OCTOBER!! Bring on the pumpkins, the apple cider, the falling and blowing leaves. This is a busy time for  man and beast. Final harvest in the garden  is exciting...with, perhaps a wistful memory of summer. And, as we can or freeze our harvest or dry herbs and flowers, we remember the pleasures of being in the summer garden and the social and family pleasure that will bring us as we enter the season of sharing meals and gratitude.  

Questions or comments are always welcome.  We'll try to get back to you right away.  Email us, Cathie Draine and Brad Morgan at gardeners@blackhillsgarden.com

As of October 1, 2015 the office of South Dakota State Cooperative Extension has moved from its previous location on Samco Street to 711 North Creek Drive. The office is now located in the lower level of the First Interstate Bank (across from Menards). The entrance is at the south end of the building.

Additionally, the Master Gardener Hot Line at 394-6814 will be checked regularly and calls returned and/or answered. The regular Hot Line office is closed until early in spring of 2016.

Thrips in the garden.  As diversion from obsessing about voles and thistles, we revisit thrips, the insect we love to hate, review how and when we feed the soil and ponder a fun way to grow potatoes (next year!)  
      There is fascination as well as irritation with thrips. Even their name causes confusion; “thrips” refers to one or a million – and it is usually  millions So small they can feed on a single fungal spore or plant cell, they are from 0.5 mm to 14 mm long and typically yellow, black or brown in color. If you miss seeing the critter you notice the slick varnish-like appearance on the damaged leaf and the tiny black dots of frass or insect poop.  more

Soils and winter.  For several summers the Pennington County Master Gardeners have had a presence at the Farmers Market location on Omaha Street during the summer. Those of us who "work" at the booth know that it is much more fun than work, and we also know it is the absolute best way to understand what is on the minds of area gardeners.

As we near the end of one of the strangest growing seasons in memory, most of us are still puzzling over the one thing that we hope we can affect — the soil. A Natural Resources Conservation Service bulletin on Soil Biota from February 2013 tells us everything we need to know. more

October gardening tip.   See October on green tab above.  One tip is to "Cure pumpkins, butternut and hubbard squash at temperatures between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit for two or three weeks immediately after harvest. After curing, store them in a dry place at 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit." more
During the horticulture presentations at Central States Fair, I listened to the comments and questions generated by Beth-Anne Ferley, Rapid City Recycling Educator, as she spoke about her experiences and recommendations about the use of the city yard waste compost. I realized there might be a small piece of understanding missing for many of us about the use of these fine products. (Spoiler alert: apply compost in the fall and give it all winter to become “alive”.)  more


Late Summer update: Some yards have been ravaged repeatedly by hail this summer, but our garden has been under assault by every kind of thistle known to grow in western South Dakota as well as a vigorous version of knotweed. Add to the gross insults of those two plants, this year the blister beetles absolutely destroyed what was a magnificent clematis tangutica that flowed in golden loveliness at the back of the garden.

I cut the devastated clematis back to the ground and am prepared to take issue with anyone (including myself) who dares to suggest that there is one tiny thing beneficial about blister beetles. I don’t care that they lay their eggs in the soil and that the young creep about to find grasshopper egg pods to feed on. Big deal. The blasted beetles gnaw the columbine, pasque and clematis to death. Next year, I'll kill the beetles with Sevin powder and negotiate with the grasshoppers.

If that has been discouraging, success this year for us has been our experience with the grafted tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and melons. Although they are more expensive than seed started plants, I do appreciate the disease resistant rootstock and the abundance of fruits. For small gardens, decks or other small areas, I recommend investigating the grafted plants for their vigor, disease resistance and dependable harvest.  more


 Horse's legacy can be found in our garden.  On July 14 we had our horse, Buckwheat, humanely euthanized. He had outlived his teeth and his vision. We made the call and set the time. more


Mid-Summer gardening. If asked, many gardeners would describe the ‘seasons’ that define gardening in the Black Hills as: spring stimulation by catalog;  planting then replanting;  encountering insects and plant disease; pummeling by hail;  the miracle of harvest; and  fall stimulation by catalog , all creating a list of predictable events in the summer garden that most of us expect and respond to in varying ways with varying degrees of elegance. more



Great Gardening Truths.Let’s face it: we like our gardens to be pretty, and speaking for myself and probably others, I’m not thrilled to see a carefully grown ‘pretty’ hanging from the mouth of a deer, or gnawed to shreds by grasshoppers or twisted out of shape by aphids or thrips. I take that personally.

            Then, rethinking my behavior and restored by a cup of tea, I review what I know to be Great Gardening Truths.  more