As the Worm Turns

Aug 14, 2012

“As the Worm Turns” is part of the “Free Range Radio” show that airs every Monday morning on KVNF.  It features an interview with local gardener Lance Swigart at about 10:05 am. Tips and tidbits from these interviews are posted here, and our listeners can make comments and ask Lance questions in the comments forum below.

Lance Swigart lives nine miles outside of Hotchkiss. He grows 90 percent of his food and harvests 100 percent of his seeds from a garden he grows above 6,000 feet elevation. He has been building his incredibly beautiful garden space for the last 25 years, and is a wealth of information about all kinds of gardening from grains to beans to fruits and vegetables, even nuts. Enjoy these photos taken by Suze Smith, a local photographer who has worked on this documentary for the past year in hopes that it will highlight the value of the organic food and sustainability movement in the irreplaceable North Fork Valley.

To make comments about how seasonal weather shifts are affecting your own garden and environment, go to iSeeCHANGE, a crowd-sourced reporting project hosting conversations between citizens and leading scientists about environmental change in western Colorado.

7/23/2012   Here’s what we learned from Lance today:

Crops to be planting:  fall peas, kholrabi, beets, radishes, pintos (60 days to maturity)

Threshing small grains:  Kamut utilizes a hand cranked shredder for grains that leave the seed head easily (oats, kamut, wheat) and an electric one for spelt

Tips of the day:

  • If you don’t have a shredder, you can also lay down a tarp with a log in the middle and “beat” the grain against the log to remove it.  Winnow all the grains using a screen or fan.
  • To prevent celery from being too stringy make sure to fertilize every two weeks with manure tea or liquid nitrogen fertilizer.  Celery originates from the Mediterranean and prefers access to very rich nutrients 

8/13/2012   Here’s what we learned from Lance today:

  • It’s important to remove any rotting/infested fruit from the tree to prevent the spread of bacteria (especially in stone fruit) – it will impact the following year’s crop in addition to the current year’s.
  • Early raspberries that have been thinned and old canes removed are currently producing a second crop which is unusual because they do not usually produce two crops in one year.
  • The Mexican bean beetle has a presence on the western slope.  It is important to remove them and their larva from the garden. The larva are yellow and fuzzy – eggs laid on the underside of the leaves. Otherwise, the growing larvae skelatize the leaf – leaving only the outline of the leaf and veins/stem.  The beetle overwinters in garden refuse – so it is critical to clean the garden and compost remains to eliminate infestation for the following year.

Any fall plantings that are not thriving by the beginning of September are supplemented by manure tea or other liquid nitrogen fertilizer to give their growth a boost.


  • In planning ahead for harvest and storage of crops:
    • For root crops like carrots, beets and winter squash, it’s best to have a frost before harvest to sweeten carrots and beets.
    • For winter squash, he allows frost to kill leaves and then leaves squash on vine for another two to three weeks – covering with old blankets, sheets, etc. when more freezing temps are expected. This will harden off their skins and allow for full ripening.