Rocky Mountain Gardening: A Handy Guide

cabin garden photo
Photo by Tanya Jacobson-Smith

Springtime is here, and your cabin needs you!

Okay, that’s a bit misleading. It’s not an emergency. We just want you to take advantage of the good spring weather for gardening!

Growing conditions at your cabin may not be what you’re used to

The trick is, growing conditions may or may not be what you’re used to if you do your gardening in the suburbs. If you’re gardening for the first time in our lovely state of Colorado, chances are you’re not used to the conditions. Mountain and wilderness gardening requires a deft touch, which is why we’ve put together this list of handy Rocky Mountain Gardening Tips and Tricks. As always, these may not apply to your specific conditions, but they’re a good starting place!

Speaking of starting places, have you thought about where your garden is going to be? Due to the potentially extreme conditions in the mountains, including low humidity and intense sunlight, picking the right area for your garden is essential. A good rule of thumb is to look for plants that are already growing– in this case, weeds can be your friend! If there’s something growing in a location, that means it’s a good spot to start your garden. Just be sure to take care of the plants already growing there, so they don’t muscle out your plants. Keep an eye out for open, sunny spots, and keep in mind exposure and drainage.

You may need to adjust the content of the soil for your garden

Most soil in the Rocky Mountains is either clay or eroded granite, neither of which are particularly hospitable. If you’re planning on growing non-native plants, it’s a good idea to add a mixture of organic material to the soil, like compost. Take a look at this Colorado State University fact-sheet on soil amendments for more information.

Understanding how native plants grow in the mountains is essential. No matter what you’re growing, pay attention to wind exposure (dry mountain winds are killer for native and non-native plants alike) and sun exposure (a lot of sun is good, but too much high-altitude sun is hard on plants.) If you can, keep your plant selection to those that may be adapted to a low-water, high-exposure environment: plants with small leaves need less water, and early-blooming plants will be able to take advantage of the shorter and more inconsistent growing season.

Of course, once your plants are in the ground, it’s important to take care of them. If you’re used to gardening in, say, an eastern woodland setting, you’re in for a few surprises: in Colorado, it’s not uncommon to have a frost hit in June, which may damage your carefully planted garden. Keep an eye on the weather, and be ready with frost caps or floating row covers in case the forecast calls for a chilly night, even in summer. Likewise, a lot of the wildlife will see your new garden as a juicy treat, including burrowing rodents and deer. Research countermeasures if you’re having an animal problem, but remember– they were here first!

Every garden (just like every cabin) is different. Keep in mind that growing conditions will be different, no matter where you are! Make sure to check the specific requirements for gardening in your area.

If you have any questions about a project to make your log cabin into a dream getaway, feel free to contact us! With over twenty years of log-cabin experience, TruLog will have the answers you need to make yourself the perfect getaway.

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