BY EMILY CASEY, BIG SKY WATER CONSERVATION COORDINATOR

PHOTO BY MOLLY WILLIAMS

What do you get when you let three Big Sky nonprofits loose at one historic site? An awesome project that benefits the whole community!

After noticing invasive species growing at Crail Ranch, Jen Mohler, Gallatin Invasive Species Alliance, brought together a team of nonprofits to build a native plant garden. The garden will educate visitors about native plants, invasive species, Water Wise principles, efficient irrigation, and so much more. The Task Force, in partnership with the Gallatin Invasive Species Alliance and Big Sky Community Organization, is working with the Big Sky Water and Sewer District and local nurseries to support this large landscaping project.

So far, we have a great Landscape Plan designed by Beth MacFawn and amazing local partners that includes four garden beds and one lawn area, complete with pathways, benches, and more. Visitors to Crail Ranch will have the chance to learn about plants that improve Montana’s natural heritage while they experience the olden’ days of Big Sky. All plants will be native and adapted to Big Sky’s semi-arid climate. Once established, the garden will need virtually no supplemental irrigation. Natural rain and soil moisture will sustain native plants through our dry summers.

Blue flax (Linum lewisii) is one of the easiest wildflowers to grow from seed.

Native plants provide many benefits, like:

  • Conserving water and soil
  • Improving air quality and sequestering carbon
  • Preserving natural heritage
  • Enhancing biodiversity
  • Increasing real estate values
  • Reducing maintenance needs and their associated costs
  • Creating habitat for pollinators and other wildlife
  • Reducing or omitting the use of fertilizers and pesticides
  • Reducing associated pollution in nearby streams, rivers, and groundwater resources

Stay in the Know

Next spring and summer, we’ll be reaching out to intrepid volunteers to help complete the gardens. Contact us at [email protected] for more information on how you can help with the Crail Ranch Demonstration Garden.

Be Water Wise

The Demonstration Garden at Crail Ranch will implement the Seven Water Wise Landscape Principles the Task Force’s Water Conservation Program recommends for outdoor water use. The key to implementing these principles is deliberate planting to maximize resources across each area of your landscape.

Maintaining an efficient irrigation system is an important part of conserving water on your outdoor landscape.

Seven Water Wise Landscape Principles

  1. Plan & Design
  2. Improve Soils
  3. Appropriate Plant Selection
  4. Practical Turf Areas
  5. Efficient Irrigation
  6. Use Mulches
  7. Appropriate Maintenance

If you’d like more information on how you can upgrade your landscape to “Be Water Wise”, check back in with us for the upcoming release of our Big Sky Water Wise Landscape Guide. It’s never too early to start planning to save water for next summer.

Before the snow flies…remember these Water Wise tips to wrap up any remaining landscaping work!

  • Winterize sprinkler systems so that they can operate efficiently next summer. Blow out and drain sprinklers using an air compressor before the first frost.
  • Contact your property manager or landscaper to set up an appointment. Water left in irrigation lines during the winter can cause frost damage, creating additional maintenance costs and potential leaks in the spring.
  • Check back in with the Task Force next spring for rebates on sprinkler audits and checkups to start next summer off right here.
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