So you want to grow vegetables? In the previous article we talked about which vegetables grow best in our high altitude climate. What comes next? The three basic requirements for growing vegetables are 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight every day, an accessible water source and good soil. Our soils are generally low in organic matter, an important necessity for growing healthy vegetables. A future article will cover soil improvements. If you have the first two things, and are willing to create good soil, you are ready for the next steps in planning your garden.
Where to plant. In ground garden beds use existing soil and use less water. Raised beds are ideal for smaller spaces, have better drainage, warm faster in the spring, and offer more possibilities for soil amendment. Raised beds do require some expense to build or you can rent a bed at one of the four Grand Community Garden locations. A third option of where to plant your vegetables is in containers. The containers need to be at least 12” deep, have drainage holes, be filled with a quality potting soil and be located in a spot that receives at least 6 hours of direct sun each day.
What to plant. What vegetables do you like to eat? In addition to knowing how cold tolerant the vegetable is, another consideration is how much time a plant needs to grow from seedling to harvest, called days to maturity or harvest. This information is usually found listed in seed catalogs or on most seed packages. This number doesn’t include the amount of time that it takes for the seed to germinate, so keep that in mind when planning your garden. With our short growing season, pick varieties that have the fewest number of days to harvest. Lettuce for example can be harvested as baby greens as quickly as 28 days up to 60 days for a full size head of Romaine. One way to grow vegetables that take a long time from seed to harvest is by planting transplants. Some gardeners buy the plants at a local greenhouse or start them indoors in late spring. Some examples of vegetables that we can grow from transplants include broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
Garden Styles. Commonly seen in backyard gardens and farms are vegetables planted in rows. Rows are easy to plant, weed and harvest. They require a lot of space, can require large amounts of soil amendments and have a lower crop output per square foot than other methods. Block or wide row plantings allow for five times more plants in the same space as the traditional row. One variety of block planting is called “Square Foot Gardening”. These gardening techniques are popular in raised beds, are great for limited space, maximize harvests and minimize weeds. You can plant several types of vegetables in one 4×4 foot or 4×8 foot bed.
There is much more information on all this at our website www.grandcommunitygardens.org under Gardening Class Notes