High Altitude Gardening

High altitude gardening is one of those subjects that’s difficult to give any hard and fast rules for. Some high altitudes are extremely exposed and at the mercy of the wind, while others can be relatively sheltered. Although strong winds can be a real problem, exposed sites that are prone to them may not suffer so badly from frost, so it can be a case of swings and roundabouts.

Although it possibly doesn’t seem very helpful, I think the best attitude to adopt is ‘suck it and see’. In other words try different things and see what does and doesn’t work. After all it’s how all gardeners discover how to get the very best from their own plot.

High Altitude Gardening

If strong winds are a problem consider using wind break fabric or planting a native hedge to lessen the impact. (If you decide upon a hedge, bear in mind shading and space – what starts as a little spindly stick may be taking up two metres or more of precious space within a few years and you will have to prune it).

When reading up on sowing times and you’re told you can sow between February to April – always choose April! The earlier month is aimed at people who live in warmer areas.

Stock up on horticultural fleece to quickly throw over beds if there’s a frost – this could be in springtime or autumn.

Choose varieties of vegetables that mature quickly, rather than the much longer to grow maincrops (especially carrots!)

Save up and buy a greenhouse or polytunnel. This really is worth considering. Ours transformed the amount and variety of veg we are able to grow. If you haven’t got the space or cash, consider using cloches.

Start seedlings off indoors, giving them a head start so you can plant them outside as soon as it’s warm enough.

Make sure you’re lashings are tight on any supports as the wind is quite likely to test them

I agree that hedges are really useful, but an important point the author doesn’t make is that not only do they act as a windbreak but they also warm up the air temperature on their leeward side.This is because, unlike a solid barrier like a wall, the wind can blow through a hedge, and as it does so the friction acts to warm the air up.

But if you are going to plant a hedge you obviously need to think carefully about where you plant it. It needs to go at right angles to the direction of the prevailing wind. Think also about how high to let it grow; too high and it could cast a long shadow depriving your vegetables of sunlight for much of the day. But too low and it won’t provide an effective enough windbreak. I suggest a happy medium is about 5 foot high, which shouldn’t be too unmanageable when it comes to trimming it.

High altitude gardening certainly throws up a lot of challenges that lowland gardeners never have to even think about. But it can still be rewarding and worthwhile.

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