End of the Trail - August 4, 2021
Jeff Schalau, Agent, Agriculture & Natural Resources
University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Yavapai County


My retirement date as Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent with the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Yavapai County is July 31, 2021 and this is my last installment of the Backyard Gardener. I have been writing this weekly gardening column since April 1998 Ė a little over 24 years. Prior to that, my predecessor, Deborah Young, authored the column. It has appeared in the Sedona Red Rock News, Camp Verde Journal, and Cottonwood Journal Extra since I started. The Prescott Courier began running it in early 2019. It has been an excellent way to focus on timely topics and provide science-based information to the public.

The Backyard Gardener started as a 700-800 word newspaper column that focused on horticulture and north central Arizonaís environment. As a new Extension Agent, I thought it may have been helpful to archive the columns on a webpage. So, in 2001 I learned how to use HTML (the most basic way to create web pages at the time) and created the Backyard Gardener website (https://cals.arizona.edu/yavapai/anr/hort/byg/). The website has not changed in appearance over that time. For that reason, it may appear somewhat antiquated. In time, I learned that including graphics, photographs, and links with my web-based columns increased prominence in search engine results. The Backyard Gardener website gets worldwide visitation and has averaged 260,000 pageviews/year between 2001 and 2020.

The Backyard Gardener has also supported my academic career and increased Cooperative Extensionís media presence via Twitter and Facebook. In 2019, I was invited to post my weekly installments to the national Extension Master Gardener Facebook Page. My duties as an Extension Agent required that I write and contribute scholarly works for the public good. While not peer-reviewed, the Backyard Gardener has provided a solid venue for public outreach and has benefitted me academically as I attained promotion and tenure in my appointment at the University of Arizona.

I was recently awarded Emeritus status with the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. This means I can continue to represent the University and its mission during my retirement as a volunteer. Some projects Iíve identified include assisting Master Gardener volunteers in meeting community needs; researching and presenting information on historic Yavapai County agriculture; monitoring rangelands; fostering support for new Cooperative Extension facilities in Yavapai County; and working to reorganize the archived Backyard Gardener columns into an accessible and easy-to-use format that will minimize duplication of information and contain the most current content. Meanwhile, the Backyard Gardener website will remain available.

Over the last 24 years, the Backyard Gardener has contained many locally-relevant topics. This included most of the insect, disease, weed, and vertebrate pests we see in crops or landscapes in the region. There were discussions of pesticides and their safe use in addition to cultural, mechanical, biological, and least-toxic pest management practices. Native plants, animals, and insects were also described, and their virtues promoted. Being a vegetable gardener, I shared tips for season extension, soil amendment, soil testing, cover cropping practices, growing transplants, season extension, and more. Maintaining healthy plants brought in topics like irrigation, fertilization, pruning, I also tried to increase science literacy by covering topics like organic material decomposition, photosynthesis, seed germination, transgenic technology, and other complex processes. Other far-flung topics included, power tools, garden hoses, firewood, indoor pests, and even garden gnomes.

So, you may wonder what is next for me personally? I want to expand my vegetable growing area and fortify my garden fences. Iím planning on getting a gas welder for building the fences. I also want to harvest more rainwater and create a perennial growing area for blackberries, asparagus, rhubarb, and other crops. I have been an amateur musician most of my life and look forward to spending more time improving my fiddle, banjo, and jazz guitar chops. I am also putting together an off-grid camper van my wife and I can use when travelling and attending bluegrass festivals.

My career as an Extension Agent has been extremely rewarding and I feel Iíve contributed to my fields of interest. Now, I look forward to supporting a few selected Cooperative Extension activities and also having time to indulge my personal interests. I look forward to seeing my friends along the way!

You can follow the Backyard Gardener on Twitter Ė use the link on the BYG website. If you have other gardening questions, email the Master Gardener Help Desk in Prescott (prescottmg@gmail.com) or Camp Verde (verdevalleymg@gmail.com) and be sure to include your name, location, and phone number. Find past Backyard Gardener columns or provide feedback at the Backyard Gardener web site: https://cals.arizona.edu/yavapai/anr/hort/byg/.

Images

A peaceful afternoon of music making among friends at Bluegrass on the Beach, Lake Havasu State Park, March 2020. That's me with the banjo!

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Arizona Cooperative Extension
Yavapai County
840 Rodeo Dr. #C
Prescott, AZ 86305
(928) 445-6590
Last Updated: July 29, 2021
Content Questions/Comments: jschalau@ag.arizona.edu
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