There has been a lot of discussion about the NEW Roundup for lawns. What is the difference? The new product does not contain glyphosate, that kills most anything green. Be sure that you read all of the label and how to use any chemical. In reading some of the information on the internet (a most trusted source right?) it says it is safe for pets and edibles. Really??? A healthy way of getting rid of weeds in the garden is to hoe (my suggestion). According to the U of M extension, the herbicide active ingredients in
Roundup for Lawns are regarded as more toxic than glyphosate (see
Toxicity of Pesticides). The one advantage would be that it could get rid of nut grass and crabgrass if you missed it in the spring.

Toby suggested a few websites that may help you make a good decision for you, the pets and your children.

Submitted by Sheri Kisch


Here’s the Dirt!


Have you tried to grow a hanging basket filled with petunias in hopes it will be a big ball of flowers like the nurseries grow but with little to no success? If so, I have a real easy method to share with you. You will need a 14” across hanging planter/basket with good drainage filled with potting soil, slow release fertilizer and five 4 1/2” “Supertunias”. Why supertunias? They are self-cleaning and they can grow 3 ½ feet in one season. When buying your plants make sure that each one has a bloom so that you are not surprised if you are going for a “one color basket”. Pick plants that are a nice healthy green color. My personal favorite source for finding 4 ½” supertunias is any ACE hardware. They have a local supplier who grows them and offers a variety of colors. Once you have your plants, add your fertilizer and plant one plant in the center of the basket and the other four around the edges. Water in the plants and hang. After a few days pinch back any blooms on the plants. This will force the plant to set strong roots and fill in quickly. Pinch back blooms a few more times depending on how big your plants are or how fast they are growing. The three most important things to growing this type of basket are sun, fertilizer and water. During really hot days you may have to water your baskets twice a day as water is essential to the health of your basket. Later in the season you may have to trim your basket if it gets a little leggy. You can trim the bottom flowers to meet the bottom of the planter. Even though supertunias are self-cleaning, I do clean mine up and may trim a little along the way. If you have no place for a hanging basket, you can use the same process for a small planter that sits on the deck. Happy Planting!


Submitted by Donna Canino


Photo credit Mississippi State University Extension Service


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


Using ½ inch PVC pipe, an easy to use and store tomato cage can be assembled. Build it to match your method of tomato growing. I plant in pots so the cages are made into two foot spacings to fit around my pots. These cages can be built as high and wide as needed. Using the two foot spacing I usually go to about five feet high to hold indeterminate tomatoes. These PVC cages set up quickly and easily and just as easy to tear down. They need little space for storage. I think they may last forever.

Submitted by Corry Mordeaux


When I first volunteered to earn my hours for Level 1, I was clueless. I still am in many ways, but I was so green then, and I am not referring to my thumb. I bounded out of my car towards St. Andrew’s Community Garden and began digging an irrigation ditch, as I was instructed to do. I so much agree with that initiation. What is gardening, if not hard work? And I made it even harder by not being prepared. So before you gleefully drive to a henceforth obscure site, at least for you, get your items together so you can return again and again.

Start with a 5-gallon plastic bucket. I know some of you may have decorated baskets for your items with matching garden gloves, but cut the cutesy now. You need something sturdy which has a handle, and, if damaged, does not dull your spirits. First and foremost, take care of yourself by packing a large, full water bottle, strong sunblock, a wide brimmed hat with a chin strap so you do not have to chase your hat onto a major thoroughfare when it blows off, sunglasses, and leather gloves. Leather is hotter than canvas, but it lasts more than two hours before getting holes. Wear light colored clothing and bring a snack, preferably not chocolate which melts all over your seed packets on a warm day. Consider used clothing instead of pristine, expensive togs. A chance of sweat mixing with “soil”, designing large, permanent Jackson Pollock-worthy stains, runs high. Do not forget insect repellent, if you are prone to attracting our friends, and wear long sleeves and pants if you are even mildly allergic to sumacs or other plants. The shoes: a sturdy, closed toed pair which can and will get muddy. A plastic bag for your gardening shoes is only for the connoisseur. I even wear socks to avoid insects and blisters.

I have already made so many mistakes for everybody! Yet I am not done with advice, if you are still here with me.

Bring your own tools, unless you don’t mind raw, oozing blisters (from using dull tools, the ones early birds skipped over) as bragging rights. Label your tools, too, or they walk off, not necessarily due to the neighborhood klepto, but they just work their way back into the shed of wherever you are. If you really want to impress the crew, although this step is treacherous, since people might assume that you know more than you do and pummel you with all sorts of esoteric questions, get a tool belt. I swear the sexiest garment I saw during the summer when I earned my first dozen volunteer hours was a tool belt. She got more done in a shorter length of time than me because I spent half the day running back and forth for various tools. You might be entering a new zone, so get the gear. In order of importance: a trowel, pruning shears, a weeder, a watering can, a shovel, a rake, and loppers. A good, sharp knife has many uses. Might these items be on sale at local hardware stores during snow blower season?

Last but far from least, get your body in shape to bend, yank, and grunt by exercising before spring, but that’s another article. Consider a first-aid kit in your car, if you became glassy eyed during the previous suggestion. Load an ICE (in case of emergency) phone number into your cellphone, so your fellow gardeners can contact someone if you have a heat stroke. Some of us might be little old grandmas, like me, but wimps we are not!

Submitted by Bess Lovec