Growing on the High Plains

Airs Thursdays at 10:30 am CT and Saturdays at 8:35 am CT

Years ago Skip Mancini left the rocky coast of Northern California to return to her roots in the heartland. Her San Francisco friends, concerned over her decision to live in a desolate flatland best known for a Hollywood tornado, were afraid she would wither and die on the vine. With pioneer spirit Skip planted a garden, and began to learn about growing not only flowers and vegetables, but hearts and minds. If you agree that the prairie is a special place, we think you'll enjoy her weekly sojourns into Growing on the High Plains. 

Contact Skip Mancini about the program. 

Conserve Confusion

Nov 25, 2015

This holiday season that is generally dedicated to cooking and eating has brought on the need for a bit of research into the art of canning, serving, and naming fanciful fruit spreads.  So before setting down to a series of Thanksgiving  feasting, we'll look for answers to questions about the differences among jams, jellies, preserves, compotes, conserves, marmalades, and fruit butters.  Though they do have their differences, take it from me that they can all be delicious.    

Ongoing Orchard

Nov 18, 2015

Just when I should probably be cutting back on the size of my horticultural investments, and planning a smaller and more manageable homefront, I've decided to plant some more fruit trees!  After a summer of no fruit, due to late hard freezes last spring, and after taking a hard and realistic look at the fading health of the old trees, I couldn't face a future with no peaches or nectarines.  So now I'm filling in the gaps, extending the drip system, and getting ready to face some fabulous fruit in the future!  

Val d'Orcia

Nov 11, 2015

 A trip to Italy brought me to the beautiful Val d'Orcia in the hills of Tuscany, and more specifically to the gardens of Villa La Foce.  My tour focused on the house and grounds replete with terraces, fountains, and native landscapes, and also took in the surrounding farmland.  But one of the things that stayed with me most was the area's survival of the terrible battles fought during World War II.  The will to survive and maintain some semblance of order while providing care for others is surely mirrored in the solitude and majesty of the La Foce gardens.

A search for fall foliage color doesn't always have to be high in the trees.  This week we'll lower our sights and investigate a succulent plant that brings many of the colors of the rainbow during its three growing seasons of the year.  Sedum seems to have so many positives for growing in sometimes difficult zone 5 gardens, and it definitely thrives in a zone 6 habitat.  Low water demands and a preference for slightly alkaline soils make it a winner, even without the striking rusty red color that comes around in autumn.   

Bewitching Botannicals

Oct 28, 2015

 This week we'll look at some historical herbs that have reportedly been a part of witchcraft for centuries.  But many of the plants have both a good and bad side in history,  Modern medicine has adopted and adapted some of the plants from the dark side into treatments for various diseases, and today's gourmet table can feature food from plants once thought inedible.

This week we'll visit about companion planting, and more specifically about what's probably the most famous coupling of a threesome of vegetables.  Based on an ancient Native American technique called the Three Sisters, we'll explore the support system provided when you plant beans, corn, and squash together.  And we'll throw in a couple of extra 'sisters' for good measure.   

B-List Bees

Sep 30, 2015

The hum, whine and buzz of flying insects is something most gardeners learn to identify as a good thing in the garden.  With a couple of exceptions, most of those sounds signify a pollinator who will help provide more bounty from your garden.  Today we'll talk about the b-list bees that don't produce honey, but do help produce your squash, tomatoes, strawberries,and good things to eat.  We'll also look into ways to keep these essential assistants happy and healthy as they work for you.

My August Kitchen

Sep 23, 2015

    One thing that keeps me in the annual gardening go-round  is the idea of growing and creating good food for a good cause.  This week we'll visit about the incredible amount of work that goes into dealing with the harvests of August, and the friendship and camaraderie of canning that all that work creates.

    This year my husband and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversay, and the week of festivities brought to mind a GHP story that I felt we needed to repeat.  So without further adieu, here's the scoop on what happened at the dinner table when a Yankee boy met and married a distant member of the sister sorority known as GRITS - Girls Raised In The South.

Flower Power

Sep 9, 2015

We'll finish out our special series on weeds with a look at plants that could sometimes be mistaken for regular residents of a flower bed or border.

Their blooms can be colorful, but for the most part they will ultimately try to take over your garden space.  They also sometimes grow to ungainly proportions, so best to stay with basic well-known blooms and keep these interlopers out of your flower beds.

Prickles and Stickles

Sep 2, 2015

Though a far cry from cactus, today's weed entries definitely bring up some thorny issues.  We'll examine this sticky situation by defining the difference between grass burs and goatheads. And then we'll take a look at thistles that have come from other countries to make their home in the heartland.

Evil Edibles

Aug 29, 2015

Let's set the table and see what's on the menu, weedwise.  Today we'll discuss weeds that can function as spring tonics, or green and leafy vitamin pills.  And some of the things I commonly toss on the compost heap could become the makings of a soup or salad course.      

Grasses as Grinches

Aug 19, 2015

Broadleaf weeds are sometimes a walk in the park compared to controlling unwanted grasses.  Our six-part series on weeds moves from flowerbeds to lawns as we look at some of the better known bad boys that can take over a front or back yard in a single season if given half a chance.  We'll also discuss the dangers of some grassy grinches that can cause real trouble for man's best friend.     

Creepy Crawlies

Aug 12, 2015

A look at perennial and annual weeds that vine, twine, and torment gardeners throughout the HPPR region.  These creepy crawlers require almost daily purging, whether by hand weeding or a healthy spritzing of weed killer.  And still they often return, like the cast of a bad horror flick!

Last week we visited about a weed called nutsedge that was relatively new to me until I put in a garden fountain and thus created an ideal world for this water loving bad boy.  Today, we'll begin to revisit a series of stories about weeds- those pesky, prankish guests who come to the garden party without an invitation and can wind up taking over the entire  homestead.   Though originally aired 4 years ago, I think you'll find most of those bad boys of the garden world are still around and still causing headaches for gardeners. 

Nutsedge Nightmares

Jul 29, 2015

There's a new weed at my place that has been making an appearance the last couple of years and shows no sign of leaving.  It's a true bad boy of the garden, and it's called nutsedge, though some plant people commonly call it nutgrass.  But be warned, it's not a grass but a true sedge which can replicate itself by segments, roots, seeds, or nut-shaped underground tubers.  This week we'll try to get a handle on how to handle it, but be forewarned that it's a tough nut to crack! 

Sweet Annie

Jul 15, 2015

 A favorite herb has responded to our recent rains and taken up an expanded residence at my place.  I welcome it with open arms and nasal passages, as its aromatic aura clears my head and provides fresh potpourri all around the house.  It's also a good keeper in the dried stage, filling in dried floral arrangements with lacy backgrounds that last well into the winter months.  Though it has a somewhat colorful past in the wormwood family, its gentle fronds and somewhat spicy scent are best known by it's common name of Sweet Annie.

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.

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.


Jun 12, 2015

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.     

Train Travel

Jun 10, 2015

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. 

Calendar Confusion

Jun 3, 2015

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.

The Gourd People

May 20, 2015
Skip Mancini

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!

Here's a link to Betty's website:  

Kitchen Gardens

May 13, 2015

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.  

OKC Survivor Tree

Apr 1, 2015

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.