Saturday, November 14, 2009


A local cactus club is forming in the greater Prescott area.  Membership is open to anyone interested in growing, observing or photographing cacti and other succulents (including agaves, aloes, euphorbias, sedums, and yuccas).

The idea for a club originated with a program on cold hardy succulents given by Gene Twaronite, Instructional Specialist with the Yavapai County Cooperative Extension.  A number of people at the program suggested forming a cactus club for this region.

The club as envisioned, according to Twaronite, would be informal, meeting perhaps once a month at various home gardens.  The main purpose would be to bring together cactus lovers of all ages and backgrounds to share their knowledge, cuttings, and gardens with others.  As the club progresses, there might also be occasional guest speakers or field trips to local natural areas to view some of our native succulents.

When not teaching about Firewise landscaping to area residents, Twaronite is an avid cactus and succulent enthusiast, who grows and displays many different species in his five acre wild garden in west Chino Valley.

Anyone interested in a local cactus club is invited to call Gene Twaronite (928 445-6590 ex. 231 or e-mail (

Master Gardener Training

UA Cooperative Extension Offers Master Gardener Training in Cottonwood

Apply now for the 2010 University of Arizona Master Gardener Training, to be held in Cottonwood, Tuesday mornings, Feb 16 to May 25. The course provides research-based information on basic botany, soils, fruit tree care, planting, staking, pruning, ornamental trees and shrubs, water/irrigation, wildlife in the garden, insects, integrated pest management, vegetables, turf care, natural resources, plant diseases, pesticide safety, forest health, and fire-wise landscaping. Applications and full program description are available at or call your closest Cooperative Extension office (Cottonwood 646-9113, Prescott 445-6590 x221). Applications must be postmarked by December 1, 2009. A maximum of 40 applicants can be accommodated.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Botany of Desire on PBS

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, is a book about human desires and how that is reflected in what we grow.  How our craving for sweetness ends up as supersweet apples and our desire for beauty in our lives spur the creation of thousands of different tulips.  The book was quite a sensation when it was printed and now it has been made in a program for television.  It airs this week on PBS, Wednesday October 28, 8pm.  If you can't watch it, you should read the book. 

It's nearly Halloween.....

It's nearly Halloween and I still have tomatoes, peppers and basil growing.  When I first started gardening, by this time, we had usually had a hard frost and all things like the tomatoes, peppers and basil were long gone.  This year, like last year, the frost has come late.  Last year I didn't have a hard frost until mid-November.  Unfortunately because of the shortened days and cooler temperatures things like tomatoes and peppers don't ripen quickly but just two days ago I picked another tasty batch.  The weatherman says it is going to cool down in the next few days with Wednesday night getting to 27°F.  End of the basil, peppers and tomatoes for sure.  I'll likely cut some more basil for drying and pesto and pick the peppers but I'm not much of a green tomato person so lots of tomatoes will end up in the trash pile.  It's the fate of most gardeners here because tomatoes seem to be most prolific in the fall instead of the summer.  The hot weather really limits them.  On the plus side my garlic is up along with lettuce, eating peas and the sweet peas.  The garden goes on!

Master Gardener Picnic

Each year the Master Gardeners recognize those volunteers who have reached certain benchmarks in their service.  This is a great time for everyone to sit down and have some fun too!  Go to the flickr link to see more pictures.

Service awards went to: 

4000 hours—Mary Barnes

2000 hours—Jeanette Teets

1500 hours—Richard Wise

1000 hours—Evelyn Becker, Elinor Benes, Bob Burke, Kathy MacCauley, Herdis MacLellan, Eunice Rickleffs

500 hours—Cynthia Cartier-Roberts, Angella Mazella, Sherry Morton, Janet Schieber, Sue Smith, Tom Watkins, Anna Wilson, Carlon Woodson

250 hours—Lesley Alward, John Doyle, Jay Fleishman, Kay Gaffney, Lynn Hazlewood, Connie Loving, Janey Mansoldo, Douglas McMillan, Cathy Michener, Faith Roelofs, Cheri Romley, Terry Stewart, Joan Tyler.

150 hours—Debbie Allen, Bev Bostram, Judy Cowan, Ken Earls, Bobbie Jo Gooslin, Michele Herrick, Betty Loos, Jane McGraw, Scotty Miller, Steve Moody, Jean Norris, Jean O'Laughlin, Jackie Rizzo, Paul Schnur, Ginny Shugars, Mary Smith, Linda Sunstad, Karen Wagley

October Gardening Seminar

Oct 27th Gardening Seminar

Our next “open to the public” gardening seminar is next Tuesday, Oct 27th, 6pm – 8pm, at the Public Safety Building in Cottonwood.  The topic is “Planning Your Vegetable Garden”.  It will be presented by Cynthia Cartier-Roberts and Cathy Michener.  Please invite family and friends.  If you are a Master Gardener you may also report this as Continuing Education time.  

Friday, October 16, 2009

Gardening Events and Activities

There are a variety of gardening and just interesting activities going on.  

Fire and Climate Change Talks
The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension will host two distinguished speakers from the University of Arizona Laboratory of Tree Ring Research on the evening of October 29, 2009. Dr. Malcolm Hughes will present “Our Changing Climate” and Dr. Tom Swetnam will present “Fire in the Changing West”. 

The presentations will begin at 
6:30 pm on October 29, 2009 at the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors Boardroom (on the first floor) at 1015 Fair Street in Prescott. There is no fee to attend and seating is first come, first served. For questions, please contact Edessa Carr,, 445-6590 ext 227.

Seed Saving
October 18

Rejoin a 10,000 year old ritual! Save seeds selected for the qualities you want. It is easy and necessary. A seed saving workshop is being held in Cornville, Sunday, October 18th from noon until 5pm presented by Bill McDorman from Seeds Trust. The $50 donation includes a tour of the permaculture inspired property, workshop, Bill’s Seed Saving booklet and dinner., (928) 300.7989. Scholarships available. 

Urban Farm Fruit Tree Open House, Phoenix

Saturday October 24th at the Urban Farm for our annual Fruit Tree Open House. Sat from 8:30 to 12:30 and see over 70 fruit trees growing at the Urban Farm, Phoenix. For more info or to RSVP go to:

We also have the following classes scheduled for the rest of the season

22-Oct; Thurs; 6:30 - 8:00 PM at Tempe Madcap Theater,

730 S Mill Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281

24-Oct; Sat; 8:30 AM - 12:00 NOON - Open House/Tour/Fruit Tree Discussion at the Urban Farm; 6750 N 13th Place, Phoenix 85014

3-Nov; Tues; 6:30 - 8:00 PM at REI,

1405 W. Southern Ave., Tempe 85282

For a list of all our classes:


This seems like the right time to talk about pumpkins.  It’s not time to plant them of course, but between Halloween and Thanksgiving, pumpkins reach the zenith of their popularity.  Pumpkins are hardly anyone’s favorite vegetable but maybe they should be.  There aren’t too many vegetables that are used in home decorating and a wide range of delicious foods.  While the pumpkin you buy for a jack-o-lantern isn't the best eating one you can use the seeds and create delicious snacks.    If you want to read more about pumpkins go to the Master Gardener newsletter and look for the November 09 issue which will be available after the first of the month.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

All squash seeds are edible even if the squash itself isn’t any good.  Some pumpkin varieties have better seeds than others but the taste of all is delicious.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Remove all the stringy fibers from the seeds then wash the seeds well.  Blot off excess water.  Spread the seeds on a baking pan.  Toss with vegetable oil and salt (optional).  Roast in the oven until lightly colored, 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the seed.  Stir occasionally.  Cool.  Best used soon after roasting.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bird Feeding Basics

Now is a good time to watch birds.  Many birds are migrating and might stop at your house looking for something to eat.  So keep the feeders going but keep in mind good bird feeding manners.  

Keep your feeders clean.  Use soap and water or a 10% bleach solution.  This helps prevent disease from spreading.

Keep the feeding area clean.  Hulls and uneaten feed can accumulate under feeders and attract rodents and other pests.  If you are plagued with mammal problems try removing the feeders at night when raccoons, deer and opossums are more likely to raid them—bears, too, in more wild areas.

Use fresh seed.  Do not feed moldy seed.

You should probably be wearing rubber gloves when cleaning feeders and birdbaths.

Birdbaths need weekly cleaning and refilling.  This prevents the spread of disease and keeps misquitoes from gaining a new breeding ground.  Wash with soap and water or a 10% bleach solution.  Rinse!!!

Feeders mounted on windows may increase the number of birds flying into the window.  The problem is worse in the spring when birds are defending all comers from their territories.  Limit the use of a window feeder at that time.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

2009 Master Garden Conference

Flagstaff hosted this years Master Gardener Conference.  Because of the economy it was scaled back a bit, from two days to one and it was held on a Saturday.  The good news is that people flocked to the conference, there was a waiting list to attend.  Great job Flagstaff Master Gardeners!

They also scheduled a garden tour the day before the conference.  Six great gardens were on the tour, from the simple to the truly amazing.  Even though September is late for Flagstaff gardeners and they weren't at their best I would have been thrilled to have my garden look as good this late in the year.  Pictures are found at
The photos are number so all the photos labeled 1 are from the same garden and so on thru garden # 6.
One of the things I liked best are the splashes of humor, color and unexpected delights in each garden.

Corn Gluten

In recent years corn gluten has been touted as an organic solution to weed control.  Researchers at Iowa State University found that in an experiment on lawns that corn gluten worked as a pre-emergent herbicide.  Since then there has been patents awarded and research on a variety of products based on this one study.  It is now sold as a weed control remedy for organic growers and home gardeners.  (

Recently researchers at Oregon State University has tried to replicate that experiment and found that corn gluten didn't work as a weed suppressant.  (

Hopefully new research will come up with more answers in the future.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Garlic Now!

Garlic is one of the great foods of the world. and one of the simplest to grow.  There is no excuse not to have garlic in your garden.  Now is the time to start planting.  You can continue to plant through October.  You can use the garlic from the grocery store if you have no choice, but they are sometimes treated to retard sprouting.  I would check some of the online sources of garlic and see if you can find some of the great varieties available.  There are hundreds of varieties, some hot, some not.  There are hardneck varieties and softneck types.  The softneck types are the ones used to create braids of garlic.
        Garlic likes a soil with good drainage.  The bulbs will rot if kept too wet.  If you have a heavy clay soil add lots of compost to loosen the soil and improve the drainage.  Every once in a while I add extra phosphate fertilizers.  Not every year, just if the quality of the garlic diminishes.  You can use Triple Super phosphate, bone meal or a fertilizer where the middle number is the largest.
Once you have loosened up the soil and added compost you can plant the garlic.  Separate the cloves of the garlic.  Do not plant the whole bulb!  Each clove will give you a new garlic bulb come spring.  Plant the cloves about three inches apart and deep. The bulbs will quickly send up leaves.  Once it gets really cold they will stop growing until it begins to warm up.
      One of the keys I have found for the best bulbs is to provide even watering throughout the winter.  Not sopping wet, but don't let the soil dry out for long periods.  In my experience, the best watering practices produced the best sized bulbs, regardless of how well you fertilize.
This is a great, nearly trouble-free plant.  Plant now and reap the benefits come spring.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wasps & Yellowjackets

People go crazy in the presence of bees and wasps.  In every case this is the wrong response even if you are allergic to them. (Except in the case of an Africanized bee colony.  In that case run as fast as you can and get inside, don't fling your arms around, run!  You can run faster than they can fly.) Bees and wasps are good for your garden.  Of course bees are important pollinators essential to the production of your fruit and vegetables.  Wasps are terrific predators of many of the pests that harm your garden.  Second good point is they really have no desire to sting you.  In the case of the bees they don't survive the experience and in the case of the wasps it's just a case of fear.  So lets gain a little perspective here and try not to go berserk.   If you have bees or wasps hanging around you, stay calm, don't flail your arms around you.  Give them time to move away or just (still calm) walk away slowly.  
Still they can be unnerving if you find a nest of them around your house.  Because of the problem of Africanized bees, if you find a colony on your property it is best to call a person that has experience in removing bees and stay away from the site until they are removed.  Your extension office can help you find someone qualified to remove the bees.  See the linked article for more information on Africanized bees.

Wasps (see the picture) are another problem but there are some easy ways to lure them to their death.  Check out the link below from the "Organic Gardening" website and build a homemade trap.

Wasps can be solitary or social types.  All can sting.  They tend to be omnivores, eating a variety of food sources.  They kill other insects to feed their larva.  As adults they are nectar feeders which is why you can lure them to their death.  Nests can be in the ground or extensive "paper" or mud constructions.  Find more information and another trap in the "Backyard Gardener" column linked below.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Iris Sale

The Verde Valley Iris Society is holding their annual iris sale on September 7, Labor Day at Mt. Hope Foods in Cottonwood.  This is a great place to pick up some beautiful iris at a reasonable price and get expert information.
L to R—(top) Blenheim Royal, Tomorrow May Rain
(2nd row) Poem of Ectasy 
The annual Highlands Garden Conference is coming up soon.  It's always a great event and I've been told the gardens on the tour are fabulous.  I heard Jeff Lowenfels at the International Master Gardener conference and Las Vegas.  It was a great program.  Hope to see you in Flagstaff!

Web Site for registration and all information http//

Registration materials are available at the Cottonwood and Prescott Extension offices or Contact Beverly Emerson:    or (928)646-0379

The Arizona Highlands Garden Conference is planned and presented by University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteers from Coconino, Yavapai, Gila, and Navajo Counties. The conference offers presentations on a variety of topics related to high elevation gardening and landscaping.  This year’s theme is ‘From the Ground Up’ and features two nationally known speakers:  

Jeff Lowenfels, author, radio host, and America’s  longest-running garden columnist 

Brad Lancaster, a dynamic teacher, author and rainwater harvesting expert. 

Conference registration is $65 if received by September 1 and $80 if received after Sept. 1. To register fill out and mail the registration. Participants may also register for a pre~conference tour of six Flagstaff gardens for an additional fee of $15.

PRE-CONFERENCE GARDEN TOURS Friday, September 18, 2009 10am-4pm $15 

Visit six gardens in Flagstaff, one of which has been a Master Gardener project for over six years and features over three dozen roses, a garden with wonderful outdoor living space, an award winning Xeriscape garden, and a local landscaper’s garden paradise that features an island, lake with water lilies, extensive perennial beds and much, much more. You will also receive information about several community gardens in Flagstaff. This is a self guided tour with Master Gardeners at each site to answer your questions. Once we receive your registration and additional $15 fee, we will send you information about the tour and a map to the gardens. You will be on your own to visit each garden between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. You must pre-register to attend. For more information, call Eleanor at 928-606-4930. 


Rooms have been reserved at La Quinta Inn & Suites located less than one mile from the du Bois Conference Center. We have been given a conference rate of $107 to $116. You must reserve your room by August 18. 

La Quinta Inn & Suites 

2015 South Beulah Blvd. Flagstaff, AZ 86001 (928) 556-8666, $107 - two double beds for up to 4 people, $116 - king size bed, free Bright Side Breakfast

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Farmers Market

The county now has farmers markets sprouting up everywhere.  I encourage everyone to support fellow gardeners and farmers and their local market.  It's fun, its tasty and beautiful.
Sedona, Camp Verde and Prescott have markets on Saturday morning.
Cornville has one Monday evenings.
Cottonwood is Thursday evenings.  

If you know of more let me know.

Have Blooms, No Fruit!

One of the questions that comes up each summer is why some plants bloom but don't set fruit.  You find it in tomatoes, chilies, peppers, squash, tomatillos and others.  There are a couple of things going on.  For plants like tomatoes, chilies, peppers and other related types, it is probably just the hot weather.  Once the temperatures reaches a certain point, the pollen loses its ability to pollinate the flower.  For tomatoes it is approximately 90°F.  For chiles and peppers it is a bit lower.  You may have noticed that if you plant early enough you might have fruit in the spring and then in the fall have another flush of fruit with not much going on in July and August.  That's because during the hottest days, the plant continues to bloom but the pollen gets sticky and can't move.  There is a product, Fruit Set, (I am not even sure it's available any longer) which is the hormone gibberellic acid, ( )  that will cause the flower to develop fruit without pollination and I have used it with some success, but have since decided it really isn't worth it.  You can help the plant along by giving it some shade to help lower the temperature although that is difficult to do if its 105°F outside.  One of the other methods is to go out early in the morning before the temps hit 90°F and give the plants a good shake.  Yes, just grab the stems and briskly rattle them.  This helps move the pollen.  I use this method and it does help.  The best thing is to hope it cools down a bit.

Cucumbers, squash and melons have both male and female flowers on the vine.  (see photos) The male flowers show up first.  The females show up when the weather is warm enough for them.  If all you see is male flowers you just have to have patience and wait for the female flowers. I have heard that by cutting the tip of the vine once it is over 10 feet or so long, encourages the plant to develop female flowers.  I do it occasionally on my gourd plants but it's not particularly a scientific experiment so not sure how effective it is.  Maybe someone will do a more rigid experiment sometime.

If you have female flowers but they are just shriveling on the vine it likely means that they are not getting pollinated.  If that is the case you can simply hand pollinate to improve fruit set. Then next year I would think about what I could plant to attract more pollinators.  The web site has information on hand pollinating.

The lose of pollinators is getting to be a problem in some areas.  Honeybees have been particularly hard hit.  It isn't just the insects, it is also birds and bats that have been declining.  ( growing plants that serve as food and home to native bees and flies you provide them with the resources they need and in return they help pollinate your melons.  It is also important to not use broad spectrum insecticides.  They kill all insects including the ones you need.  The key to solving an insect problem is to target the problem and figure out how to solve that and not just spray everything.


Now that we have revealed this new feature to the Master Gardeners I hope you will visit frequently and find it useful.  I would really appreciate comments, suggestions and ideas that have worked in your garden.  Also feel free to send me pictures and articles (keep them short).  I would like to see pictures of your successes and failures.  I can post extra pictures on Flickr (see link)  If there is something you would like to see addressed, let me know.  The article on blooms and fruit came because of an email from a Master Gardener.  This is not designed to replace the newsletter, but give us a place to have a discussion, deal with questions quickly, a place to post pictures and to let you know about upcoming events.  For now I plan on posting at least once a week.  As my work schedule changes frequently these days, for now that post will be up by Friday at the latest.  I am working on a list so that you can be notified when something new is posted.  I will let you know when I figure that out.  I could use some help also.  If someone would like to post, manage or is more computer savvy than I am, please let me know.
Nora Graf

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Home Canning Class

Here is one way to preserve your harvest—

Introduction to Safe Canning Principles Workshop 

An introduction to safe canning principles workshop  will be held Saturday, August 29, 2009 from 10:00 a.m. to noon at the University of Arizona, Yavapai County Cooperative Extension Office, 840 Rodeo Dr, Bldg C.   The workshop will be presented by Marta Elva Stuart, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, who will introduce basic food safety principles to properly can foods using the hot water bath method for high acid foods and the pressure canner method for low acid foods.  Free pressure canner testing will be provided from noon to 2:00 p.m. (we do not test All-American pressure canners).  There is a $10 fee for the workshop and preregistration is required.  Make check payable to the University of Arizona and send to:  Attn:  Canning Workshop, Yavapai County Cooperative Extension, 840 Rodeo Dr. Bldg C, Prescott, AZ  86305.  For additional information contact Marta Stuart at  (928)445-6590 x225.

Master Gardener Conference

Yavapai, Coconino, Gila and Apache County Master Gardeners share the Arizona Highlands Master Gardener Conference.  Each year one county takes on the project.  This year the event is hosted by the Coconino County Master Gardeners in Flagstaff, Arizona.  The conference is open to everyone, not just Master Gardeners and is a terrific place to get gardening information specific to the area.  The conference has excellent speakers, garden tours and vendors and you will meet new gardeners.  We're a fun group!  Use the link below to find out more information.  Hope to see you there.

Arizona Highlands Garden Conference 

September 19, 2009   du Bois Conference Center Flagstaff, AZ

Web Site for registration and all information http//

The Arizona Highlands Garden Conference is planned and presented by University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteers from Coconino, Yavapai, Gila, and Navajo Counties.  The conference offers presentations on a variety of topics related to high elevation gardening and landscaping.  This year's theme is 'From the Ground Up' and features two nationally known speakers: 

Jeff Lowenfels, author, radio host, and America's  longest-running garden columnist Brad Lancaster, a dynamic teacher, author and rainwater harvesting expert. 

Conference registration is $65 if received by September 1 and $80 if received after Sept. 1. To register fill out and mail the registration form linked above. Participants may also register for a pre~conference tour of six Flagstaff gardens for an additional fee of $15.

Tomato Bounty

Can't help but show off my tomatoes.  This year was a good tomato year for many people.  There have been problems with curly top virus but most of the gardeners I've talked to have said its been a good year.  It helped that I put plants in early and we had a mild June.  Its been a joyous summer feasting on gloriously ripe tomatoes and a bountiful crop of basil and garlic.  

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Curly Top & Skeletonizers

Each week the Master Gardeners handle phone calls on a number of problems.  Two that have come up recently are on Grape Leaf Skeletonizer and Curly Top Virus.  Curly Top Virus is carried by the beet leaf hopper which transmit the disease when it feeds on the plant.  It is a recurring problem in Yavapai County gardens.  There are a couple of remedies that may be helpful.  Check out the articles on Curly Top at
The grape leaf skeletonizer strips the green of the leaves between the veins.  Without the green the plant can't survive.  The skeletonizer is a colorful black, yellow and blue striped catepillar that turns into a small black moth.  The caterpillars feed side by side and can quickly strip a leaf to a "skeleton."  You can hand strip the caterpillars from the leafs but be careful.  Wear gloves and a dust mask as they have sting hairs on them that can become airborne.  Spraying Bacillus thuringiensis is also an effective way to control them.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Monsoon Madness Sale

For the last two years the Master Gardeners have held a yard sale in Prescott, Arizona to raise money for their community projects. This years was a big hit. Check out the pictures
The sale is held in July.

Monday, July 27, 2009


One day I walked out to the vegetable garden and discovered some very limp cantaloupe leaves. I was surprised because nothing else in the area was wilted. Then I turned over the leaves and there to my horror was the reason for the wilting. Local ants had set up an aphid farm on the plant. The undersides of the leaves were crawling with aphids with ants scurrying amongst them. I sprayed the leaves down with water but it was too late. The plant continued to decline and is now a few limp sad leaves hanging on. Aphids haven't been much of a problem for me. This was just a bad year. If you have aphid problems, the easiest solution is to take the water hose and spray them off. Tender plants might need some support. A good article on aphid control is found at
Further information can be found by searching for aphids अत

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Master Gardeners

Yavapai Master Gardeners work with Yavapai County Cooperative Extension to provide local gardeners with good science based information. One of the services we provide is a phone line that gardeners can call in and ask questions. The questions can be unusual and bizarre or are just the signs that the gardening season can be fraught with problems. As problems surface we will be posting both the bizarre and common problems gardeners come across.