Laying the groundwork for spring gardening

Craig Witt greets the sun on the last day of winter on Saturday at the Spring Gardening Forum in Gardnerville Station.

Craig Witt greets the sun on the last day of winter on Saturday at the Spring Gardening Forum in Gardnerville Station.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

 With high temperatures hitting the upper-70s this week, Carson Valley has hopped on the weather rollercoaster better known as spring.

It wasn’t quite spring yet on Saturday when 50 people squeezed into Gardnerville Station for the annual Heritage Park Spring Gardening Forum.

Full Circle Compost owner Craig Witt was the star attraction, sharing his sermon on soil, and keeping the audience laughing as he went.

Witt focused on breaking some ground with the crowd, while fellow presenter Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Jessica Gardner talked about setting up gardens for pollinators.

No matter how warm it gets in these first weeks of spring, experienced gardeners warn against getting too eager to start planting warm-water crops.

The forum is hosted by Main Street Gardnerville which also operates the Heritage Park Gardens and is working on the annual flower baskets program.

Gardner encouraged gardeners to use different watering zones for different plants, and to plant species in groups of three.

“Trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals have different watering needs,” she said. 

She said diverse native plants are excellent for pollinators, but that it requires patience.

“The first year the plants sleep, the second year the plants creep and the third year the plants leap in growth,” she said.

Witt grew up on the Milky Way Dairy north of Minden, where he said his job as a child was to spread DDT.

“I looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy whenever we were dealing with the cattle,” he said. “I got introduced to Roundup, and we had a Herby sprayer, which we liked because my dad’s name was Herb. It made a perfect 3-foot path of dead vegetation and when the breze would come I could feel that pure Roundup drift onto me.”

Witt said that after obtaining his degree in agriculture he returned home in 1978 to practice what he’d learned.

“That just gave me this obsession with dirt,” he said. “It matters what we do. Every day I’m thankful I’m not looking at roots.”

Gardner said gardeners should make sure to read the label when using pesticides, wear protective equipment and make sure the pesticide is labeled for the property identified pest.

“You should learn your tolerance for plant damage from caterpillars,” she said. “They turn into butterflies and moths.”

The Cooperative Extension is conducting a vegetable gardening for beginners’ class 5:30 p.m. Thursdays March 31 through April 21.

Participation is $45 and registration is required. To find out more call Gardner at 775-782-9960. Anyone seeking to participate may register online at


There are still beds available in the Heritage Park Gardens in Gardnerville for rent.

The garden has timed drip irrigated beds 24-48-square feet in size ranging from $30 to $60 for the season. The water is turned on shortly after April 1, depending on weather. 

Sign-ups for beds will be taken at the monthly workday at the gardens 10 a.m. to noon Saturday. 

Registration packets are available in the card rack at the gardens or contact Vicki Bates at or 775-790-0721.


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