When to plant produce in Colorado.
By Adam Glasser
With spring temperatures arriving early this year eager gardeners may want to begin planting as soon as possible. However, colder temperatures are expected to continue appearing sporadically for the next few weeks, so it’s wise to think about the relatively short Colorado growing season before planting.
Here’s a handy guide to the Denver planting season for a variety of different vegetables and fruits created by The Old Farmers Almanac.
Growing vegetables in Colorado is challenging, but growing successfully in the mountains is tougher still. This is mainly due to the short growing season, colder nighttime temperatures, and wind. Elevation can make frost dates tougher to calculate. A general rule is that for every 1000ft gain in elevation the average temperature drops by 3.5° F.
If you live in an area with a short growing season be sure to select seeds that take the least amount of time to mature. However, you should be aware that the real world days a plant takes to mature can be longer in the mountains and colder climates, because the time is normally calculated for warmer climates. The CSU extension has some more tips for growing produce at higher elevations.
However, just because it’s early in the season doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to wait to start planting. Some leeks, onions, peppers, and tomatoes can be started now indoors and grown successfully. Below are some tips on how to get a jump on your gardening season.
Light is crucial to a great yield from your plants. In Colorado you should start seedlings in a sunny, south-facing window away from pets and other potential disruptions. You can find some reliable grow-light assemblies at garden stores that provide the spectrum of light plants require, but if you opt for this route be sure to grab some lights with adjustable heights. Lights should be 3-4 inches above plants and with artificial lights seedlings require about 12-16 hours of exposure per day.
Another key to a successful harvest is to make sure you have adequate space for the vegetables that you’re trying to grow. If you’re limited on space consider some of the less spatially demanding varieties of produce. For example, If tomatoes are something you’d like to grow, you may want to consider determinate varieties. Determinate tomatoes are sometimes referred to as “bush” tomatoes, which grow to a compact height (around 4 feet) and stop growing when fruit sets on the top bud. Here is a link to some helpful tips on how to maximize yield with a smaller garden.
There are a host of benefits to growing your own food including greater nutritional value, better taste, and the ability to decide what additives your produce comes into contact with. Studies have shown that children who grow their own produce are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables, and gain a richer understanding of the food system. This spring consider growing more of your own produce and help contribute to a food system that is good, clean, and fair for all.