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Washoe Valley Gardening Tips


Garden Notes for June
Tomato Questions and answers for Marnie’s next segment on Channel 4.

Attack of the Bur Buttercup
Spring Gardening in Washoe Valley
Warm Spell Fools Plants
What Are Those Weeds?

See our special page "What Are Those Weeds? ...and what to do about them"


Garden Notes for June
by Marnie Brennan

May 30, 2006
We finally have hot weather on its way, and it is now time to get veggies and annuals planted in our gardens. I did a class on weeding 2 weeks ago and I hope that it helped those who attended. As I mentioned living our open area and enjoying like I do I know that weeding will always be a task that I will have to keep up on. It is planning and hard work that will keep your weeds under control. We will always have them it is just a matter of control.
Again, I feel that planting anything that you want can work. As I have said on T.V. and radio with our unique weather situation we have to be aware of weather. That includes the heat wave that we will be experiencing very soon.
One of the best things for our annuals and perennials is to feed them and water regularly. If you have a drip set up, great. But, during those hot weeks intermediate watering by hand is recommended for good healthy flowers.
If you have any specific questions that you may need help with send me an email at:

Enjoy your gardening
Marnie Brennan

May 25, 2006

Tomato Questions and answers for Marnie’s next segment on Channel 4.

What is the difference between the heirloom tomatoes and the other varieties?
Heirloom tomatoes are generally considered to be a variety that has been passed down through several generations of a family because of its valued characteristics, like taste or texture.
Something to keep in mind is that that heirloom tomatoes can be a bit harder to grow because they are more susceptible to disease and pests. Varieties that are offered at your local nursery have been grown and developed to handle the different and sometimes difficult growing conditions we plant tomatoes in. All tomatoes grown and ripened on the vine will have great flavor.

Where is the best place to plant tomatoes, and will I need to do anything special to the soil?
Tomatoes are heavier feeders, like all veggies are. It would be best to add a good organic soil amendment to your planting area. Whether you feed organically or foliar feeding follows the directions on the package.
Shade in the afternoon is best for tomatoes; they do best with high temps at 85 to 90 degrees.

What are the important watering issues for tomatoes?
This is a great question and a very important one. It is recommended that we try to water deeply as often as needed. Some areas may require daily, some areas less often. It is also recommended to water after the sun goes down. Watering is also the cause for split tomatoes, if you find you tomatoes drooping between your watering schedules only give enough to water to get the soil moist. We they are in need of water the fruit will shrink, if to much water is given the plant will uptake it quickly causing the fruit to split.

Why do my blooms fall off?
There are a couple of reasons why this happens. Weather is a major cause, again with the temps over 100 degrees the blooms won’t pollinate and simply drop off. The other problem they suffer from is blossom end rot. This is caused from a lack of calcium.
If you do have one of these problems, not to worry, local nurseries carry a product called Blossom Set that you can spray on and your plant will set new blooms, it is called Blossom Set and gives the tomatoes the calcium the need to re-bloom.




Attack of the Bur Buttercup!
by the editor, May 4, 2006

    This seems to be the big weed this year in East Washoe Valley. It is not an official "noxious weed" but it certainly is an "Obnoxious weed"! When the burs dry out they stick in the pads of your dogs feet and pretty much cause a lot of misery until you pull them out during which they will painfully stick your fingers. After fetching on the shoulder of the street, our dog will put on her most sad expression and refuse to walk until we check every paw and pull them out. To have them all over our yard this year is a frightening thought.

I contacted the folks at the UNR Cooperative Extension office and here is our conversation and information on bur buttercup:

Cooperative Extension:

At this stage of weed development, which is the bur, you have few options. Hand pull, hoe, or lightly disc, then rake up the plant remains. Careful not to dislodge any burs, which contain seeds for next years crop. Solarizing the soil may also help with next years seed crop.  You must remove plants in the area first, then till the area, then wet the area uniformly to a depth of 4 to 6  inches. Cover this area with clear plastic, not black, and leave the plastic on for at least 8 weeks. Rewet the area as it dries.  The heat which builds beneath the plastic will "cook" the seeds and also any disease pathogens. Next, attempt to get other desirable plants established. Do not retill or rework the soil as you will bring new seeds to the soil surface, thus getting weeds all over again.

Herbicides will be a waste of time and money at this stage, as the plant is an annual and once it bears flowers and seeds it is done for the season.
Preemergent herbicides applied next fall may also offer control as a preventative. Apply in late Oct. and incorporate into the soil, by water or raking- listed on label.

The prescription sounds daunting for those of us with 1/2 acre covered (and no tractor) and the other 1/2 sparsely populated. I have noticed on our undeveloped 1/2 acre where it was once a horse pasture then denuded by the well company that there are successive dominant populuations of weeds. I've kicked out all the tumbleweed, but two years ago it was the fiddleneck, last year it was flox (which was great) and this year it is bur buttercup.

Why do certain weeds dominate in a certain year? Will it be something else next year?

I would like to ultimately plant native grasses etc. but am stymied about how to get off this weed merry-go-round. If I use your advice on the clear plastic, can I do manageable sections at a time throughout the summer and go along behind and plant  the desirable grasses, etc throughout the summer?

Cooperative Extension:

I suppose that you could alternate the clear plastic routine with planting seed after the 8 week period.  But, planting with seed will require some kind of irrigation to maintain soil moisture to allow the seed to germinate.  When plants are seedlings, they will be prone to drying out in the heat of the summer. The best opportunity for success in planting grass from seed for erosion, weed control, or as pasture is in the fall. Late Sept. to Oct. right before the fall rains and snows.  The ground in nice and warm and temperatures are moderate and conducive to good germination. Once grass pastures are established, then one can use selective herbicides to control  most broad leaf weeds. Yes, each year depending on precipitation and temperature fluctuations will cause different weeds to germinate and prosper. Spring weeds common to area are of course the bur buttercup and the various species of mustards! I have the blue mustard in my landscape!  And of course puncturevine, field bindweed, and Russian thistle.  I have a handle on the other thistles like musk.

So, it looks like we have to dig them out as best we can, bag them and get rid of the seed-carrying burs. Then work on rehabilitating the area in the fall. Look for an article on what seeds to use and where to get them later.

If you have other bothersome weeds and want to know what they are and what to do about them, write us!


Spring Gardening in Washoe Valley
by Marnie Brennan, local nursery professional
March 27, 2006

It is once again spring, and our yards and gardens are waking up from what seemed to be a very long winter. It is important that we consider a few things that will ensure healthy and productive plants, shrubs and trees. First, is the weather, it is important to keep watch as the flowering trees and shrubs start to show the color we have been waiting to see. If you have fruit trees the unique weather that we have learned to appreciate can play havoc with fruit production.

General Yard Cleanup: It is time to get debris cleaned out, as this is the place that insects like to live and breed. This is a good time to cut back last year’s growth on perennials and some shrubs making way for new growth. I would not recommend to prune shrubs which are going to set blooms soon, like lilacs and flowering almonds. But we can get ready to prune roses; lets do that first of April. Then there are those always-persistent weeds; Washoe Valley has its fair share and then some. I use a pre emergent in the early spring for a good start to weed control the key word is control.

Tree care: This is a great time to apply doormat oil sprays (also called horticultural oil) to help with the infestation of aphids and other insects. These products are great because they are a natural substitute for traditional insecticides. Oils have different effects on pest insects. The most important is that they block the air holes through which insects breathe, causing then to die from asphyxiation. In some cases, oils may act as poisons, interacting with the fatty acids of the insect and interfering with normal metabolism.
As far as pruning trees it truly depends on the age and species of the tree. This time of the year pruning should be only done to limbs that may have been damaged during the winter.
If you have not fed your trees in the past six months then it would be a good time to apply fertilizer, and there are a couple of different ways to do so, stakes or liquid. Both will get nutrients to the roots and that is what is important. It is advised to fertilizer fruit and flowering trees and shrubs before the flowers open, while they are in the budding stage.

Planting new plants, bulbs and shrubs: Spring is a great time to plant, and there are so many things that can be planted safely if you keep a couple of things in mind. First, plant when the ground is not frozen and when the temperature is 40 degrees or warmer. Get the plant in and watered before the weather cools to prevent if from freezing. Pick product that is still in its dormant stage they won’t go into any stress as they are just growing roots, amend you soil and loosen the roots and water in. After the weather settles then a fertilizer program should be established.
Spring is also the time to plant those wonderful bulbs, like lilies, Gladiolus, Peony’s, Corcosmia and Dahlias. These will come up in July and bloom in August through September. I really stress to my fellow gardeners that planting these 2 to 3 inches deeper than the package direction will only help with the wind, and keep them warmer in our dry cold months of winter. This will let you leave them in the ground rather than removing and replanting each season. Please keep in mind that these blooms beauties will need food. So regular fertilizer and bone meal should be part of your maintenance plan.

Warm Spell Fools Plants
by Marnie Brennan, local nursery
Feb. 15, 2006

The bulbs are breaking dormancy, and I am ready for spring, but it is still winter. The past week of great weather has made gardeners and plants ready for spring. It is a bit early. With the unique weather we get here in the valley it is a good idea to walk your yard and see what may be popping out, and what may need some extra care. The bulbs that have emerged are going to be okay with the weather that is coming. They have not sent up buds, so the cold, wind and a possible snow storm will not hurt their ability to bloom.  I am concerned with my Aristocrat Pear that has swollen buds ready to bloom. Last check they have not been opening and I feel okay letting nature take its course.
If you have not watered it would be a great time to check your plants. If the ground is dry 6 to 8 inches below the top you may want to hydrate when the weather permits. The next few days look like a lot of wind and cold temperatures and with new growth water is important.

Q. When is it time to fertilizer my trees and shrubs?

A. We recommend that we fertilizer before the buds "crack". You will see the buds start to swell up, then they crack. Applying food before they open will benefit the plant as they will use the food to either strengthen  bloom production, leaf production and most importantly root production
Q. When do I prune my perennials?
A. I like to wait until the middle of March generally. With this warm weather pattern and the moisture we have received we will start to see new growth coming out. If you need to get in the garden as I do, then clean off the dried foliage, but be prepared for more cold weather. Most of the hardy perennials can handle a day or two of cold rain and snow, but the tender ones will need some cover if the weather gets bad. I would not recommend fertilizer until middle March or later. We don't want to espier any flowers until it is a better time.

Please let me know if you have any questions by sending an email to:

What Are Those Weeds?
by the editor, Jan 08, 2006

The UNR Cooperative Extension has a great website with lots of information regarding living in Northern Nevada. I am always wondering what those weird weeds are in our yard and what to do about them. About half our acre is natural, or should I say, unnaturally natural as between the previous owners livestock and the well drilling trucks there is not much natural vegetation and a lot of opportunistic weeds.

I've pretty much eliminated the big, bad tumbleweed from the yard by kicking every single one out with my boot when small over the last couple of years. Last year we had an invasion of "fiddleneck" which took over all the natural area and luckily didn't return this year. What wasn't fiddleneck was Tumble Mustard, that tree-like weed with the long, branching stems and little yellow flowers. These turn to a spray of light, dry branches that blow around in the fall.

On the other hand, there has been a nice low growing ground cover with pretty, purple-blue flowers that would be great if it took over the yard. This is more a wildflower than a weed (what's the difference?). Since I have been watering these and kicking out obvious weeds these guys have really spread last year. They dried out in the summer heat though, and it will be interesting to see if they come back.

So back to the UNR Cooperative Extension. It seems that most of their content is in the form of publications (in pdf format) placed on the web. On their home page, click on Publications, then Natural Resources and that next page has a button for general local weed information and another has "Weed Wanted Posters" with photos and descriptions of various local weeds. My two, fiddleneck and Tumble Mustard, aren't slisted so there are alot of different weeds and they also might be listed under a different common name. I located the names for these two by Googling different weed sites and comparing the photos.

So if you're like me, curious about these weeds and what to do about them, check out the UNR site. Additionally, I'm going to continue my research and post the results and photos here.