Highlands Garden Conference
October 24-25, 2014
This past weekend I attended the annual Highlands Garden Conference. It began on Friday with tours of a variety of venues in the area. My tour was of Watson Woods Riparian Preserve which is funded by Prescott Creeks Members. The 126 acre site has been under restoration for the last 25 years. We toured the site and observed many trees and shrubs, some which will be removed, such as tamarask and an abundance of Siberian elm, and many that others that added to the beauty and preservation of the site (3 species of cottonwood, several willows, AZ walnut, velvet ash, box elder, hackberry, and 3 leaf sumac). With good rain over the last 2 years and work on restoration Granite Creek flows through the property now. Many of the wildlife have returned with restoration. Seen on the tour were hairy woodpeckers and flickers are known to inhabit the area. It was late in the season for vegetation, but several native grasses were observed (deer grass, side oats gramma) and milkweed, yarrow, datura, and some asters. This is a long term project for this non-profit organization and a great place to visit. Admission is free. Check it out on their web site.
The highlight of the conference was the keynote speaker, Jeff Gillman, PhD. He has a masters in entomology, and a PhD in horticulture from the University of Georgia. He is a well known author of 5 books on gardening and the environment, and has been a professional researcher and educator for almost 20 years. His talks were both interesting and filled with new ideas for master gardeners. The first was on "The Truth About Organic Gardening". As it becomes more popular, gardeners need to take a critical look at techniques to determine whether they are as safe and effective as we would like them to be. My take from his talk was that some of the so called natural ingredients are not really safe for us or our pets. If it says organic on the label check out the ingredients, especially if they are listed as inert. He also gave a wonderful history of the development of organics. Check out his books on Amazon.
In the afternoon lecture he spent time talking about "The Truth About Garden Remedies". Some of his research in particular on Jerry Baker's home remedies was particularly useful and humorous. One piece of advice that wasn't particularly welcome to me, was that the best weed control is doing the work by hand - oh well, it's good exercise. He also had some advise on the current trend in adding mycorrhizas to our soil. He felt that first we need to do a soil test to see what we have, and that one product does not fit the needs of all gardens, each one being unique, so we may be wasting money.
In addition to the keynote address I attended two breakout sessions. The first was "Extending the Short Growing Season". The speakers were Steve Miller and Steve McIntyre, both Yavapai County Master Gardeners. It was very practical. Steve Miller explain why we need to do this (the science) and Steve McIntyre gave some practical examples of how to do it. Steve Miller is willing to share his power point. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for the PowerPoint and bibliography. Steve McIntyre has a business with demonstrations at 600 S. Montezuma in Prescott.
The second breakout was on grasses. I can never hear enough of these lectures, but I must say this was the best introduction I have ever heard. First of all the speaker was an educator from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. He also served as the Cooperative Extension plant ID Specialist for New Mexico. He has written several articles and a 3-volume series on the plants of New Mexico. All this made him a great presenter. He gave an excellent history of the development of the botany of grasses, told many interesting stories, and finished with common grasses (native and others) used in the landscapes of the Southwest.
As usual it was a great conference with many learning opportunities, time to meet with fellow master gardeners from throughout the region, great weather and food, and shopping at Trader Joes which is just down the road. Sorry you missed it but join Coconino County next year as it is our turn to host. Contact Hattie Braun if you are interested in helping.