HIGH ELEVATION GARDENING TIPS
Tip #1 February - I want to start my garden plants indoors to get a jump on the season. When should I sow the seed? Do not start your garden seedlings too early. If you start them too early you have to keep them healthy in what is usually a low light growing environment for too long of a period before getting them hardened off and out into the garden. Plants grown for too long in the house are weak stemmed and stretched out and do not take the transition to the outdoors very well. I suggest that you determine the date which you want to take your plants outside and then count back 6 weeks for the proper sowing date. If you want to put plants out on the 15th of May count backwards to the 1st of April to determine the proper time to sow the seeds. This of course is a rule of thumb and can be adjusted for each variety of vegetable. In Buena Vista we usually get a killing frost between the 1st and the 15th of June, so don't plan on setting your tender varieties like tomato, pepper and squash out until after the last frost unless you are able to protect them with walls - o - water or some other method. Keep good records of sowing dates and make adjustments as necessary.

Tip #2 March - To grow the best flowers and vegetables, fix the soil first.          Be a successful gardener in Chaffee County by starting with the soil. Most of our natural soils, in Chaffee County are a combination of sand, gravel, and rocks and contain very little nutrient and very little organic matter. When building a new garden or refurbishing an old one you need to take a good hard look at the soil. Loosen the soil up with a rototiller or hand dig to fluff it up a bit. Throw out rock that is bigger than 2" diameter and then add 2" of compost over the whole growing area. Till or spade this organic product into the soil as deep as you can. This should be done annually in vegetable and annual flower gardens. This addition of organic matter adds water holding capacity and increases available nutrients. Many types of organic matter are available. We sell bulk compost, and have many bagged composts to choose from. A good organic garden soil can only be built over a period of time, just don't forget to add something each year. Your plants will love you for it.

Tip #3 April - Pull the heavy mulch back from the crowns of perennials to prevent crown rot in March and April.         

If you mulch your perennial flower beds in the fall to help the plants survive our variable winters. You need to get into those beds this spring and pull the mulch away from the perennial crowns (where the plant comes out of the soil) so they do not rot. The mulch will keep the area moist and the new growth of some varieties of perennials, like Lupine, can rot when the conditions are just right. If you combine warming temperatures, tender new growth, and moisture you may create the conditions for crown rot. If you let the crowns dry out a little, by pulling the mulch back, you you can stop this rot by removing favorable conditions for the fungi. Keep the mulch over the roots to prevent drying of the soil, to satbilize soils temps, and prevent weeds.


Tip #5 June - Our elevation and climate make it possible to plant landscape plants, including perennials, throughout the summer.         

The common misconception is that the planting season is over at the end of June.  In Chaffee County (7000 ft. Elev., or higher) the climate is cool enough that you can plant Trees Shrubs and Perennials right on through the summer. Of course, you must use common sense when planting in the middle of the summer. You should not plant in the middle of the day when the temperatures are the hottest, save your planting for the evening or the next morning. If it's hot it is OK to spray water onto the leaves to help cool the newly planted plants. We might recommend weekly watering, but newly planted plants may show signs of drought stress in 3 or 4 days, so you must water these plants a little more often until they get their roots out into the soil. Always remember to water your plants deeply each time you water and then don't water them again (several days) until they dry out a little. Be careful transporting plants in the heat, you should protect all plants for the trip if you have a distance to travel. Good plants can be found at reduced prices in the summer when garden centers implement inventory reduction sales. Watch for ours, it usually happens in July.

Tip #6 September - Pay attention to fall and winter watering to reduce the incidence of winter-kill.         

As we approach the end of the season it’s easy to put the hoses away and forget about the flower beds and landscape plants. This late summer or fall neglect of your plants may be a reason for losing plants during the winter. After drought, winter-kill is responsible more plant deaths than any other environmental condition in Chaffee County. It is important to remember that plants need to be well watered all the way up until the ground freezes. If they go into the winter in a dry condition the may not get any moisture until the next spring and this can be devastating. So our recommendation is that you should continue to water your landscape plants and gardens through the month of October and into November so that when the ground freezes in November, there is plenty of moisture available to be locked up in the ice. Then monthly checking of the soil moisture is important throughout the winter. If the soil is found to be in a dry condition it must be watered on a warm day during the winter. Even if you know the water is going to freeze at night it is better to have the water there than to allow the plants to continue to be dry.