A Blast from the Past

The late Dr. Bob is the father of Montana’s Master Gardener program. When he taught the classes nobody ever fell asleep. He was a writer of a great many articles on gardening. The following is just one of several hundred in my files.

A question to Dr. Bob: “How can I increase germination of my garden seeds?” (March 2002) Gardeners all over the country are right now wondering how to get better germination in the vegetable and flower seeds. Of course, start with good seeds and in most cases you’ll have good germination, but some seeds are notoriously tough with hard seed coats. Now, researchers in Georgia have found a common household substance that increases germination in watermelon seeds.

The seedless watermelon cultivars on the marker are for the most part, triploids. That means that they form fruit that has no developed seeds. While they are no good for seed-spitting contests, the melons do make great eating. The triploid cultivars are expensive to produce and, unfortunately, the seeds have thick coats that interfere with germination. Researchers have found that soaking the seeds in 1 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide at room temperature and in the dark greatly improves their germination. After just a day or two in the solution, the seeds germinated readily in petri dishes and would no doubt do so in the garden soil.

The 1 percent solution does not damage the emerging radicle, but solutions two percent or higher do severe damage to the young seedling. The hydrogen peroxide is generally available in the drug store and is a three percent solution, so you must dilute it with water. You can do that by adding two parts water to one part hydrogen peroxide. So far, researchers have only tested the solution on watermelon seeds, but they suggest that it might also improve germination in a wide range of “hard-coated” seeds, such as those of cabbage and broccoli.

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Tribute: Julie Halverson

She left us Feb. 9, 2019. Her family plans Julie’s Memorial Service for July 11—date TBA.

Julie joined the Yellowstone County Master Gardener program in 2000, and was a true force to be reckoned with, especially when it came to getting volunteers for her pet project ZooMontana and the Geranium festival. She called herself the “pushy old broad” as she “eagle eye” challenged Master Gardeners to sign up to help at the various stations of the Geranium Festival…and she did get the volunteers! It was a rare week through these years that she didn’t show up to the Zoo and work on flower garden care…and this she did all the way up through last fall.

School stories were a big part of her story telling history as her students and friends knew. In 1987 she was honored with a Golden Apple Award in School District 2 (Billings). Even after a full career teaching kindergarten, Julie shared her teaching skills through the Care After School programs and also worked to maintain the MetraPark Gardens. Julie holds the record for MG volunteer hours, an unbelievable 2500 Volunteer hours in her 18 years. And this was through just one of her many club affiliations such as Delta Kappa Gamma, Early Literacy, Global Grannies, and the Garden Club.

“She was one of the most energetic, ambitious and positive folks I’ve ever known. She always had a smile and a very special way of getting you to volunteer for a project. I will remember her for not letting anything stop her, breast cancer or strokes and her deep sparkling eyes. She inspired many a gardener both aspiring young ones and us “more mature” ones”

Master Gardener Merita Murdock

“Most days Julie and her husband had lunch at the Muzzle Loader Cafe and when several old Master Gardeners habitually showed up on Friday for lunch there was always a chat or wave. She never forgot us. She would drive her car to lunch and her husband always sat in the backseat. He might have been thinking of his safety.

“Julie was an expert on herbs. One year MSU did not provide an instructor for the M/G class. The Billings MGs had to teach the class themselves. Julie brought her years of teaching skills to help save the day. She was an expert on herbs. She taught a class on herbs which the students really liked. She was always available to provide advice to learning MGs. In a similar manner, she often gave away plants she had grown in her garden and her emphasis seemed to be angled toward English Garden style.”

Master Gardener Corry Mordeaux

“What a blessing it was to know Julie. Julie’s enthusiasm and wealth of gardening information made being around her such a pleasure. She enriched the lives of many of us Master Gardeners in countless ways.”

Master Gardener Elaine Allard

“I knew Julie through the geranium fest and I worked with the group at the Zoo a couple years. I especially liked her nickname that she seemed to actually enjoy having ‘the pushy old broad’. But she always got things done- with a bright smile.”

Master Gardener Sheri Kisch

Julie will be missed by so many.

Submitted by Amy Grandpre

UPDATE

 

Backyard Wildlife Habitats to Help Build a Billings Community Wildlife Habitat

The Montana Wildlife Federation under the auspices of the National Wildlife Federation is working hard to get the entire community of Billings recognized as Community Wildlife Habitat. When we reach that goal, we will share that honor with Missoula and 95 other communities across the nation. We can all help by certifying our own yards and gardens. To get started, go to the NWF links listed below. There is lots of great information on why and how you can provide the four basic elements that all wildlife needs to thrive: food, water, cover and places to raise young. As Master Gardeners, we are already practicing Integrated Pest Management and striving for garden sustainability, and I suspect many of us already meet the requirements of certification.013.png

This is a simple way we can show our commitment to the health, resiliency and sustainability of our community and its wildlife, and in so doing, enrich our community and our own lives as well. Let’s work together to get Billings on this map!

http://nwf.org/garden
https://www.nwf.org/en/Garden-for-Wildlife/Create/At-Home
http://nwf.org/certify

Submitted by Ann McKean

2019 Class Updates

This year’s classes seem to have gone by so fast. With a wonderful crowd of 50 for Level 1 and around 10 for Level 2, it’s been a very good year. Of course it helped to have Toby Day come from Bozeman to kick off our class sessions too. Was so great to have him here to energize both a Level 1 and a Level 2 class session. (Love Toby’s heart for being there for us and our program.) I want to especially thank our most dedicated Master Gardeners who have coordinated our Level 1 and Level 2 classes: Bob Wicks, Brian Godfrey, Corry Mordeaux, Sharon Wetsch, Sherry Doty, Tracey King and Tom Kress. You all ROCK!

So now comes spring and the 2019 growing season. I want to encourage all the Master Gardeners who haven’t yet set up their mtmastergardener.org accounts to do so as soon as possible…and many of you haven’t! ☹ This site would have really helped you out during class sessions, but you also need it to enter your volunteer hours. This is an important step, as this site is where all of the state’s Master Gardener volunteer hours are compiled and accessed by Toby Day and Dara Palmer. This not only proves the value of Master Gardener volunteer impact in our state, but is also where you qualify to receive your Level 1 and Level 2 certificates and shirts. Once your required hours are entered (20 for Level 1, 30 for Level 2, 40 for Level 3), Dara will be notified and will process and send me the needed certificate/shirt.

When you select your project of interest to volunteer in, do remember to choose a favorite, and then maybe just one more that interests you. It’s better to have one or two projects to focus on, rather than half a dozen that you can only lightly dabble in. Then once you see how these projects fit your schedule, you can branch out. Just don’t want your spring enthusiasm to lead to a quick burnout.

I am looking forward to see what our impact will be in 2019….

Amy Grandpre

Awards, Hard Work and Rewards!

When an opportunity came up to elect someone to receive the Outstanding Urban Forestry Volunteer Award, Master Gardener Merita Murdock popped into my head. Her booklet “A Short Tree Tour of Selected Trees of Downtown Billings” was such a wonderful labor of love, that I wanted to at least brag about her a bit. So I did, and she received the award.
For those of you who don’t know Merita, she actually joined the Yellowstone
County Master Gardener program during 1994…year 1 of our program here. She is a Lev. 3 Master Gardener and has received one of the state’s Outstanding Master Gardener awards, plugging in over 1100 volunteer hours of service to our county. She is instrumental in helping me with the record keeping of our most active Master Gardener program….couldn’t do it easily without her. She’s been most active in so many areas: Women’s Prison, Square Foot Demonstration Garden, 4-H and fair judge, Master Gardener information booths, Billings Annual Flower Show, hoop house construction at MetraPark Education Center, Arbor Day, designing fliers and advertisements, helped create and was treasurer of Master Gardener Association, on nomination committees….and I’m sure I’ve missed so much more.

I am so excited that Merita was chosen as a winner of this most prestigious award from the Montana Urban and Community Forestry Association, and so grateful for all you have done and do for our Master Gardener program.

HARD WORK AND REWARDS ~ CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL

Here are the folks who have gotten some certificate action:

Level 1 Shirt & Certificate:

Kristine Brenden

Level 2 Shirt & Certificate:

Ann McKean

 
Submitted by Amy Grandpre

Soil Testing

Soon, hopefully, it will be time to think about planting lawns, vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees. Are you planning on a good harvest and growth? What are you doing to insure those results? Are you planting in good soil or just dirt? Does it have the capacity to hold water and nutrients or is it holding too much water and not enough nutrients? Do you know the PH of your soil/dirt? Checking in our area are two labs that can do soil tests for you. There is paper work to fill out, besides your name and location, like what do you want tested (N, P, K), pH etc.? What are you planning on growing, lawn or garden?

To gather your soil take a hand trowel and dig down to about 6” in about six different places in the lawn or garden and put it all in a pail mixing it together (discard the grass, thatch, rocks, worms and roots). From that amount, fill a 1 gallon zip lock bag with your name on it to half/two thirds full.

While working at the ACE greenhouse I met the true over achiever. He came in every couple days telling me how he had hauled buckets of sand, then manure, then compost. He had a very small vehicle which held two buckets in the rear, two buckets in the back seat and one bucket in the passenger seat. This was not a one trip for each of the above, but many trips. He was so proud of himself I could barely ask if he had ever had the soil tested for his garden. He hadn’t.

By mid-summer he came in quite deflated. His dream garden hadn’t produced anything. He did however have the soil tested and it was high to very high in N, P, and K. I felt so sorry for him all I could think to say was that maybe by next year it would be a better garden space.

In order to build anything you must have a good soil foundation. Thinking only about the end product is just dreaming. Local companies who provide soil testing for home gardeners:
B & C Ag Consulting – taking Soil Tests between 10 am and 2 pm on Mon., Wed.and Fri. 315 So. 26th St, Billings – 259-5779 http://bncag.com/ MG price $30.
Energy Laboratories 1120 So. 27th St, Billings – 252-6325
https://www.energylab.com/services/soil/ Lawn and garden analysis with recommendations $85.

Submitted by Sheri Kisch