Living in Colorado has many benefits. We experience plentiful sunshine, four distinct seasons, varied outdoor landscapes from the Plains to the Rocky Mountains and down to the desert in the Four Corners region. The unique topography allows for interesting growing conditions which can provide fruits and vegetables nearly year round – with a little research, building, and planning. The farmers of our state have realized and implemented this into their ability to provide residents with the produce they crave.
Farmers listened to the increased concern of consumers wanting to have their produce be grown locally. A resurgence or movement was born and has given new life into gardening. The commercial farmers/growers have been able to accomplish this through the addition of green houses (enjoy those “hothouse” tomatoes in the winter?), indoor hydroponic farms, extensive cold frame structures, and knowing the best varieties to grow. It is possible for the home gardener to replicate these practices.
If you live in the Denver Metro Area, with the exception of unique micro-climates, the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map lists us at Zone 5A & 5B. Technically, in our area we can begin harvesting produce outside from May – November. This takes into account the average LAST frost around May 10th-15th and the average FIRST frost around September 10th-15th. Remember our unique topography and if you’ve lived in Denver for any amount of time, frost dates can be arbitrary! Some simple math shows we have approximately 90 growing days (with wishful thinking, possibly up to 120 growing days).
So, what does this mean for the home gardener? Planning. The most successful fruit and vegetable gardens start small. Decide which plant varieties you like to eat or use for cooking. Determine how much you need per person, this will dictate how much space you’ll need. Once you know roughly the square footage, plot out an area in ground, placement of raised beds, other types of garden containers, or a combination of all three. You may want to include extension pieces as part of your year round garden plan like a greenhouse, cold frames, or a hydroponic set up. These are all great ideas, but you’ll need expert guidance to have it all come to fruition.
Every state, including Colorado, has an Extension service. The information is free, science-based and has been researched for applicability to our specific growing conditions. The Colorado Proud organization is another excellent resource which illustrates produce availability by calendar months. Both these tools are invaluable for your pre-planning sessions. Once the weather is ready….stop in at Creek Side Gardens and our Green Team members will be waiting to help make this the most delicious fruit and vegetable garden for you in 2018!