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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.