MONTANA ROOTS!!! by Montana Grant
By angelamontana

Posted: March 18, 2024

Hunters and fishermen need other groceries to prepare their wild game and fish meals. As Montanans, we are perhaps the best Hunters and Gatherers in America. Living off the land is a learned and enjoyable skill. 

Growing your own food is rewarding and satisfying. Nourishment from gardens is part of Montana’s Pioneer heritage. 

Not everything grows well in Montana. Our short Spring/Summers determine our short growing season. Planting too early means a frosted crop. Planting too late means immature harvests. Generally, in Southwest Montana, it is possible to have frost well into June. It can also snow every month of the year. During these events, be prepared to cover your crops.

There are some great plants that are heartier and do well in Big Sky Country. 

Collard Greens, Kale, Spinach, and Lettuces     These frost resident plants can be placed in the garden in May. They can be started in your greenhouse or warm box earlier. The “Champion” variety of collards is a great choice. These leafy greens grow almost year around. In a mild winter, they may survive until spring. Too much water can make them develop fungus or rot. Not only are these plants low maintenance, but they are also tasty in salads. Monitor the rabbits and critters. 

Squash    These wonderful and versatile plants add many choices to the menu. Zucchini, yellow squash, eggplants, and pumpkins can be eaten raw, baked, or made into many delicious meals. The plants are also big producers. 

Onions    Spring onions are a nice, fresh addition to the pantry. Red and white/yellow onions are tasty. Walla Walla are my favorites. Leftover onions will grow large for next year’s harvest.

Tomatoes    Use mature plants to begin the season. Plant the roots deep and add an antacid (calcium) tablet or eggshells into the hole. This will minimize rot and cracked fruit. My favorite Montana Tomato is the “Stupice” Heirloom and cherry/grape tomatoes are smaller and require less time to mature than monster tomatoes. 

Peas beans, and Peppers all do well in Big Sky Country. Vertical planting allows more air to flow around the leaves and minimize insect pests. They are tolerant of the cold and nutritious. These can and preserve easily. Peppers come in several MT friendly varieties. 

Cucumbers can be fickle but are great for pickling and fresh salads. The smaller, shorter vertical varieties offer a better yield. The cuc flowers are great cross pollinators. 

Garden Tips

  • Test your soil and add the nutrients that you need.
  • Mulch your organic leftovers for great future soil.
  • Use Pips! These are the fresh butt ends of celery, romaine, carrot tops, and other leafy plants. They will re-root and take off.
  • Plant a perimeter of Marigolds around your garden. They are a natural insecticide. 
  • Raised beds work great especially when watered with soaker hoses. 
  • Place bird netting over strawberries and other tasty fruit that birds enjoy. 
  • Walls of Water help you to plant early despite the frost.
  • Plant what you enjoy. There is nothing more rewarding than making a fresh salad from the garden. Surpluses can be shared with others.

Montana Grant

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