Grow your own | SteamboatToday.com

Grow your own

The key to success in growing vegetables here is select a planting spot that will get lots of sunshine and is protected from the wind.

Nothing beats homegrown veggies on the dinner plate. But with Steamboat's relatively short growing season, it's easy for the window to close before your plants produce. We went to an expert — the CSU Extension Office's Todd Hagenbuch — for the following pointers on growing produce in the Yampa Valley.

Growing season: The length of our growing season is the biggest limiting factor to gardening in Routt County. Historically, we have only 59 growing days without temperatures dipping below 32 degrees. But if you choose plants that can withstand temperatures down to 28 degrees, growing days increase to 102. Learn what risks you're dealing with whether you live in Yampa, Craig or Steamboat.

Microclimates: Our yards are as variable as our weather. Every yard has microclimates influenced by trees, buildings, shade, soil and slopes. Look at how the snow falls in your yard; are there drifts, while other areas are bare? Wind, sun and moisture variations affect what you can plant where.

Beds: Are you going to plant in a raised bed, containers or the ground? Raised beds and containers allow you to better control soil type but increase your investment. Grow in the ground and expect soil variations from neighborhood to neighborhood and even within your yard. Collect a sample to determine what amendments you need to add. Soil-testing procedures and kits are available at the Extension office.

Grouping: Group vegetables together according to sunlight and water requirements. Some plants need less water than others, and others, like beans, more.

Beware the frost: When an early frost is forecast, cover your crop to keep it producing. Covers can be simple or elaborate.

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Get help: The CSU Extension office offers information on growing vegetables, flowers and more (visit its new Garden Library), as well as trained Master Gardeners ready to offer advice and perform site visits.

Planting/harvest periods

Early June – Late July: 40-day, cool season crops (spinach)

Early June – Early August: 45- to 50-day, cool season crops (lettuce, kohlrabi)

Early June – Mid-August: 55-day, cool season crops

Early June – Late August: 60- to 65-day, cool season crops (beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, peas)

Early June – Early September: 70- to 75-day cool season crops

What to Grow

Hardy veggies tolerant of light frost and low-daytime temps (40 degrees+): Spinach, Lettuce, Kohlrabi, Broccoli, Cabbage, Radish, Turnips, Peas, Onion

Semi-hardy veggies less tolerant of frost, but good in 40- to 50-degree temps: Beets, Carrots, Cauliflower, Parsley, Parsnip, Potatoes, Swiss Chard

Tender veggies needing warm days (above 55) and no frost: Beans, Celery, Corn, Cucumbers, Summer Squash