kohlrabi2018

WHAT GROWS HERE & WHAT DOES NOT

This will now be my 3rd year gardening at 9,000 feet. After some trial and error, I’ve chosen only to grow the things that will grow well in the outdoor garden, and use my limited greenhouse space in the summer for a few favorites while saving some room for early fall planting there. Some of the vegetables that grow very well have not been my favorites (kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, rutabagas) but since they do grow well here and are good for us I’m learning to like them more and cook them in new ways.

Our last frost date in spring to the first frost date in the fall is about 92 days. I carefully select only the varieties that boast the shortest maturity period. Nothing grows as fast as promised. If the seed packet indicates 60 days, in most cases it will be 80-100. For example, I planted Masai Hericots Verts bush beans with a maturity range of 58 days. I harvested them about 88 days after planting. Often, seed varieties boast that they are well-suited for northern climates. I’d thought that those would also work well in high altitudes, but no. We do not get as many sunshine hours in the day as do northern areas in the summer. I believe that this, in addition to our cool nights, slows down the growth of many plants. Here is a list of what grows well and what does not.

 

WHAT GROWS WELL OUTDOORS

  • broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, bok choy & all brassicas
  • lettuce, spinach, chard and a variety of other greens to be eaten fresh or sauteed
  • root vegetables such as beets, rutabagas, turnips, radishes and carrots
  • potatoes
  • garlic
  • peas
  • herbs such as parsley, cilantro, thyme, sage, oregano, dill

WHAT GROWS SO-SO

(I do still grow these outdoors, but they’re not the best)

  • onions (they don’t get big and the season is too short & cool for them to bulb well, but after a successful experiment last year I’m giving them another try)
  • summer squash (they need covering early on when it’s cold, and help with pollination)
  • winter squash (So far I’ve had only one variety that actually produced squash, Gold Nugget, and it did not taste good. I’m determined to get some winter squash to grow based on the success of some other local gardeners, so I am trying two new varieties this year.)
  • bush beans (a smaller yield than in warmer climates, but they are suitable)
  • celery (got some thin celery last year, am trying one more time)

WHAT I PROBABLY WON’T ATTEMPT OUTDOORS AGAIN

  • tomatoes or peppers (they just began to ripen when the fall frosts began, even though they were faithfully covered each night)
  • corn (tried an Alaskan variety bred for short, cool seasons, but it did not produce)
  • dry beans (it froze before I had a chance to harvest these)
  • cauliflower (grew very spindly, did not make a good head)

WHAT I GROW IN THE SUMMER GREENHOUSE

  • tomatoes
  • peppers
  • cucumbers
  • basil
  • winter squash – still on trial one more time outdoors

 

 

ORGANIZATION, PLANNING & RECORD KEEPING

I’m kind of a nut when it comes to organization and planning, and it may border on overkill. Sometimes I think I may spend more time with this than I do in the garden. I do most of this organization work during the winter when I have the extra time on my hands. When garden time comes, all I need to do is minor updates & notes. My methods for organizing and planning are not specific to high-altitude gardening, but are extra helpful when planning a garden that only grows in a short season, or for making full use of limited space in the greenhouse year-round.

SEED SELECTION

When I begin the process of seed selection for the year, I begin an Excel spreadsheet. Mine looks something like this. I start this process in January, and get seeds ordered in February, before the varieties I’ve chosen are no longer available (which has happened before).

I begin by deciding what types of plants I plan to grow, and make a list. The first 3 columns show whether I will grow them in the greenhouse, the cold frame or the outside garden. Then I begin looking at various websites and books that I have, to determine what varieties I might like. I add notes about whether they are organic, how many days to harvest, the vendor, price and miscellaneous notes about the varieties. I start with a BIG list, then begin to delete those I decide not to order. Eventually my list looks something like the one above, which I can sort by vendor, then go to that website and use this as my order list. The varieties with blank spaces indicate seeds I already have on hand.

KEEPING NOTES

After this, I have plenty of time to add information about all these seeds to my notebooks, and to look up information regarding when to plant the seeds, whether to start them indoors or in the garden, etc.

For this process, I use Microsoft One Note. I prefer the Microsoft Office desktop version, but it is also available as a free app, available for Windows or Apple operating systems, or online with any browser. I use this extensively for all my garden planning and note-taking.

These are the main sections (Tabs) I use:

  • PLANNING: links to websites I refer to, companion planting information, seed companies, etc.
  • BEDS: information about what treatments have been given to each bed in my garden
  • GREENHOUSE: general planning information for the greenhouse
  • HI-ALTITUDE: various information about high-altitude gardening, my weather and frost date information, best types of vegetables for high-altitude, etc.
  • FUTURE: ideas to explore in the future
  • NATURE: I keep logs of when I view various birds, squirrels, deer, elk, antelope, various wildflowers, etc.
  • PESTS: pests I see, what I do about them, information about pest control
  • SOIL & AMENDMENTS: information about fertilizers, soil amendments, etc.
  • PLANTS: This is a group section with sub-sections including: Alliums, Beans, Beets, Brassicas, Carrots….you get the idea.
    • Each of these sections contain pages of what I’m planting, including all the varieties I’m planting, dates started, transplanted, harvested, days to harvest, notes about how they did, etc. I also include growing information here.

Here’s a look at my “Brassica” section (under the “PLANTS” group) as an example, showing the page of 2017 Greenhouse Brassicas:

This year I’ve made a separate One Note Notebook, I call “Guffey Veggies”. I used to keep all this information in one notebook, but it got too full of stuff and hard to organize. Now I’m using this “Guffey Veggies” notebook to keep notes on all the seeds I choose. Since I order most of my seeds online, it’s easy to copy and paste this information into the notebook for future reference. Those pages look something like this:

PLANNING & PLANTING

One more thing I did this year was to create a spreadsheet to help me know when to start each vegetable for the greenhouse, the cold frame and the outside garden. It looks like this:

Let me explain this!

  • WHERE: Greenhouse, Cold Frame, or Outside
  • SPECIES, VARIETY: vegetable to plant
  • DAYS: Days to maturity
  • HOW: whether I will start this inside in soil blocks, or direct-sow outside
  • START: the day I will start the seeds. This is automatically calculated from the columns that show when I plan to transplant out, and the number of weeks/days the plant will remain inside before planting.
  • WEEKS INSIDE, DAYS TO TRANSPLANT: weeks, days from sowing to transplanting out.
  • TRANSPLANT OR START OUTSIDE: gathered from growing information I’ve collected
  • OUT ETA: The date I plan to transplant or sow outside
  • HARVEST ETA: This is the date transplanted out + the number of days to harvest.
  • 2018 ACTUAL HARVEST: to be filled in as the summer progresses

This spreadsheet can be sorted as desired: by coldframe, greenhouse, outside, by start date, etc. Right now I’m finding it most handy to sort by start date, so I know what I need to be doing in the coming weeks. As you can see, I’m planning to plant outside in the coldframe sometime around May 15. This will depend on the weather—some things may go out sooner or later than the 15th.

Hopefully all of this is helpful to anyone reading. Everyone has their own way of doing things, and others may do just fine without all this time-consuming organization. If you just “wing it” you may be just as successful, but I find it helpful to do all of this and keep track of what I’m doing so I can go back the next year to determine what worked and what didn’t.

For instance, last year I started my fall plantings of beets, cabbages, broccoli and a few other things too late. They just didn’t have time to grow before fall. I also found that starting most things in the ground last year wasn’t successful. I am glad to have all of these dates & information written down from last year. This year I will start almost everything indoors and plan to transplant them out after they’ve sprouted and gained a little growth. (I will still start carrots & peas outside, but that’s about it.) I know that in my cool weather, the harvest dates for almost everything will be later than expected, but I used the published “Date to Harvest” anyway. I will compare this with my actual harvest dates.