Learning about plants and soil to avoid plant failure
I liked to garden until I moved to Mountain Home, Idaho. High desert with extreme temperatures, highly alkaline, hard clay soil with a caliche layer, and often rocky in many areas – what grows in that? After a lot of plant failure, I turned to xeric and native plants as a solution. I had planned to take the University of Idaho Extension Office’s Master Gardener class for several years but never did. I’m glad I procrastinated because I did come to love xeric and native plants. However, if I had taken the class years ago, I would have saved myself a lot of money and time. Mir Seyedbagheri and his assistant Kim Kovac start the Master Gardener program with the awesome class: “Missing Links in Soil Management.” What an epiphany this class was for me — it changed everything!
A xeriscape garden project at a city golf course?
My Master Gardener project initially was to plant a xeric/native plant garden at our city golf course. A desert oasis in a sea of green? The golf course superintendent, Jay, had an area already selected for this garden, and then he took me to two more garden areas that needed work – so I had three big projects to undertake, two of them xeric gardens. I was going to need some help for sure.
From proposal to finding plants
I drew up two landscape designs and a PowerPoint presentation for the ladies’ golf club with the help of my partner, Christine Hopson. They voted to provide me with some funds and helping hands for the project. Kim from the Extension Office suggested I contact Steve Love from the U of I Aberdeen Research and Extension Center. Mr. Love donated a lot of native plants to the project.
Though I did buy some plants from local nurseries, there really wasn’t much available for xeric and native plants, so I ended up buying most of my plants online. How sad is that!
Gardens brings master gardeners, probationers, and golfers together
We contacted the local jail and asked for a work crew, and they sent over some volunteers. We also received help from the adult and juvenile probationers who had community service work to complete. . . and, of course, help from fellow Master Gardener Volunteers and the men and women from the golf club! I had a great time working with such a diverse group of volunteers. Jay was able to get some compost from the local dairies, as well as some sand. He had a water tank filled with water mixed with humic acid. Kids and adults alike were digging hole after hole and amending the soil…or gravel, really. We planted globe mallow the size of my thumbnail and barely inch-high grass plugs. We did some weed identification and ended up pulling hundreds. We had fun.
Volunteers return to check on gardens
Some of the inmates and probationers said they didn’t golf, but they were going to come back to the gardens and check on the work they did. One girl who was doing her community service hours that day said she really wanted to grow some plants, but she didn’t have a place for a garden. After we were done, we met at a store and I helped her pick out pots and plants so she could start a container garden of her own.
Plants and relationships have grown with gardens
Our Idaho Master Gardener program now has a good working relationship with juvenile probation in Elmore County. They continue to send the kids over to help maintain the garden as we start into our third year of working together. We again had golfers, probationers, and Master Gardener Volunteers out weeding and avoiding getting hit with golf balls, as garden ‘number 11’ as we call it, has become a hazard. The garden is on the edge of the golf course and along the walking path, so folks will stop by and ask questions about what kind of plant is this or that. They may make a nice comment about the garden…..or not, if their golf ball is in the middle of Fringed Sage rather than on the green.
(Photo credit: Martina Breuer) The garden areas are quite large and still need more plants. My interest now has increased to plant propagation and planting protocol. I need a lot more plants for the ongoing project. I hope to continue to educate folks here about xeric gardening and show them how beautiful the plants are. I want to make plants available for other community projects if possible.
Master Gardener Volunteers return favor to local juvenile probation office
This year, the juvenile probation office has started their own community vegetable garden, and this time, the Extension Master Gardener Volunteers are helping them with their project. I was over at the juvenile garden earlier this week. One of the juvenile girls was there and asked me what I was doing. I told her I was checking on the garden they planted. “It’s a cool garden, huh,” she said. “Yeah, Emma, it is.” -Blog post by Martina Breuer, University of Idaho Extension Master Gardener, Elmore County -Submitted by Kim Kovac, Program Assistant, University of Idaho Extension, Elmore County For more information about exciting garden projects in Elmore County, Idaho, see A COMMUNITY THAT GROWS TOGETHER or contact Kim Kovac at 208-587-2136 ext.509 or email at Elmore@uidaho.edu.