Whether you have bought a new home in Montana or are considering selling your Montana home, you may be looking for a few tips for yard beautification in Western Montana. And if you’ve lived in Montana for longer than a heartbeat, you have heard the saying, “If you don’t like the weather in Montana, wait five minutes.” That is never more true than during a moody Montana spring – sunny and still one minute, snowing and blowing the next!
Additionally, Western Montana has several different microclimates. Within Missoula alone, it may be sunny and warm up the Rattlesnake and cold and rainy in the Blue Mountain region. Bitterroot commuters know that the “S” curves are a Bermuda Triangle of weather! The Flathead region is the same. It may be a picture-perfect day on one side of the lake and a day that is not fit for man nor beast on the other side!
This moodiness can make it extremely difficult to arrive at a solid landscaping plan. Here are a few pointers to help turn your Western Montana yard into a show-stopping wonderland.
Hardiness Planting Zone
First and foremost, know your hardiness planting zones. Western Montana is an interesting area in that the planting zones differ depending on your location. For a broad overview, plants zoned 4a-5b will do well in our area – there are exceptions that our local nurseries and garden centers can fill you in on. For a better look at planting zones, click here.
Next, soil condition does matter. If you live in an area with clay in the soil, (there are patches of clay in the Bitterroot area), make sure to work the soil with compost, leaf matter, forest product, and decomposed bark – this breaks down the clay and aerates the soil.
The Bitterroot and especially the Flathead Valley soil composition is a variety of silt and gravelly loam. Loam is the preferred soil when it comes to growing outdoor plants – it has a nice structure, it drains well, retains moisture, is nutrient-rich, easily harvested, and it warms up quickly in spring but doesn’t dry out quickly in summer. Of course, Western Montana’s terrain and soil are just as varied as its spring weather. The best way to find out what type of soil you are working with is to visit with a local nursery or your county’s extension office.
Plants are like people in a lot of ways. Some people love to be in the sun as much as possible. Others hide from it and avoid it at all costs. Plants are no different.
Because of this, you’ll want to pay attention to where and when the sun hits various places in your yard and for how long. This will give you the information you need as to whether you plant with sun-loving plants, shade-loving plants, or a combination, depending on the configuration of your yard.
When thinking of fertilizers, try to go organic and natural when possible. Organic yards grow beautifully! Planting should be fun, and your fertilizer is a personal choice, but here is something to know – when using synthetic fertilizer, you aren’t really doing your plants any favors. Synthetic fertilizer is to your plant what sugar is to a human. It makes it burst forth and makes it feel really good and energized for a small amount of time, but it isn’t helping your plant’s root system or overall health in the long run. When you use organic matter for fertilization, you are building the strongest version of your plant.
Deer-resistant (for the most part)
For those new to landscaping in need of a starter list for some hardy, deer-resistant plants and shrubs, here are a few suggestions: English Lavender, Moon Beam Tickseed, Yarrow, Allium, Snow in Summer, Larkspur, English Boxwood, Potentilla, Butterfly Bush, Spirea and don’t forget Barberry. Barberry is a super-hero plant because it is deer-resistant and attracts honey bees. Always remember, these plants are deer-resistant, not deer-proof. Deer endure long winters, and the longer you live in Montana, the more you will be amazed at what deer are willing to eat.
You might consider taking yard beautification to the next level with edible landscaping. Edible landscaping is fun and functional, and some edible plants make amazing hedgerows and privacy barriers. Here are a few plants to consider for an edible landscape: American Cranberry Bush, Blueberry (blueberries require acidic soil with a pH level 4.5 – 5.5, so keep that in mind when planting these), Raspberry, and Blackberry or a nice Cherry Bush (are you listening Flathead Lake residents?). Remember, as long as growing requirements are met, have fun with your landscaping – nothing says you can’t mix a beautiful ornamental plant in with your edibles!
Mother’s Day Weekend
Mother’s Day Weekend and mid-May are great times to start thinking about how you want your yard to look in the coming months. Does Mom love roses or wildflowers? Does she love understated, elegant plants, or does she love big, bright plants? Is she a hard-core salsa or dill pickle canner? If so, varied pepper and cucumber plants are a great choice.
Best of luck with your landscaping projects, and Happy Planting!