JoAnne Skelly: March is a good time to start planting

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Oh, the vagaries of gardening, landscaping and predicting the weather in Northern Nevada! I recently wrote about trees needing water after months of little to no precipitation. Then, lo and behold, Mother Nature took charge providing a thorough soaking.

It rained five inches at my house. All the rain made my “time to water” suggestion a moot point. I was amazed and delighted we received about half of our yearly amount in such a short time. I think our trees should be well watered for a month or so, depending on temperatures.

In another article, I talked about herbicides. And yes, it is time to put preemergent herbicides down to prevent spring weeds from germinating. There is a challenge though. Most of these products need moisture to activate and they work well when applied just before a rain. However, five inches of rain could wash the chemical below the seedbed for almost all weeds, making the application ineffectual. On the other hand, if it doesn’t rain after application, the herbicides have to be watered in by the applicator. Usually a half-inch of moisture is enough to make the chemicals work. Timing an application before a rain in Nevada is never a sure bet!

While we do have challenges in gardening in Nevada, we gardeners persist in gardening and landscaping year after year. We can’t help it. How can we not plant and experience the miracle of a seed producing something tasty to eat or delightful to see? If you are one of Nevada’s intrepid gardeners, here’s a timely task for you, which will reap delicious rewards, if all goes well.

March is a good time to begin planting; but soil preparation is wise prior to actually planting. However, don’t work wet soil. Working wet soil compacts it, which reduces air spaces and makes it hard for roots to grow. A soil is right for digging when a ball of it crumbles easily in the hand. Once your soil is ready for working, add 2 to 3 inches of organic matter, such as compost, aged grass clippings or rotted leaves and dig it in to loosen up and feed the soil. Do this a month or so before planting.

Many cool-season crops such as asparagus crowns, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, leeks, parsley, parsnips, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips can be planted in March. March 17 is the traditional pea-planting time.

Gardening time is almost here again.

JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at or 887-2252.


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