May 5, 2024 - Things to Do

Tips from the experts for planting a Colorado garden

Illustration of a mom tulip hugging a kid tulip bud.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

May signals the start of gardening season in Colorado.

State of play: The average last freeze date in Denver is today, according to the National Weather Service, meaning it's go-time for planting your garden and new landscaping plants.

Yes, but: It's still not easy to garden in Colorado with frequent spring snow storms, low humidity, temperature fluctuations and more climatic challenges. Not to mention, the average growing season is just 155 days in Denver and even shorter in the mountains.

Dig in: When it comes to landscape planting, experts offer three tips to help ensure success.

  • Feature drought-tolerant plants. Native plants are adapted to the state's climate and soil conditions, allowing you to "work with nature" and not against it, Colorado State University experts say. Yarrow, bush sunflowers, bee balm and penstemon are good choices.
  • Make a plan. Certain plants need adequate drainage or soil amendments to thrive, so you'll want to choose the right plants for the right spaces to make the design work, garden expert Betty Cahill writes.
  • Perennials are your friends. A low-maintenance garden that will pop with color year after year relies on perennials. And you can keep it interesting with new plant options, such as pincushion flowers, false indigo and other new plant species.

Between the rows: For gardens, the question is always when to plant certain vegetables and fruits. The best guide is to check daily low temperatures to make sure they are warm enough, experts report.

  • Hardy crops like broccoli, lettuce, spinach, cabbage and more can start two to four weeks before the average last spring frost.
  • Carrots, parsley, potatoes and Swiss chard follow a couple of weeks later.
  • Then, vegetables like squash, beans, corn and cucumbers in the warm season when temperatures reach 70-95°.

The bottom line: If you're new to gardening in Colorado, don't be afraid to ask for help from a neighbor or at the garden store.

Go deeper: Outdoor living trends, pollinator gardens and more

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