Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Growing Up: Gardeners persevere during trying weather in Montana

JIM GAINAN Growing Up | Posted: Sunday, June 19, 2011 12:00 am

What a spring this has been. In fact what a winter too! Oh, how we rely on seasons... Living in an area with four distinct and relatively intense seasons has been something I've enjoyed for as long as I can remember. So what's with this? Almost a year of unpredictable weather with so many ups and downs it feels like a year of left-overs without the original feast.

I've seen a lot of melancholy in gardeners this year. We're a persnickety bunch because we like our schedules. Potatoes go in the ground on Good Friday, then cool crops like peas, spinach, lettuce, radishes, cabbage and broccoli. When soil temperature reaches 60 degrees then we plant the fun fast-growing veggies like tomatoes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, beans and squash. During this time we also plant early annuals and perennials.

So what happens if the weather doesn't cooperate? Angry, frustrated and sad gardeners are born. We've waited six months for our chance to get back in the dirt. It's not a choice; we HAVE to do it and with weather like we've had, it's delayed.

Some gardeners have pushed through and made it work despite the harsh weather. Planting, covering and carefully tending to the complicated intricacies in such conditions has created slow growth, disease and pests. Have you ever seen so many slugs?  Other gardeners have indicated they are behind at least a month from where they hoped to be with their plans.

For those of you who are behind, this part is for you. Because, I continue to be behind schedule and since next week isn't looking much better I thought I would share my new position on the issue. I decided the added stress of not accomplishing these goals on time and living "behind schedule" was going to be an opportunity for the ‘gardener' to grow. As I mentioned last week, I really enjoyed the perennials this year -- because that's all there was to enjoy and they trudged through without any problems.

For me, with every rainy cold night in April and May that I came home to mounting weeds and untended beds, the project just kept getting bigger and bigger. It started to feel like the sun may never shine again. If I didn't get an opportunity to get started soon I may never gain control of it again.

During that time, I began to realize that my 'schedule' wasn't going to work any longer and that I had to reduce my expectations of mother nature and myself. I did what I could during those soggy months and then completely forgot about my issues and my thoughts turned toward those facing the devastating floods. What an eye opener.

To those who are just beginning or rebuilding for the season, there's hope. Rewind to the garden. It's not too late to plant anything. True, the corn won't be "knee high by the 4th of July" but, you will get corn. Fast growing crops like carrots and lettuce are regularly planted twice in a season. So take heart and keep planting.

As far as flowers go, there's plenty of time to enjoy annuals and perennials. We enjoy these flowers long into the fall so it's certainly not too late to plant. Plus, they've been growing in the greenhouses so they're bigger than they would have been if you had purchased them in April anyway, so you may not need as many!

There's so much to gardening. It's not just putting plants in the ground. It's time with family going to the garden center to select the perfect plants, stopping for ice cream on the way there and the way back (I mean OR the way back, of course).

Gardening is all about digging in the dirt and getting physical exercise, improving the aesthetic of your home, soaking in a little vitamin "D", feeling the energy of all the life in the garden, enjoying the feeling of an accomplished task and creating something beautiful. Come on it's time to get growing!

Jim Gainan is President of Gainan's Flower and Garden Center in Billings.