March! MARCH 4th! Maaaarrrcchhhh!
That means spring is what, like 6 weeks away? 8 at the most? Yes, we live in a norther climate.
And you and I both know Bozeman usually receives it's most snow in March. The quixotic March weather is all "45 degrees! Sun! No snow!" and then 5 minutes later "Snow! More Snow!"
Last year as a neophyte gardener, I did a lot of reading to bring myself up to speed on what gardening in Montana was all about. Of course the first place to start are the United States Department of Agriculture's zone maps, which look like this and tell you how cold it really gets in your neck of the woods. My area is somewhere between 2a and 4a (minimum temperatures of -30 to -50.
Cold hardiness charts indicate which plants you can put into the ground and expect to survive the winter. We'll see how the bushes, shrubs and bulbs I planted made it through the winter in a few weeks!
The other resource I turn to frequently is the Montana State University Ag Extension Office's website. Their yard and garden publications, downloadable in PDF, are really excellent and geared specifically for Montana. They also have frost/ freeze data and Podcasts (aren't we tech savy Ag-Extension!).
I also have a collection of excellent reference books. The Montana Gardener's Companion, by Bob Gough and Cheryl-Moore Gough is an excellent reference for local information, as is Rocky Mountain Vegetable Gardening by the same authors. Western Garden Book, by the publishers of Sunset magazine is a gigantic encyclopedia of gardening information. It's fun to browse through and read about plants suitable for only zone 8...
Early spring is the time of year that I have to remind myself to temper my hopes with reality. True spring-like weather is still a few weeks away. Now is the time to finalize plans and gather materials. Seed shopping, anyone?