Summer and Fall Vegetable Planting Guide for the Five Valleys Region of Western Montana Zones 3b-5b
This little guide has plenty of tips, download a copy today!
Enjoy an abundant harvest through Fall and Winter with these cold-hardy vegetables!
We’ve been stoked about the potential of Fall and Winter harvest for some time, and hope you’re getting excited about the possibilities too! Making the most of our annual precipitation is just one really important consideration to entertain.
Check out our Fall & Winter Planted Flower Guide Here!
This planting information 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!
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.
Extreme weather, such as high heat, windy conditions, temperature swings, and wildfire smoke, will affect the seeds’ ability to germinate and their days to maturity. 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).
If this is your first gardening year, consider starting small enough that you can quickly provide shade for plants that need to be protected in the event of high heat. Using shade cloth, or a spare sheet, supported, and sprayed with a hose to create cool air can work well!
- Read the seed packet! Keep seeds moist as they are germinating, start indoors where indicated, and transplant out just as soon as they are big enough to hold their own.
- Add about 30% to the “days to maturity” for crops you’re sowing after the summer solstice. The shortening days can increase the growing time needed. You’ll generally want to start crops earlier than you might think to get a successful fall and winter crop.
- Allow some of your spring-sown veggies to go to seed in the summer! They will re-seed themselves and grow in the fall with minimal help! Parsnips, greens, and Radishes work well this way!
Row cover can be used to extend a growing season up to an additional two weeks in the fall. For more support, try using cold frames (walled outdoor frames that protect plants from the cold while allowing sun exposure). These can be constructed using straw bales with a transparent top. They also come pre-built with rigid plastic siding and a top. In the fall be sure to watch your frost dates and watch the weather forecasts carefully! Your local nursery is a great resource for helping you successfully plan for cold snaps.
You can increase your chances of harvesting later in the season 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. For these crops you can plant them early and then save some seed to plant again for ongoing harvests well into the fall. Succession planting is the best way to prevent the problem of having too much lettuce all at once! (We’ve all been there!)
Next Level Gardening:
Due to increasing climate challenges some gardeners are starting seeds indoors through the season in order to have back-up starts in the event of a crop loss. Having these starts ready to transplant when a crop comes out is also a good method for intensive food growing, and provides consistent soil cover.
Try to plan for complementary types if you’re switching crops in succession. For example, interplant peas by direct seeding among your tomatoes. The peas will help restore nitrogen in your soil, just be mindful of your planting distances so you’re not overcrowding. You can harvest the peas and use the greens to feed your soil at the end of the season, letting the greens become a winter-killed cover crop.