by Jane Shellenberger
is a guide for growing organic produce specifically in the Rocky
Mountains of Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Montana and in the
similarly semi-arid high altitude climates of Utah, Idaho,
northern Arizona and eastern Oregon. Short growing seasons, thin soils
and inclimate weather makes any kind of gardening a challenge; growing
organically is even more of a test.
gardened in the West without using chemicals or poisons for
than forty years," notes author Jane Shellenberger. "It's not
difficult, but it helps to have a bit of education on the topic."
Shellenberger's lessons begin with a primer on Western climates and
soils along with discussions on pollinators and nitrogen. She advises
intrepid gardeners on selecting hardy cultivars, building soils, using
beneficial insects and extending the growing season with raised beds,
containers, row covers, cold frames and greenhouses. Much of the book
concerns subjects of little interest to growers in gentler climes, but
for the stubborn Westerner this is a reference as welcome as a timely
snows give seeds and
plants the moisture they need to germinate and grow, and they actually
provide insulation. Freezes are more likely when skies are clear; once
the cloud cover disappears, temperatures can drop quickly. Unless
conditions are rainy, water seeds twice a day with a fine spray until
they germinate. Once they're up, you can give you can give young plants
some added protection from the elements and the flea beatles by
covering the bed with a layer of lightweight floating
row cover. This
will speed up their growth considerably."
While most Rocky
Mountain gardeners wait until May
and then plant their gardens all at once, Shellenberger says its
possible to seed in mid-March with greens, onions, broccoli, beets and
other cool-season veggies. These may be harvested before those other
gardens are even planted.
"If you prepare your garden in the fall, you'll be ready to plant as
soon as spring moisture arrives, and if you seed greens every three
weeks or so you'll have an ongoing fresh harvest, at least until the
intense summer heat hits in," she points out.
Don't make the beginner's
mistake I once did by pulling up the plants after you pick the
main head, thinking the harvest is over. The small, delicious side
shoots will keep coming for a month or more. If some heads or side
shoot flower, cut them off to encourage more production, but if you
don't get around to it, bees love the yellow flowers.
Broccoli has grown
well in every one of my Colorado gardens. It loves our high-altitude
climate. As long as you plant it to mature when the temperature isn't
too hot, and as long as the soil is well amended and doesn't dry out,
broccoli is a winner on the plains and in the mountains.
I start seed for transplants inside in February for planting out in
early to mid-April. I also direct seed in the garden in early to
mid-March and add row cover, which helps warm things up. Depending on
the weather and the flea beatles, which go after tender young plants,
one or another variety will outperform the others, usually temporarily,
which also usually staggers the harvest of the big heads.
Summer Vegetables from Raised Bed Vegetable Plots
|Our most important job as
gardeners is to feed and sustain soil life, often called the soil food
web, beginning with the microbes. If we do this, our plants will
thrive, we'll grow nutritious, healthy food, and
our soil conditions will get better each year. This is what is meant by
the adage "Feed the soil not the plants."
Plant, and Nursery Catalogs