We’ve asked for photos from your gardens, porches, and sunny windows – and here are some doozies! Great gardening, folks! Keep ’em coming!
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.
Sheri 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.
- Leave the seed bombs in the egg carton in a cool dry place for a couple of days.
- 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.
- Hope for good rains or help them along with a little water.
RECIPE by Sheri Kisch
5 cups chokecherry juice
6 cups sugar
1 cup white corn syrup
Combine juice and syrup in a large pan and bring to a boil while stirring. Add the sugar and continue stirring to dissolve. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, skim off any foam that has formed and pour into hot pint jars to within ½ inch.
Clean the rim and screw on hot lid and band to hand tighten. Place in hot water canner and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a steady boil and process 15 minutes (or as to your elevation). Shut off heat, remove lid and let sit 5 minutes and then remove from canner. Let jars sit for 24 hours.
The biggest difference in whether you get jelly or syrup out of a recipe is the amount of water that is added to the juice (to make even cup amounts or straining the pulp again to get all the juice out).
Chokecherries have a lot of natural pectin. Pectin in fruit decreases as fruit ripens. It is good to pick 3/4 to 7/8 ripe, and 1/4 to 1/8 less ripe berries depending on whether you use dry pectin. It is not recommended to crush or grind the seeds in processing juice because they contain cyanide.
by Elizabeth Waddington
Do you love sunflowers? Then you should embrace the pesky dandelions in your lawn since they are in the same family. Both are cheery yellow, can be used as accents in floral arrangements, especially if you have grandchildren picking the dandelions, and are
attractive to pollinators for your garden and fruit trees. The family is Asteraceae (Asters/Sunflowers) and the Species is Taraxacum officinale (Common dandelion). The name (recorded from late Middle English) comes from French dent-de-lion, translation of medieval Latin dens lionis ‘lion’s tooth’, because of the jagged shape of the leaves.
What is your tolerance level for these non-native plants, aka “weeds” in your yard? If you don’t mind them, leave your dandelions to attract the pollinators who help with our neighborhood fruit and vegetable crops. You may have a good reason to not have them blooming for special events; I will be nipping off the yellow blooms when my toddler grandchildren come to visit, but otherwise leaving them until they go to seed (no, I don’t want THAT many, thank you!)
But what can you do if your tolerance level is zero dandelions in your prized putting green turf? You can use a commercial weed and feed granular mixture in a drop or broadcast spreader when they are actively growing which will cover your entire lawn. You can spot treat with a weed killer that only targets broadleaf plants and will not harm the lawn (usually in a spray container with a nozzle). Or you can manually extract them with devices designed to pry them up by the root. Note that you need the whole root in order to eradicate the plant and that is easiest after a heavy rain. The small blue and white digger is simple to use but takes skill to get deep enough to remove all of the root. The large red and silver “jumper” is like using a pogo stick on the dandelion. Or, as my husband asked, “What ARE you doing?” It does take a hunk of sod out with the weed so consider it to also be an aerating tool. You can always hire a commercial yard care company to maintain your lawn, but does that give you satisfaction?
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.
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. Those 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.
by Bess Lovec
Eight yellow jackets stole AnnaMarie’s career as a professional gardener. She reached behind a railroad tie to pull weeds, and they nailed her forearm, which swelled to twice its normal circumference. The swelling even went halfway up her upper arm. If toxins had made it to her heart, she would have missed this interview and the past three years.
She has been in and out of hospitals more than a dozen times, and even more times to emergency rooms, but not just due to the bites. AnnaMarie has suffered heat stroke twice, making her even more vulnerable to falling prey to that condition again. So she is wisely poised to give advice: “Hydrate, and take breaks, even if you don’t think you might need one. Use electrolytes. And get to medical help ASAP if you’ve been bitten by yellow jackets.” I repeat her mantras throughout the day, since the combination of medical events wiped out her immune system. She gained a close-up view of gardening’s underside that I hope my readers can avoid.
In 2014, AnnaMarie completed all three levels of Master Gardeners. She encourages everyone to take all levels for the diverse knowledge each course provides. She worked as a gardener at the Moss Mansion and for various families, plus volunteered at the Zoo and with veterans at Veteran Hall. Master Gardeners provides hope for humanity, in her eyes, and the variety of people plus camaraderie are its biggest strengths. She thinks the focus going forward should be to teach people to garden their way, providing support for a variety of paths, with the value of sustainability.
She adores many perennials, such as gay feathers, Jupiter’s beard, and coneflowers, but she wonders about the future of perennials in the face of climate change. Zonal maps might be outdated as soon as they’re published! AnnaMarie touts the virtues of annuals because they are easier to maintain than perennials and can be changed every year. Exactly what she loved about gardening is what she misses… the physical exercise, sweating, and dirt. Her creativity has shifted to painting and jewelry making. Her new activities help her brain heal and improve her balance and coordination.
For newcomers to gardening, AnnaMarie recommends that you buy a few good books, such as the Taylor series, and don’t get too big too fast. If you’re part of a large, commercial project, make sure an overall plan exists, both to keep volunteers engaged and to avoid waste. And catch the documentary Wasted by Anthony Bourdain about how indigenous peoples use what we frequently consider waste. I can’t wait to hear more great ideas from this true Master Gardener!