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If your growing season is 60 days, you need some tricks.

It was mid-June--officially almost summer--but in Aspen, Colorado, the novice gardener who went by the calendar was crestfallen. All 45 of his promising tomato seedlings, planted with care in the community vegetable garden just the day before, had frozen during the night into blade sticks. "It's something we always face," consoled an experienced Aspen gardener. "If you want to grow vegetables up here, you've got to use a few tricks." Protecting tender plants

At an elevation of nearly 8,000 feet, gardeners have at best a 60-day growing season, mid-June to mid-August--with even then the possibility of a few frosty nights. To raise vegetables here, gardeners must protect plants against the cold. Anywhere in the cold-winter West, you can stretch your season with the help of these plant shelters:

Coldframe. The one pictured at left is among many variations. You can use any simple frame high enough so small plants don't get cramped; top it with old windows, a sheet of fiberglass--anything sturdy that lets light in. Prop up the top during the day; at night, let it down to seal the plants against the cold. You can take little plants out after a while, or build big frames and keep plants in them all season.

Cloche. Small hut-like shelters are placed each night over plants already growing in the ground. Made of various plastics or glass, they are sold by mail by many garden-supply dealers. Or rig up your own; use gallon jugs with the bottoms cut out; cut pieces of fiberglass or plastic and fold into a tent-like shape; or tack plastic sheeting over a frame made of scrap lumber, stiff wire, or plastic pipe.

Greenhouse. Though a greenhouse is expensive, some gardeners say it's the only reliable way to grow cold-tender crops. Selecting the right vegetables

High-elevation gardeners need to choose vegetables that tolerate some cold or varieties that ripen in about two months.

Appropriate vegetables include asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnips.

Persistent gardeners sometimes succeed with vegetables usually grown at lower elevations when they use short-season varieties--though these can be smaller and less flavorful than ones grown in a warmer climate. The time required for ripening is indicated on the seed packets and in catalog descriptions.

Of the difficult-to-grow vegetables, here are some short-season varieties recommended by gardeners, cooperative extension specialists, and seedsmen: Cantaloupe. Alaska, Flyer, Minnesota Midget, Sweet Granite. Cucumber. Burpless, Bush Crop, Bush Pickle, Euro American, Liberty, National Pickling, Northern Pickling, Patio Pick, Peppi, Saladin, Spacemaster, Strait, Sweet Success, Victory. Eggplant. Dusky, Early Black Egg, Easter Egg. Pepper. Ace, Cubanelle, Early Prolific, Gypsy, Golden Bell, Hungarian Yellow Wax, Karlo. Summer squash. Ambassador, Goldbar, Gold Crest, Scallopini, Zucchini Black. Sweet corn. Earlivee, Early King, Golden Midget, Jazz, Northern Vee, Tom Thumb (popcorn). Tomato. Earliana, Earlibright, Early Sub-Arctic, Fantastic, Floramerica, Gem State, Heinz 2653 (for processing), Ida Gold, New Yorker, Sub-Arctic Plenty, Tiny Tim, Whippersnapper. Watermelon. Garden Baby.
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:May 1, 1984
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