How Does YOUR Garden Grow?
There are a number of ways to grow food at your house, in container gardens, raised beds (hoop house optional), cold frames, greenhouses, or inside on a windowsill. A windowsill garden is simply a small growing space you set up inside on a windowsill or somewhere that gets sunlight. Another way to grow food is in plastic containers. Even when they are filled with soil, plastic containers are typically light enough that they can be easily moved by hand. This is useful, for instance, if you want to bring the plants inside at night.
A raised bed can be built to any size. The raised beds we use are 4’ by 8’ and at least 1’ deep. The beds are built with 12 x 2 untreated pine boards. We fasten wire mesh on the bottom of the bed to keep the voles out. Because burrowing voles seem to be a constant problem in the area, growing food in raised beds is perhaps the most cost-effective way to have an outside garden.
We cover some of our outside beds with a small hoop-house made with PVC pipe and a permeable white fabric that can be purchased at Ace Hardware. Our hoop-houses are domed-shape and stand no more than 4’ high, so it can be a little uncomfortable to work inside of one. Of course, you can design a hoop house that fits your specific needs from a variety of different materials.
Covering your garden with a hoop-house is very effective in keeping voles and other critters out, plus it traps heat that can be useful when temperatures get cold. A hoop-house can also protect against hail, harsh sunlight, torrential rain or snow. If you don’t have a hoop-house covering your outdoor raised bed, you can cover the bed with a sheet of plastic, especially at night when there may be a frost.
Another way to protect your plants is to grow them under glass in a cold frame. A cold frame is simply an enclosed growing space (perhaps 3’x 3’) that can be covered by a framed piece of glass that can be opened or closed depending on the temperature, either by hand or automatically by way of a mechanical device.
Perhaps the best way to grow food at elevation is inside a greenhouse where the climate is tightly controlled. Again, there are many designs to choose from. Among the Colorado companies that sell greenhouses, we can recommend Ceres (Boulder), Growing Spaces (Pagosa Springs), and Penn and Cord’s (Westcliffe). The greenhouse can either be attached to your house or not. You’ll need to consult the specific building code that applies to you before constructing a greenhouse. Among other benefits, a south-facing, attached greenhouse can add to the energy efficiency of your house.