January!! Bring on a new gardening year, seed catalogs, longer days, and quiet rambles in a soon-to-awaken winter garden. This is a busy time for humans and animals. Cooking from harvest bounties is exciting...with, perhaps a wistful memory of summer. And, as we can or freeze our harvest or dry herbs and flowers, we look forward to the pleasures of being in the summer garden and the social and family pleasure that will bring us as we enter the season of sharing meals and gratitude.  

Questions or comments are always welcome.  We'll try to get back to you right away.  Email us, Cathie Draine and Brad Morgan at gardeners@blackhillsgarden.com

Each winter the Hill City Evergreen Garden Club sponsors a series of FREE gardening seminars in Hill City. Look under the Coming Events tab for complete information. February 24th at 1:00 Shannon Lockett of Jolly Lane Greenhouse will be giving a presentation on houseplants in the Community Room of the Super 8 Motel. The public is invited to this free event!

Sign up for free online workshops (Webinars) sponsored by Horticulture magazine.  If you have never experienced a webinar (online workshop), you might find this series by Horticulture magazine worth considering.
  Thursday February 18 is "Spring Ahead with Cool-Season Flowers" and February 25 is "Gorgeous, Superhero Flowering Shrubs and Groundcovers for Right-Size Flower Gardens."

 These are free but do require registration. Enter www.hortmag.com/smart-gardening-workshops in your browser and it will take you to the site. Fill out a brief form (to receive their e-newsletters) and then follow the prompts to the pages with the classes. It is our understanding that classes from previous years can also be viewed. (Disclaimer  - I receive the magazine and their e-newsletter and find both helpful and informative.)  more

The lead article under the Soil and Water tab is from the Leopold Center (named for famous ecologist Aldo Leopold). It is an excellent discussion of the NEWEST research on soil health,  beneficial bacteria and the importance of microbes in the soil It also quotes Sir Albert Howard who proved the value of composting and developed the "Law of Returns." 

Spring events and classes are being planned NOW! Look for Upcoming Events under the Welcome tab.

The registration blank  to print, fill out and mail for Spring Fever is available under the Welcome tab.
Gardening begins for me right after Thanksgiving when I open the first of my pile of books. I love the natural sciences - botany, soils, insects, horticulture, and ecology. I especially enjoy books that chronicle how ideas develop, books that excite my curiosity. (I was delighted to discover that the Latin root of curious/curiosity is ‘cura’ meaning care, attention or anxiety.) more

Become a student of the soil.   We should be familiar with tenets of soil physics — the dynamics of physical soil components — solid, liquids and gases. We might understand a bit of soil chemistry — the study of the chemical characteristics of soil affected by mineral composition, organic matter and environmental factors. But the study of soil ecology is recent.  more
I look forward to another year of garden writing.  This is also a time of reflection, reviewing the past and anticipating the future.  
     There have been events in my life that have taught me the importance of a personally constructed elegant exit. I remember
 standing at the top of a narrow, steep trail in Nepal watching a trekking party climbing toward us. I caroled cheerful greetings to the porters who were talking and laughing. One of the trekkers, a European woman, sweaty and streaked with trail dust snarled at my cheerful greeting as she passed.  more

For many of us the holiday season is a time of miracles.  Stories, poem, hymns attest that. Even planet Earth gets in the act, producing the winter solstice on December 21 at 9:45 p.m., the shortest day, the turning of the year..."My favorite cottonwood tree is a majestic giant at the north end of the little strip mall at 2050 West Main, across the street from Culver’s. It is 50 feet or more high and probably that wide. It is beautifully balanced, intact and untrimmed. Plains cottonwoods can live 100 years or more and maintain their shape." more

Toilets and gardening.  Let’s remember the gardener’s mantra: healthy soil grows healthy plants and healthy plants support healthy humans.  Many gardeners, and I am one of them, sing the praises of all sorts of animal manures as fertilizer for the soil. The science is in on this. Remarkably the manures of many animals are more carefully valued, collected, stored and used than that of the human animal – us folks.  more

Here’s the question: when is a book not a book? And the answer, no matter what American poetess Emily Dickinson said, is not a frigate taking the reader lands away. For me, the best possible book is one in which I acquire new information, sometimes pit my opinion against the author’s, write “Aha!” or “Oh, no!” in the book margins and finish with a desire to learn more.  more

Three highly readable books and one blog that I recommend for winter reading that best present this new knowledge are: How Plants Work,  Linda Chalker-Scott (Timber Press), What a Plant Knows– Daniel Chamovitz (Scientific American Press) and the soil will save us– Kristin Ohlson (Rodale Press). 
      The blog, The Garden Professors, is easily found on line.  


The handplant tree order form from the Pennington County Soil Conservation District is now available online.  Most trees and shrubs now cost $2.  A Rapid City phone number will answer questions and sign you up for the printed "District News" newsletter.  more

Thrips in the garden.  As diversion from obsessing about voles and thistles, we revisit thrips, the insect we love to hate, review how and when we feed the soil and ponder a fun way to grow potatoes (next year!)  
      There is fascination as well as irritation with thrips. Even their name causes confusion; “thrips” refers to one or a million – and it is usually  millions So small they can feed on a single fungal spore or plant cell, they are from 0.5 mm to 14 mm long and typically yellow, black or brown in color. If you miss seeing the critter you notice the slick varnish-like appearance on the damaged leaf and the tiny black dots of frass or insect poop.  more

Soils and winter.  For several summers the Pennington County Master Gardeners have had a presence at the Farmers Market location on Omaha Street during the summer. Those of us who "work" at the booth know that it is much more fun than work, and we also know it is the absolute best way to understand what is on the minds of area gardeners.

As we near the end of one of the strangest growing seasons in memory, most of us are still puzzling over the one thing that we hope we can affect — the soil. A Natural Resources Conservation Service bulletin on Soil Biota from February 2013 tells us everything we need to know. more

January gardening tip.   See January on green tab above.  One tip is to "Add garden record keeping to the list of New Year's resolutions. Make a note of which varieties of flowers and vegetables do best and which do poorly in your garden. * Feed the birds regularly and see that they have water. Birds like suet, fruit, nuts, and bread crumbs as well as bird seed." more