Master Gardener Program and the Yellowstone County Master Gardener Association

Master Gardener Program and the Master Gardener Association
by Ann Guthals

Some Master Gardeners have asked lately what the difference is between the Master Gardener (MG) program and the Yellowstone County Master Gardener Association (YCMGA).

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The MG Program was started to extend the effectiveness and reach of the county extension agent by educating many people in the county with advanced gardening knowledge who could then reach out to others. The gardening classes started in Yellowstone County in 1994 and now consist of three levels of classes with tests and volunteer hour requirements for each level. To remain a MG in good standing requires a certain number of volunteer hours each year.

To keep MGs educated and in touch with other MGs, there are also classes, field trips, and social events outside the main series of classes. The MG program is overseen by Montana State University and is part of a national program of master gardeners.

In 2012, a group of MGs wanted to provide a mechanism for receipt of grant funds and other donations to benefit the existing MG program which is dependent on government funding. The hope was that this outside source of funds could help keep the MG program viable even if there were funding cuts and would be a nonprofit vehicle to receive donations to help the MG program.

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These MGs started regular meetings and in 2012 created the YCMGA, wrote Bylaws and Articles of Organization, obtained a 501(3) nonprofit status, applied for grants, and began formal association board meetings. The mission of the Association was to raise funds to support the MG program, to supplement educational efforts for and community involvement by the MGs, and provide ongoing opportunities for connections between MGs. The current association also seeks to educate residents and decision-makers in Yellowstone County of the value of the MG program.

To belong to the Association, a MG must be in good standing as a MG and pay annual dues of $15. About 40% of current MGs are also Association members. Association members may attend Board meetings and run for the Board when vacancies arise. The Association is active in promoting various volunteer programs such as the MG activities at the Metra fairgrounds and community gardens around the city. YCMGA also holds several social events during the year including summer barbecues and a winter Christmas party. The financial and volunteer help from the YCMGA takes some of the load off Amy Grandpre, the extension agent who runs the MG classes, and also allows her more time to pursue other aspects of her extension work.

In addition to helping financially support the MG program with dues and grants, Association members receive discounts at garden-related businesses in Billings and at some MG classes that require tuition. Dues fund some MG projects directly through mini “grants” from YCMGA.

The new Association President is Brian Godfrey who is excited to expand the scope of the YCMGA activities in new ways. He is interested in developing a mentorship program to connect seasoned with beginning gardeners. He would like to see more MGs who complete the courses remain active members and hopes to bring inactive members back into good standing as active volunteers. Brian and the Board are looking forward to celebrating the MG program’s 25th anniversary in 2019. And, having developed a MG project sign, they hope to see all projects display these signs to further educate the general populace about the reach and nature of MG volunteer projects in the community.

If you are interested in joining and becoming involved in the YCMGA, you may reach President Godfrey at 406.606.0184 or you may look up the Yellowstone County Master Gardener Association website (http://www. ycmgamt.com) to see Board members, minutes, articles, and a calendar of events.

Submitted by Ann Guthals

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Winter Indoor Plant Care

Winter Indoor Plant Care
by Elizabeth Waddington

Here are a few tips to keep your indoor plants thriving through our long cold Montana winters.

PESTS

  • Pests can be a real annoyance. They usually appear after outdoor plants are brought inside for the winter, or when a new houseplant is brought home. Your houseplants may also sprout bugs once brought inside your house because they no longer have outdoor predators.
  • Spider mites thrive in warm, dry houses. Frequent misting under the leaves of houseplants will discourage them. A solution of 1 cup flour, ¼ cup buttermilk, and a gallon of cool water, applied in a mist, may be a good organic deterrent.
  • Small flies may occasionally appear around houseplants. These are called fungus gnats and are harmless to plants and humans in their adult form, though their larvae can damage young roots. Letting the soil dry out a bit between watering can discourage fungus gnats.
  • Remove aphids from houseplants with a mixture of equal parts rubbing alcohol and water and add a drop of dish-washing detergent. Apply with a soft brush. This also works on mealybugs and scale.

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LIGHT

  • When arranging houseplants in your home, consider their lighting needs. Some plants require lots of direct light to thrive, while others prefer lower levels of indirect light.
  • Put plants that can tolerate full sun in south-and west-facing windows, plants that like partial shade in east-facing windows, and low-light plants in north-facing windows.
  • Most flowering plants need to be within three feet of a sunny window.
  • Most plants require 12 to 16 hours of light per day.
  • Rotate plants once in a while to encourage even growth and prevent legginess.

WATER

  • Believe it or not, more houseplants die from over-watering than from anything else! Water plants with room-temperature water.
  • Use filtered water if your tap water contains high amounts of minerals or chemicals. Fluoride can cause the leaf tips of some houseplants such as peace lilies, to turn brown.
  • Water houseplants in un-glazed clay pots more frequently because the porous clay will absorb and evaporate some of the water.
  • If your houseplant leaves are dripping, even when you haven’t watered, it’s trying to rid itself of excess water (a process called “guttation”). This makes a plant vulnerable to disease-causing fungi, so you may want to reduce the amount of water you’re giving the plant.

FERTILIZER

  • Most houseplants are in a resting phase during the winter and do not require fertilizer. However, a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) works fine, fertilizers with a higher ratio of nitrogen will promote more foliage growth, and flowering plants can use a fertilizer with more phosphorous.

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TEMPERATURE

  • Most houseplants grow well with daytime temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees F and night temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees F. Temperatures below 50 degrees F or rapid temperature fluctuations may damage some plants.
  • Keep houseplants away from cold drafts, radiators, and hot air vents. Also make sure houseplant foliage doesn’t touch cold windows by placing a cardboard between the window and plant.

HUMIDITY

  • Humidity is a tough factor to perfect, as most homes are especially dry in Montana winters. Most common houseplants will be happiest when the relative humidity is between 40 and 50%.
  • Group houseplants near each other to form a support group to cope with the low humidity of most winter homes.
  • Set plants on shallow trays of moistened gravel to raise humidity. This keeps the pots out of standing water.
  • Occasionally turning on a humidifier near your plants can be effective at combating indoor dryness. You would have to hand mist plants several times a day to raise the humidity sufficiently.
  • Plants like cacti and succulents can tolerate lower levels of humidity.

MORE HOUSEPLANT CARE TIPS

  • Loosen the dirt in your pots periodically. Re-invigorate your houseplants by removing the top ¼ inch of soil and top-dressing with fresh potting soil.
  • If your houseplants’ leaves grow dusty, gently wipe them down with a wet paper towel. Too much dust can clog a plant’s stomata (pores), making it harder for the plant to “breathe.”

Challenge: does someone want to try this off-beat tip? To get rid of bugs in houseplants, push a clove of garlic into the plant’s soil. If the garlic sprouts and grows, just cut it back.

 

Submitted by Elizabeth Waddington

Book Review: Lentil Underground by Liz Carlisle

Lentil Underground by Liz Carlisle

I adore this nonfiction book for so many reasons! As a gardener, a dreamer, a reader, and a Montanan (after being here 43 years), this book nurtures those of us craving some prodding towards creativity. It’s about the conversion from conventional, large-crop, synthetically fertilized farming to rotating, small crop, organic farming. Technical while still being accessible to the non-scientist, Lentil Underground explains the process of finding new ways to do what no longer works and the willingness to take the leap away from the mainstream. Many third-generation farmers were facing bankruptcy in the 1980s while farming the way they were told to do by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Montana State University agriculture professors.

Liz Carlisle, a Missoulian by birth who holds degrees from Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley, writes in a crisp journalistic style made popular today by writers such as Michael Lewis and Mary Roach. She weaves information into a timeline featuring real characters in an ongoing story that reflects recent history of the past few decades.

“My intention has changed from making money to growing good-quality, healthy food. I think the soil’s happier. The farm just feels better. It’s like it knows I’m not going to pillage.” These few farmers in Montana who moved away from debt to large corporations towards certain weeds to replenish their soils represent a broad philosophical shift. The independence and innovation of farmers fortunately cannot be restrained, even though they were bucking the trend and often alienating neighbors and family members. In the long run, most organic farmers not only survived but thrive.

What began with some founders of AERO (Alternative Energy Resources Organization), now based in Helena, has become essentially commonplace. Albertson’s and Walmart carry organic produce, whereas that designation used to be only carried by specialized, expensive health food stores. The movement no longer is the domain of a small, kooky cluster of transcendentally minded hippies, although the evidence, as explained by Carlisle, is that it started that way. Both the history of the movement and the character descriptions involved make colorful fodder for reading.

As a gardener, I still feel mixed about black medic and clover helping fix the nitrogen in my flower and vegetable beds. On one hand, I care about appearance. I get stuck in those middle class values that Carlisle confronts: “It became customary, when passing by a tidy, productive farm, to remark that a good family must live there.” Alternatively, I feel relief knowing I help the soil by ignoring what’s under the canopy of flowers and vegetables, thereby contributing to healthier, nutrient-rich soil.

She includes some celebrities, too, since land use often mirrors personalities of those that own it. I won’t be a spoiler, though, because reading the book far exceeds reading this review. If you have doubts about picking up a copy, keep in mind that it was the ‘Read for all Incoming Freshmen’ at the University of Montana in the fall of 2017. The themes of thoughtful change while taking charge of destiny from the ground up can inspire future leaders and gardeners everywhere to ask essential questions and experiment.

BOOK REVIEW submitted by Bess Lovec

Recipe: Pumpkin Pudding

Pumpkin Pudding

Ingredients:

2 cups cottage cheese
2 cups cooked well-drained pumpkin (or other winter squash)
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar (or less)
1/8 tsp. salt
Nutmeg

Blend cottage cheese, pumpkin, eggs, sugar and salt in the blender. Pour into small greased Pyrex glass baking cups till about 2/3 full. Set cups in baking dish and fill baking dish about halfway up cups with hot water. Sprinkle tops of custard with nutmeg, if desired. Bake at 350 degrees until custard is set – about 45 minutes to an hour.

from NY Times Natural Foods Cookbook
Submitted by Ann Guthals

A Master Gardener Cheerleader: Phil Painter

When I say Phil Painter is an optimist, I’m not referring to the local nonprofit club. Instead I’m sharing that he radiates positivity, which is always welcome as we fall headlong into winter! Phil completed Level 1 about the same time he began a lawn care/landscape maintenance business. He, like many Master Gardeners, combines his interest in gardening with his work life. His business has been so successful that he has little time to garden or volunteer, although his spouse gardens. This summer his wife had enough beefsteak and roma tomatoes, generated in pots, to give many away. She also raises herbs for cooking. The weekly weeding, though, falls to Paul. They plan raised beds for spring 2019 with a few intended goals: so the Chesapeake Bay retriever cannot dig their labors and to utilize less city water. In the past they have grown corn, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, squash, and broccoli.

He was included and even at times forced into gardening his parents’ 20×60-foot plot. His mother found the pursuit much more challenging in Harlowtown than her native California. Eventually he recruited her to the MG program, which she did in Helena. Sometimes knowledge flows upstream!

The welcoming, open format is what Paul cherishes about Master Gardeners. Prior to his enrollment, he struggled to find correct regional information, and he appreciated learning the why to many of his questions. Much of the prior information he was supplied, even locally, was opinion rather than fact, so he was hungry for accuracy.

He finds value in the attitude of sharing information plus the broad range of topics explored. He freely and frequently gives Amy’s number to customers. His advice to new gardeners? Call the Extension Office and sign up for Master Gardeners’ classes. We have a super cheerleader! He hopes the direction of the program will be towards youth, suggesting the Boys and Girls Club or Scouts, to give young people a sense of accomplishment. Even though he has little time to volunteer with our various activities, he has enjoyed observing the number of volunteer options blossom.

His company does not spray because to do so requires special licensing. This factoid alerted me to the notion that if a company does spray, the client might want to check on their licensing. I’m relieved that spraying necessitates licensing. Of course homeowners can spray at their own familial and pet risks.

We discussed brands of equipment, which I won’t endorse herein, and the services he provides: mainly mowing, then power raking, clean-up, and fertilizing with non-pesticide products. He only does sprinkler blowouts for his customers. For landscaping and tree pruning, he makes referrals. Wise enough to limit his scope of practice to what he can successfully manage, Paul devotes this time of year to blade sharpening and oil changes. Specific wisdom he shared with me included that there’s no need to water lawns until July (yards don’t like “wet feet,” aka wet roots), and the many lovely tall grasses so popular lately need thinning every 3 to 5 years. Also trim lilacs after blooming rather than eliminating new blooms in the spring.

So if you crave witness to one of the successes of our program, contact Phil Painter for inspiration and information!

Submitted by Bess Lovec

Certifications

We had five Level 3 Master Gardener Participants: Brian Godfrey, Sheri Frederickson, Sherry Doty, Fay Danielson and Sheryl McCandless. Congratulations on qualifying and attending this advanced level of the Master Gardening program.

May the things you’ve learned help extend the knowledge you’ve already gained during Level 1 and Level 2, as well as help you in your outreach to the community with research-based information.

Also congratulations to Elizabeth Waddington for receiving her Lev. 1 Shirt and Certificate.

Subitted by Amy Grandpre