Growing food in the short season, high-altitude conditions of the Wood River Valley requires planning. Your growing beds need six to 10 hours of full sunlight, with partial late-afternoon shade to protect from a scorching sun. A wind break on the west side can help avoid the drying and cooling factor of the wind. An adjacent wall or other heat-retaining structure will allow for warmer soil during early spring, late fall, and cool nights. A soil thermometer can help you locate micro-climates in your yard. Avoid low areas where cold air and water tend to collect.
During winter, gardeners select their seeds and plan seeding, planting, transplanting, harvesting and rotation schedules. Choose cool-season, adapted seeds and varieties that mature early. Start your plants indoors to get a head start on warm-season vegetables. Use soil-warming techniques and devices for optimum germination and growing conditions. Assemble your hardware (tools, trellises, accessories).
Short-season gardeners need the best soil possible to develop crops quickly. Adding organic matter, such as such as homemade compost, helps loosen the soil, buffers acidity (pH), and increases water retention, plant nutrition and fertility. Making your own compost is very rewarding and gives the best results.
Covering exposed soil with mulch will conserve moisture; protect beneficial soil micro-organisms; increase, maintain or moderate soil temperatures; and reduce weed growth. Choose a mulch that will maintain the available nitrogen in the soil, such as a thin fabric, plastic film, organic clippings, or mature compost.
Sign up for a free series of gardening classes starting March 27 and hosted by Upper Big Wood River Grange, The Hunger Coalition, and University of Idaho Extension. For class information and to register, contact Sarah Busdon at (208) 788-5585 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by the Extension Office at 302 1st Avenue South in Hailey.
Plant, grow and eat healthy!