by Carol Dunn
HUERFANO- Having grown up in an area with a fairly long growing season, I was totally unprepared for Colorado’s short and upredictable summers. I kept trying to grow 100-day crops in our 75-day growing season. That left me disappointed and frustrated, as I’m sure other Huerfano County gardeners have also been. Some years we have a 60-day growing season; and then one year you might luck out and have 120 days for growing vegetables before a killing frost. While we might gamble on an occasional pumpkin or watermelon, our best bet is to select the varieties that will give us the best chance for success.
Thanks to selective breeding, there have been great improvements over the past few decades in developing short season, also referred to as early season, vegetables. The seeds can germinate in cooler soil, they germinate more quickly, and they tolerate cooler temperatures at night. These include short season peppers that mature in as little as 58 days (Gourmet), tomatoes that ripen in 50 days (Siberia), cabbage that matures in 55 days (Red Express), sweet corn that matures in 67 days (Northern Xtra Sweet Hybrid), and cucumbers that are ready to pick in 45 days (Cool Breeze). These are just a few examples; there are dozens of varieties to choose from these days. Three of my favorite sources of short season vegetable seeds are Reimer Seeds at www.ReimerSeeds.com Burpee’s at www.
Burpee.com and Totally Tomatoes, which has dozens of varieties of both tomatoes and peppers, at www.Totally Tomato.com.
Even with special short-season vegetables, you still need to pay attention to weather forecasts as far as the potential to damage your garden. The elders of this area have told me stories of frosts even in July. It’s rare, but it pays to be prepared to cover your crops if we have a freak turn of weather.
If you haven’t tried early season vegetables, maybe it’s time to try out a few varieties. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results you get, even in our difficult climate.