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Growing Vegetables in the Mountains


We live in the mountains west of Canon City, Colorado. For many years I have tried to grow a vegetable garden that would yield a crop of more than just a few items from the plants. We have tested the soil and put in several things. Watered every day or every other day as suggested but don't get a very good crop. Has anyone had this problem and been able to overcome it? Our growing season is short. We plant about the first or second week in June due to frost problems. Thanks for your help.




Your mountain conditions can certainly provide some unique challenges-soil, sun intensity, site considerations, length of growing season, etc. High altitude soil has a tendency to be alkaline due to the fact that rain has less of an opportunity to wash out salts. Most vegetables like soil that is neutral to slightly acidic. I would suggest getting a pH monitor to keep tabs on your soil's pH levels. You can compensate for low acid levels by adding some type of sulfate to the soil. Also, take advantage of the acidic nature of pine needles by using them for mulch and mixing them into the soil.

Try using short season seeds or starting seeds indoors. There are several reputable dealers on the Internet who can supply you with a catalog if you can't find seeds locally. There are also many good books and Internet resources specifically on high altitude growing.

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September 24, 20040 found this helpful

Are you planting from seed or starting the plants early? With the short season we also have in NY, I try to start things before they go outside.

I also try to give them as much warmth as possible, either with dark plastic mulch or regular mulch. They also recommend red mulch for tomatoes, but I have not tried that. The extra heat seems to help - although I am not sure what a "great" yeild would be.

How is the insect population there? If you are at a high elevation with few insects, you might not be getting the pollination action you need. You might try reading up on doing pollination yourself to help compensate.

There are lots of gardening help sites online - I have found that many of the universities with agricultural programs have great info. You might want to see what Colorado U has - it would be more localized to your climate.

good luck - and spend the winter dreaming of bumper crops!!!

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September 24, 20040 found this helpful

Hi there,

I too live west of Canon City. I was so surprised to find a post from someone that loves the challenge of gardening in this same area. I had a pretty good garden this year. I grew turnips, carrots, 3 kinds of beans, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, spinich, & butter cup squash. These are the things that did produce. The things I tried, with little success were corn, brussel sprouts, cucumbers, peas and cabbage. I have had success with cabbage before, but not this year. I tried doing companion planting this year and it really worked well. I planted everything from seed, and I get my seed from "Seeds of Change" out of New Mexico. They have all original seeds and not too many hybrid seeds. I also water with soaker hoses so that the roots stay wet. It works a lot better than top watering. My husband grew a plot of potatoes and actually got some pretty good size ones. Every year we try to add extra material like leaves we pick up in Canon City.

Well that's about all I can tell you about my garden experience except that I have a hungry gopher that really like my beans so I planted an abundance this year to share with him. haha!


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By guest (Guest Post)
September 27, 20040 found this helpful

You mention water but not feeding - if your soil is impoverished most annual vegetables will not do well - they need to grow and 'fruit' in one short season so need plenty of manure and compost. Have you had your soil tested? It may be too acid or alkaline,(the pH), at present - this can be corrected or you may need to choose your crops accordingly. I agree with previous posters about getting an early start. Start your seeds a month early on indoor window sills or in a porch - anywhere protected, with good light - then transplant to the garden when all danger of frost is past. If your days are sunny but nights are cool plant under cloches - plastic tunnels. If you get an unexpected cold snap protect exposed young plants with glass or plastic covers overnight, plastic cool drinks bottles inverted with the tops cut off work well as mini cloches. There must be gardening books for your area - try the local library. They will give the most suitable plants and, more importantly the most suitable varieties of these plants, for your climate. Do you have any neighbours who grow vegetables successfully? Ask them - most gardeners are generous people only too willing to share their experience. If you mulch, which is essential for healthy soil micro-organisms, don't apply it until the ground has warmed up or it will be slow to get to 'growing temperature'. Is your vegetable garden exposed or sheltered? A windbreak hedge which allows the sun in will create a micro climate where things can get a head start. Do a search on the web for cold climate vegetable gardening. Look into Permaculture which will give you many more ideas for adapting to your difficult climate.

Thats all the ideas I have at the moment - there may be some you haven't thought of!



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By guest (Guest Post)
February 9, 20050 found this helpful

Wow- I didn't expect a posting from Canyon City, I live in Gunnison, just down Monarch Pass! I am going to plant my first garden come June, you mentioned some frost problems, thanks for the tip! I think I will try lettuce, carrots and perhaps some berries! Hopefully I will get some results, anything to keep bills down for poor college kids!

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June 29, 20060 found this helpful

I was wondering if you might know how much water monarch peas like, we have more than a garden, we have about 150 acres but so far the people we have talked with grow dryland we have them under irrigation, center pivots and we don't want to over water, or under water, if you don't know the answer maybe you could direct me to a source, thank you Tina

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