In Southern Colorado, gardening can be a challenge. With proper planning and adequate preparation, it can be both productive and fun. Planning a vegetable garden is easy when you know which plants grow the best here.
I have a space about 20 ft. X 25 ft in the corner of our backyard. It has, over time become an extremely fertile space. Each year, I change the direction I plant and what I put in each space. I grew up in farming country in N.C. so I work on the theory that you plant different things in the fields each year. Switching around keeps your dirt more nourished and keeps your garden interesting. Of course, I have a few plants, like strawberries, that stay in the same spot.
I love planting vegetables and getting fresh stuff all summer. Southern Colorado’s summer isn’t very long, so you have to start early. Getting your ground plowed up and and adding your compost is important right now. I have my dirt turned over and the compost mixed in well. My next task will be to lay out the spaces for the vegetables. I put vegetables in according to compatibility and height. My garden sits, East To West, so I want the vegetables to get the full amount of sun they need to grow well. Compatibility is very important in gardening. If you plant things next to each other that are not compatible, they will not grow to their full potential. They may even become very sickly. You can find out which plants you want to plant are compatible with which, on line.
Once I figure out the design of my vegetable garden, I decide which plants or seeds will go in first. Early stuff like broccoli needs to be planted very early. If you wait for the last frost in Southern Colorado, you may end up with leggy plants and very little product. I prefer to use plants when planting broccoli, cauliflower or any type of plant like that. They have a better chance of really doing well here, when you start with plants.
My next plan for my garden is the main summer plants. Tomatoes, Peppers, Squash, Melons, and Beans, all grow great in Southern Colorado. I plant seeds with the beans, squash and melons. I plant these early and cover the space with plastic. I buy plants for the rest. Plants 3 or 4 inches tall can do well here. When I plant the tomatoes, I stake them up or use the cages, to go ahead and get them settled.
The final step for me in planning my vegetable garden is the trim and pest prevention. If you know what flowers to plant, you can avoid the need to use pesticides for pest control. I plant Marigolds around the perimeter of my garden. However, there are some vegetable plants that don’t do well around Marigolds, so I use other types of plants. This is also something you can research for your particular area, on line. I also plant different flowers throughout my vegetable garden to protect the plants inside. This not only protects your vegetables, but can be a very beautiful addition to your garden space.
In Southern Colorado, you have to plan for the unexpected gardening scenario. Weather! I have seen it snow here in June. It doesn’t last long, but it does get cold enough to do it. We also have lots of hail in Colorado. Putting in all of the work for a vegetable garden and then watching the hail destroy it, can be very frustrating. My plan for avoiding this catastrophe is setting four post around the perimeter and one in the middle. About 5 ft tall and well in the ground. I then purchase a roll of plastic from the hardware store and attach it, so I can roll it across the garden in case of hail or snow. It drapes across and down on two sides and attaches to avoid flapping. I do this when the threat of hail is the greatest and then leave it on for several days at a time.
It gives the greenhouse effect and keeps moisture in the space. Southern Colorado is extremely dry and you have to use quite a bit of water to keep a garden healthy and thriving. Using the extra protection of the plastic can help reduce the amount of water needed.
Planting a vegetable garden is a lot of fun and can be a practical alternative in this economy. Fresh vegetables are always delicious and a healthy alternative to the grocery store.