The Garden

Colorado and the High Altitude Garden

 

Colorado has some of the most unique weather in the country. Pine Daisy House sits on the south side of a high altitude sloping ridge at 7300 feet of elevation. We average about 9 feet of snow each season with a garden zone of 4b/5a. We live on an almost completely treed lot with little areas that get full sun.

After years of talking about it, Mr. PDH and I are going to attempt a kitchen garden. I have scoured the internet, instagram, and facebook for help and ideas. I have found some great resources and I’ve loved sitting snuggled under the blanket with a hot drink, dreaming and making plans!

Colorado and the High Altitude Garden
Colorado and the High Altitude Garden

 

Update: You can read more about our gardening journey, here, here , here, and here.

Colorado Garden Plan

The bulk of our plan centers around maximizing the area we have that is exposed to our great Colorado sunshine. We plan to either purchase or build two elevated raised beds (think raised bed on stilts) and some large containers to place in two areas. They’ll be placed on two large decks, one is south facing and the other west facing. One bed will go on the full sun deck with a couple barrels, and the other will go on the west facing for the partial sun.

Colorado and the High Altitude Garden
Building an elevated raised bed will allow us to strategically place our vegetables in areas that focus on sun exposure.                                      (photo credit: hayneedle.com)

 

Colorado and Mother Nature

With frost dates that are essentially June 1-October 1 we need to trick mother nature. Enter PVC pipe, and opaque garden plastic. We’ll build two low tunnels (or hoop houses) fitted to the elevated beds. We aren’t sure if we’ll mount them to wood frames with a hinge or secure them to the top of the beds somehow. Our teenager is our epic problem solver, so I may just buy him the supplies and say, “Go for it!” Seeds will be started inside toward the end of March and with the help of the tunnel we hope to put things in the ground by mid May. Confirming this information is my current topic of research. So if you have any definitive information please let me know in the comments!

Colorado and the High Altitude Garden
We are excited to add a hoop house to the top of the elevated beds. We think they will make a big difference. (image credit: fix.com)

Colorado Pine Trees and Soil

There are too many trees to count on our acre of forest so I’m not going to attempt to amend the soil. I’ve spent the last three summers working in vain to grow some ground cover and ornamental flowers to no affect. The pine tree needles can be acidic to the soil and the tree roots tend to drain out the nutrients. The elevated bed idea allows us to accomplish two things. First, we can totally control our soil and move or cover it to prevent tree foliage from interfering with its content. Next, raising the bed off the ground will give us the chance to warm up the soil quicker for early spring planting.

My Colorado Kitchen Garden Plan

Mr. PDH and I went back and forth and ultimately decided that we need to start simple and small this year. We are already biting off a chunk as we are creating two completely separate watering spaces to manage. Like most of our state, we consistently have watering limitations placed on our area each summer. Conserving water, and maximizing the rain we do get will be very important. One leafy green, one or two herbs, four veggies, one or two legumes, one berry, and one melon are currently on the plan.  The expense of the beds, barrels, soil, hoses, drip systems, low tunnels,  and then the actual seeds and plants themselves, will be enough for our pocketbooks to handle. Two of my co-workers are excellent local gardeners, we might seed swap with a neighbor, and we’ve got a great nursery and garden shop a few miles away.

Colorado and the High Altitude Garden
I really have no idea what to expect this first year in the garden. But I’m so excited to start simple and try some family favorites.

 

February is already here and it’s so much fun researching and learning how to tackle this gardening project. Colorado is beautiful, rugged and majestic. I love it and wouldn’t trade where we live for anything. The winter of 2018 has been full of fun anticipation with what the year holds. Follow Pine Daisy House on instagram for daily updates about the goings on at home and in the garden.

 

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2 thoughts on “Colorado and the High Altitude Garden

  1. We gardened at 7300 in CO for four years. In “raised “ beds on the ground under about a dozen 50ft pine trees. But it was the place with the most sun. Surprisingly the soil there was like black gold. No amending necessary even though we raked pine needles off it constantly.(we also eventually added our own compost) Some years we had 30 some amazing tomato plants from seed only to die in a freak hail storm. Other times whole plants – marigolds (grown in the tomatoes) or the watermelon plants – just VANISHED COMPLETELY overnight from the voles. (Marigolds are edible, are beautiful in salads, and keep away pests)
    Pocket gophers were enemies too. We planted what should have been a hundred pounds of potatoes but only got two large mixing bowls full. Thanks pocket gophers!! The tunnels were so big I could slide my arm through he tunnels up to my armpit. 🙄
    Make sure deer and rabbits can’t get your stuff. For awhile you’d think we were hosting an all you can eat Black Forest buffet.
    And I started my seeds around April tenth. I don’t know what your starting in March – but you might find it challenging. The plants get bigger than you think faster then you think. And then you are BEGGING for it to be warm enough to keep them outside cause you’re out of room. Be patient. Hardened them off slowly. That was super hard for me.
    And- if you want heirloom non gmo seeds- check out Rareseeds.com – I’ve ordered from them for years with a really good germination rate. Plus I love supporting companies like there’s. I know you do too. They won’t ship seeds after February or March. So look soon- but it’s worth it.
    And most of all- good luck!! I’m. Ow learning how to garden in central Florida zone …… NINE. what!?!? 😘 -Tara D

    1. This is so helpful! I am hoping with the help of the low tunnels I could put things in the ground by Mothers Day and potentially have the quick protection from the hail storms if I’m home when they strike. And yes I remember our chat through your garden about the voles. We had some voles ravage roots for ornamental flowers the first summer we lived here. Our biggest goal is to put money into this in the smartest ways possible, which is why we want to get the beds off the ground. Thanks for your suggestion about the seed company too! I’m looking into a couple options this weekend and hope to place an order in the next few weeks. When did you start to harden off your seeds? My longterm ideas include composting and a cold box. Happening gardening down there in zone 9!!!!

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