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

Advertisements

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

Local Gardeners and Master Gardener Steve and Kelly Pottenger

Jim’s Jungle has been a fixture in town for many years. Recently, as current owners, Steve and Kelly Pottenger, sat down with me at the end of a hot day in the fenced nursery location in front of the West Park Shopping Center, a shopper asked Kelly if they still had new plants coming in. With new plants coming in through the middle of June, I agree with the nice lady – even at the end of the planting season when the garden is stuffed full, it’s still hard to stop coming here to buy plants.

The name of this place is actually Potager’s Jungle, but it is hard to bend a great tradition to fit changing times. Potager is an Old English gardening term that these folks would like customers to become accustomed to as they settle in to the location they hope to make permanent. While Steve, Kelly, and their two kids Katie and Skyler bring years of knowledge to the colorful oasis among the pavement and cement along Grand, they are quick to explain that at home the environment is even more challenging to garden. I wanted to know more about that.

Steve told me right off the bat that at home “the water is not good, the soil is not good, the wind is nasty.” Our place does not look like this, he said with a swoop of his hand. While I can relate to those challenges of rural Montana gardening, I couldn’t imagine desolation where this kind of gardener lives. Of course they garden successfully – they figure out what is most hardy for this area when they take the last of the crop home to plant in those rough conditions. The plants that survive there are the toughest,
and prove to be what they recommend to folks next year that will take whatever the Montana summer can dish out. They have hanging baskets of colorful flowers and mix their own soil for pots full of vegetables, which last year they brought in to the sunny south window and enjoyed tomatoes in the living room all winter!
What are their favorite plants? That was hard for them to pin down, but Kelly’s favorite is gaillardia. She did say when she gardened in the Kalispell area she loved the begonias and dahlias, too. They just aren’t as well suited here. Steve enjoys all plants, but perennials in particular. He gardened in Reno for many years before returning to Billings.

Where did they get the willingness to experiment in these harsh Montana conditions? Both Steve and Kelly grew up with gardening dads and even while doing those unloved weeding chores never gave a second thought to the natural ebbs and flows of the backyard landscape. Kelly spoke of an activity at the local YMCA where she was able to introduce kids to their first experience with gardening. Realizing that there are so many kids who don’t grow up with that kind of daily practice made her appreciate what she had learned from her folks. It makes Steve and Kelly happy to encourage people of all ages to get in the backyard and grow things, and they see many younger folks coming to buy plants to produce their own home-grown food.

They are teaching new generations side by side with their own kids. Katie and Skyler are learning all aspects of the nursery business and have integral parts in the family operation. Steve says Katie is great at the till, and Skyler is a very reliable ‘yard’ man, helping customers and keeping the area running smoothly. They are also learning to practice safety – Kelly and Steve make sure everyone that works in the nursery use good gardening habits: stay hydrated, have access to shade and takes breaks in a cool, protected environment, and be mindful of using good tools and proper clothing.

Steve told me that one of the things he wants his fellow Master Gardeners here to know is how grateful he and Kelly are for their help on Saturdays in May. Handing out the leaflets with gardening tips and taking the time to have conversations with beginning gardeners is a wonderful treat for their customers, and they love to see people become even more interested and confident with the insight from the Master Gardeners who help out there. I let them know that as a Master Gardener I appreciate their business and having access to vibrant healthy plant materials delivered with a smile and thanked them for a lively interview!

Submitted by Corinna Sinclair

GARDEN TIPS

Be sure to water trees and shrubs more deeply than the lawn.
Don’t fertilize trees and shrubs after June, it will be too late for the tree to utilize before fall.
Start a trench in the garden for kitchen scraps, no meat or fats. Cover with a little dirt and let decompose.
Collect everyone else’s bags of leaves to add to your trenches or compost pile.
Clean, sand and oil all wooden handles (with BOILED LINSEED OIL) before putting away for winter.

The Zen of Gardening by David Wann

I marvel at the lush gardens I see on gardening shows and admit to a bit of
“green” envy. Unfortunately, those shows and gardening books for the humid
eastern U.S. do not help me much here in Montana. Instead I seek out advice
from gardeners who create successful gardens in our challenging conditions out
west.

David Wann is one such gardener. David began gardening at 7000 feet outside
Denver in the early 1980s. He has faced the same drought, wind, heat, cold, hail,
poor soils and short growing seasons that we cope with here in Montana. He
has distilled decades of experimental gardening and many lessons from masterful
gardeners that he has interviewed and worked with into this book.

Mr. Wann covers a very wide range of topics from mulching, choosing natives,
starting seeds, growing garlic, producing food in the winter to planting trees,
shrubs and perennial flowers. The novice and the seasoned gardener alike will
find great information here. As I read the book, I started a list of useful tips that
I plan to implement in my garden, such as mulching potato plants with pine needles, feeding my strawberries with compost and bone meal, using different methods of seed-starting to meet the varying needs of seeds, growing hairy vetch as a cover crop and companion plant to tomatoes, and trying the adage “When cottonwoods bud, plant the spuds.”

This book is not a story that you can read through like a novel. It is more a reference book and can be read gradually or used as a go-to source for specific help. One philosophical approach I particularly like about Mr. Wann’s gardening is that
there are lessons in failures—gardens are an experiment that we learn from every year. That is one of the things I love about gardening—there is always something new and useful to learn. And I definitely learned a lot reading The Zen of Gardening.

Reviewed by Ann Guthals

DELANE LANGTON IRIS TOUR

On May 23, a dozen Master Gardeners embarked on the grand adventure of finding the Delane Langton home to tour incredible iris beds he’s cultivated. Last year we were about a week too late…and this year porbably a week too early, but there were still plenty of blooms to enjoy even though, it was a beautiful evening for a tour.

Delane has quite the location. His home is perched on a hill, with gardens cascading over the top and shoulders of the hill. Then he points out another acre over the side that more iris are nestled into. Delane (now retired), is expanding his hilltop garden even more. He explains that the different slope orientations provide for an extended blooming period, the south side blooming first and then the north side blooming later.

The colors and variations were quite impressive, complete with some heirloom varieties. He also has a Moss Mansion iris bed, cultivated when an iris bed at the Moss was removed because the tree’s shade was too intense for iris growing. He took the pathetic looking rhizomes, planted them, gave them some TLC and now has iris plants he proudly claims are Moss Mansion originals.

Also, we learned that when he divides his iris, he doesn’t dig up the whole clump. He usually digs up the mother (or the one that bloomed last year), with the daughters that are on one side, leaving the other daughters in place. He’s had the unfortunate experience of digging all, dividing, and losing all.

I know I’m planning to divide my iris differently than before…and am going to plant the extras on our dry, rocky hillside surrounding our property. I’ve always  marveled at the iris growing on the rims going up to the airport. I now understand and appreciate even more how hardy and tough these beauties really are.

Iris Tour 2 2017

Photos and submission by Amy Grandpre