Spring progress report in Western Montana-

marknmtApril 19, 2012

I'm a little encouraged this year. The winter was on the mild side and Spring got here in timely fashion. We've had a little rain and reasonably warm days. We're at 3200 feet elevation and getting a good start.

Apricots are in full bloom. Crocuses have been and gone, and tulips look to be getting ready; daffodils are doing their thing. My garlic and shallots are up and looking good. The pear and apple are leafing out and I'll graft next week. A friend wants me to try Golden Supreme and I'm going to try to find a spot for that, along with the other gifts I've gotten from friends here. No plans for the pear other than to keep it pruned.

My real excitement is over the little Italian prune plum growing from a sucker. I've hovered over it four years now (or is it five?) and it looks to be getting ready to bloom for the first time. And the funky little experimental prune that I grafted to tomentosa is doing well also, although no signs of flowers yet. Several years old and still just waist high, it looks to be considerably dwarfed, which is what I had hoped for. Maybe next year we'll get to see whether it can handle the burden of bearing fruit.

And I'm also tickled that the marianna rootstock left from my winter-killed apricot survived nicely and in fact gave me a couple of spares. I'll graft to them this summer and give one or two away, and I'm really looking forward to that.

Just like Christmas every day!


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franktank232(z5 WI)


Not sure where you are in Montana (have never been to that state...i was close when I was in Wyoming!), but i've done some reading on Flathead Lake and their sweet cherry orchards. Sounds like an incredible place to grow fruit with a very good microclimate around the lake. Very mild compared to this area in the winter.

Sounds like you are about a month behind this area (my apricots are quarter size).

Growing fruit out there must be nice with not having to deal with pests like PC, Japanese Beetles, etc?

I was reading that Idaho has had a lot of damage to their peach crop? Doesn't sound like it will be a very good year for fruit with damage in California (hail/rain), Michigan (cold), NE (more cold) ...

Around here I'm pumped that almost all of my chip buds took from last summer (several apples, apricots and peaches)...

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 10:20AM
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That's great that you're having success grafting. My first attempts this spring did not take, I think it was too early.

Farther south and higher up in the rocky mountain states (7,000 feet) our seasons have been similar, although the mountains here actually got some good snow this year, right around average. The main difference is that most apricots were in full bloom about 3 weeks ago, peaches are past full bloom, and apples and pears are covered with open blossoms right now. Spring happened suddenly here and flowering times were tightly clustered together because of the March warmth. Plant-wise we're about 1 or 2 weeks ahead of where we are most years.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 1:01PM
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backyardener(z6 Idaho)

Frank, I wonder where you heard that about Idaho peach damage. I am close to the prime peach growing areas and I have not seen damage to peaches or anything else that I grow. We had a very mild winter and a really good spring with nice gradual warming. I'm really looking forward to this growing season - at least for me, it should be a good one.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 4:24PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

I read an article on another site a few weeks back. May have just been localized, i'll dig it up. When its all said and done, hopefully most areas can produce a decent crop. I know Michigan has had it tough this spring with the season running a month ahead of schedule.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 4:51PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


We've had good Spring weather here too. Blooms were almost a month ahead of schedule. I expected to get froze out, but somehow it didn't happen, so fruits have full crops and are still way ahead of schedule.

About the only bad thing that has happened so far is the lack of sufficient rainfall. The ground has cracks, which is unusual for Spring.

I've had to water transplants in the Spring, which is very unusual.

This could be another very dry summer in the lower Midwest.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 5:48PM
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I'm about 90 minutes from the Flathead Lake area, in Missoula. The lake is wonderful country, but then, so is this! You're right about the bug pressure: the only insect I seem to have serious issues with is codling moth, but can get up to four, yep, four generations per year out of those! Never been bothered with too much else but there is powdery mildew and some CAR around here. But the season in the Missoula area is pretty short, and peaches are almost impossible for most. 'Cots are challenged but there are a number of survivor trees that have been around for decades; I'll pick a bud stick from one of them to graft onto my Marianna rootstocks this year.

Olpea, you're in my brother's neck of the woods. We grew up in northwest Arkansas and he married a Kansas girl and still lives in Lawrence. I followed a western lady to Montana. I'm pretty sure neither of us will leave without being packed out. Good luck on your water. I'm lucky to have well water reasonably close to the surface, so we water all we feel the need to.

Congratulations to all for successes beating the weather and making grafts work!


    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 10:08PM
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