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

Friday, September 23, 2011

Solar Cook-Off and Apple Festival

Friends of Flagstaff's Future Solar Cook-Off & Apple Festival When: Saturday, October 1 Where: Buffalo Park Ramada, near the park entrance Solar cooking is a year-round option in the sunny Southwest. It's also an apple bonanza year! F-cubed is celebrating with a solar oven and apple harvest picnic! If you have a solar cooker, please join us. You can cook an apple-themed dish if you so desire. If you don't have a solar cooker, you may bring a potluck dish and join us for lunch. The event also features a short and fun trail clean up, apple peeler/slicer & cider-making demonstrations, kids activities, and a solar oven talk by Lisa Rayner. Spinners will be have their spinning wheels and hand spindles to demonstrate their craft.
Festival schedule 9:00 a.m.: solar oven set ups 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m: apple cider making & canning demonstrations 10:30 a.m.-noon+: spinning demonstrations 11:00 a.m.: trail clean up 11:30-11:50 a.m: Solar oven talk by Lisa Rayner 12:00- 2:00 p.m.: picnic There is a $5 suggested donation to support purchasing equipment for our ZERO WASTE EVENT program, but this is a community event and NO ONE will be turned away for lack of funds! Lisa Rayner

Monday, September 19, 2011

Rio de Flag Greenbelt at Rt. 66
Revitalization and Restoration Project

National Make A Difference Day
Saturday, October 22, 2011 8:00 am - 1:00 pm
Organized by the Flagstaff Area Stream Team F.A.S.T.

Come celebrate National Make A Difference Day 2011! Take part in this community-based project to revitalize and restore the Rio de Flag Greenbelt and open space. This volunteer project will work on improving wildlife habitat, reclaiming open space, stabilizing floodplain and drainage areas. We’ll have teams working on...

Picking up trash and debris throughout the area
Seeding and planting native vegetation
Building a Watchable Wildlife Platform along the future trail
Removal of noxious weeds
Recording of archeological sites within city property (training provided)

Wait there’s more! A free prize raffle, lunch and post project guided tour!.
Tour details: Get a glimpse of what this area can become after the final restoration phases are complete. Join us after lunch for an expert-guided tour of Picture Canyon! Picture Canyon is a hidden treasure and the perfect place for an afternoon hike to see migrating birds, petroglyphs, and Flagstaff’s very own waterfall.

To sign-up in advance as a volunteer, contact Connor Boyle at or (928) 213-2473. Drop-ins are welcome also. Please bring a hat, work gloves, sturdy shoes, and tools (shovel, rakes). Some tools will be provided.

Fall Harvest Festival 10/1-3/2011

Jeff Sacha (Master Gardeners class 2011) and the Pioneer Museum have organized a raffle to help raise funds for the Poor Farm Project, a volunteer effort that is working with the Pioneer Museum and the Heritage Garden to benefit our community by providing gardening education and produce.

Their goal for this raffle is to raise $1500. Already this year, they have worked with local students and food banks. They would like to increase this effort for next year. They are also pursuing rain water harvesting and efficient irrigation systems for the farm.

Raffle tickets can be purchased at the Pioneer Museum ($3), 2340 N. Fort Valley Road. For more information call 774-6272.

Hattie Braun
University of Arizona
Master Gardener Program Coordinator
Coconino County Cooperative Extension
2304 N. 3rd St.
Flagstaff, AZ 86004

Phone: 928-774-1868 x 170
FAX: 928-774-1860

Solar Cook-off & Apple Festival - NEED APPLES

Friends of Flagstaff Future is having a solar cook-off & apple festival Oct. 1. A crew from the Transition Action Team, which includes me, is looking for people who have apple trees with ripe apples. We're looking to start picking this Sunday. We will have a juicing table at the festival. Some of the apples may also be used for personal use (like, I hope to can some cider and apple butter). If you have a tree for us to pick, please contact me asap. If you have a neighbor with apples to pick, let them know about our project and festival.

Thank you,
Lisa Rayner

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Gardening Excetera Column 9/17/11

Jeffrey Best

After I read Eliot Coleman’s book, “The Winter Harvest Handbook”, this past summer, I was equipped with the necessary knowledge to attempt a winter garden. After mastering summer gardening, I was ready for this bizarre experiment.

My back yard garden area has approximately 100 square feet. In previous years, I planted cold hardy vegetables in mid-March. These withstood cold and snow and did well. So, with my newly acquired knowledge, I thought I would plant in the fall so that my vegetables would grow through the winter for continual winter harvest. With low expectations and lots of doubt, I started my experiment in September 2010, just a few days before the equinox. I planted in a small area of 3 feet by 4 feet. I pulled some productive bush bean plants and a lovely yellow nasturtium plant that was full of flowers. That hurt. I cleared my area and fertilized well. I planted scallion, spinach, lettuce, pac choi, carrots and kale. Over my new garden I placed my cold frame. I construct my cold frame with pvc pipe and connectors. It was still warm when I planted, so I left the plastic and frost cloth off until late September.

I planted before the first frost, and everything was thriving in the garden. My newly planted area was surrounded by mature plants. My cucumber and tomato plants were still producing. By October 9th, almost everything was dead from frost, yet small seedlings were coming up in the winter garden area. I started covering the cold frame with plastic at night which I removed each morning. I was expecting a lot from my spinach, but it disappointed me. I had to replant the spinach plants and cover them with wet burlap to get them to sprout. The spinach grew slowly after this.

By Thanksgiving, I was leaving the garden covered all of the time. Nights were very cold and the first snow had occurred. All winter garden plants were still alive and growing. Growth was slow for most of the plants. I’d obtained a small weather station the past summer. This works with a receiver in the house and a transmitter outside. The receiver shows the outside temperature. I placed the transmitter in the middle of the winter garden. Temperatures were ranging from 20 degrees to 70 degrees. The actual outside temperature was almost always at least 10 degrees colder. Since the winter garden was covered with frost cloth and plastic, it stayed much warmer.

Caring for the winter garden was a snap. It required much less attention than a summer garden. I watered once a week when the weather was good. I had no insect problems. This was a big benefit for the pac choi. In the spring, flea beetles had done a pretty good job of destroying my pac choi.

My biggest problem was keeping the cold frame from collapsing from strong winds and heavy snow. During snow storms, I went out and cleared the top of the cold frame every few hours. The weight of the snow collecting on the top of the cold frame punched a hole through the plastic. I patched this up with clothes pins.

The star of the winter garden was the pac choi. It was the first to sprout. I spread the seed in small clumps and these came up profusely. I thinned these out over time to 8 plants in 2 square feet. All of these were eventually consumed. I thinned these until I was left with 2 large pac choi plants by mid-winter. I harvested the last pac choi plant on February 8th. We enjoyed multiple batches of homemade pac choi soup in the fall and winter. My soup also included meat balls, green beans, flour dumplings, scallion and kale. I had frozen bags of beans and kale this past August that were grown in my garden. These also went into the soup.

You can grow vegetables in the winter in Flagstaff. I will grow another garden this coming winter, maybe just with pac choi this time.

(The Master Gardener Calendar is available at Warners and Native Plant & Seed.)

Jeffrey Best, a Master Gardener, is a Computer Programmer Analyst at NAU and works in the vegetable gardens at Dorsey Manor, the housing complex of the Sunshine Rescue Mission. Dana Prom Smith edits GARDENING ETCETERA, blogs at, and emails at

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Native Plant Society Meeting & Field Trip


Sunday, September 18:
Kate Watters (see below) will lead the walk to Dry Lake Caldera, a unique geological and botanical area that was preserved by the Grand Canyon Trust and other organizations. Please meet at the Arizona State Credit Union parking lot, southwest corner of Butler and Beaver, at 08:30 am, and come prepared with sun protection, water, food, and car or gas money for carpooling. The walk will last until about noon.


Tuesday, September 20, 6:00 pm NAU Arboretum west side of Biology Building.
Fall Potluck, and Planting and Dedication of tree in memory of H. David Hammond.

Tuesday, September 20, 7:00 pm Room 328 of the Biology Building:
Presentation by Kate Watters, Kate will talk on the Flora of the Kane and Two Mile Ranches. This will highlight the last four years of botanical exploits with Budding Botanist volunteers on an 850,000 acre ranch owned by Grand Canyon Trust on the Arizona Strip. Kate is the Volunteer Program Manager for the Grand Canyon Trust where she helped create the Plant Atlas of Project of Arizona (PAPAZ). She is also a co-author of "River and Desert Plants of the Grand Canyon."

Native Plant Society Monthly Walk

This Saturday walk sounds wonderful. You may be interested.

Birds and Botany – Saturday, September 17th TRIP - LEADER: Bea Cooley

Stay cool in the mountains while those other intrepid birders melt at Lake Havasu. We'll meet at 7:45 am in the Basha's-Humphreys parking lot to carpool. Alternatively, meet up at 8 am at the Wildlife Viewing site on Highway 180, north of the Nordic Center and across from the Little Dove Chapel at mile marker 235.5 and on the west side of the highway. We will walk the loop through woods, meadows and aspen, looking at the ground for blossoms and in the air for birds. Bring binocs, water, hat and sunscreen plus plant books, if you have them. We will finish about 10:30. Please call Bea Cooley (928-526-5069 or

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Gardening Excetera Column 9/10/11

Mary Fulè
Like many people I know in Flagstaff, I am a transplant, having moved here about 20 years ago. My family and I have been here ever since, and I am have been trying to garden here for most of that time.

I grew up in Kansas, where the issue with gardening was keeping things from getting too big. Gardening in Flagstaff is a challenge, and it has taken a long time for me to feel like I know what I am doing. My husband used to say I was pretty good at growing $50.00 tomatoes, (taking into account the number of plants that I killed before we harvested a ripe one.)

A few years ago my gardening took a big set-back when we moved to a different neighborhood in Flagstaff. We had lived up on McMillan Mesa, where it is sunny and warm and moved to Coconino Estates, to an older home with lots of shade trees and the cold-air drainage of the Rio de Flag right behind my back gate. I felt like I was going to have reinvent the wheel to get a successful back yard garden, but then I came across a book in the library, Edible Estates, by Fritz Haeg. This book is about a movement to get people to tear up their front grass lawns and plant gardens instead. Anyone interested can check out his web-site at:
Reading this book was an epiphany. This was the solution I had been looking for. My front yard was warmer and sunnier so it was much better suited for a vegetable garden than my back yard. The book brought up all kinds of issues that back yard gardeners don’t need to think about, like neighbor’s reactions and lawn aesthetics, both of which are important to consider.

The next step was the logistics of getting a garden ready. One huge benefit of this new location was its past history as farmland. Our soil was black gold. We started with a small area of the yard, digging up the old sod and putting it in a pile in the middle of the front yard. This was the defining structure of our new vegetable garden. We then added a few truckloads of dirt mixed with steer manure to fill in the holes. We added some larger rocks to limit erosion and add warmth to our little hill. Finally, we put in an above ground drip system, and we were ready to plant.
Each time we worked outside, neighbors would stop by and talk about our plans and offer advice and encouragement. We spent a lot of time working on the garden that year, and we got to know quite a few people from our neighborhood. Our block has a lot of walkers and bikers, and since the garden is close to the street many people would remark on our project. We learned neighbor’s stories, histories, kids’ names, where they worked, who we knew in common and everything in between. It was an eye-opening social experience for my family. Fritz Haeg had talked about the social aspect to front yard gardening in his book, but I hadn’t put much thought into that aspect when planning our garden. For me, this ended up being one of the biggest highlights to this project.

This last summer I grew corn in circular rows with pumpkins and melons taking up the ground space. Many times people walking by would stop and talk about the garden, letting me know they had been watching it all summer and how much they enjoyed seeing it grow. We ended up with at least 4 pumpkins weighing in at 25 pounds, big bright orange globes, peeking through huge green prickly leaves, with reddish tinted corn towering over the pumpkins like sentinels.

Our front yard garden has been successful as a small producer of fresh, organic vegetables, but the two unexpected bonuses for me was sharing the beauty of the garden with others and the added community that our garden brings to our neighborhood. It’s our own version of a “front porch.”

Mary Fulè is a Master Gardener Graduate and works in NAU’s Extended Campus. Dana Prom Smith ( edits Gardening Etcetera and can be reached at

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Workshop on Finding Funds for Food

Find Funds For Food
Join USDA Rural Development for an informational exchange on funds and assistance available through the agency to support local and regional food systems.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
3:30—5:00 p.m.
Coconino County Health & Community
Services Building
Ponderosa Room
2625 N. King Street, Flagstaff

For more information contact Scott Neuman at 928-679-4763

Small Acreage Land Owner Workshop

Join Cooperative Extension Agent Erik Glenn for the first in a series of workshops designed for small-acreage landowners.

What do You Have and What do You Want?
Inventorying Your Property and Planning for the Future
Small-acreage landowners are invited to JOIN Coconino County Cooperative Extension for a workshop to learn how to inventory their properties, identify resources, understand constraints and set goals.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Coconino County Community Services Building, 2625 North King Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86004

The cost to attend this workshop is $10. This amount will cover lunch and a variety of printed handouts. Attendees may pay at the door but reservations are required.

If you will be attending, please RSVP **no later than Sept. 16** by calling 928-899-4595 or emailing
Erik Glenn
Director, Arizona Economic Development Course Area Assistant Agent, Community Resource Development Project Manager, Regional Center for Sustainable Economic Development Yavapai County Cooperative Extension The University of Arizona
1955 E 6th St
Tucson, AZ 85721
Phone: (928) 899-4595
Fax: (520) 621-7834

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Gardening Excetera Column 9/3/11

THE ANSWER MAN: What’s Your Problem?
Dana Prom Smith

This time of the year, many people ask questions about planting bearded irises.

Q. Spent big bucks on iris bulbs. Missus told me to fix up the front yard. Told me I was gonna get cold sardines for breakfast if I didn’t get a move on. Said that old, rusty plow “just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore,” least ways not since some Master Gardener moved in next door. Kinda scowls at my yard. Anyways, all I got was green spikes, no flowers. Told me they didn’t need much care, and that’s just what they got.

A. Your sentences don’t have subjects, just verbs and objects, like imperatives and commands. You must’ve been traumatized by your drill sergeant. They never use subjects, either. Anyway, they aren’t bulbs, but rhizomes. “Little care” doesn’t mean “No care.” If those rhizomes were your children, you’d be charged with child neglect and tossed in the hoosegow. Here are some guidelines about parenting rhizomes.
You feed children. Irises are fed about 6-8 weeks before they bloom and after their blooms are gone. No lawn fertilizer. Too much nitrogen. Nitrogen for iris is like candy for children. It rots their rhizomes, instead of their teeth. Use bone meal or super-phosphate because phosphorous makes for root growth. All root, they need lots of phosphorous.
Next is potassium. You need potassium for your cardio-vascular system just like irises need it for their health and growth.
I’m sure you make your children clean their rooms and make their beds. Irises need clean beds and rooms. They need weeds picked, just like you don’t let your children hang around a bunch of delinquents.
Finally, you don’t want your children wasting their energies in frivolous pursuits, like video games. Children need discipline just like irises. After the irises have bloomed, cut the flower stocks close to the ground. This is allows their energy to go back into the rhizome instead of frittering it away.
Your wife is right. That rusty old plow is an eyesore. You aren’t a farmer anyhow. The proper plural for iris is irides. Iris is a Greek word meaning rainbow. Dress up your front yard with rainbows, and your wife won’t serve you cold sardines for breakfast. Maybe, even that Master Gardener with the creepy hat will give you a hand.

Q. My name is Abigail. My husband, Rusty, thinks that a front yard of gravel, weeds, and a rusty old plow is the cat’s pajamas. He says it celebrates the early days of Flagstaff when “men were men” whatever that means. I threatened him with cold sardines for breakfast, just like early cowboys ate, if he didn’t get off his big, fat behind watching “Ice Road Truckers” and fix the front yard. Our new neighbor just shakes his head. His wife is real nice and friendly and suggested that the easiest thing to grow were bearded irises. Said they were quite beautiful. She even said that they could be planted in groups right in the middle of that damned gravel. Rusty dug’em in, but they just kind of pooped out. What do you suggest?

A. I fear that Rusty didn’t plant them the right way. You don’t dig’em in but settle them in, just like you’re putting your children to bed with a light blanket over them and just their heads sticking out. First, prepare the bed, by digging in compost, phosphorus, and potassium, and then let it sit for a week or so. Then make a small mound and settle the rhizomes into the bed, covering them with a thin layer of soil while leaving the leaves above the soil. Then for the first few weeks water them so that the soil is damp, but not wet lest the rhizomes rot. This should be done toward the last of summer or the beginning of fall so that the rhizomes will have time to develop roots before winter sets in.
Cold sardines may be better for Rust’s health, but biscuits and gravy, bacon and eggs are better motivators. Napoleon said, “An army marches on its stomach.” Don’t let the Master Gardener’s hat put you off.

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2011
Dana Prom Smith edits GARDENING ETCETERA and can be emailed at He blogs at: