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How To Start Gardening High Country

Posted by Susanna Haynie on April 29, 2016

high country gardening

High Country Gardening

Living in the High Country has it’s beauty – and it’s challenges, especially when it comes to gardening and landscaping. Choosing plants and trees for your yard, when you live at a high altitude, that will grow well can be like playing darts while blind-folded. Colorado Springs is not an easy place to grow anything. Varying terrains, high winds, thin air, intense sun, acidic soil, late/early frosts, lack of rain, and nutrient-lacking soil in the High Country stand between you and the yards on the magazine covers. However, armed with the right tools and knowledge you can have a lovely garden or landscaping that works well with our high altitude climate. Hidden in the Rocky Mountains are numerous native plants and trees that thrive and will give you a beautiful landscape. The wildflowers of Colorado are gorgeous, stunning, and can be a great addition to your yard that will last for years. All it takes is a little research and knowledgable professionals to give you advice.

High country garden wildflowers

Wildflowers in Grand Lake, CO

Springtime makes just about everyone giddy with excitement in anticipation for a green and colorful Summer. Nurseries and the big box home improvement stores are stocked full right now and are flooded with weekend warriors piling carts high with brightly colored plants. Without thinking, most of us make our plant choices based on aesthetics rather than what will grow well. It’s pretty in the pot – so we buy it. But, are you tired of brown lawns and flowers that stop blooming or die within a few weeks? If you want a lasting, environmentally-friendly yard, it would be wise to take the time to find someone knowledgeable about the area. We’ve included a few recommendations below because we are not professionals by any stretch of the imagination.

Consult with a local nursery

There are several nurseries in the area that offer expert advice. We like Phelan Gardens on the east side of town and Rick’s Garden Center on the westside. Timberline Landscaping has a wonderful blog with very helpful information. Any of these professionals can help you determine what plants will be best based on your soil, the direction your yard is facing, terrain, etc. The people that own and work at small, local nurseries live here, they understand the varying conditions that the high altitude presents, they are the best resource of information. Save the flowers at the big box stores for your indoor potted plants or container gardens.

You’ll find living here that once you have a plant that is somewhat drought resistant and grows well even in elevation, deer will love them too. In Colorado Springs deer are everywhere, and while they are fun to watch, once they are eating your flowers the love dies.

Prepare your soil

No matter what you are planting: sod, flowers, vegetables, trees – in Colorado Springs your soil will need to be prepared. Much of the soil up here is full of granite, is acidic, and lacks nutrients. Nutrients will need to be added to the soil no matter what and mulch is required to keep the moisture in the soil from quickly evaporating (the result of the thin, dry air). A raised flower/garden bed is always a good idea. To find out what nutrients your soil needs, visit a local nursery.



courtesy: Colorado State University

The city of Colorado Springs has an amazing resource for its residents: a sample xeriscape garden and free classes all Spring/Summer long! Water is an issue in Colorado Springs. We have been fortunate to have had a couple of years that brought drought-relief, however, it is more the norm to have water restrictions and brown lawns. A fabulous way to conserve water and have a beautiful yard is with Xeriscaping: It utilizes native plants, low-water plants, and other alternatives to water-guzzling sod. I personally love green grass, but I don’t need every square inch of my yard covered in it. Reduce the square footage of sod in your yard and add beautiful xeriscaping that features some of our native plants like Mexican Feather Grass, Yarrow, Mojave Sage, Indian Paintbrush, Columbine – and hundreds of other options available to you.

Container Gardeningcontainer gardening

Maybe you are not a fan of xeriscaping or you haven’t been able to grow the kind of garden you have wanted to. Here’s my solution: container gardening. It is perfect if you live in a small space such as an apartment or condo or you don’t like the look of xeriscaping. It is easy and you have the ability to grow a wide variety of plants and vegetables. It’s also great if you have a creative side because you can use just about anything as a container for your garden. Look for old barrels, metal tubs, boots, and baskets. I love container gardening because you can create small, large, or massive containers, decorate them, put them just about anywhere: Group them together, put on a patio or a porch, line a driveway, create a barrier…the ideas are endless (I feel a Pinterest urge coming on! I’d love to follow you, you can follow me here.). Another benefit is protection from the early summer hail storms. We can’t avoid them, happens every year, but with smaller containers you can easily pull them under a porch or into your garage to protect them from the storm.

Community Gardens

Did you know that Colorado Springs has several community gardens?! Novice or expert, anyone is welcome to join. Not only do you have access to soil that has been prepared and ready for veggies or flowers, you have the benefit of gardening alongside several others who can share their knowledge. Each one requires a small fee to join their community but it is well worth it. Here are the community gardens we are aware of:

  • Bear Creek Garden Association: Located on 2 acres in Bear Creek Regional Park off of 21st street. Surrounded by fence and suited with water pipes and faucets. Info here
  • Duckwood Community Garden Info here
  • Fire Station 21 Community Garden. Info here
  • Harlan Wolfe Ranch Community Garden Info here
  • Harrison Urban Gardens:  Info here
  • Mid Shooks Run Community Garden Info here
  • Mill Street Gardens: Mill Street and Cascade. (no contact info was found)
  • Old Colorado City Community Garden: Located at the Westside Community Center on 17th and Pikes Peak. Organic gardening. Contact Elise Miller at 614.315.3507 for information.
  • Ranch Community Garden: 4625 Ranch Dr., 80918.  www.ranchcommunitygarden.com
  • Vermijo Garden.  Vermijo and 27th Street (no contact info was found)

Interested in knowing more about living in high altitude? :

Armed with the right know-how, you can have an amazing garden and yard – even in the high and dry country of Colorado Springs. We hope this information is helpful in getting you started. We would also love to help you buy or sell a home in the Colorado Springs area. Contact us at agentsusanna@gmail.com.

4 thoughts on “How To Start Gardening High Country

  • Louanne Johnson
    on October 14, 2021

    Am interested in renting a plot for Spring 2022 at Harrison Urban Gardens and have been unable to locate any opportunity to sign up. Can you help with this?
    Thank you

  • Frederick Morrison
    on January 29, 2022

    My wife and I are retired, relocating to Colorado Springs or Monument in March, and looking to buy our forever home later this year. I will want low maintenance, low water, drought tolerant native plants installed. Are there people who specialize in that type of landscaping we can hire once we decide where we will buy?

    • Sarah Steen
      on January 29, 2022

      Hi Frederick,

      It sounds like the type of landscaping you’re interested in is xeriscaping and most landscapers in town would be able to help you with that as it is quite popular in our drought prone region. Just keep in mind that HOAs have varying rules about landscaping, especially for front yards. We sent you an email with more detailed information and resources for your upcoming move!

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