Against the scenic background of the Rocky Mountains, the rural community of Berthoud lies on the high Colorado plain 25 miles north of Denver. The climate of the area is mild and dry with only 17 inches of rainfall per year on average. Like the rest of Colorado, the sun shines most of time in Berthoud, usually about 300 days a year. However, this does not mean life is easy for area vegetable gardeners. Due to the mile-high elevation, unexpected frosts and cold summer nights can thwart the efforts of even the most experienced gardener. The area is classified as plant hardiness zone 5 with a growing season of 150 days on average.
Select an exposed area of the yard to grow your vegetables. The garden will need six to eight hours of sunlight daily. Mark the corners of a small plot using wooden stakes and tie string around the outside. If this is your first try at growing vegetables, keep the plot small and expand as you learn. Remove any lawn turf by cutting it into small sections with a spade and lifting it out with a garden fork.
Turn the soil to loosen the top four to six inches using the spade or a hoe. Remove the corner stakes and string. Cover the bare soil with four to six inches of compost or manure and allow the plot to sit for a few days before planting.
Draw an outline of the plot to plan the garden arrangement. For a small garden, choose vegetables that need less room such as lettuce, onions, carrots, beets and celery. The rows for smaller vegetables can be spaced 18 to 24 inches apart. More advice on what vegetables to grow and how to arrange them is available from your local Colorado State University Extension office. The Larimer County office is in Fort Collins and can be contacted at 970-498-6000.
Dig in the compost or manure to mix it well with the soil. Rake the plot level. Using your drawing as a guide, place stakes at the ends of the rows and tie string between them. Make a mound of soil about six inches high along the length of each row. Read the directions on each seed package and plant according to the depth and spacing instructions. Cold-hardy vegetables such as peas, onions, lettuce, radish and spinach are planted first, usually the first week of April.
Water your garden early in the morning. Vegetables need 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water each week. Use your hoe to remove weeds as they appear. When your vegetables start to grow, examine the foliage for any signs of disease or insect damage. Your local county extension office can offer information on what to do if problems arise.