In the last few years, community vegetable gardens have been springing up everywhere you look. Breckenridge is the latest of the local communities to get on board, with 42 raised-bed vegetable gardens now under construction on the Colorado Mountain College campus. The High Country Conservation Center coordinates two of Summit County's community gardens: The Living Classroom in Frisco and the new gardens in Breckenridge. Jen Santry of HC3 is the driving force behind getting the gardens up and running.
I'm the manager of Summit Landscaping Garden Center, and last week, Santry and I held two sessions to educate aspiring new gardeners about the basics of high-altitude vegetable growing. Students in the class were excited to learn that as long as they stick to "cool season" vegetables, they can expect a bountiful harvest throughout the summer growing season.
Cool season vegetables include all of the greens: lettuce, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy and cabbage. Root vegetables love our cooler temperatures, so gardeners can plan on eating plenty of radishes, carrots, beets, turnips and parsnips. Snow peas and sugar snap peas grow beautifully if given a simple trellis to cling to.
We gave planting advice for each type of vegetable. Many veggies grow best when the seed is planted directly into the vegetable garden, rather than trying to start the seeds inside. Other vegetables with a longer growing season are more successful when starters are used. Starters (a.k.a. transplants) are grown in a greenhouse, providing a head start on the growing season. Green onions will thrive if grown from sets, readily available at local garden centers. Potatoes are best grown in a pot, with soil being added through the summer to cover the rapidly growing vines, culminating in a fun fall harvest.
Students were encouraged to think carefully about how they use their limited garden space. Growing vegetables in rows is a concept borrowed from farmers with large tracts of land. Square-foot gardening is a method that utilizes space more efficiently, allowing a gardener to grow many crops in a small area.
Each student left the session with a list of the vegetables and herbs that will thrive in Summit County. This list is available at the Summit Landscaping Garden Center, as well as all of the seeds, veggie starters, onion sets and seed potatoes that you need to get your garden started.
And what about the coveted tomatoes? Tomatoes are "warm season" vegetables that prefer a warm climate or to be tucked into the heat of a greenhouse - but it is always worth a try.
Courtesy of Summit Landscaping, a full service garden center and landscaping company at 1925 Airport Road in Breckenridge. Contact them at (970)453-1039 or www.summitlandscapingofbreck.com.