Gardening in Nevada’s challenging soils possible
September 11, 2012
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension has another series of “Grow Your Own” gardening and urban agriculture classes going on Wednesday nights through Oct. 24. The first class was on soils and the theme was “Growing in Nevada soils is mission possible!” Instructor Melody Hefner taught about healthy soils. A soil should have good porosity, drainage, water-holding capacity and be easy to work and contain a good supply of organic matter. Melody pointed out that some Nevada soils can have challenges. These include our climate and lack of precipitation, lack of organic matter, few soil organisms, high pH and salinity and either no water-holding capacity or poor drainage. However, with a little knowledge and work Nevada soils are worth the toil. For example, understanding a soil’s texture (relative proportions of sand, silt and clay in the soil) can help you manage irrigation and fertilization practices more efficiently and economically while providing optimum conditions for your plants. If you are aware that water moves quickly down and through sandy soils, because of their large air spaces, you know to use drip irrigation emitters with higher volume per hour and to place them close to the plant. You know to run them for shorter periods, more frequently, so water doesn’t drain below the root zone. You also realize that clay soils receive the opposite treatment from sandy ones, because they have fewer air spaces. Water moves slowly down through a clay profile and moves laterally. Another helpful tip is that in a compacted soil, air space can be reduced to as little as 5 percent, which can limit the ability of a soil to support plant growth. Participants in this soils class learned to improve compaction by adding organic matter. This increases water infiltration and improves the soil overall. The next extension class is “Growing Culinary and Medicinal Herbs” with landscape designer Jana Vanderhaar, 6 -8 p.m. today at the office in Carson City, 2621 Northgate, No. 12. Call 887-2252 to reserve your spot. JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 887-2252.