Ellen Mohler of Mulberry Lane Greenhouse shares tips Master Gardeners on growing flowers and vegetables in extreme conditions.

Growing a vegetable or flower garden in Kansas can be difficult. Hot summer temperatures and lack of moisture for days or weeks, sometimes months on end can create difficulties.

But Ellen Mohler of Mulberry Lane Greenhouse near Sawyer brought some timely tips to area master gardeners as part of the Pratt County Lunch and Learn meeting March 9.

Her message also encouraged Kansans to eat more local produce to help increase farm income.

“I promote local food,” Mohler said.

In Kansas, 90 percent of the land is farm ground. But 90 percent of what consumers eat is not grown and raised in Kansas. If consumers would spend an additional $5 a week on local food, it would increase farm revenue by $750 million a year, Mohler said.

Gardeners can provide more home grown produce but it takes lots of care to make those vegetables and flowers produce. Mohler offered tips on how to improve success in the garden when working in a harsh environment and Kansas certainly has plenty of that.

The hot, dry wind in Kansas can take a toll on plants and reduce yield. In the country, shelter belts provide protection for plants and help prevent damage. In cities, buildings and trees can also help protect gardens.

Gardeners can plant trees and shrubs to help protect plants from the environment. Providing some extra shade will benefit plants in the summer time. Full sun means about six hours a day of direct sunlight. However, even plants that love the sun, tomatoes for instance, can benefit from some shade.

Mohler said that plants with long tap roots handle dry weather better than those with shallow roots whether its garden plants, shrubs or trees.

Knowing the pH levels of soil and what plants will help improve yield. Soil conditions vary across Pratt County from sand to clay so keeping up with pH is vital for success.

The color of foliage can make a difference in plant success. Plants with gray or shiny leaves that reflect the sun will do better in harsh environment. It will actually help prevent the plant from getting too hot.

“Anything that reflects heat rather then absorbs it does well,” Mohler said.

Bio char is getting a lot of attention in the Pratt area. It can be purchased or the gardener can make their own. It works well in a variety of soils and it helps maintain moisture. Composting will help improve soil quality as well. The gardener can produce their own compost with limited space plus some water to keep the compost moist. Manure will also help improve soil quality and make it healthy.

“If you have healthy soil, you will have healthy plants,” Mohler said.

Companion planting can also help improve plant health and production. This requires a little research to determine what plants work well together. Plants that are synergistic work with each other and produce better than if they were by themselves.

Plants with a tap root next to a plant with a shallow root system will benefit the shallow root plant. One combination that works together is beans and potatoes. By planting them together with potatoes in the middle, both crops will produce more. Beans and cabbage also work well together. Other combinations are carrots and tomatoes, okra and peppers, radishes and zucchini.

Besides helping plants produce more, some combinations and individual plants will help ward off pests. Cilantro helps repel squash bugs. If a garden has more then one squash plant, separate them to different locations to help cut down on squash bugs. problem.

Mohler said she reads a lot of gardening books and encourages other gardeners to do the same to learn more practical methods of producing a better, healthier garden especially in the harsh environment in Kansas.