A fellow gardener wrote to me wondering if I knew of any vegetables that will grow in high altitudes.
Well, let's see. For starters there's Beans, Beets, Carrots, Corn, Cucumbers, Lettuce, Peas, Potatoes, Radishes, Tomatoes...
Surprised? All of these yummy veggies will grow at high altitudes. Just give 'em a little TLC plus O.F. (organic fertilizer!)
AND! Time your garden differently.
* The heartache of a Memorial Day frost is pretty much guaranteed at altitudes of 6,000 feet or higher.
Garden shops advise April/May planting for vegetables and that's why we feel left out.
* We mountain gardeners need to plant on June 1st and expect a later harvest.
* May nights are too cold for little seedlings. Mature plants are much tougher. They can handle cool night temperatures in September.
Most quality seed shops offer cold-hardy and fast-growing varieties. You rarely see these at big box stores, like the Home Depot nursery. And, the names might not be familiar... But, there are many varieties of tomatoes that mature in less than 60 days. (Thank the hybridizing experts in Russia and Canada for these breakthroughs.)
Plant favorite veggies with a 90-day growing cycle.
Experiment with root vegetables that mature in 120 days. The soils stays warm, protecting potatoes.
Raised beds help a great deal.
Soil warms faster in the spring, helping seeds to sprout quicker. With raised beds, you can easily amend the soil. Veggies need lots of soil nutrients to produce a good harvest and mountain soil is generally short on what's needed.
Good Veggie Choices for High Altitude Gardens
- Bush and Pole Beans = 60 days
- Beets = 50-70 days
- Carrots = 90 days
- Sweet Corn = 60 - 90 days
- Cucumbers = 90 days
- Lettuce = 70-90 days
- Peas = 60 days
- Potatoes = 90 - 120 days
- Radishes = 30 days
- Spinach = 45 - 90 days
- Tomatoes* = 55 - 90 days
* Popular Beefsteak Tomatoes grow too slow to be successful in high mountain gardens. But other varieties do very well. 90-day growth cycle or shorter: Alaskan Fancy, Aztec, Orange Blossom, Health Kick Hybrid, Abraham Lincoln Heirloom, Russian Heirloom.. and many more.
Did you know...? Tomato plants need warm nights. If the temps drop below 50 degrees (F) they will shift their sugar production away from the fruit and into the leaves. I have the best success growing them in large pots. Bringing them indoors, on a particularly chilly night.