pot and to fertilize my succulents. They finally started to grow faster and could use some encouragement. They were all from tiny cuttings – hubby ordered them online for me on V’day this year. And we were cheap so that we ordered the smallest cuttings. It takes forever for them to grow! Now I understand why big, gorgeous succulents cost – given how slow they grow, the price is totally justified.


These cuttings were also in bad shape when they came in – the package was delayed because of snow storms everywhere. Instead of five days, these cuttings were on road, in god-knows-where-probably-cold-temp for three weeks. They arrived super sad-looking, and most of them had their little leaves falling all over. I was also away from home when it was arrived, so hubby tried to “save” them by planting them in moist-control soil and totally over watered them – like treating a regular plant. But for succulent cuttings, it must have been a nightmare – Some of them had mold growing when I arrived home a few days later.


Fortunately they were strong little fighters. Except one, all of them survived. They grew very very slow though – After I move them onto fast-drain soil, it took them a couple weeks to dry out and maybe another month to have little root extending out. They have been in the same shallow pot for a good three months before they could stand without each other’s support by their little root. Then around late April, some of them finally put out a couple leaves here and there. It was so painful to watch since I am not a patient person.


I also noticed that even they were all succulent/cactus kind, they each required different amount of water and different degree of drainage. Each time I watered them, certain ones grew a bit all the suddenly, where some other ones seemed to sadden a bit. So separating them became a must. Around mid-May, I separated some of them and lined them up on the south-facing window sow at my work. Then it has been a trial-and-error kind of a couple months to figure out when amount of water each of them like.



My succulent grow so slowly probably because they are kept indoors. The building I work in is so over air-conditioned that I wear sweater most of the time. The “direct” sun beam is also filtered by energy-sufficient windows. Moreover, there is also no air flow near these pots, so the soil dry very slowly. Cold temp + slow dry soil + not much watering = slow growth.


Finally it is summer, the season that succulents are supposed to grow. They definitely stand taller, have new growth, and some of them even started to put more babies. Cannot wait to see how the fertilizer help them in the next a couple weeks!

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