High Country Hydroponics helps Vail Valley gardeners
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE, Colorado –People – even police – were a bit suspicious when Cheri Stone opened High Country Hydroponics at 407 Broadway in Eagle about two months ago.
“People have the fallacy that I’m a marijuana dispensary and I’m not,” Stone said. “I deal with real gardens. If I think someone’s doing something illegal I won’t sell to them. I’m not going to sell to a 15-year-old kid who wants to buy 240-volt, 1,000-watt ballasts. If that’s what I did I’d probably have money or be in jail.”
The 47-year-old local opened her store because she was from a family of gardeners and has always enjoyed it as a hobby. There’s also the fact that the Eagle Valley only has a growing season of about 82 days. Stone said that’s just not long enough to grow some vegetables such as peppers, which don’t really come in until October.
So what is the average hydroponics customer? There doesn’t seem to be such a thing, at least not at Stone’s shop.
“The customers have been interesting. They never cease to amaze me,” she said. “A lot of people around here grow their own fruit and vegetables.”
Some people are just getting started and want a small set-up to place in a sun room. Others might be looking for a system that includes a grow lamp and allows them to grow tall plants such as beans or tomatoes. Some hydroponic systems allow for pots to be moved in and out – sometimes a plant is moved outside for the day and taken in at night. Other times, people just want to garnish a room with pretty flowers.
A hydroponic system operates on the premise that light is bad for a plant’s water and nutrients. The system is built to keep the water, roots and food out of the light while the plant’s leaves get as much as possible.
Stone said she was first introduced to hydroponics about 30 years ago.
“I had hippie parents and my mother-in-law was in a hydroponic group. They would get together and it was like Mary Kay or something,” Stone said.
Stone also ran a lawn and landscaping business with her husband in Florida, and has “grown vegetables all over the country.” She doesn’t have any formal school degrees in horticulture, but she’s done a lot of independent study and research.
“Basically, this is just a hobby,” she said.
Hydroponics has been refined with modern technology, she said.
“It’s not high cost – it doesn’t use as much as it used to,” she said. “The energy cost is minimized – it’s no more than a TV. It hasn’t brought my electric bill up.”
Before opening High Country Hydroponics, Stone worked as a screen printer at Charlie’s T-shirts in Vail with her husband and before that she was a jeweler at The Golden Bear in Vail. The couple have lived in Eagle County since the 1980s, where they also raised their daughter.
Stone said her new shop is her own thing, but her husband helps out a little. She’s enjoying it the growing challenge.
“It’s been more fun than work,” she said.