Organic Can Be “Easy”

Organic amending ... Where is the organic material?

Tips from Plant Doctor Jon Bruyn

By now, most gardeners are familiar with “organic gardening.” While many of you are followers of organic gardening, I imagine you have discovered some of its drawbacks. For example, an organic pesticide will not kill every insect in your yard and may not work as quickly as a chemical pesticide. Organic fertilizers will not force plants to grow as high or fast as regular fertilizers. And organic weed control can be back breaking at times.

Healthy gardening is like healthy living – it’s hard work. However, a few tasks, like taking care of all those fall leaves, can be easy. Years ago, my crew and I spent a lot of time raking fall leaves. We created several large piles and spent the rest of the day piling those leaves into a flatbed truck and hauling them to the landfill. After weeks of this, I finally had to take care of my own yard! The last thing I wanted to do was rake again.

After considerable thought I began to use my 1986 Honda lawnmower and its side chute attachment to blow leaves into the shrubs. The following spring I noticed that those leaves had disappeared as soon as the temperatures started to rise. With this knowledge, I special ordered a mulching mower conversion kit. I also mail ordered a year supply of organic fertilizer which was the only way to get a blended, organic fertilizer for lawns without the smell of bagged manure. What followed was a spring and summer of effortless lawn care without having to bag any leaves!

When fall arrived I discovered, much to my joy, that my mulching mower was able to handle the weekly deposit of leaves. While a heavy deposit gives me some trouble, a second pass from the mower gives a beautiful, clean lawn. The following year my thatch was less and my lawn required less frequent fertilizing.

I continue this routine every year. I look forward to fall and the leaf drop. Mulching the leaves adds valuable organic matter to lawn soil. To make this process even easier, you can purchase a blended, organic fertilizer at Moana Nursery. I prefer Dr. Earth Super Lawn Fertilizer for the fall. It is specifically formulated to promote strong root growth. The high potassium level is prefect for winterizing your lawn and its beneficial soil microbes and micorrhizae greatly increase the break down of leaves and thatch. It’s kind of like an easy diet, healthy for the lawn with less effort and sacrifice.



The Starling Murmurations with Dylan Winter

Fascinating Wild Bird Behavior on YouTube



Have Fun Pruning!

We are careful to use video instructions from other sources because of the uniqueness and challenge of our high desert environment.   But, our friend in the high desert of Arizona has a great sense of humor and purpose; his knowledgeable pruning examples, in this case a Russian Sage, are accurate and helpful for northern Nevada and all our Moana Nursery customers.  Enjoy (and learn!).

Pruning Shrubs in the High Desert

Thank you Ken Lain at Watters Garden Center!



What is going on with our bees?

Honeybee on lavender

What is going on with our bees?
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!



Growing Herbs Indoors

Most home gardeners lament the coming of winter since it usually spells the end of the outdoor growing season. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Many herbs can be grown indoors quite successfully in the winter months and then be transplanted into the garden the following spring. There’s something about the taste of fresh, home-grown herbs in cooking that is hard to beat. The flavors are so much more flavorful and aromatic than using something dry out of a shaker bottle.

With the right location and care, many herbs can be fooled into thinking that summer is still here. If you’re a little nervous or skeptical about growing herbs indoors, use some tried and tested varieties such as chives, coriander, dill, mint, oregano, rosemary, parsley, and thyme. Most of these can be started by seed, while mint and rosemary can be started by seed or cutting.

Most herbs are sun lovers and will require a southern facing window that gets at least six hours of sunlight per day. For less sunny locations, mint, parsley and rosemary will get by with less sunlight. You might also consider hanging a grow light 6-9 inches above your plants to provide light on cloudy days. Make sure to also rotate your containers at least once per week in order to help your plants grow evenly.

Start your plants in seed trays and then transplant them to window boxes or larger containers once the plants become rooted. Use a good quality potting soil and make sure the containers you use have drainage holes. If you use water trays under your pots, make sure that you check them after watering and drain any standing water in them.

The herbs mentioned above will do fine provided temperatures are maintained between 55 and 70 degrees. Feed with a water soluble plant food every 2-4 weeks just as you would any other indoor plant, and don’t water until the soil surface becomes dry. The use of a small fan will also help herbs survive the stuffy air conditions that can occur indoors in winter.

Plant pests are usually less prevalent during the winter months. Nevertheless, visually check your plants at least once per week, and treat your plants with an insecticidal soap before pests actually become a problem.

So don’t let the winter doldrums get you down. Spice up your life and your winter meals with the addition of fresh, homegrown indoor herbs!



Why Fall Planting Is Best

Fall is the best time to plant. Moana Nursery tells you this every year, but maybe you need convincing. So let us explain why fall planting is so good for plants!

It’s pretty simple, actually. In the fall, the warm soil encourages root growth. Roots continue to grow through the winter until the ground actually freezes. In early spring, roots begin new growth or continue to develop at a faster rate, and top growth begins. While the same plant planted in spring gets a slow start due to cool soils and transplant shock, the fall-planted plants are becoming well established. When summer finally arrives, the fall-planted plant is far better equipped to deal with heat and drought, largely due to its better established root system.  So, fall is when a plant focuses on root growth and strength because there is no competing top growth activity.

Of course, there are plenty of other good reasons to plant in the fall. More precipitation, cooler weather, easier weed control and fewer pest and disease problems. Another big fall planting advantage: more time (and probably some good sales)!

Every fall-planting advocate mentions it. In the fall, the gardener has far more time to get the work done. And this works for you in two ways. First of all, there is a longer period with far more “good days” for planting in the fall than during our tricky weather in spring. And second, the gardener always has more time during the fall than during the spring rush to get everything done after winter.

So, come in to Moana Nursery and take advantage of fall planting and our Timely Landscape Specials. You and your landscape will be very happy you did!



Plants … Greatest Multitaskers of all Time?

The research on the benefits of plants has exploded in the last 10 years owing in good part to global warming and real estate values.  In many ways this interest is obvious given photosynthesis produces Oxygen and digests Carbon Dioxide and landscaping your home enhances first impressions (and thus value).   Our ad and the link to our Plants Save Lives (.com) is our attempt to dimensionalize plants as maybe the greatest multitaskers of all time. Here we provide links to just some of the relevant data that have established facts such as $1 of landscaping adds $1.09 of home value and increases from there, unlike any other home improvement expenditure.

pacific-sunset-maples2.jpg

We also recognize the current hot trends inherent with plants like local food production, organic gardening, container planting and edible landscaping.  And, the calming impact of nature’s plants on the human condition.  We hope you will help us add relevant links to research articles of interest and importance.



Do Ladybugs really help to control bad insects?

Absolutely! Ladybugs in the garden are very effective in controlling a number of bad bugs, including aphids, spider mites and scale. An adult ladybug can eat 50 aphids a day and produce up to 1,500 progeny. Take that aphids!

In order to maximize the benefits of releasing ladybugs in your yard, provide them with conditions that make them inclined to stay. Generally, releasing them in the evening, after hosing down foliage where aphid activity has been spotted, will help ensure that they stick around.  Releasing them in multiple small batches in the yard will help avoid competition for resources.

Being a natural control, your best success will come with using the ladybugs as part of an overall approach to your garden health.  Give them time to work. Don’t expect the immediate results that come from a contact insecticide.  Use other insecticides only as necessary and as labeled to minimize injuring or killing your ladybugs. Be on the lookout for their rather fierce some-looking young, who resemble black and orange ¼” alligators, and enjoy watching them devour aphids on your foliage.

Provide them with nectar and pollen as sources of food for the adults, and for when insect meals are scarce. Provide a water source as well. Your birdbaths and sprinkler system should do the trick. Use a variety of flowers and plants to feed your ‘ladies’ throughout the season.  Some excellent plants for beneficial insects include many that may already be in your yard: coreopsis (tickseed), cosmos, dill, evening primrose, fennel, parsley, sweet alyssum and yarrow are great resources for your ladybugs. 

If, despite your good care, you find that the ladybugs have moved on from your yard, don’t despair – they’re probably hard at work nearby, in a yard that needed their help. A healthy yard and community improvement!



Getting Started: Growing Blueberries at Home in the High Desert

 

Growing blueberries in the high desert

Berries you can eat fresh, bake into pies, freeze, dry or can that grow on an attractive spring flowering plant that features rich fall color? We must be talking about blueberries.

As the healthy trend of growing food at home gains momentum blueberries have become one of the best sellers in our nurseries. And, why not? With a little effort you can grow pounds of healthy, wholesome fruit on plants that may live up to fifty years. And, as you know, blueberries provide “health” benefits galore … good and good for you!

Where should you plant them? Blueberries need plenty of sun and they like to be sited away from other plants that might compete for food and water. Allowing room for good air circulation is also important as this helps keep leaves free of disease. It’s a good idea to plant more than one variety and to plant them fairly close together. This will help encourage the plants to produce more and larger berries. Growing them in the same area also makes it easier to harvest berries and protect them from birds that will sometimes harvest one hundred percent of your crop if protective measures are not taken. (Your best bet for bird protection? Lightweight netting that can be placed directly over plants or used to cover frames constructed to fit over plants. We can show you how to do it.) We like to plant blueberries as a hedge and we love them as container plants. A half wine barrel is the perfect home for an easy to reach “berry machine” and a small group of containers allows you to get lots of fruit from a small space.

What kind of soil do they like? Blueberries are acid lovers, meaning they like a soil with a low pH. So, extra care should be taken at planting time to amend the soil with Dr. Earth Acid Lovers planting mix (in the yellow bag). Planting them in a group allows you to properly amend the entire planting area. The absolute easiest way to provide blueberries with perfect soil is to plant them in a raised bed or container filled with pure Dr. Earth Acid Lovers planting mix. Soil should hold moisture but also drain well. Quality organic mulch, like our Soil Building Compost, should be used at a depth of 2-3 inches on top of the soil to protect the shallow, fibrous roots from drought injury.

What else do new plants need? At planting time, after thoroughly watering your plants, we recommend that you prune all branches back by about thirty to forty percent through the removal of older wood while keeping the nice new whips (longer growth coming from the base of the plant); this will encourage vigorous new growth. You should also remove any flower buds at planting time. You’ll need to be patient. Producing flowers and fruit will hinder growth of new plants. Limiting fruit production for the first couple of years will pay off with big harvests as your plants mature. Feed your new plants with Dr. Earth Organic 4 fertilizer; perfectly formulated for blueberries. Use it every two months during the growing season to maintain healthy soil and encourage strong roots. You’ll want to maintain a regular watering schedule irrigating frequently enough to keep the soil uniformly moist. Try to avoid overhead watering which can promote disease and keep the area around your new blueberry plants free of weeds and other plants that will compete for moisture and nutrients.

Providing for the few specific needs of blueberries is worth some extra effort. After all, a well-grown, mature blueberry plant can produce more than ten pounds of fruit in a single season! Getting your plants off to a good start will provide you with a berry bonanza for many years to come. We will have High Desert-hardy varieties in stock all spring and summer and we have plenty of passionate teammates equipped with expert knowledge ready to answer your questions. We’re ready to help you get started growing a bumper crop. Come into any of our three stores and let us walk you through it!



Raspberries and Blackberries At Home

As “we” gardeners continue to appreciate the joy of harvesting our own food, berries have become more popular than ever. Berries grown at home have unbeatable flavor and they require very little work.

Raspberries are among the best small fruits for home gardens. There are many varieties that are proven performers in our area. Here are some of our favorites:

‘Autumn Britten’ – This is a fall bearing raspberry that produces a bounty of flavorful and large bright red fruit that is consistently ranked among the best tasting berries available.

‘Fall Gold’ – Very sweet yellow berries are large juicy and firm. This one is sometimes called ‘ever-bearing’ because it produces a crop in late spring and another in fall.

‘Heritage’ – This is another ‘ever-bearing’ or ‘two crop’ variety with very firm red, medium-sized and tasty fruit with good texture.

We like blackberries too. Although they are slightly less cold-hardy we have had great success with a few, including:

‘Black Satin’ – Thornless variety yielding honey sweet medium to large berries in mid to late summer. This variety is very vigorous and disease-resistant.

‘Chester’ – Sweet, high-quality fruit is produced on thornless canes over a long season. This one is very cold-hardy.

‘Darrow’ – This is a reliable producer of attractive, firm, juicy and sweet berries that are great eaten fresh or made into jams and jellies.

So how do you grow raspberries and blackberries? Both raspberries and blackberries like sun, fertile and evenly moist soil along with proper fertilization. We always amend the soil at planting time with Dr. Earth Fruit planting mix (in the blue bag). When it is time to feed, right around bloom time and again in early fall after plants have finished fruiting, we recommend Dr. Earth Organic 9 Fruit fertilizer.

Some pruning will be required but don’t worry it’s not complicated. Varieties that only bear one crop per season will fruit on canes that are two years old. That means that canes that emerge in the current season should be left alone so they will yield fruit the next season. Any canes that bear fruit will slowly begin to die back and should be removed as close to the ground as possible without damaging emerging new canes.

Pruning ever-bearing (two-crop) varieties is a little different. These plants will bear a late summer crop on new wood and, if you leave these canes alone, will bear fruit the following spring on the portions of those canes that did not fruit the previous season. Two year old canes will begin to die back after fruiting and should be removed to ground level as with single crop varieties.

Some growers in really cold areas prefer to treat ever-bearing varieties as fall-bearing by cutting all canes low to the ground each winter. This prevents the plants from fruiting the following spring and instead allows for a fall crop only.

Berries are very forgiving of mistakes so don’t worry about doing everything perfect. They want to grow and will reward a little effort with bountiful crops of the best berries you’ve ever tasted.

We will help you get started and will happily answer questions about the best varieties, planting, pruning…everything you want to know about berries. Plants begin arriving in spring and we will have them in stock at all three stores. Come see us!