Vegetables That Grow Well Over 7,000 Feet
by Christy Hoyl, Master Gardener
We have had frost as late as July and as early as August. But, there are strategies that will make the best of the season we do have.
My organic vegetable garden consists of six raised beds. They are constructed from landscapes timbers; two beds 4’x 12’ and four beds 4’x 8’. They are lined at a depth of 18” with 1/8” inch wire mesh and filled with topsoil, compost and manure. (My southern hillside area was over run with voles and to control my frustrations, constructing the under-screened raised beds solved the critter problem.) The beds are easier to weed and take less water then conventional gardens. Eventually, this fall, we will put cold frames over two of the beds to lengthen the growing season for next year.
Garden location is extremely important at this altitude. Having full, all-day sunlight is crucial for a bountiful harvest. Once the growing season is over, amending the soil is beneficial and it should be done every year. My son helps by spreading old horse manure and our compost from the summer. Then we till it in to the soil.
Many wonderful vegetables can be grown at this altitude. We are in Zone 3. Zone 3 and some Zone 4 plants do okay. When buying seeds look for varieties that can be harvested in the shortest amount of time. I sow seeds directly in to the ground around late May. I also buy plants such as broccoli and kale that have already been started. You may want to start seeds inside 6 to 10 weeks before setting plants outside. Remember to harden off the seedlings before planting, thereby enabling them to toughen up. You can extend the growing season at this altitude with “floating row covers”. It is a light weight polyester fabric that creates a greenhouse effect. You place it directly over the row of seeds or plants and tie down with rocks. As the plants grow you loosen the fabric up. It lets sunlight and water through and protects against frost. Find it at most nurseries, gardening catalogs or on-line.
Here are some vegetables listed below that will grow well at altitude. I have not grown all of them but most, and I understand that others have had great success.
radishes, beets, carrots, turnips, parsnips, kohlrabi, onion, rutabaga, garlic, shallots, leeks and potatoes.
lettuces ( black seeded simpson, romaine, bibb, arugula, mesclun mix, salad bowl ) cabbage, chard, rhubarb, collards, brussel sprouts, endive, escarole, garden cress, spinach, radicchio, and broccoli.
parsley, chives, cilantro. In containers on my deck: basil, oregano, tarragon, rosemary.
strawberries and peas.
Vegetables that prefer the warmth of floating row covers:
green beans, potatoes and some squash.
I have tried to grow tomatoes and failed. They demand a nice long, hot growing season. I know of folks who have greenhouses at this altitude and they have great success with tomatoes. Every time I have given it a try either the hail or frost nails them or the fruit is small and green.
Other crops that do not grow to harvest at altitude are:
corn, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, melons, asparagus, pumpkins and most squashes.
Relevant Fact Sheets from the CSU Extension:
Fertilizing the Home Garden: http://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/fertilizing-the-vegetable-garden-7-611/
Saving Seed: http://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/saving-seed-7-602/