Vegetable gardening can be incredibly rewarding, but can be a little tricky if your garden is at a slightly higher elevation than the typical garden. If you’re at a high elevation and are looking to have thriving vegetables, be sure to grow vegetables that will thrive at high altitudes.
But how do you know which vegetables will thrive at higher altitudes? We’ve rounded up eight vegetables so you don’t have to! Here are the veggies we recommend to stock in your garden if you’re higher above sea level than average, typically an elevation of 5,000 feet or more.
How to Care for Vegetables at High Altitude
Due to a higher altitude, temperatures are often cooler when the sun is down. Because of this, the frost season lasts longer and it’s usually not until after Memorial Day in May when these elevations will experience the last frost of the season.
To have the most success growing vegetables at these higher altitudes, it’s recommended to wait to plant outside until after the ground temperature rises after Memorial Day.
Because of this, it’s best to pick vegetables with a shorter growing season so they can thrive before the temperature drops in the fall.
Here are eight vegetables with shorter growing seasons to have success at higher altitudes. These tend to be leafy greens and root vegetables.
Beets: Hardy and Delicious
For the home gardener, the number of variety of beets are plentiful! Some examples of beets are Detroit Dark Red, Sangria, and Sweetheart. Most of these mature in less than 60 days’ time.
- The soil’s ph should be anywhere from 6 to 6.8 in order for the beets to grow as best they can. A quick ph test of your soil will tell you whether or not you’ll need to add ph balancing fertilizer before planting.
Benefits of Beets:
- Beets are great for keeping blood pressure in check, may help fight inflammation, and may improve digestive health.
Beets can be incorporated into salads, roasted in the oven, boiled and sauced with balsamic vinegar, or even made into beet wine if you so desire!
Pole Beans Are Healthy and Fight Depression
Pole beans are a great addition to your garden, as they grow upright and can take up very little surface area of your garden.
- Soak your pole bean seeds in warm water for 30-45 minutes before planting, as this will help with germination.
Benefits of Pole Beans:
- For child-bearing age women, iron-rich foods have been linked to increased fertility. In addition to pole beans, other iron-rich vegetables include spinach, pumpkins, and other beans.
- Beans are high in folate, whereas a good level of folate has been linked to aiding depression symptoms.
For a wide, flat bean, you can choose the Northeaster variety; for a long and slender pole bean, you can plant the Fortex variety; for higher heats, a yard-long may be your best choice.
Carrots: The Classic High Altitude Standby Veggie
Carrots are another great option for growing at high altitudes because of the varieties and their general hardiness.
- Carrots need moist, well-drained loose soil for the best growing conditions! Ideally, the soil should be about one foot in depth to allow plenty of room for the carrot to develop while in the ground. Be sure your soil is free of any large twigs or rocks, as well.
Benefits of Carrots:
- Carrots are rich in antioxidants, which are great for eye health.
- Carrots are heart-healthy! Also due to the rich antioxidants, carrots promote decreased blood pressure and healthy weight, both of which are great for the heart.
Some of the most popular varieties of carrots include Danvers, Nantes, Imperator, Chantenay, and Ball.
Cucumbers Can Grow at High Altitudes Well
Cucumbers are a great one to grow fresh, and to grow in order to can for pickles. If you’re looking to do the latter, be sure to grow a variety that is intended for pickling, for best results!
- Space your cucumbers 36 to 60 inches apart. They might not look like much when they are plant starts, but cucumbers spread out drastically and can take up quite a bit of room!
- Cucumbers thrive in weather above 70 degrees, so plant when the weather turns warm, and don’t wait too long – if the weather gets cold near the end of the growing season, you may lose out on prime cucumber harvest time!
Benefits of Cucumbers:
- Cucumbers are rich in vitamin K, which promotes healthy bones and prevents blood clotting.
Like mentioned above, be sure to plant the type that matches what you plan to do with them. Pickling varieties will be labeled as such, while normal cucumbers won’t do so well in a brine.
Lettuce Is a High Altitude Staple
Lettuce is a staple of any home vegetable garden, and the good news is the growing season is short and therefore thrives in high altitude gardens.
- Start your lettuce in small pots, and start multiple seeds in the same pot. Once they’re grown a few inches, you can transplant and space your seeds in your garden. This way, you’re not banking on small seeds that may not develop.
Benefits of Lettuce:
- Because lettuce is low in calories and high in water, lettuce promotes a healthy weight.
- Lettuce is high in fiber, which helps remove salts and bile from the body.
For some variety, grow a little of different types, such as green leaf, Romaine, or red leaf.
All Three Types of Peas Grow in High Altitude
Peas are another high-altitude garden essential! There are three basic types of pea: English peas, snow peas, and sugar snap peas. English peas must fill out before harvesting, and have the plumpest appearance.
Snow peas are relatively flat in appearance with small peas in the pods, and sugar snap peas fall in the middle of the two.
- Pea plants like fertile, well-drained soil with abundant sunshine, and soil rich in nutrients.
Benefits of Peas
- Peas are rich in iron! If you suffer from iron-deficient anemia, peas are an excellent option to add to your diet. If your iron levels get too low, your body has a hard time being able to create enough red blood cells to carry all the oxygen you need.
One of the hardest things about growing peas at high altitudes is maintaining the soil nutrient level, as mountain soil is usually hard, rocky, and quite nutrient sparse.
You can improve your soil by tilling in compost or specific nutrient rich fertilizer.
Potatoes: Boil Them, Mash Them, Stick Them in a Stew
Potatoes are another incredibly versatile option for your garden due to the vast varieties available to grow!
- Since the potatoes grow underground, be sure to plant in loose soil so they have the space to develop.
- Potatoes grow in bursts, so don’t skimp on the spacing between plants!
Benefits of Potatoes
- Some research supports that potatoes may help fight inflammation and constipation.
- Potatoes are rich in vitamin B6, which plays a role in energy metabolism by breaking down carbohydrates and proteins and turning them into glucose and amino acids.
You can grow large russet potatoes, golden or russet potatoes, red potatoes, or a variety of smaller options, depending on your preferences and space.
Radishes: Hardy and Easy to Grow, Even at High Altitude
Radishes are an incredibly underrated option to add to your garden! You don’t need to get too fancy with your radish varieties, and radishes are relatively easy to grow from such hardy seeds.
- Avoid fresh manure and fertilizers high in nitrogen when it comes to this soil, as it will encourage lush foliage at the expense of crispy and tasty radishes.
- If you don’t space each seed individually to begin with, thin the plants to three-inch spacings once they’ve reached two inches tall. If you skip this step, the roots may end up shriveled and inedible.
Benefits of Radishes
- Due to certain compounds radishes contain, this vegetable helps the liver detoxify and heal against damage.
- Rich in antioxidants, calcium, and potassium, radishes help keep your blood pressure low.
Radishes are widely known as one of the fastest and easiest vegetables to grow for the home gardener, so if you grow anything, grow radishes!
Growing Vegetables at High Altitudes
With such a wide variety of vegetables that can grow and even thrive in high altitude gardens, you have a plethora of options.
Keeping a small garden is not only a good way to relax, but it also means you can have fresh veggies when they would have otherwise had to be shipped in from lower altitudes.