Gardening Challenges

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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Homesteading in the mountains is never without its challenges.  Yesterday it was 70 degrees and sunny and today we have an inch of snow so far and more is expected.  It makes deciding when to put in your garden a real decision.  I plant seed because when you plant seedlings you just never know if they will freeze or not.  Here there is no need to put your seeds in the refrigerator overnight before planting.  Nature takes care of that for you as evidenced by the photo’s.   

Yesterday was spent tilling the soil in my garden boxes and getting it leveled off and planting seeds.  The level is critical when living on the side of a mountain because when the loose soil settles if it is not level the water will run off instead of remaining on the soil and soaking in.  Our growing season is very short and at 9,750′ elevation the sun can be intense on young plants.  Therefore I place shade screen on the boxes to protect the plants from the harsh sunlight.  When the seed package says to plant in direct sunlight it does not anticipate planting at our elevation where the air is thinner and the plants will wither and die in no time at all.  The sun screening also protects the plants from that small pea sized hail we get during the summer.  

Growing a garden in the mountains is tough work and iffy at best as to success.  But planting now and risking the occasional freeze or snow will give us an early enough start to perhaps get two plantings in for our greens.   If we wait until it is absolutely safe to plant (as we have

discovered) the plants are just about ready for harvest when the freezing nights start again and the entire crop is usually lost.  

Gardening at high elevation is a risk and difficult but if done right and the weather cooperates just a little we can have fresh vegetables all summer long.  Yesterday we planted spinach, lettuce, swiss chard and marigolds.  We have to consider many factors in gardening that most folks would never even think about.  So as the snow falls at a steady rate now, we can envision those delicious salads later this year.