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Sue Gooch

Sue Gooch has hosted "Prairie Yard and Garden" since 1993. The show was first produced in 1987.

Helping plants grow and gardens flourish

UMM TV show, "Prairie Yard and Garden," in its 19th season

By Theresa Novak

March 15, 2006

As a child, Sue Gooch's enthusiasm for gardening wasn't always apparent. She viewed gardening "as a chore." As she grew older, she learned to appreciate it. Now, Gooch is a University of Minnesota Extension Service master gardener who plans and writes her own scripts for "Prairie Yard and Garden," the popular show produced by Media Services at the University of Minnesota, Morris (UMM, and watched by thousands of viewers on Pioneer Public Television.

As host of "Prairie Yard and Garden," Gooch presents a variety of gardening topics, applies practical techniques, and gives tips to help plants grow in the Upper Midwest. Gooch served as an adviser for the show up until 1993, when producer Roger Boleman approached her to take the lead role.

"I was scared stiff," says Gooch, who had moved from California to Minnesota with husband Van, a biology professor at UMM. "It was something I had never done. I had no experience in journalism, no training in media work, nothing." Nevertheless, Gooch took the position and is now in her 13th year as the host.

Since 1999, "Prairie Yard and Garden" has been ranked the sixth most popular program on Pioneer Public Television out of its 200 regular scheduled programs. Gooch believes that people like the show "because [we offer research-based information] specific to this growing region [and] it's locally-produced television." The show also draws viewers "who no longer wish to garden, but enjoy watching it," she adds.

Behind the camera Boleman, who is also director of UMM's media services department, works closely with Gooch and production coordinator Mike Cihak to produce, edit, and air the show.

Boleman attended the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, for his undergraduate degree in communications and master's in liberal studies. Cihak holds a bachelor's degree in mass communications from Minnesota State University-Moorhead and is working on his master's degree in education with a concentration in education technology at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.

PYG 2006 season

Thursday, March 16
"Dividing Perennials"--Mary Meyer, U associate professor of horticultural science, gets her hands dirty as she demonstrates and discusses the fine points of dividing perennials with host Sue Gooch.

Thursday, March 23
"Fall Clean-up: Putting the Garden to Bed"--Master gardener Randee Hokanson and Gooch will share tips and strategies for closing up the gardening season.

Thursday, March 30
"New Ideas in Turf Management"--Bob Mugaas, University of Minnesota Extension horticulturist, gives Gooch a tour of the turf trials at UMORE Park in Rosemount, Minnesota.

Both Boleman and Cihak agree on the show's statistics: "Prairie Yard and Garden" ranks in the top five of this type of show, and at any one time, may be viewed by as many as 600,000 people nationwide through PBS or 100,000 people in the Pioneer Public Television broadcasting area alone. The show is broadcast Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. throughout the upper Midwest--Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Iowa, and the upper provinces of Canada.

Boleman, like Gooch, says the program is popular because, "it gives gardeners accurate information about what works in our area."

Until three years ago, the show was recorded live from the UMM studio. Now Boleman, Cihak, and Gooch take the show on location to gardens and horticulture specialists, and then bring the footage back to the UMM studio for editing. Three hours worth of shooting produces about 28 minutes of actual programming after the editing process is finished.

"Every minute edited is about an hour of work," says Cihak. "So we spend about 28 hours on every show we air."

But it's all worth it. The show has even made gardeners out of those behind the camera.

"'Prairie Yard and Garden' has increased my appreciation of the variety of plants you can use in the home landscape," says Boleman. "It is science-based information about taking care of plants. Before I started this show, I was not much of a gardener. Now my wife and I are quite extensive gardeners."

Cihak adds that gardening is appealing because "anyone can do it, young or old. It makes [people] feel good [and it gets them] outside."

For more information about the show, including channel listings, see "Prairie Yard and Garden."