Billings Blooms: Beginner's Guide to a Thriving Garden

By Kara Wahl | Originally Published April 25, 2024

Ever dreamt of picking fresh veggies for dinner straight from your own backyard? But where do you even begin, especially if you're a newbie gardener like me?

Recently, I ventured into the wonderland that is Roots Garden Center, where I had the pleasure of chatting with Amber, a resident guru of all things green. Let me tell you, her knowledge is vast and she was generous enough to sit down and chat with me!

Here's the dirt on what I learned (pun intended!):

Seeds vs. Seedlings: It might be a tad late to start seeds indoors now (ideally you'd begin in January), but fear not! You can still plant them, they just might be a little smaller. When choosing seeds, be a detective! Check the packet for germination and harvest days, so you know when those juicy tomatoes will be ready for your summer salads.

Plan Your Paradise: Before you grab a shovel and go wild, take a step back. What kind of edible delights do you crave? Tomatoes bursting with flavor? Luscious lettuce for salads? Knowing your culinary desires will guide your planting decisions.

Also, consider your garden real estate. Raised beds or in-ground plots – it's totally up to you! This is a great time to get your soil prepped. Amber suggests adding some earthworm castings (nature's fertilizer!) and turning the soil over to get it ready for planting.

Planting Power: Mother's Day weekend or the week after is generally prime planting time in Billings. But keep an eye on the weather forecast, because those delicate seedlings won't appreciate a surprise frost. One thing to note, Billings is being moved from zone 5 to zone 6, which means we can enjoy a wider variety of plants! For early bloomers, pansies and violas are fantastic choices thanks to their resilience in cooler weather.

Patience is Key: Gardening isn't a race, it's a journey! Amber emphasizes that it takes time and practice to cultivate a thriving garden. Every season brings new lessons, so don't get discouraged if things don't go perfectly the first go-round.

Here are some pro-tips for success:

  • Rotate your crops: This helps maintain healthy soil and prevent nutrient depletion.
  • Fertilize wisely: Opt for organic fertilizers for your veggie patch.
  • Water strategically: Aim for a morning or evening drink, but adjust based on your plant's needs. Wilting midday? Give it a little TLC, just make sure to avoid watering the foliage!
  • Plant Powerhouses: Tomatoes, onions, and peppers (spicy or mild) are Amber's favorites for salsa-making all summer long!
  • Strawberry Sweetness: These delicious fruits love a bit of afternoon shade, unlike most veggies which crave full sun.
  • Herb Haven: Plant your culinary companions in a separate area for easier maintenance.

Need more guidance? Don't hesitate to head to Roots Garden Center! Their friendly staff, including the amazing Amber, are there to answer all your planting questions, offer landscaping advice, and help you find the perfect flowers to add a pop of color to your garden. They are getting new plants in each week. With their help, your very own green oasis awaits!

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