Many of us (this writer included) approach gardening with the best intentions, carving out an early spring weekend to prep soil and plant tomatoes while indulging in fantasies of lilacs and arugula. Then, we quickly run out of energy and direction. While the reality of gardening at high altitude can prove daunting, local gardeners manage to harvest an abundance of delicious produce. After a little digging among the resident professionals, we came up with some altitude adjustments that will have you unearthing treasures from your backyard in no time.
COPPER MOOSE FARMS
With such a short season, it is critical that plants have all the nutrients they need. Composting is a win-win for everyone. By adding microbes to your soil a couple times each season, you really enhance the quality of your produce. And picking weeds by hand (or with your favorite weeding tools) keeps soil and produce free of harmful chemicals and helps maintain a great habitat for natural predators like hawks and owls. If winged friends aren’t keeping your populations of pesky varmints (moles, mice, and voles) from eating up all your tender greens, use standard mouse traps.
- Plan ahead
Getting crops in on time can make or break your harvest. But wait until Father’s Day to plant your favorite frost-sensitive transplants.
Make sure you have adequate water, and set up an automatic watering system in case you go out of town.
PARK CITY GARDENS
Shrubs and perennials may stay small and seem like they’re not taking to your yard, but have patience, and don’t give up. It takes three to five years for a plant to establish itself here.
- Stick with proven performers
Planting root vegetables (turnips, beets, carrots, and potatoes) almost always ends in success and provides fun for the whole family. Perennials that thrive at high altitude and are capable of naturalizing (requiring little to no water) are snow-in-summer, artemisia, yarrow, echinacea, centaurea, daylily, and sandwort.
Staples for high-altitude gardening include the natural fertilizer Milorganite and gypsum. Gypsum helps loosen the soil after winter, letting water and nutrients penetrate our plants while neutralizing the salt from our walkways and driveways.
SUMMIT COMMUNITY GARDENS
- 75-day rule
Park City’s growing season is short. Choose seeds or transplants that will mature in less than 75 days. You can get special “high-altitude” varieties of seeds from Mountain Valley Seed and Granite Seed Co.
- Stick with favorites
Grow what you like to eat because you might end up with a lot! Vendetti’s favorites include red and Chioggia/candy stripe beets, carrots, garlic, peas, zucchini, and spinach.
BILL WHITE FARMS
- Be prepared
Last year, a cold front in July wiped out over an acre of crops. Being aware that anything can happen any time, you want to start early so you can squeeze the most out of every warm day and harvest the maximum product. The Farm starts tomatoes in March.
- No chemicals
Resist the urge to spray your beds and the cracks in your driveway with weed killers, and please don’t spray your dandelions in the spring. Dandelions are often the first food for bees, and when they take chemicals back to their hives, the hive dies.
- Have fun
You’re going to feed yourself and have fun doing it—and you’ll teach your kids a skill and an appreciation for the environment, which they’ll have for life.
Take advantage of local gardens and farm stands for fresh eats and advice.
4056 Shadow Mountain Dr (off Old Ranch Road)
Reserve a plot (4 feet by 16 feet) at the community gardens to grow your own goodness, or pop by for an event or workshop. The Gardens plans to have a farm stand open Wednesday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon, June 24 through August.
5373 Hwy 224
Typically Thursdays and Fridays, 12–6 p.m., and Saturdays 12–4 p.m. (check website for up-to-date days and times), and Wednesdays at the Farmers Market.
Pull off the highway for seasonal fruits and vegetables, potted plants, and flowers—plus locally farmed ground beef, sausage, jerky, steak, eggs, and baked goods.
1285 Old Ranch Road
Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12 to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Grown on-site and gathered from community partners, this quaint farm stand has fresh and organically grown seasonal vegetables and cut flower bouquets.
Park City Mountain at the Silver King Lot
Wednesdays from 12 to 5 p.m.
This long-running market brings local farm produce to the base of the Park City Mountain resort. Typically, artisans and musicians add a festive vibe to the market, but given current health care guidelines, it’s an eats-only affair for now.
4459 N Hwy 224
Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–6 p.m.; Saturdays 9 a.m.–6 p.m.; and Sundays 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Need some microclimate-sensitive pointers? The Park City Gardens’ Nursery, Garden Boutique, and Bulk Yard specialize in high-altitude gardening and green design.