Featured Master Gardener ~ Joy Stevens ~

With a professional career ranging from being an engineer, an attorney and
presently a naturopathic physician, it is easy to deduce that Joy Stevens is a
driven person with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. This curiosity for
insight and additional information led her to sign up for Master Gardener classes in 2013. Unsurprisingly, she completed her Master Gardener Levels I, II and III within one year!
Joy finds that what she has learned in her Master Gardener classes has become part of her life and way of living. “You just do, it’s subconscious,” she says. She believes that the foundation of health includes a clean diet, curbing stress, and being physically active. As such, she eats organic food most of the time, gardens to de-stress,and engages in activities like karate and skiing. She knows that plants contain powerful medicine, so she grows many herbs in her yard for personal consumption. In her naturopathic practice, she administers botanical medicine as a tincture, as a tea, or even topically. After one of her beloved dogs contracted cancer from pesticides in the grass, Joy decided to make her large backyard pesticide- and herbicide-free. She applied her Master Gardener know-how on what fertilizer to use or add to help control unwanted plants in her backyard. “I enjoy weeding and feel the need to get soil in my hands,” she says. When Joy noticed ants on her trees, she concluded the presence of aphids and released ladybugs to take care of the pest. Integrated Pest Management at its best!
Joy’s orchard of fruit trees in her yard brings her much satisfaction and amusement. When her critter camera revealed evidence that her pear tree attracted deer, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and porcupines to the ‘pear buffet’, she decided to plant more fruit trees so that the animals would have some food to forage in the fall.
Joy is an active volunteer and coordinator for the annual Science Expo, a regional science fair organized by Montana State University and Billings Clinic and affiliated with the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, where students from grades 1-12 compete for prizes and scholarships. For her, this is an ideal way of giving back to the community and getting kids interested in science and engineering from an early age.
Joy appreciates the camaraderie of fellow Master Gardeners and she participates in gatherings when time allows. She admires that fact that Master Gardeners are passionate about preserving the beauty of plants and are always willing to share their knowledge in helping people with any plant questions.

Submitted by Suri Lunde

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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

Swanky Roots Tour

On August 28th, Master Gardener Association members were treated to a tour of Swanky Roots, a new aquaponics business in Billings. Our tour was given by co-owner Veronnaka Evenson, who graduated from Montana State University in 2016 with degrees in Plant Science and Agricultural Education. Veronnaka and mom, Ronna Klamert, are owners/operators of this most clean and modern greenhouse business. (I was most impressed with the requirement of washing our hands and walking on a specially treated mat to be sure no contamination entered the greenhouse.)

2018 newsletter 5.1

At this early stage of the business it’s mostly lettuce being grown, which is available for purchase if you happen to be out in the area…on the way to Oscars Dreamland. The future will include sales of fish and more produce items, as ongoing research and demand are determined.

As you enter the greenhouse, you see the large blue tanks that are holding the fish (which some of our group got to feed!). The fish water is then cycled to irrigate the plants that are grown through a Styrofoam type mat that floats in aerated bins of water from the fish tanks. The large greenhouse is filled with these long bins of water and plants, with the exception of an area along one side, which has larger plant material grown in a medium of expanded clay balls.

This was truly a unique, first-time tour for our group of a business such as this. We wish them well on this most ambitious business venture.

Master Gardener LuAnne Eng

As many times that I have typed LuAnne’s name, I think I have spelled it differently every time. Her name is correctly spelled LuAnne Engh (as in “ing”).

LuAnne grew up in Dickenson, ND and just happened to go to the same schools and church as her husband of 37 years, Rob. LuAnne and Rob owned Northland Corrosion in Laurel where they also live. They are now retired. She enjoys the fact that when they moved into their home, it had mature trees and shrubs and takes pride in being able to continue caring for them.

Thinking about where to go after graduating from NDSU in Fargo, since there wasn’t really anything in North Dakota, LuAnne joined the Peace Corps and traveled to the Philippines. LuAnne said that “they” were supposed to teach the people about growing food, but they themselves learned a lot also. Food isn’t available everywhere, you have to grow it and it grew like crazy. Carrots can’t be grown in the lower elevations but can be in the higher parts. They raised fish in tanks and rabbits.

LuAnne stated that she would like to be more active in MGs because she really enjoys being with so many resourceful people, but when you listen to her schedule, you understand how everything works out. They travel south for 3 months of the year, visit the three grown children and five grandchildren in Seattle and DC. LuAnne is also involved in the Laurel Tree Board finding resources for replacing trees and pruning and on the Laurel Park Board overseeing all the parks. The first Arbor Day Celebrations in Laurel were headed by LuAnne. The MayFlower Church community garden is managed by LuAnne and Rob helps with mowing the five acre parcel with twenty-four plots in addition to keeping a beautiful yard at home. She and Rob will be going to Vietnam in March to build a Habitat house near DaNang.

The booth at the Farmers Market made a huge impression on her, again because of the vast amount of information they all gave out. What you learn can also be fun, like the Mystery Night at the Library being with such a great group of people. Resources are top on her list and she admires all that Amy can put you in touch with. What an enthusiastic, energetic and interesting person to talk to and work with. She didn’t come from a gardening background, but after seeing Amy’s advertisement about the Master Gardeners program, she was eager to sign up and learn. She is a tremendous resource in herself and a great help when she is here to pitch in. Thank you, LuAnne.

Submitted by Sheri Kisch

Pollinator Day at St Andrew Community Garden

Master Gardner Dave Kimbell was part of the program at St. Andrew Community Garden Pollinator Day event on June 23. He also did an interview with Terry Moore which is available to watch on YouTube, https://youtu.be/lT7FF8svAZM The garden is in its sixteenth year and has 140 plots (it began with 40)! It includes a mission garden from which produce is donated to area social services.

Featured Master Gardener – Jo Lamey

Jo Lamey Gardens in Briarwood: an interview by Bess Lovec

“Oh gosh,” Jo gushed as soon as I asked her when she started gardening. Her dad had her picking apples and shelling peas before she can remember. She still practices giving away produce, currently rhubarb, as her father did with their neighbors. I hope to be at the top of her list for rhubarb next spring!

Jo acknowledges that soil in the Briarwood neighborhood differs greatly from west Billings, though, where she grew up. Her parents had an acre of vegetables, but Jo and her spouse abandoned attempting to grow vegetables south of Billings. Briarwood has a clay-based soil and sits at a higher elevation than most of our town, so acknowledging our microclimates proves worthwhile. Before fencing the deer ate everything, and Jo and her husband amended the soil for years and still do. Now they focus mainly on flowers, both perennials and annuals, and at this point boast 16 flower beds. Veggies they acquire at the Farmers’ Market, where Jo also volunteers at the Master Gardener (MG) booth.

Her most recent perennials are astilbes, which, she notices, thrive just about everywhere, such as in North Carolina and Colorado, and they burst forth too in Lamey 2Briarwood. She also is captivated this season by an annual called a monkey plant from a vendor in Laurel. Neither of us could muster the scientific names of many plants we discussed. Her father inadvertently left her a buckeye tree, producing poisonous nuts rumored to cure rheumatism when carried in pockets rather than digested. Jo shared a photo of what I initially thought was a spirea bush, but it’s called a butterfly bush, producing small white flowers. Clearly a visit to Jo’s yard would be a field day for someone wanting to formally categorize a broad variety of growth.

She includes ubiquitous flowers in the flower beds: marigolds, geraniums, and zinnias, while punctuating them with hydrangeas, dahlias, and cannas. She just stores the canna and dahlia bulbs with newspapers in a cool place over the winter. Lamey 1

I’m surprised that hydrangeas came back for her, but she shared that they are in a sheltered, easterly location. It’s amazing that she is not even retired while doing such extensive gardening! Jo is particularly busy in this election season. Having trained at MSU and at Notre Dame, she has an independent company that performs market analysis.

Jo adores Amy Grandpre’s leadership style in the Master Gardeners’ program, and she enjoyed the instructions of Bob Wicks and Corry, when she was enrolled in classes. She really has no complaints or suggestions about the program. Jo likes the Christmas gathering, volunteering at the fair booth, and recalls fondly a tour to a private garden in Park City. She prioritizes her appreciation of learning pruning skills. She no longer kills trees or shrubs. And the camaraderie of being with other gardeners cannot be underestimated.

Like any great gardener, Jo has her share of disasters. Her eight orchids got mites that could not be overcome, and now, with her abundance of healthy trees, she has perhaps too much shade, although the moss proliferates. Her roses are struggling this season while the majority of other flowers flourish. This season really prospers from all the recent moisture. Miracid and Soil Pep rise to the top of her list of helpful products. One inch of soil pep holds down her weeds.

Her advice to new gardeners: “get out there and try new things.” Yet Jo wisely recognizes that the benefits grow well beyond the obvious garden itself. Gardening helps her decompress and meditate. The earth and our relationship with it are reciprocal, or maybe even unbalanced. I know my garden gives back to me far more than I give to it, and Jo radiates this sense of joy when you meet her. I hope you do soon!