A trip to Northwest Kansas introduced my husband and me to a wildflower I hadn't seen before. Our destination was the Smokey Valley Ranch, a working cattle ranch in Logan County. Owned by the Kansas Nature Conservancy, the day-long visit began as a volunteer work session, as we helped remove invasive red cedars and clear old fence posts and barbed wire. But it also turned into a wonderful learning experience as we observed the flora and fauna of the native shortgrass prairie that is protected there.
This week we'll celebrate Old Glory by examining a popular way to 'plant the colors' in your yard or garden. With roots in South America, the colorful petunia provides a basis for the three colors needed to recreate the American flag. Though red and white flower blooms abound in our part of plains, blue blossoms are harder to grow successfully because they often need a more acidic soil than we can provide. But petunias seem to fill the bill for that blue color, and their relatively low cost and successful growth record make them a good choice for patriotic planting.
A look at a seasonal bug that's not really a garden pest but more of an outdoor nuisance at this time of year. Buzzing incessently around any bright light to be found, and then crashing into anything that stands in their way, junebugs are a favorite menu item for toads. So I put out the welcome mat for toads big and small, giving them right-of-way on garden paths and offering a cool dark hiding place during the day. When it's suppertime, I leave the light on outside and offer the toads the best table at the Junebug Cafe.
This week we'll look at some new doings in food production, as science makes the scene in both the garden and the fruit orchard. A brief history of efforts to produce grafted tomatoes and potatoes brings us from the early 70's to today's promise of a single plant with tomatoes on the top and spuds beneath. But this is nothing new to folks who have been grafting fruit tree limbs to produce tangelos, plucots, plumcots, and more.
This week we'll leave the garden and hop a train to the west to celebrate last year's Father's Day at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum on the coast of Southern California. My trip was the result of finding a final resting place for my Dad's World War II memorabilia, and then transporting the precious cargo on the same route the G.I.s took 70 years ago, when they fought the war in the Pacific.
This spring's harvests of blooms and berries have really been a guessing game. A bin-buster harvest of strawberries came at least a month earlier than usual, along with irises. But normally plentiful peas and other cool-weather crops seem to playing a waiting game. I have to place the blame on an on-again-off-again winter weather season, but what else is new in our corner of the world.
This week we'll look at the hows and whys of growing gourds, on both an ornamental or functional level. Related to squash and cucumbers, few varieties are popular as edibles, but numerous types can serve in various ways. Most of the work of producing gourds comes not with the growing but with how they are treated after the harvest. Curing and cleaning are the first steps in a process that can produce bird houses, feeders, nifty containers, or art objects.
A trip to the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show brought me face to face with a family of gourds that were watching me as I was watching them. This whimsical art form has been mastered by a garden artist named Betty Finch, and she does wonderful things with gourds big and small. Don't miss the slide show!
This year I'm making some changes in my vegetable garden layout, and moving some of it closer to the kitchen door. On the way, we'll look at a brief history of the term 'kitchen garden' and find out what things usually grow there.
Put some new colors in your garden by planting and growing purple asparagus. This springtime taste treat is guaranteed to be as tasty as the traditional green varieties, and some say it's sweeter and more tender because it has a 20% higher natural sugar content. Add to that the high levels of anthocyanins that give it the purple color and some great health benefits such as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous properties. It's not readily available in stores, so you might as well listen to this week's show and learn to grow your own.
One of the major markets for mint occurs during the Kentucky Derby, when mint juleps are served up to anyone with a desire to taste them and toast the famous horseracing event. But the sharp taste and smell of mint makes it a major player not only at the racetrack, but in herb gardens, gourmet kitchens, and apothocary shops throughout the world. This week we'll investigate the many kinds of mint, and issue some well-intentioned warnings about planting it, in a way that will allow it to become a highlight and not a nightmare in your garden.
A new sensation is sweeping the nation of niche gardeners, and this week's show looks at the popularity of fairy gardens. We'll cover the background of fairies and why people decided to open their homes and gardens to them. We'll also look at some basics of plant selection and care of these minature landscapes.
Regular listeners to Growing on the High Plains may remember last September's story about the Survivor Tree that resides at the 9/11 World Trade Center site in New York City. This week we'll visit the middle of the country to talk about another heroic tree that survived the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Twenty years ago the tree was thought of as another casualty of that brutal and outrageous act. But today the American Elm stands tall and graceful, spreading its limbs to provide shade and comfort to all who visit the outdoor memorial. Join us to learn of the history and to pay tribute to this botanical hero.
There are lots of reasons, pro and con, for living in California, but perhaps one of the best reasons for putting down roots has to do with a citrus treat called the Meyer lemon. A cross between a lemon and an orange, they came to the U.S. by way of China in the early 1900s. They have soft skins and lots of juice, and because of that they were never developed as a commercial lemon, capable of being shipped across the country. Instead they became a homeowner's favorite, growing in backyards and providing flavorful fruit on nearly a year-round basis. Rarely seen at inland stores and markets, they are one of many things that make travelling to sunny California so enjoyable.
If you live on the Southern High Plains and you like to grow things, then you know what a gamble spring planting dates are. Just when you think you'll have some early goodies to gather in a few weeks, a blizzard can rear its ugly head down in the Southwest and sweep across our part of the world in nothing flat, leaving us with seedbeds under a foot or two of snow. In our part of the world, March comes in like a lion and often leaves with another mighty roar.
What's new in the latest 'tater talley? Well, small is hot and colors are definitely in fashion as new, creamy, and even two-toned potatoes take to the runway. This year the Mancini garden plot will feature some haute cuisine, as well as some tried-and-true old favorites. And we'll take a quick look at the pros and cons of the traditional St. Patrick's Day planting of potatoes.
A look at several botanicals that are often best known by their common monikers. Burro's tail, string of pearls, and mother-in-law's tongue are long lasting houseplants that have earned a place in my home because they can take the heat, both in and out of the kitchen.
A trip to the supermarket produce section can result in great beginnings for growing your own bromeliads. This week's Growing on the High Plains looks at a popular tropical plant that doesn't take a lot of care and pays off with beautiful blooms for weeks on end.
Growing your own orchids can be challenging unless you plan ahead and consider investing some time in learning what makes these tropical flowers so special to so many floral fans. Today we'll talk about air, water, light, and growing mediums.
A look at the history and development of one of the largest plant groupings in the world. As with many other life forms, these fragile tropical plants are facing a questionable future in the wild, which makes their development in botanical gardens, protected areas, and commercial outlets all the more valuable.
A look at some of the most popular and easiest houseplants to keep you in greenery for the cold season. Skip looks at the four basics needs of a healthy houseplant, and how to create a suitable environment in often overheated winter homes.
Thank goodness for houseplants. Without them, gardeners might have a hard time making it through the hard times of winter. Jade is a natural-born houseplant perfect for busy people who want a bit of winter greenery, but don’t want to take on a major houseplant commitment.
Thinking of the holiday season takes me back to my childhood, the smell of black gold in the oil patch, well-worn ornaments, and a gunny sack for collecting mistletoe once the grown-ups knocked it out of the tree with buckshot.
Well, it's taken a long time (I'm not talking about weeks or months, but years) but I think I'm making progress in the department of landscaping with trees. To being with, I've finally adopted the 'less is more' concept, especially on our treeless high plains. There are trees that will grow here, and do pretty well if they have a bit of moisture now and then. But those examples are few and far between.