Blog Posts

Return of the Demo Garden

Return of the Demo Garden

Years and years ago, before the Washoe County Cooperative Extension office moved from Mill Street to Energy Way, it featured a demonstration garden. The space was called the Cliff Fout’s Memorial Demonstration Garden, and it was planted and maintained each year by Master Gardener Volunteers. The garden was open to the public and served as a source of inspiration. From the garden, many pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables were harvested and donated to area food banks and other nonprofit organizations to help feed Reno’s hungry.

read more

Reno Blooms

Reno Blooms

Horticulture benefits everyone’s wealth and health where we live, work, shop and play, according to the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture.

Home landscape trees reduce heating and cooling costs. Office plants reduce employee sick time and increase productivity. Stores with landscapes have expanded sales and price premiums. And, horticulture-related tourist destinations and parks provide play opportunities while generating revenue for communities.

There are therapeutic benefits to gardening, and just being around green spaces and plants positively impacts people.

read more

How Does a Master Gardener’s Garden Grow?

How Does a Master Gardener’s Garden Grow?

Do you have a garden to brag about? Have you ever wondered how other high desert gardeners achieve such great gardens and landscapes? Let your landscape shine, and see behind the scenes of northern Nevada’s best gardens. Participate in the Master Gardener Garden Tour.

The tour is hosted by Rail City Garden Center. It is a fundraising event which supports University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Washoe County Master Gardener Volunteer Program. The tour is an important event for the program. Since the University does not have enough greenhouse space for Master Gardener Volunteers to grow plants to sell at their Master Gardener Plant Faire Extravaganza, the tour is now the program’s only fundraiser.

read more

2017 Northern Nevada Plant Sales

2017 Northern Nevada Plant Sales

I observe many northern Nevada gardening traditions. I plant peas on Saint Patrick’s Day, wait to plant tomatoes until the snow melts off of Peavine and attend Field Day faithfully each year. Another tradition for me has been the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Plant Faire Extravaganza. The sale yields quality plants at incredible prices. But, the sale has faded away as a tradition in the past few years.

This is because the Master Gardener Volunteer program does not have its own greenhouse. So, the program can only have its fundraising plant sale in years when they receive greenhouse space from University of Nevada, Reno. And, the University allots greenhouse space first for use by University faculty conducting research before for use by Master Gardener Volunteers. Since there was not room again this year for Master Gardeners to use University greenhouses, I am turning to other sources for plants. Luckily, there are many and they too support great local organizations.

read more

Create a Plan to Successfully Renovate Your Landscape

Create a Plan to Successfully Renovate Your Landscape

Spring is here, and it is calling homeowners to work in their gardens and landscapes. It is too early for some yardwork tasks like planting warm season crops. But for other outdoor chores, such as the renovation of an existing outdoor space, now is the perfect time to take action.

This is because successful landscape renovations begin with a carefully crafted plan, and there is time enough to plan landscape renovations before our unpredictable northern Nevada weather settles down enough to let us undertake them.

read more

My First Tomato Plant

My First Tomato Plant

In mid-May, the danger of frost will (mostly) pass here in the Truckee Meadows. It will be time to plant warm season crops, like tomato plants. And so, with this thought in mind, I want to tell you about my first tomato plant and the lessons it taught me.

My coworker Leslie gifted it to me. I think she had too many tomato plants. That tends to happen to gardeners. Our ability to purchase and germinate seeds far exceeds our available garden space to which we can transplant them. Or maybe, she suspected my diet lacked fresh fruits and vegetables, and she wanted to change that. Either way, I took the tomato plant home, and, lacking a garden, I put the tomato plant in what I thought was the best place I had for it– the living room.

read more

Three Things to Keep in Mind when Gardening with Kids

Three Things to Keep in Mind when Gardening with Kids

Gardening with children sounds a lot like herding cats. But, gardening with the family does have its benefits. 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. To take full advantage of the garden as an outdoor classroom family members of all ages, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. It doesn’t have to be perfect– 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. Your plants and your sanity may be trod upon by the pitter-patter of little feet. There is time enough to have a Better Homes and Garden yard after the children are grown and gone. Now, while they’re little, is the time to make memories, foster learning and build healthy habits in the garden. The next time you are tempted to yell “get out of the flower bed,” try to think “it doesn’t have to be perfect” instead.
  2. Instead of gardening around children, garden with them– The kids are going to be in the garden and landscape anyway. You might as well put them to work while they’re there. Or, at least turn them into garden allies that will be less likely to cause garden destruction since they too are invested in its success. To involve children in garden planning, offer kids aged five and younger two choices to grow from, and increase options as they age. Offer plants with larger seeds when they are younger and graduate to plants with smaller seeds as motor skills develop. Have them plant in their own growing space to instill a sense of ownership, responsibility and respect for the garden. A traditional 3 foot by 3 foot garden bed would also provide more than enough space for your child’s garden. It does not have to be fancy either. Great fun can be had in staking a hula hoop to the ground and planting in it like a pizza with “slices” for each type of plant. Plant options for touching and munching include sturdy plants like bush or pole beans, sunflowers and marigolds; sensory plants like begonias (rubbery) and peppers (smooth); and delicious plants like cherry tomatoes or snow peas.
  3. Creepy and crawly is more than OK, it’s awesomeMost 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. Each sighting is an opportunity, so grab a magnifying glass and make the best of an icky situation. Did you find an insect? Pretend to be an entomologist, or an insect scientist, and count to find out. See if you have three distinct body regions (head, thorax and abdomen), six legs, one pair of antennae and up to two pairs of wings. If the numbers do not add up, you could have another type of arthropod like a spider, scorpion, millipede or centipede and not an insect. Often youth will be fearless as they examine their creepy, crawly find. As adults, we may need a little reassurance. Know that there are over one million types of insects, and greater than 95% of them are beneficial or neutral. Less than 5% are harmful. Beneficial insects perform many essential tasks. They prey on pest insects, pollinate our fruits and vegetables and break down our waste and trash.

As you garden with children, remember they explore the world around them, including the garden, with all of their senses. Protect curious little gardeners; make sure prickly and poisonous plants are not incorporated into your landscape, and read and follow all label directions on fertilizing and pest-controlling products. Practice food safety principles at all times for safe and healthy harvests. If you have a compost pile, be sure to hot compost to discourage disease-harboring molds. And, leave meat, dairy, oils or other fats and pet or human waste out of the pile.

read more

Growing Health with Hospital Gardens

Growing Health with Hospital Gardens

Renown Health features lovely healing gardens, but it is not the only Reno, Nevada health facility to boast of beautiful grounds which promote patient healing. Saint Mary’s Center for Health and Fitness is a large, multi-story building located at 645 North Arlington Avenue in Reno, Nevada. It has an attached parking garage with free parking. If you so desire, street level paid and unpaid parking is available as is a valet service. I recommend the parking garage. This is because from the second floor of the parking garage, you can walk out into a beautiful outdoor garden.

read more

Healing Gardens in Reno, Nevada

Healing Gardens in Reno, Nevada

Today is the one year anniversary of my last chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I had a lot of help getting through my cancer treatment. One resource was Fianna’s Healing Garden at Renown Health. Its peaceful atmosphere is designed to promote healing and comfort in all who visit. The site is beautiful, with sculptures and art throughout. It is also useful. Some of the plants there are medicinal.

Renown Health has a second healing garden. It is for children. The John & Sue Dermody  Children’s Healing Garden integrates plants and play. The site includes play structures and art as well as places to sit and to picnic. It is connected to an indoor space for computing and reading. This garden is a sanctuary for children receiving treatment at Renown Health. The space is beloved by their parents too.

read more

The Therapeutic Benefits of Gardening

The Therapeutic Benefits of Gardening

Gardening is good for your health, according to the Centers for Disease Control, Cooperative Extension and Gardening Matters. One of the reasons why is that it counts as exercise. It increases breathing and heart rates as well as strengthens muscles. Loading and unloading wheelbarrows of mulch, compost, pavers and more results in huffing and puffing. Weeding garden areas also gets the blood pumping. Plus, lifting containerized plants sure works the muscles.

Moderate to heavy physical activities like gardening count towards the Center for Disease Control‘s recommendation to be active for 2.5 hours each week. And, people who garden for exercise are active longer than people who choose other physical activities for exercise. This is important because meeting the CDC’s activity goal can reduce health risks such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and more.

read more

Gardeners Wanted to Help Local At-Risk Youth

Gardeners Wanted to Help Local At-Risk Youth

The Eddy House is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization operating in downtown Reno, Nevada. It provides free programs and services for homeless, runaway, foster and at-risk youth in the Reno and Sparks area of northern Nevada. To fulfill its mission, The Eddy House partners with many other local agencies. In the past, The Eddy House worked with Urban Roots. Together, the two groups planted an edible garden behind The Eddy House, between the main house and outbuildings on the property which serve as a conference room, a chill zone and storage.

read more

Providing a Pollinator-Friendly Habitat

Providing a Pollinator-Friendly Habitat

Native pollinator in hand. Photo by Joy Newton, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

When most of us picture a pollinator, we picture a honeybee. But, honeybees are not the only pollinator out there. They are not our best pollinator, and they are not even native to North America. A more accurate pollinator picture includes native local bees, beneficial flies, moths, beetles, butterflies and even wasps. One third of our food supply depends on pollinators, but their numbers are declining. Gardeners can provide “sanctuary cities” for native pollinators, supporting and preserving them and our food supply. To do this, gardeners should dedicate patches of the landscape for pollinators to use as food and as habitat.

read more

Planting for Pollinators

Planting for Pollinators

Approximately 4,000 species of bees native to the United States have been identified and cataloged so far. Some are tiny, others large. They come in a wide variety of colors and build nests in many different ways. Most do not look like or act like the stereotypical honeybee. Because they do not appear how we expect them to, many native bees go about their lives without us even realizing they exist.

Some native bees are in trouble, though, and they need us to learn to recognize them and their needs. Several native Nevada bees are in decline, and gardeners can help by planting ornamental landscapes and edible gardens with native pollinators in mind. The native Nevada bees in trouble include:

read more

Growing Plants from Seeds

Growing Plants from Seeds

March 20 marks the beginning of spring. It is a tempting time for gardeners. We have been cooped up all winter, and we want to get our hands down into the soil just as our daffodils are peeking up through it. However, early spring is not the time to plant warm season crops outside. They can be started indoors, though.

Get started with seed selection. Grab seeds for crops your family will eat and your local food bank needs. Look for varieties that mature in 90-120 days. Also look at the date the seeds were packaged. Those put together for this growing season will have the best germination rates.

read more

An Early Spring Great Basin Gardening Tradition

An Early Spring Great Basin Gardening Tradition

In the Great Basin Desert, we plant peas on Saint Patrick’s Day. This is because the proper growing conditions for peas are met in mid-March, and linking that with a holiday makes it easier to remember. To keep the Great Basin gardening tradition for early spring, you too should plant peas and other cool season crops on March 17.

This gets peas into the ground about the time when soil temperatures reach 40 degrees Fahrenheit and before temperatures reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Peas grown in these cool soils taste sweeter.

read more

Seed Circles Save Time and Money

Seed Circles Save Time and Money

Math is not my best subject, but when I apply math to my favorite past-time, gardening, I am much more enthusiastic about arithmetic than I am otherwise.This is because seed circle swap and/or round robin seed swap math shows how swapping seeds saves money. And, saving money is something everyone can appreciate, even if they find numbers a bit less fun than plants.

To calculate your seed circle savings, first count how many fellow seed savers you have and how many varieties each of them are growing.Then, check out the price of seeds in your area. Finally, get out a calculator or a pencil and paper. It is time to total everything up.

read more

Starting a Seed Circle Swap

Starting a Seed Circle Swap

Seed circle swaps are an easy way to start a seed swap in a community that does not currently have one. Seed circle swaps are a great way to source seeds. They are different from traditional seed swaps because they don’t require a venue. They can be small in size, making them easy to manage by one person. They are different from round robin seed swaps because instead of receiving a box of random seeds, participants receive seeds they specifically requested.

To start a seed circle swap, form a dedicated group of any size. Get everyone’s contact information and their seed wish list. Compile the seed wishes and share them with the group. Ask for volunteers to grow varieties from the list. Ask who wants to receive seeds from each of the varieties grown. Fill requests according to who is growing. Don’t let people who are sitting out this season take seeds before people who are growing this season.

read more

Starting a Round Robin Seed Swap

Starting a Round Robin Seed Swap

If your community does not have a seed swap for you to source seeds, you can hold one of your own. Start with a small round robin or seed circle swap.

Participants in either round robin or seed circle swaps can be local. If they are, this will save money on shipping and ensure varieties in the swap are appropriate to grow in your area. Participants can be long distance as well, or a mix of local and long distance. Try to keep the swap domestic. It can be a challenge to send seeds overseas.

Get started with a round robin seed swap by collecting the names and contact information of those who will participate.  Draw up instructions to swap participants. Let them know that when they receive the box, they should both take seeds from and add seeds to it. Provide tips on which types of seeds to add (hybrid vs. heirloom). If you have distance-swappers, remind your participants to provide zone information with their added seeds and check zone information before taking seeds. Instruct them to send the box to the next participant on the list.

read more

Sourcing Seeds

Sourcing Seeds

A good place to source seeds is in your community. This is because people in your area know best what grows there. Ask friends and neighbors if they have seeds they can share with you. Also ask them to recommend you varieties to try and local garden centers, seed libraries or seed swaps where you can find them.

Bi-annual Seed Swap at the Chandler Sunset Library. Photo by Eileen M. Kane.

Seed swaps are events where people who have saved seeds from their gardens or who have excess purchased seed can trade seeds with each other. Knowledge, ideas and practices from different gardeners and their cultures are passed along too.

read more

The Pros and Cons of Heirloom or Heritage Seeds

The Pros and Cons of Heirloom or Heritage Seeds

There are a lot of words to describe seeds that are not hybrid seeds– heirloom, heritage, open-pollinated or standard. No matter which word is used, heirloom plants have been handed down for generations. Originally, seeds from heirloom varieties were saved for the next year because whoever grew them fancied one or two particular traits. This means that single plants of older heirlooms may not look completely like their decedents. Now heirloom varieties are relatively stable, even though heirloom plants of the same variety are not perfectly identical to each other.

read more