San Miguel/West Montrose Counties Colorado State University Extension, together with Teller County CSU Extension and Eagle County CSU Extension got an Innovation Grant through CSU to do a study growing vegetables at higher altitude (6,500’ and above).
This project will conduct innovative and timely research into the use of season extension techniques to produce food crops at higher elevations in Colorado. We will compare the effect of season extension techniques on crop yields, determine adaptable plant varieties for high elevation growing and develop demonstration plots for market producers, home gardeners and Master Gardener trainings in the mountain areas of Colorado.
This research will compare three season extension techniques. Three raised beds (>22 inches tall, 4’ wide x 12’ long) will be used at all locations. Crop yields under polycarbonate covers with automatic vents, and mini-hoops covered with spun-bound polyester will be compared to an uncovered bed. Plants to be tested the first year include lettuce in spring, transitioning to cold-hardy greens (spinach or kale) in the fall. A minimum of three varieties of each crop will be tested. Fresh yield weights will be recorded and monthly photographs taken of each test plot. Air temperature and soil temperature in each test plot will be monitored for the length of the trial using automated data loggers. This will allow us to directly compare the effect of soil and air temperature on plant growth for each treatment.
We installed our boxes in summer 2010, lined them with weed barrier fabric and filled them with soil by October.
Many thanks to local Colorado Master Gardener volunteers, Sara Honychurch, Trudy Wagner and Bronwyn Wells and Community volunteers, Kenneth Henson, Ketrich Steiger and Joab Crumpton who helped fill boxes with soil by hand.
Telluride is at elevation 8,750’ with a short growing season of approximately 62-88 frost free days from mid to late June through early September. Our Season Extension beds are located on a slight south-facing slope to take advantage of solar gain. This combined with the raised beds, causes the soil to warm earlier in the spring.
We are trialing warm season veggies summer 2011 and will do a fall/winter trial later in 2011. Check out the growing seasons here
High Altitude Season Extension (HASE) Growing Trials HASE Brochure