At Home in Nature

  (Agate, Colorado)
TwoInTents Blog
[ Member listing ]

Plant early, plant often

Soil temperature and air temperature are very important for your planting decision. Here are guidelines from the Alabama Cooperative Extension…

The general relationship between days until seedling emergence and percent germination is inverse. What this means is that considering the optimal temperature for planting seeds, you will want to tend to plant too early instead of too late: the seeds will germinate best when the temperature is ideal, and trusting them to the ground when you have few birds or other creatures who will dig up the seeds is intelligent. Planting extra as precaution against this predation is also advisable. 

We offer affordable seed packets, sometimes for as low as $0.20 each.  And they have more seeds than those you'd get at the store!


A difference of altitude, change of attitude

Farming in high altitude up on the Palmer Divide at 6000 feet and delivering in low - well, Denver - altitude at 5000 feet requires an understanding of the effects of altitude if you're not going to get a bad attitude.

High altitude is good for crops.  Cool nights and hot days means high sugar for crops, less pests, less disease and clean air.  Not to mention clearer stars, but I am still not sure that affects crops very much.

But high altitude means a later start in the spring and an earlier end in the autumn.  Guess you can’t have it both ways, high quality and long lasting.

We keep fields in Denver also so that we have a very long season.  For example down in Denver right now, the apples are in full blossom, but up here, they are actually just starting to bud.  So, we harvest the apple blossoms down hill and by the time that season is nearly over, we are in season up here!  So, instead of two to three weeks of delicious teas, we can offer three to six weeks!

The tricks of making greenhouses and hoop houses to extend seasons works well, but is expensive.  More expensive than employing an extra 1000 feet of earth’s atmosphere.  Down hill, our greenhouses and hoop houses work two to five weeks later on average than our greenhouses and hoop houses up hill.

With global warming, we are now able to grow bamboo and other delicious, nutritious crops that we couldn’t dream of growing even ten years ago.  But we are also no longer able to get a satisfactory fava crop or other crops that like the cold.  Up hill, these crops are still possible, but it is becoming difficult at best down hill.

Down hill, where we are, also means more pollution.  The city is quite polluted by vehicles, factories and, quite frankly, even medical marijuana facilities.  From the dust made by raking leaves to the children running through dusty baseball diamonds, the human beings down in town make a lot of pollution.  This isn’t to say that the animals and plants don’t also.  Pollen is a big pollutant, but generally affects food less than our human pollution, which goes into the soil and into the plant easier.

The soil is different downhill than uphill, the water tastes different: these affect flavor too.  Some of the best water in the world – by taste tests – can be found in Eldorado Canyon near Boulder.  City water tastes different than natural waters, but while Denver Water can’t compete with the natural waters of Eldorado, it is still renowned for its flavor.  Our well water up on top of the hill imparts a flavor to the food that is different.  Maybe better, maybe worse (depending on your tastes), but different.  Our animals like the well water better than the waters in town, for what it matters.

But before you think we spend too much on gas, I’ll tell you that our downhill crops are on automatic watering systems, and require less attention: we only see them on delivery days.  We plant, and stay out until it’s time to pay the rent.

But we do, much better, enjoy owning land.  Ownership means no landowner to mow your crops on accident or on purpose, no landowner to steal your tools on purpose or… well, she knew they were ours.  It is easier to protect against folks grazing their animals on your land at night.  A thousand horrors await a tenant farmer.  Even with good landowners, we are more inclined to plant trees on our own land.  For that matter, we don’t have to ask permission.

Neither uphill or downhill is better, but having a farm that is both uphill and downhill is better than having only one. 



Tree planting tips

Any time the ground is not frozen is a good time to plant trees.  Provide extra water in the wintertime, and extra mulch, though.  As always, mulch at the bottom of the hole, in the middle (half way up) and again on top of the surface.  Then cover the top mulch with a layer of soil.  Mulches include old leaves, hay, straw, rocks about the size of your fist, and in some places seashells or other soil modifiers.  Old leaves are best!


A handful or five of ashes in the bottom of the hole dresses the bottom mulch.  A dressing of stale urine (aged more than 6 months until it ferments and becomes less acidic) or composted manures is a helpful treat to the middle mulch layer, but make sure it is well aged or you'll burn the plant.  But dressings are not necessary.


Trees require tillage like any other crop, and should be planted in east/west rows in Colorado to shade the hot summer sun and break the cold north wind. 


Planting dates aside, it is never too early to dig the tree hole: dig it now, fill it with leaves or straw and let it compost for a little while.  It'll ripen just in time for the trees!  Then stir it by pulling it out to plant the tree and backfill with a little bit of ashes or your favorite dressings.  You may like the smell of lilacs, but you'll be more excited about the fungi, viruses, retroviruses and bacterias you'll smell this winter, I promise!

RSS feed for At Home in Nature blog. Right-click, copy link and paste into your newsfeed reader