A garden in the mountains, instructions for use

A garden in the mountains, instructions for use

You live in the mountains and wish to have a garden decorated with fruit trees, climbing plants, decorative plants and even a vegetable garden ... The exercise seems laborious given the climatic constraints and the peculiarities of the relief and quality of the earth. It is true that gardening at altitude is more complex than in the plain or in the valley, but with a good knowledge of the environment and a selective choice of species, you can easily afford a beautiful garden.

Gardening in the mountains: adapting to the climate

The mountain climate characterizes all the French reliefs: Vosges, Jura, Massif Central, Alps and Pyrenees. We speak of mountain climate from an altitude of around 600 m. When the terrain is exposed to the north, mountain conditions are encountered from 500 m. But on the reliefs exposed to the south, it sometimes takes 800 m to find these conditions. In the mountains, winters are particularly long and harsh and rainfall is generally high, snowy in winter. Jellies can be early (sometimes as early as September) or late. The summer season is marked by a high thermal amplitude and thunderstorms. The summers are more or less dry depending on the mountain range. Rainfall is more abundant than in the plains. The effects of cold are often accentuated by winds and humidity (runoff, fog and stagnant clouds). In any season, the relief has the effect of creating local winds which go up or down the valleys in the evenings and mornings. For this, it is necessary to protect the most fragile plants with hedges or plant them under the shelter of a wall and finally, it is necessary to ensure that you have a well-draining soil. Similarly, the differences between day and night temperatures can be significant. This is the reason why care must be taken to keep the plants' feet warm. As for the snow, it certainly prevents all work in the garden, but it forms a cover against frost, which is well suited to many plants including earth bulbs (onions, shallots but also tulips ...). In the mountains, the good season for gardening begins at the end of May and ends at the beginning of October (but beware of early frosts!).

Gardening in the mountains: the constraints of the soil

The soil has very specific characteristics in the mountains. First of all, you have to deal with the relief. The slope is omnipresent. It is therefore necessary to create more comfortable and easy to use flat spaces. To make a vegetable garden supposes, generally, to create "terraces", ie reservoirs, planes, of ground. The earth is maintained by various means: retaining walls, formwork boards, plessis, etc. This solution can also be applied to ornamental gardens. But it is also possible to deal with the terrain and take advantage of, for example, a slope, by cultivating ground cover shrubs, alpine plants and perennial plants adapted to this type of relief. On a significant slope, we will opt for the planting of ground cover species whose roots stabilize the soil. For example, choose perennials such as geraniums, lavenders and daisies in sunny situations. In the shade, prefer the meadowsweet, beards of goats, ferns and lizards. On the shrub side, the potentilles, cotoneaster and spirea are deeply rooted.
After the relief, the quality of the land is to be taken into account. The soils are sometimes shallow, poor and prone to acidity. But it is good to check the pH because the earth can be both acidic and alkaline. Acid soil thus harbors lupins, bellflowers, knotweed, digital or benoît. The limestone soils host asters, buttercups, helianthemes, forget-me-nots as well as the famous edelweiss. When setting up terraces or squares, it may be necessary to apply good soil, especially for the vegetable garden, while the ornamental garden will accommodate less demanding plants adapted to mountainous terrain. . Alpine plants have very specific architectures which allow them to withstand the cold. So, especially not excessive fertilizers, which would make the plants more vulnerable to cold. To maintain the soil, just add compost from time to time, the addition of nitrogen alone is totally prohibited.

A garden in the mountains: which plants to choose?

Although conditions can be harsh in the mountains, a large number of species thrive there. The choice of cultivated plants is wide enough for everyone to find happiness: bergenia, mountain centaury, crocus, delphinium, willowherb, iris, lily, narcissus, stonecrop, primrose, tulip ... but also the flowers that grow spontaneously in these environments , such as bellflowers, crocuses, wild daffodils, lupins, spring snowflakes ...
Choose plants whose growth cycle stops clearly in winter. Anything that fears late frosts should be avoided, otherwise you will suffer every spring.

An ornamental garden in the mountains

As far as perennials are concerned, the most solid are among others columbines, asters, perennial blueberries (Centaurea montana) bellflowers and cinquefoils. You can also opt for anemone, artemisia, poppy, blue flax, chives, tarragon, thyme, savory, white lupine… Plants and plants capable of growing and flowering in no time annuals are predestined for mountain gardens. However, only the most rustic, such as cosmos, sunflowers (Helianthus) and the zinnias adapt to the thermal amplitude between day and night. Some, like marigolds, acclimatize so that they spontaneously thicken to the point of becoming invasive. From April, proceed to sowing under cover of annuals with a long culture, such as petunias, begonias or queens-daisies. A month later, transplant the seedlings in pots and install them in the ground as soon as the risk of frost is eliminated. During this same period (mid-May), sow directly in place the rustic annuals like carnations and roses of India, alysses, nasturtiums, coreopsis, forecastle or tobacco, and plant the summer bulbs, such as the gladioli and dahlias . As for shrubs, choose from the many berry species, such as holly (especially Michigan holly, which loses its leaves in winter but is very decorative in fruit), elderberries, dogwoods, barberries (Berberis), cotoneaster, snowball viburnum, mountain ash ... Or hawthorn, heather, hydrangea shrub, rough rose, honeysuckle, spirea. And no reason not to take advantage of beautiful fruit trees: cherry, raspberry, mulberry, apple, pear ... which adapt perfectly to the altitude. If you want to plant trees, bet on local species such as hazel, beech and birch, which are best suited to the altitude. Walnut, on the other hand, does not give good results above 800 m. And of course, don't forget the conifers: spruce, pine, yew, fir, cedar…

In the mountains, which vegetables to grow?

Short-lived, the summer season requires a careful selection of vegetables to grow. Choose early, fast-growing varieties that can bear fruit over a short period. However, the choice of early varieties is not always sufficient. Sometimes you have to use a few devices, such as growing under cover or buying young plants, an effective way to save a few weeks. In the garden, you will reserve the best location for vegetables: an area sheltered from the wind and exposed to the sun. Beet, chard, cardoon, carrot, broccoli or Brussels sprouts, headed cabbage, kohlrabi, squash, spinach, broad bean, lettuce, lamb's lettuce, turnip, onion, leek (fall and winter), potato, radish… You're spoiled for choice! Regarding cucumber, squash, zucchini, tomato or pepper ... they must be planted on a sunny slope knowing that the harvest of tomatoes and peppers will be shortened. To save time, buy plants in a garden center. And if you want to sow, the greenhouse is a must! video id = "0" / Our practical gardening videos