New to Colorado -- I need help!

tissyApril 14, 2006

We will be relocating to Monument, CO, in June, and I am anxious about the gardening! I am not a fantastic gardener as it is, but I've lived in CA where everything just grows where you plant it (mostly). I love to grow herbs like thyme and rosemary, and other things that are edible. Will I have any luck with that in high & dry Monument, with the soil issues thrown in?

I'd just love to know what does and doesn't work up there.

Thanks so much!

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I live just south of Monument, and if you treat it like zone 4 you will save yourself some heartache! Rosemary and Thyme will perform very well for you...I have had good success. Things that need alot of heat over a long time will not do so well...Tomatoes, peppers, melons, etc. Strawberries, peas, spinach, lettuce, beans, squash, cucumber, have all done well for me. About the only fruit tree that will perform with any consistancy is apples, and you will want a late blooming variety because of the late frosts.

Your soil is most likely sandy, although there are pockets of clay up there, depending on your proximity to the rampart range. Either way it won't have a lot of fertility and you will want to amend with lots of organic material or use raised beds.

These are the thoughts that came to mind, although more will probably come as I think about it some more. I'm sure other folks will have alot to say. Welcome to Colorado!

BTW, I wouldn't set out frost tender plants until Memorial Day. Been burned by that one before!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 12:54AM
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Thanks SO much! I'm excited that apples could work, because I love to make apple pies.

What about flowers -- lavender? Rudbeckia/black-eyed susans?

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 10:51PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi tissy,

English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) should do well for you. 'Munstead' and 'Hidcote' are two of the most common varieties. French, Spanish, and other varieties that may have done well for you in CA are only marginally hardy and will usually not make it over winter here.

Many of the Rudbeckia's you'll find aren't reliably hardy here, but will often reseed if you allow the seed to drop or scatter them where you want them. The one that IS reliably hardy is R. fulgida 'Goldsturm'. It's about 2 ft. tall and generally hardy to zone 4, but the flowers aren't as large as most of the less hardy varieties. A few less common varieties of Rudbeckia are R. laciniata, a CO native with double flowers, about 36", z4; R. maxima and R. nitida, both about 72", z5; and R. triloba with lobed leaves, about 48", z4.

And, like binnesman says, definitely plan to add lots of organic matter to the areas where you'll be planting. Whether it's sand or clay you have, you'll need it to help hold moisture and nutrients. Use either moist Canadian peat (available in large bales which makes if very economical--but you have to moisten it before using it--which takes a day or two!), or a GOOD QUALITY organic compost (should be light and fluffy feeling when it's moist). For large areas, spread a 2-3" layer on top and mix it very well into the top 8" or so, and then add more to the soil before you backfill when planting individual plants.

For good local advice when you get here, here's a link to the CSU Extension office in El Paso County. You can call them or stop by their office when you're in Colorado Springs.

Good luck and welcome to Colorado,

Here is a link that might be useful: CSU Estension Service - El Paso County

    Bookmark   April 17, 2006 at 12:11AM
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ABQ_Bob(USDA 5a/SS 2A)

BTW two books that were written by Colorado gardeners are "Passionate Gardening" and "The Undaunted Garden." One by Lauren Springer, the other a team effort between Lauren Springer and Rob Proctor.

I'd be very surprised if you got Rosemary to work up there - it barely survives in my zone 7 ... It'll work if you put in a a pot and bring it in the house at a sunny window for winter. Thyme for sure will work.

In my old zone 4/5 Utah edible garden (2 acres) I had a peach trees, cherry trees, zuchini (sp?) and other squashes, radishes, carrots, strawberries, plum tree, apricots (these usually got nipped by a late freeze though), apple trees, sweet corn, tomatoes, sage (the herb), thyme, oregano, chives, mint(spear and pepper), potatoes, raspberries, grapes, pears, oriental pears, turnips, onions, cucumbers (don't plant near squash, they cross, as will various squashes), pumpkins, asparagus. Tried watermelon and canteloupe but the season wasn't quite long enough.

Also, this was in a rural farm area where we had water rights, so I had access to non-potable irrigation water from about April 1 to October 1. Basically that means I could water as much as I needed to without "paying" for it, since this service was included in the property taxes.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2006 at 2:01AM
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abq bob - My rosemary is in a protected spot, but it definitely survives the winter. I think the variety is 'arb' or maybe 'arp', but I cant really's been several years since I planted it. I haven't used it in cooking myself, but I think my wife has. It certainly smells like rosemary, but maybe it was mislabelled?

    Bookmark   April 17, 2006 at 8:13PM
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Wow, you guys are a great help. You're making me hopeful!

Since we are getting a house in a new area, we will have absolutely no landscaping at first. Other than sod, we are planning on putting in raised beds for all our other plantings. The raised beds should help with the soil issues, right? I have started a little notepad with all of your advice. =)

    Bookmark   April 24, 2006 at 3:36PM
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shudavies(Zone 6a, CO)

The main advantage to raised beds is to help mitigate the effect of soils that don't drain well. So if your soil is sandy, it won't benefit you in that regard. Many people still like raised beds for the neatness and accessibility, but I'd give some thought to watering with a soaker hose if you do, because they'll drain pretty fast with sandy soil.

I have also grown the 'Arp' rosemary here in zone 6a, but it is regarded to be the hardiest rosemary there is, and I do get some die back every Spring. Regrows fast, though - I had one get to four feet. (I think 'Arp' is the name of some place in Texas where this particular variety of rosemary was discovered.)

    Bookmark   May 3, 2006 at 6:48PM
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I'm in Utah, but I think we have some similar challenges.

One piece of advice I'd give is to be wary of April. It's easy to feel like spring has really arrived in early April, plant a garden, then get snowed on in early May. If you're a gambler, you can plant early, because it sometimes works, but I usually wait until mother's day to put my garden in.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2006 at 10:35PM
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I am also new to Co. I moved here in March from Pa.where I had a spectacular organic garden. Now I feel like I am truly starting over with info. How do Roses do?? I am at 8200' What roses are safe for my altitude??

    Bookmark   May 12, 2006 at 7:33PM
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At 8200 feet you probably won't get many hybrid teas to survive without massive winter protection. Check out the Canadian Explorer series roses ( William Baffin, Alexader Mackenzie, etc.). Most of them survive to zone three easily. New Dawn has been very good here for me at 7000 ft, and is supposed to be hardy to zone 4. Rugosas should work for you as well. You see a lot of Dr. Huey here in June...its the root stock for most HT's. It survives quite well after the grafted rose dies from the cold!

I'm originally from upstate NY, and I have to tell you don't expect anywhere near the results here that you did back east. Between the soils, the dry climate and the fluctuations in temperatures, especially in the spring, gardening can be quite frustrating at times. You'll be alot happier if you can choose plants that are suited for the climate. Lots of good information at the Colorado State University website.

Good luck and welcome!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2006 at 11:05AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Sheilainco,

I just posted this for somebody else, but here's the link for the CSU Extension Service county offices in Colorado. Find the one closest to you and give them a call or stop by if you're close enough and they should be able to give you some good information about what will grow well in your area---for roses and everything else.

Welcome to Colordo,

Here is a link that might be useful: CSU Estension Service offices in Colorado

    Bookmark   May 15, 2006 at 3:08PM
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Also, don't be afraid to hunt down your local nursery and ask those folks a few questions. It's a good bet that what they are selling is something that will survive/thrive here (after all, they want to be in business next year...), and they can offer you tips about microclimes around your house that you won't get at Wally world.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   May 22, 2006 at 10:19PM
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tissy -

I live in Monument (actually, just east of town at 7500ft) on sandy clay soil. Welcome!

I agree - treat this as Zone 4 for the most part.

Rosemary does not survive here outside over the winter. Mine are kept as container-grown plants and come inside until late May. Thyme and kitchen sage do really well over our winters. Vegetables can be a challenge - I've given up on tomatoes and peppers because they really require a mini greenhouse in order to get fruit before frost - too much work for me.

Spinach and greens in general do well. So do cool weather crops like peas and broccoli. Because of the gopher problem we have, I plant my veggies in containers. Shrubs and roses get planted in root cages.

English Lavender is awesome here - it usually dies back to the ground over winter, but comes back reliably. Tons of flowers and shrubs do really well - if you want specifics, please PM me.

Roses that do well are (as mentioned): the Canadian Explorer Series, rugosas, gallicas/albas/damasks, some hybrid perpetuals, and some of the English roses. Hybrid Teas can't handle the cold. Most floribundas croak too. If anyone wants a list of what does well here for me, let me know and I'll give you the specific names.

Be prepared - winters are LONG here! We've had killing frost on June 21 (last year). Late April and May can be especially challenging because of the constantly shifting temps - it can be 70 deg one day and 15 deg the next night. I've lost several roses this spring not to the -20F we had in Dec and Feb, but to the warm/cold swings in April and May. I won't be replanting those varieties! Basically, if a plant breaks dormancy too soon it can get nailed by almost-arctic temps we can get in the late spring. This spring was especially bad for this.

Although we've had a really dry winter and spring this year, Monument historially gets a decent amount of snow - mostly in the spring. We can get dumped on too :) 2ft or more during one storm is not uncommon.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 1:20PM
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A couple of you mentioned your rosemary wintering outside-are they still living? I live in Colorado Springs and would love to master wintering one outdoors. Do you know where I can purchase the particular variety you mentioned? I want to buy the largest I can so that it stands a chance. I was thrilled to hear of your sucess.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 12:47AM
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OOh, welcome to both of you new-to-Co folks! I'm new-ish too.

First thing I learned is to cover the beds with bark bits to help slow down evaporation.

Those Canadian hardy roses mentioned above are terrific!! I bought the Morden Sunrise, Morden Blush and the Winnepeg Parks, all of which are from the Parkland series. For some reason I couldn't find any of the Explorer series roses locally. They are all starting to send out spring growth!!

Also, if you try any produce, remember to be careful to select varieties with the shortest time frames. I can't remember what that is called...but if one tomato is "80 days" and one is "55 days", go with the 55.

Oh, and I also learned to use a fabric sheet instead of plastic if it suddenly hails or snows on your precious, newly planted plants! I don't remember why...I think Skybird posted that somewhere...

And, there are a ton of great gardeners here; I trust their advice!


    Bookmark   May 9, 2008 at 11:35PM
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