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  • Jane Shellenberger

Editor's Letter: Harvest 2020

It was easy to practice social distancing and enjoy myself at Gail Felzien’s family ranch/farm outside of Sterling last month, even in the unrelenting heat. Though most of the surrounding area is grassland prairie with big skies, Gail has created a whole new ecosystem from scratch over the last 40+ years. Panayoti Kelaidis mentioned this “garden of a lifetime” to me over lunch last winter and Scott Skogerboe, who has known Gail for many years, agreed to write about it. But I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to meet her and see this botanical oasis and arboretum in person.

Gail warned me that she doesn’t grow “the fluffy stuff” and that their corner of NE Colorado has been in a severe drought for several years with almost zero precipitation, so the timing might not be right. On the other hand, I thought, since her main interest lies with plants that will survive and thrive on Colorado’s high and dry plains, it would be an adventure in realism. Gail generously agreed and we scheduled my visit. Then, in the few days prior, two ferocious storms dumped over 2" of rain on her place. The preceding high winds and potential fire danger that she described sounded absolutely terrifying, but “the garden really perked up” with all the moisture. You can read about Gail and what she grows at her “Experiment Station” on page 8.

Gail grew most of her trees from seed so it seems serendipitous that, due to lack of space, I held the piece Penn Parmenter wrote last spring on that very topic. It works out better for this issue. Except for aspen, now is the time to collect and plant tree seeds.

I’ve included a second piece by Penn as well, “Gardening is Pro-Sanity”, because it’s timely, as is John Hershey’s, “Time to Pluck up that which is Planted”. I don’t usually include two essay- type articles, but who knows what the moment will be like next spring when we publish again?

Paula Ogilvie writes about plant hormones, those “messengers of change” that trigger all aspects of growth and development including fall leaf drop and winter dormancy. Though they aren’t always easy to find (or grow commercially) at nurseries, I like to include and promote Colorado natives. Mikl Brawner writes here about “ditch weeds, wildflowers, and native forbs” that bloom beautifully “without a care” in late summer.

From what I can see and what I hear, nurseries and garden centers have been booming throughout this continuing pandemic. Edibles and outdoor garden plants have been snapped up of course, but houseplants are also hot items, which makes sense since we’re all staying at home more. Growing vegetables and herbs indoors without a greenhouse can be tricky but there is one trending edible you might want to try this winter – mushrooms!

Fungi seem to be at the forefront of our collective consciousness right now for a variety of reasons. A friend in the Bay Area told me about Merlin Sheldrake, a PhD biologist/ecologist with a focus on fungi. I’m devouring his new book, Entangled Life: How fungi make our worlds, change our minds & shape our futures. Among other things, he describes how a new understanding of the decentralized mycelial networks of fungi throws some basic human concepts (like individuality and intelligence) into question.

Meanwhile, on a practical note, Sandra Knauf writes about growing gourmet mushrooms at home, which she has done with a little help from Megan’s Mushrooms in Rocky Ford, CO, a supplier of grow kits. (Owner Megan Deacon took the photo on our cover.)

Recent discoveries of plastic-eating microbes, both bacterial and fungal, prompted R Gary Raham to investigate further, especially regarding the positive role fungi can play in bioremediation, soil building, and more. Kelly Grummons’ Q & A is full of interesting and helpful tips on dividing peonies, growing blackberries, planting late season vegetables for a fall and early spring harvest, and perennials – which to cut back, which to leave standing, and why. You'll notice we don't have a calendar in this issue. Maybe

next spring when we publish again. We're due for some healing on many levels so that's what I'm banking on. Check for 2021 info and updates.

Enjoy and share your harvest. And if you have a special garden She-shed or He-shed please be in touch and send photos.

Jane Shellenberger



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