Coconino Master Gardener Association

Currently, warblers of several species are migrating through Flagstaff towards Canada and beyond. The Yellow Warblers, like this little guy are often an exception. They frequently choose to remain in Flagstaff throughout the summer. All of the warblers are busily searching the innermost branches of shrubs and trees for insects.
Photo by Cindy Murray.

Welcome to the Coconino County Master Gardeners' Association Blog. The mission of the Coconino Master Gardener Program is to support the University of Arizona by providing researched-based information on environmentally responsible gardening and landscaping to the public. The program creates a corps of well-informed volunteers, and delivers quality horticultural education programs adapted to our regional high elevation environment. The mission of the association is to provide support for those volunteers and Master Gardener graduates, continuing education, and opportunities to participate in community programs that increase the visibility and participation in the Master Gardener Program.
On this site you will find gardening news, links, a calendar for local events, volunteer opportunities, book reviews, agenda/minutes for our association monthly meetings, and association documents and contacts.
The Coconino County Master Gardener Association was founded in 2009 by a small group of master gardeners with the help of Hattie Braun the Director of the MG Program. After several small meetings it was opened to all master gardeners on May 21st, 2009. Meetings are held monthly on the 2rd Thursday of each month from 6:30pm - 8:30pm. We meet at the Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church (1601 N. San Francisco). The agenda usually includes continuing education and a short business meeting. Watch this blog for the agenda and minutes for all meetings. Contacts for the association (officers and committee chairs) are listed at the bottom of this blog.

Reporting Master Gardener Hours

All master gardener trainees and certified master gardeners need to report their hours.
Beginning in 2010 certified master gardeners need to have 6 Education hours and 12 Volunteer hours in order to maintain certification.The on line reporting system allows you to report Education or Volunteer hours.
If you have any questions or concerns about the new reporting system, please contact Crys Wells or Hattie Braun. Their contacts are listed at the bottom of the blog under
Link to reporting

Ideas for hours------
--Attend monthly meetings
--Work on an association committee
--Work at an informational booth for the Master Gardeners
--Be a speaker about gardening topics at a variety of venues

--Host a garden tour
--Work at the home show
--Work at a MG site (Olivia White Hospice, the Arboretum, Riordan Mansion, or school gardens (many others)). Check out the Assoc. Doc. & Forms under Volunteer Sites.
--Work in the Extension office
--Write an article for the newspaper column -Gardening Excetera
-Volunteer with the Seed Library
Be creative! There are many ways to fulfill your hours. Just remember for volunteering it needs to be a non-profit endeavor or an approved for profit site.

Change in Contact Information

Have you moved or changed your e-mail address, but would still like to be contacted about high elevation gardening information from the Extension? The Coconino County Extension Master Gardener Program has a site that will let you change your information on-line.

Click here to change your contact information!

Event Calendar

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gardening Excetera Column 6/25/11

Ann Higgins

In a previous post for this column about plants that add interest to the winter garden (“Winter’s Gifts,” February 17, 2011), I mentioned the holly bush and its beautiful red berries. A reader responded that she had purchased both a female and a male plant, as required to produce berries, but even after a couple of years there were still no red holly berries. What else did she need? Join me in digging a little deeper for an answer.

What does it take to ensure a tasty vegetable, a magnificent tree, or beautiful holly berries? The root system of any plant needs to be nestled in an environment that is composed of all the right stuff. What is that stuff? Dirt. Dirt is everything when it comes to the success or failure of a garden or an individual plant. Dirt. The stuff we created mudpies out of when we were little kids. Dirt. Under our feet from the time we stand up. Dirt. We’re willing to spend large sums of money to soak in it. Dwellings are built with it. Dirt. We get on our knees and kiss the ground when returning to a cherished place.

Dirt is soil. Soil is broken-down rock, mineral particles composed of sand, silt, and clay. It is air and water, organic matter, and microorganisms. The physical properties of soil are color, texture, structure, drainage, and depth. But all dirt is not the same. Living along the Rio de Flag, we have rich dark brown soil, but at our prior property about a mile from here, we had rock. Fellow gardeners on the east side of town contend with lots of clay. So we need to know our dirt.

Look at the color. If the dirt is light brown, it’s probably low in organic matter. Dark brown indicates high in organic matter and black dirt means very high. The texture of the soil is determined by the amount of sand, silt, and clay. Jan Busco’s book “How to Get Started in Southwest Gardening” (written with Rob Proctor) suggests learning more about your soil by simply digging up a trowelful, placing it in a jar of water with a top, shaking until dispersed, and waiting until it settles into layers. At the top will be a shallow layer of organic matter. Beneath this is fine-textured clay, then mid-sized silt, and at the bottom a layer of coarse-textured sand.

Soil with more than 40% clay particles is considered clay. It will hold a lot of water, get sticky, and drain slowly. Sand contains about 70% sand particles and drains quickly. More equal proportions of sand and clay have intermediate water-holding capacity and properties. To check drainage, dig a hole. Fill it with water and after it drains, fill it up again. Check it the next day; if the water is gone it has good drainage.

Almost all soils benefit from adding organic matter, often in the form of composted materials or aged manures. Compost helps loosen up clayey soils and can provide structure to sandy soils, as well as providing nutrients and microorganisms to all soils.

One last factor in knowing your soil is the pH, a measurement on a scale from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Below 7 is acidic and above 7 is alkaline, or “base.” In Flagstaff we tend to tip from neutral toward alkaline. And this is where we return to the initial query. Why no holly berries? For a holly to produce fruit, there must be both a male and a female plant. Our reader purchased both. But now we find that hollies prefer soil on the acidic side, but Flagstaff soils are generally on the alkaline side. Therefore, if we change the pH by amending the soil with ammonium sulfate (check with a local nursery), there’s a better chance of seeing some beautiful red berries.

Now that you’re a little more familiar with dirt, perhaps just for the fun of it you can make some mudpies, squish it between your toes, and maybe even rub a little on your skin.

Ann Higgins is a Master Gardener and teaches yoga in Flagstaff. Dana Prom Smith edits GARDENING ETCETERA, blogs at, and can be emailed at

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Gardening Excetera Column 6/18/11

Tam Nguyen
Tam was deaf. It was struggle time for her life. She got anger from her siblings and people around her without understanding the reason. Her Dad took her to see Doctors, but she never got full treatment. They gave her antibiotic for infections, but it never a full core for that. She also didn’t know why she got her hearing lost. No explanations why it was. Nothing for hope of treatment.

One person to hang around her was her Dad. He told her, “It is not important what happened to you. It is more important how can you deal with it.” He was patient, always talking close face to face, and taught her to listen to sounds around her by feeling vibrations, by her heart, by hearing things with eyes, and by her spirit hearing without ears.

Her friends were grass, flowers, trees, insects, and birds. Those friends never ever laugh at her or mad at her, either. They taught her to be patient as her Dad in listening to the moving around of sounds. She put all her senses on. She imagined in her brain an aura she got without understand what it was. Her Dad gave her a compensation for without hearing by ears, opening a third eye for her to feel life still wonderful and meaningful. She learned to love garden. She enjoyed with garden and watched the spider work hard and patiently to make his web and caught prey on spider’s web.

She learnt about sounds by looking at plants. Depending on force of wind, the plants move gentle or strong. If she stood, she will feel the wind on her face and the blowing of her hair. That was the way her Dad describe the sounds to her. Rustle of leaves, clamorous branches of trees attached to each other. Even singing of bird is a melody of song.

She hated herself. She hated to be deaf. She just felt confident with herself at a private corner of the house. She spent most of time by herself. She did not care about noise or people surround her. Other children ran and played, but she stayed inside herself. Run and play cannot study. In her deafness, she learnt to be student.

That was also the reason her uncle thought that she didn’t like him. Her uncle asked her a favor, but she did not hear what he told her. She did not respond to him or acted something to him. Her uncle was so angry. She not know why or who made him angry until he came and pointed to her face. She hold all her emotion and put deep inside her soul. She really wanted to punch to her uncle, but she hold her hands back. She wanted to fight back, and screaming back.

Her Dad had to come and talked to both.
Her dad supported her. He talk to her close face to face. He told her to get out into the world for travel miles far away with a first single steps. He took her with nature and taught her a meaning of life. And he gave her hope that a miracle will be appear to her that she will see the right situation and right person will fix it for her. Or choose an optimistic thinking for living. She took trips hiking with him, doing farms job, and take care goats for him. He kept telling her about technology, developing science will be changed. A girl, she did not have concepts in that but years later she did. She got a passion from him. When she grow older, she look back on her Dad and realize he taught her to meditate. He took her out of her corner and let her walk to a farm, to a city for college, and now she stayed at another country.
Her hearing got fixed in America. Proof for her about things her Dad told her. She appreciated her Dad changed her life by education in a right way. Deafness and her Dad gave her love of garden, of study, of meditation.
Tam Nguyen, a Master Gardener, is a student at NAU and the Literacy Center where Dana Prom Smith is her tutor. He edits GARDENING ETCETERA and can be reached at He blogs at

Friday, June 17, 2011

Native Plant Society Update

Saturday, June 25, 9 am to 3 pm:

If you would like to participate in a weed eradication work project on Saturday, June 25 from 9 am to 3 pm, go to and click on Volunteers to sign up for the Flagstaff Weed Warriors Unite project. This project is a collaboration between the Grand Canyon Trust, Museum of Northern Arizona, AZNPS, Coconino Master Gardener Program, and other organizations in the area of north Flagstaff to tackle the growing populations of non-native, invasive plants in the historic area of Fort Valley Road and Highway 180. PLEASE SIGN UP ON THE WEBSITE, SO THE GC TRUST WILL KNOW HOW MUCH FOOD THEY SHOULD BY FOR SNACKS AND LUNCH.

Sunday, June 26, 8:30 am–2 pm:

Plant walk on Nature Trail and tour of Native Plant Materials Project Gardens and Living Roof, Museum of Northern Arizona. Connie Cowan, Native Plant Materials Project Coordinator at MNA, will guide the group through the Nature Trail in the Rio de Flag gorge adjacent to the front of the public Museum, then take us to the Research Center for a behind-the-scenes review of the native plant research gardens and view of the living roof on the prize-winning Easton Center, where the MNA herbarium is now housed. MNA plans include remodeling an old dairy barn to house the Botany Office where plant specimens will be processed in the future. [Meet at the Credit Union at the Corner of Beaver and Butler at 8:30 am. If more convenient, you may also meet the group at MNA (public west side) at 8:45 am].

Tuesday, June 28:

NAU Biology Building. Room 328. 7:00 pm. Theresa Clark, "The Bryophyte Flora of Grand Canyon National Park." Theresa increased the known species by 200% and found three species new to science. Come see macro shots of mosses and liverworts in Grand Canyon, hear about the substrates they live on, what areas they prefer, and how to collect and identify them. Theresa recently defended her M.S. thesis in Biology at NAU. She is from Maine but has spent the past three years hiking in Grand Canyon and learning how to identify mosses and liverworts. Please park on the street rather than the parking lot to avoid a ticket.

Grand Canyon Visitor Center Vegetation Project

Hello Again Visitor Center Vegetation Volunteers!

A huge thank you to those of you that have made it out for either one or both of our previous weekends.

This weekend's volunteer day will commence this Saturday, June 18th at 9am. As before, please meet our Vegetation Crew in front of the Visitor's Center. As we may have some new individuals with us this weekend, there will be plenty of opportunity for an orientation or even a re-orientation if you feel that this is necessary. You are also encouraged to attend the Ranger talk that occurs at the Mather Point
amphitheatre every day (times may vary).

I'm afraid that due to the high volume of visitors at this time, camping will be unavailable this weekend. If you are in need of housing for this weekend's project however, please let either Janice Busco ( know as soon as possible and we can attempt to seek out an alternative accommodation.

We will provide all tools, gloves, necessary safety materials, snacks, and water. We ask that you please bring a lunch, water bottle, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, long pants (required!), and sturdy, close-toed shoes (required!). The weather at the Canyon is highly unpredictable so please consult the forecast and plan accordingly:

All volunteers that serve in the Grand Canyon National Park are required to complete a Volunteer Services Agreement and Health Form. I have attached these documents below. Please print these out and complete them in advance if possible. It would be fantastic to receive these via either fax, e-mail, or post, however it would be equally convenient to have you bring these completed forms with you on the day. A big thank you to those that have already completed their forms for us!

I have also attached an official fee exemption for your entrance into the park. Please print this out, keep it in your vehicle, and present it to the gate each time you enter the park to avoid paying the entrance fee!

In addition, I have attached a village map to assist you in finding your way through the park.

We also ask that you please consult the Park's new Gun Language Handout as this is now policy for all who elect to enter Grand Canyon National Park.

Once again, please do not hesitate to contact either, myself, Jan Busco,or Sarah Geggus (both are CC'd) with any questions or concerns that you may have. After today, I will only be available via cell phone(603-748-5175). We can't wait to meet you/work with you again!

All the best,

Please contact either above for documents that are not included in this updated.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Gardening Excetera Column 6/11/11

Dana Prom Smith

In the good old American fashion, Heather Bostian, the message therapist and gardening diva, decided to do something about it. The “it” was the increasing price of fruits and vegetables in the commercial markets and the desire to have fresh produce. Her answer was a community green house. Now, community gardens are a mainstay in Coconino County and, indeed, throughout the world, but Heather’s idea was a community garden with a twist, an all year community greenhouse.

The all year long component to this community garden is that Heather just happened to have a large, barn-like cinder block structure on her property out in Doney Park. It was just sitting around serving no good purpose other than being a repository of useless discards that human beings seem fond of gathering. What better place for a community greenhouse than a large, ill-used structure?

A mark of genius is the capacity to turn the ill-used into the well-used. This is Heather’s genius. Of course, she needs investors, people who want to put their money where their mouths are. She already has 18 people signed up on her list of people interested in a year-round community greenhouse. As Heather says, if anyone is tired of high food prices and is worried about contaminated food, this community garden is just what the doctor ordered: contaminate-free organic vegetables at a reasonable cost.

The community green house will have space enough for at least fifty families with each family having a 4’ x 4’ space in which to garden and harvest produce a couple of times a month. Two managers will schedule duties and times that will fit each person, letting everyone know when to harvest their bounty.

The garden will be run in close cooperation with the owners of the Sea of Green hydroponic store in Flagstaff so that there will expert help and knowledge in the management of the garden. Also, if members wish to hydroponically garden, there is also that possibility.

Also, just in case any people have funny ideas about the garden, growing marijuana will not be allowed. Also, smoking will not be permitted. No oxymoronic organic pot or tobacco. The garden’s purpose is edible, fresh food, not getting stoned or cancer.

Another purpose of the garden is sustainability. To that end, the garden will use solar power with the result that the only bill for utilities will be for some water. Of course, the desire for sustainability is not only ecological but also financial. One of the purposes of a community garden is cutting the cost of food as well as supplying fresh, wholesome food.

The initial start-up fee for membership will be $500.00 a family which sounds like a lot of money, which it is, but considering that once that financial hurdle is overcome, for then on the track is clear. Of course, the more families that sign up, the cost per family will go down. Although the fee is hefty, it’s really a bargain when you think home-grown fresh vegetables all winter long.

Since the group out at Heather’s barn plans to go solar for the electricity, the only on going fee will be for water. Seeds, soil, and fertilizer are, of course, the responsibility of individual members.

The initial group has already been formed of writers, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, and attorneys and is organizing itself into a Not-for-Profit Organization.

The prestigious Native Seeds/SEARCH organization in Tucson has given the project its imprimatur with a donation as part of its support for community gardens.

Heather’s vision is simple and authentic and about American as apple pie. It is about growing one’s own food. It is about coming together in a food-cooperative. It is about harnessing our greatest natural resource by turning sunshine into electricity. But more than any of these things, it is about imagination and initiative, about people taking care of themselves, about the frontier ethos of independence, and finally about not relying on stultifying bureaucratic establishments. They’re doing it themselves. As Heather says, “The garden is timely and renewing.” For more information either email Heather at or call her at (928) 522-6004.
Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2011
Dana Prom Smith, the editor of GARDENING ETCETERA, can be reach at He blogs at

Monday, June 6, 2011

Coconino Master Gardener Assoc. Meeting Agenda

Master Gardener Meeting Agenda 6/9/11
Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church
1601 N. San Francisco St.

6:30pm-6:40pm Welcome – Agenda Jim Mast
Brief review of agenda for the evening
Introduction of speaker

6:40pm-7:30pm Continuing Education
Speaker: Debbie Shepard
Topic: Photographing and Painting Your Garden

7:30pm-7:45pm Refreshments
Gretchen & Dana Prom Smith

7:45pm - 8:30pm Business Meeting – Jim Mast
7:45pm – 8:00pm Overview of recent Executive Meeting – Jim Mast
Budget update – expenses/calendar, Arboretum, grant, aprons (2012)
Income/memberships, calendars
Openings for officers for next year (Secretary)
Conference next fall in Flagstaff (contact Hattie if you want to help) –
possible winter conference if someone wants to organize.
Financial – Ed Skiba banking/memberships
Secretary – Loni Shapiro calendar update/snack volunteers

8:00pm – 8:20pm Committee Reports:
Continuing Education – Dana Prom Smith (see schedule for future meetings)
Community Programs – Julie Holmes
Sunday Markets
Coordination of MG Projects – Linda Guarino
Volunteer Support/Social – Crys Wells

8:20pm – 8:30pm Garden questions?

Next meeting: July 14, 2011
Shepherd of the Hills Church
1601 N. San Francisco
Friends of the Northern Arizona Forests

Future meetings:
August 11 Panel on Coconino County Fair Entries
September 8 Recognition Picnic
October 13 Pollinators and Honey Bees – Joel Kefuss

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Gardening Excetera Column 6/4/11

EPHEMERAL: lasting a very short time, fleeting, transient, passing, brief
Debbie Shepard

I take way too many photos of flowers for fear they will never bloom again, and I will never get a chance to see them again. Maybe if I were on vacation in some exotic locale with many plants and flowers that I don’t see around Flagstaff, my obsession with capturing them in a photograph would be justified. Now with digital cameras in tow and unlimited numbers of shots I can take (if my battery doesn’t go dead) I still find myself taking photographs of flowers. Why? Because they are just so pretty. They’re nature’s best performance. Even a photo doesn’t quite capture that translucent, glowing color, that elegance of form and function - so I snap away with abandon. I’ll have photos to help me remember and enjoy later, over again and again.

The following are things I am supposed to know and practice when taking photos of flowers, plants, nature. Maybe they will help you, too, or act just as a reminder.

Natural light is very important. Dawn or dusk are best. The mid-day intense sun washes out the color and flattens the scene. Overcast or even misty days are the best!

Try to avoid or block the wind (another reason to get out early).

Pay attention to the background and the foreground, the less editing you must do after the shot, the better. Sometimes there are terrific elements that add to the scene, or put your flowers and plants in context. A nice section of weathered barn siding is preferable to some hairy legs or a passing car.

Use the macro feature on your point and shoot camera. Get in close. Try using manual focus if that helps you capture what you want. TAKE LOTS OF SHOTS.

Move around, lean down, kneel down, get a bug’s eye view. Put the sun behind the plant and get a see-through effect. Move back, move closer. Using the zoom feature on your camera usually makes photos fuzzy unless you use your tripod or you want that effect. Experiment, have fun. Sometimes the unexpected, unplanned images are surprisingly good, fresh and different!

Look out for shadows, they can be good, but not if it’s an image of you holding a camera. You can provide the shade. break from the sun if it is too intense and is washing out the color in your subject.

Take a pruner to the garden with your camera as well as some twine and green stakes to ‘edit’ your shot before you press the shutter. Do you want that half eaten leaf or dead flower in the photo - maybe you do. Remember - adjust your subject beforehand and avoid post production time. Plan ahead.

Props are good. Wood or stone fences, our wonderful native rocks, garden art, birdbaths, sculptures, watering cans; they all add a piece of ‘hardscape’ to your soft plant material. If a bird, bug or butterfly visits the plant while you’re there, include them too - a critter adds a fleeting quality, a 'snapshot' of time - again take lots of shots cause the birds and butterflies move quickly and one minute they are in the frame, the next they are not.

Cats are great garden subjects.

When you see great color combinations refer to a color wheel to understand why - opposites add excitement; yellow in front of purple; red and green (think classic geraniums or poinsettias), blue with orange (the flax and poppies are blooming now).

A blend of analogous colors are soothing. They are neighbors on the color wheel. Think of the transition from yellows to oranges to reds.

White and yellow always add zing - some needed contrast and light to dark corners.

Don’t forget the great assortment of greens in stems and foliage; thick, fuzzy, silver, lime, jade. So many interesting plants now have maroon, orange and even black attributes that make a garden plant photo memorable.

Take pictures of wild flowers, weeds, vegetables: include the flower, fruit and foliage - all interesting and worth some shots!

Don’t leave home without your camera!

Debbie Shepard, a Master Gardener in New Jersey, is an artist and amateur photographer. She will be speaking at the Master Gardener Association on “Photographing your Garden,” June 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church. Dana Prom Smith, editor of GARDENING ETCETERA, blogs at and can be emailed at