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

As the weather continues to chill our bones, I thought we might take a moment to appreciate one of the prettiest sights on our High Plains winter landscape. Whatever the variety, the Colorado Blue Spruce remains among the more striking trees in our region. On today's Growing on the High Plains, we'll look at this slow-growing conifer, which is also the state tree of Colorado. It serves as a welcoming home for many winged creatures across the High Plains due to its wide growing range and adaptability across a range of different types of soil.

Today's Growing on the High Plains takes us on a page-flipping trip through one of my favorite seed catalogs: R. H. Shumway's. Rather than spoil it, just take a listen. It's been around since the 19th century, and the produce sold within still manages to delight modern patrons with its lively images, racy naming, and a variety of options to rouse the hearts of even the most seasoned gardeners.

Every year's end marks the beginning of planning season for gardeners that enjoy making cold winters a study in preparation for the Spring planting to come. I'm no exception, and today's Growing on the High Plains will let you in on a little tradition I have as the calendar flips from one year to the next. Perusing the impressive variety of seed catalogs offers a spark of excitement of what's to come. What strange fruits might make the cut in the coming year's garden? How will I honor the  memories of gardens past  as I plot the layout for Spring?

Pixabay

If you got a live Christmas tree this year, consider using it as mulch or planting it in your yard to share with the birds after the holidays. 

On today’s Growing on the High Plains, I share some tips on replanting Christmas trees in your yard. Replace ornaments and trimmings with strings of berries, fruit and bird seed for your feathered friends to enjoy.

Whether this Spanish winter melon goes by the name Santa Claus, Piel de Sapo (or “Toad Skin”), cucumis melo, or Christmas melon,  it’s one of the few that are sweet as honey that “dew” well in the colder seasons. Today’s Growing on the High Plains shares my experience with cold-weather melons, while peeling back the shiny, blotched skin of this rare treat.

As we spend this week honoring the thousands of HPPR members that support this station, I'm reminded that the end of the year is upon us—as is the chill of the holiday season. Today's Growing on the High Plains takes flight with one of the brightest spots on the pale, winter landscape to which we all come accustomed during the cooler months on the High Plains. Let's talk about our bright buddy, the cardinal. Of all the birds spotted on a snowy bough, he's the one you simply cannot miss.

Prick up your ears, because today's Growing on the High Plains takes a dig at the exquisite Christmas cactus. While it's not as popular as other holiday plants like the poinsettia, it's a seasonal delight that will brighten up your indoor space during the chilly winter months. Not your standard cactus, since it hails from the jungles of South America (so it's made of tough stuff!). So listen up for tips on how to best care for your Christmas cactus, including the ideal plan moisture, location, and transplanting.

Today’s Growing on the High Plains comes after catching up on some reading—something the relaxed days of the pandemic have finally allowed. I came across an article about an alarming invasive plant, giant hogweed. It’s taking over parts of Russia, and so far it’s seemingly impossible to contain. While that might seem far away, the dangerous weed is also in the US. Growing up to 16 feet, it emits a smelly, toxic sap which can harm the skin and eyes.

There’s hardly an animal in our High Plains ecosphere more recognizable than the skunk. And once you see them, you worry that you might also SMELL them. However, today’s Growing on the High Plains will take a long look at these roving carnivores. With a little research, you’ll see that skunks surely earn their stripes in pest control. We’ll also talk about their infamous spray; it turns out you have to really get them angry before they would dare unleash their sulfuric mist.

There's nothing like falling leaves to make us stop and contemplate the coming changes of our lives. Bidding our withered, weathered summer plants "adieu" can feel somber, but the bright hues of autumn always pop up to offer consolation. Today's Growing on the High Plains waxes poetic on our sometimes fleeting seasons across this region. As we prepare for fiery fall colors on our often treeless landscapes, it's remarkable to reconize what our climate offers (and what that can bring). 

Today's Growing on the High Plains might feel ready for Halloween as we discuss the ominous "assassin bug." Despite their moniker, rest assured that you'd actually WANT to see these predatory friends in your garden. But no matter where your garden is right now, given our recent winter weather, be grateful for the many insect friends you've hosted this season...and don't worry: they'll be back next year!

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Snakes, toads, spiders and bats – the stuff of nightmares, especially for gnats.

On today’s Growing on the High Plains, these friendly foes are featured as the honestly helpful hombres for ridding your garden of the not-so-friendly creatures.

Listen for some ways to keep these garden guardians guarding your garden.

Now is a time of self-isolation to keep communities safe and healthy, so what better time to resurrect the reliable companionship of a pop-culture icon that embodies both a houseplant and a pet? That’s right: “ch-ch-ch-chia” plants are back in style. (Those who remember the iconic commercials surely have the jingle in their heads right now.

Get ready, because today’s Growing on the High Plains is on fire! In fact, we might even call it “Burning on the High Plains.” As you’ve surely noticed, autumn temperatures are descending across our region. It takes me back to memories of enjoying the brisk outdoors with my grandmother – a woman who thrilled at the prospect of lighting a warming bonfire. For what it’s worth, I seem to have inherited her “firebug” gene, though I’ve learned caution the hard way after a few close calls with careless burn piles. But now I have a tidy solution: my chimenea—an upright, clay patio fireplace that’s both front-loading and features a vertical smoke vent. This oblong oven allows for a well-positioned, safely-contained, and on-demand fire show. And as the evening glow grows dimmer, it keeps your outdoor relaxation station toasty and lit.

Today’s Growing on the High Plains will line up some facts about the energy and environmental benefits of planting a windbreak on your landscape. If you’re not sure what a “windbreak” is, perhaps you know it as a “shelterbelt”—those tightly-spaced rows of trees or shrubs that you might notice up and down the High Plains region. They provide shade in the summer and reduce the blasts from our High Plains wind on your abode throughout the year. But they also offer a lot of energy benefits.

Now that we've tied off our deep dig on weeds, invasive plants, and other garden irritations, I'd like to take this week to discuss a smart, simple solution for keeping your veggies going strong well into the Fall. As the weather cools across the High Plains, I know many of us have a hard time saying goodbye to the summer bounty. But I recently read about an easy way to grow greens, root vegetables, and other autumn-friendly edibles in a bag. It's easy to move so it stays situated in the sun, and it's small enough to perch on a bench or table so it's easy on the back.

Today's Growing on the High Plains continues our series on garden headaches—hearty residents like weeds, invasive vines, and other pains-in-the-grasses. Now it's time to talk about the beguiling presence of pests that masquerade as benevelont with their pretty blooms. Don't  be fooled by wild poinsettia, "devil's claw," or chinese lantern plants! They may look fetching on the edge of your growing space, but trust me: they're up to NO good.

These last few weeks, Growing on the High Plains sure has been annoying! Well, that's the aim as we continue our series on garden gremlins. Today, we'll be poking at some of the spikiest inhabitants in High Plains horticulture. Living in our region means we have to endure a full quiver of prairie shrapnel that might find its way onto our shoes, socks, jeans, and pets. But if you know what to avoid, you can make your time outside much less painful. Listen now for a crash course in thorns, stickers, prickles, punctures, burrs, and witchy weeds.    

Today's Growing on the High Plains continues the exploration of our deep-rooted frustration with hearty High Plains weeds. While we've previously poked at their peskiness, I thought it was time to ingest some info about how very edible some of them are. From the more common dandelion wine and greens to sheepshire, lamb's quarter, and bindweed, there are a lot of reasons to give them a try. Sure, advocating a meal made of foraged weeds might sound hard to swallow, but the flavors vary from sour to savory and many are quite rich in nutrients.

To continue my series on things that irk the High Plains gardener, I'll be weilding a blade at the terrible grasses that pester even the most persistent green thumbs. Today's Growing on the High Plains will offer a snapshot of some of the grasses that have bothered my space—some known, and some that began as a mystery. I'll provide tips on how to best the beasts, tame the tails, and starve the stalks.

On today's Growing on the High Plains, we'll continue our series on garden irritations with a look at the spiny, viney scourge of spreading weeds. Even the most attentive gardeners have to be diligent to battle back some of the more ambitious weeds common to the High Plains. We'll take a look at some of the most common, including the bane of my green space: spurge weed! 

What makes a weed? Well, it depends on who you ask. Some have a lot in common with wildflowers, but good luck beating them back if you choose to introduce them into your space. Today's Growing on the High Plains regards the eternally pesky presence of weeds. We'll dig in on some of our region's most common weeds, like dandelions, loosestrife, Johnson grass, and more. The coming weeks will bring more discussion of gardening challenges, so stay tuned. If you have questions, feel free to reach out to me directly here.  

Shucks, it's already late in the season, so check out today's installment of Growing on the High Plains where we'll celebrate the welcome gold of late summer sweet corn. I'm lucky enough to have arranged a produce exchange with a northerly neighbor, swapping melons for corn. So when their crop is ready, I'm "all ears." Of course I have my own thoughts about how best to clean and prepare it, and it's a bit of a departure from methods taught to me early childhood methods.

Image from WikiHow

Many cats long for the green, green grass of home...or anywhere they can get it, for that matter. Today on Growing on the High Plains, we'll talk about cat grass, which  many at-home pet owners have been growing during the pandemic lockdown. There are many varieties, and your homebound furry roommates might enjoy having a little taste of the outdoors. 

Keeping a garden going is a lot of work. Sometimes it would be nice to have a helping hand on the sidelines to do some of the tough and tedious tasks requires. When the sun grows hot, the time seems short, and the yard work feels endless, that's when I let my mind wander to the glorious prospect of getting a hired hand to whom I could delegate upkeep. Today's Growing on the High Plains is a reflection of sorts, and it makes me think of one of the legendary "hired hand": Shane. Who can forget that final scene: "Pa's got things for you to do...and mother wants you.

Summertime gardening often means spending some serious quality time with your own thoughts as you tend the plants, forage the foliage, and pluck out your harvest. I find that there's no better place to ruminate than while hunting down leggy legumes in my bean rows. Today's Growing on the High Plains will share some insight about a common regional garden  success story: the green bean. Whether you prefer "string," "jade," or "snap," climbing beans can yield a hearty crop in our zones. So get out there!

Today's Growing on the High Plains will put a familiar garden friend "on the spot." Obviously, we're talking about the polka-dot winged ladybug. They've been a staple helper on the High Plains for centuries, and they've even warranted a folk song often issued to warn them of forthcoming prairie burns. Always a boon among the garden leaves, these classy little friends not only add a speck of flair and elegance to the landscape, they also keep some of the more unsavory pests at bay. 

Today, I'll share my deep love for one of the signature soldiers of my summertime gardening . These "golden apples" often top the list of favorite veggies (even though they're technically a fruit). Enjoy today's installment of Growing on the High Plains as I reflect on these fragrant plants with an ode to the mighty tomato.

Today's Growing on the High Plains will put a hold on the topic of gardening and rather reflect on two people who nourished my life and growth: my father and father-in-law. Both men had a common bond, as they each had a hand in defending our country in World War II—and there's an even more incredible link in the machinery of it all. From my heart to yours, have a happy, safe, and fulfilling Father's Day.

Today, in the second part of my rambles on brambles, I'll pull back a bit and share some general berry basics.Whether it's blackberries, red raspberries, or other compatible edibles, you can have these sweet treats all summer with the right garden treatment. I'll share some valuable tips on sun and soil to get the best from your berry bushes, and you also need to consider moisture, supports, and the pesky pruning.

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