Archive for January, 2010

Budgets, building up and barrels Friday, January 29th, 2010

The minimal time I’ve been gardening at my home (7 years) I’ve learned to have, if not a strict budget, at the very least a focus of what I wanted to accomplish that season. The first year or two I was buying and collecting with abandon. It was a good start (but I did burn a hole in my pocket book). The best choices I made didn’t come from nurseries but through collecting and trading. I’ve acquired some tried and true specimens that I already knew would work well in this corner of our world. Hostas, daylilies and iris from my mom, roses I’d known grew well from childhood memories at my grandmothers’, native grasses, mints, sedums and thyme.

Now that I’d found some stuff to work with I moved onto more foundation plantings like shrubs and trees. Having all of ours wiped out by dutch elm, blight and scald those became the focus the next couple years. To save money we went to the nearly-annual city surplus sale and donated to the Arbor Day Society – for a minimal donation you get quite a few trees, though tiny, it’s worth it even if only a couple survive. We only splurged on the two trees planted the day our kids were born. Investing in perennials, trees and shrubs will always be a better deal as they, hopefully, come back year after year needing less and less maintenance as they become established.

Last year (and the year before) we put up a fence to enclose the backyard both for our kids’ and dog’s sake and to keep rough-n-tumble kids from breaking, beating and stomping the stuff we had planted. There is just something way too appealing about breaking branches.

Bringing us to this year’s focus:

  • Dirt — basically building up the veggie garden, raising or mounding the beds. This will help them heat up faster, drain better and hopefully provide more of a path to get to things. I’d love all raised beds as it would make the work easier but the building materials would probably be out of our range. By bringing in a mix of compost, dirt, peat etc. we will improve the soil quality. Before all of this I should finally get soil samples sent into the extension office so that I know where I’m at as far as pH and basic nutrient needs.
  • Water conservation — rain barrels and soaker hoses. Our old soaker hoses need replacing and they really are the smartest way to water. I’ve been talking about rain barrels for a few years and have never tackled the project. To buy one premade will cost a minimum of $150 from what I’ve perused in catalogs, but there are easier ways to make your own. I just need to find large plastic food-grade barrels that have never held any chemicals. They could be used as is by dipping watering cans into, or I can add spigots and drain hoses for greater ease with some strategic holes, faucet and hose attachments. Not only do you end up with free water, it’s actually much better water for your plants. City water around these parts is more alkaline and will increase soil pH. Just remember a couple mosquito dunks to kill the larvae.
  • Lastly, another tree splurge as there is another Pharris on the way to make his/her appearance in April. We haven’t nailed down the type of tree we want yet but I’m leaning towards an evergreen of sorts or an oak. I’ll have to call the nurseries and check on the availability of bareroot vs. container in early April.
Greenscaping seminars Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

BROOKINGS — The South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service will offer a series of  Greenscaping seminars in Brookings, Mitchell, Lennox, and Vermillion.
The two main topics of the seminars are natural and organic pest control for vegetable gardens and the use of native plants in landscaping to promote ecology. Each seminar will be held from 5-8 p.m. The dates and locations include:
Feb. 18, Brookings County Extension office, Brookings
March 23, Davison County Extension Office, Mitchell
April 6, First English Lutheran Church, Lennox
April 19, Clay County Extension office, Vermillion
The seminars cost $15 per person and include materials and meal. An additional participant can share a binder with a friend for $5. Advanced registration is required one week before each event.
To register, send check or money order to the Minnehaha County Extension office, Attention: Chris Zdorovtsov, 220 W. Sixth St., Sioux Falls, SD 57104. Make checks payable to the “South District Horticulture Fund” and indicate which seminar you want to attend.
Guest speakers from the Natural Resources and Conservation Service will share information on tree and conservation programs during the seminars.
For more information, call Zdorovtsov at 605-367-7877, or call Yankton County Extension Horticulture Educator Cynthia Bergman at 605-665-3387.

Press Release

Orchids Monday, January 25th, 2010

Orchids have always been a siren’s call for me. I’ve tried my hand at a 1/2 dozen and had one last for nearly 3 yrs. but it never bloomed after that initial siren call of demure burgundy flowers (dendrobium variety).

This variety, along with phalaenopsis and cattleya are some of the more common available for homeowners. Just this last weekend I found some marked-down to $5 at Walmart – not alerting me with their arching stem of blooms, there weren’t any, but with their thick, large, almond-shaped leaves. The leaves had lost their gloss, but were still green. A healthy one will have shiny green leaves that hold themselves up, not limp, leathery, brown or yellow. I didn’t have a chance to inspect the roots which, if healthy, should be a cool pale, frosted green with a fleshy look, not shriveled, brown or with noticeable decay. I did see some very pretty specimens at Shopko, but trying to conserve my budget I couldn’t hand over the $19.99 it’d cost for one. But, of course I wanted to.

So, if you get a chance – seems to be the season for them at the department stores – and want to try one. Take note of my above descriptions of healthy plants. Now for some care instructions (you may be thinking, “Why the heck should I listen to a girls who has killed a 1/2 dozen?” Well, I learn best from my mistakes which have been: not repotting, too much sun, old potting medium, cats, over-watering, lack of circulation, lack of humidity, fussing. Onto the solutions:

  • Light – east window or south window with a sheer curtain is best. Avoid direct sun from south and west, north isn’t enough.
  • Use a porous, clay pot or orchid specific pot – they usually have cut-outs to allow for more air circulation. Remove any plastic liner pots
  • Misting frequently is way better than watering
  • Orchid specific potting medium is best – usually fibrous bark that holds moisture but also breaths
  • Keep away from furnace vents, but they do like air movement – just not the drying type, so a ceiling fan is good.
  • Use a weak fertilizer when blooming – alternate fresh waterings with a watering/misting of a solution of orchid-specific fertilizer and water. This makes sure you don’t burn the roots or get a buildup of fertilizer. Better yet, opt for fish emulsion – a natural, slow-release plant food.
  • Use a wide tray, a couple inches deep, fill with pebbles or marbles and then add water just below the top of the pebbles – set your orchid pot directly on the pebbles. This creates a micro-climate of higher humidity.

Think circulation and humidity with orchids – they like water, but mostly in the air around them. An old fishtank might also be an option – set it up like a terrarium. It could make quite a lovely display.

Good move! BFBL, SD Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Yeah! Congrats to Buy Fresh Buy Local: South Dakota for their .org launch. Please support!

Child-focused gardening workshop Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Just to clarify this workshop is not for children but for people who like to garden with kids: educators, care providers, or like me a parent who wants to get the most out of gardening with my own kids. Here is the brochure and registration form: 2010 brochure

Held at the Dacotah Prairie museum in Aberdeen the 6-hour workshop includes such topics as: bugs, math and other age-appropriate practices for childrens’ gardening. Registration is limited.

I’ll be most excited to learn other ways to pull my kids interests towards the garden. Too often I’m focusing on weeds and not the magic – that’s no way to spark a child’s interest.

Master Gardener classes Friday, January 15th, 2010

Extension Master Gardener training set for five cities in 2010
BROOKINGS — In 2010, the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service will offer Master Gardener training in Aberdeen, Miller, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, and Vermillion.
The Master Gardener Program is designed for people interested in gardening, and most participants take part to both hone their gardening skills and find ways to contribute to their communities.
The program costs $160 for an individual or $210 for two individuals sharing a manual. Participants attend nine class sessions encompassing more than 60 hours of study. Graduates must complete 50 hours of volunteer service in order to earn the title Master Gardener. Participants can pay $500 for the course without the volunteer requirement.
The training sessions will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the following dates in 2010:

  • Aberdeen: May 18 and 25; June 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29; July 6 and 13.
  • Miller: May 19 and 26; June 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30; and July 7 and 14.
  • Rapid City: March 25; April 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29; May 6, 13, and 20.
  • Sioux Falls: March 26; April 9, 16, 23, and 30; May 7, 14, 21, and 28.
  • Vermillion: April 29; May 6, 13, 20, and 27; June 3, 10, 17, and 24.

To register for the Master Gardener training program, call the Brown County Extension office at 605-626-4012, the Minnehaha County Extension office at 605-367-7877, the Pennington County Extension office at 605-394-2188, or the Yankton County Extension office at 605-665-3387.

The South Dakota Master Gardener program covers lawn care, selection and care of ornamental trees and shrubs, insect, disease, and weed control. The course also addresses the safe use of pesticides, soils and plant nutrition, vegetable, fruit, and flower gardening, plant propagation, and herbaceous plants.
Training includes classroom instruction as well as outdoor learning. Trainees are encouraged to bring plant, insect, and disease samples to share with the class. Minnehaha County Extension Horticulture Educator Chris Zdorovtsov said participants also are encouraged to relate their own gardening experiences with the group so everyone learns from individual experiences.
“Since many of the people involved in the Master Gardener training program are already avid gardeners, everyone becomes a resource for the other gardeners,” Zdorovtsov said. “Participants will also receive the South Dakota Master Gardener resource manual.”
Graduates of the program must complete 50 hours of volunteer service to their county Extension program, and then complete 10 hours of volunteer work each year. Volunteer service ranges from answering telephone requests for information, hosting plant clinics, or speaking to groups. Other Master Gardeners assist with demonstration gardens, farmers markets, youth gardens, 4-H activities, or write articles for local newspapers.
“Some of our Master Gardeners help with research projects such as the South Dakota Tree Inventory, or serve as volunteer coordinators,” said Zdorovtsov. “It’s an excellent way to take a hobby and make it a vehicle to help others and share what you truly enjoy.”
Additional application information is available at the Master Gardener Web.

Garden plans Friday, January 15th, 2010

Whether you are just starting out or are a garden pro (are any of us?!) it does one good to start garden plans early.

If you’ve gardened before, think back about what worked and didn’t as far as layout.

  • Were things too crowded
  • Too spread out
  • Too far from a water source
  • Could you not get to your peppers because of the jungle of raspberries

Taking note of these items always helps to improve on the coming growing season.

If you are new or like things orderly – here are a couple good sources for planning.

The square foot garden is great for beginners and those with limited space.

This garden-planning helper is just plain fun to dink around with.

At any rate – make sure your garden is:

  • By a water source
  • Away from fence lines – neighbors have been known to get carried away with weed killer so keeping your edibles a bit away from property lines will help ensure their survival
  • Little plants can get big fast so don’t think you can cram too much into a small space – then nothing does well
  • Low-lying areas can mean wet feet (rot, mildew) for plants so opt for higher ground
  • Vegetable gardens need a lot of sun – so stay away from big trees (which can also suck up all the moisture) or north and west sides of any structures
Wish again Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Another wishful thought: “Gaia’s Garden”

Wishing season Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

My mom asked me the other day if I’d received any garden catalogs yet? “Um, one – Baker Creek.” She wanders away just to come back and plop down what looked like a dozen seed, perennial, vegetable, and supply catalogs.

Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again. The anger over tomato blights and squash maggots has softened like labor pains for a mother looking upon another birth (like me come April). The hope is here again. South Dakota is a nice place to garden for that. Everything is covered with a blanket of snow – some survivors will mark the building blocks of what is to come and among them a blank slate to fill anew. Without our killing winters I couldn’t imagine anything turning the switch on the jungle I inevitably find myself in come August. By then I’m just willing the growing season to end.

So, with my impending 2-month leave April and May I’m going to give a shot to starting some seeds. I’m had very minimal success in the past. Lighting has always been my problem. The seeds sprout, grow, become lanky and flop over – growing in much too long and weak to rebound the transplanting to come.

In steps my first wish – this is why I love my March birthday, just in time for garden season – a grow light with adjustable height. You see I have a great south window, but it’s never enough, nor can one regulate the S.D. sun. Also, seeds just give us a sate to our early gardening thirst, they also give us a jump so we can grow some things our growing season just can’t accommodate without a head start.

The hub and I have started a seed list just from Baker Creek:

These are just a few ‘wishes’ – haven’t filled out the order yet – guess it’s also the time to figure out the garden budget before we get too ahead of ourselves.