Skip Mancini

Producer and host of Growing on the High Plains

Years ago Skip Mancini left the rocky coast of Northern California to return to her roots in the heartland. Her San Francisco friends, concerned over her decision to live in a desolate flatland best known for a Hollywood tornado, were afraid she would wither and die on the vine. With pioneer spirit, Skip planted a garden. She began to learn about growing not only flowers and vegetables, but hearts and minds. If you agree that the prairie is a special place, we think you'll enjoy her weekly sojourns into Growing on the High Plains. 

Contact Skip Mancini about the program. 

Home community: Rural Haskell County, KS

(PO Box 699, Sublette, KS  67877)

Phone: (800) 678-7444 (Garden City studios)

Ways to Connect

While we're all thinking about our Spring gardens, so are our animal friends. I'm not sure about you, but our family pets have been regular attendees throughout the tilling and tending of our High Plains gardens. They start out as nosy parkers, worrying the freshly-tilled soil and swatting insect pests. But it's my hope to get them more involved.  Today's Growing on the High Plains will share my experience our pets in our gardens, including our attempt at train rogue dogs to mind the boundaries and to pick up some outdoor chores. 

As a dedicated gardener, I rely heavily on my compost heap. It's an easy thing to maintain, but there are a few rules to follow to make sure it's at its best. Compost needs little more than some air, some water, a little green, and a little brown. On today's edition of Growing on the High Plains, we'll discuss a few must-haves and a never-"doo" for your own compost heap. Happy Spring, and good luck with this year's garden!

It’s mid-March, and our gardens will soon be front-and-center in the minds of us High Plains horticulturalist types. So today’s Growing on the High Plains will take a look at a program that gave me inspiration when I stumbled upon it in the Sunday paper.

Few places on the calendar have such an established aphorism as the month of March: "In like a lion, out like a lamb." While there are a few different origin stories to this folk saying, the observation still rings true in our region. Today on Growing on the High Plains, I'll offer some perspective on how the wily month of March means madness for many a High Plains gardener.

“Flower of this purple dye, Hit with Cupid's archery, Sink in apple of his eye. “

—William Shakespeare

Today’s edition of Growing on the High Plains comes just after Valentine’s Day, and appropriately so. We’ll take a look at dicentra, which most of you might know as the perennial “bleeding heart.” Thankfully, this “hearty” plant —pun intended—does pretty well in our region, as long as you give it a little TLC (and a lot of water, shelter, and shade). As pretty as they are, you don’t want to eat your heart out as this lovely flowering plant is poisonous if ingested. Talk about a heartbreaker!  

On today's edition of Growing on the High Plains, I'd like to reminisce about my experience with a peculiar plant I've known since childhood. It's one of those plants that's considered a "noxious weed." Some called it "witch's shoelaces," others called it "dodder," but we always called it "loveweed." This odd vampire has no roots, no leaves, and hardly any green chlorophyll.

Valentine's day is coming, and love is in the air. So today on Growing on the High Plains, I'll tell you about an enchanted, amorous bloom often referred to as "Love in a Mist." 

You know how that special someone makes you feel like you're walking on air? Likewise, these bright, ethereal blooms appear to levitate over a frothy, feathered bed of foliage.  But watch out! Like lovers, they'll grow thorny with time. Thankfully, like love, they're always worth the trouble.  

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I'll be grinding up some old memories of my family as I reflect on natural cures and medicinal herbs . As the proud daughter of a "pill splitter" whose family has a long history of respect for "yarbs," I hope you enjoy learning more about how nature really can provide the best medicine. From mint to garlic to chamomile, there are many easy options available to gardeners looking for a healthy addition to their Spring planting. 

Folks, compiling this week's installment of Growing on the High Plains was no walk in the garden.  Since we'll be discussing some of my favorite culinary herbs, I had to be wise about which would make the cut (to be chopped).  I finally decided to keep it simple, showcasing a few of my favorite staple herbs and their many applications.

As we celebrate a new year, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to plot out some 2020 plans for planting. A lush, green herb garden is the perfect resolution, so today we'll dig in with tips and tricks for the perfect selection and set-up. Aromatic, medicinal, and edible, herbal plants enrich every gardener's kitchen, lifestyle, and lend a fresh scent to the air. We'll learn more about herbs next week, so stay tuned. 

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If you opt for the real thing at Christmas, there are many uses for Christmas trees after the holiday is over.

Listen to this week’s show for the many ways you can abide by the 3 R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle.

Public Domain

Kisses of red childhood memories dance through my mind during the holiday season - the magic of mining for mistletoe in rusty red cedars planted in the red soil of my Oklahoma home.

Mistletoe’s meaning goes well beyond the romantic notion of kissing. It derives from viscum album, the Celtic word for ‘all heal.’ But then again, what’s more healing than kissing the one you love?

Whether or not you're one of those souls who tend to get "that holiday feeling" as the season approaches, it seems fairly safe to say the jolly spirit is upon us at first glance of a particular potted plant. If you see a flash of flame-colored leaves erupting from a foil-wrapped pot, you know it's poinsettia time.

T'is the season for giving, so today's edition of Growing on the High Plains will consider the many ways gardeners can get some heartfelt holiday gifts knocked out with proper planning. From preserves to potpourri, there are many ways you can share your bounty with loved ones. In addition, I'll share some smart gift ideas for the garderners on your shopping list, young and old. Plus, it's always nice to remember those who once loved working the land but aren't able to do so anymore.

Today I'd like to share with you a story from a Thanksgiving past, and just a warning for all your traditionalists out there: it involves NOT wanting to make a turkey. From the hassle of baking the bird to figuring out a solution for the aftermath, it's a holiday memory I'll not soon forget. From my tableto yours, I wish a very happy Thanksgiving to all of our High Plains Public Radio listeners!

Today's Growing on the High Plains will walk you through a High Plains meadow to visit a familiar neighbor: "Achillea millefolium," also known as yarrow. Be it white or yellow, this medicinal plant has numerous applications that date back to ancient Greece (and it's said that even animals make use of it). But beyond the practical, the tiny flowers of the yarrow plant also happen to be quite lovely. My yarrow stocks are plentiful, so reach out if you'd like a starter. You can call me at 1.800.678.7444.

As we move into the season of steaming casseroles full of hearty vegetable side dishes, I thought it would be a fine time to bring up a common misconception regarding one of my favorite tubers: the  confounding sweet potato. Some call them yams, but is that correct? How are they different, and are they even "potatoes" at all? Listen up, and we'll peel back the myths about these starchy staples. I'll even share some personal history with sweet potato delights from my childhood and California cafes.

Well, it's November, and the High Plains is well aware. Across our region, we've seen several episodes of the predictably unpredictable weather shenanigans we've all come to expect. Just in the last few weeks, we've seen the weather whip from blizzard conditions to the sunny 70s. But thankfully, we've just received our 2020 copy of The Old Farmer's Almanac. They're predicting a "polar coaster," this year, so buckle up! 

It's Halloween, so let's talk about some plants that crave the blood and flesh of insects over the mandatory nutrients of the soil. We'll take this topic out of the dark, since they prefer bright sunshine. I'll share some tips on watering, planting, and tending to your own "CPs," so you can host a leigon of living flytraps on your own window sill. 

Today's Growing on the High Plains will consider the brave, berry-beaked birds of the High Plains and their service to gardens big and small. Many don't think about planting to attract these natural pest controllers, but our winged friends are more than happy to nest and rest among a hospitable home with a berry buffet. We'll discuss the benefits of well-planned berry brambles and bushes, not to mention fruit trees to which the feathered often flock.  

Today's edition of Growing on the High Plains dives into endive, slams into spinach, and ravishes the elusive radicchio! Plus, we'll take a sweet, sidelong glance at the family of bitter greens.

From their origins as rustic staples growing wild on the countryside, some of these would-be weeds can taste a touch like lawn clippings. Some have a kick, and others have a pucker, which can "leaf" you with a grimace. But if you prepare them with the right amount of salt, fat, and spice, they can be fare fit for a high-end, farm-to-table gourmet restaurant.

I always knew their song, but didn't quite have the name right. I'm talking about cicadas—not "locusts"—as this is the proper name for these creatures. Their presence takes me back to my Oklahoma childhood, so today we'll discuss their quirky existence, remarkable life cycle, and striking appearance. Without the humidity or tree cover, our High Plains homes don't always hear (or see) these insects setting up camp. On today's installment of the show, I'll meet their resounding poetics with proper poetry.

The perfect pear can taste like heaven, so it's no surprise that the ancients thought it had a divine origin. Though taking on a fruit tree can be tricky business in our fickle zones, you CAN grow healthy pears on the High Plalins. 

I've been growing on the High Plains for quite some time, and that means I've also been growing a bit myself. (Growing older, that is.) On today's installment, I'll delve into how we can better manage our expectations for our gardens and yards as we age. 

Sometimes finding the time can be an issue. Other times it's the strenuous, physical tasks required that feel like a bit much. But with proper planning and reasonable solutions, your time digging in the dirt can remain a joy without the setbacks.

Today's installment of Growing on the High Plains will focus on a "flaming" friend of many High Plains landscapes: the flower phlox. Though a homonym for a common word we all use for big groups of sheep or seagulls, this plant is a common sight across our region -- and certainly in my own garden. Listen for some tips on maintaining your flock of phlox, including ways to ensure healthy plants free of the mildrew that often afflicts it.

Today's Growing on the High Plains zips through a fast summer full of bees, but I'm fairly certain these aren't your average High Plains pollinator. It seems my garden and yard have been taken over by some B-listers, so I thought we'd take a few minutes to discuss the differences between some of these interlopers and the typical bumblebees of our region.

Today's Growing on the High Plains gives some love to lovage, the  herbaceous, perennial plant that first appeared in my life through a theatre production. I soon planted it, and it's been love(age) ever since. Tune in to hear a bit about its history and popular uses in cooking and  as an herbal remedy.

Vincent Mancini

Wily coyotes and mischievous mice aren’t just in cartoons. They can also be found at certain times of the year in the hay bales that protect Skip’s garden.  

On this week’s Growing on the High Plains, Skip explains the many uses of straw bales and how they not only help protect her garden from the wily weather of western Kansas, but also with supporting her small ecosystem of critters.

Check out the slideshow of local farmer Tom Stoppel’s hay bailer as he delivers the stacks of straw.

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I thought we could turn our attention toward the many faces of the ever-vigilant sunflower. A common sight across our High Plains prairies, and the namesake flower of Kansas, these stoic soldiers of yellow and brown keep watch over the gardens and fields. It seems that each turns its seedy visage as the sun cycles through the sky...but do they?   

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