Nearly thirty local gardeners gathered in a Reno classroom Thursday night to learn from one of their own about growing heirloom garlic in the high desert. They were joined via interactive video by gardeners from around the state.

Their two-hour class presented information on soil preparation, garlic selection and proper planting, and it included taste tests. Various varieties of heirloom garlic prepared in many different ways were sampled alone and with breads and cheeses. The discussion of selecting heirloom garlic for flavor was important to local foodies.

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Northern Nevadans know they live in the high desert, but many are surprised to find they also live in a food desert. One way to find fresh, healthy food where it can be scarce is to grow it yourself. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Horticulture Specialist Heidi Kratsch says that is why her Grow Your Own, Nevada! program exists.

“Because people care about growing their own food here,– and Cooperative Extension is all based on the needs of the community– and the community has said loud and clear, ‘we need to know how to grow our own food here in Nevada,’ so that’s why we’re doing it,” said Kratsch.

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PUBLISHED IN THE RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL

When I step onto my back patio, I find strawberries, tomatoes and onions. I can see the nearest grocery store from my front porch. It is three blocks away. I have access to fresh, healthy foods, but not everyone does. According to the USDA, 40 of our state’s census tracts are food deserts. Within those tracts live nearly 200,000 Nevadans, most of them in urban areas.

The USDA defines food deserts as communities that are both low-income and low-access. Low-access urban areas are those where more than one third of residents live more than one mile from a supermarket. For rural areas, the distance increases to ten miles.

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PUBLISHED IN THE RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL

As a child, I squirreled away unpopped kernels from the bottom of a bag of microwave popcorn. I hid them in the pockets of my summer dress until I could plant them under the swing set. I hoped they would grow into a fairytale secret garden. They did not.

As an adult, I had another well-intentioned but failed garden experience. I was gifted my first vegetable plant. A reluctant and novice gardener then, I took the bit of unwanted greenery and placed it inside on a table near a window. Then I wondered why it did not grow even a solitary cherry tomato.

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PUBLISHED IN THE RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL

Spring is here! The sun is shining, skies are blue and plants are… sticky? One cause of sticky plants, especially sticky roses and fruit and ash trees, is a sweet substance known as honeydew. Honeydew is excreted by small, soft-bodied insects called aphids. Aphids may be winged or wingless, and they come in many colors, including pink, yellow, green, dark blue, gray and black. Many aphids overwinter as eggs. They hatch in spring and begin to give birth to live young in one to two weeks.

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PUBLISHED ONLINE AT RENOTAHOEYPN.COM

Top: YPN Annual Party photo booth picture and name badge. Bottom middle: Group YPN Annual Party “Network with purpose” scavenger hunt Instagram submission. Bottom left and right: Outstanding Senior Award.
Top: YPN Annual Party photo booth picture and name badge. Bottom middle: Group YPN Annual Party “Network with purpose” scavenger hunt Instagram submission. Bottom left and right: Outstanding Senior Award.

I never understood networking or sushi until I received a scholarship to Reno-Tahoe Young Professionals Network from United Federal Credit Union. The celebratory YPN/UFCU dinner at Hiroba Sushi taught me to be brave when meeting new people and trying new foods. With this lesson in hand, I had a blast at YPN’s Annual Party, something I could not have done before. And, when I was invited to the microphone to accept the Most Outstanding Senior Award from University of Nevada Reno’s College of Business, I knew I could do that too. No matter what life brings, YPN and UFCU have given me a tool to respond: the sushi rule. Go for it; it cannot be as scary as eating raw fish with strangers, and that turned out wonderfully!

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Although landscapes are snowy, walkways are icy and winter winds bite anyone who ventures outside now, spring is not far away. To help Nevada gardeners and landscapers grow great gardens and luscious landscapes this year, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and its partners will offer several educational programs. Classes are varied and range from free to low-cost, from focused on the home gardener to crafted for the industry professional and from locally-presented to broadcasted via videoconference statewide.

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PUBLISHED IN THE RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL

Items that attract, feed and house birds through the winter bring color and sound to the garden for your host to enjoy. Photo by Wendy Hanson Mazet.
Items that attract, feed and house birds through the winter bring color and sound to the garden for your host to enjoy. Photo by Wendy Hanson Mazet.

As we travel, visit and gather this holiday season, host gifts are great ways to show our love and appreciation for the family, friends and others who have invited us into their hearts and homes. We can bring a traditional bottle of wine, flowers in a simple vase or a home-baked or specialty food item for a host gift that never goes out of style. Or, when we know the host’s hobbies, we can tailor our tokens of thanks and make a lasting impression.

Personalized presents for plant-lovers include an herb basket or succulent terrarium, a holiday blooming plant or potted houseplant or a winter patio or garden accessory. These items can all be purchased at your favorite local garden shop for quick gifts on the go. If you have more time, you can customize or even hand-craft these gifts at home.

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Autumn is here, and harvest is well underway. It is time for fall yard maintenance tasks that yield healthy spring gardens and landscapes. Many “putting the garden to bed” chores come easily to mind: adjusting irrigation, removing debris, refreshing mulches, applying compost and protecting frost-sensitive plants. In addition to these quick-to-mind tasks, it is important to turn our efforts to turf too. While turf maintenance is frequently thought of as a spring and summer job, fall is the best time to aerate and fertilize lawns.

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PUBLISHED IN THE RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL

Gardens are where the miracles of fresh and healthy fruits and vegetables, experiencing nature, enjoying exercise, meaningful human connection, multi-generational life-long learning and beautifying and protecting the environment take place. In a world suffering from chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and obesity, gardens are places of healing, where the medicines of activity and nutrition are available. Gardens are where an outdoor classroom incorporates multiple academic disciplines such as literacy, mathematics and science to develop life skills, increase health and nutrition and change lives.

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Field Day Bioplastic Pots
Experts from Cooperative Extension, including bioplastic compostable plant container researchers and Master Gardener Volunteers, will be on-hand to answer your research, gardening and landscaping questions. Photos by Bill Kositzky.

My world revolves around northern Nevada gardening traditions. I plant peas (and other cool-season crops) on Saint Patrick’s Day, and you won’t catch me putting tomatoes into the ground before the snow melts off of Peavine Mountain. Another tradition I enjoy as a battle-born gardener is attending Field Day.

Field Day is a University of Nevada, Reno event held yearly in fall to highlight the latest scientific breakthroughs in agriculture, horticulture, nutrition, natural resources and the environment. The event is an offering of the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources; the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station; and University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, with support from the Nevada Agricultural Foundation and Truckee Meadows Water Authority.

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By Ashley Andrews and Heidi Kratsch

aquaponics bed
Image by Purdue University.

In recent years, the quest for sustainable food production unearthed a new way to grow edible crops. Those who use this new method reap crops that mature twice as fast and use less than one tenth of the water than those who sow using more traditional food production methods. And, this increasingly-popular technique is scalable—meaning it can be used at home to grow a countertop herb garden and it can be used on a large scale to produce fruits, vegetables and herbs for market. To a state suffering from prolonged and severe drought, the idea of gardening and farming on any scale with 90% less water sounds too good to be true, but it is not. There is a catch, however—fish!

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PUBLISHED IN THE RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL

One of my goals as a gardener is balance. I strive to balance my dream garden and the one I have time to plant and maintain. I seek harmony between what is beautiful in the landscape and what is functional there. I think every gardener shares the quest for balance. For example, a friend of mine holds a yearly argument with herself pitting her desire to grow every single variety of heirloom tomato versus her family’s capacity for tomato consumption. Nevada’s drought provides area gardeners with another balancing act to consider: the equilibrium between beautifying, enjoying and cooling our urban environment and responsible water use.

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By Ashley Andrews and Heidi Kratsch

Do you long for outdoor areas that are useful, beautiful and simple to maintain? Do you worry your desire for a lush landscape is incompatible with drought? If so, native plants might be the answer to your landscape concerns.

A water-efficient landscape has functional lawn areas that are irrigated properly and plants grouped and irrigated according to their water needs. Plants native to our region can help with landscape water conservation because they are adapted to our dry climate, and they can be watered less frequently than landscape plants native to wetter climates. The key is to plant them in an area irrigated separately from the lawn and to use drip irrigation to minimize water evaporation.

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Article by Lindsey Panton, sidebar by Ashley Andrews

Hardworking Flowers for Your Summer Garden

Most of us would like our gardens to be places to relax on summer evenings, places which welcome us home. Often, however, we find ourselves spending more time maintaining our gardens than relaxing in them. The good news is that there are plants that can help us. They perform month after month and ask little of us in return – they are simply hardworking flowers.

Hardworking flowers are easy to care for, bloom for a long time and have low susceptibility to disease and insect pests. They can take the heat and high winds that are common in our area and are rarely eaten by rodents. Here are some plants which will work hard in your northern Nevada garden. Most are perennials, have relatively low water requirements and grow best in sunny areas.

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Early spring is here. This is great news for gardeners who want to plant cool season crops. But for warm season crops, the passing of the equinox is a siren beckoning gardeners to plant outdoors too early. Those of us waiting to plant warm season crops can get a head start by starting them indoors from seed.

The process begins with seed selection. Browse your local garden shop for varieties that work well with our short growing season, maturing in 90-120 days depending on your location. Be sure to pick seeds that were packaged for this growing season. Plant what you and your family will eat, or if planting a row for the hungry, what the food bank needs.

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When we teach insect identification classes to green industry professionals and Master Gardener Volunteers, reactions vary. Just as many of our workshop participants are disgusted by insects as are fascinated by them. In contrast to this fifty-fifty split in adults, most young children are interested in creepy crawlies instead of repelled by them. Their ideas about insects have not yet been fully formed, and this is a good thing. An interest in insects can get children involved in the world of nature around them and the world of science.

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Peas for St. Patrick’s Day and Other Cool-Season Gardening Tips

Our mild winter has taunted northern Nevada gardeners for weeks, tempting us to work in the garden before we should. But Saint Patrick’s Day is here, and the long wait is over. It is time to plant cool season crops.

Great Basin tradition holds that gardeners should plant peas on Saint Patrick’s Day. The patron saint of Ireland used shamrocks to illustrate parables and grew a living tree from his walking stick, but the yearly ritual of planting peas on March 17 is not based on the cultural and spiritual history of the holiday. Instead, the link between Saint Patrick’s Day and peas is a simple one.

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Becoming a parent changes your whole world, and it changes your garden too. With little ones at home, it is a challenge to find time to work in the landscape. And, the landscape itself is different. Play houses and sandboxes encroach upon garden beds, and monster truck rallies and tea parties that occur with reckless abandon may damage garden plants. It can be frustrating to garden around children, so try gardening with them instead.

Make children a part of the planning, planting, maintaining and harvesting process to spend quality time with them and your garden simultaneously. The benefits are endless. Life skills such as responsibility, planning, communicating and problem-solving can be taught in the garden. This outdoor classroom also allows children to make scientific discoveries like how seeds sprout and plants grow; how soil, water and sunlight interact; how beneficial and pest insects impact the garden; and where our food comes from.  A love for gardening and the outdoors, as well as the values of patience and hard work, can be passed down from generation to generation in the garden.

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horiz.colorReady or not, 2015 is here. It is time to form plant-related New Years’ resolutions. There are many sources of inspiration out there, and it is easy to get overwhelmed. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension can help. We are offering programs this spring to give home gardeners and industry professionals a head start in achieving garden and landscape success this year.

Learning opportunities begin with a trade show and conference by the Nevada Landscape Association in collaboration with Cooperative Extension, Nevada Department of Agriculture and the Reno Urban Forestry Coalition. On February 3 and 4, industry professionals will receive turf and irrigation, arboriculture, hardscape and pesticide education in the “Looking Ahead—Seeing Green” event held at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. The cost is $85 for NLA members, $95 for non-members and discounts for multiple registrations are available. For information, visit nlaconference.eventbrite.com.

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