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Old 06-02-2008, 05:46 PM
20 posts, read 72,466 times
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I drove through Western MT several years ago and loved the scenery. I didn't go to the eastern part of the state. Where in the state is the most fertile soil for growing an outdoor vegetable garden? I assume that, since the state is a Rocky Mountain state and has cold winters (comparatively speaking), the growing season for fruit and veggies is short.

I'm considering a move to MT and would like to grow or raise my own food as much as possible.

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Old 06-02-2008, 06:22 PM
Location: In an alternate universe according to some, AKA Aspergers
21,593 posts, read 20,614,298 times
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I just planted corn,pole beans,tomatos,peppers and herbs. We can grow quite a bit but it is a short season to be sure. Certain areas have rocky soil like gravel or pit run which really bites and others are mostly sandy loam which is great. Our current house is on sandy loam and our old house which is about 3 miles away is all pit run and you need a jack hammer to plant a tree. I'd say the east side of the divide would have a longer season but there are a lot of farms on the west side and the cherries on the lake can't be beat!
I've found that the west side has many micro climates and what we can grow in lets say Kalispell won't grow in Bigfork.
A hot house is very handy to have, I'm looking at building one due to being jeleous of friends that have them.
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Old 06-02-2008, 10:46 PM
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Well, I could go a lot of directions to answer your question. I'll try to do my best....

To strictly answer your question, the best soil in Montana that I know of is Creston soil, found in the town of Creston a few miles east of Kalispell. It's a dark black color and goes down about six feet deep. It's known as black gold to those in the area.

With that said, soil is only one part of the equation that determines how well crops grow. The other two parts are the amount of sunlight and the amount of water the crops receive.

Sunlight is the most difficult to control quantity for Montana farmers, as they have no control over the amount of sunlight the plants receive each year. Eastern Montana climates are a lot sunnier than Western Montana so it rates better from that aspect for growing crops.

Water is a key element as well for both Western Montana and Eastern Montana crops. You can irrigate in most locations for a home garden - as long as you have a plentiful supply of quality water. Wells generally produce sufficient water quantity but of very poor quality. High iron content is a common problem, and when the iron content is too high, the water will run red out of the faucet. Water your plants and you'll get red lettuce. Water your birch trees and you'll have red bark. Water your siding and before you know it you're living in a red house. I'm not kidding about this - my neighbor had one of these wells and everything (except the grass) was red around his house. I'd rate the water supply as the #1 consideration if I were to buy a place to have a home garden.

If you're really curious about soil conditions, the National Resource Conservation Service has collected a tremendous amount of data on soil conditions across the country. You can use the Web Soil Survey application found on their website to zoom in on a particular plot of land and examine the particular soil conditions.

Jimj is right about microclimates but it's not as bad as he makes it sound. The most notable exception are cherries - they grow on the east side of Flathead Lake but not on the west side.

All in all, I would not rate the soil conditions to be a key element in either deciding to live in Montana or on your particular choice of a house/land location. You can easily amend the soil for very little money for a home garden and give yourself more flexibility on where to live.

Good luck!

Moderator cut: snip
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Old 06-03-2008, 07:31 AM
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The length of growing season in Montana is the challenge. Interestingly enough, the warmest place in Montana for the longest period is said to be at the confluence of the Flathead and Clark Fork Rivers near the town of Paradise. There are several vegetable operations there and I don't know if any land is available. Nearest town (Plains) is about 30 miles away. But Paradise has a couple of bars!!!

It's worth inquiring.
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Old 06-28-2008, 03:38 PM
Location: Almost Canada, MT
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Actually, Paradise is only about 7 miles away from Plains. There is good growing there. Up where we are near the Canadian border we have a surprisingly long growing season. 10 miles south of us, the growing season is reduced by 2 weeks. Lots of microclimates in Montana...
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Old 06-30-2008, 09:24 AM
Location: Sarasota
463 posts, read 1,475,271 times
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We have great gardens in my area as well, SW Montana (Whitehall area) I grow corn, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, fennel, beans, rhubarb, beets etc. We have good hot summers but you will need to water! First frost can come early Sept and last frost is late May.
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