Friday, November 8, 2019

2019 Gardening Season Wrap Up

I decided to write about a few of the highlights as well as the low lights of my gardening season. In talking to people in my area, we have experienced similar highs and lows in 2019. I invite you, the readers, to comment about your gardening year.  All of us will appreciate the information.

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!  

By Yvette Henson, CSU Extension Agent, San Miguel Basin

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