Tundra Gardening Information: Can You Grow Plants In The Tundra
By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
The tundra climate is one of the harshest growing biomes in existence. It is characterized by open spaces, drying wind, cold temperatures and low nutrients. Tundra plants must be adaptable, vigorous and tough to survive these conditions. Native northern plants are good choices for a garden in tundra type conditions. These plants are already adapted to the harsh, barren climate and short tundra growing season, so they will thrive without special interference. Read on to learn more.
About the Tundra Growing Season
Northern gardeners may find special challenges finding landscape plants that can exist in a tundra climate. Growing tundra plants enhances the landscape while providing foolproof greenery and diversity that will flourish without constant babying and special attention in such conditions.
Some suggested tundra gardening information might include:
- Evergreen shrubs like rhododendron
- Native sedges like cotton grass
- Low-growing plants in forms akin to heath or heather
- Rugged, small trees or bushes such as willow
In addition to the site and weather challenges in the tundra, the growing season is much shorter than other climates. The arctic tundra has a growing season of only 50 to 60 days, while the alpine tundra has a growing season of approximately 180 days. This means plants must achieve their life cycle in that allotted amount of time, and that includes flowering, fruiting and setting seed.
Plants that grow in the tundra are adapted to this shorter growing period and have much shorter cycles than those in long season climates. For this reason, you wouldn’t have much success growing a plant from USDA zone 8 in the tundra region. Even if it was cold hardy and adapted to the other extreme conditions, the plant wouldn’t have time to complete its cycle and would eventually die out.
Tundra Gardening Information
Plants in the tundra develop superior resistance to unfavorable conditions. You can enhance the soil in your landscape with amending materials, such as compost, but the wind, moisture levels, cold and freezing points will still be the same.
Rockeries can provide unique niches for a variety of plants while blending seamlessly with the native landscape. Rock gardens have several different micro-climates depending upon their light and wind exposure. Those with south-facing exposure and some cover can host more tender plants while exposed northern faces need to have only the hardiest specimens installed.
Growing tundra plants in sheltered locations can increase the diversity you can introduce to your landscape.
Using Plants in the Tundra
Cold season plants have many adaptations. They may have hollow stems that require less nutrients, low compact profiles, hairy stems and dark leaves to keep the plant warm and many other adaptations.
- Arctic poppy and mountain aven plants have the ability to move their flowers and gather more solar energy.
- Grasses, especially sedge, have low nutrient needs, can adjust to either cold, dry conditions or spring boggy soils.
- Small shrubs and bushes with thick evergreen leaves that keep cold out and hold in moisture might range from cranberry to alpine azalea and back to blueberry.
- Heathers and heaths form dense clumps that trap nutrients and form miniature windbreaks for other plants.
- In areas of the garden with the most sun and well-drained soil, try mountain bluet, native yarrows and white pussytoes.
When choosing plants for your alpine or arctic landscape, take into consideration the site conditions you have to offer and the plants adaptability. Native plants will add the dimension for which you are looking while providing an economical and long lasting landscape.
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How to Grow and Care for a Weeping Willow Tree
The weeping willow (Salix babylonica) is probably the best known of the weeping trees, with gracefully arching stems that dangle delicately and shiver in the breeze. The leaves of this deciduous tree are lance-shaped and grow 3 to 6 inches long they turn yellow in the fall before dropping. The weeping willow's bark is rough and gray, with long, deep ridges. When the tree blooms in late winter or spring, yellow catkins (flowers) appear. Weeping willows are fast-growing trees, adding up to 10 feet per year when young, but their average lifespan is a relatively short 30 years.
|Botanical Name||Salix babylonica|
|Common Name||Weeping willows, Babylon willow|
|Plant Type||Deciduous perennial|
|Mature Size||35 to 50 feet tall and wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Rich and moist|
|Soil pH||Slightly acidic|
|Bloom Time||Late winter, spring|
|Hardiness Zones||4 to 10|
How tall tundra shrubs reveal the hidden presence of permanently thawed tundra soil
Shrubs and talik create a positive feedback loop, reinforcing the thaw of permafrost and growth of larger shrubs.
Permafrost, ground that is frozen year-round, has a polar opposite: talik, ground that is thawed year-round. And when talik appears in permafrost landscapes, it is both a sign of thaw that has happened in the past and a precursor of thaw in the future.
Now some Alaska scientists have pinpointed a strong clue on the ground’s surface that can identify where there is talik below: the presence of tall shrubs. Where there are tall shrubs on the ground, there is likely to be talik below, a function of hydrology and shrubs’ year-round water requirements, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Communications Earth and Environment.
“I gave myself X-ray glasses,” joked lead author Anna Liljedahl of the Woodwell Climate Research Center and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The idea for the study came from her fieldwork in the eastern Brooks Range in 2015. The question came to her: “Why do some of the streams coming down from the hillsides have shrubs and others do not?” She also noticed that some streams seemed to peter out she walked along some streams and noticed that the water disappeared — but then saw that the water popped out somewhere else.
The answer, the new study found, is that the streams go below the surface where there is talik. “The stream is still there. It’s just gone underground,” she said.
That liquid water absorbed by talik in summer and slowly released by talik in winter keeps the shrubs alive.
It’s a symbiotic relationship. When there is sufficient thaw and moisture, shrubs take root. Where there are shrubs, the soils are less likely to freeze.
That is partly because the conversion of tundra landscapes from small tundra plants to bigger woody shrubs removes a peaty layer that insulates cold ground from warm summer air, Liljedahl said. “When you get shrubs, you don’t have the moss anymore,” she said.
And in winter, the presence of shrubs on the tundra landscape catches more snow, and deeper snow layers insulate the ground from the chill in the air, she said, citing past work by UAF’s Matthew Sturm.
The study raises a chicken-and-egg question, Liljedahl said: Does shrub growth create talik, or does talik come first, enabling shrub growth?
There are indications that it is the latter, according to the study. To become established in permafrost-laden tundra, shrubs need some kind of disturbance like a thaw slump, Liljedahl said.
The study is the product of on-site work four years ago around the Toolik Field Station on Alaska’s North Slope. Liljedahl and her research partners, from UAF and other institutions, identified streams with tall shrubs and those without shrubs and tracked the flow of water in both types of streams.
They also analyzed soils, measuring microbial communities and using instruments to identify locations of freeze and thaw.
The usual typical way to locate permafrost is to travel at the end of summer and send a bore straight down through the earth. When the bore hits a hard surface that it cannot penetrate, it has reached permafrost.
Proving the existence of talik requires a similar technique at the end of winter, Liljedahl said. If the bore does not hit a hard surface, that means the soil has been unfrozen all year. “Suddenly you come to a place where you don’t hit the bottom, you don’t hit ice,” she said.
Probes showed that unfrozen soil area below the water-losing stream sections were as deep as 30 meters, according to the study.
As the Arctic climate warms, more shrubs are growing farther north, a sign of some big changes in the soils below. And some of the shrubs Liljedahl and her colleagues found have grown very tall — creating thick overhead canopies and perhaps crossing over into a different category.
“I would call them trees, because we measured one at 6 meters,” she said.
Trees on Tundra’s Border Are Growing Faster in a Hotter Climate
|Trees in Alaska’s far north are growing faster than they were a hundred years ago says a study led by Lamont-Doherty scientist Laia Andreu-Hayles.|
Credit: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
|Researchers have traveled to the Alaskan treeline repeatedly. Lamont tree-ring scientist Kevin Anchukaitis (left) and Fairbanks arctic ecologist Angela Allen sample a dead spruce. Credit: Lamont-Doherty|
The article was part of a special issue of
Environmental Research Letters on the greening of the tundra. Other authors of the study include Rosanne D’Arrigo, Lamont-Doherty Pieter Beck and Scott Goetz, Woods Hole Research Center and David Frank, Swiss Federal Research Institute.
The tundra biome is characterized by extremely cold temperatures and treeless, frozen landscapes. There are two types of tundra, the arctic tundra and the alpine tundra .
The arctic tundra is located in the extreme northern hemisphere around the North Pole. This area experiences low amounts of precipitation and extremely cold temperatures for most of the year. The arctic tundra typically receives less than 10 inches of precipitation per year (mostly in the form of snow) with temperatures averaging below minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit in winter. In summer, the sun remains in the sky during the day and night. Summer temperatures average between 35-55 degrees Fahrenheit.
The alpine tundra biome is also a cold climate region with temperatures averaging below freezing at night. This area receives more precipitation throughout the year than the arctic tundra. The average annual precipitation is around 20 inches. Most of this precipitation is in the form of snow. The alpine tundra is also a very windy area. Strong winds blow at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour.
the best time to travel to the Arctic Tundra.
Arctic - from October to the beginning of December
The continent is covered in snow to the water's edge. Penguins build highways as they waddle the same path again and again, from the sea to their nests far from shore. During these period penguins, shags and seabirds court and lay their eggs. Arctic- from December through February
The snow retreats, exposing rocky headlands. Penguin chicks hatch and their parents spend endless hours feeding their hungry young. Arctic - from mid-February to March
The whales return to feed. Seals haul out on the beachheads and penguins begin to molt. Antarctica is preparing for long months of darkness. Highlights for travelers are whales, red snow and fledging Gentoo Penguins acting like miniature Charlie Chaplins. The Arctic - from June to mid-July.
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High-Altitude Gardening in the Rocky Mountains
I live in a small cabin on a mining claim in a national forest in Colorado, high on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. And I find that my greatest pleasure in living here is learning the glories and subtleties of nature . . . and the ways of plants. I am surrounded by a wildness still intact enough to be an overwhelming force in my life, a wildness that makes me, as a gardener, want to learn what vegetables grow here best and most naturally, with the least amount of care and manipulation of the environment. The following approach to gardening has brought me a wealth of food and has helped me preserve the wildness a little longer. And it may tell other high-country gardeners how to do the same.
First, if you garden in that fascinating zone between 3,000 feet above sea level and the Alpine tundra where even trees don't grow, you must realize that the sunshine, moisture, temperatures, and soils all vary greatly over relatively small areas and short periods of time. This is because the land rises and dips steeply except for broad, high meadows that taper off into narrow gulches choked with willow and alder. Thus, every slope and its plants has its own relationship to the sun. Slopes facing north receive the least sunlight, and are cool and refreshing in late summer, when land tilted south is parched and dry. And slopes facing east get the morning sun, while those directed west are warmed even more by late afternoon rays.
A good example of this variability, and the adaptability it brings, can be seen in a healthy fruit tree that may grow in a sunny, protected crease of a hillside . . . but wouldn't have a chance of survival if it were planted ten to twenty feet away from that warm pocket.
My mountain garden is on a strip of meadow in a gulch, and is protected from high winds. It is wetter, and its soil richer, than surrounding hillsides, yet it is cooler at night and more subject to frosts . . . the cold air of evening rolls downhill like a river and into such gulches. So I have learned to plant only frost-resistant vegetables. And most of these vegetables outlast the neighboring meadow grasses in the fall to glow startlingly green in the midst of a dull gray and tan mountain landscape.
Another special factor for mountain gardeners to consider is the thinness of the atmosphere at high altitudes. This causes water to evaporate faster from the ground. You could say that the air itself provides less insulation for conserving water, so it is important to provide your own insulation for a garden in the form of a thick but lightweight mulch of dry grasses or straw. This mulch will keep the garden soil soft. Otherwise, unnaturally exposed by the digging up of mountain grasses as you spade the dirt, it would quickly become dry and hard. Old bedding from horse corrals is a good mulch for some purposes, and both nourishes and insulates. And such is the protectiveness of this covering, that in the bleakness of spring, the earliest green things you find will be safely hidden under the natural mulch of last year's grasses and wildflowers.
Next you must realize that Rocky Mountain soils lack the range of nutrients needed for many garden vegetables, so you have to dig in plenty of aged manure when you first clear a garden plot. For this purpose I recycle weeds, kitchen waste, and the refuse from the spring cleaning of my chicken coop . . . sometimes digging the manure and wastes directly into the garden soil, or composting it for a year. For additional nutrients I use the weeds I have pulled as mulch at the end of each summer.
Mountain soils, by the way, are often acidic at higher elevations, because they were created from granite rather than the alkaline sandstones and limestones of lower elevations, and because of the acid content of decomposing pine needles. Very acidic soils can be moderated by the addition of wood ashes. But if you heat with wood, these are easy to come by. The soils of meadows and aspen groves are richer, however, and less likely to be acidic than those near coniferous forests.
The first year I lived high in the Rockies I gardened without irrigation. The next year I used a 300-foot hose to take additional water from the spring to the garden when it was needed. But there is more rain at higher elevations in the Rockies than at lower elevations, so with careful observation and practice you will learn to plant a garden which is wholly sympathetic to natural conditions and that may not need irrigation. Hopi Indians, in fact, have farmed with great success for centuries without irrigation . . . in what at first glance appears to be barren desert.
At the start of the season you must anticipate the green of summer, which is a little hard to do after six or seven months of snow. That is when you learn that to garden successfully in the Rockies what you perhaps need most is optimism. Winter holds tight in March . . . while spring is only vaguely hinted at by the wetness of the month's snowfalls. Then in April the softening of the ground and the appearance of the purple Easter-egg-like pasque flower in the pine forests become more obvious signals of spring. Still, the landscape seems desolate compared with the brilliant green fuzz beginning to show at lower altitudes.
The actual length of winter, alas, is as variable as other conditions in the Rockies, so it is good to buy seeds, sets, and roots early. Then you'll have them when the first opportunities for planting come, and not find nurseries sold out.
Then come days in late April when the warmth of the air and soil surprise you like a miracle. Looking under the natural mulch of the meadow, or that of last year's garden, you find the soil has thawed and tiny green leaves are sprouting. That's when the gardener's heart within you begins to quicken. One native you may want to start with is the Umbelliferae family, which appears early and vigorously. Late April is the time to plant the domestic relatives in this family: parsley, carrots, and parsnips. Domestic varieties take all summer to mature, though carrots can be thinned and enjoyed the latter half of the summer. Fennel, similar in appearance to the wild whisk broom parsley, also takes all summer to mature and should be planted as early as possible. It is a licorice–like herb which flowers in June, and its leaves are great for salad and vegetable seasoning. You might say that its stalks and bases are a sort of Rocky Mountain celery.
Next there are leaf lettuce, spinach, turnips, and radishes, all of which will grow vigorously under a mulch through the snows and frosts of May and early June. Everything but the turnips will be going to seed by mid-July, so plan to make a second planting.
Leaf lettuce and endive are related to many edible wild species of thistles and dandelions that flourish in high, gassy meadows and along roadsides of the Rockies. Lamb's-quarters, a wild herb, is similar to spinach and springs up in disturbed soil at high altitudes. I weed it sparingly from my garden since it is delicious steamed or in salads.
Onion and garlic sets are also best started very early, while onion plants, like cabbage and broccoli (which must be started indoors and set out as plants to mature in the short growing season), are better set out when the possible wintry days of May have passed. That is also when you plant beet seeds . . . after the soil has warmed up a bit.
Sweet peas and edible pod peas have natural equivalents in many wild species (none too edible, some poisonous). Planted with the other early starters, they come up quickly and are rapidly climbing trellises by June. They need to be watered in middle and late summer to keep bearing after the first pods have formed, since they would provide an unpredictable harvest without irrigation.
In mid-May spring still seems far away to the casual observer from lower altitudes. The willow-like catkins of still-leafless aspen trees mature, hang loose on the trees, and fill the air with a white fuzz like gentle snow. But an old, lifelong gardener in our neighborhood assures me that this is the best time to plant potatoes.
Potatoes are not frost resistant, but they are an almost carefree crop with abundant yields even when frost touches down on a mid-August night, leaving behind wilted, dying plants.
A few tips on growing this crop: Buy genuine seed potatoes for stock . . . regular store potatoes have been treated to retard sprouting and will never mature properly. The larger the portion cut for starting, the more potatoes will be produced per plant. Plant the pieces about five inches deep and cover your rows with six inches of straw. In two or three weeks fat shoots of fuzzy leaves push up through the sod, but they must be protected from early June frosts.
Another valuable tuber for high-altitude gardens is the Jerusalem artichoke . . . like a potato, it can be boiled, baked, or fried, and it stores well. It is a close relative of the tall, ragged sunflower that comes up in abundance along mountain roads and ditches, forming thick, yellow borders when it flowers in August. And the Jerusalem artichoke grows almost as naturally, once it is introduced.
You may want to plant a corner of your garden with beds of perennial strawberries, chives, and garlic. Domestic straw berry plants adapt easily to mountain conditions, and wilt strawberries can also be transplanted, and bear more heavily it cultivated. Rhubarb has been introduced by settlers and miners in moist gulches in our neighborhood, and it thrives untended like a weed. I have also established some spearmint plants along the damp runoff from the spring.
Keep your eye on what grows naturally around you. The native flora of the Rocky Mountains is also a good food source, and gives you clues as to what domestic vegetables will adapt best to high-altitude conditions. It also, incidentally, provides natural insect repellents. Once you learn the appearance of these plants in early spring, you can have them in your garden simply by weeding judiciously. Two common herbs that I allow to grow to repel garden insects are chamomile and sage. These can also be useful for tea as well as seasoning.
I have even experimented with a "greenhouse" for growing, vegetables that need more warmth than high altitudes and a gulch location provide. The greenhouse is an A-frame built with used 2 x 4's and covered with plastic. I have grown tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini in it as well as tremendous heads of lettuce and two–week crops of radishes.
Except for vegetables which thrive well outside, such as lettuce, the others have not done well . . . zucchini will not bear heavily inside the greenhouse because of the high humidity and the lack of pollinating insects. Perhaps a more favorable location than mine, one that is on a high, protected west-facing slope, may be better for growing these warm-weather vegetables at unusually high altitudes.
I am also satisfied with crops that grow here like weeds and in abundance. I have sweet lettuce and spinach to share with from the lowlands when it has grown too hot down there for these leafy greens. And the cool nights of the Rock Mountains give the same sweetness found in greens to the peas beets, turnips, cabbage, and other vegetables grown here . . . which, like fresh spring water, refreshes more than the most exotic produce brought in from elsewhere.
The final satisfaction of Rocky Mountain gardening comes in the tawny days of fall, when you dig potatoes, harvest the last of the root crops, and store what remains in cardboard boxes of sawdust or straw, to be stowed under the beds it unheated backrooms. Then you dry the herbs, and put chives and parsley in pots for your neighbors' kitchen windowsills. Finally, you cover the garden with dry grasses and dead weeds to rest protected till next spring.
As winter then approaches, you may linger outside to observe individual plants and their growth patterns . . . there is always more to be learned about the workings of nature that will be useful to your gardening efforts next year.
The real challenge of Rocky Mountain gardening, you will find, is not so much that of outfoxing nature and the difficult conditions she imposes. Mostly, it lies in harmonizing your efforts with hers for a healthy, abundant, deeply satisfying harvest.
Yikes! Sorry about that folks. All my new paragraphs and extra spaces were deleted in that comment. Very odd and kind of frustrating.
I’m surprised you didn’t include Painted Mountain Corn in your article, or it’s sister sweet corn. It produces reliably in marginal soils at 5,000+ feet within 80-90 day growing seasons and is tough enough to shrug off the typical Rocky Mountain summer storms. My family and I have been growing Painted Mountain Corn seed for a few years now, always encouraging our customers to save their own seed and develop it for the their micro-climate and share with family and community. But I think this summer may be the most important growing season of our lives, and whatever we grow, we’re going to keep to feed the family. We like Painted Mountain Corn for it’s nutrition and calorie content, but Painted Mountain Corn is truly the most beautiful thing I have ever grown. My family and I have been growing Painted Mountain Corn and every year for harvest we try to get as many new people and kids involved as possible. Opening the shucks is like revealing a purse full of jewels. I never tire of the looks of amazement and joy on the faces of both children and parents as they discover the joy of growing this crop. I’m a 25 year old farmer, entrepreneur, physicist and writer born and raised among the snow-capped mountains of Montana. I grew up on an off-the-grid homestead with my brother, raised by my dad–a scientist, historian, entrepreneur, farmer, author, alternative energy expert and passive solar pioneer (he’s never one to brag, so I’ll do it for him). My brother and I went off on scholarships, first to the east coast then to the south for college, but we have since returned to our wild mountains to build our lives and prepare to not only survive, but thrive and pass the torch of civilization to those who will follow us. I know a lot of people only think of sweet corn when corn is mentioned–but sweet corn is a summer vegetable. You can’t sustain your family through the winter on summer veggies, no matter how vitamin-rich and tasty they are. My family has been working towards total food independence for years and with my dad we have the cumulative experience of decades of trying to grow food in extreme climates. Out of necessity we’ve always grown food for sustenance. When you are forced to rely on what you grow for your food year round, the bottom line is calories. Farming your food takes a tremendous amount of energy and anything you can do to reduce energy input and increase calorie output MUST be your top priority. “Forget those romantic notions of a nineteenth century life illumined by the cozy glow of the family circle around the fireplace at night. Been there – done that. It’s OK for a time and a season but I don’t want to repeat it unnecessarily as long as I have a choice. You don’t have to spend all your time and energy scrambling in bare subsistence. In that state, you have no time or energy for anything else…” –New Ordnance “The Secret Weapon” (RockyMountainCorn dot com) For my family the bottom line is grain, legumes, potatoes and winter squash. Add in carrots and turnips and onions for some variety. We’ve tried many different grains, legumes, winter squashes and numerous varieties of root vegetables. YOU MUST GROW VARIETIES ADAPTED FOR YOUR REGION AND CLIMATE. Plants that work well for organic farmers and seed growers in Maine are not the best varieties for a high mountain micro-climate in the northern Rocky Mountains. It seems obvious, but we’ve learned the hard way. Buy seed grown in your region or you are courting disaster. The tried and true garden for my family at 5,000 feet in Montana is (1) Painted Mountain Corn for our grain (Fukushima-free, Non-GMO, non-hybrid, open pollinated, high protein, micro-nutrient, soft starch – go to our website RockyMountainCorn dot com for more info), (2) Progress #9, Early Frosty, and Dakota shell peas & Black Coco, Golden Rocky Bush Wax, and King of the Early dry beans for our legumes, (3) our own local cross between Squisito spaghetti squash and Eight Ball Zucchini that turns out to be a decent tasting winter squash that keeps well and produces incredibly fast and heavy in a short, harsh summer, and (4) Purple Viking potatoes that produce reliably in spite of late and early frosts and poor, gravely soil and constant high wind. Augmenting this garden with deer, elk and trout, we are able to have a balanced diet with enough calories to sustain a high level of activity. For folks who need a little more info on Painted Mountain Corn, what it is, how to grow it, etc. check out RockyMountainCorndotcom 12 Tips for Planting and Crop Reports. From the Rocky Mountain Corn family: “We’re a small family operation in Montana who love to grow things. The climate is challenging, but over the years we’ve settled on a few varieties of vegetables and grains that produce reliably. We discovered Painted Mountain Corn a few years ago and were amazed at its ability to mature in 90 days and produce bountifully where so many other corns have failed. We loved its colors, nutritional value, hardiness and ability to thrive in rocky, marginal soils at higher elevations (we grow at 5,000+ feet). “After 2 years of growing Painted Mountain Corn, we realized it was the perfect grain for small farmers and homesteaders in the Rocky Mountain West and decided to start spreading the seed to help our neighbors become more self-sufficient. When we realized that the supply of Painted Mountain Corn available through most online retailers was only sporadically available, we decided to help increase the availability of this spectacular corn. After growing Painted Mountain Corn, we hope you will be as impressed with it as we have and help spread the word about this magnificent grain. “What is Painted Mountain Corn? Simply put, it’s a corn that grows where no other corn survives. Bred to withstand the harsh climate and short growing season of southwestern Montana, we’ve found that it’s the only corn that will grow and reliably produce at elevations above 5,000 feet in the northern Rocky Mountains. Bred from a variety of semi-extinct western Indian corns, Painted Mountain Corn represents a gene pool with 1,000 years of selection for reliable production in the arid and nutrient-poor soils of the western United States. “Developed as the life’s work of Dave Christensen in Big Timber, Montana, Painted Mountain Corn has been successfully grown in marginal climates and depleted soils around the world (North Korea, Siberia, South Africa), largely through the efforts of the Seed We Need Project*. With a proven record in climates with marginal growing seasons around the world, Dave Christensen has created a super-corn that thrives where even barley and other cereal grains have difficulty. “Having tried a number of hybrid fast-maturing corn varieties over the years without success, we were a little skeptical when we first planted Painted Mountain corn several years ago. Living at an elevation of 5,000 ft. on a wind-swept hillside with dusty alkaline soil that routinely saw 30 mph winds and less than 11 inches of rainfall per year, our expectations were low. To our surprise, the corn came up early June, shrugged off hail storms, cold night temperatures and hot daytime winds to produce on average 2 beautiful ears of corn per plant in late August/early September. We had done our best to prepare the soil beforehand, water once a day and weed when the corn was small–efforts that paid off when we were rewarded with a bounty of rainbow-colored ears. Somehow, Painted Mountain Corn had succeeded where all other corns had failed. “Bred for its soft starches, high protein content (comparable to hard red winter wheat) and anti-oxident pigmentation (anthocyanins etc.), Painted Mountain Corn offers more than just calories–it offers easily digestible nutrition unavailable in other corn varieties. What’s more, being Fukushima Free, non-GMO, heirloom, and open pollinated means that seed-saving for Painted Mountain Corn is a reliable way to propagate from year-to-year. “In our experience, Painted Mountain Corn is fun to grow, harvest and eat, and is also a reliable way to efficiently produce a high-calorie grain with limited space and no mechanized equipment. The ears snap off easily when they’re dry, and can be easily husked and shelled with minimal equipment (a hand-held aluminum popcorn sheller from Lehman’s does the trick nicely), then ground into flour with a hand-crank grain mill (or even a blender!). What’s more, livestock enjoy the sugary leaves and the low-cellulose stems, making the feed-to-meat conversion more efficient compared to other varieties of corn. “We hope that you’ll give Painted Mountain Corn a try and let us know how it does for you. Our seed is organically grown in southwestern Montana at elevations above 5,000 feet, and is free from cross-pollination by other varieties. It is GMO-free and Fukushima-free. “Check out our website: RockyMountainCorndotcom “If you would like to learn more about the development of Painted Mountain Corn and its implementation around the world, please visit the Dave Christensen* web site at SeedWeNeeddotcom “*While we love and grow Painted Mountain Corn, we have no affiliation or endorsement from Dave Christensen or the Seed We Need project. Please consider making a donation to support his corn breeding work and the Seed We Need Project”
I too live in the high mountains of colorado and am learning to garden in a gulch with lots of wind and have not done too well. I am at a altitude of 9200 feet. How high are you?
Alaska Planting Zones
Known to be the coldest state in the nation, Alaska has a surprisingly wide range of climates. From ice cap to tundra to cold semi-arid to warm summer humid continental and everything in between, there is not just one way to describe the state, but Alaska planting zones are not quite as diverse. Some parts of Alaska have very long, very cold, harsh winters and short cooler summers. The southeast portion of the state is much warmer and wetter, and it is actually the only part of the state that has a daytime high of above-freezing-averages during the winter months. There are also more mild regions, including Anchorage and the southern central parts of the state.
If you are planning a garden in Alaska, before shopping for plants, flowers or vegetables, you want to first find out what Alaska growing zone you live in. This is critical in ensuring you plant a garden that grows and thrives through the season. Using Gilmour’s Interactive Planting Zone Map to find your zone is simple and easy. The Alaska planting zones could range anywhere from 1a through 8b. It is a bit more difficult to grow in Alaska, but as long as the climate, shorter than normal growing season and poorer soil conditions are known challenges, it is easy to modify planting practices to accommodate and overcome any of them. The most important part is choosing plants that are rated for which of the Alaska growing zones you are in or lower. For example, if planting in zone 4a, any plant rated 1 through 4 will be likely to survive climate conditions.
Despite the cold, there are a number of flowers that will do quite well in Alaska. Monkshood, Fireweek, forget-me-not and salmonberry are all good options for flowers that can withstand the cold and sometimes-harsh conditions of the region. In terms of vegetables, a surprising number of veggies will grow well there, too. Beets, cabbage, chard, dill and turnips are just a few that are fine to grow even though it is so cold.
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