CATHIE DRAINE: Gardening in the Black Hills series kicks off on March 1 | Lifestyles

Over 20 years ago, Pennington County Master Gardener Lynn Steen and Bill Keck, part of the South Dakota Extension Service in Rapid City, had a seminal idea.

SDSU’s Master Gardener program was just beginning in Rapid City and there was a growing need for a vigorous outreach of information and good science for gardeners and those who wanted to garden. What was the best way to get information about gardening techniques, processes, and best practices to gardeners?

The answer was Gardening with the Masters, a six-week series of classes taught by the Master Gardeners, beginning with the basics… soil, botany, seed starting and on through the seasons to harvesting.

Those many years ago the response from the public was immediate, enthusiastic and positive. As time passed, the series of classes became Gardening in the Black Hills, and despite multiple changes of avenue, instructors and the pandemic, it remains a popular and helpful source of fact, encouragement, knowledge and community-building.

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Many take the classes each spring for their own information and pleasure. Others use the information as a good reason to take the Master Gardener training taught by SDSU and not only advance their knowledge and gardening contacts but also become part of the ongoing Master Gardener program of volunteering, teaching and life-long learning.

This year the series, sponsored by the Pennington County Master Gardeners and South Dakota Extension, begins on March 1. I will speak on soil and Brenda Pates will discuss the many kinds of compost. On March 8, Sheila and Joe Hillberry speak about starting seeds and pruning and tree care. On March 15, Joanne Engelhaupt will discuss Microgreens and Mary Deibert will address Climate Change and Gardening.

Dr. Rhoda Burrows from SDSU Extension will discuss growing asparagus and will be followed by Patrick Wagner, SDSU Extension Entomologist who will discuss garden insects. Those talks are on March 22.

Realizing that gardening here faces many challenges in addition to weird weather, Janet Smith will explain Square Foot Gardening and Bonnie Ruggieri will discuss Deer 101. We can guarantee that is not a method of attracting deer to the garden! These talks are on March 29.

Closing the series on April 5 will be a presentation by John Berglund, Greenhouse Supervisor at the Department of Parks and Recreation for Rapid City. They will talk about the delights and challenges of growing roses in this area. Closing the program is its long-time organizer, Mel Glover. His topic is one which is rapidly becoming very popular, Growing Vegetables in Containers.

The classes are held at the SDSU Rapid City Regional Extension Center at 711 N. Creek Drive (lower level of the former First Interstate Bank) across from the Menards. Classes begin at 6:30 pm and end at 9:00 pm There is a break between classes and refreshments, made and donated by the Master Gardeners, are available.

Registration is $ 35 for the 6-week series which includes handouts and refreshments. The class size is limited to 40 persons. Mail check payable to: Pennington County Master Gardeners. Include your name, address, phone and email. Preregistration for the classes is required.

Mail the payment to: Gardening in the Black Hills, SDSU Rapid City Regional Extension Center, PO Box 813, Rapid City, SD 57709.

Questions about registration: call Mary Trykoski, 605-341-0810. Email at

Questions about the classes: call Mel Glover, 605-348-7678. Email at or Janet Smith, 605-484-5772. Email at

Cathie Draine is a Black Hills Native and life-long gardener. She is a member of the Garden Writers Association. She lives and gardens in Whispering Pines in Rapid City.

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