Master Gardener talks high altitude

 

Although it may not look like spring, gardeners in Red Lodge are getting anxious and excited to start planting some veggies.  At the monthly Food Partnership Council meeting (FPC), March 20, MSU Extension Master Gardener, Marcella Manuel spoke to a packed crowd at the Red Lodge Community Foundation about various gardening topics specific to Red Lodge-- addressing challenges and providing solutions on how to have a successful garden.  
 

According to Manuel, the average date for the last killing frost in spring is June 1 (although seasoned gardeners in Red Lodge actually say it’s best June 10) and the average growing season is 100 days.  Because of the short season, Manuel only buys seeds that take 65 days to mature.  

Her presentation provided tips on planning the garden and choosing a site that receives at least six to eight hours of sunlight during the day.  She explained different gardening techniques like rotating crops, planting edible landscapes, using raised beds and gardening in containers, which enables the plant to be more mobile, which is especially beneficial during cold nights.
 

Soil was also a topic of discussion.  Manuel suggests sending in a soil sample of ten different locations in the garden to get a general sense of its components and make sure there are no herbicides present.  She advises not to over-till the soil and to till in the fall and add organic matter in the spring.  Although some people just add organic matter, Manuel emphasizes the need to add fertilizer. She said the best fertilizer contains 10 percent Nitrogen, 10 parts Phosphorus and 10 percent Potassium.
 

Other topics discussed were: keeping a seed journal to document plant successes/failures; interplanting and successive planting; watering plants each week to get one-inch of coverage; purchasing Mont. certified seed potatoes, which are mostly disease free; and a discussion on what grows well here-- garlic, green beans, zucchini, summer squash, etc.  

 

The FPC meeting also provided an update on the clubs’ agenda items.  Food Corps service member, Emily Howe said she has been introducing jicama into classes as a potential salad bar item.  On March 21, the cafeteria featured beef sliders using local beef from the Espenscheid Ranch.  With the growing season on its way, Howe is “excited” to get the Youth Garden planted and is looking for volunteers to take more an active role in garden matters.  
 

For the FPC annual meeting, Martha Brown discussed having the event on the first day of plant sales at the Cafe Regis, May 31.  They are looking for suggestions on possible speakers. 
 

As the Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO) conference in Red Lodge approaches, FPC is working on a video project to feature three local producers to let people know where their food comes from. 
 

FPC holds their meetings every third Thursday of the month.