Just What is Plant Select and What is Happening at Zoo Montana?

Plant Select is the country’s leading brand of plants designed to thrive in high plains and inter-mountain regions, offering plants that provide more beauty with less work so gardeners of all levels can achieve smart, stunning, and successful gardens using fewer resources and with a more positive environmental impact.

Driven by the belief that the right plants in the right place matter and that cultivating plants in tougher growing environments requires smarter approaches, Plant Select leverages a uniquely collaborative model and highly selective cultivation process to find, test, and distribute plants that thrive on less water.

Plant Select’s goal is to create smart plant choices for a new American landscape inspired by the Rocky Mountain region. Plant Select is a nonprofit combining forces of Colorado State University and Denver Botanical Gardens. I (Teresa Miller Bessette) applied to Plant Select for the gardens at Zoo MT to become a test site. Sharon Wetsch and I drove to Fort Collins in August and received plant material. A new site was cut and the plants were planted. There will be meetings and more plant material in the spring!

Submitted by Teresa Miller Bessette

On Thursday March 15th from 4- 5:00 PM in the Community Room at the Billings Library, Master Gardener Teresa Bessette will be giving a presentation on the gardening activities that are going on at ZooMontana’s Botanical Garden. Make plans to attend to hear more about how the Zoo qualified as a test site for Plant Select and what it involves.

 

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The Power of Seeds | How to Grow Broccoli Sprouts

We all know how wonderful micro greens are for our health and how they were all the rage in the culinary world the past few years. Some of us grew micro greens and others bought them at the store. There have been fewer micro greens in stores and more sprouts in their place.

Yes I said sprouts! They have made a comeback – they are off the side-lines and can be found in most produce sections. This time around broccoli sprouts are the most popular as they have incredible health benefits. Before I share how great they are with you I want to give you a little bad and some good news. The bad news is broccoli sprouts do not taste like broccoli and the good news is that broccoli sprouts do not taste like broccoli.

All kidding aside, broccoli sprouts are easy to grow and just 3 ounces of sprouts have 10-100 times more sulforaphane than mature broccoli. Sulforaphane is an anti-cancer compound found in cruciferous vegetables that helps to fight against cancer. Broccoli sprouts are rich in vitamins K, C, B6, E, and folate, dietary fiber phosphorus, potassium, and mag-nesium. They also help the heart, respiratory, immune systems and aid in digestion.

Although they are good for most of us, no more than 2 cups a day is recommended. I caution anyone that is not supposed to have cruciferous vegetables to stay away from broccoli sprouts and always consult your doctor if you have questions or concerns.

All sprouts are quick and easy to grow and require minimal equipment and time.
If you want to test the waters and do not want to invest in a bag of seeds, Montana Harvest has organic broccoli seeds in their bulk spice section for a small amount of money. There is a lot more information on the internet about growing and buying all different types of sprouting seeds. I put sprouts on my omelets with some greens, in my salads, in smoothies and my favorite is in soups. I even feed them to my dogs. If you decide to give growing sprouts a try send us some pictures and let us know what you think at ymastergardener@gmail.com.

Here are a few links for purchasing sprouts online. https://sproutpeople.org/seeds/brassica-sprouts/ Kitazawa carries a lot of Asian seeds that can also be used for sprouting. http://www.kitazawaseed.com/

Submitted by Donna Canino

Gardening Series Billings Public Library: Jan | Feb | March 2018

Wednesday, Jan. 24th – Backyard Bird Feeding with Kathy from Wild Birds Unlimited, 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm, Community Room. Bird feeders can be an important food source during winter. When severe weather impacts wild food supplies, some species of birds will turn to feeders as a critical food resource. It is during these times that feeders play their most vital role. Learn how a thought-ful, winter feeding station may mean the difference between life and death for these birds.

Wednesday, Feb. 7th – Billings Bloomers African Violet Society, (between 4:00 and 6:00, TBD), Community Room.

Tuesday, Feb. 27th – Houseplants with Gainans, 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm, Community Room.

Thursday, March 15th — Zoo Montana Botanical Garden and Plant Selection Program with Teresa Miller Bessette, 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm, Community Room.

Thinning and Spacing in the Vegetable Garden

One of the garden lessons it took me the longest to learn was to rigorously thin my plantings. It has always been hard to kill little plants I so carefully cultivated and I always tended to leave too many. There was then just not enough room for each plant to develop fully.

I also have learned to be more cognizant of spacing plants—seeds as well as stock plants. I have learned to keep the size of the adult plant in mind as I plant. My rule of thumb has become to imagine the adult carrot or beet or onion and space the seeds or bulbs accordingly, so each can grow to its full size. One way to accurately space seeds is to plant seed tapes, strips that already have the seeds embedded. Or you can make your own seed tapes by lightly dampening toilet paper strips, placing the seeds on them and placing another layer of damp TP on top. The paper will break down and the seeds will be spaced correctly.

In addition to imagining the adult carrot or onion or using seed tapes, seed packets are also helpful for determining how far apart to put seeds. I think I have tended to plant them closer together and put in too many, with the idea that they wouldn‘t all germinate and I was hedging my bets that way. But the upshot really was that I had to spend a lot of time thinning!

How to thin? You can get down at plant level and pull the weaker plants, leaving the stronger plants spaced correctly. Do this when true leaves have appeared. Another method is to use small scissors and clip the unwanted seedlings. This works well for squash plants, I found. It’s a bit more challenging for smaller seedlings like carrots and rutabagas. This method leaves organic matter in the soil to feed the microbes while allowing the chosen plants to develop fully.

Don’t wait too long to pull the unwanted seedlings or the process will greatly disturb the remaining plants. And don‘t forget you can generally eat your thinnings, especially from greens and lettuces.

To me this is the least fun part of vegetable gardening but this year, when I forced myself to really thin correctly, I was rewarded with the best carrot crop ever, so it was definitely worth it!

Submitted by Ann Guthals

 

Saving Summer Plants for Winter Color

Have you ever thought about bringing in some of your summer plantings in the fall to grow through the winter? While researching different plants that we could grow here in Montana I came across some that most of us have in our yard during the summer.

After such a scorching summer, we are usually ready to send everything to the dumpster or compost pile. But think outside the box. How about some color, plants for decorating, or use for cooking. Some of these plants will need to be repotted for indoors or take cuttings.

Geranium – Bring them in before frost and give them a light trim. Water when dry, feed monthly and give bright direct light. http://www.wikihow.com/Propagate-Geraniums- from-Cuttings

Caladium – The same plants sold as tubers and potted and sold, at a much higher price, as houseplants. Indoors they like indirect light. Keep their soil moist, but not wet. They prefer temps from 60 to 85 degrees. If they yellow and die back, just let rest until spring. Store in a cool dry spot and repot in February or March. They like low to moderate light.

Boxwood– Small potted evergreen boxwood make easy going houseplants and special winter decorations with a little pruning. Turn the pot every few days to keep growing evenly. Humidity is crucial to evergreen houseplants so keep a mister handy. Put plenty of pebbles in the bottom of the pot. Water when the soil dries and feed monthly. They like bright to moderate light.

Coleus – Coleus come in so many different colors it’s a shame not to try cuttings from your favorites. They like indirect bright light and to be warm. Keep the soil moist and feed monthly. Pinch off any flowers to prevent them from going to seed.

Hot Peppers – Peppers are tropical perennials and can be kept growing and producing. Smaller hot peppers are the easiest to bring indoors. They like their soil a little dry and underfed. Bright direct light is necessary to set flowers and grow peppers. Think orange, yellow, green and red for winter color. Do watch for aphids and fungus gnats.

Herbs – Many herbs do well indoors. Do you have chives, basil, parsley, rosemary or lemon grass? It is best to start with small, young plants. Perennials, like lemon grass and rosemary can be potted and brought back and forth from outdoors to an indoor window sill. Be sure they get bright light and trim to keep bushy. They like bright light.

If you are bringing plants in from outdoors you may think about isolating them before bringing them indoors. Make sure all the hitchhikers are gone. You don’t need extra pests to infect your existing plants. Fungus gnats are generally caused by overwatering.

Submitted by Sheri Kisch

The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife

Naturalist Nancy Lawson’s primary purpose is to help animals. She writes a column called ‘Humane Backyard’ (http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/wild_neighbors/humane-backyard/humane- backyard.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/) for the Humane Society publication All Animals and is the founder of The Humane Gardener, a comprehensive website and outreach initiative focused on gardening for animals(http://www.humanegardener.com/)

In six chapters, Lawson introduces the reader to the ideas of: · Trying Something New – By abandoning preconceived notions of what a garden should be and focusing on native plants. · Embracing the Wild – By allowing nature to take over a portion of a garden to see who sets up housekeeping. · Supporting Ecosystems – Fostering habitat by providing desirable food and shelter for native animals, and making gardens safe for the animals that make their homes there. · Providing Natural Food for Wildlife – By understanding that the creatures that live in our gardens must eat, too. · The Importance of the Full Life Cycle – By taking a new look at decaying plant material that may be messy, but that provides food and shelter to garden inhabitants. At the end of each chapter is an in-depth profile of a pioneer who has reclaimed a landscape for wildlife.

There is a handy “Getting Started” guide at the end of the book that includes: · General Information · Regional Books on Habitat Growing · Native Plant Information and Regional Databases · Native Plant Retail Sources and Supplies · Co-Existing with Wildlife · Habitat Certification and Yard Signs. Each provides valuable resources for readers who would like further information on native plant species, humane gardening, and wildlife habitat. Also included is a section titled “Plants Mentioned in this Book,” a comprehensive list of the many native and non-native species discussed, with their common and Latin names.

The Humane Gardener is an idea-packed examination of what happens when we view our yards as opportunities to preserve and foster habitat for native plants and animals. As Lawson says, “Even in a small yard, you might be surprised by who shows up if you let them.”

By: Tracy L. Livingston