The Grand Community Gardeners are excited to share our knowledge and experience with vegetable gardening in Grand County in this new series of articles. With all the snow on the ground, it’s hard to imagine the summer growing season is just a few months away – but now is the time to start thinking about what you want to grow. The many benefits of growing your own food include having fresh, nutritious vegetables that you grow yourself.

Growing vegetables (or any plant) in our area is challenging but it can be done successfully. The first consideration is our extreme climate. The average growing season (based on the last frost in the spring and first frost in the fall) is about 64 days in the Fraser Valley and up to 84 days as you move west to Kremmling. There are methods to extend the growing season which we will discuss in a later article.

Vegetables are grouped into cool and warm season plants. Warm season plants such as corn, beans, melons, peppers, squash and tomatoes have NO frost tolerance, prefer warm daytime temperatures above 55 degrees and long growing seasons.  These plants are not suitable for success in our area. They can be tried with risk and special care, such as bringing them indoors every night or growing in a greenhouse.

Cool season crops are the best choice for us. These plants are divided into two groups; hardy and semi-hardy. The hardy vegetable seeds can germinate in soil temperatures as low as 35 degrees, grow in temperatures as low as 40 degrees, survive a hard frost (a few hours below 28 degrees) and can be planted 2-4 weeks before the last average frost. These plants include: lettuce, spinach, radish, onion, peas, turnips, some of the mustard family, kale, broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi and Brussel sprouts. The semi-hardy cool season crops that can tolerate a light frost and are planted up to two weeks prior to the last frost include: beets, carrots, cauliflower, parsley, parsnips, potatoes, Swiss chard, and pac & bok choi.

People often wonder about the different types of seeds. Genetically modified organisms or GMOs, are created by high tech methods like gene splicing and are not currently available to home gardeners but are highly prevalent in our commercial food supply. This is one reason for the interest in growing your own food. Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated, named varieties that have been around for at least 50 years. This means pollinated by natural methods and most of the seeds produced are identical to the parent in appearance but maintain a genetic diversity. Another type of seed are hybrids. These are an intentional cross-pollination between two parent plants with desirable traits such as color or disease resistance. The seeds produced by the hybrid plants will not be identical to the parents. Hybrids are often designated by an F1 after the name. Organic seeds are heirlooms or hybrids grown under organic conditions.

We hope you’re as excited as we are for the upcoming growing season! Look for the hardy and semi-hardy, cool season varieties at the local seed racks. In upcoming articles we’ll cover planning a vegetable garden and how to start seeds indoors.

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