gardening

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!

In the midst of what has otherwise been a heavy, unrelenting year, many Midwesterners have found solace in the dirt.

 

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.

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.    

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.

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.

Growing on the High Plains: Gourds

Jun 11, 2020
© WP Armstrong 2007

Today on Growing on the High Plains, we'll hollow out the pros and cons of growing gourds. Used for as containment vessels like canteens, planters, bowls, and pitchers since ancient times, these functional and decorative doo-dads can also be consumed—well, some varieties can! Listen in on the big and small of how best to grow, the set-up needed to support the hearty vines, and a few crafting ideas on how to make use of them.

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.

When the green buds puff up at the tree's twiggy tips, the gardener's inner clock strikes a chord: it's tulip time! Today's Growing on the High Plains will scoop up some hisotry and context for these storied favorites, as their influence spans the globe and the hands of time. Their appeal has always run deep. These thick-petaled protruberances once signified wealth and were treated as tradable tender. But if you scroll back far enough, their power moved economies and pushed markets underground—literally and figuratively (on the "black market").

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant." —Robert Louis Stevenson 

They say patience makes the heart grow fonder. Likewise, it makes the asparagus stalk grow stronger. Today's Growing on the High Plains is a lesson in patience. The key to having a successful asparagus bed is planning, preparing, and then waiting. Today we'll discuss the best way to tuck in your new friends so their roots grow deep and strong. We'll talk trenches, ridges, mulching and path stones.

We can all feel it. The weather has been warming,  blossoms have been peeking up from the prairie groundcover, and the green buds on the trees have been rubbing their eyes in the sunshine. Today's Growing on the High Plians will feature one of my favorite spring vegetables. Asparagus, thankfully, fares well in our dry climate, so tune in for some tips to optimize your harvest. First timerrs will have a to invest a little extra time getting the plants settled, and some finessing can be required to keep them producing.

As we all hunker down during the COVID-19 pandemic, it's a prime time to focus on new life! Enter all the High Plains gardening fans out there—it's time to shine in this new landscape of social distancing. Whether  you're an old-school green thumb or just starting out, there could be no better time to get a little susnhine and plant a new garden. Consider setting up a spring veggie patch, or maybe some decorative potted companions to lend a little color and optimism to the drab days ahead. Here are a few tips and nudges to get diggin'. 

It's hard to believe that we're looking down four decades in our prairie abode. Given the passage of time, I thought our yard might be ripe for a change in scenery—well, landscape layout, anyway. Today on Growing on the High Plains, I'll share a brave new option for High Plains gardeners who might feel like mixing up the variety of vegetable placement for increased ease and decreased toil. This season, I'm hoping to toss out the traditional rows of corn, beans, and peas of my heritage for a new plan called "German four-square." 

Today on Growing on the High Plains, we'll discuss one of the early alerts of an impending Spring: chives. Not only are they quite lovely, they're also a delightlful addition to dishes from your home kitchen. As lightweight, low-sulfur onions, chives can add a fresh, savory kick to everything from salads to omelets—and obviously the beloved bakead potato.

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

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.

Pages