We gardeners struggle with weeds. We don’t want our beautiful flowers or our vegetable gardens taken over by them.
But what to do? Here are some hints to help you keep your gardens weed free.
Hit the garden instead of the gym.
Weeding in your gardens is good for you—body and mind. Enjoy a beautiful summer morning—our mornings are cool here, so morning is a good time to work in your garden. Listen to the birds sing and realize you are burning calories while improving your mood as you get rid of weeds!
Keep your favorite tools and gloves handy for whenever the weeding mood strikes you.
My favorite tools are a multi-use weeding knife and an old hand cultivator that was my mother’s.
Don’t let weeds get away from you.
Get rid of them when there are fewer of them and they are small. If you have a lot of weeds, work on one small area at a time so the task doesn’t seem so overwhelming.
Soil should be moist but not muddy for best weed pulling.
Weeds don’t pull easily when the soil is dry. They break off. Working with your soil when it is too wet will cause it to clump.
Disturb soil only where you need to.
Soil contains weed seeds which can remain dormant for a long time. Digging and cultivating brings hidden seeds to the surface where they will then get enough light to sprout and grow.
A 2-3” layer of mulch
(Soil pep which is ground up bark is what most of us use.) will hold moisture in your soil, keep weeds down, and make any weeds which do come up easier to pull. Or use compost as a mulch. In shrub beds, organic mulches like shredded cedar or bark chips work well. I am not a fan of landscape fabric under mulch—fabric compacts the soil, weeds grow on top of it, and the mulch on it blows away easily. Also, fabric is not well suited for a perennial flower bed.
Don’t let weeds go to seed.
Deadheading buys you some time and weakens the weed until you can remove it. If you continue to cut tough weed like thistles off at the ground before they go to seed, they will eventually weaken and die.
Water only the ‘good’ plants.
We have a drip system set up in our garden that waters the rows of vegetable plants and has drips on individual tomato plants, not the weeds in between.
Vinegar is an organic weed control.
Sprayed on, vinegar will kill weeds, but it will also kill any plant it hits, so be careful.
Use chemical herbicides as a last resort.
Be sure to read and follow all label instructions. Preemergent herbicides like Preen prevents seeds from germinating so apply to weed-free, already planted gardens. Non-selective herbicides like glysophate (Roundup) kill all plants, good and bad, if it hits their leaves. We do not like to use Roundup on or near our vegetable garden.
Controlling weeds in your lawn is a whole other topic. A bluegrass lawn (most local lawns are Kentucky bluegrasses) that is healthy is less likely to be weedy. Sufficient water (1.5 inches of water per week is needed in the heat of July and early August), frequent mowing (once a week or more), and fertilizer three times a summer are three steps to a healthy lawn. Don’t mow your grass too short, especially when it’s hot out—set your mower for 3” or more height. Organic gardeners have had success with corn gluten applied to lawns as a preemergent herbicide. But if weeds still appear in your lawn and digging them out is too much work, chemical control may be called for. For best results killing weeds in lawns, use a liquid spray containing 2-4-D broadleaf killer.
We know what ‘landscaping’ means—we’ve heard of ‘xeriscapes’. But how about the word ‘foodscaping?’. Today, many of us are concerned about eating healthy. City lots are smaller—and homeowners want ‘curb appeal’. You can kill two birds with one stone by beautifying your yard with edible plants. Here are some plants that will make your yard not only beautiful but fruitful.
Not much is more beautiful that a fruit tree in full flower. Many apple varieties do well here in Bozeman. Try Chestnut Crabapple, a hardy tree covered in pure white blossoms in May. The 1 ½ to 2” apples have a distinctive nutty flavor. The glossy, dark green leaves of pear trees make them an attractive addition to your landscape. Lucsious, Ure, Patten and Parker are varieties of pears good for our climate and that produce lots of small but sweet pears.
Most of our plum trees are dwarfs so they don’t take up much room in your yard. Our most popular plum is called Mount Royal, a self-fertile variety with lots of delicious purple-skinned fruit.
There are many shrubs that are not only attractive in your yard but provide edible fruit. Honeyberries (Lonicera caerulea) thrive in adverse conditions and produce small, pear shaped blue fruit, high in antioxidants, that tastes a little like a blueberry and can be eaten fresh or used for jams, jellies, and pies. Two different varieties of honeyberries are needed for pollination.
The new Romance Series of hardy (Zone 2) self-fertile cherries developed at the University of Saskatchewan includes Romeo, Juliet, and Carmine Jewel varieties. The blackish-red fruit looks like a sweet cherry but is smaller. The fruit is sweet enough to be eaten fresh and makes wonderful juice. Its fragrant blossoms, glossy foliage, and small size make it a perfect accent tree or shrub in your landscape. As with most cherries, the attractive reddish-brown bark has interesting horizontal lenticels. These cherries produce abundant fruit high in antioxidants.
Instead of a flowering vine, plant a grape vine. Valiant is a hardy grape that grows well in our area. The fruit ripens earlier than other grapes, especially if planted in a hot, sunny spot.
Strawberry plants make a pretty and productive ground cover.
Tuck colorful lettuce plants into your flower bed; mix vegetables with flowers. The idea of companion plants has been around for years. Companion plants assist in the growth of nearby plants by attracting beneficial insects, repelling pests, and providing nutrients, shade, or support to their companions. My coworker, an organic gardener, combines sunflowers with cucumbers, violas with lettuce and savoy cabbages, melons with nasturtiums, and tomatoes with leaks, chives, or basil in her raised beds.
Herbs make good companions for many plants—their strong aromas repel many pests. And they’re beautiful, too. Try planting herbs in rows to divide areas or as a border. Create a formal affect by planting them in a design.
If you live in an apartment or don’t have much room, you can grow edible plants in containers. For more color in your pots, mix in a few annual flowers. Peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs all grow well in containers. Even peas do well in a container if they have something to climb on.
Often one of our customers will say to me “I don’t want to plant anything unless I can eat it.” Foodscaping is the answer!
Our staff at Cashman Nursery and I have come up with the varieties of vegetables we like best that we grow in our vegetable gardens. There are many other good varieties. You may have some that you like and are even better than this list. I have not listed all the vegetables that we can grow here. Cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower grow well here. As do peppers if you plant them after the last frost. Onions, beets, leeks, and other root crops grow easily. Zucchini and other summer squash grow prolifically. Plant early varieties of winter squash and pumpkins. Try some of these great varieties and enjoy your vegetable garden!
Classic Slenderette Bush Beans (or any other slender French bean)
I have found that a French type or any slender green bean isn’t tough even when it is picked when fully mature. Yields are early and high and flavor is delicate. Bush beans don’t need support.
Nelson Hybrid Carrot
A Nantes-type carrot whose flavor is deliciously sweet. It is known for performing well in heavy soils. I like it because this carrot because it is a little shorter (6-7”) so it doesn’t break off as easily when digging them in the fall.
Sugar Ann Snap Peas
Ripens about 10 days earlier than other snap peas. Sweet, tender, and stringless. Needs no support.
Green Arrow Peas
An heirloom shelling pea that produces long pods and has heavy, reliable crops of sweet tasting peas. This is Don Mathre’s favorite from the Gallatin Gardeners Club.
Patio Snacker Bush Cucumber
A early, 6 to 8 inch cucumber that grows on compact plants. Grow in a container or in the ground. Makes delicious cucumbers with a non-bitter peal. Diva is another cucumber that comes highly recommended by our customers and Don Mathre. It is slim, 6-8” long, and sweet with a tender, edible skin. And Diva needs no pollinator.
Quickie Sweet Corn
We have been growing this sweet bicolor corn for years. It is one of the first sweet corns to ripen, (68 days) with sweetness that lasts. Quickie has good cold-soil vigor, needed for our cold springs here. Trinity is another early bicolor sweet corn we have grown with good cold soil vigor. Trinity is sugar enhanced (Se+) so its kernels hold their sweet taste long after picking.
Yukon Gem Potatoes
Similar to Yukon Gold potatoes, but improved with higher yield. Scab resistant and also resistant to blights.
Sunsugar Cherry Tomatoes
This orange cherry tomato wins every taste test. It has early, abundant crops.
Quinalt Everbearing Strawberries
Last year at the early October Gallatin Gardeners Club meeting, a couple brought in a container full of huge, delicious Quinalt strawberries, grown in their garden near here. Remember, for best results, refurbish and replant your strawberry bed every 4 years or so. Strawberries do well in a raised bed.
Sparkle Junebearing Strawberries
Junebearing strawberries bear only one crop per summer but that crop is often sweeter and has bigger berries than everbearing varieties. Sparkle strawberry is hardy for Northern climates, vigorous and easy to grow. Good for freezing, jam, or eating fresh.
We have had Boyne raspberries in our garden for years. Our 18 foot row of Boynes gives us more raspberries than the two of us can eat, even when I freeze some. This tried and true raspberry is extremely hardy and productive, fruiting from mid-July to August.
Sweet Purple Asparagus
Try this new, tender asparagus with a higher sugar content than most asparagus. The burgundy-colored spears turn green when cooked.
di·ver·si·ty (noun) : The state of having different forms and types.
There is good reason for diversity in the trees we plant in our yards, boulevards, and public areas in Bozeman. If one variety is planted exclusively and then an insect or disease afflicts that particular variety of tree, our yards and boulevards could end up with no trees at all.
Already, diseases and insects have done just that. Dutch elm disease wiped out most of the elms, the common boulevard tree in the Midwest, in the 1970’s. A few years ago, mountain pine beetle decimated lodgepole pines in the forests of Western Montana and other states. Then, this beetle infiltrated our city forests and killed Scotch and other pines in our yards and parks. Now, emerald ash borer threatens our ash trees, particularly green ash, Bozeman’s most commonly planted boulevard tree. Emerald ash borer was accidently introduced to the Eastern US from Europe in 1990’s. So far this insect, decimating to all species of ash trees, has advanced as far west as Minnesota and Colorado. It may reach Montana someday and then we will know that planting so many green ash in Bozeman was too much of a good thing. That would be unfortunate since green ash has proven to be a one of our best shade trees–winter hardy and adaptable to our soils.
The chart shows eight trees that are not so commonly planted but do well here and could provide some diversity in our landscapes. Some, like Ivory Silk Lilac, are newer cultivars that are improved over the original species.
I am hesitant to list American elm, native to Eastern Montana, as a tree that should be planted more here, even though it is a great shade tree for our climate. Dutch elm disease has been found as close as Helena, and there is a report of one case in Bozeman several years ago. Researchers are trying to develop an elm that is resistant to the Dutch elm disease with the same good characteristics of the native American elm. So far, none of the newly developed elms have proven to be quite as good as the native American elm.
Swiss mountain pine is a tree seldom seen in our home landscapes, but according to my husband Jerry, is a beautiful evergreen that should be planted more. Its needles seldom winterburn; it grows in a perfect conical shape to about 30’.
Commonly planted green ash, quaking aspen, and Canada red cherry all have a place in our landscapes, but look beyond these common trees and try planting one of these–be different!
Today, we hear a lot about organic gardening. You might wonder whether you should try harder to garden organically. First of all, what does it mean to garden organically? A basic definition is “Gardening without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.”
There are many reasons gardeners should keep the use of chemical pesticides to a minimum. Here are a few:
- Chemical fertilizers and herbicides can wash or leach into nearby streams, rivers, and lakes or ground water and harm fish and other aquatic animals.
- Some ingredients in herbicides, especially if applied too heavily or too often, can harm nearby desirable trees and shrubs. They could even sterilize the ground so plants won’t grow there, sometimes for years.
- Chemical insecticides are usually not selective, therefore, can kill beneficial insects, too, including bees, so necessary for pollination of our fruiting shrubs and trees. Insecticides can harm birds, animals, and humans if used incorrectly.
What are some guidelines to improve your garden’s growth but keep the use of chemicals to a minimum?
- Have your soil tested to determine what nutrients it needs. Our local clay soils need organic matter. Organic composts and manures are available to purchase in bags. Better yet, make your own compost out of kitchen scraps, grass clippings (unless you use a weed-killer on your lawn), leaves, and garden wastes.
- After planting your vegetable garden in the same spot for years, your soil will likely need Nitrogen. Organic forms of Nitrogen, such as blood meal, kelp, and fish emulsion, can be expensive and a lot is usually needed to raise the level of Nitrogen. So you may choose a chemical source of Nitrogen which would be less expensive.
- Our soils tend to have a high pH (alkaline). Adding Sulphur, which is organic, to your soil will bring down the pH.
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM) goes hand-in-hand with organic gardening. This common-sense theory focuses on pest prevention first (see side bar), and then, if there are still pests, starts with the lowest-risk control options. Chemical pesticides are used after all other less toxic methods have been tried.
- If you do apply chemical insecticides and herbicides to your yard and garden, it is important to follow the label instructions—more is NOT better, use them at the recommended rate. Be aware of proper timing of the spray and drift.
Should I buy organic seeds to plant in my vegetable garden?
Packaged vegetable seeds sold to the general public are not genetically modified (GMO), so you don’t need to worry about that issue. The amount of pesticides that could be in non-organic seeds is negligible. Vegetables grown from seeds treated with a fungicide also have negligible amounts in them. To some of us, purchasing disease-resistant varieties of vegetable seeds is more important than that the seeds you plant be “organic”.
Don Mathre, gardener from the Gallatin Gardeners Club, says, about organic gardening, “Bottom line is that a gardener must use a variety of approaches to be successful and some may be organic while others may not be.”
The large plant genus allium includes edible onions, garlic, shallots, and leeks but it also includes a vast group of perennial ornamental flowers that are both showy and easy to grow. Allium’s flower colors are most commonly blues and purples, but some are white or yellow. Allium plants produce chemical compounds that give them a characteristic onion or garlic taste and odor. Because of this strong, oniony scent, alliums are largely deer and rodent resistant, a huge plus for those of us with deer and voles in our yards.
Alliums originated in central Asia—they are grown mostly in temperate climates. By the time Linnaeus was classifying plants in 1753 he gave allium its name; “allium” is the Latin word for garlic. Linnaeus described 30 species of allium.
Most alliums grow from bulbs that need to be planted in the fall in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Alliums have few insect and disease problems. Use odd-numbered groups of 3, 5 or more; a single flower will look lonely. For the best effect, plant large quantities of a dozen or more of the shorter allium species, such as yellow Allium moly. Small allium bulbs should be planted three to four inches deep; giant allium about eight inches, but, remember, if bulbs are planted too deeply, they will not bloom properly. A general rule for planting depth of all bulbs is dig a hole three times the depth of the bulb.
Deadhead spent flowers before they develop seeds to help strengthen blooms the following year. Allium seldom need dividing, but if you want to amend your soil or move them, do so in the fall. As with tulips and other bulbs, let the foliage die back before cutting it off to allow nutrients to be transported to the bulbs and stored for next season’s growth. Cut back on watering your allium when the leaves start to turn yellow. To help hide their dying foliage, plant them next to later-blooming perennials with plenty of foliage such as rudbeckia, hardy geraniums, or false sunflowers.
Check out the chart for some favorite alliums. And be ready to plant these easy-to-grow perennial bulbs next fall!
In surveys, blue is the world’s most popular color. And for many gardeners, blue is also their favorite flower color. This past spring, our perennial expert, Bonnie Hickey, gave a talk on blue flowers. These are a few things she mentioned:
Blue flowers blend nicely with many other colors and can create a calming effect or an exciting effect depending on the companion colors you choose. The softer shades of blue combine well with soft yellow, pink, white and apricot and also with plants with silver foliage. Deeper blues provide high impact combined with golden yellow, orange, or red flowers or chartreuse foliage. To keep an all-blue border from getting monotonous, add a pop of white or another color here and there.
Using plants with blue foliage is another way to add blue to your garden. Some hostas, dianthus, and some of the ornamental grasses have almost true-blue foliage.
Here is a chart of the characteristics of my favorite blue flowers. Choose the ones that will work for you. You can’t go wrong with flower combinations using blue.
|Name||Type||Height||Bloom Time||Sun or Shade?||Other|
|Sky Blue Lobelia||Annual||8″||All summer||Partial to full shade||Pure sky blue color|
|Rosanne Hardy Geranium||Perennial||20″, 3′ spread||June-Aug||Partial to full shade||Deer Res|
|May Night Salvia||Perennial||18″||June-July||Sun||Deer Res|
|Russian Sage||Perennial||4 ft||Late summer||Sun||Deer Res|
|Pulmonaria||Perennial ground cover||12″||Spring||Shade||Spotted leaves|
|Vinca Minor||Perennial ground cover||10″||Spring||Shade|
|Iris||Perennial corm||2-3′||June||Sun||Plant in late summer|
|Giant Allium||Perennial bulb||3 ft||June||Sun||Deer res. Plant in fall|
|Siberian Squill||Perennial bulb||5″||Spring||sun||Spreads. Plant in fall|
|Blue Oat Grass||Ornamental Grass||Summer||Sun||Deer res|
|Elijah Blue Fescue||Ornamental Grass||8-12″||Late summer||Sun|
By Jan Cashman
Tomatoes are the most popular garden vegetable. We sell thousands of tomato plants each year. You can grow delicious, nutritious tomatoes, in our high mountain climate with its cool nights and short growing season by using a few tricks.
Twenty five years ago, Fantastic and Early Girl were the two commonly grown tomato varieties in our area. Today, hundreds of sweet and improved varieties are available that ripen early. Canada, Alaska, Russia, and Czechoslovakia have introduced many good, early varieties such as the Beaverlodge series, Polar Series, Belii Naliv and Stupice.
You can save the seed of open pollinated and delicious, colorful Heirloom varieties of tomatoes. Many heirloom and beefsteak varieties require a 75 day or longer growing season, but can be successfully grown with modest yields by using season extenders like Wall O Waters, row covers, cold frames, etc. Cherokee Purple, Red Brandywine, Orange Russian 117, Gold Medal, and Mortgage Lifter are a few of the longer maturing varieties we have offered over the years.
This year at Cashman Nursery we are trying the Artisan series, bicolor striped fruit in shades of yellow, purple, red, green and orange that will be fun for children to grow and colorful for salads. Unique cherry tomatoes with names like Purple Bumblebee, Sunrise Bumblebee and Lucky Tiger, your children won’t be able to resist!
Tomato plants fall into two general categories, smaller determinate (bush) varieties which ripen all at once and indeterminate (climbing), which ripen over the season, need support and pruning for best yields.
Tomatoes grow well in containers if the container is big enough. Determinate varieties or patio tomatoes work best in a container. A friend was still picking tomatoes in October by wheeling her pots of tomatoes inside each night. Earth boxes are a self-watering rectangular container on wheels, excellent for extending your growing season.
Delicious, home grown tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and K plus other essential vitamins and minerals and the antioxidant lycopene. Plant some in your vegetable garden, raised bed, or containers next summer. You’ll be glad you did!
By Jan Cashman
There is a lot of truth in the old adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are one of the healthiest foods a person can eat. They are high in fiber and Vitamin C and low in calories. They are high in antioxidants. Eat the skin and you get even more nutritious benefits.
Apples originally were found between the Caspian and Black Seas. Even though this is not far from the “cradle of civilization”, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, nowhere in the Bible does it say that the forbidden tree was an apple. However, humans have been eating apples since at least 6500 BC. They were a favorite fruit of ancient Greeks and Romans.
In North America, Johnny Appleseed established orchards in the upper Midwest in the early 1800’s. Back then, apples were used primarily for hard cider. They became more popular as a fresh fruit when refrigeration came into use so they would keep longer and new, better-tasting apples were available.
Apples do not grow “true to seed”. In other words, if you plant an apple seed, the tree that results will not produce that same type of apple. So, breeders take pollen from an apple with desirable characteristics and swab it onto the stamen of an apple variety with other good features, then bag the flower to keep the pollen from other trees away. The seeds will then be grown on and grafted to see if that tree’s apples have good enough flavor, texture, storage life and appearance to merit further production.
By the 1960’s, most supermarkets carried mainly three types of apples, McIntosh, Red Delicious, and Golden Delicious. These three kept a long time and were attractive but at the expense of texture and taste. Red delicious are flavorless and mealy. In the 60’s and 70’s, apple breeding programs took on the task of developing new and better apples. Washington State, Cornell, and the University of Minnesota have the main apple breeding programs in the United States. Not surprisingly, the hardiest varieties that do well in our northern climate come out of Minnesota.
By the 1970’s some good new varieties were introduced from New Zealand, Australia, and Japan—Gala, Granny Smith, Fugi and Braeburn. They have a long shelf life and also better texture and flavor but most are not hardy enough to grow in Northern climates. New apples were being introduced in the U.S. too. While at the University of Minnesota in the late 60’s, my husband, Jerry, was on a panel that tasted apple pies to rate potential new apples in a blind taste test. One of his young professors was doing the breeding and by 1978, State Fair and Sweet 16 apples were on the market, two of the best apples we sell.
In 1991, Honeycrisp apples were released from the University of Minnesota and they hit the market by storm. Honeycrisp are crisp and crunchy and sweet; everything an apple should be. The last few years, honeycrisp has become one of our best-selling apples. Luckily, the tree seems to be hardy and customers who planted Honeycrisp two or three years ago are already getting nice crops of this delicious apple.
This chart lists a few of the best apples for Southwest Montana. There are many other apples that grow and produce well here–some old varieties like Wealthy, some from Canada like Goodland, some others from Minnesota like Haralred. Good weather conditions have made 2016 a great year for all apples in the Gallatin Valley. This time of year we enjoy the fruits of our labor with big crops of wonderful apples!
Now that you have your vegetable garden planted and the seeds are starting to emerge, the tomato and peppers are setting tiny fruit, the squash is sending out runners, and you are picking spinach and lettuce, how do you keep your plants healthy all summer? Here are a few hints to get the best yield from your garden:
- Know your soil. Compost added to your soil every year will improve all types of soils, whether it is clay or rocky or sandy.
- Protect from deer and rodents. We have found that a fence is the only sure way to keep deer out of your garden.
- Water deeply—down 6” or so. Stick your finger into the soil a few inches to see if it is dry. Deeply twice a week is better than lightly every day.
- Use a drip system or soaker hose rather than overhead watering for less evaporation. This keeps the leaves of your plants dry. Water is wasted between the rows and encourages weeds to grow.
- Mulch between the rows with a natural mulch like soil pep. Or use landscape fabric or even newspaper to prevent weeds between the rows.
- Fertilize once or twice during the growing season with a fertilizer recommended for vegetables. I use a 5-10- 10 (Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) that is slow release and made of natural ingredients. Sweet corn, a heavy feeder, needs a fertilizer higher in Nitrogen.
- Plant herbs such as lemon grass or basil and marigolds to repell pests
- Plant flowers to attract pollinators. Many herbs attract hummingbirds and bees, such as fennel, borage, oregano, and lavender. Or try annual sunflowers, salvia, and allysum, or perennial penstemon and monarda.
- Support tomatoes, peas and beans so they don’t flop over and for better light and air circulation.
- Use Season extenders such as wall-o- waters on tomato plants and row covers to protect from frost and keep off insects.
- Thin vegetables that are growing too close together (carrots, head lettuce) for bigger better produce.
- Replant short season vegetables such as spinach and lettuce for a second crop.
- Harvest vegetables as soon as they are ripe and still tender. Wait too long and they lose flavor and are woody. Exceptions are tomatoes and peppers-harvest when they are fully colorful, and root crops which can wait until the tops die down.
These are some of the good gardening practices that will help ensure your success. Enjoy the fruits of your labor all summer!