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!

Name Size Days to Maturity Determinate or Indeterminate Color Other Info
Sunsugar Cherry 65 Ind Orange Sweet, wins taste tests
Juliet Grape 60 Ind Red Reliable, prolific fruit set
Polar Baby Small 2” 60 Det Red Cold weather tomato from Alaska
Stupice Small 2” 60-65 Ind Red Czechoslovakian
Glacier Small 2” 55 Det Red Very Early
Beli Naliv 6-8 oz 60 Det Red Cluster-type, Russian
Celebrity 8 oz 70 Det Red Disease resistant
Parks Whopper 4” 65 Ind Red Disease resistant


Plant Hardiness Zones—What do they mean?  Are they important?  By Jan Cashman 12/3/13

This winter, when you’re studying gardening magazines and seed catalogs to decide what to plant next spring, do you ever wonder about the “Zone” numbers next to plant names?   These numbers are supposed to tell us whether a plant will grow in an area.  The US Department of Agriculture has based these zones on average annual minimum temperatures during a period of years and put them on a map so anyone can easily tell what zone they live and garden in.

The USDA published their first Plant Hardiness Zone map in 1960 making 10 hardiness zones in the United States based upon 10 degree Fahrenheit gradients.  Then, in 1990 a major overhaul of the map was completed using temperature data from 1974 to 1986.  One new zone was added and the 10 degree gradients were broken down into 5 degree “A” and “B” zones, an improvement for us gardeners.  

In 2012 the USDA released a new map adding two new climate zones, 11 and 12. This map is available as an interactive GIS-based (Geographic Information System) for which a broadband Internet connection is recommended.  Users can type in their zip code when on the web site ( and find the hardiness zone for their area.  

Before the USDA did their 1990 overhaul, Bozeman was listed between hardiness Zones 3 and 4.  Because of warmer weather in the years 1974 to 1986, the revised 1990 map listed Bozeman as Zone 4B and we are still listed as Zone 4B on the 2012 version.

Bozeman and surrounding area gardeners and need to realize that these hardiness zones are only guidelines.  Temperature extremes, elevation, rainfall, humidity, length of growing season, and soil type  are not taken into account when determining these zones but are important when determining a plant’s ability to thrive in a certain area.

TEMPERATURE VARIATIONS:  Inland mountain climates have extreme temperature variations.  For instance, the Gallatin Valley might be 30 degrees below zero on a winter day and the next day, a Chinook wind will warm the air to 50 degrees.  These extremes can damage the tender buds of plants that have not fully reached dormancy.  On October 12, 2009, after a mild start to fall, the temperature dipped to a record low of 9 degrees.  The next spring many green ash, flowering crabs, and quaking aspen trees never leafed out.

RAINFALL AND HUMIDITY:  Bozeman’s average annual precipitation is 19.3 inches and Belgrade’s is 14.8;  humidity is low both summer and winter.  Evergreens such as white pine and balsam fir might be listed as Zone 3 but will not thrive here.  They grow better in locations where there is more humidity and winter cloud cover to protect their needles from winterburn.  

LENGTH OF GROWING SEASON:  In high elevations the growing season is short, fewer than 90 frost-free days in some places.   Some late-blooming perennial flowers listed as hardy in Zone 3 might grow OK in higher elevations but never bloom because the season is so short.  When planted at a high elevation, late season apples like Honeycrisp won’t have time to ripen.

SOIL TYPE AND pH:  The USDA hardiness zones do not take into account soil variations.  Many plants do not grow well in the heavy, poorly drained soils which are common to our area.  Plants such as blueberries, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, and even some maples, need acid soils to thrive, but our soils in the Valley tend to be alkaline, ranging in pH from 7.0 to 7.4, even higher in areas around Manhattan and Three Forks.

This winter, when you are planning your spring plantings, use USDA hardiness zones as a guide.  But also remember your soil type and our high and dry climate.  Make adjustments accordingly and your gardening will be more successful.  

  1. Prune evergreens and spring-flowering hedges
  2. Sow Lawn seed once soil warms
  3. Plant bare root nursery stock
  4. Spray for fire blight at apple blossom time
  5. Sow wild flower seeds and native grasses
  6. Fertilize, mow and water lawn
  7. Sow cool-season vegetable seeds (early May)
  8. Sow warm-season vegetable seeds (late)
  9. Prepare dahlias, gladiolus and begonias
  10. Fertilize evergreens
  11. Sow annual flower seeds
  12. Apply fruit tree sprays after blossoms fall
  13. Transplant evergreens
  14. Plant strawberries & raspberries
  15. Bait for slugs
  16. Plant geraniums & other annuals in late May (protect from frost)
  17. Fertilize shrubs & trees if needed
  18. Harvest rhubarb & asparagus

A barrier between grass and flower or shrub beds can keep grass from encroaching on your beds and keep mulches from spilling over into your grass.  Edging helps the gardener who wants a low-maintenance landscape to keep their grounds looking neat.  There are many types of edging that will add beauty, interest, and practicality to your landscape.

Round Top Vinyl

Vinyl lends itself to flowing, smooth curves.  If properly installed,vinyl is one of the best edging values.  Because of its low cost, our landscape department uses vinyl edging more than any other type.

Disadvantages: Vinyl edging can be damaged by lawn mowers.

Installation Hints:  Vinyl edging is easy to install yourself.  Purchase good quality, heavy-duty vinyl, which is thicker (.1”) and taller (5”)—it will be worth it.  Stake at 45 degree angles through the middle of the edging.  Do not place connections on curves.


Steel edging, usually painted green, is considered the Cadillac of edgings.  It lasts and its clean edge is inconspicuous.

Disadvantages: Steel is heavy and is hard to bend into tight curves.  It is difficult to install in hard, rocky ground.

Installation Hints:  Professional installers weld seams so they do not separate.


Black aluminum edging is almost completely invisible.  It forms curves easier than steel and provides a long-lasting border.

Disadvantages: Because it is a softer metal, aluminum can be dented or damaged by lawnmowers and other equipment.

Installation Hints: Aluminum is easier to install than steel edging because it is lighter and the pieces slide together for easier joint connection.


Long-lasting concrete edging can be dyed and/or stamped to make it more visually appealing.  It is easy to mow along and weed-eat around.

Disadvantages: Once installed, it is hard to change.  The light, bright color of undyed concrete can detract from your plants and landscape.

Installation Hints:  Best professionally installed.


Natural looking.  Stones can be any size from small rocks, to flat blocks set on edge, to boulders.

Disadvantages: Heavy to work with and can be a challenge to get to look natural.  Weed-eating around them is hard.

Installation Hints:  Install in a trough of sand.  Use herbicide to control weeds.


Can give your garden a Western look.  Logs can be laid flat or stood on end.  Or use railroad ties.  Any wood will hold up better if treated.

Disadvantages: Difficult to keep in place because frost cause it to heave.  Wood deteriorates over the years.

Installation Hints:   Install in a trough of sand.  Use herbicides to control weeds.

In most places in our yard  we use no edging at all.  Every spring, before the flowers grow too big, between our perennial flower beds and our lawn, we cut a vertical edge.  Then, throughout the summer we use a sharp spade, and sometimes a little herbicide, to weed out invading grass.   I like the look of this crisp, grass edge, but it does take extra time to maintain.   Your edging choice depends on cost, ease of installation, and, of course, the look you want.  Whichever you choose, make sure it is installed properly for a long-lasting solution.


by Jan Cashman

The weather every year is unique, but 2011 had some real extremes.  We had a snowy winter.  According to Greg Ainsworth, columnist for the Chronicle, “from November through June, was the 3rd wettest period in 113 years.”  At the MSU Weather Station, April, May and June was the coolest three month period in 36 years.   We use our apricot tree’s blossom time to determine how early or late spring arrives; the earliest it has bloomed is April 19, the latest, May 11; this year it didn’t bloom until May 18!  In July and August, we enjoyed beautiful weather, which made up for the cool, wet spring.  Summer temperature highs were mostly in the 80’s, we had no days over 100 degrees, little rain, and nights were cool which made for good sleeping.  Summer continued through September, when temperatures were above average, and frosts, when occurring at all, were light.

How did this year’s weather affect gardening and growing things? During the Gallatin Gardeners Club’s October meeting, members reported on what worked for them and what didn’t this year, particularly in their vegetable gardens.  Many planted their gardens later than usual because of the wet, cool, weather.  Some that planted early regretted it because seeds didn’t germinate and they had to replant.  Tomatoes planted too early, before the ground was warm enough, did not do well.

Although gardens were late getting started, by early October gardeners reported huge crops and an overall successful year.  Large harvests of tomatoes of all kinds– early, late, cherry, large, and Roma types–were reported.  The warm September certainly was a big factor in ripening tomatoes.  Some grew their tomatoes in pots, some in the ground, others in greenhouses, but all reported success.  Some gardeners had so many tomatoes they were giving them away!

Sweet corn, which doesn’t always get ripe in our short-season climate, was a big success with the gardeners this year.  Some had corn stalks as tall as 8 feet! My husband Jerry and I grew 5 varieties of sweet corn and were eating corn from August 18 through early October.  Our favorite variety was “Incredible”, an 85-day corn that was the last to ripen, but had big, sweet ears.   An early fall frost and Incredible would not have ripened.  Other vegetable variety recommendations from garden club members include: Heirloom “Cinderella Rouge Vif D’Etampes”, a pumpkin that truly is shaped like Cinderella’s carriage.  We enjoyed long, slim, productive and tender “Slenderette” beans from our garden.  Don Mathre’s “Jade” beans were big and productive.   “Yukon Gold” potatoes continue to be a favorite and “Sungold” cherry tomatoes continue to win taste tests.  “Parks Whopper” has been a large and reliable tomato for us.  “Goliath” tomatoes grew as large as 1#, yet ripen early enough for our climate.  John Austin liked early “Coreless Amsterdam” baby carrots.

Although small fruits ripened later than usual, they were good and plentiful.  Our raised bed produced lots of strawberries, both Junebearing and Everbearing; their foliage was so thick it was hard to find the berries.  Raspberry crops were great–Garden Club members Bonnie and Charlie Hash, picked 5 ½ gallons in one day from their row of raspberries of mixed varieties.    Currants and gooseberries reportedly produced well as did our 28 year-old Meteor cherry which produced buckets of pie cherries again this year.

Although fruit trees bloomed later than usual, it has been another great year for apples and plums.  We have had wonderful crops of early ripening Goodland, State Fair, Hazen, and Chestnut Crabs.  A new, not well-known variety in our orchard called “Zestar” is crisp, has excellent flavor, and stores well.   The later-ripening apples, like Haralred, Sweet Sixteen, Honeycrisp, and Red Baron are later than ever this year.

Many of the gardening problems are the same from year to year– heavy clay soils, insects, voles, deer.  This year, of course, the late spring was challenging to gardeners.  Spring’s cool, wet weather brought on the slugs.  Then, aphids arrived with a vengeance on trees, shrubs, and even plants they usually don’t bother.  Grasshoppers were not much of a problem this year, but spider mites hit later in the summer.     Hail cut a swath through the valley on Father’s Day, not nearly as widespread as last year’s devastating hail storms.

Deer continue to challenge us gardeners.  Fencing vegetable gardens seems to be the best solution.  We have discovered voles love raised bed gardens because the soil is loose and easy to burrow through.  Fine hardware wire can be stapled under your raised bed to keep them out.  I have been using vole repellants to keep them away—repellants are not poisonous and are safe to use around edibles and pets.

In 2011 we continued to see trees dying or severely damaged from the extreme temperature variations in the fall of 2009.  The City of Bozeman’s tree replacement program, which gives vouchers to replace boulevard trees in the city limits, has been a great help to replant our city forest.

Another long, beautiful fall gave us gardeners plenty of time to harvest late crops, plant bulbs, and winterize.  If you haven’t already done so, wrap your fruit and other smooth-barked trees to protect from sunscald, rodents, and deer and give your trees and other plants a deep watering before the ground freezes.

Everyone is gardening in containers these days. Small lots and condo living contribute to this trend. People want the ease of planting and caring for a small, ‘contained’ garden. Homeowners are interested in decorating not just the inside of their homes, but also their outdoor living space. Enticing to us gardeners are the beautiful, colorful clay containers being imported from all over the world.

Container gardening has come a long way from a whiskey barrel filled with red geraniums. Beautiful clay pottery is available in all colors, sizes and price ranges from Italy, Vietnam, and Mexico. This year, with the popularity of warm, bright-colored flowers, bright-colored pots are also in vogue. I love the new citrus-colored pots, but I am still partial to simple terra cotta pots with their classic lines. Any plant, any color, will look at home planted in a terra cotta pot.

If it will hold dirt, it will probably hold flowers. I created a funky grouping of plants on my front steps planted in antique tin-ware using an old chair long stripped of its paint to hold one of the tins. Plant in a western hat or boot, hollowed out tree trunk, old worn pail, basket, or old suitcase lined with plastic—all you need are soil and drainage holes. When choosing a container remember, larger pots allow more room for root growth and are easier to keep watered.

Use a commercial potting mix, not soil from the garden, in your containers. Garden soil is too heavy, plus it might contain fungi or insect larvae. A potting mix that is lightened with perlite or vermiculite is good. If the mix contains coconut fiber, even better. Coconut fiber has great water holding capacity. Your container should have holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain. Use pebbles, or better yet, light styrafoam peanuts, in the bottom of any deep or large container for better drainage.

Due to our low humidity here in the summer, containers need to be watered daily, especially if they are in full sun. We like to mix Soil Moist granules into our potting soil to reduce waterings. Soil Moist is a polymer that absorbs water like a sponge. As the soil dries out, the stored water is released.

Mix slow release Osmocote fertilize into the soil of your containers and you won’t have to fertilize again. Or fertilize with water-soluble Miracle-Gro every ten days.

Choosing plants for your container garden is the fun part, but first you need to know whether your container will be in full sun or partial or full shade. There is a huge selection of plants for any location. Containers can look stunning planted with just one variety of plant but the trend is to use a mixture of plants that compliment each other. Commonly we plant a tall plant in the middle of the pot, with gradually shorter plants toward the edge that will trail over the side of the pot. New and exciting annual grasses such as ornamental corn or millet can be used to give your container-garden height, instead of the over-used spike (dracaena). Two fun and unusual annual grasses that work well in containers are Mexican feather grass which looks and feels like soft green hair and fiber optic grass that looks like fiber optics!

I asked our greenhouse staff what their favorite annual flowers were for planting in containers. They liked million bells petunia, a tiny floriferous, cascading petunia, osteospermum, a daisy-like flower that comes in many colors, and fancy-leafed geranium, a geranium grown primarily for its multi-colored leaves. I like the compact lemon gem marigold; its bright yellow flowers give a splash of color to any sunny container and they will trail over the side as they grow. We all like to mix various leaf-textures in container plantings using interesting herbs such as purple or golden sage or lavender and ornamental grasses.

This year you’ll see containers with lots of colorful and variegated foliage sometimes mixed with complimentary flowers. The new and colorful varieties of coleus combine to make a stunning container garden for shade.

Perennial flowers can be used in containers. Most perennials bloom for a short time and then are done blooming for the season, so tuck in a few longer-blooming annuals and chose perennials with interesting foliage like hostas, lamium, sedum, and pulmonarias. The new shade-loving heucheras and heucherellas are everyone’s favorite and look great in containers. ‘Amber Waves’ heuchera has ruffled golden leaves with pink undersides and contrasts well when planted with ‘Crimson Curls’ heuchera, which has rich burgundy, ruffled-leaves. In the fall you can move the perennials that were in your containers into your perennial garden.

Roses, herbs, vegetables, even trees or evergreens can be planted into containers although the shrubs and trees might not make it through the winter with their roots above ground. Herbs work well in a strawberry pot. In the fall, bring the herbs in the house near a sunny window so you can harvest fresh herbs all winter. My Japanese maple has been growing outside in a pot for four years, but in the winter, we store it in our 35 degree root cellar. Japanese maples cannot survive our winters. Upright junipers, pruned in a topiary shape and planted in an Italian terra cotta container will add a European look to your front entryway.

Funky or formal, colorful or subtle, annuals, perennials, herbs, or evergreens, whichever you choose, plant up a pretty pot or an old trough and add charm to your “outdoor living room”.

by Jan Cashman

My husband Jerry’s father used to say the time to prune is when your pruners are sharp.  That old nurseryman’s adage holds true for minor pruning, but now, in late winter when fruit and shade trees are dormant, is the best time to prune.  (However, do not prune maple and birch trees in late winter or spring because their sap will “bleed” through the pruning wound.  Wait until late summer.)  Here are some frequently asked questions about pruning:

Do All Trees And Plants Need Pruning?

No, not all trees need pruning.  Dead, damaged, old or diseased wood should be pruned out.  Pruning can be used to control the size or shape of a plant, but it makes more sense to select plants that will not outgrow their space.

Can Pruning Improve Fruiting?

Yes, thinning the branches on a fruit tree allows for consistent, larger fruit.  Pruning can open the center of the tree to allow sunlight to enter so the fruit develops and ripens.  Old wood on a fruit tree should be removed so young, vigorous, fruit-bearing branches develop.  Remove suckers that come up from the base of the tree and water sprouts (too vigorous vertical shoots that emerge from a horizontal branch).

Should I Remove Double Leaders In My Tree? 

Yes, leaving a single leader on young trees is preferable.  Narrow-angled crotches are weak and apt to split where wide-angled branches are stronger and resistant to breakage.

How Much Of A Tree Do I Dare To Prune At One Time?

Remove no more than 25 to 30 percent of a tree’s branches when pruning.

Is There A Correct Way To Make Pruning Cuts?

Yes, recent research has shown the healing advantage of pruning branches at the growth collar (a swelling of the union of the branch and the trunk).  Do not leave a stub where decay, insects and disease can enter.  When shortening shoots, cut just above a growth bud facing outward from the tree or shrub so the new growth does not cross and rub other branches.                                                                                                                                         

To avoid tearing the bark of a large branch, remove the branch with three cuts.  Start out from the crotch at least 6 inches and make an undercut about halfway through the branch.  Your second cut should fall the branch free of the trunk.  The third cut removes the remaining stub with no injury to the trunk.

Why Doesn’t My Lilac Shrub Flower?

Wait to prune until after your lilacs bloom so you don’t cut off the flower buds.  Use renewal pruning: remove the oldest branches to allow new young growth to form.  An old overgrown lilac can be cut off close to the ground and allowed to start over, but then may not bloom for a few years.  What holds true for lilacs does not hold true for all flowering shrubs.  Flower buds on shrubs such as roses and potentillas are formed on new growth, so pruning will not hurt their flowering.

When Should Evergreens Be Pruned?

It is best to prune most conifers in June when new growth has emerged.   Mugho pines can be kept dense by clipping off part of the new growth candles in June. Upright junipers and arborvitaes should be “given a haircut” every other year or so to keep them dense. Be careful when pruning evergreens not to cut them back too far into old wood.  Upright spruce, pines, and firs look most natural with little or no pruning.

What Is The Best Way To Prune Spreading Junipers That Have Become Overgrown?

Reach down into the interior of the juniper and cut back major branches which are about as long as your arm.  This allows light to penetrate to the interior so new growth can start there and create a natural, informal appearance.   After about 20 years, most spreading junipers are past their prime and the best solution might be to replace them.

Should I Use Tree Paint On Wounds After Pruning?

The latest thinking is that tree wound dressings are not needed on pruning cuts.  A callus will close the wound naturally with exposure to air.

March or early April on a day when the temperature is above freezing is the best time to prune most trees and shrubs.   Sharpen your pruners and head outside to improve your plantings!

See also…

This is a follow-up article to our “10 Often Asked Questions about Pruning”, which may answer more of your questions.

Jerry’s father used to say the time to prune is when your pruners are sharp. That old nurseryman’s adage holds true for minor pruning, but now, in late winter when fruit and shade trees and shrubs are dormant, is the best time to prune. (However, do not prune maples and birch trees now; their spring sap will “bleed” through the pruning wound.)

Prune trees and shrubs to remove dead, damaged, or diseased wood, reshape, and control the size of the plant. Homeowners ask many questions about pruning. I’ll try to answer some of them.

  1. Is late winter a good time to prune Evergreens?

    No, it is better to prune most conifers in June when this year’s growth is new. Be careful when you prune evergreens not to cut them back too far into old wood or regrowth will not occur. Mugho pines can be kept dense by clipping off part of the growth candles in June. Upright junipers and arborvitaes should be “given a haircut” every other year or so to keep them dense. Erect growing spruce, pines, and fir look most natural with little or no pruning.

  2. What is the best way to prune Junipers that have become overgrown?

    Reach down into the interior of the juniper and cut back major branches which are about as long as your arm. This allows light to penetrate to the interior so new growth originates there and creates a natural, informal appearance.

  3. Should I remove Double Leaders in my trees?

    Yes, leaving a single leader on young trees is preferable. Narrow-angled crotches are weak and apt to split where wide-angled branches are stronger and resistant to breakage.

  4. How much of a tree do I dare prune at one time?

    Remove no more than 25 to 30% of a tree’s branches when pruning.

  5. Can pruning improve fruiting?

    Yes, thinning the branches on a fruit tree allows for consistent, larger fruit. Also, pruning and thinning creates an open center that allows sunlight to enter so the fruit develops there and ripens. Old wood on a fruit tree can be removed so young vigorous fruit-bearing branches develop. Remove suckers that come up from the base of the tree and water sprouts (too-vigorous vertical shoots that emerge from a horizontal branch).

  6. Why doesn’t my Lilac shrub flower?

    Pruning the tips of the branches every year on a lilac will cut off next year’s flower buds. Wait to renewal prune until after your lilacs bloom so you don’t cut off flower buds, removing the oldest branches to allow new young growth to form. An old overgrown lilac can be cut off at the ground and allowed to start over, but then may not bloom for a few years. What holds true for lilacs does not hold true for all flowering shrubs. Flower buds on roses and potentillas are formed on new growth, so pruning will not discourage their flowering.

  7. How can I reduce the size of a shrub that has gotten too big?

    It is better to plant shrubs and trees that will not outgrow their space. But renewal pruning or removing entire older stems and branches can control their size. Or you can even cut shrubs off completely at ground level to rejuvenate them.

  8. Is there a correct way to make pruning cuts?

    Yes, recent research has shown the healing advantage of pruning branches exactly at the growth collar (a swelling of the union of the branch and the trunk). Do not leave a stub where decay, insects, and disease can enter. When shortening shoots, cut just above a growth bud facing outward from the tree or shrub. If you make cuts to an inward-turning bud, the new growth will eventually cross and rub other branches.

    To avoid tearing the bark of a large branch, remove the branch with 3 cuts. Start out from the crotch at least 6 “ and make an undercut about halfway through the branch. Your second cut should fall the branch free of the trunk. The third cut removes the remaining stub with no injury to the trunk.

  9. Should I use tree paint on wounds after pruning?

    The latest thinking is that tree wound dressings are not needed on pruning cuts. Wounds will close by a natural callus with exposure to air.

  10. How do I prune Apple Trees or Mountain Ash Trees with the disease fireblight?

    To prevent the spread of fireblight on the infected tree and trees around it, prune out and destroy infected branches, being careful to sterilize clippers with bleach or rubbing alcohol between cuts to avoid spreading the disease. Prune branches at least 6 inches past the infected area. Overpruning an apple tree that does not have fireblight can produce succulent new growth and wounds that then provide a place for the fireblight bacteria to enter.

In February or March when it is above freezing outside, sharpen your pruners and prune your trees and shrubs if they need it. They’ll benefit.

Need more information?

See our follow-up article: 8 More Questions About Pruning Answered

Jan Cashman

Increasing your knowledge of horticulture can help in your quest for a more beautiful, colorful yard and a more abundant vegetable garden.  There are many ways to learn about gardening—from talking to your neighbor who has a green thumb, to taking classes, to studying books and magazines.  Today, the internet is an unlimited source of up-to-date information on practically any gardening topic—individual plants, diseases, insects, gardening tips.  But, if you Google a plant, you will often get commercial web sites that give you a small amount of not necessarily complete information.  Try, instead, MSU’s Extension web site which provides unbiased information on horticulture for our climate and soils.  Check it out at  Their fact sheets on hundreds of gardening topics can be downloaded from this web site.

Another service provided by MSU Extension is the popular Master Gardener’s Class, taught here every winter.  This year’s class started January 17 and runs eight weeks.  Later, a four week advanced class is taught for those who want more in-depth knowledge of horticulture.  Another class series through the Bozeman Schools Adult Ed is taught every April by my husband, Jerry, along with our landscape architect, Shelly Engler, on trees and shrubs and landscaping for this area.  And local nurseries like ours often offer free classes on various gardening topics during the spring and summer.

The Gallatin Gardeners Club meets the evening of the first Monday of every month, offering a different educational speaker or tour at every meeting, with an emphasis on vegetable gardening.   The proceeds from their club’s vegetable garden, whose produce they sell at the Farmer’s Market, go to numerous local charities.    The Gallatin Empire Garden Club also meets monthly; their members help put on the Emerson Cultural Center’s annual garden tour.  The Emerson sponsors a tour of outstanding local gardens every July, a great place to see what others are doing in their gardens.

Throughout our long, cold winters, gardeners love to pore over gardening catalogs and dream of spring.  Those catalogs can provide good information on varieties of vegetables available and sometimes contain additional useful gardening tips.  Every gardener should have a couple of good plant reference books in their library.  Sunset Western Garden Book is an old standby with a huge plant listing and valuable information on each plant.  Or, get a book written for our area, such as Best Garden Plants for Montana, by Bob Gough, former Extension agent here.  ‘How to’ books are also a necessary part of your gardening library.  Lois Hole, a Canadian from north of us in Edmonton, Alberta, has written a number of ‘how to’ books for the beginning gardener.   We have the heavy Ortho Problem Solver book in our nursery that has photos and descriptions of practically every disease and insect that plants are subject to, with suggested cures.  Ortho publishes a compact consumer version that could be handy for diagnosing your plant problems.

We are lucky to have the publishers of Zone 4 Magazine living here in Bozeman.  Although I have read and learned from a number of gardening magazines such as Fine Gardening and Northern Gardener (published in Minnesota), Zone 4 is an informative magazine that zeros in on gardening in the northern mountain states.

If you have a disease or insect problem with one of your plants that you cannot diagnose or solve yourself, the professionals at the MSU Schutter Diagnostic Lab will help you for a nominal fee.   And, if you need more help or advice, Toby Day, our state extension horticulturalist, is available.  The entertaining local television show on Sunday evenings on PBS, “Ag Night Live”, offers call-in answers to your gardening questions.

Of course, at some point, you need to forge ahead and “learning by doing”.  There is no substitute for trial and error.  But, with some education and study you can minimize your gardening failures, and maximize your successes.

Resources Reference: