Welcome.  Bring on poinsettias in the Black Hills and beyond. Occasional snow flurries compete with dark clouds, hot apple cider, and decorations featuring eye-catching lights. This is a busy time for man and beast. Final harvest is now over while preparations for Christmas are well underway.  And as we can or freeze our harvest (or dry herbs an flowers) we look forward to the social and family pleasures that holidays bring us in this 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

December is a month that gardeners generally sit and watch amaryllis or paper white bulbs grow, or they dwell in anguished anticipation of the first seed catalog. Or they read. I’m in that last group and recently finished The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World by German forester/ecologist/author Peter Wohlleben.

            I was concerned that Wohlleben’s book might be as fanciful and generally ridiculous as Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird’s The Secret Life of Plants (1973) in which in spurious “tests” plants were shown to prefer classical music and register pain in the presence of a broken egg. more

The new garden is almost ready for winter. Loads and loads (and more loads) of city compost have been spread over wet cardboard and newspapers and hay to kill the grass, age and settle over the winter. Some iris and peonies have been transplanted from our previous home.  more

Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti.
Similar yet pleasingly different, these showy perennials are easy to grow indoors.  more
     Still looking for a unique Christmas gift for your favorite gardener?  Click here.

Houseplant Pest Problems Likely to Increase. Even though it is now the middle of November, it still feels more like the middle or even the beginning of October. Last week I even heard that some people were still harvesting tomatoes from their garden! We had better enjoy the warmer weather while we can because we all know that more seasonal weather is on its way and soon our landscape will take on a more wintery appearance. With the colder weather on the way, many gardeners turn to indoor gardening activities instead.


After a couple of nights of killing frost, gardeners get in high gear to deal with bags of leaves and garden refuse and do the typical tasks that constitute getting the garden ready for winter. Over the years I have noticed that almost all of what happens – building compost piles, using tillers, pulling dead plants, ‘cleaning’ the garden into a condition of nakedness – makes the gardener feel as though all responsibilities have been met.  more

Raised Beds.  Several years ago my good friend Tammy Glover had knee replacements. While acknowledging gratitude for after market body parts, she realized that working in the garden on her knees was no longer an option. She wanted a garden bed about the height of a kitchen counter. I am not certain that Tammy’s “bunkers” were the first raised beds in Rapid City but they are surely the best known. The plans for those are on blackhillsgarden.com as “30” high raised bed” under the Soil and Water tab.   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

December gardening tip.  See December on green tab above. One tip will soon become more important: "House plants with large leaves and smooth foliage such as philodendrons, dracaena and rubber plant, benefit if their leaves are washed with a damp cloth to remove dust." more


December kale and collards?

Let’s take a look at a few snow-hardy vegetables that can last through the winter.

1. Spinach. This plant’s leaves may die during the winter, but the plant, itself, can survive and grow new leaves in spring. Spinach grows slowly throughout the winter. Although it can make it through the cold temperatures, spinach will look pretty beat up, so keep it covered by mulch or cold frames. A good variety to try is Savoy, or any kind with wrinkled leaves.

2. Leeks. Here is a hardy vegetable that isn’t bothered by winter’s short days. Leeks can grow well during the cold months. Bandit and Bleu de Solaise varieties are favorable for winter leeks, as well as “blue-green” kinds that can survive down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit or -18 Celsius.

3. Kale and collards. Both of these vegetables are rich in flavor. Collards are actually more freeze-tolerate than kale. Blue Max is a favored variety, and has high yields and can survive in winter temperatures down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit or -18 degrees Celsius. Other hardy types are Red and White Russian Kale, which do best when covered in the winter.

4. Parsnips. Sugars accumulate in parsnips when there is a frost, and snow can actually make parsnips sweeter. They keep well in the winter ground. They take 130 days to grow. Parsnips should still be covered in freezing temperatures to ensure success, and the lowest temperatures parsnips do well in are 0 degrees Fahrenheit or -18 degrees Celsius.

5. Lettuce. Young lettuce plants tend to tolerate cold temperatures better than mature plants. Keep lettuce plants protected, either by cold frames, hoops or tunnels. Lettuce can survive in temperatures down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit or -12 degrees Celsius.  If you cover the plants with multiple layers, lettuce can survive down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit or -18 degrees Celsius. 

more such winter gardening from Off the Grid News