How Does Your Pikes Peak Garden Grow?

10 tips to have you harvesting your own food come summer, from the experts at Pikes Peak Urban Gardens.

Sponsored by:

A New York transplant to Colorado Springs, I was a bit naive about local gardening. Let’s just say my early forays into deck gardening here at my second- floor condo were total flops compared to my previous growing experiences. “Gardening in New York is just cheating,” says Larry Stebbins, local gardening guru and director of Pikes Peak Urban Gardens. Since growing up with lush Midwestern growing conditions, Stebbins has mastered the art of growing in Colorado—and sharing the benefits and know-how of growing your own food. Following his tips can make your garden—and mine—grow.

Pikes Peak Urban Gardens
Local gardening guru and director of Pikes Peak Urban Gardens Larry Stebbins. Photo courtesy of Larry Stebbins.

1. Choose a sunny location. “Not just any sunny location,” Stebbins says. “You want eight or more hours of direct sunlight daily.”

2. Plant in rich, loose, organically amended soil. Stebbins recommends independent garden shops where you can seek a local opinion on the best organic amendments and plant choices.

3. Hydrate! “Hydrate your beds or planting area down 8 to 10 inches prior to planting anything,” Stebbins says. “Think of it like baking: To get your dough ready, you must add a little water at a time, then mix.” He recommends the same depth for watering throughout the growing season.

4. Plant in shallow trenches, not on mounds. “In Colorado Springs, it’s too dry, and it’s difficult for the water to get down to the roots,” he says.

5. Don’t overcrowd. “We plant carrots 1 inch apart, so we don’t have to thin,” Stebbins says. “Plant tomatoes and zucchini 3 to 4 feet apart and broccoli, cabbage and peppers 18 inches apart.

6. Stay connected. Visit your garden daily to check on water needs and bugs.

7. Debug safely. “Spray them off with a stream of water, or handpick them off,” Stebbins advises. “You don’t want to use a substance that could kill the good with the bad.”

8. Protect your plants. The plants I struggled with—tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers—need warmth and protection from harsh winds. “Use small hoop tunnels with UV-treated plastic to do both,” Stebbins says.

9. Harvest when your crop is ready. “Don’t delay!”

10. Scale for size. For apartment and condo-dwellers like me, Stebbins advocates planting in cloth potting bags, such as Smart Pots, ranging from one to 25 gallons. “They are easy to carry upstairs even when filled with good, loose, organic soil,” he says. Place those pots in full sun, and do not overcrowd. If planting tomatoes in a container, opt for patio or bush varieties.

What and When to Grow

Plant roots, such as carrots and onions, in early spring. By May 15, you can plant some lettuces and greens outside. “Plants that fruit, that is flower—such as peppers, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes—should be planted in late May or early June,” Stebbins says.

Community Gardens

Do you have limited yard or deck space—or simply want some growing camaraderie? Consider joining a community garden. Pikes Peak Urban Gardens lists and links private and public community gardens all over El Paso County from their interactive map at They even offer tips for starting your own community garden, and if it’s public, PPUG provides free consulting to help you get started.

JL Fields
JL Fields is a vegan chef, culinary coach, and chef consultant to restaurants and food, health, and wellness brands. She is the founder and culinary director of the Colorado Springs Vegan Cooking Academy and is a Master Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator. JL is the author of several books, including Fast & Easy Vegan Cookbook, Vegan Meal Prep, The Vegan Air Fryer, and Vegan Pressure Cooking and writes the monthly vegan dining review for the Colorado Springs Gazette. She produces vegan markets and the annual vegan restaurant week in Colorado Springs where she lives with her husband, Dave, and their rescued cat, Oliver, and rescued dog, Harry.

Read More