CHOOSING THE GARDEN SITE
As we began to plan our garden, the first thing we needed to do was to decide where to put it. Conventional thought suggests that gardens should be placed with full southern exposure. We also thought that in our cooler climate the southern exposure would be especially important. Our first inclination, therefore, was to put the garden right in front of the house, at the south side where the greenhouse is currently located. Had we put the garden in that spot, water would have been readily available from the house, but we would have had to do a lot of terracing. It would have been a lot of work. We thought about other spots in flatter areas, still not far from the house and south of the trees.
Then, after observing what the summer conditions had been like our first two summers here, and reading about some of the challenges faced by other Colorado Rocky Mountain gardeners, we decided to look for a better spot.
We began to observe that on most of the slopes around here, the south facing side is often quite barren of trees and vegetation, while the northern facing slopes are lush and green. See the photo at the top of the page. Those bare, green slopes have full southern exposure, but on the northern sides they are lush and green. Shouldn’t we pay attention to that? What we hadn’t been thinking about was that the sun is so intense at high elevation, it bakes the plants and dries them out.
We rode our horses to the top of Black Mountain, not far from here. From the top we could see those hillsides below us as. The slopes that are lush and full of vegetation face the north, while the barren slopes are south-facing. We thought that these natural areas must know something we don't! We decided to look around on the property for a better spot for the garden.
We decided to place the garden northeast of the house with some trees around to provide some wind protection and a little afternoon shade. Although the summer temperatures don’t get incredibly high (85°F is a rare, HOT day for us) the plants have less of a chance to survive without protection from the sun. Also, when the winds pick up it dries out the soil quickly, and would have done so in front of our house where it is so exposed. At the northeast it is a bit protected from the brunt of the wind and gets a little late afternoon shade.
During the winter, that spot gets much more shade and the snow stays on the ground longer. This is not really a problem, and may benefit the soil by keeping it covered with snow for a longer period of time. There is plenty of sun there during the summer growing season.
While we were building our house, we were living in our RV, and had a water hydrant placed nearby. This water source is close enough to provide water to the garden where it is located.
Now that the garden has been fully functional for three years, we are glad we chose this location.