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.

The Best Time To Plant … Fall!

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!

Summer Planting “How To” in the Heat!

Debunking the notion that high desert planting needs to be accomplished only in the spring & fall, this “how to” shows the simple changes needed for success.  It also points out the benefits of mulching your landscape and garden.  You can save up to 30% of your water bill for starters with 2 or 3 inches of organic mulch.  Then, there is the huge soil improvement that organic material can deliver in the high desert.  Plus, the professional look of a mulched garden or landscape is clearly noticeable.
Here is the “how to” link … enjoy successful summer planting:

Mulching saves water, improves the soil & looks professional!

Home Grown versus Store Bought Tomatoes

Tomatoes are the favorite vegetable for home growing. Over the past years, commercial growers have produced tomato varieties that valued shelf-life and unblemished prettiness over taste–and the result has been an almost tasteless tomato at your local stores. You can put taste back on top of the list by growing your own. You don’t have to eat tomatoes grown mainly in Mexico or a long ways from home.

Tips for Choosing Your Tomato Plants:

  • Height and bushiness of the plant are important, particularly for gardeners growing tomatoes in small spaces. Check to see whether the variety you select is “determinate” (bush type–produces all at once–best for small spaces) or “indeterminate” (vine type–produces throughout the season and grows in all directions).
  • Consider taste, size, shape, color, mildness, (acidity or non-acidity), disease resistance, and cracking resistance.
  • Your intended use for the tomato may dictate your selection. For instance, if you want to use your tomato crop for preserving or for making tomato paste, you’ll want to select a variety that has a strong tomato flavor and lasts a long time in the refrigerator.
  • Depending on when you plant, you may be concerned about the “days to maturity” (the time it takes a transplant to bear ripe fruit.)
  • Finally, consider selecting a few unique tomato plants that you haven’t tried before or a novelty variety no one else in the neighborhood grows.

Planting Tips:

  • Choose a spot in full sun, and prepare the soil by digging it deeply with a spade and mixing in a good planting mix like Dr. Earth – - Pot of Gold for containers & Home Grown Vegetable Planting Mix for gardens.
  • Add a good vegetable fertilizer. We recommend Dr. Earth Tomato, Vegetable & Herb.
  • Plant transplants deeply. If they’re leggy, snip off the lower leaves, make a little trench with the trowel, lay the plant in sideways, and bend the stem up gently. Roots will form all along the buried stem.
  • Choose a staking system (such as a tomato cage or trellis).
  • Water deeply and continue to irrigate so the soil stays evenly moist.
  • Mulch your plants with Home Grown or Soil Building Compost from Gardner & Bloome.

Grow your own tomatoes! Your taste buds will thank you!

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.