GROWING FOOD AT 9,000 FEET
Our High Altitude Vegetable Garden, at almost 9,000 feet, was started in the Spring of 2017. High Country Living highlights this garden. While our focus will be gardening at high altitudes, there will be a great deal of general gardening tips that will be applicable at any location.
To start off, please read a little of our Gardening History HERE.
Our new garden was in planning stages for several months before we got started with the actual work of building. We did a lot of research, watched the sun and wind, and chose what we feel is the right location for the garden. We needed protection from the intense sun, the wind, and the deer, rabbits & squirrels who make their home on our turf. The beginning of April, we finalized our garden plan, set up a potting bench and some grow lights for seedlings, and got seeds ordered online. We began to start seedlings indoors. We began the garden grunt work during the nicer days later in April.
For our first year, we planted some perennials to get started (asparagus, raspberries, goji berries, blueberries, strawberries and various herbs). We started an early cold frame (lettuces, kale, chard, spinach, various other greens), and planted various veggies as weather allowed. We are experimenting with a few things we aren’t sure will grow well (corn, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers) along with other things that have been successful in local gardens (summer & winter squash, beets, cole crops, bush beans, to name a few.
We are experimenting with a variety of weather protection ideas to keep everything safe. Each bed is covered with a hoop frame. Attached to each frame is shade cloth, which can be rolled up or down. The shade cloth will protect the plants from the intense sun and also from the small-sized hail we get here on occasion. As needed, any of these frames can be used as a cold frame by covering it with frost cloth and/or plastic sheeting as needed. In early spring I started a cold frame with cold-hardy greens covered with the plastic sheeting, which got a great head start prior to the last snow storms of the season. Our tomato and pepper plants, along with some basil, are covered every night throughout the summer with plastic and frost cloth to keep them as warm as possible–the goal is to keep those plants above 50 degrees.
The entire perimeter is lined with netting to keep the deer and bunnies out. The bottom of each bed is lined with gravel, stucco netting and rocky soil, which we’ve not seen the local ground squirrels burrowing through in other locations on our property. Hopefully this will keep them out of the beds. The pathways are lined with thick plastic, to keep both the squirrels and weeds out. We think we’re covered.
Here’s a map of the garden as it has been planted as of July 2017. The entire garden is 41′ x 39′. The planted space is about 650 square feet of beds. One bed is currently vacant and will be planted as a fall cold frame for cold tolerant greens. Another bed has just been planted with cover crops, and will be planted with garlic and onions in the fall for over-wintering.