Moving to Coeur d'Alene

lovestogardenNovember 12, 2009

We're seriously considering moving to our family place near Coeur d' Alene Lake. Does anyone live in that vicinity that can give me more info on "actual" climate zone, what fruit trees grow there, garden timeframe, and soil characteristics? Thanks!!

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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi MustGarden,

Digit lives very close to Coeur d' Alene, and when he sees this, he will SO be along to give you any and all advice you're seeking! Brace yourself! I'm pretty sure he'll be answering questions you haven't even thought of yet!

Welcome to RMG,

    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 2:27PM
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Okay, I'll limit myself to the mustgarden list:

"actual" climate zone: Coeur d'Alene may have recently become more of a zone 6 as the Arbor Day folks say. However, away from the lake, it was -18 in December last year. That is "firmly" within zone 5.

what fruit trees grow there: apricot, peach, plum, apple, pear. I'm not sure if there are any commercial fruit orchards near C'dA at the present. In Otis Orchards, the last commercial orchard is less than 5 acres. When I moved here, the cannery in Post Falls was still making Coeur d'Alene Apple Butter. It was so good! The local orchards could not compete with those along the east slope of the Cascades in central Washington.

garden timeframe: May 6th to Oct 5th for 151 frost-free days in Coeur d'Alene. Communities on the west side of the valley and to the north have significantly shorter growing seasons. Coeur d'Alene Lake is a good-sized body of water and helps to moderate temperatures around the lake and on the east side of the valley.

and soil characteristics: Glaciers extended down out of what is now Canada during the last ice age. One lobe of ice blocked the Clarks Fork River. Water built up in western Montana in what has been called Glacial Lake Missoula. When the ice dam broke, which it apparently did repeatedly, the resultant floods deposited hundreds of feet of gravel on the floor of the valley. Wind blown loess contributes some soil to this massive gravel deposit. There is a large and rapidly-moving aquifer thru this gravel.


    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 8:46PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

No limits, Digit! I just figured with the extensive gardening you do up there, you 'd come up with lots of good advice on do's and don'ts and fun things to try and stuff like that.

No limits around here! Well, very few limits!

    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 9:20PM
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Well, here's an additional thought on the Kootenai County area:

120 years ago, as Americans began to settle this part of the world, I don't know whether growing sweet corn would have been possible for them. My mother talks about her family growing "Country Gentleman" but not here where she was born but in southern Oregon where she grew up.

I've been reading a little about heirloom sweet corn lately. Country Gentleman is a 90 day variety. It was introduced in 1890, and there is simply no way that a 90 day corn could reach maturity in the open garden here.

Golden Bantam is supposed to be a 78 day sweet corn. Burpee introduced it in 1902. I've grown Golden Bantam but it would not mature in my garden when I lived near Bayview, at the south end of Pend Oreille Lake. My garden was at about 2,500 feet elevation in the valley but just north of the mountains near Chilco. It seemed that there was no way I could have sweet corn except by growing Polar Vee.

It's about the same thing with longer season tomato varieties. I grew Sub-Arctics then.

My gardens are at the 2,000 foot level now and I grow varieties that are rated up to 75 days. The last time I tried an 80 day tomato, there was 1 ripe tomato on each plant at the very end of the season. (I'll just say that tomatoes ripening on my kitchen counter are LESS of a reason for celebration than a sun-ripened fruit enjoyed on a pleasant day in the garden. :o)


    Bookmark   November 13, 2009 at 11:10AM
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Just to test the limits:

Before moving out to 2,500 feet, years ago, I was looking at some property near the south end of Coeur d'Alene Lake. It was not far from the St. Maries River.

Then as now, gardening was important to me and I was under the mistaken impression that if I stayed below 3,000 feet - there would be a reasonable growing season. And, this nice level land was somewhere around 2,800 feet with plenty of southern exposure.

We decided to camp there overnight. By the next morning, the left-over coffee was frozen in the pot sitting out by the cold campfire. It was Independence Day weekend.

Steve's digits

    Bookmark   November 13, 2009 at 11:32AM
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No limits intended--you may wax gardening anytime! And I'm sure to have more questions, so love having you onboard!

So, you're telling me that most plants grow, but tomatoes and corn have a hard time maturing with the shorter season and that I'm a prime candidate for the short grow area? Bummer.

Do you know if there are local farmer's markets? Are you in CdA or Post Falls?

    Bookmark   November 13, 2009 at 6:02PM
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Mustgarden, I have 3 gardens in separate locations (if'n we don't count my little greenhouses and herb patch in the backyard). My gardens are on both sides of the ID/WA border. I've lived (and gardened :o) in both CdA and Post Falls.

There's a farmers market with locations just north of Cd'A and downtown. Also, a farmers' market just across the border in Liberty Lake.

Don't take the comments about sweet corn and tomatoes too hard. There are plenty of varieties you can grow. Just don't assume that ALL will be useful to you - go with the short-season/germinate-in-cold-soil choices.


    Bookmark   November 13, 2009 at 6:41PM
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jnfr(z5b CO)

You are really frost-free by May 6th? Wow, in my Denver suburb it's late May at best, so I guess the elevation makes the difference?

    Bookmark   November 25, 2009 at 8:05PM
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You know your local area, Jnfr, but the Weather Service has Denver-Stapleton at 50% probability of 32° on April 30th.

Freeze/Frost Occurrence Data (pdf)

Maybe the choice of the term "frost free" isn't well advised at a 50% probability.


    Bookmark   November 25, 2009 at 9:12PM
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jnfr(z5b CO)

Well that prediction probably works fine if you're more attentive to late frosts than I am, but I tend to err on the warm side :)

    Bookmark   December 2, 2009 at 10:10PM
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was searching climate and gardening in this area and ran across this discussion. I currently live in North Dakota (Eastern) and we are zone 3B we have very fertile soil but SHORT growing season compared to some. I grow tons of sweet corn with out problem. I have grown ambrosia, Peaches N Cream, Honey and Pearl. We lived in SW Montana and also have been successful growing sweet corn. We are considering moving to the your area and am discouraged by this. Tomatoes and Corn are my favorite.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 11:13AM
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Nursebay, I read back thru what I had to say here 3 years ago and couldn't think of anything to add. Then, I realized that it does look a little negative.

Now that I am gardening at 2,000 feet elevation rather than over 2,500, things are easier. I have grown Ambrosia sweet corn many time with no real problem. I can even succession plant it a couple of times. Of course, there are quicker varieties for an earlier crop.

Here is what I can add: Frigid winter cold (Hardiness Zone) doesn't tell us much about growing season warmth. Linked below is the Weather Services information on Growing Degree Days in selected US locations. You can look up that term in wikipedia and learn how it is determined.

Each week and at the end of the season, the Weather Service will put the numbers on that page showing accumulated warmth. If you will look at how things ended up in 2012 for Bismark, ND - you will see that the weather station there made it all the way to 2987 GDD. It was warmer than usual and has averaged 2495 GDD.

The nearest weather station to my garden is Spokane, Washington. It had 2682 GDD and usually has 2335. That gives you some idea that Spokane is somewhat cooler than Bismark thru the growing season.

There is no place within the 5 northern counties of Idaho that is as warm as Spokane. The valley extend on into Idaho and the climate isn't a great deal different for the first 30 miles, or so.


Here is a link that might be useful: Growing Degree Days - US cities

    Bookmark   January 7, 2013 at 4:14PM
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We come in at maybe 60 growing days some years and 120 some years. The late frosts and early frosts are what makes it hard to grow corn, peppers and tomatoes along with cooler nights. This is where season extenders can make a real difference and using short season varieties. Where there is a will there is a way most years. Haven't been successful with okra or sweet potatoes but haven't really gone all out to do it either and I know people who have grown sweet potatoes here. I thnk we might be a bit colder than Steve.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 10:56PM
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Yep, I bet it is Margaret.

Surprises me that Missoula is known as "The Garden City" but I've been told that it is "The Garden City" only by comparison with the rest of Montana. Now, I know that you don't live quite in Missoula and also hope that what I was told isn't quite right either . . .

Missoula is at 3,200 feet elevation! You know, there are micro-climates and then there are macro micro climates. I am sure that there are entire valleys or hillsides or mesas that are better or worse for gardening. Mountain shadows, wind paths, bodies of water, air settling, etc. - all that and more have to make differences. Above, I told what happened on that July 4th camping trip with not just a little frost! That was well below 3,000 feet.

Yeah, I grew sweet potatoes one year but Dad & DW, who grew up where sweet potatoes can be commercial crops, were unimpressed with what I got . . . Walls of Water or just cages wrapped in plastic thru the early weeks could make a big difference with all sorts of things.

My plastic tunnel (hoop house) is right here where I can keep track of it thru the day. Really, I could do a 1,000sqft garden like that without a whole lot of bother. It would be a little expensive but once that plastic came off, the garden beds would be the envy of the neighborhood!


    Bookmark   January 10, 2013 at 10:33AM
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We are 3,500 feeet but also sit in a frost pocket. They call this the banana belt of Montana. Some of the hillsides out of Corvallis have a longer growing season that I do and that is where the commercial apple orchards are. Didn't help last year though. A commercial pie cherry is by Victor and sits in a protected area. Missoula is not as warm as around Flathead lake where the lake effect allows them to grow sweet cherries and melons. I had 2 hoop houses but gave the larger one away when we stopped doing Farmers Market. The one I kept is 12x25 feet with raised beds and sides that roll up and a door and vents. This enables me to grown greens and lettuce, turnips, radish in the spring and then tomatoes, cukes and peppers in the summer with greens again in the fall. I think I had last year was 20 tomato plants, 35 peppers and maybe 20 cukes. The only thing that I double cropped was the lettuce and then the cukes. It gives me more than 2 months extra protection at night. In the garden I use walls of water for the winter squash to start and row covers over the soybeans,broc, cauli and cabbage in the spring. You can grow zone 5 most years but then comes along a year that will wipe them out.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2013 at 12:06AM
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