INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL DAYTON

After a solid winter in Montana that first warm spell is hard to resist. For some of us it’s the bright packets of seeds that start to show up in stores, for some the dog-eared seed catalogues, for others the smell of waking earth puts us right over the edge. We tend to seek out our favorite places to buy garden or seed starting supplies, and one of my favorites is Harvest Tech.

Harvest Tech 2017

When I first got to Billings (about six years ago) I worked down the street from Heightened Harvest. Since then that neighborhood, 1415 S. 32nd Street West, has changed a little (they have new neighbors) and so has the sign out front. Michael Dayton is now co-owner with his wife, Amanda Williams, and they’ve changed the name to Harvest Tech. Mike owned the business with his brother (its first location in the Heights opened about eight years ago) and in late summer last year bought out his interest. On my most recent visit I found the store to be as tantalizing as the first time I saw it.

I have a greenhouse background so on my first visit I couldn’t help but wish I’d lived closer to this place during those twenty years. One can set up a complete hydroponic operation with supplies bought here, but their real priority is natural and organic gardening. Mike kindly granted me a little impromptu time for a quick chat over the counter. I asked if he was a Master Gardener – he was immediately familiar with the program but he (like me until recently) hadn’t been able to put together both the time and the timing to commit to it himself. As I explained my role with the newsletter, we talked about our gardening roots a bit. Mike doesn’t remember NOT gardening, really – “Mom had a 2000 square-foot organic garden” at their home here in Billings, so it was just part of life growing up. He’s lived other places, too, but never really had the chance to garden anywhere but here.

Mike is an avid gardener of things to eat. His preference is to “grow small”, using pots and containers to conserve space and to give each plant the environment it likes best. I asked if he chooses specific species for container gardening, and he said he really doesn’t and that often he finds the fruits and vegetables, like his tomatoes, tend to be sweeter and more flavorful even though yields might be smaller. His eyes twinkled a little, and then I understood what he meant when he told me his favorite part of gardening was eating… He does prefer to start plants from seed but finds it difficult to stay away from the nurseries with all the new varieties and ready-to-plant starts.

We agreed that one of the most challenging things about gardening here is timing plantings with the shifts between winter and spring and spring and summer. Cold frames and the right protection can help, but one of those fast, late spring freezes can overwhelm your plans quickly and set you back to starting over. Mike mentioned that one of his peeves is wind, which can also wreak havoc quickly, burning tender leaves and drying out even the most carefully watered garden.

Mike likes to use automatic watering, called micro-irrigation when used specifically for pots and containers, to address the problems that wind, drought, and heat can dish up. This frees up time and helps him keep things balanced even in the extremes we can endure in our summer months.

I asked Mike what kinds of things he does to avoid the dangers of gardening, like blisters, sore muscles, bug bites, and heat stroke. He had to think about this one for a minute, as if it wasn’t something that he did on purpose. As we talked he realized that he does several things that probably make a big difference in keeping him out of harm’s way. He gardens in the morning and evening, avoiding the heat of the day, but if he has to be out later in the morning or into the afternoon he wears long sleeves, hats, and sunscreen. He wears leather gloves as a rule, as well as long pants and sturdy shoes. We determined this is probably why he isn’t bothered much by bug bites and stings, sore muscles, and other injuries.

I had a great chat with Mike, and I couldn’t help but look around the store and ask what he thought was going to be a hot item this year. It’s tomato blueberry seeds… Yep, I’ll be back!

Submitted by Corinna Sinclair

Montana’s Biggest Trees Registry

The Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation keeps records on the largest trees in the state. These trees have been cataloged as the largest representatives of their particular species discovered so far. From looking at past registries, it appears that most of these record trees are located in the northwestern part of the state.

However, many species of Montana trees have not yet been nominated and there is a special category for urban trees. There is no funding to support this program; its success is mostly dependent on the volunteer efforts.

Forms and technical directions on how to measure a tree for nomination can be found on-line http://dnrc.mt.gov/divisions/forestry/forestry-assistance/montana-big-trees-program

Biggest trees 3 2017

http://billingsgazette.com/ eedition/page-a/ page_64df6c88-bfb5-519c -a021-742ebfb67aeb.html

 

 

Maybe like me, this will perk your interest in becoming a “Big Tree Hunter”. Is there a “specimen big tree” in your yard or neighborhood? Or, will one of us find a tree to nominate in one of our outdoor adventures across the state?

(By the way, if you really get into this, there is also a national big tree registry. http:// http://www.americanforests.org/bigtree )

An excellent reference book on trees: Michael Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants.

Submitted by Elaine Allard

BILLINGS LIBRARY GARDENING SERIES

Since the opening of the new library, Master Gardeners Tracy Livingston & Elaine Allard have coordinated almost 20 presentations with Master Gardeners and community members volunteering to share their expertise. Recent presentations were Gainan’s on Micro Greens in January; Tom Kress on Tools and Tips for Seed Starting in February; and Arborist Mike Garvey on “Unique and Seldom Seen Trees Planted in Billings” in March. Coming up on April 18th (5:00-6:00) is lawn expert James Roberts from TruGreen. James will talk about lawn care including: nutrient needs, pest management, and cultural practices and how to address common problems such as weeds, insects, diseases and corrective and preventative actions.

Information on upcoming gardening presentations can be found on the Library calendar http://billingslibrary.org/ calendar.aspx and in the Library Newsletter http://billingslibrary.org/DocumentCenter/View/317 and listed in Amy’s calendar as upcoming events.

 

Submitted by Elaine Allard

Everything Edible: Roots to Fork

Everything Edible: Roots to Fork
3rd Annual Lewis & Clark County Master Gardener Celebration
Saturday, March 4, 2017

Please see the registration information, including agenda, pricing, hotel info and the registration form for the Lewis & Clark County Master Gardener Celebration to be held March 4, 2017 in Helena. Look like a GREAT time!

Make check payable to: Lewis & Clark County Extension Fund.
Mail to: Gold Country MT , Master Gardeners Assn., 100 W. Custer Avenue, Helena, MT 59602
Registration Form: http://www.lccountymt.gov/fileadmin/user_upload/Education/Extension/121316_Registration_Form.pdf
Hotel Accommodations: Comfort Suites, 3180 N. Washington St., Helena, MT: 406.495.0505. This is legislative season so make your reservations early. The hotel provides a shuttle to/from the Fair-grounds, rooms are at state rate ($95, single/double occupancy), there is continental breakfast, and vehicle plug-ins. Lewis & Clark County Fairgrounds is located 2.5 miles due west on Custer Avenue. Room block expires Feb. 16, 2017, reference: Master Gardeners. Registrants are responsible for their own accommodations.
Facebook: Gold Country Montana Master Gardeners Association

A Tour at the Montana Audubon Center

On July 16, 2016, we were in for a treat. As we made our way to the Montana Audubon Center, a group of early birdwatchers were ready with binoculars for a morning of viewing and identifying our feathered friends. We too were ready to take in the sweet smell of sage and the songs of birds calling from the trees.

We were met by Trinity Pierce, Land Stewardship Coordinator and former Master Gardener, who invited us to pick a variety of mint leaves to tear apart and place in a jar of sun tea for refreshment after the tour. A woman in our group also used the leaves on her legs as a bug repellant.

Since 1998, volunteers have been reclaiming an old gravel mine, planting 65,000 native trees, shrubs, and grasses just of of South Billings Boulevard. The Center is a cooperative partnership with YRPA, YVAS and the Montana Audubon. The Center was build with conservation and place-based education in mind for people of all ages to learn about the birds, plants, bugs, and aquatic creatures of the Yellowstone River riparian area. Children go there for field trips, classes, summer camps, and after school programs, and adults can enjoy the Center on Sun-days, when they offer canoeing, bird watching, and other fund activities. Nearby Norm Schoenthal‘s Island is a great place to walks dogs, explore the trails, or cross-country ski in the winter.

Trinity and her volunteers have done a great job preserving the natural landscape and native plants, encouraging them through much mulching and coaxing. There were clusters of beautiful Blanket Flowers, Echinacea, Cone-flowers, Blue Flax, Mustard and many other wildflowers to attract pollinators. Trinity took us to the three ponds where children can conduct research, enjoy the thrills of canoeing, and may be experience a turtle or two. Giant cottonwoods and willows surround the water, providing habitat for many varieties of wildlife.

As we savored our herbal tea, Trinity showed us the Center, named after the dedicated Norm Schoenthal, she told us that it recycles water as it is used inside. Children use the Center as a lab, and gain hands-on experience with identification of plants and animals. A lot of respect and hard work has gone into the reclaiming and healing of this area of the Yellowstone. It is a hopeful place. The tea was delicious too! A combination of chocolate, pineapple, and apple mint leaves, fragrant and cool.

Submitted by: Julie Osslund