The Zen of Gardening by David Wann

I marvel at the lush gardens I see on gardening shows and admit to a bit of
“green” envy. Unfortunately, those shows and gardening books for the humid
eastern U.S. do not help me much here in Montana. Instead I seek out advice
from gardeners who create successful gardens in our challenging conditions out
west.

David Wann is one such gardener. David began gardening at 7000 feet outside
Denver in the early 1980s. He has faced the same drought, wind, heat, cold, hail,
poor soils and short growing seasons that we cope with here in Montana. He
has distilled decades of experimental gardening and many lessons from masterful
gardeners that he has interviewed and worked with into this book.

Mr. Wann covers a very wide range of topics from mulching, choosing natives,
starting seeds, growing garlic, producing food in the winter to planting trees,
shrubs and perennial flowers. The novice and the seasoned gardener alike will
find great information here. As I read the book, I started a list of useful tips that
I plan to implement in my garden, such as mulching potato plants with pine needles, feeding my strawberries with compost and bone meal, using different methods of seed-starting to meet the varying needs of seeds, growing hairy vetch as a cover crop and companion plant to tomatoes, and trying the adage “When cottonwoods bud, plant the spuds.”

This book is not a story that you can read through like a novel. It is more a reference book and can be read gradually or used as a go-to source for specific help. One philosophical approach I particularly like about Mr. Wann’s gardening is that
there are lessons in failures—gardens are an experiment that we learn from every year. That is one of the things I love about gardening—there is always something new and useful to learn. And I definitely learned a lot reading The Zen of Gardening.

Reviewed by Ann Guthals

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May Master Gardeners at the Greenhouse

On May 24, Master Gardeners on the Town was hosted by Amy at the Metra Greenhouse Ed Center. Mary Davis and Amy planned on having a crackling fire to welcome all with, but winds and rain made that option impossible. Lucky for us the greenhouse became the perfect location for serving up some refreshing root beer floats to about 14 takers.

Things are coming along out there, especially the disappearance of the weeds, thanks to Greg T, Sherry D, Mary D, Gloria E, Marilyn L, Joann and Corry G.

Inside the greenhouse the Tumbleweed Teens have planted up 5 4×4 square foot beds, which are coming along nicely. Still looking for volunteers to adopt a garden patch or two out there, so if you are interested, just let Amy know.

May at the Greenhouse 2

Article and pictures by Amy Grandpre

Arbor Day 2017 at Veterans Park

On May 4th the city of Billings held their annual Arbor Day Celebration at Veterans Park. The day involved planting new trees, pruning and caring for established trees, a general clean-up of the area, and a day of educational activities for approximately 400 fourth graders from schools around town. Eleven Master Gardeners (Sharon Yazak, Sheri Kisch, Mary Davis, Sue Weinreis, Fay Danielson, Merrita Murdock, Sharon Wetch, Rosemary Power, Vonnie Bell, Tracy Livingston, and Elaine Allard) organized an educational booth and spent their day teaching 4th graders about the importance of pollinators and helping the students make their own seed bo On May 24, Master Gardeners on the Town was hosted by Amy at the Metra Greenhouse Ed Center. Mary Davis and Amy planned on having a crackling fire to welcome all with, but winds and rain made that option impossible. Lucky for us the greenhouse became the perfect location for serving up some refreshing root beer floats to about 14 takers. Things are coming along out there, especially the disappearance of the weeds, thanks to Greg T, Sherry D, Mary D,

Gloria E, Marilyn L, Joann and Corry G. Inside the greenhouse the Tumbleweed Teens have planted up 5 4×4 square foot beds, which are coming along nicely. Still looking for volunteers to adopt a garden patch or two out there, so if you are interested, just let Amy know. The students were given instructions on how to disperse the seed bombs to help create better habitat for pollinators. All in all, it was a rewarding and wonderful day for all participants.

Article Submitted by Elaine Allard ~ Pictures by Tracy Livingston

 

DELANE LANGTON IRIS TOUR

On May 23, a dozen Master Gardeners embarked on the grand adventure of finding the Delane Langton home to tour incredible iris beds he’s cultivated. Last year we were about a week too late…and this year porbably a week too early, but there were still plenty of blooms to enjoy even though, it was a beautiful evening for a tour.

Delane has quite the location. His home is perched on a hill, with gardens cascading over the top and shoulders of the hill. Then he points out another acre over the side that more iris are nestled into. Delane (now retired), is expanding his hilltop garden even more. He explains that the different slope orientations provide for an extended blooming period, the south side blooming first and then the north side blooming later.

The colors and variations were quite impressive, complete with some heirloom varieties. He also has a Moss Mansion iris bed, cultivated when an iris bed at the Moss was removed because the tree’s shade was too intense for iris growing. He took the pathetic looking rhizomes, planted them, gave them some TLC and now has iris plants he proudly claims are Moss Mansion originals.

Also, we learned that when he divides his iris, he doesn’t dig up the whole clump. He usually digs up the mother (or the one that bloomed last year), with the daughters that are on one side, leaving the other daughters in place. He’s had the unfortunate experience of digging all, dividing, and losing all.

I know I’m planning to divide my iris differently than before…and am going to plant the extras on our dry, rocky hillside surrounding our property. I’ve always  marveled at the iris growing on the rims going up to the airport. I now understand and appreciate even more how hardy and tough these beauties really are.

Iris Tour 2 2017

Photos and submission by Amy Grandpre

On the Town at Spinners

Who would have thought on April 27th, a cold, rainy afternoon, that 20 Master Gardeners would show up for ice cream at Spinners. Guess that proves how many of us REALLY enjoy our ice cream, no matter how cold and windy it is outside!

Had a lovely time getting to know each other a bit better, plus passed out a few timely MontGuides to top it off.

Compliments of Amy Grandpre

Spinners 1

Master Gardener Maia Dickerson

Maia Dickerson, Preventative Health Specialist, certainly keeps focused on healthy nutrition, whether it is for herself and gardening partner, Nick, the children at the CareAfter School Program, low income adults or the children at the Gardeners Farmers Market. Maia has even started games, one called the Power of Produce, whereby the kids can earn tokens. They can then use the tokens to buy their own choice of food at the market.

Maia spent the first part of her life with her older brother and family in Fairmount, Indiana. She fondly remembers her nearby grandparents’ farm, garden and apple tree. Her grandmother made wonderful applesauce turned pink with cinnamon red hots. She continues the tradition each fall canning her own regular and pink applesauce (if she can find the cinnamon red hots) for the winter.

Nick and Maia met in Mexico while she was volunteering and he was on winter break from school in Reno. Maia was working in Arlington, VA and was in Mexico to assist researchers in their study of mangroves and crocodiles. Through friends she made in Mexico, she was able to get a job in Reno as a wildlife educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. Maia and Nick talked their landlord into letting them use the front yard of their apartment as a garden. They grew tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and strawberries. Eventually, it just became a beautiful strawberry bed. Actually it wasn’t a bad thing because it allowed them to invite friends over for strawberry parties which included strawberry shortcake, chocolate dipped strawberries and margaritas.

When they moved to Billings seven ears ago, they bought a house, raised beds soon followed suit. They have five raised beds which contain tomatoes, peppers, herbs, tomatillos, bok choy, onions, beans and salad greens and maybe a flower or two.

Maia studied in suburban Philadelphia, Belize and Flagstaff, AZ to get her degree in environmental science. Maia originally took Master Gardener classes to learn more about plants that grow well in Montana. She was attracted to the Care After School Program volunteer activity because she enjoys teaching children about plants, animals and other things in and around their environment. From time to time she also has opportunities to teach kids about where food comes from, food miles and the importance of local healthy food.

What Maia didn’t realize along with most of the public is how much our community relies on master gardeners for different projects all over town. She would like to take the class again just to learn more. The winter Care After School program and the summer Gardeners Market at South Park are two projects she thoroughly enjoys. Her advice to other gardeners is to have fun and experiment and get involved in community projects. Thank you for your service and teaching.

 

Submitted by Sheri Kisch