Spring is in the air! True, it hasn’t felt that way for the past several days….but before we know it, these April (snow) showers will turn to May flowers…and fruits and vegetables!
Anyone who has tried their hand at gardening here in Glenwood Springs, CO knows that high country growing requires an extra-green thumb. At Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, we’re all about the spirit of adventure, and growing a healthy and fruitful garden can be an interesting experience when faced with our famously unpredictable weather and short growing season. Here are a few tips for making the most out of the climate and getting the best out of your garden.
1. Know what to plant, when to plant. If you would like to plant tender vegetables like green beans, summer squash, peppers or cucumbers, make sure to wait until after the last frost, usually around Mother’s Day. If you’re anxious to begin planting sooner, safer bets include beets, carrots, lettuce, peas and radishes.
2. Let us enjoy lettuce. Lettuce is part of Colorado’s history; Glenwood’s upvalley neighbors, Avon and Beaver Creek, CO, were founded as lettuce crop towns before developing into a ski resort. Lettuce is especially fun to plant because it grows very quickly and will be ready to pluck and put in your salad before you know it. Just know that if it bolts and becomes bitter you’ll need to replant the lettuce seeds and wait for the next crop.
3. You say tomayto, I say tomahto….let’s call the whole thing a challenge. When deciding to grow tomatoes, weigh the pros and cons. Pros: homegrown tomatoes are the best thing in the world. You can eat them like candy, and you’ll never be able to look at a store-bought tomato the same way again. Cons: They require a lot of babysitting. Unless you have a greenhouse or have built a sturdy coldframe over your garden, you may find tomatoes difficult to keep up in short summer months because they are very cold-sensitive and require an average of 60 to 80 days to produce ripe fruit.
4. More, peas! Green peas are a pleasure to have in your garden. You can easily construct a lattice-type structure out of wood or wire and they will happily grow upwards and outwards until you have an abundance of delicious pods to shell or eat whole. They are relatively easy to grow, look pretty and taste great. What more could you ask for?
5. Give your vegetables some friends. Flowers such as marigolds and nasturtiums can aid in deterring pests, and other flowers and herbs (such as yarrow, bee balm, and basil) will attract beneficial, pollinating insects. By practicing “companion planting,” you’ll make your vegetables happy and also be happier yourself when you look at the beautiful flowers. Do some research to find out which flowers and herbs would be the best match for your particular crop.
6. Have fun! Gardening is all about learning, experimenting, and being outside in the spring and summer. Did you plant purple cauliflower for some reason last year and nothing happened? Did you excitedly plant pumpkins, planning on carving them in the fall, but all you got was one shriveled gourd? Oh well–try something else this year. Don’t stress too much about what does or doesn’t work; yes, you put a lot of time and effort into your garden, but you learn something each year.
Gardening might not give you the same adrenaline rush as swinging above the canyon on a Giant Swing or cruising down the hill on the Alpine Coaster, but the pleasure and joy of eating food that you personally grew is unmatched. It really is an adventure—so get growing!