Get Growing at Zone 4 Live!

Sarah Cairoli  |   Thursday Feb. 27th, 2014

Bozeman gardeners are a hearty and determined variety. Mid-summer hailstorms and plummeting nighttime temperatures make growing veggies and flowers quite a challenge in this mountainous environment. With only a handful of tomato varieties that will ripen in our lightning-fast growing season, gardeners in Bozeman have to know what they are doing if they want to be successful.

When amateur gardeners Dan and Andra Spurr left their editing and publishing jobs on the East Coast to move to Bozeman, they were struck by the unique challenges associated with gardening in the Rocky Mountains and by the lack of information available to aspiring green thumbs. So, they did what they do best—published a magazine with the help of expert horticulturists from Montana State University and Colorado State University. For the past six years, Zone 4 magazine has been providing expert advice to gardeners in five states. In April, Zone 4 hits the road, heading to Chico Hot Springs for its second Zone 4 Live! event. Dubbed Plant to Plate, this conference will cover growing, cooking, and eating the varieties of produce that thrive in our climate.

Gardeners and experts will gather at Chico on April 8 and 9, for two days of gardening classes and delicious meals made from locally sourced ingredients. The ground may still be frozen, but it’s not too early to “get excited about springtime and getting our hands dirty,” according to Zone 4 editor and owner Dan Spurr.
The conference starts at noon on Tuesday with a talk given by Cheryl Moore-Gough, the magazine’s technical editor and an adjunct assistant professor of horticulture at MSU. Moore-Gough is also the author of Guide to Rocky Mountain Vegetable Gardening and The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds.

Susie Middleton, current editor-at-large for Fine Cooking magazine will give a presentation on how to cook unusual vegetables that grow well in our mountain climate, like pak choi, fennel, and Swiss chard. Middleton runs a market garden on Martha’s Vineyard and has written several cookbooks. Her work in the kitchen and the garden garnered the attention of Martha Stewart, who featured Middleton on her show.

The owner of Canyon View Nursery in Corvallis, Roger Joy, will be helping gardeners better understand how to grow berries and fruit trees in our challenging climate. According to Spurr, a surprising number of fruit species can be grown in the Rocky Mountain West when the right techniques are used. Joy and MSU Extension Horticulturist Toby Day will be giving hands-on demonstrations on how to graft two plants together to increase hardiness and fruit production. All attendees will have the opportunity to graft two plants of their own, which they can then take home.

David Baumbauer, from MSU’s Plant Growth Center, will be discussing how to use and care for small greenhouses. Greenhouses are a great way to extend the growing season, but can be tricky to use because inside temperatures have to be monitored and pests can become a problem.

While several experts will be on hand giving presentations and doling out advice, Plant to Plate will give guests the opportunity to do much more than just sit and listen. Spurr described the event as “half growing, half eating.” Chico Hot Springs executive chef Jeremy Berg will give a demonstration on grilling vegetables, in addition to cooking dinner on Tuesday night. Seabring Davis, author of several cookbooks and editor of Big Sky Journal, will discuss healthy eating after dinner. Claudia Galvore-Krevat of Sola Café and Claudia’s Mesa will present several of her rubs and spice mixes that gardeners can use to enhance dishes made from their freshly picked produce.

Guests and presenters came from several states to attend Zone 4’s first conference last fall. The most enjoyable part of the whole conference was the chance to spend time soaking in Chico’s relaxing pools while comparing stories of gardening success and failure with the other attendees. “It’s like a big sleepover,” Spurr said. All of the experts will be staying at Chico Hot Springs as well, and they love to talk with people about their work. “Gardeners are passionate about what they do,” Spurr said, and conversation flowed late into the night at the last event.
Don’t fret if you can’t make Zone 4 Live! in April because the magazine will host another conference at Chico in September. This one will focus on ornamentals that grow best in the Rocky Mountains and will feature several more expert presenters, including Remy Greco-Brault, an award-winning floral designer from Bozeman’s Labellum. Presenters will give advice on how to design floral arrangements, choose the right plant for the right place, and grow roses and fruit trees in Bozeman and areas with similar climates.

The Spurrs are committed to helping novice and advanced gardeners thrive here in zone 4. Local produce supports healthy people and healthy communities, but growing fresh veggies can be a difficult task in Bozeman and other mountain towns. The Spurr’s vibrant magazine is full of useful tips and advice, and their local events bring gardeners of all skill levels together to improve their backyard success.

For more information, or to register for Plant to Plate, visit or call the magazine’s office at 406-586-8540. Space is limited to the first 120 guests to register and lodging at Chico Hot Springs is not included in the registration fee. Issues of Zone 4 can be found at Rosauer’s, Cashman’s Nursery, Barnes and Noble, and other local retailers.     

Sarah Cairoli has lived in Bozeman for ten years and never successfully grown a tomato here. She can be reached at

About the Author(s)

Sarah Cairoli

Sarah Cairoli is a local writer, tutor, and mother who has been enjoying all Bozeman has to offer for the past decade. She can be reached at (at) hotmail [d0t] com,)

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