Colorado Gardening – Helping Your Garden Survive Challenging Conditions
Vegetable gardening in Colorado’s unique climate presents a variety of challenges, but can also yield some magnificent rewards.
The amateur backyard gardener in Colorado may find themselves living in any one of four different climate zones, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Which zone you live in dictates the length of growing season, the time you’ll plant and, to some degree, what you can grow most successfully.
In this article we’ll talk about Front Range gardening. Most of Colorado’s population lives in the cities and towns on the eastern slope of the Rockies, locally called the Front Range.
Growing conditions can be highly variable here. This is due to topography, rain and wind patterns, mountain shadows, and variations in altitude. Meteorologists call these different areas micro-climates. Seasoned gardeners may call them a nightmare, or a welcome challenge, depending on the location of their garden plots.
There are some quick solutions to finding out about you particular micro-climate. Go talk to two or more nurseries or garden shops. Contact the closest college or university agriculture department or extension program. Find out through the local parks and recreation department if your town has a “Master Gardener” program, and get some referral numbers. Go online to look for local garden clubs, gardening blogs or virtual bulletin boards for gardening resources. Chances are your garden challenge isn’t unique and the neighbor just down the road may already have found a solution for what ails your garden.
Once you’ve got the information you feel you need about weather patterns in your neighborhood it’s time to take a look at your soil. Much of the soil on the Front Range is very porous. Although it drains well, it’s not likely to be nutrient-rich. Because it drains well, it dries out quickly. That fact in conjunction with moderate to low humidity, drying winds, evaporation due to altitude, and a high ultra violet index means that there’s a need for lots of water.
Gardeners who are new to Colorado conditions might look at forecasts for afternoon thunderstorms, which are very frequent during the summer months, and be inclined to postpone watering. That’s a mistake. Counting on showers to rain on your garden might lead to unpredictable results. Afternoon temperatures may be in the 90’s before any showers materialize. The rain may be quick and heavy, and just run off before your soil is hydrated. Be wise. Water in the morning, and don’t count on Mother Nature.
Because of quick-drying, low-nutrient soil conditions, supplementing your garden soil with peat moss, compost, clippings, or some sort of vegetable matter is a good idea to help retain that needed moisture on the surface and down a few inches where young roots are trying to get established.
Soil and water are two important elements of Colorado Front Range gardening. You have to bring them together in order to successfully make that garden grow.
Another thing to watch out for is the sunshine at this mile-high altitude above sea level. The harsh sun alone can be a problem for young plants.
Like everywhere else, there are also common garden pests and weeds that have to be kept at bay. This part is not rocket science, and is not beyond most gardeners.
The toughest challenges of gardening with altitude are the major water and soil issues mentioned. Conquer these, and the harvest will be yours. Even just recognizing that there are climactic concerns, puts you well he way to being a successful Colorado gardener.