April Fools

April 1 isn’t the only day for foolishness. Although gardeners are some of my favorite people, I have witnessed many foolish mistakes that gardeners make through the years. Some mistakes are due to lack of experience gardening in a high desert environment. Others result from a gardening itch so strong a gardener can’t wait to start planting.

Here are a few common mistakes:

  1. No, you can’t plant tomatoes in March, no matter what the weather – unless of course you have a greenhouse, a hoop house, a high/low tunnel or other protection for these cold sensitive plants. The ground isn’t warm enough; the freezes aren’t over until mid-May to early June.
  1. Don’t prune roses until April 15. Pruning encourages new growth. New growth is highly susceptible to freeze damage which may result in canker disease and dieback of the rose canes. Canker is less likely if you wait until mid-April to prune.
  1. Whether you believe it or not, MiracleGro is a chemical fertilizer, not a magic plant growth potion. Fertilizers contain salts. Salts can burn plants, so don’t use this every week. Try adding compost around your plants and using products such as this every six weeks.
  1. One emitter is not enough for a full grown tree. On planting a tree, place multiple emitters over the existing root area so that the entire root ball receives water. Add emitters out to the dripline as the tree grows each year. The goal is to water the tree under the entire dripline all the way round to a depth of 18 inches. Tree roots grow where water and oxygen are. With decent irrigation roots can grow four to five times the height of the tree out from the trunk.
  1. Lawn watering is insufficient for watering trees. The grass gets the water, not the tree. Deep water trees or put them on a drip system. Remove the lawn under the canopy of the tree to reduce the competition for the water. Mulch this area.
  1. Don’t put your trees, shrubs and flowers all on the same drip system. They all have different watering requirements. Trees can be watered deeply, to 18 inches, far less often than flowers with their relatively shallow roots.
  1. Do not top a tree. This hugely damages trees. Good pruning does not include topping. You can’t contain the size of a tree by pruning. If it is too tall for its location, consider replacing it with the appropriate plant.
  1. When you plant far more vegetables than your family can ever eat, share with Friends in Service Helping (FISH), Advocates to End Domestic Violence, seniors, churches and others.

If you have gardening questions, call your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office: Carson City – 887-2252, Minden/Gardnerville – 782-9960 and Reno/Sparks – 784-4848. Or email me: skellyj@unce.unr.edu.