As we head into winter, garden master Jim Duthie has been highlighting some of the most popular topics that he’s shared with us on “You Can Grow It” during the past year.

Jim has more, from using baking soda in the garden to healthy aronia berries, and what to do with green tomatoes at the end of the season.

We are back with more of the best of “You Can Grow It” from this past season. Here’s a taste of the many fun and interesting topics we’ve covered this year, from simple gardening tips using household products, to a visit with the Treasure Valley’s best-known gardening expert.

Garden tips:

I’m always looking for ways to make gardening easier, and I’ve found a few more simple and fun ideas that will also save you a little money at the same time. Let me share them with you.

Here are some great garden uses for a very common household product --- baking soda.

You can encourage alkaline-loving flowering plants, like geraniums, begonias, and hydrangeas, to bloom more vigorously, by watering them with a mixture of two tablespoons of baking soda to a gallon of water.

Cut flowers will stay fresh and last longer if you add a teaspoon of baking soda to the water in the vase before putting the flowers in it.

Finally, you can do a simple test to check the pH level of your soil, whether it’s acidic or alkaline. Take two small samples of soil from your garden. Dampen the soil with a little water. On one sample, sprinkle a little baking soda. If it bubbles, then you’re soil is acidic, and you need to add more alkaline to raise the pH level. Add a little bit of vinegar to the other sample. If it bubbles, then you’re soil is alkaline.

Aronia berries:

Just outside of Middleton, Idaho, there’s a small farm that grows something that most of us have probably never even seen or heard of before. It’s a little purple berry called the aronia berry, and it’s starting to get noticed more because of its health benefits.

“Anywhere you would use a blueberry in your baking, you can use the aronia. They’re wonderful in smoothies, jellies, jams, syrup….”

Margaret’s garden:

Step into Margaret Lauterbach’s backyard and you’ll find yourself in a garden that would rival any supermarket produce section.

And for good reason – Margaret knows a thing or two about growing a garden in the Treasure Valley. In fact, she’s written two books on the subject.

“This is the fastest growing area in the country, and so many new people coming in from really, most probably from California… a lot of them are coming in from other parts of the country, and garden books are written for the rest of the country,” Margaret said.

So in her book, it’s all about the Treasure Valley and how to grow a successful garden here.

Tomatoes:

“It’s late enough in the fall now, we’re going to be seeing frost widespread just about any day. You may have a lot of green tomatoes left in your garden, in addition to the ones that are almost ripe. You might want to pick them now, before the frost hits, and we’ll show you what you can do with them.”

“I’ve tested all of the ways to ripen tomatoes, whether it’s in a bag with a banana, or in a bag with an apple. Just hanging in the garage on your husband’s golf clubs. I’ve done it all. And honestly, Jim, they all ripen about the same time,” said advanced master gardener Gretchen Anderson.

Fruit Field Day:

Nearly 100 different kinds of grapes; about 60 varieties of peaches and nectarines; close to 20 different kinds of apples and pears, and dozens of types of plums. Then there are the pluots, a cross between plums and apricots.

All this fruit was grown here at the University of Idaho Agricultural Research Center near Parma and put on display for the public to sample free of charge, while they learn about new advances in fruit growing.

I hope you’ve enjoyed watching "You Can Grow It" this season, and that you’ve learned a few things to make your gardening adventures fun and successful. Keep exercising your green thumb, so that next spring,

Once again, if you have some garden ideas or pictures that you’d like to share with Jim and other Idaho gardeners, email them to jim at jduthie@ktvb.com.