JoAnne Skelly: Berries, chokes and music

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My friend Laura who lives in Southern Oregon is the best vegetable and fruit gardener I know. She makes excellent compost from fresh horse and chicken manures, which she combines with green vegetable, fruit and kitchen waste. She then turns it with her tractor. And, coming from a ranching family who grew their own food, she has an innate sense of how to garden successfully.

She gave me some tips on growing strawberries. Her strawberries had huge leaves covering multitudes of berries. She became concerned when the berries started mildewing before ripening. She realized the bed they were in was too low, allowing excess moisture to collect. She raised up the soil around the berries with compost, but still had slow ripening and mildew. She didn’t want to reduce energy production by cutting off leaves, so in the end, she tied the leaves up. This exposed the berries to more sun and allowed the soil to dry out a bit, reducing the humidity under the leaves. The berries ripened with no more mildew. Next year she’ll raise the berry plants up on mounds. However, she also has another strawberry variety in which the leaves grew high with berries hanging pendulously underneath but above the ground. These never mildewed. She much prefers the pendulous berry variety.

She’s fortunate she’s able to overwinter artichokes in her garden. Although it gets cold enough at her house this shouldn’t be the case. Her artichokes come back year after year. Early in the season, the edible part doesn’t have any of the “choke” bits found inside close to the heart. The entire flower can be eaten. As the weather warms, the “choke” bits develop and the size of artichoke gets smaller and smaller. Left on the plant, what we eat actually opens and the “choke” parts will turn purple. While some Northern Nevada gardeners do grow artichokes, they’re usually grown here as annuals rather than perennials. Because they thrive where winters are mild and summers are cool and foggy, they might struggle here.

The Greenhouse Project’s annual benefit concert “Under the Stars” is July 10 featuring three great bands, Poco, Pure Prairie League and Firefall. This year, the event will be held on the beautiful grounds of Eagle Valley Golf Course in Carson City. Tickets can be purchased at Have summer music fun and support the Greenhouse Project in feeding the hungry and teaching youth about agriculture.

JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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