This week has been full of reminders of what spring in Montana is like. Snow and more snow. Almost everyday we woke up to snow. We were just above the snow line. Spring will not happen for us until the snow line moves up another 1,000 feet. For us that means sometime in June. Today it feels like an eternity into the future.
Even the chickens are wondering if we will have snow every morning this spring.
As much as I am ready to turn the soil and put seeds in the ground I know that we will have night-time freezes for weeks to come. For some reason this year I am not ready to wait that long. It means that I am going to need to explore season extenders that will work with my low temperatures, occasional snow, regular frosts, howling winds and a small budget. No putting seedlings in the ground and covering them occasionally with sheets. This is going to take a plan and daily effort to get things to go all the way to harvest.
So I hope you will follow along and give me your thoughts and suggestions as I figure out how to extend my growing season on a shoestring.
There are lots of place in Montana you can grow produce, but there are few places in our great state it is a constant challenge. I live in one of them. I was standing in line Saturday talking with a friend and another woman in line and we were comparing temperatures for the previous night. I was winning the prize for the warmest overnight temp, 34 degrees. The other two women had 30 and 29. It isn’t yet going to be that cold every night, but it drove home to this Midwest girl that this is the reason I look for plants that mature in under 60 days.
We talked about the tomato plants we plants we grew. Looking for key words like glacier, early and speedy. Even then we might never get a single tomato. That is the case for me this year.
We laughed about covering our gardens in August as nothing unusual, like they had done the prior night. It is what is expected here, though the rest of the world would perceive this as sign of global cooling.
All of this is a big deal, because I love fresh veggies. We try to eat meatless one night a week and none of this make it easy. Our personal gardens require us to be smart in our plant choices and believe the weatherman anytime they call for a frost warning in, even in July or August. Our local supermarkets, don’t stock local produce because it is not prevalent. Our farmer’s market is small and there is much stuff from resellers and crafts. Occasionally growers from other parts of the state will drive here to sell their wonderful produce, but with the price of gas we are seeing that less and less.
My Uncle was right when he said I need a greenhouse.
My family was here last week from the Midwest, the land of long growing seasons and plenty of water. They were amazed when we had frost twice in their four-day stay. Where they are from the average last frost is the last week of April and that long growing season won’t end until frost arrives some time in mid to late October. Our average last frost is late June or early July and less than 60 days later in August our first frost of the fall will arrive.
When compared to where we live in Montana, the Midwest is the promised land of milk and honey. Produce is local, good and plentiful. You have more than you can use and share with your neighbors. It is one of those things that I miss most a garden and produce. My uncle must have said several times each day you need a greenhouse and he is so right I do. I am putting that on my wish list right now, a greenhouse.
This week it appears that Montana will have Indian summer. Next week temps will be in the high 60’s and maybe a day or two in the 70’s. A wonderful few days of unseasonably warm weather. It seems early as the Indian Summers of my youth occurred in October and even as late as November. As I thought about one of my favorite times of the year lots of thoughts came to mind. What exactly is Indian Summer?
I spent lots of time looking online and found this Wiki definition that I found to be perfect. It allows for Indian summer to come in September in Montana and not until October in Illinois.
“An Indian summer is a meteorological phenomenon that occurs in autumn, in the Northern Hemisphere. It is characterised by a period of sunny, warm weather, after the leaves have turned following an onset of frost, but before the first snowfall.”
We have had several hard frosts already, the aspen are starting to turn and it is going to be warm, Indian summer has arrived in Montana. Enjoy Indian summer when ever it arrives in your neck of the woods.
Well tonight is the first frost warning of the season. The Midwest girl in me just insists that August isn’t time for the end of summer, and I am not going to call it quits. My flowers are just coming into their own and some are just getting ready to bloom for the first time. I have not yet got one ripe tomato off my plants and they are full of many possibilities. So I got tarps out for my flower gardens, covered my tomato pots with garbage bags, and thrown towels over my deck planters. I ran a little short on tarps so I have a few feet of my flower wall that is going to risk the elements. It looks a little trashy but for the night it is worth it to keep the summer going a little longer. Keep your fingers crossed that this clear high altitude night doesn’t get as cool as predicted.