Select vegetables for your western Montana vegetable garden based on the required growing season. Western Montana, which is in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zones 4 to 6, often has heavy frost through May. It may frost again as early as September. Warm, growing days are limited, so fast-growing crops do well in the short growing season with which Montana gardeners must contend. To raise vegetables to maturity, most crops must be started indoors or in the greenhouse. Newly planted vegetables seedlings require frost protection.
Plant radishes as a cover crop over beans, peas, carrots or other root crops such as rutabagas or turnips. Plant radishes and root crops outdoors in early May. Provide frost protection for young seedlings. (Build a "tent" over each row with clear plastic. Support the plastic with 1 ft. garden stakes.) Radishes sprout quickly and will define the rows of the other seeds. Radish sprouts will break the ground for less hardy crops. Early radish varieties are ready in less than six weeks, some are actually ready to eat in a month. Enjoy sampling the more than 150 varieties of radishes available.
Garlic is very easy to grow in Montana. It does well in nutrient-rich soil improved with organic compost and aged herbivore manures (manure from cows, lamas, sheep, goats or horses). Allow the manure to age well before applying it in the garden because green manures will burn new growth. Plant perennial garlic in the fall in an area that receives lots of sunshine and winter water. Provide good drainage and lots of sunlight and garlic plants will flourish.
Asparagus grows well in western Montana. It takes a few years to develop a fine asparagus patch, but for lovers of this succulent vegetable, it is certainly worth the wait. It will take one year before you can harvest asparagus; in following years the crop will increase and the season last longer. Asparagus prefers well drained, loamy soil supplemented with organic compost.
Native to the Andes of South America, potatoes have been a food staple for over 7,000 years. Potatoes grow well in the cool soil of western Montana. The Montana Department of Agriculture reports that 12,700 acres in the state are devoted to growing potatoes, and over 4,000 acres in Gallatin County in western Montana are planted in potatoes. Many of the seed potatoes shipped to other states are raised in Montana. Potatoes require about 100 frost-free days to mature. They prefer sandy, well-drained soil. Potatoes are planted in mid-May and harvested in mid-September. Use certified Montana seed potatoes. Grocery store potatoes are often treated with an anti-sprouting chemical and will not do well in the garden. Dr. Nina Zidack, Director of the Montana Seed Potato Certification Program at Montana State University in Bozeman, states "starting with Montana-certified seeds provides stock that is free of disease and of good quality."
Cabbage, Cauliflower and More
Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, beans, corn and tomatoes do best when started in growing trays indoors or in the greenhouse. Plant seeds in early April, and transplant outdoors after all danger of frost.
- Photo Credit carrots image by William Berry from Fotolia.com radish image by Marek Kosmal from Fotolia.com garlic image by Norbert Tuske from Fotolia.com asparagus image by Du...¡an Zidar from Fotolia.com early potatoes image by Maria Brzostowska from Fotolia.com
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