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. She 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. 

Blink and you’ll miss the brief, springtime bloom of these purple-hued beauties. But not to worry—they’ll be back again this time next year…and the next…and the next. Because believe it or not, these sweet-smelling shrubs can have a lifespan of more than 300 years.

On today’s Growing on the High Plains, we’re talking about lilacs. Revered worldwide for their intoxicating fragrance and graceful cascading flowers, it’s actually their resilience to travel and transplantation that placed them on American shores early in our history.

Are you in the market for a little feline companionship? Perhaps some silver, furry buds to bring joy to your life? But maybe a friend that won’t sharpen its claws on the edges of your furniture or sit on your head at 4:00 a.m. begging for food?

On today’s Growing on the High Plains, we’re talking about another early-spring bloomer: the pussy willow! Though it’s fluffy catkins won’t purr, they’ll bring just as much feckless enjoyment to your home, inside and out.

What vegetable is versatile enough to bring a zesty, big crunch to burgers at a backyard barbecue, but delicate enough to add a refreshing refinement to finger sandwiches at a garden party?

That’s right! Today’s Growing on the High Plains is all about the cucumber. Whether relishing them on hot dogs, thick-sliced on a salad, or elevating a normal glass of water to something spa-worthy, cool hands have been on cukes for more than 3,000 years.

There’s a particular square-stemmed annual with fragrant leaves and tubular purple blooms that often polarizes High Plains gardeners. Some say it’s a nuisance. Some consider it a colorful harbinger of spring after a long, drab winter.

On today’s Growing on the High Plains, we’re talking about the divisive henbit, a member of the mint family that establishes itself in the fall, matures to thick foliage, and then blossoms in the spring but generally disappears with the first hot spell of summer.

Yes, we have no apricots (again)! In theory, apricot trees should thrive in our High Plains climate. They are hardy enough to survive the cold winters, and our dry summers actually aid in the maturation of their soft, sweet summer bounty. So why do our region’s apricot trees only yield fruit every 5 to 10 years?

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We all know that nothing compares to sun-ripened strawberries, home-grown in your own backyard. Well, spring has sprung, so it’s ripe time to begin planning your future crop.

We’ve finally reached that hopeful time of year. It’s the time when winter loosens its icy hold on the High Plains and the first signs of spring burgeon up from the frozen ground, dotting the naked foliage with the budding promise of warmer times to come.

One of the dinner table’s most divisive vegetables gets some High Plains love. On today’s Growing on the High Plains, everything’s coming up broccoli. This notoriously-fussy grower has been the bane of many a gardener, but there are a few tricks about managing planting time and growing conditions to cultivate a successful crop, from stem to floret.

Last week I shared my experience hunting down the elusive McFarland Juniper, so I thought this week I could offer a few more evergreen endorsements to round out your coniferous collection.

Today’s Growing on the High Plains will continue the conversation about landscaping with drought-tolerant evergreens. Gardeners, hedge your bets with a lovely Woodward Juniper perimeter, or perhaps rock out with a stunning, jade-hued Arizona Cyprus accent tree. Both trees are known to reach impressive heights, and neither require quite as much watering as you might expect.

I’ve long admired McFarland juniper trees—capable of growing to towering heights like an Italian Cyprus, but sturdy enough to withstand the severe High Plains droughts and wind. It had been a long-time dream to add one of these majestic trees to my landscaping, but would I actually be able to locate one?

The gift of live plants can be a welcome addition to any garden, but briars beware: it’s important to perform the proper due diligence of your recently acquired flora before you begin laying roots.

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I share a cautionary tale about my own personal experience integrating misidentified gifted plants into my garden, and the resulting siege that they aggressively waged against my existing vegetation. So gardeners take heed and head off any invasive maneuvers by properly identifying acquisitions before you plant!  

Perhaps Billie Holiday said it best: "Oh, what a little moonlight can do!" While she was surely evoking the charms of low-lit romance, the same rings true for an evening landscape.

Today's Growing on the High Plains shines a silver spotlight on moon gardens. You'll learn how to plant the perfect bed of luminous blooms and fragrant foliage to best enjoy your garden around the clock and throughout the entire growing season.

We might be weathering some chilly temperatures now, but High Plains gardeners know that it's not too soon to think about spring planting. Today's Growing on the High Plains gives a shout-out to one of my favorite "firsts" among springtime flower beds: the pansy.

These bright blooms look anything but shy, and they're available in a variety of shades and fragrances. I'll offer some hot tips for these cool-weather friends, as well their love-laced legend. 

They say there are three things that matter when making decisions about real estate: ECHOLOCATION, ECHOLOCATION, ECHOLOCATION. And I suppose this especially rings true even when you're setting up a new residence for hometown bats.

They say, “Every rose has its thorn,” but not the beautiful blooms cropping up on today’s Growing on the High Plains. Nor do they require watering, pruning, or pest control—and yet they give new meaning to the word “perennial!”

In a time when good news and brotherly love sometimes seems to be at a low ebb, it's nice to know there are brilliant ideas still soaring through the minds of gifted innovators. Today's Growing on the High Plains shares the story of a British aeronautics engineer that's exploring novel methods to provide food aid to those in need. Spurred by war or natural disasters, critical food shortages have become all too common in our troubled times, but this man's solution warmed my gardening heart.

Every High Plains gardener knows that moisture maintenance can be a trying task in the unpredictable weather patterns of our region--and that's as true for our wild winters as it is for the sweltering heat of summer.

A rose is a rose is a…snack? Wait, that’s not how the line goes…but maybe it should!

Today’s Growing on the High Plains takes a close look at the blushing, bulbous berry known as rosehips, the edible fruit of the rose. You’ve likely seen this curious word posted on products geared toward health and wellness—sold as vitamin supplements, herbal teas, tinctures, and more. They are indeed rich in health benefits, and they make a tangy treat to boot.

As our short days of winter flutter by, many High Plains gardeners (like myself) have our minds on the forthcoming growing season. Today's Growing on the High Plains comes as a response to one of these foliage-focused friends that asked me about planting for pollinators—namely, monarch butterflies. They do have plants of preference, and I'll share some tips for those interested in showing these "flying flowers" some hospitality. 

No, we're not in Kentucky...and I don't think you saw me standin' around. Nonetheless, we have a pretty "loony" topic this week.

Last week I offered some history of The Old Farmer's Almanac, and this year's edition foretells a pair of rarities for us High Plains dwellers: blue moons, twice in the first few months of 2018.

Today's Growing on the High Plains offers the backstory on lunar "blueness" and what we might expect in our forthcoming growing season as a result.

Today's installment of Growing on the High Plains explores the longest-running, continuously-published periodical on our continent. While I remember the petite, butter-yellow booklet regularly crossing the counter at my father's pharmacy, I wanted to share some of the fascinating history of this annual reference volume and what it has meant to those who have historically made a living off the land.

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I'll share my experiences with the many living Christmas trees we've had through the years. While they require a little extra care and attention (and demand a much shorter indoor stay), live trees make for a cozy, rustic Christmas display.

Our family has welcomed a variety of trees into our holiday home—and want to know the best part? Unlike cut trees, these fragrant fellows stick around all year long, reminding us of the love and joy shared during the season it sparkled in the spotlight.

We've all heard of a ribbon-cutting ceremony to dedicate a new building, but have you ever seen a crew of construction workers hoisting what looks like a Christmas tree to the highest beam of a completed structure? Well, I assure you: it's a thing! Commonly referred to as "topping out," this age-old ceremony has a fascinating history that spans the globe.

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I invite you to join me as we take a visit to the Wagon Wheel Cafe & Bakery in Ulysses, Kansas to celebrate one of the best things about being alive: PIE!

Tune in today to find out how these dedicated bakers keep the crusts and fillings flowing throughout the year, and especially during the holidays—and see if your favorite pie is one of their best sellers.

The holidays are coming, and some of us are scrambling to make our seasonal gift lists. If you happen to have a gardening enthusiast in your life, there's a great book available that you might consider: The Earth Knows My Name by Patricia Klindienst.

To compile the stories in this book, the author traveled across the US, digging deep into different cultures to unearth how they engage with the food they grow. From Native Americans to immigrants from Asia and Europe, you'll learn fascinating tales of bountiful gardens in both rural and urban regions. 

On today's Growing on the High Plains, I'm serving up some Thanksgiving reflections on this year's gardening season. There has been so much for which we are thankful, including the bounty of High Plains rain since Spring.

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I'll dig back through my memories of the Osage orange tree—a scruffy-but-useful native of our region.

You might know them as the bushy bearer of hedge apples—those puckered, chartreuse orbs that usually just clonk to the ground and rot. Well, I grew up knowing them by a very different name, and our family employed them as pest control, believe it or not. But ask a rancher or farmer trying to secure their property border, and they'll tell you that these trees are good for a lot more!

The time is ripe for a flash of red and gold over a white rump, flickering through the sky and trees,  as well as digging dinner from the ground. (All you High Plains ornithophiles will know what I’m talking about!)

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I'll discuss Northern flickers (Colaptes auratus)—the medium-to-large, brownish woodpeckers that tend to appear when the colder seasons are near. Spotting their showy, dotted plumage always pairs well with our vibrant, changing leaves in the fall. 

For part two of our winter squash series, we'll get into the guts of a tender, lovely little fellow you might find much easier to handle and prepare for your harvest table. 

High Plains, meet the delicata! Its skin is edible, and the food scientists have perfected the bush variety so it resists the issues many other varieties face.  

We hope you enjoy today's Growing on the High Plains and are inspired to grow delicata squash in YOUR fall garden.

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