Friday, February 25, 2011

Anticipating Spring in the High-Altitude Garden

It's that time of year for most of the country: daffodils are appearing, snow is melting, and long-neglected gardens are being tended again!  I say "for most of the country" a little bitterly, though, because where I live, above 9,000 ft in elevation, spring will not arrive until April (and it usually snows at least once in June)!  The old-timers here say, "We only have 2 seasons, winter and July."  It's nearly true.  It's a good thing winter is beautiful here.

So what's a mountain girl to do when the rest of the world starts digging and planting?

  • Plan to sync with nature!  At my altitude, only cool-season crops are viable.  We really have to cooperate with nature up here, because warm-season crops just don't grow.  At all.  So as much as I'd like to have corn and watermelons, I'll be sticking to mainly greens, beans, and roots.
  • Extend, extend, extend!  To ensure that everything has time to mature in our approximately 90-day growing season, most veggie gardeners up here use season-extenders of some sort so they can get seeds/seedlings out earlier and harvest a little later.  This is my first year to try a season extender, and it won't be fancy - it'll be homemade covers for my square-foot gardens.
  • Plant indoors (maybe).  Planting seeds indoors to transplant into the garden helps get things going a little early, too.  Unfortunately, the bulk of my produce is root vegetables, some of which are notoriously picky about being transfered.  So we'll see.  
  • Protect!  Like many of you, we have deer, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks (and the occasional marauding St. Bernard), so I'll be amping up my garden-protection this year.  
  • Live vicariously through others!  What are you doing in the garden this spring?  I would loooove to enjoy your green, blooming outdoors while my surroundings lay dormant!  Would you leave a comment with a link to your garden posts?  I would love to read them!


  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog. We have a lot of interests in common, but I think I would go crazy at 9000 feet all winter! What kind of trees can you grow? Fruits, nuts, pinecones? :)

  2. I am sad for you that you can grow only beans and roots and greens. No tomatoes?!? :( I think tomatoes are the reason most of us get into gardening in the first place. We currently have a small lime tree in a pot in our living room; I wonder if anything like that would work for you. Or maybe you don't get enough sun . . . we are in the mountains, too, but only at 1,600 feet, so we have had good luck with our gardening efforts (just started a few years ago -- actually my hubby is the gardener, not me, but I get to have fun playing with all the produce). Here's a link to my end-of-the-summer wrap-up poast for 2010:
    I'm glad to have found you; it looks like you have a really fun blog here :)

  3. Tamlynn, we don't have any trees right now because we're renting, but I think a few really hardy types grow here!
    Lynn, no tomatoes is right! It's a bummer! I'm thinking about experimenting with a greenhouse-type cover for part of the garden so I can try some this year! The lime tree sounds like such good idea - I've never even heard of that! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. WOW! Danielle I never even thought about the difference in planting seasons. I found this post very interesting and you have a challenge to say the least when it comes to gardening! Sounds like you have some great ideas to make it happen though. I visited Colorado once when I was 11, our family took a vacation to visit my penpal in California. We went to Pikes Peak, I remember thinking just how gorgeous Colorado was!!! :)

  5. We're at about 200 ft... but still many good tips!

  6. Marie, I'm glad you have fond memories of Colorado - the Pikes Peak area is one of the prettiest, I think.
    Heidi, I guess the high-altitude part isn't very applicable for you! But I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

  7. oh man.. you have many gardening challenges! lol.. sheesh. I won't 'complain' about the rainy wet PNW any more! ;)

    My mom and I lived for a year in Cripple Creek. It would have been in the early 70's and I would have been a small girl, but I remember the donkeys and lots of snow. I have some fond memories of our time there for sure. Colorado is beautiful.

  8. Hoveland Family, I think we all have unique challenges, no matter what our climate is like!
    Cripple Creek is such a beautiful area! I don't know if there are many donkeys there now, but definitely lots of snow! Thanks for stopping by!


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