Avid Colorado gardeners will know that their raised beds or containers can provide a bountiful harvest almost year-round. Save for a few freezing months in the winter, plenty of produce can be planted and reaped right from your backyard. As early summer produce begins to wilt in the heat, look ahead and secure these seeds to sow to enjoy fresh autumnal produce.
Out of the 13 USDA hardiness zones, Boulder is located within Zone 5. This zone is indicative of mild summers and freezing winters, with the first frost setting in around mid-October and lingering until mid-May. However, freezing winters and an early frost don’t mean that plants can’t survive and thrive with a little help from your green thumb.
Consider mulching around plants to completely cover the soil. This allows moisture to stay in during summer’s warmest months and helps soil retain the day’s heat as nights begin to grow chillier. If you don’t like the look of mulch aesthetically, there are other options to insulate your garden beds including straw, grass, or even synthetic materials.
When your beds are empty – which we hope they aren’t for very long – plant a cover crop. A cover crop is just an official way of saying plant anything that will grow to cover the soil and actively put nutrients back into it. Our state’s intense weather, including scorching sun, wind, and torrential downpours, can totally zap the soil and steal its nutrients. Cover cropping minimizes run-off and evaporation.
Late Summer Planting
August is notoriously hot, however, the weather can be quick to turn come September. The following plants are hardy enough to withstand scorching sun until temps cool and they begin to bloom. Plant in early August to give these plants enough time to sprout and mature before the first freeze.
Wow your Thanksgiving dinner guests with Brussels sprouts straight from your own garden. These can be harvested and frozen so you have fresh veggies well into the winter. Plant seeds directly into the ground or start them in small containers in a potting shed, greenhouse, or sunny room indoors. Sow plant starts or seeds about 18 inches apart.
Swiss and rainbow chard can really elevate your stir fry game to the next level. These leafy greens are easy to grow and seeds can be sown right into the ground. You may have to thin these plants as seeds are super successful with just a bit of water and sun.
Dark green spinach leaves go with just about anything and add a huge dose of health to smoothies, salads, and sandwiches. Plant spinach seeds or starts 12 inches apart and get ready to eat fresh leaves soon because this plant matures quickly.
Greens really shine in cool, crisp weather. Lacinato kale or curly kale easily takes off in healthy soil with plenty of water. Pick leaves off one at a time to enjoy kale for months on end. Directly sow seeds ½ inch into the soil around 8 inches apart.
Once you taste carrots straight from your garden you’ll never want store-bought again. Carrot seeds are small and take a little time to grow. Plant seeds ½ inch in the soil in straight rows a few inches apart. They don’t need much room and you can plant more rows every few weeks in place of other vegetables you harvest so you’ll have a steady supply.
Because lettuce matures quickly, you can plant a variety of types right up until first freeze. It won’t do well in cold weather, but it does fairly well during chilly mornings. Butter, romaine, arugula, escarole, and more all like Colorado’s late summer and early fall temperatures. Provide your lettuce with enough water and your whole neighborhood will be enjoying fresh salads.
To learn more about gardening in Colorado, sign up for a permaculture class with Boulder Permaculture. Knowledgeable permaculture experts teach various ways to protect and nurture soil and plants. They help folks learn how to grow plants in small spaces, set up an aquaponics system, how to grow during cold seasons, and so much more. There are few things more satisfying than growing your own food and providing fresh, nutrient-dense produce for your family.