Gardening help needed, Zone 4, maybe 3? : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I live in the lower Rockies at an elevation of about 9000'. We've been here for 5 years now. I'd have great sucess with root crops (our meadow was once a potato farm), but here are the problem crops: corn, beans, (including soy), tomatoes (ok in greenhouse), cucs, even: elderberries, huckleberries, blackberries, and grapes. Everything I've tried is either very cold hardy varieties or short growing season types. I'm told our night temps are too low, and thus the slow growth. The berries worked for a couple years, then nothing. Grapes never returned. Hops grows very slowly also. Our last frost can be as late as June 15 and early frost as soon as Sept. 15. Night temps usually never go below 45. Other than putting everything in a greenhouse, does anyone have some inexpensive solutions, or better crop varieties? I'm getting ready to order up for Spring :) Thank you!

-- Michelle in NM (, January 24, 2002


You might look at this source:High Altitude Gardens, P.O. Box 4619, Ketchum, ID 83340, USA. We are a eighteen year-old bio- regional seed company dedicated to saving our genetic resources. Our mission as a bio-regional seed company is to search the world to find seeds from the best varieties adapted to cold, short seasons. These seeds are tested in our gardens at 6,000 ft. The most successful are made available to you. I'm only at about 5,000 feet, here and do run into some problems.

-- BC (, January 24, 2002.

I live in zone 3 and have a 112 day growing season at the best. I have great sucess with root crops, green and yellow beans, tomatoes etc. We plant our tomatoes against the south wall of the garage which keeps them hot. We also cover them with a plastic cold frame on cool nights. Beans grow great as long as they are covered with sheets or burlap on cold nights. The same for pumpkins. Strawberries grow fine with alot of water. Cold weather crops like peas, carrots etc are no problem. I buy specialty seeds from Vesseys for corn and pumpkins although I've only had minimal sucess with corn. We can't grow grapes but can grow saskatoons very well and raspberries to. We can get frost the end of August so you just have to stay on top of things each day and hope for the best.

-- susan banks (, January 24, 2002.

Thanks BC! We have tried High Altitude Gardens this past year and are pleased with your shorter season varieties. Susan we'll try some of your ideas also. Never thought to move the tomatoes to against a south facing wall. Guess it won't be as tend-free of a garden as I'd like it to be. We'll start saving some covering material. I think the fact that we are in the meadow of 'a bowl' doesn't help much either, as the cold settles on us. I'm never giving up though! I'll find the right food crops for here yet! ;)

-- Michelle in NM (, January 24, 2002.

I live in Southwest Alaska. It doesn't get much above 70 (we usually have about 8 days 70 or above) in the summer, so the soil never really warms up. The cold soil is one of the big limiting factors, along with high acidity, leaching of nutrients by much rainfall, and the low temps for ripeing.

When assessing what can grow where, the zone designation is really not enough- they make the zones based on winter lows, not on summer highs or soil temps. Another way of looking at this is that tree line here is about 2000 feet- how far from tree line are you at 9000 ft? The closer to treeline, the closer to even more northerly conditions.

I can't get beans or tomatoes to ripen where I am at all. Instead, I have expanded the types of plants I grow out to include many unusual, or else old style plants. Dinosaur kale- Wow! You might try some of the Alaskan berries like salmonberries. The northern blueberries like Northsky and North Blue should be ok if given acid enough soil.

Rhubarb, which came here from Siberia, does well and is a good fruit- tasting plant. I have found that many herbs do well, and extend my culinary options, even for simple things like omelettes. Upland cress, parsely, sage, thyme, chives, multiplier onions of various sorts, and mints, lots of kinds of mints, do well.

For beans, try favas, but be sure to use a fava (vetch) inoculant, not a bean inoculant. I grow peas rather than beans, as they are much hardier. Corn won't grow, but buckwheat is possible. Millet may also be possible. At your altitude, you might try quinoa, a south american amarant which is grain-like. It normally grows at very much higher altitudes.

-- seraphima (, January 24, 2002.

We are also in zone 3/4. The maps say "3" but I can usually grow "4" perennials. Try warming the soil with plastic in the spring before planting. After the soil is warm use lots of mulch to hold the heat in. Also, do you have a windy garden? Wind will greatly reduce the temps and slow growth.If wind is a consideration, use windbreaks- old windows, plywood, small picket-type fences, etc. Just get the plants sheltered a little. Try wire bent into hoop shapes and covered with row cover for the short stuff like beans. Good Luck!

-- Peg (, January 24, 2002.

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