Best time to plant in the Valley? It depends

Master Gardeners talk with a customer about pygmy caragana a plant native to the Great Basin at the Native Plant Sale conducted at the River Fork Ranch on May 18.

Master Gardeners talk with a customer about pygmy caragana a plant native to the Great Basin at the Native Plant Sale conducted at the River Fork Ranch on May 18.

Carson Valley’s loose definition of spring often challenges gardeners.

A couple told organizers of the Heritage Park Gardens sale on May 19 that they planted seeds just before the May 4 snowstorm and nothing came up.

Gardening in the Carson Valley can be tricky, thanks to often variable spring weather, according to folks who should know.

“From living here 37 years now, we’ve decided that right around Carson Valley Days usually all the freezes are done,” said Heritage Park Gardens Committee Chairwoman Donna Werner. “If you have a greenhouse or are ambitious enough to move things in and out, you can plant earlier.”

Master Gardener Coordinator Jessica Gardner said she’s heard the Carson Valley Days rule.

“Some people have hard lines with Carson Valley Days,” she said. “I just encourage people to plant them when they want to plant them and then be prepared to cover your plants and protect them … and have a spare.”

She said what people are planting is part of the consideration.

“Just depends on what you’re planting,” she said. “If you’re going to be planting perennials and trees it can be spring and fall. Vegetables need to be planted in the spring early enough to get fruit.”

That’s particularly a concern for folks who plant tomatoes, which require even more attention.

Gardner participated in the big Master Gardener native plant sale at the River Fork Ranch that saw shoppers spill over from the Nature Conservancy parking lot and occupy both sides of Genoa Lane.

She said that unlike the flowers and vegetables people buy in the store, native plants are more likely to suffer from over-attention than the weather.

“These guys are pretty hardy,” she said. “The biggest thing that happens is that often times they get overwatered and overfertilized.”

Plants native to the Great Basin take their time acclimatizing to a location.

“We really encourage people to plant them and be patient,” she said. “We have a motto for native plants ‘the first year they sleep, the second year they creep and the third year they will leap,’ and they will be fully established. Then you can really cut back on water usage.”

As plants get used to drier locations, they will propagate on their own.

“They often reproduce and give you new free plants,” she said. “Not in abundance, but enough to help keep their population and have a nice landscape with plants that thrive in this environment.”

Gardner said her favorite native plant is sulfur buckwheat that is in bloom now. They were popular at the plant sale, having sold out early.

The Carson Valley FFA sale begins this weekend at the Douglas High School Greenhouse, 1670 Hwy 88 in Minden.

A selection of plants cultivated by Agricultural Science students at DHS will be available. The sale is scheduled from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. today and Sunday and June 1 and 2, and payment must be made by check or cash.

Questions about the sale can be directed to or 775-782-5136.

Gardner will be at the Minden Branch of the Douglas County Public Library 1-2 p.m.  June 8 to talk about becoming a master gardener volunteer.

The Minden Library is located at 1625 Library Lane. Visit or call 775-782-9841.


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