Level Up To Three!

Level Up To Three!
by Elizabeth Waddington

Every other summer, you have a chance to level up from two to three by spending an August weekend in Bozeman with fellow Master Gardners. While the dates have not been set for 2020, according to Dara Palmer, the Montana Master Gardener Coordinator, the basics will include Integrated Pest Management sessions, Real Colors training, and tours/demonstrations.

From the state website: The Level 3 Master Gardener course is an intensive training offered on the campus of Montana State University – Bozeman. There will be approximately 30 hours of class time and a minimum 40 hour volunteer commitment. The Level 3 Master Gardener course will emphasize a hands-on curriculum focusing on volunteer management training, plant diagnosis and insect identification. To be eligible for Level 3 Master Gardener, students must be a certified Level 2 Master Gardener and be nominated by their county or reservation Extension agent or Master Gardener Coordinator. Space for this class is limited to 24, please be aware there may be a waiting list.

To entice you to consider this extra training, several folks who have recently been through the training shared their “top 5 reasons”. Here are a few of them:

  • Access to the insect collection at MSU, once in a lifetime opportunity.
  • Real colors, Personality test – understand yourself and others.
  • Another level of information from individual presentations.
  • Gallatin Valley Farmers Market visit.
  • Hands on practical training.
  • Exposure to gardeners from other parts of the state and their problems and solutions.
  • Learn to research topics.
  • Learn more to contribute more to the community and Master Gardner program.
  • Working knowledge of Schutter Diagnostic lab.
  • Network with like-minded individuals.
  • Awesome food.
  • And, drumroll please… a Cool Purple Shirt.

A huge benefit is “expanding your knowledge base” to the point that others (especially outside the master gardener group) feel comfortable approaching you for input into their gardening practices or directing them to information that they may not know is readily available.

More details and dates to come but don’t delay, when you hear it is open, register right away!

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

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.

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

Book Review: TEAMING WITH MICROBES—The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web

Book Review: TEAMING WITH MICROBES—The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web
By Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis

If you look closely at the title of this book, you will think there is a misspelling. But it is not by mistake that the authors use the word “teaming” rather
than “teeming.” The purpose of the book is to help gardeners understand the inhabitants and activities of the teeming microbes in the soil food web and to learn to team with these organisms to create the healthiest possible soil and plants in their gardens.

The soil is indeed teeming with microbes. The sheer number of each type is mind-blowing. “A mere teaspoon of good garden soil, as measured by microbial geneticists, contains a billion invisible bacteria, several yards of equally invisible fungal hyphae, several thousand protozoa, and a few dozen nematodes.” (p. 19) Bacteria are so small that a few hundred thousand can fit in a space the size of the period at the end of this sentence. The importance of these tiny soil microbes in supporting the health of plants cannot be underestimated. Yet many people (even some gardeners) have little understanding of the role and importance of these organisms and how to support their functioning.

The authors divide the book into two parts. The first part has a summary of soil science and a chapter devoted to each of the major participants in the soil food web: bacteria, archaea, fungi, algae and slime molds, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, earthworms, gastropods, and larger animals. The role and functions of each group of organisms are described as well as their connection to gardening.

The second half of the book is devoted to explaining how to assess the health of the soil food web in your own soils and how to employ three major tools to build the health of that web: mulching, composting and making compost teas. The application of these tools for annuals and perennials is explained.

At the end of the book there is a gardening calendar and a summary of the authors’ 19 soil food web gardening rules. The information in this book is dense and concise and, as such, it is not an “easy” read. It resembles a textbook more than a gardening handbook. But it is worth wading all the way through to gain a better understanding of what should live in our soils, how these tiny organisms partner with and support our plants, and how not to interfere with their work and maybe even learn to support it.

Over time we are learning not to disrupt the soils in our gardens, yards and fields and instead help the food web to live and thrive in incredible balance, resulting in healthier plants and better crop yields. Teaming with Microbes is an important addition to the literature of no-till, restoration gardening and agriculture.

Submitted by Ann Guthals