CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Top 10 Vegetables to Grow in Colorado


by: Katie Dunker, Statewide Colorado Master Gardener Coordinator and John Murgel, Horticulture Agent; Douglas County, Colorado

It’s May, and that means in much of the state, the official gardening season has begun!  For many people, it wouldn’t be a garden without a few vegetables, and with that in mind, here are ten vegetables we think you have to grow this year!  How did we get to 10, you ask?  We considered general ease of growing, plants that are particularly well suited to one or more climates in Colorado, and veggies that tend to be popular for growing, eating and donating.

 In no particular order...


Harvested Beets
Photo: Yvette Henson

1. Beets.  Because they are a cool-season, frost tolerant crop, beets can grow just about anywhere in the

state.  They’re colorful, durable, and nutrient-dense.  Start beets from seed and be sure to thin the seedlings as they grow to give ample space for beets to develop underground—be sure to eat those thinned plants, though; beet greens (micro- or full grown) are edible too.

2. Summer Squash.  Everyone knows the zucchini, but dozens of varieties of summer squash in all shapes and sizes are available.  Squash plants enjoy warm temperatures, so they won’t do well in mountain communities with a short growing season without some extra effort—but for those of us on the plains, (regardless of slope direction) they are prolific producers.


3. Tomatoes.  Tomatoes have a reputation among some as being garden divas, but so many varieties are available that there’s a tomato for you (almost) regardless of where you live.  Look for short season, cherry varieties if your growing season is short.  Many cultivars were developed specifically for cooler growing conditions. See some northern Colorado options evaluated at


4. Swiss Chard.  Ok, I admit that we’re kind of cheating here, since chard and beets are really the same plant, Beta vulgaris.  Chard varieties were bred specifically for their tasty leaves, though, rather than for a beefy (earthy?) root.  Coming in a wide color range and virtually “bolt-proof” owing to its biennial nature, chard is a charming ornamental vegetable that looks great in a container or in a garden row.

Swiss chard leaves


5. Potatoes.  Potatoes take all year to grow, but the payoff is worth it.  Start in the spring, a few weeks before last frost, and harvest in the fall just before the first frost.  Similar to tomatoes (and in fact a member of the same genus in the Nightshade family), potatoes come in many varieties including some that are adapted to cooler conditions.  Consider growing colors you don’t see in the store, like purple!


6. Snap Peas.  Peas are another great cool-season treat that can be grown just about anywhere across the state.  Eat the new shoots if you’re impatient, or wait to harvest the bounty of sweet pods, perfect for snacking or stir-fries (and kid snacks!)


 7. Onions. 

Photo: Yvette Henson
 Much of Colorado is a steppe climate, and steppes are where onions call home.  Our bulb-ready climate is favorable to these recipe staples.  Grow “slicing” onions from sets or scallions from seed.  If growing onions for the bulb, be sure to choose long-day or day-neutral varieties.

8. Cucumbers.  For fresh eating or pickling, cucumbers make easy, prolific plants.  A wide range of varieties are available, from pigmy to full-length; from round, lemon-yellow balls to long, fuzzy snakes—there’s a cuke for you! 

Green Pumpkin
9. Pumpkins and Winter Squash.  Many people
 quibble about what qualifies as a pumpkin versus a winter squash—and truth be told, they’re the same thing!  (Not that either is a scientific term, but we tend to call anything orange and round a pumpkin and everything else a squash, even though the same three species of plant produce both forms).  Pick a variety that matches your growing season—many small varieties will mature in August if planted in late May or early June.  Pumpkins and winter squash, when fully ripe and “cured,” can keep for months (I once used the same pumpkin on two consecutive Halloweens—a lovely white Cucurbita maxima).


10.  Your Favorite Vegetable.  We know that growing vegetables in Colorado can be a challenge, but we have the resources to help you succeed.  Call your local Extension office, and check out these free resources from CSU Extension:

Romaine Calm and Grow Veggies Poster

Free Registration for the Summer 2022 Growing Vegetables online course Register between May 12 and 26 and receive100% off!  You can access the course materials for a year from registration, so need to rush your gardening wisdom. 

 The Colorado Vegetable Guide. This 67-page booklet contains a growing summary for a wide range of crops.  Available free online. 

 Grow & Give Colorado.  This “Modern Victory Garden Project” webpage is full of CSU vegetable gardening videos, fact sheets, and recorded lectures.  

Because you’ll have a bountiful harvest, check out the resources for donating your produce too.  Many food banks accept donations of fresh produce, and garden-grown vegetables are typically popular.  Consider including recipes with your donation.

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