High Altitude Gardening - Knowledgebase Question

Colorado Springs, CO
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Question by LarryJordan
March 15, 1999
I am going to start my first garden at high altitude in Colorado since my move from Georgia a few years back.
1) What major differences should I plan besides waiting until our last snow in April?

2) Any special fertilizers I need to 'till' into place (I know there has never been one here before in the yard)


Tomatos, Cucumbers, Zuchinni, Cantalope
Habeneros, Jalapenos, Cayennes, Sweet Bananas (Love those Mason Jars!!!!)

3) What recommended order (east/west facing) should I plant these? As I usually hear the vines
like the morning sun east side.

Answer from NGA
March 15, 1999
What a change! It's good that you got "the lay of the land" before you started gardening!

Definitely start your plants indoors so they get a head start. The crops you've listed are heat-loving plants. Give them 4-6 weeks to grow indoors before planting out, about 2 weeks after your last frost date. You can accellerate planting if you use season-extending products like IRT Mulch (infrared transmitting mulch), which lets warming rays through to the soil, and prevents weed growth, and fabric row covers over wire hoops. If your garden gets persistent wind, create a windbreak to protect plants from hard gusts.

Before you plant, have the soil tested for nutrient content and pH. You can do this with a home test, or get a sampling kit from the county extension service (ph#). Use their recommendations for fertilizer, and be sure to add organic matter (OM) to the soil as well. OM helps soil hold moisture, buffer acidity, and helps plants make better use of nutrients.

I've never heard of direction affecting the growth of vine crops, but now I'm curious! I do know that you can maximize the light that hits your plants by planting rows east to west, with the tallest plants at the north side of the garden, so they don't shade others.

Be prepared -- your peppers may not have the "heat" they produced in Georgia. The chemical that makes peppers hot - capsaicin - is produced in larger quantities when temperatures are above 80 F during the day and above 60 F at night during ripening, and when the plant is stressed for water or fertilizer. If the weather becomes cool as the fruits are maturing, place a floating row cover over the plants to keep night temperatures higher. Other techniques to use are to stop fertilizing once fruits have set and cut back on watering as the fruits mature.

Get in touch with local gardeners for other great tips for growing in your area. Have fun!

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