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

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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.

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.

25-Year Celebration of Master Gardeners in Yellowstone County

Billings Montana; MetraPark, 4-H Building; May 18, 2019
by Amy Grandpre
photos by Sherry Doty

[Editor’s Note: in previous posts and the printed newsletter credit for photos in this article was given to Amy Grandpre and Merita Murdock. Our apologies to Sherry for the mixup!]

Twenty-five years is quite the marker for an organization, and the best thing to celebrate when it involves dedicated volunteer service to our community.

JAS 02

The celebration was presented as a birthday party, with birthday party decorations, a HUGE card for all to sign, and a table filled with some 50 wrapped gifts, distributed during the event. And since it was a rainy, dreary day, a great day for gardeners to gather and enjoy an indoor BBQ potluck.

In 1994 it was a gathering of nine Billings citizens, simply interested in learning more about how to grow their yard and garden plants more successfully in our challenging Montana environment. JAS 03Those students present:

  • Annette Bayley
  • Johanna Freivalds
  • Bobbi Hylton
  • Diane Kostelecky
  • Joe LaRue
  • Berta Morrison
  • Merita Murdock
  • Evelyn Popelka
  • Edith Yapuncich

It was a very exciting time, as we were witnessing the beginnings of BIG technology. We gathered at Eastern Montana College (now MSU Billings) to experience something called MetNet Video Teleconferencing. This was one of several sites across the state, set up to host the first Master Gardener classes. Participants watched live classes, being taught by specialists in Bozeman… and the sites also had the ability to ask live questions to the instructors. This was a big deal.

We had a total of six classes:

  • Composting by Mike Vogel
  • Urban IPM by Sherry Lajeunesse
  • Insect ID by Will Lanier
  • Soils & Fertility by Jeff Jacobsen
  • Plant Disease by Jack Riesselman (still seen on Ag Live)
  • Horticulture Wrap-up by George Evans

We had three project/activities that year:

  • Master Gardener hotline
  • Plant exchange/potluck
  • Garden tour featuring our own Master Gardener gardens

Total 1994 Volunteer hours = 43

In 1998, Bob Gough picked up the program and under his watch and care it exploded. This man was passionate, witty, charming and just made learning fun. There was no snoozing in his classes, as he was a master at engaging his students.

 

Today, our program is an active 130-participants strong with hundreds passing through our program through the years. We have 25 active projects, and in 2018, Yellowstone County Master Gardeners logged 3,000+ hours. Total hours recorded since 1994 is 50,000, which is lean, as not all our Master Gardeners log their hours.

What made this event extra special were the guests who came from our past to celebrate with us. Among the most honored and recognized were three from our original class:

  • Annette Bayley
  • Diane Kostelecky
  • Merita Murdock (of course Merita is most active currently)

These three were gifted with Extension sun hats in appreciation.

Then several of our past Program Coordinators came to celebrate and were recognized as well. These included:

  • Ann Finley, 2002 Program Coordinator
  • John Levar, 2008 Program Coordinator, and wife Nan
  • Karen Lindeke & Ruth Sheller (now in her late 90s), 2004 Program Co- Coordinators
  • Ann Hillman, 2005–2014 Program Event Notification Coordinator

Other honored guests:

  • Dwayne Bondy, Class of 2000, was ZooMontana grounds keeper
  • Rosemary Power, Class of 2006

 

Master Gardeners present who have been with the program 8+ years were recognized:

  • Merita Murdock, Class of 1994
  • Mary Davis, Class of 2002
  • Tom Kress, Class of 2003
  • Vonnie Bell, Class of 2003
  • Ann Guthals, Class of 2007
  • Bob Wicks, Class of 2007
  • Sharon Wetsch, Class of 2007
  • Joann Glasser, Class of 2008
  • Sheri Kisch, Class of 2008
  • Dave Kimball, Class of 2009
  • Joyce Hendricks, Class of 2010

2019 Level 1 and Level 2 graduates present were recognized, and volunteer accomplishment awards were given to:

  • Sherry Doty: 400 Volunteer Hour Award
  • Fay Danielson: Level 3 Certified

A moment of silence was given to honor our Master Gardeners who have passed:

  • Roger Pitet (2003)
  • Jackie Bradshaw (2005)
  • Joe LaRue (2006)
  • Berta Morrison (2007)
  • Bob Gough (2011)
  • Vicki Thomas (2011)
  • Jane Howell (2012)
  • Shirley Spildie (2013)
  • Edith Yapuncich (2013)
  • Julie Halverson (2019)

 

A chalk art contest was part of our celebration activities. Bob Wicks was able to score some fabulous trophies for the event!

  • First place went to Annette Bayley
  • Second place to Linda Williams

Our celebration finished up with a long-awaited dedication of a Mock Orange tree to honor Dr. Bob Gough. The linden tree previously dedicated June 25, 2012, had perished due to a poor growing environment. Two plaques (made by Master Gardener Roy Wahl) were placed to mark the event:

Always In Our Hearts
– Yellowstone County Master Gardeners
Bob Gough “Dr. Bob”
“A Most Excellent Teacher”
Philadelphus coronarius (Mock Orange)
Dedicated May 18, 2019

Special thanks to Bob Wicks and Brian Godfrey for helping DJ the event, and to Merita Murdock and Debbie Wicks for making the delicious cupcakes that made the event extra special.