NOVEMBER!! Bring on the Thanksgiving turkey, family gatherings, dreamy car trips across the never-ending grasslands, and quiet rambles in what remains of the late autumn garden. This is a busy time for humans and animals. Cooking from harvest bounties 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

Toilets and gardening.  Let’s remember the gardener’s mantra: healthy soil grows healthy plants and healthy plants support healthy humans.  Many gardeners, and I am one of them, sing the praises of all sorts of animal manures as fertilizer for the soil. The science is in on this. Remarkably the manures of many animals are more carefully valued, collected, stored and used than that of the human animal – us folks.  more

Here’s the question: when is a book not a book? And the answer, no matter what American poetess Emily Dickinson said, is not a frigate taking the reader lands away. For me, the best possible book is one in which I acquire new information, sometimes pit my opinion against the author’s, write “Aha!” or “Oh, no!” in the book margins and finish with a desire to learn more.  more

Three highly readable books and one blog that I recommend for winter reading that best present this new knowledge are: How Plants Work,  Linda Chalker-Scott (Timber Press), What a Plant Knows– Daniel Chamovitz (Scientific American Press) and the soil will save us– Kristin Ohlson (Rodale Press). 
      The blog, The Garden Professors, is easily found on line.  

As days cool and shorten my pleasure of being in the garden, I fill the teapot and launch into the pleasure of winter reading. One of my favorite sources for current and breaking science-based news is from Science Daily on the Web. Not only is the news current, it is free and you can choose with astonishing specificity those topics you are interested in. more 

The handplant tree order form from the Pennington County Soil Conservation District is now available online.  Most trees and shrubs now cost $2.  A Rapid City phone number will answer questions and sign you up for the printed "District News" newsletter.  more

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

November gardening tip.   See November 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