Square Foot Garden Winners!

This year (our ninth), the Square Foot Garden competition was great, plus we added another box for a total of 8 competition beds. You all did such a wonderful job and I thank each of you for putting in the extra time to compete this year! ~ Amy Grandpre

Box 1: Charlie Hendricks
Box 2: Ron & Joyce Hendricks
Box 3: Corry Mordeaux & Gloria Ervin
Box 4: Rick Shotwell
Box 5: Brian Godfrey
Box 6: Rebecca Starr
Box 7: Roy Wahl
Box 8: Marilyn Lockwood

Thank you judges: Debbie Werholz, Mary Davis, Rosemary Power.

First place Box 4: Rick Shotwell, – $50
Second Place Box 2: Charlie Hendricks – $25
Third Place Box 6: Rebecca Starr – $10

2019 Master Gardener Regional Convention—Rexburg, ID, June 28th

This was the second year that Sharon, Brian and Amy took on the Rexburg convention. And as before, the educational opportunities were exceptional and the campus gorgeous.

Out of the 14 educational offerings, 6 could be selected for the day’s classes. From these Amy chose: Backpacking for Wildflowers; Herbs in Your Landscape;; Nature, A Prescription You Cannot Fill in a Pharmacy; Spiders got you Spooked; Want to Have Your Own Nursery?; and From Root Cellars to Walipinis

Here are the highlight of the things learned from these sessions:

-Instead of baggies of wet paper towels, in “Backpacking for Wildflowers” we learned how to make our own Tissue Culture Media. This simplifies plant collecting enormously. With these light weight, plastic test tubes, filled with about an inch of media, you can now take much smaller cuttings of plant starts, and easily preserve them, for days if needed. Here’s the recipe:

Add 4 cups of distilled water to a saucepan26 Regional 2
Dissolve 1 tsp. MiracleGro into solution
Dissolve ¼ cup cane sugar into solution
Add 1 tsp. Dip-N-Grow liquid rooting hormone to solution
Add 1 Tab. Agar
Heat until it boils, stir.
Remove from heat and dispense 15-20 mL into plastic, lidded tubes

-In “Herbs in Your Landscape,” it was most impressive to see how many herbs are really quite beautiful as ornamentals…and why not use them as features in our landscapes. Some that were impressive were using certain lavender varieties (Twickel Purple & Phenomenal) for short hedging; lime mint was not only a lovely variety, but what a wonderful addition to those summer-time Mojito’s; the oregano variety Dittany of Crete has a fuzzy leaf and is a most beautiful plant; pineapple sage actually has some lovely ornamental red flowers.

-We learned in “Nature, A Prescription You Cannot Fill in a Pharmacy,” that in today’s world, nature is literally a prescription to improve health. Dr. Robert Zarr, in 2017, founded Park Rx America, so that health professionals could write park prescriptions for patients of all ages suffering with obesity, mental health issues, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes. It turns out humans need green space for stress relief, to lessen depression and anxiety, for lowering blood pressure, and on and on. Biophilia, also called BET, suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life…we need it. This is something we probably all know, but this somehow really drove the point home.

-“Spiders got you Spooked” was just plain fun and interesting. The big message was that the Aggressive House Spider (Hobo) is no longer on the venomous bite list. It was a spider whose identity had been grossly misrepresented.

-Inspiration was given through “Want to Have Your Own Nursery,” to take our Metra greenhouse and put it to work, even though it would only be for those months that wouldn’t require heating…May to Oct. An opportunity for vertical garden growing and blessing our communities food services with vegetables such as pole beans, winter squash and tomatoes, as well as demonstrate to the public the value of vertical growing in small spaces.

-Then finally Walipini Construction. First off, besides being fun to say, what’s that all 27 Regional 3about? For curiosity’s sake a closer look had to be invoked. Turns out this is a wonderful green-house structure that takes on much of the same dynamics as an earth house. The greenhouse floor is dug into the ground and walls are bermed with soil to create an underground green-house. A bit of work for sure, but what benefits to have the consistency of soil warmth through winter, and only a roof to maintain.

And for a bonus, we were taught28 Regional 4 how to make a Linnaeus seed packet…yes we are talking Carolus (Carl) Linnaeus here. Was so awesome to have in our hands the very packet he used when collecting seeds.

As Master Gardeners, you all can take in this most awesome resource for advancing your horticulture education. Do consider coming along in 2020.

~Submitted by Amy Grandpre

Leafcutter Bee (Megachile rotundata) Tour

July 19, 2019 — Hosted by John Wold, Ashlawn Farms, Laurel, MT

Attendees: Sheri Fredericksen, Gordon Clark, Mary Davis, Kyle and Pat Neary, Nan Grant, Carolyn Jones, Sue and Marvin Carter

Ashlawn Farms was established in 1909 and homesteaded by John Wold’s grandfather who moved west from Northwestern Minnesota. The name of the farm comes from the many ash trees located on the property. The family farms several crops, including some on dryland acres located south of Laurel. Leafcutter Bees (Bees) play an important role in the family’s alfalfa seed business which started in 1986.

In early years, a harrow was used to try and open the alfalfa flowers to allow pollination to occur, however, it was a practice that was destructive to the plant. During the 1970’s, farmers realized that bees worked extremely well to pollinate the alfalfa.

The alfalfa seed business is extremely weather dependent. Once the alfalfa plants begin budding, the Leafcutter Bee larvae, which have been stored in tubs during the winter, are placed into screened boxes. 19 Leafcutter 2The temperature in the incubation room is gradually increased to about 85 degrees for the larvae to mature into swarming Bees. Once the Bees begin swarming, they are hungry and ready to go to work. Ideally, if the weather can maintain about 80-85 degrees, the Bees are released to begin pollination of the alfalfa.20 Leafcutter 3

The Bees have no typical “queen;” however, the females do all of the work. The boxes containing the nesting holes are put into trailers and towed to locations where they are spaced out appropriately to pollinate the alfalfa. (The placement of the nesting boxes is 23 Leafcutter 6due to the Bees nesting range of 300 feet.) In total there are approximately 3,000 nesting holes per box. The trays of mature Bees are transported to the field by pickup (in the evening or morning) when the temperature is cool, and placed into the top of the trailers which can house 18, 24 or 28 nesting boxes. The screens are then removed. Once the temperature begins to rise, the Bees begin to swarm as they leave the boxes. The Bees are very weak and the first thing they do is learn to fly and begin to feed to gain strength. Once they build up strength, the females then choose a nesting hole.24 Leafcutter 7

Once a female Bee claims a nesting hole, it is hers and will not be used by another female while the eggs are being laid in the hole. The female Bee lines the hole with “cuts” of leaf material from nearby plants creating a sort of cocoon for depositing the pollen and nectar and laying the egg. The female Bee opens the alfalfa blooms and sucks the nectar and gathers the pollen from several 21 Leafcutter 4flowers on her belly and carries the pollen back to her nesting hole. (Since the females carry the pollen on their dry bellies, each flower they enter to gather more pollen is pollinated by the pollen that has been carried from the previous bloom.) The female Bee scrapes the pollen off inside the nesting hole, then spits the nectar into the pollen creating a paste-like food source for the larvae to feed on prior to diapause.1  When enough pollen and nectar has been collected, she then lays the egg and seals it with cuts of leaf material to protect the egg from predators. Female Bees literally wear their wings off flying into and out of the nesting holes and have a life span of about 5-6 weeks; the males live only about 2 weeks once they fertilize the females.

Approximately 6 gallons of Bees2 per acre are required to adequately pollinate the 22 Leafcutter 5alfalfa blooms. Great care is taken to ensure the alfalfa is not over-pollinated as it can have a detrimental effect to the alfalfa seed yield.

Once pollination is complete, the boxes containing the larvae are retrieved from the field and placed into the incubation room (at a temperature of 50-55 degrees) for the following year.3 The alfalfa plant is sprayed with a chemical defoliator causing the plant to dehydrate so that it is ready to harvest. One pound of alfalfa seeds equals approximately 250,000 seeds. Depending on the amount of alfalfa acres, the family’s total yield can vary year to year.

Leafcutter Bees have a gentle nature and although they have a stinger, would only sting if threatened. A sting is comparable to a mosquito bite. The Bee is renowned for their superior capability with pollinating alfalfa.

I “bee-lieve” a good time was had by all and the tour was very informative.

~ Submitted by Sheri Fredericksen

 

Footnotes

  1. Diapause is a predetermined period of dormancy, meaning it’s genetically programmed and involved adaptive physiological changes, i.e., from the time the larvae are placed into a cool temperature to the time the incubation room temperature is increased to make the larvae mature.
  2. Approximately 10,000 bees equals one pound.
  3. The larvae will remain in diapause until the incubation room temperature is increased the following summer to begin the metamorphosis cycle into mature Leafcutter Bees.

Helping Bees

Bees and other pollinators are in decline. In the summer 2019 issue of “Permaculture” magazine, there is an article entitled “Bee Roadzz” by Milly Carmichael that offers some hope. The following is a synopsis of that article.

In 2014 in England the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) wrote the 10-year National Pollinator Strategy to improve the state of bees and other pollinating insects and to monitor progress. Yet despite this focus on the pollinators’ plight, bees are in trouble still. The reasons for the decline in population of honeybees and other bees are manifold and complex and include loss of habitat. “…in the UK, in the last 60-70 years we have lost 97% of wildflower meadows, 300,000 km. of established hedgerows and 80% of flower-rich chalk downland.”16 Helping Bees 2

A group of people in the village of Marlborough decided to tackle this problem from a local perspective. Knowing that honeybees can travel up to 4 miles to find food and that their nearest village was 7 miles away, the people of Marlborough met with their neighboring village and set up a “bee road” between the 2 villages. They met with many different people in the town as well as farmers in the adjacent area. The first step was to work with existing resources, then re-assess and take the project further if successful. “Whatever can be done is encouraged, whether it is: reviewing garden plans and choosing more bee-friendly ones; sharing those plans with friends and neighbors; taking part in national monitoring schemes; reducing pesticide use; creating hibernation and nesting habitat for solitary bees; landowners surveying field margins for wildflowers and seeding the less rich areas…planting dozens of honeysuckle cuttings in the hedgerows; or letting a corner of a churchyard grow wilder.” Farmers were encouraged to increase wildflowers in edges of fields as well as in meadows, re-introduce hedgerows, and plant flowering trees.

In addition to increasing food sources in the farmland between the towns, creating bee habitats in yards and gardens was encouraged. “There is growing evidence that allotments, domestic gardens and community green spaces in urban environments offer enormous potential for increasing pollinator populations and protecting genetic diversity.”

17 Helping Bees 3

Now more villages are becoming involved in creating bee roads. The Marlborough group’s goal is to cover the country with “Bee Roadzz” so bees have habitat and food sources continuously available instead of islands of food and shelter surrounded by deserts without these resources.

In Montana our towns are many miles apart, so creating bee roads like these would be hard. But in urban areas we could work to make our yards and gardens more bee-friendly and also work with farmers and ranchers to increase food sources and habitats for bees similar to the English project.

~Submitted by Ann Guthals

Healthy By Design “Gardeners’ Market

Another successful year of Thursday evening markets at South Park!

The Healthy By Design Gardeners’ Market is designed to bring healthy, fresh, local, and affordable fruits and vegetables to the community. The market is also a social meeting place to celebrate health and nutrition. Healthy By Design partnered with Billings Parks, Recreation, and Public Lands to bring the market to the South Park. http://www.healthybydesignyellowstone.org/gardeners-market/

Photo by: Christine Smith

Billings Arbor Day Activity

by Elaine Allard

Again this year, Master Gardeners took an active part in the City of Billings Arbor Day activities. This year’s event was held on May 2nd at Central Park.

Sharon Wetsch, Fay Danielson, Sue Weinreis, and Linda Brewer helped the City Arbor Day Committee with registration and a variety of other tasks. Charlie and Ron Hendricks helped all of us who arrived early and were scurrying to get canopies, tables, posters, and props for our educational booth set up before the fourth graders’ 9 a.m. arrival.

JAS 17Sheri Kisch and Sherry Doty presentations on pollinators and their importance to the environment captivated the students. With some help from the students, Merita Murdock and Elaine Allard mixed clay soil, potting mix, water, and native flowering plant seeds to form a ‘cookie dough’ consistency mixture. Mary Davis, Vonnie Bell, Rosemary Power, Debbi Werholz, and Bess Lovec helped the 175 students that rotated through our booth use the mixture to make their own ‘seed bombs’ and pack them into egg cartoons. At noon, after having a very fast moving and enjoyable morning, it was time to pack up, have lunch and start thinking about next year’s Arbor Day.

Seed Bombs to Create Habitat for Pollinators

Presented by Yellowstone County Master Gardeners

The seed bombs contain a mix of clay soil, potting mix, water, and flower seeds which bloom at different times. The flowers will attract pollinators (bees, bats, butterflies, moths, beetles, etc.) by providing them food (nectar) and a place to live. This will help to make a better environment for humans and many animals that depend on pollination for much of their food.

Directions

  1. Leave the seed bombs in the egg carton in a cool dry place for a couple of days.
  2. Throw or place the seed bombs in an area where the ground has been disturbed or in a flowerbed. The seed bombs do not need to be buried.
  3. Hope for good rains or help them along with a little water.