Get a head start on the growing season in Billings

     

    Spring sprung last month yet we Billings gardeners are still limited on what we can plant until after that magical, last-frost date of May 29. That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t get a head start on the growing season, be it preparing the garden or even starting seeds indoors. Serious gardeners most likely got started in February. If you haven’t, and your green thumb is itching to get dirt under its nail, let’s get started now.

    Prune those trees

    If you grow fruit trees you’ll want to get them pruned before the buds begin to swell and the weather warms. Choose a day when no rain is expected. “Absolutely, do not prune if it’s wet out, it spreads a lot of diseases,” cautions horticulturist April Johnson. “Wait until the sun’s out for a little while; it dries out and kills mold and bacteria,” she concludes.

    Start by cutting out dead and diseased wood. Then, disinfect your pruning equipment before moving on to get rid of branches that rub up against each other or cross over one another (remove the weaker of the two branches). Then, thin out areas that are congested with small branches. The idea is to open up the tree for better air circulation. Make cuts above the area where the branch meets another branch or the trunk.

    If you need guidance for the pruning process, the Montana State University Extension offers “Pruning Fruit Trees in Montana,” an online tutorial, here.

    What’s your plan?

    All successful gardens start with a plan and, sure, it’s ok to use the same one year after year. But if you’ve decided to try something different this growing season, it’s important to get that plan on paper a.s.a.p. At a loss for what to do? Get inspiration online from Pinterest, Gardenologist or Fine Gardening.

    Once you’ve plotted the garden on paper, make a list of what seeds and plants you’ll need to buy.

    If you plan on starting seeds indoors this month, shop for:

    • Beets
    • Broccoli
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Carrots
    • Kale
    • Onions
    • Peas
    • Peppers
    • Spinach
    • Tomato

    Next month you can start cabbage, cauliflower and lettuce indoors.

    Finally, get those containers ready for your new seeds by getting them cleaned and disinfected.

    Get your tools and equipment ready for spring

    All those gardening tools caked with dried-up mud? A wire brush will remove all the gunk and a squirt of WD-40® will prevent rust during the season to come. Sharpen pruners, saws and anything else that needs it. Do it yourself with a whetstone or file (familyhandyman.com offers an excellent tutorial) or pay to have them professionally sharpened. Several Billings companies offer this service including J&K Mobile Sharpening (698-4229), Cutting Edge Sharpening Services (259-6717) and Heights Ace Hardware (mower blades).

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