The Grand View - RMG
The forum title refers to "Rocky Mountain Gardening" but what does that mean?
The highlands in the middle of the mountain West would certainly fit any description but would the high desert of Utah, or Nevada, how about Oregon? If the high plains of Wyoming are to be included, what about the high plains of eastern Montana? And, are there really any real differences between the growing environment of the Rockies and that of the Sierra Nevadas or even the Cascades?
I cannot find a definition of any sort on the Rocky Mountain Gardening forum. At the risk of contention, let me express some facts and opinions.
Factually, my own gardening environment is a valley in the Selkirk Range of the Rockies right on the border of Washington and Idaho. I became frustrated looking for help from a state Cooperative Extension Service which directed me to information from Puyallup on Washingtons Puget Sound. Wonderful area but it had precious little to do with my growing conditions with less than 20 inches of precipitation each year; most Summer days with relative humidity dropping below 20 percent; and a zone 5 Winter when most of that annual precipitation occurs in the form of snow.
One thing, I believe that the USDA zone hardiness map has very little to do with anything other than the survival of trees and other perennial plants through Winter. Useful there but it has little to do with our growing seasons. IÂm not alone in this opinion; it has been widely expressed on GardenWeb.
IÂve never paid much attention to the Sunset Magazine classifications thinking that they were most applicable to CaliforniaÂs widely varied conditions. But, I took a look at them yesterday. Also, I looked at National GardeningÂs zone map Â which seems to follow the Sunset lines but uses a broader brush.
I believe that SunsetÂs zones 1 and 2 are clearly what could be considered a very similar growing environment if we do not weigh precipitation too much into the classification of Rocky Mountain Gardening.
Now, this is not as helpful for my purposes since precipitation (and its opposite Â sunlight and aridness) was my initial reason for coming to the RMG forum. However, Wallace, in Idaho's Bitterroots, receives nearly as much precipitation as those Puget Sound test gardens.
IÂm not nearly as concerned about elevation althoÂ this feature must be of paramount importance for many gardeners in the Central Rockies. To explain that: My gardens are at just above 2,000 feet. By any definition, that isnÂt very high especially when compared to northern New Mexico or even nearby eastern Oregon. Still, if we use the old rule of thumb that each thousand feet of elevation equals 3.5 degrees (250 miles) of latitude - - my gardens could be placed above 6,000 feet in New Mexico. The lower elevation does mean that the Summer sun is a little less intense however, even with greater cloud cover, the Winter sun riding low on the southern horizon provides very, very weak energy through those months.
I think that what could also be said about Rocky Mountain gardening is that experience with local conditions is all important. But, having said that, sharing experience across a broad region leads to broad knowledge with important application in our own gardens.