How to Prepare For Colorado Planting Season
Knowing how to prepare for Colorado’s planting season and knowing when you should start your garden is so important if you want to have a successful garden with thriving plants. Our dry climate, unpredictable weather, and intense sun can make Colorado gardening an interesting yet extremely fulfilling task.
When Should I Start My Garden in Colorado?
The answer to this question depends entirely on the type of crop being planted. Colorado's growing season runs from May through October, giving gardeners approximately 150 days of viable gardening conditions. However, the length of the Colorado growing season can be a bit unpredictable, and with late-season frosts looming in early spring (as well as early-season frosts that loom near the end of the growing season), there is no real definitive start to the season. In general, it is recommended to wait until the average last frost date, which typically lands around Mother's Day or the middle of May. After this date is when it is generally safe to begin planting your seeds outdoors, however, there are some exceptions depending on what you're planting.
Cool-season crops are garden vegetables that are more hardy and can handle (and even prefer) cooler temperatures. Springtime (March through May) is the best time for planting these cool-season crops such as spinach, radishes, cabbage, and more. These cold-tolerant crops can even be planted in the fall as the growing season comes to an end. For a full list of cool-season vegetables that grow well in cooler temperatures, check out our blog on the best vegetables for your Colorado garden!
Other crops that do not tolerate cooler temperatures well include warm-season crops such as tomatoes, peppers, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, and more. The summertime (June through August) is ideal for growing these crops as they rely heavily on warm temperatures and require lots of sun. Many of these crops also have long maturity periods that often extend past the length of our growing season here in Colorado. For this reason, it is highly recommended to start seeds indoors in March and move your plant starts outside once the weather has warmed up. You can also purchase starter plants from your local Garden Center if you don't want to start your own plants from seed. Doing this makes sure you are able to enjoy the fruits of your labor to the full extent! Some plants with longer maturity periods include pumpkins, tomatoes, and watermelon. For more information on warm-season vegetables, check out our blog on the best vegetables for your Colorado garden!
Tips on How to Prepare for Growing Season in Colorado
To make sure you get the most out of the Colorado growing season, you will want to set your plants up for success by making sure they are planted in a suitable location, have healthy soil to grow in, receive adequate moisture, and have all the nutrients they need to grow strong.
Pick the Right Location
Your garden fruits and vegetables will require an area that receives full sun throughout the day. So, when choosing where to plant your garden, keep this in mind! Most garden vegetables will not perform well if they receive any less than 8 full hours of direct sunlight.
Preparing Your Soil
Depending on the size of your space, you can use a tiller or shovel to till the soil. This helps loosen and add air to soil that has been compacted throughout the winter season. It is recommended to simultaneously till compost into your soil so that your plants will have nutrients to grow and thrive. Adding organic matter to your soil helps increase the soil's health and will help it retain moisture better throughout the hot summer. For more in-depth advice on how to prepare your soil, read our blog!
Ensure Your Plants will Get Enough Water
To help ensure that your plants will stay nice and hydrated throughout the Colorado planting season, be sure to install some sort of irrigation system. Hand watering your garden can be time-consuming, and it is difficult to be as consistent as your plant will require. Installing a drip system throughout your garden is the most sustainable option as it ensures that the least amount of water is wasted. Overhead sprinkler systems can also be a good option! If you need help installing a sprinkler system, get in touch with our irrigation department.
Make Sure Your Plants Have the Necessary Nutrients
Nutrition is key for strong and healthy plants! Adding compost to your garden beds as we mentioned above is a great first step to nutritious soil. You can also add chicken manure or sheep manure along with many other soil amendments. You will also want to make sure you are stocked up with plant-specific fertilizers to keep your plants happy throughout the entirety of the Colorado growing season.
Tips On How to Preserve Your Colorado Garden Before Cold Weather Approaches
As the season begins to draw to an end, there are a few things you can do to try to extend your season. We also have recommendations for things you should do to prepare your garden for winter. Proper winter garden preparation will help make sure that it is full of nutrients and ready to go for the next season!
How to Make Your Garden Last as It Gets Cold
Frost cloth or plastic row covers are a fantastic option for protecting your plants from the cold and can be used later in the year to help extend the Colorado growing season. These also come in very handy early in the season if unexpected cold weather decides to hit. Adding row covers or covering your crops with frost cloth keeps ice particles from coming into contact with your plant's leaves, allowing them to live to see another day. This may only extend your season by a couple of weeks though. Colorado winters are not known to be mild, and temperatures often reach single digits. When cooler temperatures begin to be the norm, there will not be much you can do to keep your plants alive. This is when you will want to prepare your garden for winter so that it will be more than ready for the next Colorado planting season!
Clean Out Your Garden
It will be very important to remove any dead or dying plants from your garden when the growing season is over. It is never recommended to let plant debris stay in your garden beds throughout the winter season as pests and diseases can overwinter in this plant debris and then continue to plague your garden in subsequent years. Even if you were lucky enough to avoid any infestations, it is best to discard any spent plants in the trash. Do not compost such plant debris as this could also risk passing on any unwanted pests or diseases.
Mix Compost into Your Soil
It is never a bad idea to mix more compost into your soil to let sit throughout the winter season. The compost will help keep your soil from becoming compacted by snow and will also break down throughout the winter, enriching your soil while it is not in use.
Plant a Cover Crop
Cover crops are not necessary but they do help protect your soil throughout the winter. They reduce the effects of erosion and can simply be tilled into the soil in the spring when you begin your spring garden preparation. To learn more about the benefits of planting a cover crop, check out our blog!
Making the Most of the Colorado Planting Season
If you have any additional questions on how to make the most of our Colorado growing season, please do not hesitate to reach out! We are more than happy to answer any of your questions. We also have an extensive library of gardening articles that have been written with the goal of answering your questions and leading to you becoming a better gardener. So, check out the gardening section of our blog today for more helpful information!