Skip Mancini

Producer and host of High Plains History and Growing on the High Plains

Home community: rural Haskell County, KS (PO Box 699, Sublette, KS  67877)

Phone: (800) 678--7444 (Garden City studios)

Ways To Connect

Gardening Gifts

Dec 5, 2013

This week we'll look at items both from and for the garden, with some special attention given to finding gifts that might make gardening chores a bit easier for senior gardeners.  We'll also look at some 'gifts from the soil' that don't really require soil, thus making them ideal holiday items for those who miss not having a garden of their own anymore.    

Thanksgiving Tomatoes

Nov 27, 2013

After a series of late freezes wiped out a good deal of my garden I accepted the hard truth that I would have to buy vegetables and fruits that were not usually on my shopping list.   But around mid-summer I discovered that a favorite fruit that had been getting harder and harder to produce had decided to literally burst upon the scene and give me a late summer season of the best tomatoes I'd produced in years.  So this year I'm giving thanks for The Return of the Ripe Tomato!

A World Without Bees

Nov 20, 2013
Winfried Rothermel / APN

You don't have to look the world over for evidence that honeybees are in trouble. A global disaster is in the making, and it's evident right in our backyards. Today Growing on the High Plains looks at the worries of beekeepers in Western Kansas, and the things we'll lose from our table when we lose the honeybees. Get ready to say so long to a myriad of fruits, nuts, and vegetables that depend on the honeybee for pollination.

Look!  Up in the sky!  It's a's a, it's a honeybee just taking off from the roof of a high rise hotel!  During a trip to the New York City area we were headquartered at a hotel that provided spectacular views of the city skyline and an up close and personal look at some in-house methods of bringing nature indoors.  From a lobby lined with herbs planted into the walls to a rooftop that was home to thousands of honeybees who daily worked the surrounding New Jersey farmlands, this Regency hotel is doing its best to be a good neighbor to it's guests, the surrounding community, and the environment.

Planting Pollinators

Nov 6, 2013

As wildlife habitats continue to disappear at an alarming rate, it's important  to remember that these areas are critical to the survival of not only animals of the woodlands and prairies but also the insects that are essential to the creation of many of our food sources. Production of countless fruits and vegetables depends on visits from a variety of flying insects that search out pollinators in your yard and garden.

Join Skip and a cast of friends for an old fashioned joke show.  Blake Burnside,  Randy McVey, Ellen Mangan, David Miller, and  Stacy Regan-Green yuck it up in this laughing good time.

Cindee Talley

 It's hard to garden in dry, arid, temperamental climates.  Skip Mancini had an opportunity to talk with Tom Gillan, owner of Native Nursery, about the challenges and opportunities the high plains present.   

Tom is a Garden City native, who moved to Golden, Colorado in the 1980s.  There he started Native Nursery with the mission to create beautiful places with plants that will thrive.

Zoo Landscaping

Sep 25, 2013
Cindee Talley

Skip has a special guest in today.  Tom Gillan dropped by to talk about the differences between landscaping in public areas versus a home.  Tom is the owner of Native Nursery in Golden, Colorado.  He also talked about his current project:  Cat Canyon at the Lee Richardson Zoo in Garden City, Kansas.    

A Dilly of a Deal

Sep 19, 2013
Lisa- one of the gardening girls

    This summer has been filled with delight because of the mass migration of black swallowtails who have been making my garden their home.  Though they love to hang out around the butterfly bushes and rest up in the cool damp earth around the little outdoor fountain, when it comes to creating offspring they head for the herb garden.  There the clumps of dill weed seem to be the favorite food of the black, green and yellow striped caterpillars that have quietly invaded and are munching their way along the stems and seed heads.  The dill looks a bit forlorn for a few days, but bounces right back in time for the next wave of butterflies that are looking for a bit of real estate.

Fall Tree Planting

Sep 11, 2013

As our weather moves toward the cool and crispy days of autumn, it heralds changes to the gardening routine.  As gardens and lawns slow down and give you a bit more time, don't forget that this is the best time to add trees and shrubs to your landscape. Today GHP covers some basics of fall planting, to get your tree or shrub off to a good start.

This week a special event is taking place at the Dyck Arboretum in Hesston, Kansas.  FloraKansas is the largest native plant sale in the state, and will take place Thursday, September 5 through Sunday, September 8.  This event has been going on for 14 years, and its popularity is growing almost as rapidly as the numbers of native perennials, wildflowers and grasses that will be offered for sale.  More information about the location, hours and available plants can be found by calling 620-327-8127, or going online to  A visit to this special place is always a joy, and the plant sale this weekend makes it even more fun and informative.

Tomato Diseases

Aug 29, 2013

 A look back at my past gardening challenges brings up the myriad of difficulties one faces when trying to grow tomatoes.  These most popular fruits of our gardening labors require consistent record keeping, as you don't ever want to plant them in the same space within a three year period.  Tomatoes can suffer from a wide variety of soil-borne and airborne illnesses, as well as being the target of a horde of insects that can eat or infect the foliage of your prize plants.  After years of fighting against blight, viruses, unpredictable weather patterns, and beastly bugs, I've decided that perhaps the best solution to my tomato problems is found in the adage about 'safety in numbers'.   

Lawn Lamentations

Aug 21, 2013

Although buffalo grass is still my lawn of choice for the dry and windy area we call the Southern High Plains, this summer it has been hard pressed to bounce back from our third year of ongoing drought and high temperatures.  As our area of the world seems to be turning more desert-like, even this native of the short grass prairie will need occasional water and maybe a shot of nutrients to do its best.  But it still offers the best alternative when planning a lawn that can stand up to all the challenges our climate has to offer.

Little Blue Stem

Aug 14, 2013

In a continuing investigation of landscape plans utilizing grass gardens, this week we'll look at Little Bluestem.  This hardy 'bunch' or 'clump' grass is of a more manageable size than it's bigger relative, the Big Bluestem of the tall grass prairies.  Little Bluestem can serve as an eye-catching accent plant, or as a seasonal backdrop for wildflowers or other blooming plants.  And in its native habitat it provides forage for grazing animals and shelter for various birds and wildlife.

Grass Gardens

Aug 7, 2013

This week's show introduces elements of a landscape plan that promises to be more efficient and effective in an environment that seems to be moving toward the hotter and drier side of gardening.  Ornamental grasses can offer a rich variety of size, texture and color to a planted area or in a series of containers.  And they can provide visual interest almost year round, as many grass gardens can show off fall colors and wintertime backdrops when other plants have been put to rest.

Gardening Exercise

Aug 1, 2013

Gardening season can offer a great alternative to going to the gym in order to find physical fitness.  Various activities like pushing a lawnmower, digging a new flower bed, or transplanting perennials can all add up to feeling and looking better through at least three seasons of the year.  If you are working on weight loss, in addition to counting calories, try counting metabolic equivalents or METs,  to meet your goals.

Our second visit to Busy Bee Farms in Kismet Kansas takes us for a tour of internal workings of the greenhouses that produce literal layers of tomatoes,  as well as lettuce, cucumbers and other vegetables. Pond plants and koi fish provide some tropical looking landscapes on our walk-through.  We'll also get the buzz on the insect population that helps pollinate and protect the produce and plants.

Today we'll start a special three part series that began as a stop-over at Busy Bee Farms in Southwest Kansas.  I found out about this great place when I bought a little container of delicious tomatoes that sported the Busy Bee logo and implored me to 'buy local'. 

Red, White, and Blue

Jul 3, 2013

It's not too late, even in midsummer to plant a flowering Old Glory.  Petunias are the flower of choice for high plains conditions. 

Last Rites

Jun 27, 2013

I've finally given up the ghost in terms of trying to grow azaleas in a climate where they are not meant to be.  I don't really know why some of us who like to garden on the High Plains won't take no for an answer, and stick to the plants that are meant for our near-desert terrain and weather.  As I write this the calendar has just moved past the first week of June and the thermometer is edging above 104 degrees at early afternoon.  Azaleas are Southern belles, needing moisture, reasonable winds and more acidic soil than we have in Western Kansas.  If I want azaleas in my life from now on, they'll come in pots with foil wraps and big bows that put a touch of springtime on the Easter buffet table or a Mother's Day brunch.

English peas are a challenge for High Plains gardeners.  To increase your chances to taste the color green from the garden, I've discovered these keys:

  • Plant early
  • Stake against the wind
  • Water continuously
  • Check often because they go from tender orbs to hard marbles almost instantly

Arizona Cypress

Jun 18, 2013

What began as a decorative planting in a city park has developed into a love affair with an evergreen tree that may hold one of the keys to solving a major problem on the prairies and pastures of the High Plains.  Three years ago, we planted a memorial garden for my mother in our local city park.

Prairie Invaders

Jun 5, 2013

A trip to the Red Hills southwest of Medicine Lodge, Kansas, can be an eye opener for both beautiful countryside and an invading horde of Eastern Red Cedars -- a good tree gone bad.  Red cedars have been a part of the history of the Great Plains from Texas to Canada, and were once controlled from over-population by natural wildfires.  But with the advent of civilization, fires have been controlled to the point that the tree is taking over grazing lands and disastrous results are being reported.  Reduced cattle forage, numbers of grassland birds (especially the prairie chicken), lesser numbers of other wildlife, and decreased stands of  wildflowers are a result of the forestation of the prairie.  One of the most serious side effects is the drain on water supplied from natural aquifers and annual rainfall.

Skip rescues a parking lot plant and then reminisces about past experiences centered around the scent of patchouli.  The aromatic herb has a rich history, beginning with ancient civilizations who used it for medicinal purposes, or as a practical packing for the transport of treasured fabrics from the Orient.  Its moth-repellent properties gave a heavy, spicy odor to the silks and brocades that signaled the wearer was from the wealthier classes.  It soon became an important ingredient in perfumes, oils and lotions for the upper classes.  A look at a modern use of patchouli leads us through


May 22, 2013

Peony blossoms are one of the favorite offerings at memorial gardens and cemeteries, as well as a popular declaration that spring has sprung and summer is getting into gear.  They take a bit of planning and effort when planting, but with proper precautions and care they can most likely be a part of your memorial day garden for the next fifty years!  If you want to add them to your landscaping layout, plan for a fall planting or division from existing plants, when reddish buds appear at the base of the plant.  Depth is a major issue when planting peonies, as a shallow planting may mean free

Windbreak, Part II

May 15, 2013

In addition to the role windbreaks play in decreasing soil erosion, these valuable elements of modern day agriculture can increase crop yields, act as environmental buffers, improve air quality, and provide valuable pollinator habitat for bees and other beneficial insects.  Windbreaks can be multifunctional, providing not only protection from the wind, dust and snow, but serving as economic stimulators through the marketing of tree products.  To learn more about the importance of windbreaks and the design basics needed to develop a functioning shelterbelts, take part in the Southern Plains Windbreak Renovation and Innovation Workshop to be held in Dodge City, Kansas May 21 - 23, 2013.  Call the K-State Extension office in Ford County 620-227-4542, or contact Andrea Burns at:


During the 'Dirty Thirties' various methods of controlling soil erosion were tried to help end the blowing dust and keep precious topsoil in place.  In addition to different ways of tilling the soil, and the establishment of grasslands to hold the soil, thousands of tree rows, called shelterbelts or windbreaks, were planted to decrease wind erosion and to provide shelter for homesteads and livestock.   With the advent of large scale irrigation, and especially center pivot irrigation systems, plus the fact that the numbers of occupied farmsteads has decreased, we also see a decrease in windbreaks.   Today the Great Plains states are again facing critical droughts and blowing dust.  Many of the old windbreaks are dying of age, disease, and insects.  It is once again time to transplant tree seedlings and rebuild windbreaks.  A three day series of workshops presented by various forestry agencies, assisted by numerous state extension offices will be held May 21 - 23 in Dodge City, Kansas.  For more information about these meetings, contact Andrea Burns at the Kansas State Extension Office in Ford County.  Email or call 620-227-4542.  You can also get additional information on the following website:

A Winter's Gift

May 1, 2013

The lines drawn this year between winter and spring have been hazy at best.  Days of warm weather in March and April are typical, usually followed by some frosty days and occasional hard freezes.  But, this year took the cake and a few records, as the swing between winter and spring began to resemble a yo-yo championship.  Warm days invited gardeners outdoors just in time to get slapped in the face by cold rains that quickly turned to sleet, ice, and snowfall that was record breaking in many areas, and this weather pattern repeated itself not once but several times.  Some High plains communities were snowbound while others saw blowing dust and hard freezes that wiped out future fruit harvests and wheat crops.  But, into this made mix a little hope must fall, and it did this year, in my yard with the arrival of the Eastern pasque flower, also known by its old-timey name of Anemone Patens.

Up From the Roots

Apr 24, 2013

Today, I'm thinking about how the plants, in my garden, are similar to public radio on the prairie.  Some of my plants come from seeds, some are off-shoots of parents plants, some started as cuttings or grafts relocated from other gardens and plants.  Some are divisions, where I have dug up the parent plant, divided it, and then planted the "kids" in a new spot.  

Money Plant, or Lunaria is known for its silvery, white seed pods that resemble coins of the realm. It is a biennial.  Clusters of lavender flowers bloom in the spring, and the flat seed pods form the second summer.  The coin-shaped pods are beautiful in dried arrangements. 
To dry the pods, simply cut when they are fully developed, gather them into a bunch, and hang upside down in a place where the air circulates well until they are completely dry, usually two to three weeks.  The brown husks on the sides of the seed pods can be removed by gently rubbing the pod between your thumb and finger.