What Does “Feed Your Soil” Really Mean?

Healthy Soil The Organic Way!

If you know anything about organic gardening, you’ve heard the phrase ‘feed your soil.’ While it sounds like a good thing to do, you may wonder what it means. It may seem that working in fertilizer should do it; that’s feeding, right?

In truth, feeding your soil properly is at the heart of organic gardening. It goes far beyond the temporary application of the major nutrients (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium) and even beyond the judicious use of essential micronutrients. Feeding your soil means not only returning those elements, but also improving the texture so that it breathes properly and is better able to retain moisture, ultimately providing a suitable habitat for the microbes that are essential to making nutrients available to plants.

While the interactions of soil, plants, and nutrients are fascinating and complex, feeding your soil is not a difficult proposition. Adding organic matter on a consistent basis (Gardner & Bloome Soil Building Compost works great) and approaching landscape issues in a way that helps foster healthy microbial populations (avoiding compacting or flooding the soil, for instance) initiates and maintains healthy soil.

A quick glance at native Nevada landscapes underscores the wisdom of an organic approach to healthy plants. Although local areas may be quite high in certain nutrients, almost all lack any concentration of organic matter, which in turn leads to nitrogen deficient conditions. It’s not all just about the water!

Next time you hear someone tell you to ‘feed the soil first’, you’ll know what to do to keep your plants healthy and productive.



Updated … What is going on with our bees?

Below is our post on the 2006 bee colony collapse that brought attention and additional research to study this potentially huge problem.  Since this post, bee hives and bee populations have increased significantly and the causes of the collapse have been studied without the hysteria of a problem without a solution. The most recent USDA study and findings can be seen here – - http://geneticliteracyproject.org/2015/03/usda-study-concludes-neonics-not-driving-bee-deaths-as-white-house-set-to-announce-bee-revival-plan/.  The evidence seems to be mounting that the focus on pesticides and neonics in particular is misplaced as the key study did what many had feared, used an unrealistic amount of the pesticide not found in practice, anywhere, to kill bees. Here is an excellent 7 minute video to help educate us all: http://americanhort.org/AmericanHort/Membership/Private/protect_bees.aspx.

 

What is going on with our bees? (Original Post)
Honeybees are in trouble. In the last 50 years, experts say the domesticated honey bee population declined nearly 50 percent in the USA. This year was one of the worst on record, with some U.S. beekeepers losing 60 percent of their hives.

Colony Collapse Disorder – the phenomenon in which worker bees disappear leaving behind a queen, food and a few nurse bees – started making news in 2006 but answers of “why?” are sparse. An identified source of trouble is that Pollinators are exposed to many pesticides. One class of chemistry – neonicotinoids – has been in the media and regulatory spotlight as of late. Pollinators are exposed to these widely used insecticides through direct contact with sprays and residue on plants. They also are exposed by ingesting the pollen and nectar of neonicotinoid-treated plants, though at lower levels.

The one thing experts seem to agree on is that many factors affect bee health: mites, viruses, bacteria, disease; poor nutrition and beekeeping practices; the transportation of hives cross country; habitat loss; genetically modified plants; lack of genetic diversity; weather and pesticides.

Your landscaping, lawn care & gardening practices play a big role in both protecting pollinators and encouraging their continued success, through smart applications of chemicals and promoting the best kinds of plantings. To keep up-to-date, informed and helpful:
• Follow news reports for helpful tips
• Read the labels and follow directions carefully
• Don’t apply products when bees are visiting
• Be diligent in stopping applied product drift
• PLANT for Pollinators
• Buy Local Honey
• Use safe, organic products

Planting for pollinators
One of the best ways to help bees and other beneficial bugs thrive is to give them a place to eat. The below plants are considered the backbone for any high desert garden or landscape. They are all easy care plants and some are even drought tolerant and deer resistant. Consider these plantings in the high desert to help our bee population and if at all possible, avoid using pesticides:
Herbs & Perennials

Thyme (creeping and culinary)
Rosemary
Culinary sage
Lavenders

Agastache
Chives
Garlic chives
Nepata (catmint)
Monarda
Penstemon
Asters
Kniphofia
Gaillardia
Echinacea
Yarrow
Scabiosa
Rudbeckia
Salvia
Shrubs
Potentilla
Spiraea
Russian Sage
Cotoneaster
Butterfly Bush
Rugosa Rose
Trees
Fruit Trees
Crabapples
Flowering Pears
Mountain Ashes
Lindens

As you can see, the bee-friendly list of high desert plants is a long one with many of our local favorites. Commit to do your part in saving bees!



Plant Fertilizer Basics in the High Desert

Plant Fertilizer Basics for the High Desert 

Reading a bag of plant fertilizer can be an intimidating experience. Most people, especially those new to gardening, are not sure what to make of “NPK” or the three numbers that appear on every bag – but seem to be different on every bag. We’ve all been there.  At Moana Nursery we want to make it easy for you to grow beautiful, healthy plants and we believe that the proper use of fertilizers to build better soil is vital. Here’s a quick guide to what is in a bag of fertilizer and some of the benefits of regularly feeding our High Desert soil with a premium fertilizer.  

When you look at a bag of fertilizer, whether for indoor or outdoor plants, you will always see three numbers such as the 5-5-5 formulation of Dr Earth Life fertilizer or 4-10-7 shown here. These numbers represent the three main substances, or macronutrients, that all plants need for healthy growth. These macronutrients will be provided in different amounts depending on the purpose of the fertilizer you are looking at. 

The first number is nitrogen (N). Nitrogen is necessary for leaf growth and health and a nutrient most often lacking in garden soils. Lawns are made up of millions of leaves so they respond well to fertilizers with higher nitrogen. 

The second number is phosphorus (P). Phosphorus aids in flower and root development and it helps promote fruiting. Roses and fruit trees are examples of plants that will thrive when fed with phosphorous.  

The third number is potassium (K). Plants use potassium for stem and root development and this nutrient also helps make plants more resistant to disease and bolsters heat and cold tolerance. All plants will produce stronger stems and roots when potassium is provided.  

Many fertilizers also list secondary ingredients. Calcium helps in the formation and growth of cells. Magnesium helps build chlorophyll molecules which help plants convert the energy from sunlight into food. Sulfur is also sometimes listed on fertilizer labels.  It works with nitrogen to maintain healthy plant cells.  

Other nutrients often included in fertilizers are sometimes called trace elements or micronutrients. Zinc and manganese help make other nutrients available to plants while iron helps build chlorophyll resulting in healthy, colorful leaves and stems.  

Another category of ingredients becoming more common in high quality fertilizers includes beneficial soil microbes and mycorrhizae. These microscopic living organisms contribute greatly to soil health, disease resistance and overall plant vigor.  

Moana Nursery recommends Dr. Earth brand fertilizers because they are an organic, scientifically blended source of all the important elements, including mighty microbes, that promote plant health by feeding, building and permanently improving our lean High Desert soils. Dr. Earth takes the guesswork out of choosing fertilizers by providing plant-specific formulas. Whether you are growing vegetables, fruit trees, roses, flowering plants, shrubs or trees Dr. Earth has a purpose blended, easy-to-use and long lasting fertilizer that will help you grow beautiful plants. New from Dr. Earth, convenient organic spray options. 

Moana Nursery believes in making gardening success easy to achieve. That is why we promote creating healthy soil through proper fertilization with every plant we sell. We love gardening in Northern Nevada and want to share our passion for growing beautiful plants with you. Come visit any our stores to learn how easy it can be!



Could We Benefit From More Trees?

Local Tree Canopy Lacking!

This beautiful tree canopy and the combined tree canopy covering and protecting our northern Nevada community are important markers for determining the “green” space necessary to provide ideal living conditions.  We don’t have many local trees with this kind of dense canopy but the real issue is the total tree canopy coverage. And, it can be measured and compared.

Our Truckee Meadows “Tree Canopy,” as measured by the Nevada Forestry & U.S. Forest Service study (using government “Stimulus” funds – – a topic for another time), is poor … less than Las Vegas even.  Sparks is at 3.9% and Reno is 5.2% with 75% of the combined 4.6% cover on residential properties.  Self-serving but true translation – – we need to plant more trees and do a better job caring for them!  The study shows a current economic value of about $43 million but with a 20% coverage (a level achieved in many cities) those numbers jump to nearly $90 million.  The economic value of trees is more than just a reduction in carbon footprints.  The University has a 9.3% Tree Canopy.  Our area has a lower canopy cover than similar western U.S. cities.  Trees Matter.  This link will take you to the study for further information if desired.



Winter Watering in the High Desert … Usually, Yes!

New Plantings, Especially, Need Winter Watering

Successful  year-round landscaping makes us all winter bed wetters. Yup, it’s too dry in the high desert and again we must pull hoses this winter. Plants in the ground – especially newly planted trees, shrubs, and perennials – need the equivalent of one inch of precipitation per month. If we have a dry period that lasts longer than two to three weeks, you’ll need to water according to these guidelines when the ground is not frozen. Your lawn also can use a little water but it is a lower priority (and needs less) than trees, shrubs & perennials.

  • Water during the day when temperatures are at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit to allow water to percolate through the soil.
  • Finish watering before 3:00 p.m. so water can drain away from the surface before sunset.
  • Water the soil around the plants, avoiding the trunk and crown of the plants. You can use an oscillating hose sprinkler for larger areas or open end hose with the water turned on low for smaller areas.
  • For potted plants, assuming they are in a quality frost-resistant black clay pot and have well drained potting soil, water approximately every two weeks. Containers dry out faster than in-ground plantings.
  • Be sure to thoroughly drain your hoses and store them inside your garage or shed so they will be easy to access and use.
  • We recommend using Cloud Cover, burlap, and mulches to help protect your plants through our cold and dry winter.

Click here for a printable version of our Winter Watering Guide, and remember, do not water when the ground is frozen. If you have any questions, stop by any one of our three Moana Nursery garden centers.



Fertilizing in the High Desert

Plant Fertilizer Basics for the High Desert 

Reading a bag of plant fertilizer can be an intimidating experience. Most people, especially those new to gardening, are not sure what to make of “NPK” or the three numbers that appear on every bag – but seem to be different on every bag. We’ve all been there.  At Moana Nursery we want to make it easy for you to grow beautiful, healthy plants and we believe that the proper use of fertilizers to build better soil is vital. Here’s a quick guide to what is in a bag of fertilizer and some of the benefits of regularly feeding our HighDesert soil with a premium fertilizer.

When you look at a bag of fertilizer, whether for indoor or outdoor plants, you will always see three numbers such as the 5-5-5 formulation of Dr Earth Life fertilizer. These numbers represent the three main substances, or macronutrients, that all plants need for healthy growth. These macronutrients will be provided in different amounts depending on the purpose of the fertilizer you are looking at.

The first number is nitrogen (N). Nitrogen is necessary for leaf growth and health and a nutrient most often lacking in garden soils. Lawns are made up of millions of leaves so they respond well to fertilizers with higher nitrogen. 

The second number is phosphorus (P). Phosphorus aids in flower and root development and it helps promote fruiting. Roses and fruit trees are examples of plants that will thrive when fed with phosphorous.  

The third number is potassium (K). Plants use potassium for stem and root development and this nutrient also helps make plants more resistant to disease and bolsters heat and cold tolerance. All plants will produce stronger stems and roots when potassium is provided.

Many fertilizers also list secondary ingredients. Calcium helps in the formation and growth of cells. Magnesium helps build chlorophyll molecules which help plants convert the energy from sunlight into food. Sulfur is also sometimes listed on fertilizer labels.  It works with nitrogen to maintain healthy plant cells.  

Other nutrients often included in fertilizers are sometimes called trace elements or micronutrients. Zinc and manganese help make other nutrients available to plants while iron helps build chlorophyll resulting in healthy, colorful leaves and stems.

Another category of ingredients becoming more common in high quality fertilizers includes beneficial soil microbes and mycorrhizae. These microscopic living organisms contribute greatly to soil health, disease resistance and overall plant vigor.

Moana Nursery recommends Dr. Earth brand fertilizers because they are an organic, scientifically blended source of all the important elements, including mighty microbes, that promote plant health by feeding, building and permanently improving our lean High Desert soils. Dr. Earth takes the guesswork out of choosing fertilizers by providing plant-specific formulas. Whether you are growing vegetables, fruit trees, roses, flowering plants, shrubs or trees Dr. Earth has a purpose blended, easy-to-use and long lasting fertilizer that will help you grow beautiful plants. New from Dr. Earth, convenient organic spray options. 

Moana Nursery believes in making gardening success easy to achieve. That is why we promote creating healthy soil through proper fertilization with every plant we sell. We love gardening in Northern Nevada and want to share our passion for growing beautiful plants with you. Come visit any our stores to learn how easy it can be!



Using Cow Manure In Your Garden

Why don’t people use cow manure as much today???

Answer … Because it is smelly and no fun to handle!  Actually, steer manure has always been considered a good, cheap fertilizer and many old timers still swear by it.  The problem is that most cow and chicken manures are high in salts, which can burn (or even kill) plants while raising the pH of the soil.  Manure is also offensive to your neighbors’ noses unless you live way out in the country.  Fresh manure can also carry diseases and parasites.

With the advent of so many great all-organic fertilizers, there’s really no need to add manure to your garden or landscape.  You can get much better and more balanced results with regular feedings of organic plant foods, without the manure.

If you really want to use manure on (or near) your garden, especially food gardens, please use sterilized/composted manure.  It’s much safer than the fresh variety and doesn’t have as much odor.



Plant Names … Why are they so complicated?

Sometimes we have trouble identifying a plant.  The common names seem to provide many opportunities for customization and poetic license.  Thus, we often fall back on the official botanic (scientific) name which can be off-putting because it is in Latin – so that names are the same no matter where you live.  However, you can usually count on one hand the number of knowledgeable people knowing correct scientific names.  So, we go to the tried and true reference books or Google a search for accuracy.  Many times we are still stumped.

Did you know that there are some 375,000 plant species on Earth? Seems simple enough, but what if we told you that those 375,000 species are known by 1.25 million scientific names? This disparity can create a myriad of issues for anyone in the horticulture industry.  Then, add to all the species their many cultivars, especially those found in gardens and landscapes.  Wow … just when you thought you knew the correct name, another one appears or a strange cultivar name provides more questions than answers.

In an effort to help fix this disparity, an international team of researchers has created a “Plant List” which contains every plant known to man and every one of its aliases.  Aliases are important because so many plants have scientific names associated with certain discoveries, locations and histories.  In combining all the scientific names, the “total picture” can be learned.  It is not unusual to unearth a finding of toxicity or a special property as you combine all the names.  Many plants in disparate locations are identified differently and yet are the same.  So, growing characteristics can be too narrow or too wide based on multiple definitions.

All this can be quite confusing and unless you are interested in a lot more than gardening and landscaping, this knowledge is like a “top secret” … “if we told you we’d have to kill you.”  Happily, Moana has tested the plants it sells (and identifies) in the harsh test kitchen of the high desert.  Thus, you don’t have to become a scientist to find out what will look great and grow healthy in your yard.  Even better, the high desert conditions eliminate more than one million of those plant choices, so a walk through our garden centers is not a walk down Mystery Lane.



Local Tree Canopy Lacking

This beautiful tree canopy and the combined tree canopy covering and protecting our northern Nevada community are important markers for determining the “green” space necessary to provide ideal living conditions.  We don’t have many local trees with this kind of dense canopy but the real issue is the tree canopy coverage. And, it can be measured and compared.

Our Truckee Meadows “Tree Canopy,” as measured by the Nevada Forestry & U.S. Forest Service study (using government “Stimulus” funds – – a topic for another time), is poor … less than Las Vegas even.  Sparks is at 3.9% and Reno is 5.2% with 75% of the combined 4.6% cover on residential properties.  Self-serving but true translation – – we need to plant more trees and do a better job caring for them!  The study shows a current economic value of about $43 million but with a 20% coverage (a level achieved in many cities) those numbers jump to nearly $90 million.  The economic value of trees is more than just a reduction in carbon footprints.  The University has a 9.3% Tree Canopy.  Our area has a lower canopy cover than similar western U.S. cities.  Trees Matter.  This link will take you to the study for further information if desired.



Irrigation System Repairs Best Conservation Action

Save Water!Broken and misdirected sprinkler heads … in many cases, more than 50% of water is wasted due to broken parts, bad coverage, evaporation and runoff caused by overwatering. Drip systems are equally suspect if they have not been adjusted for growth and proper function.  By tuning up or upgrading your current irrigation system and adding a state-of-the art controller, you can generate significant water savings and contribute to a more sustainable environment.  Also, remember that the drip system needs to be at the trees outermost drip edge and as the tree grows out, this has to expand.

Now’s the time to schedule an appointment with our Irrigation Specialist if this is a DIY project that is more than you want to handle.

Call us at 825-0602 x134 today.