If you enjoy Montana Gardening, it’s time to get going! We have a very short growing season which means getting a head start on your plants and garden is essential. There’s nothing more rewarding than building a salad or meal from you garden.
My vegetable garden is still under snow and frozen. The raised beds still need some warming up before I can till them up. The advantage of raised beds is that I can utilize every inch of my garden area without having to get dirty. Last fall I buried mulched leaves in trenches dug into the gardens. This mulch has been rotting all winter. I also have a mulch bin that is ready to harvest.
To expand my garden, I have made additional raised beds out of 2x 12 boards cut into a 6-sided box. I will place these in the middles of each raised bed. The bottoms will be mulched and then topped off with soil. My dogs have also grown up and figured out how to leap over my fence. That means I a taller, 4-foot split rail with wire stapled on. My gate will also get some love. I have a plan!
If you want the plants to produce earlier, you should be starting your seeds now. Most veggies need 50 plus days to mature. Do the Math. Plan your garden now and set your seeds. Use new seed soil to get things started. You don’t need more than a few plants so use maybe 2-3 seeds per pot. You can make pots from newspaper or buy peat pots. These can be planted whole when ready.
Early Spring plants should begin with salad stuff. Lettuce, onions, rhubarb, radishes, and things you enjoy in salads. These do well in colder weather. Squash can also get going. Tomatoes, peppers, and cabbages can also be started. Things like carrots, beans, potatoes, and other fun food can wait a bit.
Strawberries can be planted in mid-April, if covered with straw. The crop should be produced by mid-June.
My annual goal is to get a ripe tomato by July 4th. This is a huge challenge in Montana. Tomatoes need to be started from seed now or plan on buying them at a greenhouse store in mid-April. Use Walls of Water to protect and insulate the tomatoes until the final frost date is over. In most of Montana that means mid-June! Other plants need to be covered if frost is a challenge. Use a sheet or tarp.
That extra head start really helps. What else helps is how the rooted tomatoes are planted. Last year I egged mine on by tossing in a few empty egg shells into my holes. Some folks use a cracked whole egg, but with the price of eggs, I will just use the shells. I had the best tomatoes ever last Summer.
This is the season when fun farmers explore new garden hacks and look forward to Spring.