A Note from Julie Osslund

In 1989, the State of Montana was selling 100 trees for $10. Who could resist such an offer?

We planted the buffalo berries, Shepherdia Argentea; Russian olive, Elaegnus Angustifolia; and cottonwoods, Populus Angustifolia wands into the ground that fall, 1989 or spring, 1990. They were barefoot beauties and about two foot tall!

Out of the 100 trees we planted, do you know how many are alive and thriving today? 1 cottonwood, 13 Russian olives and 10 dioecious buffalo berries (24%). Birds and bees love them. They no doubt prevented erosion, and we must have saved a few energy dollars over the years. I know that Russian olives are considered a noxious weed in riparian areas, but at one time they were thought of as one of the best solutions for our area: drought resistant, tolerating harsh conditions, and offering wildlife habitat, especially for pheasants and grouse.

In our world nothing is all good or all bad. Here’s an interesting fact: beavers won’t lay a tooth on them. Well, “rarely eaten or used” is how the July 2015 Department of Ag comment went during the public hearing comment section, which is another reason that native species are having a hard time competing with them. The good recommendations are still for buffalo berries – “good for wildlife, shelterbelt and hedges”, MT Master Gardener Handbook.

WIND BREAK 1989-1999

We planted the saplings in the parched rocky soil as soon as winter blared its last tenacious trumpet. We were newly married and planting 100 prickly trees in a rocky river bed had the fervency of a religious revival.

The fearless, spiny babies grew continuously throughout the baking sun, despite spider mites, lawn mowers, weed eaters and other would-be assassins. We watched them rise up and rejoiced! Mandy and Dave lugged endless, overflowing jugs to the field, day after day after day, like ants dragging battered insects to their waiting colony.

Now the trees are taller than the four of us stacked end-to-end. We seldom rejoice, but the trees diffuse the intense flat winds, not by blocking, but by listening, patiently entangling and releasing.

Submitted by Julie Osslund

Cindy Roessler – Perpetual Gardener

by Bess Lovec

This common thread runs through just about every gardener I meet- their first introduction to gardening was through family. Cindy is no exception, and, as is also often the case, it was her mother. She helped her mom and grandmother grow vegetables while growing up in Dickinson, ND, although her mom later grew to adore flowers.

Cindy represents another great source of information for our gardening community. She usually starts her plants from seed, and watching them pop up in spring gives her lots of joy. Another positive she discovers through gardening is sharing ideas with people, especially the network via the MG program. The water lilies in her pond were inspired by Elaine Allard, for example. She winters them and many other plants in her garage. Her range of gardening activities – wow! Cindy uses raised beds and has grown to specialize in flowering perennials, especially hardy hibiscus and delphinium. She has limited her gardening activities, though, by taking out fruit trees, and the lawn remains her husband’s turf.

One of her favorite learning aspects of the MG program was discovering the “awesome” Special K Ranch. They have a large operation, and even sell tomatoes to Albertsons, one of those little known facts about how our community is affected by local gardening.

Cindy has been with Valley Credit Union for 37 years, serving as the Chief Risk Officer.  Gardening functions as her stress buster, supplying a radical contrast to her work, although her full-time position prevents her from being frequently involved with MG. Nonetheless, she belongs to a Bonsai Society which meets monthly at a garden center in the Heights.

As a true gardener, she tries something new every year, this year being non-GMO foxglove. She doesn’t give up easily, either. Her heroic attempt to hatch praying mantises initially failed, but she is going to give that another whirl. The challenges of gardening here, from her perspective, the shorter season and lack of enough sunlight, only fuel her fury to succeed. Also she works to find the right amount of iron to compensate for deficiency in maple trees. Her advice to those new to gardening? Patience and avoid over-watering.

As she continues to mature as a gardener, Cindy is noticing more frequently the connections among animals and her yard. Her crab apple trees feed cedar wax wing birds, while the deer prefer water from the pond and the bird seed intended for birds.  Hummingbirds frequent her yard for a few weeks every summer, entertaining Cindy. I hope you have a chance to meet her during our growing season!

Meet a Student from Toby’s First Level III Class – Marcella Manuel

by Bess Lovec

Imagine being a happy, optimistic gardener, even though moose jump your six foot fence the night before!  Marcella Manuel exudes hope.  She successfully gardens regardless of circumstances.  Marcella chose the challenging climate of Roberts, Montana, although growing up in Lewistown’s climate set her up for handling tough yard duties.  According to her, the joy is in surviving challenges such as snow in June and July, and hail taking out her favorite flower, the lupine, last year.  Thankfully it came back, so never give up.

My favorite story of hers involves a free truckload of cattle manure that she received from a neighbor.  The rancher had not sprayed for five years, but the rancher on the property before him had, and Marcella reaped the results, with herbicide contamination on potatoes and tomatoes.  Initially assessing the issues as wilt, a test of the plant material shed truth on the matter.  With help from the Schutter Diagnostic Lab in Bozeman and Dow Chemical, getting rid of it took eight – I am not kidding, eight – years.  Aminopyralid kills dicots, not monocots, for those of you who recall Level 2.  Air, sunlight, and water helped dissipate it, although scooping out contaminated soil completed the cleansing.  This lady has grit.

She acquires perennials with deep discounts at one of Billings’ big box stores when the plants are past their prime, then manages to coax them to long, lovely lives.  Plus she grafts to help perpetuate heritage gardens and has helped Toby gather data on heritage orchards across the state.

Both realtors and gardeners must be enthusiastic and optimistic, while knowledge and adaptability lift achievers such as Marcella even higher.  She admits that her appreciation for land might not match visions other realtors have.  Gardening is her stress relief, and we pondered if a chemical is released from the soil which gives euphoria to gardeners, providing sanctuary unto itself.

Marcella shares her knowledge widely, having taught Adult Ed. gardening classes in Red Lodge, Master Gardener Classes in Joliet, and 4-H members.  She has hosted plant exchanges, too.  Never one to take all the credit, Marcella cherishes the new County Extension Agent in Carbon County, Nikki Bailey, and acknowledges other MGs in the Red Lodge area, Brittany Moreland and Maggy Hiltner.

Her newest project is trying itoh peony, a cross between a tree peony and an herbaceous peony.  She saw some at the Seattle Garden Show, a show about which she raves.  Her current advice for new gardeners: start small and try; don’t be afraid.  She counts her mom, the MG program, DanWalt Gardens and other gardeners as her teachers.  What she values most about the MG program, even though it is all great, are activities outside of class.  When hearing her speak, it becomes readily obvious that she is a walking encyclopedia of information about gardening.  Carbon County and the MG program are lucky to have Marcella as a resource and inspiration!

Book Review – Permaculture…

Permaculture book summer 2016

Permaculture for the Rest of Us—Abundant Living on Less Than an Acre

By Jenni Blackmore


I loved reading this book!  It is so down-to-earth (appropriate for a gardening book!), practical and funny.  It leads you on and on from one garden topic to another with so much helpful information in every paragraph that you don’t want it to end.  It’s the first garden book I’ve read that reads as easy as a good novel.

This book is written by a woman who moved to a windswept island off of Nova Scotia 25 years ago to make a sustainable farm on poor clay soils facing challenging weather.  Sounds like Montana!  She learned by doing and along the way became educated in permaculture principals.  Permaculture was developed in tropical places but lucky for us Jenni Blackmore is here to apply these principals to places like Montana.

While providing much useful information, the book does not go into depth on any given topic.  As such it is very accessible and helpful to a beginning gardener.  But the information also validates and reinforces a more experienced gardener’s knowledge and provides many suggestions that even master gardeners may not have tried yet.  Two I am trying this year are: snipping the plants I thin rather than pulling them so as not to disturb the roots of the young plants I want to keep; and rather than trying to plant small lettuce and greens seeds in wet spring soil, broadcast the seeds on the soil, then cover with a thin layer of potting soil (or topsoil).

Jenni looks at her farm as a system, interlocking and logical.  She encourages looking at the whole system—the physical components, the interdependent functioning, and the development in time.  Her farm is less than an acre but she is able to provide much of the food for her family.  She has learned by doing and her knowledge may help the rest of us prevent some errors without having to learn the hard way.

To give you an enticing sample of Jenni’s writing, here is her description of the purpose of the book from her introduction: “My purpose here is to write an encouragement manual, an if we can do it then for certain you can kind of book, a book that might save others from getting bogged down by the same mistakes we made and which simplifies and elevates permaculture methodology to its rightful status….While not wanting it to read like a text book, I do want to supply enough concrete information to facilitate success…Whether it’s a speed read during the first heady days of spring planting or leisurely dreaming on a cold winter’s afternoon, read on.  And enjoy!”

This very enjoyable book is available by order from Barnes and Noble.

Book review submitted by Ann Guthals

Controlling the Weeds

Once in a while you find something useful on Facebook. This is a common recipe for weed killer that works quite well and doesn’t leave a dangerous residue for children and pets.

One gallon vinegar

2 cups Epsom Salt

1/4 cup dish soap (Dawn for the cuticle dissolving properties)

Mix these ingredients together in proportion in a metal or plastic container for spraying. Brown or white vinegar may be used successfully. Table salt may be substituted, but make sure you let it all dissolve to avoid plugging the spray nozzle. Spray generously on leaves of unwanted plants in the morning hours, covering all leaves until dripping. Leaves will brown and dry up within hours in the sunshine. Spray all mixed solution – do not store in the sprayer as the salt will corrode it all.

MSU Extension Heritage Orchard Project

MSU Extension is looking for living historic orchards in the state.  To be considered a “backyard heritage orchard,” there must be at least six living trees that are 50 years or older. To be considered a “farmstead heritage orchard,” there must be at least 10 living trees that are 50 years or older.   Qualified orchards will be placed on an interactive map administered through MSU Extension. A website will provide viewers with information about the history of each orchard and a list of identifiable varieties. MSU Extension will work closely with orchard landowners to explore opportunities for tourism, preservation and/or propagation. http://www.mtorchards.org/

More information online at http://www.mtorchards.org/