Coconino Master Gardener Association

Another beauty from Cindy Murray. Swallowtail butterfly on phlox.

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!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gardening Excetera Column 12/3/11

Cris Wischmann

I’m a slow learner. It took five years for me to realize that trees other than pinyon and juniper won’t grow at my Leupp Road address. I planted over two hundred trees and shrubs from the Arizona State Land Department around the perimeter of my four acres as a windbreak, and supported them with a drip line for water. Only the Russian Olives lasted the full five years, before the rabbits and voles (yes, voles not moles) destroyed the limbs and roots. After twenty years here, I have developed an admiration for the native trees that survive temperatures ranging from minus 20 to 100 plus degrees Fahrenheit with very little water. Ten years ago over 60 pinyon trees died on my four acres, succumbing to bark beetles and drought. They provided fuel for the woodstove. And now the junipers are riddled with mistletoe.

Underneath the standing dead trees in this area, though, the wildflowers and blue grama grass are thriving. And so is the wildlife that relies on the grasses. I decided to minimize my gardening (and labor and expenses) and planted flowers in two beds in front of the house, and in several barrels in the back yard. I also noticed what my neighbors were growing successfully and chose perennials well suited to this area.

Classes offered by Master Gardeners at the Community College gave me suggestions for placement of plants for efficient use of water. I was so proud of the results at the end of the summer and looked forward to the following spring.

And in the spring, the plants returned, but didn’t get as big or fill out as I had hoped. Then I noticed lots of rabbits and fenced off the flowers beds with chicken wire. That seemed to solve the problem. Although some flowers still disappeared, I didn‘t mind sharing with the critters I enjoyed watching from the front porch. So I bought new plants each year to add different colors, and replaced plants that didn’t thrive, and apologized for the chicken wire when entertaining guests.

This spring the chicken wire failed me. The re-emerging plants were being eaten down to the dirt. Those cute little chipmunks I liked to watch had multiplied and were voracious eaters. The big catmint plants changed from miniature NAU domes to tall celery stalks in a week. I put plastic milk jugs around the plants, sprinkled commercial repellants, and spread dog poop in my manicured beds. I added pungent plants like mints, lavenders, and marigolds. These activities did not work and my friends were getting tired of my frenzied rants about chipmunks. When the little pests ate all the leaves off my new Virginia Creeper in addition to all the flowers off the marigolds, I finally went to the experts.

I emailed my problem to Dana Prom Smith and asked for suggestions. He had none, but forwarded my query to Janice Busco, who replied with several recipes for remedies. All would necessitate a trip to town for ingredients except for one. It required Castor Oil, and I had a quart of the stuff. I mixed one-fourth cup of castor oil with a pint of warm water, added a squirt of dish soap, shook it up and sprayed it on the leaves, bare stems, and ground of my flower beds. And in three days, the perennials were above ground, and the one remaining trailer of Virginia creeper was still intact. Success! Major problem solved! I shared the solution with a neighbor who was also losing more plants than usual this year.

As I write this report, there’s still enough summer left to allow the garden plants to flower. I just have to remember to reapply the castor oil mixture after each rain. Then I can get to my favorite activity, sitting on the front porch just above the flower bed and watching the wildlife, including the rabbits and chipmunks.

I learned a lot this summer. I just hope I remember to get the castor oil mixture on the ground in March next year before the chipmunks notice that it’s spring again.

Cris Wischmann, a Flagstaff resident since 1970, is a sometime mathematics instructor. Dana Prom Smith, editor of GARDENING ETCETERA, blogs at, and emails at

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