Month: April 2013

Mr. Newspaperman: Arbor Day

Kuna Melba News, April 25, 2013

Dear Mr. Newspaperman,

When is Arbor Day?

–A. Tree

Dear A. Tree,

Arbor Day, a day to celebrate trees and nature, is celebrated on different days across the United States. Idaho shares it’s celebration with 26 other states and holds it on the last Friday in April, the most common Arbor Day. This year that date is Friday, April 26.

Forty percent of the state of Idaho is covered in trees so it is an important holiday. This year, the Forest Products Commission is giving away 28,000 tree seedlings at Arbor Day events, Home Depot and at FedEx Office locations. While you don’t have to go hug a tree on Arbor Day, tradition says you should at least plant one.

Did you know that while Kuna is not necessarily known for it’s abundance of trees, it is a designated Tree City USA Community and it has been for 22 years. Of the 67 Idaho cities designated Tree City USA Communities, only three other cities in Idaho have held the distinction longer. They include Boise, Coeur D’Alene and Lewiston.

A Tree City USA is a special designation awarded for a town or city that has met four standards established by the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters. The city must have a Tree Board or department. It must also have a Tree Care Ordinance, a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita (that would be about $30,000 for Kuna) and have an Arbor Day observance with a proclamation.

This year, the City of Kuna will be planting trees at Sago Prarie Pond with the sixth grade class from Ross Elementary. Mayor Nelson will also be issuing a proclamation. So plant a tree. Try to plant one that will grow in this area.


Paydirt – A gardener’s column: Gophers

Kuna Melba News, April 25, 2013

I have an image in my head of my grandpa and my father on a hot Texas summer day, leaning across the hood of the farm pickup truck. My father had a cold beer my granddad had a glass of iced tea. Both had a rifle perched with sandbags on the hood aimed at a fresh pile of dirt in the garden, just waiting for something to stick his head up.

I wasn’t allowed to go out there for fear of scaring whatever it was they were trying to kill but I do remember my grandpa advising me, “Killing gophers you must undershoot.”

I’m not sure what that meant at the time but I surmise that gophers are quick, and by the time you shoot, they’ll be “duckin’ on down the hole.” Therefore, a shot aimed just a bit little lower on the dirt pile might get them. I’m just guessin’.

Gophers are a huge problem in gardens and farmland. Last year 32-year-old Sonia Lopez from Melba was killed by gophers. OK, so there wasn’t a pack of rabid gophers running around attacking people. The gophers had dug a tunnel through an irrigation ditch that caused water to run underneath the highway. That, in turn, created a sinkhole. Apparently Sonia didn’t see the three-foot deep hole at 4 a.m. in the morning when she was driving to work at Dan’s Ferry Service to make donuts. She did not survive the crash.

Gophers can do serious damage when their burrows become erosion tunnels for water, especially in farmland irrigation ditches. And this time of year is when we begin to see them become active again.

“Already this year, it is apparent that gopher damage is on the rise,” said Matt Brechwald, owner of Idaho Gopher Control in Kuna. “I have been inundated with calls from heavy gopher damage, and breeding season has just begun. I have spoken with colleagues in the gopher-control business in Eastern Oregon who are seeing high densities of gophers.”

Gophers not only cause damage to farmer’s ditchbanks, but can be the bane of the home gardener when they kill trees and other vegetation by eating the roots.

While sitting with a rifle and a beer waiting for the gophers to show up might not be the most effective way of ridding gophers from the garden or farm, there are other methods available. Luckily, gophers are territorial, so unless you are dealing with a female and her pups, usually you will only be trying to kill one at a time.

Poisoning gophers works well but you might risk dogs, cats, other animals, and even potentially small children, eating the bait. Even after death, a gopher eaten by a bird or other animal can continue to poison.

Explosives, like in the movie Caddyshack, are not only dangerous, but may do more damage than the intended result. And if you remember the movie, the gopher got away.

Water is another method people have tried. Filling gopher tunnels with water may seem like a good idea but it may take a long time. Gophers can make tunnel systems up to 600 feet long. Filling a tunnel system like that could take over 30 gallons of water without factoring in absorption into the soil. And, gophers are pretty smart sealing off tunnels pretty quick. They also can jump out of their flooding holes and make a run for it so you better have a quick gopher-killing dog or fairly fast with a Samuraii sword. You also end up with a big muddy mess.

You can dig out a burrow but plan on spending several days with uncertain results. It also makes a huge mess.

You can buy gopher smoke bombs from nursery and farm supply stores but you have to find an active hole to drop the smoke bomb in to. Once all the holes are plugged, this method suffocates the gophers. Some say road flares work really well and put out a lot of smoke too. But, again, with smoke, a gopher’s keen sense of smell can detect smoke-out efforts and they can seal off a tunnel quickly from the bad air.

When you have a serious gopher problem, it might be time to call in the professional like Matt Brechwald. He is in the business of killing gophers all over the region. His method is similar to the smoke bomb, death by asphyxiation. He inserts a probe into a gopher’s burrow and pumps pressurized carbon monoxide at 110 psi. This floods the burrow with odorless gas quickly that puts the gophers to sleep and kills them. It’s perhaps the most humane method other than capturing them in no-kill traps and setting them free somewhere else.

I don’t recall if my grandpa and father ever got that gopher but they sure had a good time hanging out. It gave me an idea. Perhaps I might take my son out some day for a little bonding over a gopher hole myself. This time we’ll both have a beer.

Paydirt – A Gardener’s Column: Spring Cleanup

Kuna Melba News, April 17, 2013

There are those that clean up their garden in fall and there are those that do not. After a long hard summer of watering and weeding followed by a flurry of harvesting I’m one of those that does not clean up his garden. I let the whole dang thing sit and rot through the winter much to the chagrin of my neighbors. Already they look at me strangely for converting my entire front lawn to garden space. They often drive by slowly, as one drives by that strange old man’s house to wonder what the heck he is doing out there.

The garden, after a summer of growth begins to decay with the first frost in fall. My unharvested tomatoes become green balls of gooey goodness for the deer that make their way through the neighborhood late at night. My flower heads slowly crumble with each rain and snowstorm. My hops and grapes hold on to their flowers and fruit for as long as they can, turning brown and withered with each shorter day. Sometimes the grapes offer me a withered snack on the vine as late as December. There’s nothing like a cabernet raisin. In spring, when the snows melt deep within the shadowy corners of the yard, I see the harsh love that winter has brought to my urban oasis.

This past weekend I got out and pruned my fruit trees, saving the best flowering branches for a nice vase inside. I raked the leaves from my beds. I pulled the last of the dried up weeds from last summer and removed the tomato cages in preparation for next week’s rototilling marathon.

Some gardeners argue that by leaving my leaves, refuse, seed heads and a few late weeds around I’m encouraging pests and giving those pesky weeds a chance to spread their seed into the next generation.

I argue that the stuff I leave laying around also provides habitat for spiders that eat the pillbugs and earwigs, mice that snack on the grubs, frogs that eat just about everything. The frogs and mice attract the neighbor cats, which scare off the squirrels and birds that love to go after my fruit trees. If that fails, a glass of iced tea and a relaxing day on the porch with my super squirt gun takes care of the tree rats.

One thing I noticed this year was that the dandelions and mallow, with their deep taproots, emerged quickly underneath the refuse. Insulated with leftover leaves and plants, they were happy little beasts until I dug them all out, root and all.

Only the hardiest of root-based weeds are emerging this time of year anyway. Canada thistle, the bane of my yard’s existence, is a constant effort all year long. At this time of year I can easily spot it, tracking the deep root along where it puts up the rosettes of prickliness. I try to wait until they are big enough to not break the roots off but I conjure Sisyphus as I dig and dig but it keeps growing back.

Sisyphus’s twin brother, bindweed is much the same. I have one area of my yard that it seems to come back in every year. I’ve let that region of the garden starve for a whole year, no water, no attention, just scraped back down to the bare earth, and still, that darn bindweed will come back the next year. I know it will be a lifelong battle. I’ve thought of a concrete barrier but I’m afraid I’d eventually have a border edge of bindweed encircling it.

Although I’m generally an organic gardener, or as they called it in my grandfather’s day, a gardener, I have been known to use a bit of the stronger, modern chemical stuff to kill things, but only on those weeds that give me the most grief. And only then, I’ll use it on areas where I’m not going to be harvesting vegetables for a while. Sometimes you need a tank to kill a mouse.

This year, as I pulled back the layer of leaves, stems and the occasional dried out husk of a zucchini from my garden this spring, I leave a little bit of the slightly composted stuff behind. This, along with the results of my meager compost pile out back, I work back in to the soil giving it the much needed return of organic material last year’s plants pulled out of the earth. I’m also too cheap to spring for store bought compost year after year.

Will I have weeds? Sure. Will I have more bugs? Maybe. I also have a micro landscape to look out my front window on throughout the winter. Besides, my gnomes would be bored in a deserted, barren wasteland.

Mr. Newspaperman: A Couple of Questions

Kuna Melba News, April 10, 2013

The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
– Paul McCartney

Dear Mr. Newspaperman,
I recently heard that the Kuna Living Center was going to start treating and housing sex offenders. Could you look in to this?
–S.R., Kuna
Dear S.R.,
We did look in to this and the answer is NOT TRUE. After speaking with Scott Burpee, the CEO of Safe Haven Health Care, which took over ownership of the Kuna Living Center at the beginning of this year, he explained that it was only misinformation spread by an alleged disgruntled employee.
In a press release issued by Safe Haven Health Care on Tuesday, April 9, Scott Burpee said, “Kuna Living Center has been, and continues to be, home to elderly and disabled residents in the Kuna area. We have no intention of changing the mission of the Kuna Living Center. Rather, we look forward to offering exceptional services and are excited for all that lies ahead.”
“We believe it is important to point out that Safe Haven Health Care has a variety of facilities throughout the state of Idaho. Our continuum of care model is unique and allows us to serve a wide variety of residents. In addition to assisted living facilities, Safe Haven owns and operates behavioral and psychiatric facilities. But, these facilities should not be confused for each other.”
“We believe that every person deserves to live in a safe and secure environment,” said Burpee. “We are proud of the high staff to resident ratio in all of our facilities and always aim to provide expert care with great compassion.”

Dear Mr. Newspaperman,
I heard that El Gallo Giro owns El Tesoro. Is this true?
–A Kuna Teacher
Dear Kuna Teacher,
The long answer is, “NO.”
We spoke with the owner of El Gallo Giro and there is no connection between the two restaurants. There are no family relations, nor business connections between the two. This year El Gallo Giro will be celebrating their 15-year anniversary. We’ll be doing some stories about them later in the year. To learn about El Tesoro, see the article in last week’s Kuna Melba News. Copies are available in our office at 326 Avenue D in downtown Kuna.


In recent news, both Idaho Senators have signed their names to a letter that threatens filibustering of any gun control legislation. We want to know your thoughts. Go to our website and answer the following poll.

What do you think Congress should
do about gun control?

1. Congress should bring up the vote and enact stricter legislation managing firearms in America.

2. Congress should bring up the vote, but not pass stricter legislation managing firearms in America.

3. Congressmen should use any means necessary to avoid bringing up a vote on firearms control.

4. Congress should leave it up to the states.

5. Congress should avoid it altogether.

Visit to give your answer

Paydirt – A Gardener’s Column: The Frost Monster

Kuna Melba News, April 10, 2013

As my thumb turns a deeper shade of green this time of year I spend a lot of time in the nurseries scanning the seed racks and taking a look at what plant starts they have. I want to make sure I get the varieties I want before they are sold out. But that same eagerness too often makes me want to plant them early. Often much too early for my own good.
So over the years I’ve experimented with a few ways to get an early start on the garden and keep my plants from getting fried by the frost monster.
Naturally, anyone who is a hard-core gardener probably already has snow peas in the ground. For that matter, garlic should already be a couple inches tall because it was planted last fall. My green onions planted from seed last fall are already close to four inches tall. Starts or seeds for kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage and all the Brassica family should also be fine to put in the ground.
Other seeds can be planted early as well. A trick I learned from an old gardener was to take lettuce seeds and sprinkle them on the snow covering the garden in February. As snow melts and freezes, expanding and contracting the soil, the seeds find their own way down. Then, when nature decides they are good and ready, they’ll sprout and you will have the earliest lettuce of all your neighbors.
Other things I like to plant early are spinach, some types of Asian greens and beets. Carrots are also OK to plant a little early.
So what happens when the weatherman says to expect a light frost and your seedlings are up? Same thing you do in the fall. Take your plant blankets, plastic, or coverings and simply cover them up. Make sure to remove them in the morning or the Spring sun will bake your precious darlings.
For summer vegetables, I suggest waiting on squash, melons, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers and any of the larger vegetable items until after the average last frost date. You will notice a huge difference when you transplant them in to warm soil. I’ve found that planting them early gives very little boost to yields. I just wait.
Tomatoes are another beast altogether. I challenge myself every year to see how early I can get a ripe tomato from my vines. I get big transplants and plant them deep, as any stem under the ground will develop roots. And deep roots will help sustain my plants through the hot summer.
I used to put Walls-O-Water, a plant insulator available at local nurseries, around my tomatoes but have invested over the years in Aqua Domes. These are hard plastic shells that have a hollow wall filled with water. I used to find them at D&B Supply but they are also available on They cost more but are durable and well worth it. They heat up during the day, warming the soil and then at night it keeps the plant warm and protects it from frost. By mid May I usually have flowers on the toms and I’ve been known to snack on cherry tomatoes from my garden before the end of May.
A cheaper alternative to Walls-O-Water is to take five milk jugs. Fill four with water and place in a square pattern around the plant. Take the fifth one and cut the bottom out and remove the cap from the top. On cold nights, place the cut out one over the top of the plant. This acts as a frost protector while the gallon jugs surrounding the plant keep it nice and warm at night.
Mark Barnes is a former University of Idaho Extension Service Master Gardener.
If you have topics or suggestions about what to cover in this new column, please contact

Mr. Newspaperman: Name Confusion

Melba Kuna News, April 3, 2013

Dear Mr. Newspaperman,
I saw on your website ( that you are changing your name to Melba Kuna News?

Confused, Melba
Dear Name Confusion,
Last Monday, April 1, a writer named Fraut Stub we had recently hired went rouge. Tapping in to a complex network of underground Russian hackers, he managed to steal the administrator passwords to our website and post an article that was not authorized by the current and in-charge editor Mark Barnes
(Mr. Newspaperman).
This article appeared as breaking news only on our website in which full versions of every article that appears in the newspaper is available to subscribers.
Mr. Stub, claiming to be the new editor, announced in the post that the Kuna Melba News will be renamed the Melba Kuna News. This is incorrect. This newspaper will remain the Kuna Melba News.
There are several other items that Mr. Stub posted that are incorrect.
Our Chief Operating Officer is not April Furst. It is Cliff Wright.
Second, this company has no plans at the moment to expand to the Meridian or Eagle markets preferring to focus on the Kuna and Melba areas for the time being.
Mr. Stub has been temporarily suspended pending investigations in to his actions and will be reprimanded appropriately. Such punishments usually include a one-year hiatus from writing in the newspaper from the date of infraction.
We sincerely apologize for those that were duped by this rouge writer.

PayDirt – A Gardener’s Column: Planting Early

Kuna Melba News, April 3, 2013

It is always a gamble to put your plants in the ground too early in spring but taking certain precautions can pay off for a quicker harvest. Knowing when the average last freeze happens in your yard usually requires the services of an oracle, but we have some tips for you.
Although you might be eager to get an early start to your garden, tender plants can be damaged by a freeze, even a mild one. And when the weatherman says it will just get down in to the mid 30s, one still has to be careful or Jack Frost will make an early morning visit and wipe out lots of money you just spent on those expensive heirloom tomato plants.
There are four things you should consider when trying to up the schedule on your tomato or pepper plants. First, you need to know when to plant. Second, you should know where to plant in your yard. Third, you should know what plants you can get away with putting in early and, finally, how one should insulate those plants if you do plant them early.
So when should you plant? It really comes down to where you live. And, more specifically, what kind of microclimates you might have around your house. Those little nooks and corners of your yard can trap and keep just enough heat to keep a frost from settling down on your tomatoes. But by the time you figure out where those are, you are probably a gardener with enough experience to know when to plant.
Let’s look at the bigger picture for more novice gardeners. According to the USDA Gardening and Plant Hardiness Map for Idaho, Kuna’s last average frost date in spring is usually somewhere between May 21 and May 31. In the Melba area, which is a little lower in elevation, the last frost date is May 11-20. Be aware that in any given year you could have a last frost in early April, or even one as late as June. In 1978, the temperature in Kuna hit 31 degrees on May 25 and 30 degrees on May 31st. As recently as 2007, Kuna saw on May 28th a low temperature of 31 degrees. Melba, although usually warmer, has seen a freezing temperature in mid to late June. In 1995, the low temperature records were set for Melba on June 7 with a low of 29 degrees and just 13 days later it hit 32 degrees.
While these temperatures are barely below freezing, they can stunt the growth of hot weather plants such as peppers and severely damage newly sprouted seeds. The old wife’s tale of waiting until the snow is off the mountain, or after Mother’s Day works for some, but keeping an eye on the weather and planning ahead usually works better.
Next week, we’ll look at plants you can get away with planting early and how to get an early start to your garden. We’ll even give you some tips on how to protect those tender plants by using some simple materials around the house.

Mark Barnes is a former University of Idaho Extension Service Master Gardener.
If you have topics or suggestions about what to cover in this new column, please contact