Spring Planting Guide for the Five Valleys Region of Western Montana Zones 3b-5b
Planting environments in the Intermountain West vary greatly including Arid High Desert, Urban, and High Mountain regions.
This is for the Five Valleys Region of Western Montana Hardiness Zones 3b-5b. Created in collaboration with Titbout's Seeds in Missoula, MT!
If you are in a different Zone of our region, please check out our Planting Guides page to find an option that applies!
Be sure to check your Plant Hardiness Zone and your last projected frost date. THEN, watch the weather forecast carefully. Gardening should be considered an adapting practice so try different strategies such as starting seeds at different times, or succession planting (more on that below).
The frost-free period in Missoula is generally May 15th - September 15th. The average rainfall for the Five Valleys Region of Western Montana is about 12-16 inches of rain and 20-50 inches of snowfall per year depending on where one lives. Often, we are not able to start working the ground until early-to-mid April. In years when we have heavy snow in March, we may need to wait until late April. Watch your frost dates and watch the weather forecasts carefully! We recommend checking with your local nursery for ideas, and have a back-up plan. If this is your first gardening year, consider starting small enough that you can quickly cover any plants that need to be protected in the event of a frost warning, using row cover, or a spare sheet!
Spring Planting Tips:
- Keep seeds very moist as they are germinating, start indoors where indicated, and transplant out just as soon as they are big enough to hold their own. Move them into the garden as fast as you can so their growth isn’t interrupted.
- Allow some of your spring-sown veggies to go to seed in the summer! They will seed themselves and grow in the fall without your help! Parsnips, greens, Radishes, and Pac Choi work well this way!
- Plan to protect fall-grown greens with a cold frame to harvest greens well into the winter.
You can increase your chances of seeing a crop make its way to beautiful harvest time by successively planting at timed intervals, rather than all at once. The plants will mature at staggered dates, establishing an ongoing harvest over the coming months! This is a common approach for lettuce, salad greens, and radishes that have shorter growing times to reach maturity. In your home garden this is also a good way to provide a steady amount of food for harvest so that you can enjoy eating it fresh! Succession planting is the best way to prevent the problem of having too much lettuce all at once! (We’ve all been there!)
Row cover can be used to extend a growing season up to two weeks earlier in the spring, and allow for an additional 2 weeks in the fall. Other methods of season extension could include the use of green houses, hoop-houses, or cold-frames. Some folks are starting their seeds in milk jugs (earlier in the season than we are indicating on this guide) to allow them to germinate when they’re ready, negating the need to start indoors or harden plants off.