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SPRING

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (English poet, 1809-1892) was probably correct when he observed in his painfully long “Locksley Hall” that “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love…” But we gardeners are experiencing a pseudo spring; just warm enough to drive us mad as we search for signs of returning plant life in the garden.  more


Happy fifth day of spring! Many of us are waiting for the stirring of the actinomycetes bacteria in the soil to release their sweet smell of spring. Others of us, myself included, perform the spring search and stoop.  more


Smells of Spring.  While some folks sing about April showers and others write 
poetry, I am out in the garden smelling these spring rains. Actually I am smelling the fascinating chemicals that are released by the soil, the rain, the soil bacteria and the electricity of a spring thunderstorm.  more

Spring violets and mulch more. I am delighted when various seemingly unrelated bits of information suddenly come together to deliver a clear message… like seeing the image finally form in a complicated table puzzle. That happened recently.  Recently the Journal ran an article about garden violets (and ants).  more


Nativars are cultivars of native species (e. g. purple Joe Pye weed).  So here we are in the full embrace of spring. Easter is past, daffodils, tulips and other bulbs are fully out and glorious. 

The soil is a bit cold to do any seed planting outdoors and I, at least, hope for two or three reasonably warm, wet spring snows or rain. more

James Madison, American Gardener.  Exactly 196 years and 10 days ago on May 12, 1818, James Madison, barely out of office as the fourth President of the United States delivered an a

ddress to the Agricultural Society of Albemarle, Virginia on the occasion of his accepting the presidency of that organization. mor

Plan now for garden pollinators.  If your garden is small or you only garden on the deck, consider a large container (whiskey barrel) planted with agastache. It is a magnet for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Plant up a pot or several of parsley as food for butterfly larvae. If there are larvae, they will eat vigorously and the parsley plant will recover with enough for you as well. more

It is about time to drag out the florescent lights and open the seed starting mix...and get some of those seeds started indoors. John Scheepers seeds provides an excellent and informative guide and timetable for starting seeds indoors. Check out this ample information under the Plants tab. You may want to sign up for their excellent, free e-mails.

Starting seeds indoors.  If you love tomatoes, mid-March to early April is the time to start your own plants from seed.  It's fun to watch the whole growing cycle and the seed starting process and watch baby seedlings grow into sturdy plants.  more

Buds, blossoms and bees....By the time the first buds open to blossoms, our native bees will arrive to pollinate the flowers. Learn more about this precious commodity, our native bees, at a presentation on April 23 by Dr. Paul Johnson, SDSU Entomologist. Read more information on the Upcoming Events page under the Welcome tab.

Voles in the Garden. “Well, that certainly adds insult to injury,” I thought as I read the opening sentence of an article entitled, “Voles in Love” in the February Smithsonian magazine. The offending sentence stated, “Burrowing balls of fluff, recently plucked from the American prairie, hold the secrets to our deepest bonds and affections.” Really? more


Spring is perfect time to learn about pruning tomatoes.  The thought of tomato pruning can be a little daunting and cause sweaty palms a

nd a queasy tummy. However, have faith. It is as obvious as the hand before your face...It is beneficial to prune the tomatoes but be prepared against heat, hail and wind.  more

 

    I certainly think grafted vegetables have a place in home gardens. While they are much more expensive than seeds or even seedlings, the vigor, yield and opportunity for desirable heirloom variety scions on super-strong rootstock is appealing.

            I think grafted vegetables are a good choice for small gardens where plant rotation is not an option but a good harvest from a single plant could equal poor or indifferent harvests from several non-grafted plants.

            There are new gardening strategies to understand when working with grafted plants. Neither the graft nor branches of the plant should come into contact with the soil. Pruning strategies for generative (fruit) production are advised.  more


Just a peek at the 'business' of producing seeds commercially. Read this interesting 'history' of Park Seeds under the Plants tab.


Welcome the good guys - those early spring pollinators!!

As much as I thrill to see the earliest of the spring bulbs bloom, I am more excited to be reassured that the early pollinators are at work. For almost three weeks I performed a daily pilgrimage to adore the blooms on my six tiny snowbells, galanthus nivalis.  The blooms finally faded and I thrilled again to see each flower’s ovary, a green ‘bead’ located just at the base of the petals, swell with developing seed. Daily, I saw the stem, still looking strong, gently bend to lay the fading flower and developing ovary on the ground – ready to deposit seed for new plants next spring.

            I was over the moon with joy. But I had missed the most exciting part. I did not get to see the tiny insects that did the pollinating. I felt cheated. I want to meet these little guys, express my gratitude, thank them, invite them for tea.

            I looked at the small planting of later blooming crocuses. These flowers have their ovaries located at the base of the stem that holds the flower, underground. I’d like to shake the fuzzy legs of whatever insect group is working on those, which are spreading delightfully. Good job guys.

            What I can do to make all insects welcome in the garden is keep the gardens pollinator friendly.

             There are some ways to do this that follow Nature’s model and are simple, inexpensive and rational.

            First, practice diversity in your planting pattern. If you plant row crops, widen the planting bed and intermix a variety of vegetables with both perennial and annual flowers. Insects are lazy and easily confused if they actually have to hunt for a target plant.

            Know the ‘bug schedule’. For example, the onion thrips appear when the stems are lush and green just before the onion bulbs put on their push for growth. Planting both annual and perennial flowers that have varying bloom times will keep a broad variety of insects in the garden.

            Why bother? Why not kill everything that moves? Here is the answer: 99 of 100 insects are good. They break down organic material and add nutrients to the garden. They kill and eat each other (remember the lady bugs and the aphids?). They pollinate. They often delight us. Many of us grow dill and parsley and milkweed as host plants for butterflies.

            Insects know much more about our gardens than I do. If I watch, as a student, I know when to expect the aphids, the blister beetles and assess and often ignore their slight damage. And I learn from them.

            Last summer I noticed small milkweed bugs, Lygaeus kalmii, on the milkweed seedpods. They control milkweed populations by ingesting nutrients from the seeds as well as tolerating the toxins in the milkweed sap, making them unpalatable to birds.

            So bring on the insects –pollinating heroes, food for birds, controllers of plant populations. Most are good. Remember that. Cathie Draine

Thanks to the Burpee Seed Company for supplying "victory garden" packets of seeds to veterans and their families at the recent Plant Swap.  Burpee is convinced that veterans are ideally suited to become home gardeners once they return from war zones.  

Solitary gardening is therapeutic because of its positive calming effect, giving those who’ve experienced emotional stress and trauma a chance to re-enter civilian life on terms that generations have long endorsed.  Wars have always brought out self-reliance when it comes to food supply, and victory gardens have almost been synonymous with national defense.  

Poison ivy video reminder.  Poison ivy is all over the Black Hills.  Most adults can identify it, but kids still have to learn that it can be either a "groundcover

, a vine, or as shrub," and shouldn't be confused with the nonpoisonous Virginia creeper.   We've found that Kansas State University horticultural information is a good fit for the Black Hills.  video

 

Gardening in Spring (add some lovely math).  There is a time each spring when I wish I had had more mathematic and science aptitude. My only memory of high school chemistry is my seat in the class. And LeRoy is the family numbers guy.

            As I began my yearly euphoric ramblings about the warming soil, I appreciate but do not fully understand its complex chemistry. more (#12)

If you thought LAST  summer was hot, you were right and recent research suggests that global average temperatures are close to an 11,000 year peak. So what does this mean to gardeners? 

    At the very least, utilize some simple strategies: mulch your gardens to cool the soil and conserve water; make and install rain barrels to harvest rain water; stop spraying water into the air when you irrigate the garden. Keep the water close to the surface of the soil or even better, do some simple study and make your own drip irrigation system (it's

 easier than you think. Check here.)

I am conflicted about the advent of spring this year. I’m not certain we have had much of a winter, and frankly, I miss it. Perhaps when daylight savings time starts on March 10, I’ll have a better answer to “Are you ready for spring?” than a polite polysyllabic mumble signifying not much.

       Actually there are some things that interest me greatly. The dire predictions of continued drought ought to finally bring the good sense of drip irrigation into focus. Yes, let’s finally learn to water our plants on the ground and not spray the air. Let’s quit apologizing for bucket-catching tap water as it warms rather than watching it swirl down the drain in the bathtub and kitchen sink. Let’s put up more rain barrels. more #11 

  

Just for fun...and speaking of spring birds....click on this to a fun birdcall test. It's good fun and a great way to sharpen up your bird recognition skills.


Are you finding that spring fever got the best of you and you have way too many cuttings that need to be potted up? We show a very simple and inexpensive way to make great self-watering pots for those cuttings. Look here.

For those who are in love with dahlias and plan to continue the floral affair' this summer check out the excellent video of Scott Kunst of Old House Bulbs in Michigan planting dahlias, glads and tuberoses on the Martha Stewart television show. Click here.

Elke Baxter tells us about some dandy winter plants. Read about the amaryllis and the Protea. Look under the Clubs tab.

A thank you note just arrived from Christina Davis who is in charge of Programming at the Laramie (Wyo) Library. They are using www.blackhillsgarden site as a co

mmunity resource. Some of their local teen volunteers suggested that we here might also profit from a site they found. Check it out (it comes in the spirit of shared enthusiasm!!). It is here.



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Tomato-Growing Mistakes Every Gardener Makes


  • Why some tomato varieties need pruning — and some do not.

  • How to stop tomato leaves from spotting and yellowing.

  • Why to prefer heirloom varieties over hybrids.

  • Which type of fertilizers work best for tomatoes.

  • Why tomatoes grown in buckets can be even healthier than ones grown in the ground.

 

more such survival gardening from Off the Grid News