Last spring I was concerned whether it would be worthwhile to start a Montana tomato garden. With a cold start to spring and May snows I dared not plant tomatoes until about the tenth of June. I knew the number of days with prime tomato vine growing weather (85 degree highs and up) would be limited and I could only hope that lengthy mid-summer daylight cycles would make up for less than ideal temperatures. When I shopped for bedding plants at the garden store I looked for vines with short growing cycles. I found a Park's Whopper hybrid advertised for 65 days to maturity. I planted and caged but 2 plants, pairing them with a set of sweet pepper bushes, and hoped for the best.So this year I set out to create an actual raised bed and started plants from seed indoors -- warm weather vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and acorn squash, plus basil.
Sure enough, our first ripe tomatoes came in during late August. We sliced the first to garnish grilled bison burgers, cubed others to mix in garden salads, and ate several separately as plump, succulent side dishes. Mmmmm. The peppers were slower to come around, but by September 1 we had a few. And soon enough we had too many tomatoes. Cue the spaghetti sauce brigade.
I bought a dozen timbers at Home Depot to border the bed. Inside the timbers I laid down the organic kitchen waste we had composted throughout the last year. I put down layers of newspaper and grass clippings and used grass clippings (a kindly neighbor who de-thatches his lawn and bags his early season mower clippings contributed) to mulch and protect transplants. I put down a layer of topsoil on about half the area to give a first year medium for direct seed planting, which included radishes, bunching onions, carrots and lettuce.
In mid-May I looked at the long-range weather forecast. It called for temperate conditions. So I gambled on no late season frost and transplanted most of the warm weather vegetables around May 20th. We were rewarded by a few late May days where temperatures rose above 80. Cooler weather waited until June (Bozeman June temperatures never cracked 80) when cooler than normal days meant overnight lows in the 40s and upper 30s, not a killing frost like what frequently happens in May.
Here is the raised garden bed today.
I've made plenty of salads with garden lettuce, garnished by freshly picked radishes. In the next week or two we should have a bumper crop of broccoli, which the kids and their mom love to eat.
The chives have filled out considerable in their second full year and make a great garnish on all manner of dishes. I planted oregano (also a perennial) next to the chives early last week and look forward to fresh garden grown herb later this fall and throughout most of 2015.
Above are a couple of garlic plants. We will get a better and more abundant crop next year because we will be able to plant cloves into our raised garden bed this fall.
We'll finish up with pictures of some of our perennial flowers. The dianthus came back particularly strong and have given our property bright bursts of color all around.
With this year's tomatoes, peppers, onions, chives, basil and garlic we are looking forward to making fully homegrown tomato sauce in the fall. Yum, yum, fresh and fragrant.