Welcome.  A wondrous new calendar year is underway, so continue to enjoy overwintering houseplants and evergreens in the Black Hills. Snow storms now rule, with occasional sunny dry periods, hot apple cider, and the thoughtful collecting of seeds from last fall. This is a busy time for man and beast (one and the same for some :-). Final harvest is long since over while Christmas morning is now a memory. And as we can or freeze our harvest (or dry herbs an flowers) we look forward to the new year, with the social and family pleasures 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

Gardening classes taught by the Pennington County Master Gardeners are being planned NOW!!
Gardening in the Black Hills, a popular six-week series of clases is due to begin on Tuesday, February 28th. Classes are held each Tuesday evening at the SDSU Co-operative Extension office (in the basement of First Interstate Bank, across from Menards) from 6:30-9:00 for six weeks. Each evening there will be two classes, each on a different topic, plus a break with refreshments. The cost is $35.00 for the entire series. The class topics are being organized but usually include presentations on starting from seed, fruit trees and bushes, composting, starting a garden from scratch, herbs, native wildflowers and more. Please call 394, 1722 for more information and to register. Watch this site for more information as it becomes available. 

The increasingly popular Spring Fever event, sponsored by the Pennington County Master Gardeners will be held this year on Saturday, March 4, at the Ramkota in Rapid City. This day long event will feature presentations by gardening professionals in the morning, and after lunch Table Talks presented by various Master Gardeners. The cost for this is $35. Watch this space for more details as well as the registration blank which can be downloaded, printed and submitted.

Despite the one-day-foul and one-day-fair winter weather, gardeners are dreaming/planning for the spring garden. It is an exercise of anticipation, of hope and of experience. And the practices and purposes of all gardens are different. more

A good friend and fellow gardener gave me a weekly planner for Christmas with the following quotation: “Anyone who thinks gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year for gardening begins in January with the dream.”  more

“Name-dropping” is conversational one-upmanship to impress about business associates or hint at great wealth or life experience. It’s also considered tactless and an exercise of bad manners.

            This is emphatically NOT the case when discussing the wonderful history of the “Scarlet” runner bean. Many years ago I noticed (and then forgot) its beautiful deep red sweet pea-like flowers. I also forgot its vigor and its attraction for bees, butterflies and birds as well as small children who love to play in a tipi covered in the vines.  more

December is a month that gardeners generally sit and watch amaryllis or paper white bulbs grow, or they dwell in anguished anticipation of the first seed catalog. Or they read. I’m in that last group and recently finished The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World by German forester/ecologist/author Peter Wohlleben.

            I was concerned that Wohlleben’s book might be as fanciful and generally ridiculous as Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird’s The Secret Life of Plants (1973) in which in spurious “tests” plants were shown to prefer classical music and register pain in the presence of a broken egg. more

The new garden is almost ready for winter. Loads and loads (and more loads) of city compost have been spread over wet cardboard and newspapers and hay to kill the grass, age and settle over the winter. Some iris and peonies have been transplanted from our previous home.  more

Houseplant Pest Problems Likely to Increase. Even though it is now the middle of November, it still feels more like the middle or even the beginning of October. Last week I even heard that some people were still harvesting tomatoes from their garden! We had better enjoy the warmer weather while we can because we all know that more seasonal weather is on its way and soon our landscape will take on a more wintery appearance. With the colder weather on the way, many gardeners turn to indoor gardening activities instead.


After a couple of nights of killing frost, gardeners get in high gear to deal with bags of leaves and garden refuse and do the typical tasks that constitute getting the garden ready for winter. Over the years I have noticed that almost all of what happens – building compost piles, using tillers, pulling dead plants, ‘cleaning’ the garden into a condition of nakedness – makes the gardener feel as though all responsibilities have been met.  more

Raised Beds.  Several years ago my good friend Tammy Glover had knee replacements. While acknowledging gratitude for after market body parts, she realized that working in the garden on her knees was no longer an option. She wanted a garden bed about the height of a kitchen counter. I am not certain that Tammy’s “bunkers” were the first raised beds in Rapid City but they are surely the best known. The plans for those are on blackhillsgarden.com as “30” high raised bed” under the Soil and Water tab.   more 

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

January gardening tip.  See January on green tab above. One tip will soon become more important: "Check stored fruits and vegetables such as potatoes and apples for bad spots which may lead to decay. Remove and use those which show signs of spoiling. Separate others into slotted trays or bins to increase air circulation and reduce decay possibilities.more


* * January * *

Tasty food grows @ 0 degrees Fahrenheit

Let’s take a look at a few snow-hardy vegetables that can last through the winter.


Leeks. Here is a hardy vegetable that isn’t bothered by winter’s short days. Leeks can grow well during the cold months. Bandit and Bleu de Solaise varieties are favorable for winter leeks, as well as “blue-green” kinds that can survive down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit or -18 Celsius.

Kale and collards. Both of these vegetables are rich in flavor. Collards are actually more freeze-tolerate than kale. Blue Max is a favored variety, and has high yields and can survive in winter temperatures down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit or -18 degrees Celsius. Other hardy types are Red and White Russian Kale, which do best when covered in the winter.

Parsnips. Sugars accumulate in parsnips when there is a frost, and snow can actually make parsnips sweeter. They keep well in the winter ground. They take 130 days to grow. Parsnips should still be covered in freezing temperatures to ensure success, and the lowest temperatures parsnips do well in are 0 degrees Fahrenheit or -18 degrees Celsius.

Lettuce. Young lettuce plants tend to tolerate cold temperatures better than mature plants. Keep lettuce plants protected, either by cold frames, hoops or tunnels. Lettuce can survive in temperatures down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit or -12 degrees Celsius.  If you cover the plants with multiple layers, lettuce can survive down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit or -18 degrees Celsius. 

more such winter gardening from Off the Grid News