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5 Quick Tips for Gardening in Southwest Montana!

    Spring is in the air and that means it’s time for everyone with a green thumb to finally be able to tend to their garden! However before you get out your spade, shears, and pruners, there are a few things you need to consider first!

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Picking Your Plants

5 Quick Tips for Gardening in Southwest Montana!

Photo courtesy of the USDA

    The first step to gardening is figuring out what kind of plants you want to grow, and what kind of plants you can grow. Montana’s weather pattern isn’t really a pattern, it’s more of a Montana weather surprise. So paying close attention to Montana’s hardiness zones is very important! A hardiness zone is a geographic region that is defined primarily by its annual extreme minimum temperature as well as a few other factors such as soil acidity. Montana’s zones range from 3a - 5b, and the Gallatin County has a mix of zones 4a and 4b.

    Some perennials that do well in Zone 4 include Shasta daisies, violets, yarrow, asters, bell-flowers, lamb’s ears, and hardy geraniums. You can also plant some less hardy perennials as annuals such as Coreopsis and black-eyed Susans. Cosmos, nasturtiums, and coleus are all annuals that also do well in Zone 4. To find more Zone 4 plants, you can give the internet a quick search, or take a look at what flowers are naturally found in Montana!

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Mapping Your Garden

5 Quick Tips for Gardening in Southwest Montana!
Photo courtesy of Gardenista

    Now that you know what plants you are going to grow, you can begin to map out your garden! Before you begin, make sure that a greenhouse is definitely out of the question. A greenhouse is a wonderful way to grow plants in a place that isn’t exactly conducive to their growth. However, if a greenhouse is out of the question for any reason, don’t worry, you can still have a beautiful garden. First, take a look at the micro-climates that exist in your yard. Even among Zone 4 plants, different plants have different preferred micro-climates. Some plants prefer more sun, other’s shade. Some plants enjoy acidic soil and can be planted near pine trees while others won’t stand a chance.

    If you don’t have any micro-climates by some strange twist of fate, don’t worry, you can make some. If your yard is exposed to the sun at all hours of the day but you want some shade-loving flowers you can plant the sun-loving ones first and then find ways to use the shade they produce to make your shady plants happy! If your yard is a mix of sun and shade or mostly shade, planting from South to North or vice versa will help ensure your plants get more of the sun they need!

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Know When to Plant

5 Quick Tips for Gardening in Southwest Montana!

Photo courtesy of Hokkaido-labo

    You know what plants you want, you have an idea about where to put them, now when do you start? With Montana’s erratic weather it can be hard to tell when it’s safe to plant seeds. It’s not a bad idea to start the seeds early inside your home, so that plants have a chance to root before being exposed to the unexpected. Before moving the plants outside, learn when the last frost is expected to take place. Nothing will kill your baby plants faster than an unexpected freeze. Which is why you should also keep a close eye on the weather and have an emergency frost plan ready. As I’ve said over and over, Montana’s weather is unpredictable, and it has snowed in June and July before.

    Keep an eye on the weather so you can be prepared for any unexpected changes, too much water can harm your plants, not enough water can harm your plants, and a sudden snowfall can too. Have a light blanket that can help insulate the plants on hand as well as some tent stakes and poles, in an emergency you can make a mini-greenhouse to help your plants weather the weather.

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A Little Green Blanket

5 Quick Tips for Gardening in Southwest Montana!
Photo courtesy of High Country Gardens

    Another great way to help your plants weather the weather is by giving them a natural blanket! Using ground cover plants has a number of benefits! From helping protect your roots, to purifying rainwater to creating an elegant transition from one plant to the next, ground covers are the way to go! Some of the best ground covers for Montana are creeping thyme, creeping phlox, and sedum!

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Prepare for Plant Predators!

5 Quick Tips for Gardening in Southwest Montana!

Photo courtesy of Bonnie Plants

    Now that you have combated Montana’s mighty weather, there is one last threat you have to protect your garden from! Montana is known for having plenty of little pests, and a few that are not so little. While the standard threats like squirrels, rabbits, and deer are definitely a risk Montana has a few other pests to watch out for too. Such as the massive elk that are more than happy to nibble away at your plants or the tiny terrible voles that like to destroy your hopes and dreams. But there are ways to prevent these pests! Voles love to scurry under plants and thick grass, so some of the easiest ways to help prevent them is to keep your grass short and your garden clutter free. Take the time to go out and clear out excess brush and weeds. You can also dig fences underneath the dirt before you plant your garden. Place the fence 3-6 inches below the surface and bend it outwards in an L-shape to help discourage their tunneling. Cats also adore voles and are more than happy to spend their days sunbathing and playing guard!

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    Now that you have some extra knowledge and planning under your belt, the next step is to get your gardening tools and get out there! For any extra tips and tricks, Bozeman has plenty of farmers and gardeners who would be happy to help offer some advice. So grab your spades, grab your shears and get ready to garden!

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