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. 

USDA NRCS

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 aburns@ksu.edu or call 620-227-4542.  You can also get additional information on the following website:  http://nac.unl.edu/events/southernplainsworkshop.htm

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. 

Flowering Quince

Apr 10, 2013

Suffering from a bout of spring fever, Skip succumbed to the purchase of a plant that produced beautiful blossoms even before planting time.  However, balmy spring weather was quickly replaced by a spring snowstorm, forcing the shower of flowers indoors.  There it still brightened the corner where it was with scarlet colors and a promise of a garden show to come.

Lavender

Apr 4, 2013

This week we'll look at one of the oldest and most loved plants in the herb garden.  The numerous types of lavender are often named for their country of origin, with Spanish, French, and English lavenders among the top competitors in any popularity contest.  Originally used for medicinal purposes, it is now listed as the top aromatic herb around the globe.

A trip from the High Plains to the Coastal Plains of South Carolina brought Skip lots of new gardening images and ideas.  One of the most interesting botanical finds was Spanish moss, a wispy airplant  with an unusual history.  This week Growing on the High Plains will take a look at an area of the country that is as botanically different from the flatlands of Kansas as day is different from night.

Well Read Garden

Mar 20, 2013

The newscasts seem full of stories about the death of newsprint, and newsprint's replacement by technology.  There seems to be fewer and fewer of us who carry the genes of string-savers of the Great Depression- those who love the way the paper feels between our fingers, and the way the pages sound as we turn them.  There's a steady flow of the electronic version of the town crier- folks on little screens who type, text, or shout, gossip, advertising, facts, figures, and advertisements, even when we don't want them.

Lord's Candles

Mar 6, 2013

The desert yucca plan was designated as the state flower of New Mexico in 1927.  It was chosen by the school children of the state,  then recommended by the New Mexico Federation of Women's Clubs.

Controversy over the icons of the state of Oklahoma were not limited to the state tree.  In 1893, fourteen years before statehood, Mistletoe was adopted as the territory's flower.  Although, tiny and short-lived, the evergreen leaves and glossy white berries made it a favorite of settlers.  The issue some folks couldn't seem to get around was that mistletoe is a parasite.

Goldenrod is a wallflower, standing in the background, while other flowers in the garden take center stage.  It has been blamed for watery eyes and runny noses, when in fact, the true cause of those allergy symptoms is probably ragweed which blooms at the same time.  Goldenrod has taken the heat for years for, but its  blame without substantiation.  It is a rare gardener to take up the cause of the Goldenrod, but I like this plant.  It has a place in my garden. 

Sometime back I talked about our return to dryland farming.  One of the things I will miss with this change is being surrounded by fields of gold.  Some days, I would journey into the fields to be surrounded by eye-level orbs of sunlight.  I would stand quietly waiting for the sound of munchkins following the yellow brick road.  At the end of the growing season, I have been known to emerge with an arm full of heavy heads to hang in the evergreens to provide a feast for winter residents. 

The Rocky Mountain Columbine was discovered by mountain climber, Edwin James,  ascending Pike's Peak in 1820.  It was officially names the state flower of Colorado in 1899.  Rocky Mountain columbine (Columbine Aquilegia Caerulea) is a beautiful flower with a rich aroma that attracts bees, hummingbirds and butterflies to it's nectar.

The history of  the state of Texas is expansive and colorful.  It's boundaries have fluctuated.  It's flown six different flags.  It's background is steeped in tales of battles and wars, including the war with Mexico, the Civil War,  and many Indian battles that include the Red River War, but until recently, I was unaware of a battle that was waged for 70 years. 

Pioneer Tree of Life

Jan 23, 2013

Can you imagine walking across an endless sea of grass?  Maybe your journey started along the Santa Fe Trail from a tree-lined river bank of the Ohio Valley, the forests of the Appalachian mountains, or the sugar maple groves of New England, and now you face a gale of hot, dry wind.  You think you must be on the edge of hell.. until... up ahead you see a shimmer of hope... a cottonwood tree.  

One of the earliest trees to bloom in the spring is the redbud.  This favorite ornamental rarely reaches heights of greater than 20 feet.  The redbud comes in three color varieties: white, red, and purple.  They are self-pollinating and a fast grower, but that also means they have a shorter lifespan.  The redbud is a member of the legumes- their seed pods and flowers are edible.  They are forgiving of soil types, growing best in moist, well-drained sites.

Pecan Memories

Jan 3, 2013

Perhaps no plant is more a part of my early childhood than a pecan tree.  It brings to mind several family photos in my memory book.  The first image is playing under a huge shade tree on a quilt pallet, while the older folks in my family shook the tree and picked up the nuts that fell.   They were rewarded with a share of the harvest and a small wage.  The second picture is of the whole family gathered around the kitchen table, the room lit by an oil lantern, and we all would work together to separate the meat from the shell.  For me, it wasn't really work because we were entertained by stories and songs.  The third picture is of an annual Christmas gift- a bag of shelled pecans sent by my cousin who still owns a native grove.

Christmas Tree Redux

Dec 26, 2012

Why not end the holiday season with the three R's?  Today, we'll look at ways to renew, reuse, or recycle that Christmas tree you thought was trash, but just might turn out to be a treasure.

Topping Out

Dec 19, 2012

During the holiday season a look toward the sky could catch a glimpse of a snowflake or two, or even a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeers.  At construction sites it could also yield the sight of a Christmas tree high atop a roof beam.  Today we'll look back in history and spend some time in the great north woods part of the world to find our Growing On The High Plains topic.

High Plains Holiday

Dec 12, 2012

As she reflects over Christmas past, Skip Mancini recalls how "Christmas" and "white" rarely happen at the same time. 

Oh By Gosh By Golly

Dec 7, 2012

It's time for mistletoe and holly, but here on the High Plains, the only place you are likely to see this traditional holiday plant is on cards and wrapping paper.

Fall Color

Nov 28, 2012

In an area of the country that is often thought to be lacking in autumn color, we can provide splashes of bright contrasts if we put some thought into landscaping plans.

Our annual look back at the past gardening year brings some disappointments directly linked to a hard weather year. 

No doubt about it -- wise water use is a critical issue for the planet, and especially for those of us who live in the plains states of the U.S. 

Today we'll make our final visit to Amarillo and the High Plains Food Bank, where we'll be investigating the task of watering the large plot that provides food for so many in the Texas Panhandle. 

Vincent Mancini

We'll continue our visit at the High Plains Food Bank in Amarillo by doing a walk-through of the garden with Cara Young. 

This week Growing on the High Plains will begin a series about a great garden place in Amarillo that produces food for those who need it.  We'll meet Cara and Justin Young, two energetic young people who are helping to bring community efforts, nutrition know-how, and garden harvests to hundreds of adults and children in the Texas Panhandle.

Money Plant

Oct 17, 2012

During the continuation of our fall fund drive, we'll talk about an old fashioned plant from the cutting garden that produces coins of the gardening realm. Lunaria flowers with thin, silvery circles that look like shiny nickel.

Last June Skip presented a special Growing on the High Plains visit about her father and his gift of larkspur seed that has become a reliable reminder of him and his love of gardening.  During our fall fund drive week we'll repeat that show, and Skip will offer her own special gift to HPPR listeners.  Call 1-800-678-7444 for more details.

If your gardening budget is drooping, you can give it a transfusion by digging into your perennial bed.  This week's Growing on the High Plains gives all the basics for dividing many spring blooming plants that may have overgrown their space or become old and tired.  If you don't have an excess of perennials, perhaps you can offer to clear out and replant a neighbor's garden in exchange for some 'take home' cartons.  Fall is a great time to reorganize garden spaces and find that 'everything old is new again'.

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