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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Master Gardener Training, and a Little Bit for Everyone

Greetings everybody! I hope you're doing well this week.  I have been too busy with life to blog, but I'll explain more about that verry soon.  Today, I'd like share with you the highlights from my first class for the Master Gardener program.
But first, I'd like to be sure all of my readers find something good in this post.
If you read my blog for the cute photos of my dog, here's a recent one of Razi wearing a cape the bff got him.  It needs to be hemmed and his beefy neck doesn't quite fit the top, but I think it suits him none the less, don't you?
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If you read my blog for the food and aren't particularly interested in the details of gardening, I have this small offering: baked apples.  Not a recipe, but a basic guide. Slice out the stem and core your apple with a melon baller.  Stuff the cavity with peanut butter, honey, or both leaving 1/2-1 inch of space at the top.  Stuff the rest with a combination of salt, flour, brown sugar, oatmeal, and cold butter.  If you don't already know how to make a crumble topping you can try this one, but honestly I throw mine together by feel, adjusting the flour to oatmeal ratio and sugar content on the fly.  Bake at 350 until a knife slides in easily and the topping is golden brown.  These are delicious, even cold, but there's nothing like a hot apple and crumble topping for fall.  A little ice cream or whipped cream wouldn't hurt a bit.
I've also got some photos for those of you who like looking at gardens, but maybe don't like actually doing anything.
Iowa City got very close to freezing earlier this week, but luckily things have warmed back up again and it even got into the 80s today.  Cool nights and warm days are the best for plants.  We have continued to harvest a few tomatoes, lots of beans, and we are hoping to be able to get a few tomatillos.  For some reason, the bumble bees love the tolmatillo flowers.  There were at least three of them swirling around when I took this photo.
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We've got spiders out there, too.
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We harvested some kale yesterday.  We still have one of these HUGE plants left and a couple more small ones.
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The grass is beautiful right now.  This makes me want to plant more native prairie plants.
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Finally, if you're interested in learning a little about the specifics of gardening, you can read the rest of this post.  I'm going to summarize the most important parts about the first Master Gardener class I took.  It's helpful for me to write them because it lets me review what I learned, but it's also in the spirit of the program, which uses Master Gardeners to spread gardening through communities. The program is run by the Iowa State University Extension. Most classes are webcast across the state but some are done at the county level.  The limitations of the presentations can be a challenge to the speakers, most of whom are professors at ISU, but each lecture has been interesting and packed full of valuable information.  I'm going to list the course followed by the name of the instructor's name and homepage if one exists.  Then I'll quickly summarize the most important information I got from each evening.  If you have questions, please don't hesitate to ask in the comments.  That's the idea behind the program!  I'll have attended 14 classes and a full field day by the time I become a trainee and I plan to write about each session here for my own review.  After I complete the training I must complete 40 hours of community service before I become a full Master Gardener.  (Tracy, if you're reading this, feel free to correct me or add to the conversation!)
Today I'm going to tell you about soils.
Soils- Lee Burras
I found this presentation incredibly engaging, in part because of the content and largely due to the presenter.  His personal website opens to this E.B. White quote, which solidifies my impression of him as a passionate steward of the earth.
"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world.  This makes it hard to plan the day."
Here's a taste of what Lee taught us:
  • Soil is composed of three things: sand, silt, and clay.  Each soil is defined by its ratio of the three and the level of compaction.  Soil color can tell us something about soil composition, but not everything.
  • Each soil can be placed somewhere in this triangle depending on its composition.  Soils vary greatly, inch to inch in all directions and are highly variable depending on the environmental conditions.  Gardeners need to pinpoint on this triangle where their soil currently is and where they want their soil to be well before they do any soil amending. soil_classification_chart.gif
  • Lee reminded us that plants do the vast majority of their work in the soil, not in the air.  He encouraged us to think about underground as the house for the plant.  Thus, aeration is very important.  Good soil should be loose and well-worked.  If the soil is the house, the open spaces between soil particles are the rooms, where the roots live.
  • Plants use the surface of the roots to absorb important things from the organic matter in soil, so they'll spread as far as they can out and down.  If you see a problem in the leaves, look to the soil first.
  • A soil test is inexpensive and tells you your soil's pH and its nutrient levels.  Deficiencies in both can be corrected by treating the soil.
  • Iowans are incredibly lucky to have access to a huge supply of some of the highest quality soil in the entire world.
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At the end of the day, we're all dirt farmers.

That's all for today!  I'll be back soon with some exciting news, and the next Master Gardener class I'll tell you about is botany!  Until then, enjoy the fall while it's still here, and tell me how your gardening is wrapping up.

3 comments:

hatkateate.com said...

holy kale!

whatkateate.com said...

clearly i forgot the w :)

Tracy P said...

Mmmmm....kale! Mine never gets that big before I have the urge to cut it down and eat it! Great breakdown of the Soils class, looking forward to reading the rest.

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