Before we actually moved to Colorado to become full time residents, I didn’t think the altitude would really affect my ability to grow vegetables very much. I seriously thought that the deer, rabbits, racoons, and other animals would be the biggest problems that I needed to deal with. Well, I can now say that I was very, very wrong!
Other problems from being at this altitude, and in the mountains, is dryness and lack of really fertile soil like we had in the midwest. Not that there aren’t areas that are wetter and have better soil, but not where we live. Much of our yard (5 acres) is comprised of rock. Yep! You read that absolutely right! The back yard is mostly lava rock (there was a volcano here years and years ago, actually thousands of years ago) and the front is granite. Not that you can actually see most of the rock, but attempting to dig a hole can be a frustrating experience that leaves you wanting to give up after a short period of time.
One of the things I miss growing here are tomatoes. I love garden fresh tomatoes! Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches are one of my favorite summer meals. I know, I know! Bacon, lettuce and tomato? Not exactly 100% healthy, but not horrible for you either. I have tried several different methods for growing tomatoes at our altitude and have yet to find one that works well. I haven’t completely given up on them, but they aren’t in my list of vegetables to grow this year.
What I have found grows best here are root vegetables. Beets have been my best crop so far. A couple of years ago I got a little beet crazy and had so many that I was amazed at the harvest. I love fresh beets and they also store pretty well, so I’m glad that they’re a good producer. Also, turnips, onions and potatoes grow well. Also, I have some asparagus that someone had planted here years ago and it comes back every year. I thought the deer would eat it, but so far they haven’t bothered it at all, which we’re very thankful for.
Jack made some raised planters for me last year and I’m really liking them. They’re four feet long and about 18″ deep and wide. We have them on our deck so the animals won’t be able to get to them. They’re also in an area where I can easily water them and where we can take the best advantage of the sunshine, which is really important to us.
I should have started my seed indoors a couple of months ago, but never got around to it. I decided to take a chance and planted seeds outside last week. I’m hoping that at least half of them do well. Besides beets, I’ve also planted green beans, peas, and zuchini (green and yellow). I have no idea which, if any, of these will do well, but seeds are pretty inexpensive and I think it’s worth the effort to try and see what we can grow. I would rather eat fresh vegetables than buy them from a store any day. I also like canning, so if we get enough to can, that will be a bonus.
While I’m waiting for my plants to grow, here are some links to information about growing vegetables at high-altitudes:
High-Altitude Gardening in the Rocky Mountains Mother Earth News
Vegetables that Grow Well Over 7000′ Colorado State University Cooperative Extension
High-Altitude Gardening Planet Natural
Mountain Veggies High-Altitude Gardening