Growing Green in Helena, MT

This weekend, Jake and I went out to Helena, MT to visit his sister, Amy, who just recently had a baby girl. Despite the fact that she’s been incredibly busy with her beautiful little Allie, she has managed to get a ton of veggies out and into her garden, which I always look forward to exploring. She starts many of the seeds inside. In fact, it was in talking with her last fall that I started to get brave enough to think about starting seeds indoors.

When you first see the garden, you feel as though you’re looking at an article in the Sunset magazine. Mike, Allie’s daddy, created this amazing garden space with 8 huge raised beds, which are all enclosed by tall fencing to keep the deer out. When you walk in the gate, you are greeted by a beautiful orange-flower trailing honeysuckle and a variety of veggies and flowers growing in unique containers. My favorite is the rainbow chard grown in the sides of an old tool box.

What impresses me most is the scope of the operation (the amount of different vegetables she has growing in one space) and the size of the vegetables growing in the plots. Here are some of the things that have stood out to me the most:

1. She’s growing corn. My dad would love it if I grew corn. I might try sometime, but if I understand it right, corn can be a little difficult to grow in our Seattle climate. Plus, you need to grow more than one stalk so they can cross pollinate. In other words, it would take quite a bit of my limited space. Despite my reservations, seeing the rows of leafy green stalks of corn growing in her garden kind of makes me want to grow a few in mine. It’s like having a little piece of a farm in your own back yard.

2. She has a ton of each kind of plant. For example, she must have at least 15 tomato plants and too many pea vines to count. What is nice about quantity, and the reason I do square foot gardening to maximize my space, is that you will have enough food to harvest for meals. Imagine going to the supermarket to get enough of a vegetable for a meal – you could easily fill up a plastic produce bag for a dinner for four. A surplus of vegetables also provides food to preserve for the fall and winter. Jake and I enjoyed some of Amy’s tomatoes from last summer, which we ate sun-dried with pasta this winter.

3. Onions – the onions she started from onion sets are huge – the size you see at the farmer’s market. The ones she started from seed look a lot like mine, which make me feel pretty proud of myself. I still have a lot to learn.

Overall, the garden is amazing and when you walk into the space, it feels like you are in another world. I realize that I am really into the whole gardening thing, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that her garden is truly amazing and it makes me even more inspired to continue expanding my space.

Finally, today we took a trip to the Helena farmer’s market. It wasn’t too shabby, although there were more crafts than vegetables. Going to the farmer’s market here during this time is like going to the Seattle farmer’s market in the winter or early spring. Of all the craft booths there, I definitely found my favorite. I should say though, that I actually found it two days ago in a small shop in downtown Helena. The shop was called Frayed Sew, a super cute boutique devoted to handcrafted items. The owner and designer, Becky Schreiner, makes tons of cute bags, clutches, and other fun things with lots of beautiful, bright, and colorful fabrics. If I could have a shop of my own, I imagine it would look something like it – Amy Butler fabric galore.

3 thoughts on “Growing Green in Helena, MT

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