Winter Is Coming and a Hoop House Would Help

When the forecast calls for frost, I do not cover my plants with sheets or blankets. I keep the cloth for myself and shout into the cold garden from my warm home, “It’s Nevada, plants, we’re the Battle-Born state for a reason!”

A warm house of their own, like a hoop house, would help my plants survive northern Nevada’s early and late-season frosts. A hoop house, sometimes called a crop or high tunnel, is like a plastic greenhouse. It is unheated and less durable than a greenhouse, but less expensive too. Like greenhouses, hoop houses help people control the growing environment their plants experience. read more

Mow This Way for a Healthy, Attractive and Hardworking Lawn

Turfgrass does more than lay there. It works hard to improve water, air and soil quality.

Lawns help water quality by preventing erosion, filtering runoff and helping the soil absorb water. Turf traps dust and produces oxygen. This helps air quality. Grass adds organic matter to the soil as it sheds plant parts during its lifecycle. And, adding organic matter is one of the best ways to improve soil quality.

Turfgrass also reduces air temperatures. As water is lost from the plant due to heat or its own natural processes, surrounding temperatures drop by up to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes your yard a cool place to be on hot summer days and reduces home air conditioning costs. read more

It’s Summertime in the Garden, and Plants Are… Sticky?

During the growing season, cases of stickiness occur in the garden and landscape. Sticky fingers hold melting Popsicles, and sticky faces press into watermelon slices. Sometimes plants get sticky too. In all cases, a quick spray with the garden hose does the trick.

But why do plants get sticky? One cause is aphids.

There are many species of aphids, so the small, soft-bodied insects come in many sizes, shapes and colors. Some are green; others are pink, red, yellow, dark blue, brown, gray or black. Some have wings, others do not. read more

Honoring Fallen Soldiers in the Garden

Memorial Day honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. It was first established after the American Civil War as Decoration Day, and it was extended after World War I. Now the national holiday commemorates U.S. Service Members who died in all wars and includes a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time.

Observe the day in your yard. If your landscape incorporates a flagpole, properly display the American flag for Memorial Day. At sunrise, briskly run the flag to the top of the staff and lower it slowly to half-staff. At noon, briskly run the flag back to the top of the staff until sunset. read more

Community Gardening Makes Reno Bloom

Backyard gardeners enjoy many benefits in return for their labor. For example, research shows urban adults who garden eat fruits and vegetables nearly 5 times per day. People who do not garden do so about 4 times per day. And, 37 percent of home gardeners meet national recommendations to eat produce at least five times per day compared to 25 percent of non-gardeners.

While gardening at home is good for your diet, gardening in a community setting can be even better for you. Community gardeners consume fruits and vegetables about six times per day, and 56 percent meet those same national recommendations for daily fruit and veggie consumption. read more

Learn about the Birds and the Bees to Boost Garden Yields


Each spring, plants appear in my office. They are from co-workers, Master Gardeners or clients whose seed-starting ambitions exceeded their garden size. The first time this happened, I was not ready.

I placed the tomato plant in my living room, under the window with the best light. It grew big and strong but did not produce a single tomato! Learn from my mistake, and study up on the birds and the bees if you are caring for a vegetable garden, big or small, this year. read more

Landscape design principles build four seasons of interest


Article by Ashley Andrews

In winter, gardens more resemble a blank canvas than they do at any other time of year. Not yet in full glory are the warm colors of the yard– the reds, oranges and yellows which seem to bring the view closer to the viewer. Also not yet maximized are the cool colors, the purples and greens, which give the illusion of depth to small spaces. In this less distracting view, a landscape’s design can be evaluated, appreciated and recrafted. read more

Uncover Holiday Houseplant Secrets with Botany


Plants keep secrets, and holiday houseplants are no exceptions. Take the beautiful red flowers of the poinsettia plant, for example. Those are not flowers at all. And mistletoe? It takes advantage of others. Christmas cactus have a little something in common with mistletoe. Plus these plants often live under assumed names. Uncovering these and other plant mysteries is possible, with just a little bit of botany.

Poinsettias were used in dye making. The plant parts used to create reddish dye are often called flowers. But, the botanical secret of poinsettias is these plant parts are not flowers at all. They are bracts, or modified leaves. read more

School Gardens Grow Healthy Active Students

Cutting lovage down in fall can be a fun school garden chore for adults and children alike. Photo by Ashley Andrews.
Cutting lovage down in fall can be a fun school garden chore for adults and children alike. Photo by Ashley Andrews.


Lovage is an herb. It can grow 6 feet tall, at least. When it does, someone has to cut down its collapsed stems in late-fall. This year in the Mariposa Academy school garden, that someone was Pamela Van Hoozer, a certified master gardener volunteer with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She had help, though.

Alejandro, a 5-year-old prekindergarten student was her garden shadow that day. She put him to work. They talked about lovage as they labored. They built finger claws and swords out of the herb’s trimmings. read more

Winter Reading Grows Healthy Soils, Plants and Minds

Here are just a few examples of gardening books you can curl up with this winter. Photo by Ashley Andrews.


Gardeners collect. We collect seeds and seed catalogs, gloves, aprons and tools. We collect plants, and we collect books too. Here are a few gardening books that adorn the shelves of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension staff and volunteer spaces. These books, and others, help us to grow healthy soils, plants and minds. They can help you too.

A good book to get started with as a new gardener is the Sunset Western Garden Book edited by Kathleen Norris Brenzel. We have many different editions and variations of this title in the office and use them all. Another good book to begin with is Accessible Gardening for People with Physical Disabilities: A Guide to Methods, Tools, and Plants by Janeen R. Adil. This text will help you get your garden off of the ground throughout all stages and phases of life and ensure family and friends will feel right at home on your grounds as well. read more

Fresh-Cut Christmas Trees Create Memories, Improve Forest Health


Cutting a fresh Christmas tree is an incredible experience. It fosters a love of the outdoors. It strengthens the relationships among those on the outing, and it creates memories that last for years to come. To ensure the experience and the memories it fosters are as picture-perfect as possible, cut your holiday tree responsibly.

The first step in responsibly taking a Christmas tree is to purchase a permit. A permit allows tree-seekers to thin selected overstocked areas, improving forest health. Permitted cutting helps manage ladder fuels and reduce wildfire danger. Several local agencies offer Christmas tree permits. read more

Turn Golden Fall Leaves into Garden Gold with Composting


Fall garden clean-up is underway, but before you kick yard waste to the curb, consider composting. Composting breaks down living matter under controlled conditions. When the process is complete, compost can be added to garden soil. Soil amended with composted organic matter holds water and nutrients better. This helps your plants.

When cleaning up your yard this fall, consider composting carbon-rich leaves instead of throwing them out. Photo by Wendy Hanson Mazet.
When cleaning up your yard this fall, consider composting carbon-rich leaves instead of throwing them out. Photo by Wendy Hanson Mazet.

Interested? Try hot composting. It’s efficient and safe. Its high temperatures speed up life cycles of compost decomposers, converting compost to soil more quickly. The process also discourages disease-harboring molds. read more

Nevada Gardeners Tame Desert, Grow Beauty and Delight


More than 170 years ago, a woman named Gertrude Jeckyll was born in Mayfair, London. Eighty-nine years later, she died. Gertrude filled the years in between to the brim. She created a line of flower vases, and she documented fading facets of 19th century life. Gertrude published more than 300 photos. She wrote more than 15 books and 1,000 articles. Gertrude was a painter.

She also created more than 400 gardens. Most of Gertrude’s gardens were in Europe; a few were in North America. She was among the first in her field to consider the color, texture and experience of gardens in her designs. read more

Teaching How to Grow Healthy Food in Reno’s Food Desert


Northern Nevadans live in the high desert and a food desert. In many parts of Reno and Sparks, it is much easier to find drugs and alcohol than healthy fruits and vegetables. As Ashley Andrews reports for Our Town Reno with archive photos by Master Gardener Volunteers Shelley DeDauw and Bill Kositzky, one way to have access to fresh, healthy food is to grow it yourself. In this report, Andrews showcases two University of Nevada Cooperative Extension programs. Grow Your Own, Nevada! offers classes about sustainable, local ways to grow and preserve healthy food. Grow Yourself Healthy works with Mariposa Academy in Reno to teach students  to grow, harvest and enjoy healthy foods. read more

Experience Field Day


For botanists, a stem is a plant part. It provides structural support for buds and leaves, and it transports water, minerals and sugars. Plant stems can be long or short. They can be aboveground or below. But for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s 4-H After School club, STEM takes on a whole new meaning.

It refers to science, technology, engineering and math, and After School club members will show us what it is all about. They will lead a hands-on STEM demonstration constructing mini lava lamps to take home. The activity is for all ages. It will take place at Nevada Field Day, held 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 24 at 5895 Clean Water Way in Reno. read more

Garlic Growers Find Flavors, Friendship

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. read more

Finding Food in the Desert

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. read more

Good Food Can Be Hard to Find


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. read more

Food Safety in the Edible Garden


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. read more

Plants Getting Sticky?


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. read more