Growing Things

Rita Bader’s Garden

By Annie Hughes

When I arrived at Rita’s home outside of Mesa, Colorado, I was greeted by her sweet dog, Wia, who immediately welcomed me by pressing her nice cold nose against the backs of my knees. On a hot morning, it was a very refreshing greeting!

Rita’s home, at just below 7,000 feet in elevation, is surrounded by growing things. Rita’s gardens provide her immediate family of four with 100% of their fruits and vegetables, with lots left over to share with extended family and friends.

There are raised beds and containers everywhere, including a now defunct hot tub full of delicious (and non-bolting) volunteer “Vivian” lettuce. She has red, black, and yellow raspberries, blackberries, currants, strawberries and pie cherry, peach, apricot, and apple trees.

Vegetables are container grown and integrated with onions, garlic, flowers and herbs to keep the plants healthy and attract pollinators. There are tomatoes, peppers, peas, beans, celery, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, squash, kohlrabi, pak choi, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, watermelons, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and even artichokes!

Rita’s gardens have few, if any weeds. She starts garden beds and paths with a base of old carpeting, and/or plastic (from feed bags, old swimming pools, etc.). Rita’s husband, Dale Bader, constructs raised beds on top of the carpet/plastic base with half rounds from a saw mill. The beds are then lined with heavy duty weed mat, partially filled with a layer of homemade compost, and topped off with a deep layer of alpaca poo and some homemade sawdust. Snow fencing wrapped around the top of the beds provides protection from deer. The use of groundwater (which filters right back down to where it came from) also helps with weed prevention as there are few, if any, seeds in it.

Rita uses no additional fertilizer and her only pesticide is a very dilute mixture of Ivory Soap and water, sprayed out of a squirt bottle to control aphids. Fruit trees are covered with netting so that the birds don’t get all the fruit.

Rita, Wia, and I enjoyed some peas and pie cherries and Rita sent me off with a bagful of the latter for making a pie.

Thank you, Rita, for sharing your time, your gardens, and your expertise with us!

Annie Hughes’ articles can be found at