Gardening at Elevation
This time of year, I always get tons of seed catalogs in the mail. I love going through them and looking at all the goodness I could grow. My mother always had a garden and many people always wondered how we could even grow anything up here. I mean the house was at 10,000 feet elevation and our growing season was so short. Nevertheless, we always had lettuce, spinach, peas, beans, radishes, and so much more! Over time I learned that just putting seeds in the ground was not going to produce a great garden. Watering and weeding help but there is obviously much more to it than that.
My husband also likes to garden so after we got married, I bought a greenhouse. I was thinking of all the veggies we would get! Well...we still have the greenhouse but as you can see, the weather still gets too cold to keep it going year round. However, I am not giving up. This past season we got tomatoes, beans, peas, five different harvests of radishes, and we must have cut 10 pounds of lettuce and spinach! So, here are some things I have learned to help you grow a garden this high above sea level and get lots of produce for your efforts.
First, have your husband do it all. I am kidding...sort of. My husband is amazing and loves to garden. But we do have a system that helps us get the most for our money with seeds. First, you have to check the germination dates on the seeds. Anything that is going to take more than 90 days to produce is not going to be very helpful. Our season starts mid-May and ends in September or October with the greenhouse. Seeds that germinate quickly are great for just planting in the ground and then replanting after each harvest. For instance, I started some plants in the house last January but they never gave me any broccoli. It was just too cold for them.
Second, don’t forget about your garden. I am always running around like a chicken with my head cut off. So spacing out on the garden has been known to happen. However, the little creatures like chipmunks and squirrels don’t forget about it. They invite their rabbit and deer friends in as well. I’ve never been so mad at a rabbit for eating my spinach! Hubby has spent up to four hours a day tending to the watering and weeding of the plants to keep the little invaders out. I found out that deer repellent plants work well as long they have not formed alliances with rabbits and chipmunks. This year I am working on fencing and trying to be more proactive about the creatures. Don’t feel bad for the animals because whenever we cleaned out the greenhouse, everything was tossed to the rabbits and such.
Third, watch your frost dates. If you are not using a greenhouse then the frost dates each year are critical. Make sure you're buying hardy plants that can survive one frost or even two. I know the national weather service gives us frost dates but mother nature doesn’t tend to read what they put out!
Fourth, know your zone. Victor is zone 5a. We are cold and our temperature in the summer is not always warm enough to grow certain things like tomatoes. Grandmother always had tomatoes inside the house, but we put them in the greenhouse and they did great! If you want to look up what zone you are in check out below. Also most seed catalogs will tell you what will grow in your zone. I like the heritage seeds and plants plus my herbs and such so that helps me make the decision on what to buy. I like to purchase seeds that I can start indoors as well.