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micro climates
planting tomatoes
micro climate
rich soil
cold weather
cold nights
snow on the ground
High Country Gardening
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High Country Gardening

GARDENING IN THE HIGH SIERRA

Micro-climate gardening at 5000 feet:

From region to region gardening varies - in a sense we all live in micro-climates, whether here in Plumas County where I live or in San Diego where plants flourish year-round. My area is pine forest and river; the neighboring county, Sierra County, is mostly barren high desert! I’ve spent about 12 years developing growing techniques for this unique area and our unpredictable climate and am sharing some tips and experiences with those of you living in similar high country climates.

A special surprise this year:

At 5000 feet, we generally have snow on the ground until June. This year, for the very first time since I moved to Plumas County, California 12 years ago, we have had a real spring. Daffodils, tulips, primroses have bloomed, even the lawn is lush and green. There has been such a small amount of snow this year, and when it has come down, it has also melted right away!

Planting Tomatoes from seed:

I have a new method in mind this year. I started my plants from seed a couple of weeks ago and despite the cold nights, I do have some germination. When large enough, I’ll put the plants in compost and fertilizer-rich soil planted about 2 inches above the crown. I’m hoping that planting deep will keep them warm enough while they develop and get hardy. I also am thinking that planting from seed will give them a head start in acclimating, instead of having to harden the plants off. Generally I’ve previously bought seedlings and lost several sets to cold weather before getting any to survive.

Cold tolerant vegetables:

Lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower all went in in late April and have germinated despite the cold nights (my bane, but I just couldn’t resist). The strawberries are flourishing with many blooms and berries already formed! I use both June-bearing and everbearing plants and it’s amazing how hardy they are. My bed is well established, so every year rather than disturb the plants by cultivating, I just add a few inches of home-made compost.

Easy Composting:

I use only yard clippings, grass clippings, and no household matter (due to not wanting to attract wildlife or unwanted insects) plus dirt and occasional fertilizer. I have not used any accelerator or heating method; just a sprinkling of water when I water the garden. It has taken patience, but within a year my no-fuss, no-work, no-turning compost heap has produced a rich and beautiful soil!

Flowers and high country gardening:

Hollyhocks are practically a weed in my garden! They are so hardy and persistent and beautiful - I just love them, though they make “millions” of seeds each year and I do have to give away or compost hundreds of tiny plants each spring. These can be a foundation and backbone of your high country gardening plan for color and substance. Perennials such as bee balm (monarda), hostas, bleeding heart, astilbe, artemesia, columbine, and primroses do very well in this climate. They all give color and texture to beds of plantings which can later be filled in with annuals. Pansies also are another trooper of a plant. It’s hard to believe that such a delicate lovely flower can survive under several feet of snow and come back even stronger the next season!

What could be more uplifting than hours in the garden puttering about (or slaving) after dark cold months stuck inside for us high country gardeners! Not only productive and creative of sustenance; gardening is a healing salve, a joyous expression of harmony with earth and Creator, a connection with wildlife and nature, a creative outlet, a passion!


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