Warming trend makes ideal time to germinate seeds

The next pruning class at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Orchard in North Las Vegas is Saturday; it will cover figs and persimmons. I will be in Pahrump teaching fruit-tree pruning but an instructor will be present to cover these topics.

Be sure to finish pruning your fruit trees by Feb. 1 and delay pruning grapes until early March when most of the danger of a hard freeze has passed. Spur pruning grapes before this might lead to some dead grape spurs and loss of fruit due to freezing and desiccation. If you must prune grapes before this, then prune so that you have extra long canes that can be pruned shorter to create the fruiting spurs when the right time approaches.

We frequently get a warming trend from mid-January to the month’s end. Then it turns cold again in February for a few weeks before it warms up again and the danger of freezing temperatures disappears around mid-March. This warming trend is a great time to seed in some vegetables .

Generally, vegetable seeds that germinate at temperatures below 60 F and that produce plants that can withstand some light to moderate freezes will work. These are things like radishes, spinach, lettuces, kale, greens like mustard, and even some broccoli such as Packman and cauliflower varieties such as Snow Crown. Focus on those with a fairly quick turnaround time of 60 days or less to harvest.

If you want to speed up germination and seed directly in the garden, then cover the planted and watered seeds with clear plastic strips about a foot wide, tack them down with long nails and cover the edges.

Most everything needs to be fertilized during January and February, at the latest. Woody plants like fruit trees and roses hould receive a fertilizer high in both nitrogen and phosphorus.

Apply fertilizers close to where the plant receives its water. There is nothing wrong with fertilizer stakes. They are the “Hamburger Helper” of the fertilizer world, saving time and mess that you normally have with opened fertilizer bags.

If you had yellow foliage last season and are selecting an iron fertilizer to apply to the soil, make sure the fertilizer is a chelate that contains the acronym EDDHA in the ingredients. It is the most effective iron chelate for our alkaline desert soils.

Many roses have already shown signs of growth and even blooms. It is not too late to apply a fertilizer and iron (the same kind as I already mentioned). Do not apply fertilizers too close to the trunk of trees and shrubs. All fertilizers are salts and putting a large amount of fertilizer close to the trunk can cause damage or death to the plant .

Q: Please send us your vegetable gardening primer and planting schedule. We’re going to make a raised vegetable garden from the leftover blocks we used to construct our block wall. It’ll be around 2-3 feet high and roughly a half octagon shape but easily reachable from all sides. We want to fill it with the best soil we can find, even if it means many bags of potting soil. Should we put rock in the bottom of this planter for drainage? We’ve grown many vegetables before, but only in Wyoming, so we’re excited to give it a try here.

A: I would use the native soil as much as possible and modify it with compost. Use perhaps about a 1:1 mix of native soil and compost at the beginning. The first two years add about 4 inches of compost each planting season and mix it in your planting bed.

By the third year, your planting soil should be great as long as you continue to garden in it. Of course if you stop gardening in it (irrigating it), it will stop developing. After the third year you can use about 2 inches each planting season. Most people report poor results with local artificial soils, such as potting soils and so-called gardening soils.

I would not use any kind of rocks at the bottom of a growing medium whether it is a garden or house plant in a container. Using them gives no advantage in water drainage and may, in fact, slow water drainage from the soil by creating a perched water table above the interface of soil and rock.

Q: Is it too late to transplant a tree to another part of my yard?

A: It is not the best time to transplant a tree, around mid-October would have been better, but it will work now. Make sure the tree is staked solidly so that the roots do not move during the next growing season. Then remove the stakes next winter.

Add high-phosphorus fertilizer and compost to the planting hole. Mix phosphorus and compost with the soil you remove making the hole and then use this for planting. Water this backfill soil mix as you are putting it into the hole to settle the soil and remove air pockets.

Bob Morris is an associate professor with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Direct gardening questions to the master gardener hot line at 257-5555 or contact Morris by e-mail at

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