Ostrich Ferns

Matteuccia struthiopteris has the apt common name of Ostrich Fern because its fronds resemble the elegantly graceful plumes of the ostrich. Native to North America, once established, this Zone 3 fern performs well under conditions that few garden plants prefer, while offering a culinary spring treat to boot. Ostrich ferns in the wild thrive in rich moist soil in part to full shade, yet they are one of the best performing ferns in our area. They tolerate our drier alkaline clay soil and with a little love will colonize an area with a northern exposure that few plants, much less ferns, will enjoy. Better still, they survive with benign neglect: no pruning and the deer and rabbits seem to leave them alone. If you have a difficult shaded area on the north side of your house, this plant will take that spot from barren to lush in a few years’ time.

When planting ostrich ferns, choose a site that will shelter the delicate fronds from burning sun and the strongest winds. It’s also a good idea to prepare the bed with an addition of sphagnum peat and compost. This will lighten the texture, provide nutrients and improve water holding capacity. In future years, a nice topdressing of compost and an occasional feeding will keep them happy. Plant them 18 to 24’’ apart, making sure to keep the crown just above the soil level, mulch lightly to hold moisture and prevent weeds and water in well. They will need regular water, especially in the first season, during which they should never be allowed to dry out. After they are established, they will survive with consistent but less generous amounts of water, while still appreciating a little extra during periods of drought. The first year or two they will work hardest on establishing a strong root system, spreading underground by rhizome. The fronds may appear shorter than the expected 36 to 48 inches and a little sparse. Don’t worry, in a few years’ time, your patience will be rewarded with a lovely soft colony of lush, almost tropical looking ferns. (Ostrich ferns can be feisty in wetter climates, but our dry conditions limit their ability to spread more than we want them to.)

They provide a graceful backdrop for other shade loving plants such as Dicentra and Hosta. It’s also fun to mix in early spring woodland plants that go dormant for the summer such as Dodecatheon, known commonly as Shooting Star. Although the leaf fronds die to the ground in autumn, once the ferns reach maturity, they will produce shorter, fertile spore-producing fronds which remain standing attractively through the winter.

Historically used by Native Americans, fiddleheads are a treasured wild forage food which appears fleetingly in restaurants and farmers’ markets in the spring. Once your002 ferns have established a healthy colony, you too can harvest the early unfurled leaves. Remembering to never take more than half of the shoots from a crown and only the early sterile leaf shoots, the fiddleheads must be tightly coiled at harvest, and must be washed and husked of their brown papery covering, then fully cooked before being consumed. When steamed for 10-12 minutes, they are reminiscent of asparagus. I have also boiled and pickled them successfully, which is an easy way to preserve them for later. They are especially tasty when boiled for 15 minutes then drained and quickly sautéed in bacon drippings with a little garlic. They can also be served cold on a salad by boiling them and chilling in an ice bath. A quick Google search will return lots of recipe ideas but, however you choose to eat them, make sure that you are eating Matteuccia struthiopteris and not a similar looking fiddlehead.

Even if they never make it into your kitchen, ostrich ferns are a beautiful plant for a difficult location in your garden.

http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?
kempercode=e180

Bulletin #4198, Facts on Fiddleheads


https://food52.com/blog/6583-fiddlehead-fern-a-controversial-coil

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Submitted by Ann McKean

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2018 Flower Show

The 2018 Flower Show, hosted by the Thumb-R-Green Garden Club, had the theme of “Under Montana Skies.” The flower show was held Aug. 31-Sept. 1 at the D.A. Davidson Building, in conjunction with the downtown farmers market. Of course all the displays were super, but especially enticing were the underwater arrangements…what a fun twist on flower arranging.

Thanks to all the Master Gardeners who helped in making this yearly event easier for all involved: Ann McKean, Bess Lovec, Charlie Hendricks, David Fisher, Gail Tesinsky, JoAnne Bylsma, Joyce Hendricks, Linda Walters, Marion Grumett, Mary Davis, Merita Murdock, Ron Hendricks, Vonnie Bell.

Submitted By Amy Grandpre

 

Brassicas

There are many vegetables in the cruciferous family that we can grow in Montana. Kale, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, and Brussels sprouts are some of the more popular ones. (Did you know arugula is also a brassica? Its nickname is rocket because it is quick to bolt in the heat, so remember to plant early and in succession for a longer harvest time.) Brassicas are some of the most nutritious vegetables you can grow. All members of the brassica family have similar nutrient profiles and contain calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, beta carotene, folic acid, vitamins C, E, K, and iodine. They have powerful anti-oxidants and they are beneficial eaten raw or cooked.

Here in the harsh climate of Montana, timing is important and the shorter season vegetables and their cultivars will be the most likely to come to full fruition. Most brassicas do best in soil pH of 6.5-7.5, so a little elemental sulfur can be helpful. They prefer firm, very fertile, well-drained soil with plenty of compost and additional food during the growing season. They require full sun, which is at least 5-6 hours of sun a day and do best in soil temperatures of 50-65 degrees. They do not thrive in hot weather and therefore do better on the shoulder seasons. In fact, they not only tolerate light frost but often become sweeter after a little nip of cold. Furthermore, most brassicas need the stimulation of cold weather to form heads; Brussels sprouts in particular need cold to form the sprouts. Seeds are usually planted six weeks before the last frost. Transplants should be set out in the garden in the middle of May. The following Montguide is invaluable for determining the planting time of all veggies. http://msuextension.org/carbon/documents/yggarden.pdf

Working your garden in wet conditions, which we usually have in the spring, is harmful to the texture of your soil, and compaction is difficult to reverse, so it’s best to prepare your beds in fall so you can get into your garden and plant early without causing damage. It’s also best to plant brassicas from transplants that are started indoors, not only to get a jump on the season but to reduce the risk of disease and insect attack. Set your seedlings deep enough to cover the stalk up to the first set of leaves and make sure your hole is deep enough to keep the tap root straight. Press the soil around them gently and water in well. Remember to check your spacing for the different varieties so they don’t grow too close together.

A tip that I have found to be very helpful is the addition of mulch. Using mulch around your plants not only prevents weeds, it also keeps the soil cooler, retains moisture, reduces compaction from the rain, and keeps your plants cleaner. Along with cool soil and lots of nutrients, brassicas need consistent moisture, so remember to water regularly. Eat some of the lower leaves as the plants mature and remove any yellowing lower leaves to provide good air circulation and reduce the risk of fungal disease.

Insects and furry critters can be a real annoyance when growing brassicas. (Think cabbage moth and deer among others!) The least invasive defense against insects is a good squirt of water to the leaves, preferably done in the morning so they have time to dry before nightfall. This will disrupt the life cycle of soft bodied insects without using chemicals. If you are still struggling but don’t want to use chemicals, a floating row cover prevents insect attack and as a bonus keeps the deer and rabbits off too. This is best applied soon after planting to be most effective.

If you grew kale this season, you have probably already been harvesting for a month or more, but if you got a late start like I did, your Brussels sprouts may just be forming. Remember to be patient and keep your brassicas going through our early frosts for a longer, fuller and sweeter harvest! There are so many wonderful varieties of healthy veggies to try; if you didn’t plant any cruciferous vegetables this year, prepare your bed this fall and get ready to enjoy the glorious fruits of your labor next year! Some of the following reference links are live and some are not:

http://www.johnnyseeds.com/growers-library/vegetables/brassicas-timing-temperature-fertility.html

http://msuextension.org/carbon/documents/yggarden.pdf

http://mt.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Brassicas.pdf

https://www.gardenguides.com/96425-vegetables-grow-montana.html

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/04/04/brassica-vegetables_n_5091657.html

https://www.healwithfood.org/list/healthiest-brassica-vegetables-benefits.php

 

Respectfully submitted by Ann McKean

Gardener’s Market at South Park

Sponsored by Riverstone Health, this Thursday afternoon market is small enough to be kid friendly and big enough to have a good variety of produce, crafts, and flowers. Master Gardeners this year gave away free vegetable and flower seed packets as well as information. There was also a children’s activity each week with the favorite being to sit a spell and color fun garden themed pictures – can you find a puppy hiding in the vegetables? If you didn’t have a chance to work this event, consider it for next year or at least stop by to support these small-scale growers who are sharing their bounty. What’s not to love about a little girl selling posies?

Submitted by Elizabeth Waddington

Originally posted in the Oct/Nov/Dec issue of the newsletter. Webmaster apologizes for the late posting – check on this for summer 2019!

Delane Langton Iris Tour

It’s always an adventure…especially for me…to get to Delane and Jane Langton’s place….also known as the Eagle Ridge Iris Gardens. It’s well worth it though, after the long search down the windy, hilly roads of the Emerald Hills area.

This uniquely located garden was started in 1998 and sits on a breezy ridge, with iris plants crowning it. Delane and wife Jane, tend over 3,000 varieties of iris, which you can see here http://www.eagleridgeiris.com/ or on their Facebook page…just type in Eagle Ridge Iris Gardens in your Facebook search window.

Delane demonstrated how to divide iris, to discard the blooming fan… and told us how he successfully rescued some very, very old iris from rhizomes to be tossed from the Moss Mansion. He was also very generous is gifting iris starts to those interested.

~ Submitted by Amy Grandpre