WHAT GROWS HERE

WHAT GROWS HERE AND 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

 

 

2017 Garden In Review

The 2017 Garden Season has ended and winter is on its way in. 

The garden is in “hibernation” for the winter. Overall, we were very pleased with the garden in our first year of growing vegetables at this elevation. We were able to grow, eat and preserve many vegetables in this first year of gardening at this altitude. It was a lot of fun, a lot of hard work, and very satisfying. Some things did very well, others not so well, and everything we observed and learned will help us in planning for next year.

In general, almost everything took longer to reach maturity than expected. For instance, I picked the very first, 55-day tomato on day 74. I finally harvested the “100 day” onions, even though they could have had more growth, on about day 150 and later. Since the tops never really fell over on their own, they’re not curing properly, and they won’t last long in storage. Many other things took a lot longer than expected as well. I will detail those along with my observation of each vegetable family.

Most things were at least successful in that I at least had something to harvest. Cold-hardy things such as lettuces, spinach, and brassicas such as kale, mustard and cauliflower all did very well. Root vegetables did well (beets, daikon radish, carrots, rutabagas). Summer squash did well, although came later than expected. Bush beans did reasonably well, although all the blossoms did not produce beans. Peas did well. The leeks did well and I am still enjoying them. One of my new favorites is daikon radish, which grew extremely well and fast—I was able to ferment some and they are delicious. I was glad that I planted more kale, mustard and chard than I would eat—the ducks appreciated the greens and I was able to give them less of their expensive feed.

Other things I would not call successful. Knowing that it may not grow well, I had planted corn; Yukon Chief, a cold-hardy, short-season variety, as an experiment. This corn should have been ready for harvest at 55-70 days, per the packet. I did harvest some corn at about 95 days, but the ears were small and many of them had incomplete rows of kernels. Ten huge winter squash plants produced nothing, nada, no squash–just lots of leaves and lots of blossoms. The pepper plants had a few peppers, but they were far from ripe by the first freeze—I picked them but they did not ripen well inside. Tomatoes were somewhat successful in that I enjoyed some nice tomatoes, but not many, and most had to be ripened indoors as they were picked prior to a freezing night in September.

I have lots of notes and ideas about how I might do better next year. For instance:

  • I will try winter squash again, but will keep them covered overnight and on cool days. I will hand pollinate them, and will only plant varieties with shorter maturity dates. I will have them grow larger indoors before planting them outside.
  • I will start everything indoors under lights—the things that were started outside either did not germinate or didn’t germinate as quickly or as reliably (with the exception of daikon radish, which did VERY well).
  • I will grow more of the cold-tolerant things in the perimeter beds, which aren’t as easy to cover, and the vegetables which require more warmth on the interior beds of the garden (easier to keep covered). This may make crop rotation a little more challenging in the future, but I’ll do the best I can.
  • I will leave some beds unplanted at the beginning of summer to leave space for later plantings. I may put some quick-growing cover crops in these beds which can be turned in prior to planting fall crops.
  • I will start my fall crops earlier than I did this year.
  • I will try not to plant too many lettuces at the same time, but leave room for successive plantings! (I always mess up with this.)
  • I will start a spring cold frame a little earlier than last year, but with fewer plants, leaving room for more later on.
  • Now that we have the greenhouse, the plants that require more warmth will be planted there rather than outdoors, such as tomatoes & peppers.

I am pleased with our first year, and would call it a success. We’ve enjoyed lots of good eating, and had a lot of fun. We sure enjoy doing “good work”. Even though many days have produced sore feet and exhaustion, it’s a good thing, and keeps us busy. 

What’s New

Hi, folks. This is our new blog. Hopefully this website will be more than just a “blog”, but a site where y’all can come to learn about high-altitude living, gardening and animal-keeping through our experiences.

After building our home and developing the property, we are finally ready to begin planning our garden for the 2017 season. With the winter to plan, there will also be time to put together this website, which will include tips we’ve learned in the garden, with our ducks, and how to cook and preserve our bounty.

Please visit the sections listed above to discover what we have to offer.