Jane23 - South Eastern Montana

Jane23

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Hello Everyone,

I am a little late with this thread. I am from South Eastern Montana. I am 100% off-grid and loving it. I am building my garden from the ground up.🤣

I am a huge fan of home-grown food, herbs, and anything else practical.

I am currently taking apart my garden to prepare it for winter and planting next spring. I might skip planting some of the beds to focus on soil development as our soil is not good. It is not bad, but it is not very good. I was thinking of planting a cover crop in a couple of beds and letting it do its magic into the summer, then turning it and going again for a second round.

My beds are raised, and the soil is native Montana soil. It is mostly clay, and when I did a soil test, high in Ph and low in everything else, so it will take a minute to fix.
 

Jane23

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Welcome to the forum from East Texas. I'm glad you joined, lots of friendly folks here. Gardening in Montana has got to have its' challenges, tell us all about your garden.
Currently, I am about to harvest the last of my tomatoes for the season. I still have green beans and peas going and plenty of herbs. I planted my winter garlic and covered them with straw, so we will see if they come up next fall. I pulled up my okra plants today as we will not be getting above 70 again, and Okra is a heat-loving plant. My pepper plants are up, too, and zucchini.

I still have flowers growing, as I don't want to pull them up yet.
 

digitS'

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Jane, if I wasn't a little obsessive about making use of every square foot of my garden beds through the growing season for useful crops, I had some ideas that might work for growing cover crops.

I have already told you about the annual rye that was in the garden for a couple of Winters Oct 5, link. The other idea was as @ducks4you mentioned - oats, sown sometime during the late summer to winter-kill and benefit the soil. I've grown oats but not for that purpose.

Another - sunflowers Spring sown and tilled under during Summer. I tried that on ground that bordered my garden and the neighbor's. Nope. My rear-tined tiller was not up to the task. Knocked them down but about 1 out of 4 grew up out of the dirt and some, even bloomed!

Austrian field peas through the Winter. Didn't work - because so many of the small plants died from the cold. Perhaps, the process would be successful here if the planting was in the Spring. However, after the mess I made of about 1,000 square feet of sunflowers +- 2' high, I'm not sure about using the tiller on pea vines. A choice that would be easier to till in would be tyfon (Holland greens). It is a surprisingly mild tasting, tender green for the table but is grown some places as a forage crop. Saving seed from brassicas is a fairly simple undertaking, from my experience.

Pulling, digging out the bed and burying the plants would probably add a good deal of soil fertility. It sure benefited the garden beds when I tried that with the annual rye.

Steve
 
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Jane23

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Jane, if I wasn't a little obsessive about making use of every square foot of my garden beds through the growing season for useful crops, I had some ideas that might work for growing cover crops.

I have already told you about the annual rye that was in the garden for a couple of Winters Oct 5, link. The other idea was as @ducks4you mentioned - oats, sown sometime during the late summer to winter-kill and benefit the soil. I've grown oats but not for that purpose.

Another - sunflowers Spring sown and tilled under during Summer. I tried that on ground that bordered my garden and the neighbor's. Nope. My rear-tined tiller was not up to the task. Knocked them down but about 1 out of 4 grew up out of the dirt and some, even bloomed!

Austrian field peas through the Winter. Didn't work - because so many of the small plants died from the cold. Perhaps, the process would be successful here if the planting was in the Spring. However, after the mess I made of about 1,000 square feet of sunflowers +- 2' high, I'm not sure about using the tiller on pea vines. A choice that would be easier to till in would be tyfon (Holland greens). It is a surprisingly mild tasting, tender green for the table but is grown some places as a forage crop. Saving seed from brassicas is a fairly simple undertaking, from my experience.

Pulling, digging out the bed and burying the plants would probably add a good deal of soil fertility. It sure benefited the garden beds when I tried that with the annual rye.

Steve
I am going to till under my peas and beans when they are done and any of the sprouts from the straw that have started. They test is composting for use probably next summer/fall. I know this is going to take he a while. There is too much clay and the soil only has limited nutrients, so I know this is a several-years project.
 

flowerbug

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winter wheat and winter rye (the grain not the grass) are very effective soil conditioners for primarily clay. i would like to grow them here in rotation but Mom didn't like how the chipmunks moved seeds around. :( i liked having them as green cover through the winter and they did help suppress weeds along with helping the soil quality.

they'd do better planted several weeks ago. the later it gets the less impact they have.

the nice thing about clay though is that it holds both water and nutrients of whatever you do have or add.
 

Jane23

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I
winter wheat and winter rye (the grain not the grass) are very effective soil conditioners for primarily clay. i would like to grow them here in rotation but Mom didn't like how the chipmunks moved seeds around. :( i liked having them as green cover through the winter and they did help suppress weeds along with helping the soil quality.

they'd do better planted several weeks ago. the later it gets the less impact they have.

the nice thing about clay though is that it holds both water and nutrients of whatever you do have or add.
know I’m probably too late. My life has been nuts lately. I may let one bed go this spring and focus on soil improvement.
 

Alasgun

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@Jane23, South east Montana sounds familiar! Before Alaska we lived in Watford city N.D and i understand your climate/soil well.
I joke, telling people where i live now we have 15 more frost free days than in the Dakotas. Upon seeing that country for the first time; one of Custers officers replied “it looks like Hell with the fire put out”.

If you have it available, hauling in good dirt will save years of effort versus “fixing what’s there”. Composting will be beneficial as well.

Another mostly overlooked problem from that region is the quality of the water. We had an artesian well and a shallow well on the ranch and were able to irrigate out of the Little Missouri river; all were very heavily alkaline water sources.

As to cover crops, the most effective we found was Buckwheat. In that country i could grow 2 crops a year and our efforts were more toward green manure / weed suppression. Seeded heavily and tilled at about a foot tall then reseeded worked very well to control several of the local weeds.

We miss the prairie sounds, Coyote’s, Meadow Larks and the sunsets.
We don't miss the wind and extreme cold of winter.

Your challenges are greater than some locations across America but i believe the rewards seem greater for those who diligently work at it.
Welcome to the forum.
 

Jane23

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@Jane23, South east Montana sounds familiar! Before Alaska we lived in Watford city N.D and i understand your climate/soil well.
I joke, telling people where i live now we have 15 more frost free days than in the Dakotas. Upon seeing that country for the first time; one of Custers officers replied “it looks like Hell with the fire put out”.

If you have it available, hauling in good dirt will save years of effort versus “fixing what’s there”. Composting will be beneficial as well.

Another mostly overlooked problem from that region is the quality of the water. We had an artesian well and a shallow well on the ranch and were able to irrigate out of the Little Missouri river; all were very heavily alkaline water sources.

As to cover crops, the most effective we found was Buckwheat. In that country i could grow 2 crops a year and our efforts were more toward green manure / weed suppression. Seeded heavily and tilled at about a foot tall then reseeded worked very well to control several of the local weeds.

We miss the prairie sounds, Coyote’s, Meadow Larks and the sunsets.
We don't miss the wind and extreme cold of winter.

Your challenges are greater than some locations across America but i believe the rewards seem greater for those who diligently work at it.
Welcome to the forum.
I had to do some business in North Dakota last year. I do not miss the wind either. It’s not so bad where I am at as it is not all the time.

I have debated hauling in some soil, but life is busy, so I will see if I have time. It’s not too bad, it’s just very depleted after the season.
 

ducks4you

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You don't need to haul in soil.
Study up on how to compost. Some folks, like @flowerbug, are big into worm farm compost, but leaves and grass clippings are free, just sweat equity.
ANY chopped up weed (sans seeds) will compost nicely, chop and drop works well (see the thread,)
I still think you can get on the internet and find somebody who wants to clean old hay and straw out of their barn, and I mean OLD, like Years old. As long as it stayed dry it didn't decompose.
Heck, I layered leaves last Fall in one separate 3' x 6' bed, covered them with the paper leaf bag, cut open. The bag somehow kept them dry and they didn't break down!
IF I find the time I might shovel up some horse manure and mix them and see what I have next Spring.
 
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