Growing on the High Plains

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. 

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.

Oleander on the Bartlett Arboretum

Sep 7, 2019
Kansas Sampler Foundation

Folks, the older I get the more I like to visit places that have a long history.  “What about the Bartlett Arboretum?” I asked Iola Humboldt.  She consulted her Kansas map, but couldn’t find it.  “Let’s just drive to Belle Plain,” I insisted.

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?   

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I thought I would introduce listeners to the wonders of catnip. I don't mean a love bite from a feisty feline.

Today on Growing on the High Plains, we’ll take a stab at the “sword lily.” That’s right, we’re talking about the gladiolus, a perennial flowering plant that normally lives in Asia, along the Mediterranean, and Africa – but if you try, you can also make them work in our region with a little care.

Pixabay

Just like Skip's garden, High Plains Public Radio started with tender loving care from its founders, listener-members and volunteers who helped broadcast the seeds that continue to produce a year-round harvest of news, information and entertainment. 

"The return makes one love the farewell." — Alfred de Musset, French poet (1810-1857)

Today on Growing on the High Plains, let's delve into those favorite prodigal plants: the perennials. Many choose to make these "comeback kids" an integral part of their gardens due to their die-hard will to return after long winter months.

They make sandwiches succulent. They captivate in a caprese. They sploosh in a fattoush. I'm talking about none other than the top of the crop (as far as popularity goes): our friend, the juicy tomato.

Gardening on the High Plains can be a joy, but it's not without the occasional heartbreak. My efforts at growing fruit, despite the folly of our frequent (and unpredictable) freezes, have been a challenge. However, I have ventured into the thick of it: thickets and berry brambles, here I come! My memories of bucolic berry hunts, as well as the sweet-and-tart cobblers to come, are so warm nothing could freeze them out—not even Mother Nature.

Gardening has been a part of my life since the beginning, and much of that is due to my family's influence. My father instilled within me the joy of tending and enjoying a landscape filled with blooms and plots filled with homegrown food. That love stayed with him until his final days, and it will stay with me with me as well.

Today's Growing on the High Plains will focus on some of my favorite summertime house guests that we often welcome at the start of the season. Our resident barn swallows can be an annual delight, especially if given appropriate abodes to keep them out of your way. We delight in these flighty friends as a source of company and airborne entertainment. Listen and I'll share some insight regarding their family dynamic, hearty architecture, and unique squeaks as they go in for a feline dive bomb.

 

Flickr

This art form is not as simple as a stroll through the flowers, but when done right, topiaries can truly animate a garden.

Join Skip on this week’s Growing On The High Plains as she describes her own attempt at transforming one living thing into another living thing, after pondering the role of topiaries through the ages.

For many Americans, Memorial Day is marked by leisure, outdoor cooking, and the start of Summer. However, we also remember that this holiday has a somber origin: an observance of lost service women and men throughout history—and there’s one flower that’s been the traditional choice to decorate soldiers' graves: peonies.

Knock knock. (Who's there?) Hoo. (Hoo who?) Looks like there's an owl on the prowl! And there certainly is, today on Growing on the High Plains. I thought we could take a peek (through binoculars) at some of my favorite neighbors. Nestled in their custom abode, anchored to one of our treetops, you'll often find Ollie and Owlberta. I'm talking about our pals, the Great Horned Owls, living in our yard. Hear the story of their comings and goings, hoots and barks, and their fuzzy little family.

Today's Growing on the High Plains will cut into a topic that could bring a tear to your eye. That's right, I'm talking about onions. While there are many folk remedies to avoid the tears, most aren't very practical or effective. But there are some really wise and useful ways to reduce the sulfides in the air, which are responsible for the waterworks. Here's a hint: just chill out, stay sharp, and remember that it's all how you slice it. 

Gardens are for growing, but there are endless opportunities to adorn your space with doo-dads, trinkets, tchotchkes, and "stuff." Over the years, one of my favorite additions to our outdoor garden has been hefty, hearty wind chimes that stand up to the Herculean winds of the High Plains. Today's Growing on the High Plains will cover some of the charms and tones of these calming instruments of our yards and gardens. 

Today on Growing on the High Plains, we’ll dig into the benefits of making your home garden a welcome home for wildlife, insects, and other critters. By following a few rules of (green) thumb, you can create a hospitable habitat that’s a sustainable haven for those outdoor friends who bring beauty, nature, and interest to your space. We’ll discuss planting nuts, seeds, and berries; providing clean, chemical-free water; and considering adding a bit of shelter.

Not every living thing thrives in the sunshine. Today's Growing on the High Plains will delve into those unique blooms that are shy during the daytime but come alive in the afternoon. Some of us call them "four o'clocks," but they're also known as "the Marvel of Peru," or "Les Belles-des-Nuits (Ladies of the Night)," but botanists just call them Mirabilis jalapa.

Today's Growing on the High Plains will continue looking at apples, but this time we'll be working from the ground up. Planting your own apple trees can be a joy, but there are a few guidelines you'll want to peel back before getting started. While one would think it'd be simple as (apple) pie, growers looking to plant apple trees will face a number of time-consuming decisions.

Having its origin in Central Asia, apples have come a long way. The first apples were a far cry from the big, juicy globes found in produce markets, orchards, and grocery stores. Today’s Growing on the High Plains will peel back the skin of this familiar fruit. From Egypt to Greece to Washington state, we’ll follow the journey and hear a little history, some ancient mythology, and a few crunchy cultural references.

Who doesn't like garlic? Well, okay...a lot of people. But for those of us who hold a big place in our palate for this alabaster allium, "more garlic" is a familiar desire. So today's Growing on the High Plains will continue to peel back the shell on the allure of "the stinking rose" with part two of the series.

Today's Growing on the High Plains will unfurl the history and lore of "the stinking rose," also known as garlic. Whether you love it or hate it, this potent bulb has a storied past that dates back 6,000 years. From their ancient medicinal applications to their post-WWII debut on American dinner tables, garlic has been a boon to humans and a bane to parasites (and vampires). But for most of us, it's nothing a sprig of parsley won't fix. Hear the full episode below. 

They say great things can come in small packages. The same applies to fruit and vegetable gardens, especially with the proper planning. Today’s edition of Growing on the High Plains explores several ways that clever gardeners can make the most of a small space – increasing the variety and bounty of home harvests.  If you don’t have a lot of land to spare, you can still cultivate copious crops by utilizing proven techniques like going vertical, growing in blocks rather than rows, and staggering the seasonal timing of what’s in the dirt at any given time.

Keeping up with the botanical nomenclature can be a bit daunting for those of us who are a little rusty on our Latin. Thankfully, gardeners have a host of common names by which they can refer to their favorite foliage.

On today's Growing on the High Plains, I'll share a few of my favorite house plants—both their scientific name and the whimsical nicknames that often accompany them.

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