UNCE’s Northern Nevada Gardening and Landscaping FAQ


Fire:

Are junipers an appropriate ornamental plant for high wildfire hazard areas?

No! Junipers are not an appropriate ornamental landscape plant for use in high wildfire hazard areas. In fact, firefighters call junipers "little green gas cans" due to their ability to hide smoldering embers and then violently burst into flames. To reduce wildfire threat, Nevada homeowners should remove ornamental junipers located within 30 feet of a home or other structure on their property. For more information, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Junk the Junipers!"

How can I be more ember prepared?

Embers race ahead of Nevada wildfires, carried by the wind. When they land on structures or landscapes, they can start new fires. To reduce the ember threat to your home, consider taking the following steps, suggested by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly in her article "Ember Prepared":
  • Replace wood shake roofs with fire-resistant types.
  • Plug openings in roof coverings and cover attic, eave and foundation vents with 1/8 –inch mesh or install new vent types designed to prevent ember entry.
  • Keep rain gutters free of plant debris.
  • Routinely remove plant debris such as branches and needles from the roof.
  • Replace plastic skylights with types constructed with double-pane tempered glass.
  • Install an approved spark arrester on chimneys.
  • Replace single-pane windows with multiple-pane tempered glass types.
  • Replace wood mulches with noncombustible types and remove plant debris, including dried grass and flowers, dead leaves and branches from flowerbeds next to the house, other buildings and next to wooden fences and decks.
  • Replace ornamental junipers with low-growing deciduous shrubs or flowers under irrigation.
  • Maintain wooden fences in good condition and create a noncombustible fence section or gate next to the house for at least five feet.
  • Move firewood stacks and scrap lumber piles at least 30 feet from the house or other buildings.

Gardening:

Is pig manure safe for gardens?

"[A]nimal manures can be used as fertilizer on vegetable gardens; however, manure should be incorporated into the soil during the fall prior to planting crops the following spring. Applying manures during the growing season is not recommended due to the chance of contaminating produce with disease-causing microorganisms. Hog manure is just as safe as any other if it is composted or in the ground for at least six months prior to harvesting a crop where the edible portion is in contact with the soil."

--Ron Becker, Ohio State University

To learn more about using pig or other animal manure in gardens, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Pig manure-- is it safe for gardens?"

When can I plant peas?

Peas thrive on temperatures below 80 degrees F because they are a cool-season crop. In Nevada, gardeners traditionally plant peas on St. Patrick's Day (March 17th), or when soil temperatures rise above 40 degrees F. For more information, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Planting Peas."

Can I grow blueberries in Nevada?

It can be tough to grow blueberries here in Nevada. We don't have the cool summers and acid soils these plants need to thrive. But some blueberry-growing success can be found in planting them in containers or raised beds filled with acid soil and peat moss. For more information on growing blueberries in Nevada, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Blueberries in Nevada."

Is there anything I can plant that the deer and rabbits won’t eat?

There is no such thing as a deer- or rabbit-proof plant. Hungry animals will eat just about anything that grows. However, the following list is comprised to plants that deer and rabbit tend to avoid:
  • yarrow
  • monkshood
  • agastache
  • ajuga
  • arctostaphylos
  • blue flax
  • penstemon
  • columbine
  • sea-thrift
  • basket-of-gold
  • astilbe
  • wormwood
  • bergenia
  • butterfly bush
  • coreopsis
  • bleeding heart
  • foxglove
  • euphorbia
  • blanket flower
  • German iris
  • lavender
  • beebalm
  • catmint
  • peony
  • Russian sage
  • poppy
  • salvia
  • lamb's ears
  • thyme
  • Shasta daisy
  • yucca
For more information, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Deer and Rabbit Resistant Perennials."

Is tomato leaf blight serious?

Yes! Tomato leaf blight is a serious disease in tomatoes. It is caused by a fungus and typically occurs in an environment of high humidity and temperatures around 68 degrees. Some strains of tomato leaf blight are able to tolerate higher temperatures. In Nevada, it is important to watch out for tomato leaf blight because it has the potential to cause severe economic harm to the potato industry. Gardeners who discover tomato leaf blight on their plants should pick off affected leaves if the infection is mild. Leaves should be sealed in a plastic bag and left to bake in the sun for a few days before being thrown away. Gardeners with severely affected plants should destroy the plants completely. In doing so, they will protect crops growing nearby from being infected. Fruit from diseased tomato plants can be eaten, but not canned. No parts of infected plants should be composted! For more information, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Watch for Vegetable Problems."

What is tomato leaf roll?

Tomato leafroll is a physiological disorder which causes the leaves of tomato plants to roll upwards and feel leathery to the touch. The plant may look wilted particularly after wet cool spring conditions. Symptoms tend to disappear after the weather warms and the soil drys out. For more information, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Watch for Vegetable Problems."

What is blossom end rot?

Blossom end rot is a cultural problem which affects the blossom end of tomatoes, turning the fruit brownish black. It is caused by calcium nutrition and water imbalance in a plant and aggrivated by soils with high salt content or low levels of moisture. Tomatoes growing in sandier soils are more prone to experiencing blossom end rot. To avoid blossom end rot, maintain even soil moisture and plant varieties not prone to this cultural problem. To learn more about blossom end rot, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Watch for Vegetable Problems."

Is the new USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map accurate?

The new USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is based on the average minimum temperatures for a zone and not the lowest temperature a zone can and does experience. Some gardeners may find that in their growing area, the zone assigned by this map is inaccurate due to extreme high and low temperatures skewing the average minimum temperature or due to microclimates which are too small to appear on the map. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension will be happy to help you decide which plants will grow well in your corner of Nevada-- simply give us a call! Our years of gardening experience, education and training are at your service. A list of our offices and their contact information is available on our website. To read about our Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's experiences with the new map, read her article "The New USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map Yippee!"

Houseplants:

What is wrong with my azalea?

Those receiving a holiday gift plant like an azalea might be disappointed when the plant drops its leaves or refuses to rebloom. These plants are tricky to keep going, but here are a few azalea-growing tips for the determined gardener:
  • Keep azaleas constantly moist.
  • Don't place azaleas in direct sun.
  • Put your azalea in a spot where it receives bright filtered light.
  • Feed azaleas diluted azalea or acid fertilizer every few weeks.
For more information, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Happy Holiday Plants."

How to I take care of my cyclamen plant?

Don't worry; cyclamens are one of the easier to care for holiday gift plants. They require bright light and enjoy being watered from below. Fertilize them every month with a fertilizer formulated for flowering plants. Groom the plant by removing old dead leaves and stems and the plant will rebloom for you. For more information on holiday houseplants, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Happy Holiday Plants."

How can I get my poinsettia plant to rebloom?

The blooming holiday poinsettia plant was forced to look that good; its commercial grower covered it each night for approximately three months to achieve that December bloom. Gardeners wanting to keep a poinsettia growing happily in a pot will have to spend some time and energy on the plant, just as its commercial grower did. First, transplant the plant to a container one inch larger than the one it came in and place it in a sunny spot. Poinsettias should not experience sudden temperature changes. Keep the soil moist, but well-drained and apply a nitrogen fertilizer every two weeks until the leaves begin to drop. When the leaves fall, cut the stems back severely, leaving only two buds. Do not fertilize and limit water until the buds break out into leaves. When the leaves apper, begin the watering and fertilizing cycle all over again. To learn more about keeping holiday plants, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Happy Holiday Plants."

How do I keep holiday houseplants alive?

Holiday houseplants such as poinsettias, cyclamens, azaleas, Christmas cacti and African violets prefer to receive water from the bottom of their containers and they require bright light. The poinsettia is a bit picky; it enjoys south-facing light while the other plants listed will do fine with bright morning or filtered sun.

Which houseplants are recommended for a “lazy gardener”?

Lazy gardeners or those of us too busy to give much time to our houseplants should choose indoor plants that are easy to grow and that flower to beautify our environment with minimal effort. Suggested houseplants for the time-and-energy-limited indoor-plant-lover include:
  • geraniums
  • begonias
  • bougainvillea
  • hibiscus
To care for these plants, place them in a sunny spot! While watering will depend on the plant, in general, water every day in summer and once or twice per week the rest of the year. Fertilize every six weeks in late-winter/early-spring and once per month each spring. For more information, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "The Rewards of Houseplants."

Growing Orchids

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly offers the following tips, taken from her article "Growing Orchids," to new orchid growers:
  • Phalaenopsis is a good first-time orchid for novice orchid growers.
  • This orchid should receive moderate indirect light and should be placed away from dry drafts.
  • Acceptable temperatures for the phalaenopsis range from 56-95 degrees Farenheit.
  • The watering schedule for this orchid depends on the season:
    • In the summer, water 2-3 times per week.
    • In the winter, water 1-2 times per week.
  • If the phalaenopsis is planted in moss, the recommended watering schedule is every 7-10 days.
  • Skelly recommends watering this orchid from the bottom.
  • During the growing season, remember to fertilize the phalaenopsis every other watering.

Insects and Diseases:

What do I do about a garden grasshopper invasion?

Tips for grasshopper control:
  • Catch and kill grasshoppers in the early morning when they are least active.
  • Use a sweep net to remove grasshoppers from plants.
  • Expose grasshopper eggs to predators and the elements by digging in the ground in early spring.
  • Till vacant land in the mid- to late summer to reduce potential egg-laying sites.
  • Keep ground free of weeds to discourage egg laying.
  • Two-feet-tall, smooth surface, angled barriers can keep grasshoppers out of gardens.
  • Floating row covers can protect plants.
  • Grasshoppers are attracted by sicky yellow traps.
  • Containers filled with 10% solution of molasses and water, covered with a film of canola oil and burried so rims are at ground level can be used to trap grasshoppers.
For more information, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Grasshopper Attack."

What can I do to protect native trees from invasive insects and diseases?

One simple thing Nevadans can do to help protect native trees from invasive insects and diseases is to only use local firewood, or firewood that was acquired from within 50 miles of your fireplace. When buying firewood to use at home or out on a trip, ask the seller where the wood is from. If they can't answer the question or if the answer indicates the wood has traveled more than 50 miles, don't purchase it! Burning nonlocal wood can introduce invasive pests and can destroy forests and reduce property values. For more information, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Buy Local, Burn Local."

Pesticides:

How do I safely dispose of old pesticides?

Pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, etc.) are considered hazardous wastes and, like paint, oil, batteries, etc., they require proper disposal. Several northern Nevada agencies help local residents to dispose of unwanted chemicals correctly:
  • Carson City's Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility, 887-2355, can receive hazardous wastes from Carson City residents by appointment.
  • Douglas Disposal Hazardous Waste Facility, 782-5713, will assist Douglas county residents by appointment only.
  • Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDOA), 353-3715, will accept pesticides in original containers with labels attached.
For more information, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "What to do with old pesticides?"

How do I protect my hands when working with pesticides?

When mixing, loading and applying pesticides, it is important to wear protective gear. Read the pesticide label to discover the minimum protective equipment recommended. Even if a label does not call for the use of gloves, it is a good idea to wear them. Gloves to be worn while working with pesticides should have the following characteristics:
  • waterproof
  • chemical-resistant
  • unlined
  • made of butyl, nitrile or neoprene rubber, natural rubber, polyethylene plastics or polyvinyl chloride.
  • NOT made of cotton, leather, canvas or other absorbent materials.
Avoid wearing latex or gardening gloves while working with pesticides. Remember thicker, well-fitted gloves offer the best protection. For more information, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Glove Selection for Working with Pesticides."

Roses:

How do I prune roses?

Tools needed:
  • bypass pruning shears
  • long-handled bypass loppers
  • fine-toothed curved saw
  • long gloves
  • non-toxic, non-petroleum-based white glue
  • disinfectant (isopropyl alcohol, Lysol spray, 20% bleach-to-water solution)
Steps:
  1. Remove dead, damaged, blackened or crossing canes.
  2. Depending on the type of rose you have, prune to height and desired number of canes as follows:
    1. For hybrid teas or grandifloras, leave five to six of the strongest canes 20 to 30 inches long. Remove only canes three years old or older. Make a 45-degree angle cut one-quarter inch above a bud.
    2. Floribundas are pruned to a shorter height leaving more canes.
    3. Train and prune climbers to a horizontal pattern for greater flower production, removing any skyward pointing shoots.
  3. Cut out any suckers.
Tips:
  • If you are new to Nevada, you should know that we prune our roses less severely than you might've done in other climates. This is because of the risk of late freezes and the effects of our drying winds and extreme sun exposure.
  • To reduce the spread of disease,
    • sterilize tools between each cut.
    • seal any cut one-quarter of an inch or larger with white glue.
    • avoid composting rose cuttings.
For more information about rose pruning, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Pruning Roses."  

When can I prune my roses?

Most northern Nevada gardeners can begin to prune their roses on or around tax day, or April 15th, as long as we are no longer experiencing freezing weather. Rose-lovers living in colder areas of Nevada may want to wait until the beginning of May to prune. For more information about rose pruning, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Pruning Roses."

Why is it important to prune roses?

When a rose bush goes without pruning, it's beauty is diminished as the plant grows in a tangled, unsightly manner and as blooms become fewer in number and smaller. Neglected roses will also experience a higher rate of disease as sunlight and airflow are obstructed. When properly pruned, roses develop larger flowers and stronger branches and are not as prone to disease. For more information about rose pruning, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Pruning Roses."

Trees:

What time of year is best for planting or transplanting trees, shrubs or perennials?

Fall is a great time of year for planting new or transplanting existing trees, shrubs and perennials. This is because the soil is still warm from summer and the transplanted roots will be able to better grow than if they were in the cold soil of spring. Fall is also a great time to install spring-flowering bulbs. After planting or transplanting, be sure to water weekly for the first three to four weeks (weather permitting). Through the winter, fall-plantings should receive water once or twice per month, from you or from mother nature. For more information, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Plant or Transplant NOW!"

What is that woody plant?

When a woody plant pops out at you and you wonder what it is, there are a few resources you can use in your quest for its identification. For more information about Oregon State University's plant database and identification system, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Trying to Identify a Woody Plant?"

Why are my trees holey?

Woodpeckers, including flickers and sapsuckers, damage trees, homes and even telephone poles while searching for food and establishing territory.  Woodpecker damage can kill limbs or entire trees if the holes girdle the tree. The damaged areas of the tree can also attract other tree-troubles such as boring insects. The best way to prevent woodpecker damage to trees is to exclude them through the use of netting or metal barriers. Begin discouraging woodpeckers from damaging your trees as soon as they enter your area, before they establish it as their territory. Remember, it is illegal to kill these birds and decoys such as hawks or owls are ineffective. For more information, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Holey Trees!"

Is it too cold to prune trees?

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Western Area/Washoe County Horticulture Specialist Heidi Kratsch says "no, the cold temperatures don't really affect pruning (except the pruner who will need to dress appropriately." Cold weather isn't a problem for the tree when pruning is done properly and at the correct time of year when the tree is dormant. For more information, read UNCE's Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Too Cold to Prune?"

Weeds:

How is puncturevine controlled?

To control puncturevine, eliminate the seedbank. Mowing is ineffective, but hand-pulling is effective. Pull plants each year before they go to seed until the seed bank hidden in the soil is depleted. Hoeing and shallow cultivation can work when performed before flowering. Tilling will not work; it simply buries seed that remains viable for years. Preemergent herbicides can reduce infestations when applied in late winter. Postemergent herbicides (2,4-D or glyphosate) can be used to control existing plants. For more information, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Puncturevine-- Don't puncture your tires!"

What is an invasive species?

Invasive species are a non-native species. They grow rapidly, reproduce quickly and are likely to harm the native habitats or species where they are introduced. This harm may be experienced economically ($1.1 billion to $120 billion per year in economic losses) or environmentally (42% of threatened or endangered species are affected by non-native invasive species). Human health may also be negatively impacted. Common affects of invasive species include reduced:
  • crop production.
  • fishing.
  • hunting.
  • camping.
  • hiking.
  • boating.
For more information, read University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly's article "Invasive Species Awareness Week."

How do invasive weeds affect riparian areas?

Invasive weeds "threaten and reduce native vegetation along rivers and streams" which decreases the ability of riparian areas to store water and prevent or reduce flooding. For example, the roots of perennial pepperweed (tall whitetop), while long are brittle and don't hold the soil as well as the native plants it displaces. For more information, read "The Invasive Weeds Make Flooding Worse" by JoAnne Skelly, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension's Carson City/Storey County Extension Educator.


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