City vegetable gardening in Denver can be a real challenge. Soil conditions and the hot, dry climate combined with the lack of space can seem insurmountable. Still, vegetable gardening in the Mile High City is possible and rewarding. Keep these tips in mind when growing a high altitude, semi-arid climate, vegetable garden.
One of the strong points of vegetable gardening in Denver is the sun. The metro area receives plenty of the bright sunshine vegetables need to grow and flourish. Choosing a location that receives 6-8 hours of sun per day is simple. A vegetable garden needs at least 6 hours of sun each day.
In some ways, planting a garden in Denver is no different than planting elsewhere. Become familiar with the growing requirements for each vegetable to be planted. Know which vegetables can be grown together, which are best grown apart, what to start early, etc. The more you know, the more successful the garden will be.
Metro Denver has primarily clay soil. It’s not conducive to vegetable gardening but it’s easy to remedy. Test it first to be sure. Then, add sand or clean sawdust if needed to promote better drainage. Organic (animal product free) compost adds nutrients to the soil and enhances water retention without the risk of bacterial contamination associated with animal manure.
Vegetable gardening depletes the soil of vital nutrients. Be sure to rotate crops in the Denver garden each year. Make a garden map showing where each vegetable was planted to refer to in the spring. Don’t forget to add year end plant waste to the compost pile or till it into the vegetable garden in the fall.
Space is an issue when planting in the city. Any vegetable that can grow upward as a vine should be encouraged to do so. Plant vine vegetables along a fence for a no cost trellis. Try space savers like upside down tomatoes and container plants. These will also conserve water, a valuable commodity in the semi-arid climate.
Some vegetables can be replanted throughout the growing season. Check seed packet labels for this information. Look for quick growers such as lettuce and radishes. The Denver vegetable garden often contains tomatoes and peppers. These will produce harvests all season if picked frequently. Denver’s growing season is shorter than some, but longer than most. This means you’ll be able to replant at least once and possibly twice before winter.
Due to more rapid solar evaporation, the Denver vegetable garden will need plenty of water. You can reduce the amount of water you use with certain methods like the container plants mentioned above. Mulch is a must for water retention in the hot dry climate.
Mulch is a must. However, there’s no need to purchase commercial mulch. Newspaper or cardboard serves the same purpose for Denver gardeners on a tight budget. It’s not as attractive, but it fills the bill. Fall leaves are great for winter mulch. Plus, they drift down for free at just the right time.
The air in Denver is hot and dry. This can wreak havoc on the best of gardens. One solution is fencing that blocks damaging winds. Fencing should be far enough away to block the wind, yet still allow sunlight into the garden.
Denver is a habitual victim to spring hail and flooding. Be sure to plant on high ground to keep young plants from washing away. Have plenty of tarps and buckets on hand to cover plants during spring hailstorms.
Yes, gardening in a semi-arid climate is a challenge. However, there are also many benefits. Long, sunny days and a comparatively long growing season really make a difference to Denver gardeners. Do be sure to wear sun protection in the Mile High City, though. We are much closer to the sun, which makes skin cancer a very real concern.