I garden in the montane zone at 8,400’ in SW Colorado. In the 10+ years I have lived there, our last frost has been late May or early June and our first frost is at the end of September or mid-October. Our summer daytime temperatures are in the 70’s, with very few days in the 80’s. Night time temperatures are 50-60⁰ F.
Needless to say, I grow a lot of things under covers. The covers provide both shade and warmth. They also help discourage critters and insects.
|My raised beds.|
My soil is loamy with a pH of about 7. However, this ‘ideal’ soil is also about 50% rock and very difficult to dig! So, I grow in raised beds. The soil I got to fill my raised beds was not as good as my native soil and I have been amending my beds with organic matter almost every year before I plant.
I have about 250 square feet of space to grow in my raised beds and I grow tomatoes in 5- gallon buckets on my deck, which is a warmer microclimate. I use a 4-year crop rotation by family. I water using rainwater and well water. Mulch and row cover fabric help conserve water.
This year I grew several varieties of bush green beans, carrots, onions, leeks, Chinese pink celery, kale, cabbages, a cauliflower, broccoli, peas, potatoes, short-season tomatoes and some flowers for pollination and herbs. I only grow enough for fresh eating and a little to preserve for later.
Like many of you, our spring was cold with late snow storms. Our summer/fall was very dry but the temperatures were not overly hot.
|Chinese Pink celery|
I planted everything “on time” this year because I don’t have time to lose in our short season. The weekend I planted I didn’t have my compost screen and I didn’t want to wait another week, so I planted without amending the soil. I believe that not amending my soil, as well as the cool spring, slowed the growth of almost everything I planted. I ended up fertilizing more than usual, but still crop growth was less than normal. I learned that amending my soil every year is important for crop growth.
My best success was the bed of bush snap beans. It is a 15’ x 3.5’ cold-frame style raised bed, covered with a product called diobetalon.
I grew several varieties of bush beans: ‘Tanya’s Pink Pod’ (started producing earliest); “Calima’ beans were long, straight and slender; the ‘OS Blues’ were ‘ok’ and an unnamed variety I got in an Instagram seed swap were my favorite. I harvested 16 pounds of beans over 6 weeks!
I also grew a 12 pound, 12 ounce ‘New Brunswick’ cabbage! Sorry-- I forgot to take a photo!
I was excited to try Chinese pink celery. It has pink stalks and is supposed to be easier to grow than “European” celery. Even though I planted it several weeks earlier than recommended, it withstood late frosts. However, it went to seed early.
I planted 'Shiraz Tall Top,' ‘Kamuolini’ and ‘Crapaudine’ beets for the second year but in a different bed than last year. Deer grazed them twice and the beets got powdery mildew (a first). They were smaller than normal.
|Tomatoes on my deck, covered for early frost protection.|
|Green Zebra tomato|
I grew several varieties of tomatoes in buckets on my deck. I had lots of blight (also a first) but got an okay harvest. The ‘White Currant’ tomatoes were small, creamy yellow SWEET and delicious! My husband liked the tangy ‘Green Zebra.'
There were a few times I was pretty discouraged this past year and wondered if it was worth the time and water to try to grow some of our own food. However, I feel I learned some things this year and I’m already planning for next year!