Photo courtesy of Bill Kositzky Master Gardener Randy Robison teaches a class on soils and salt at Bartley Ranch Regional Park in March 2012. Classes at the park start up again on Feb. 2.

Photo courtesy of Bill Kositzky
Master Gardener Randy Robison teaches a class on soils and salt at Bartley Ranch Regional Park in March 2012. Classes at the park start up again on Feb. 2.

By Marcus Lavergne

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension is offering the opportunity to branch out and explore the world of horticulture. UNCE dedicates its resources and research to improving the northern Nevadan community, whether that be through family health research or water conservation. A service that it has offered for over a decade is returning to the area, and the National Garden Bureau has a list of reasons why it might be good to get involved here in Reno.

Some incentives for getting down and dirty in some moist soil include growing and harvesting fresh, safe food, getting a different type of physical exercise, therapeutic benefits and making money. Although it can be a rewarding hobby or profession, gardening is still a skill that requires direction, patience and a little luck.

Water usage, soil types, plant food and many different aspects go into starting and maintaining a healthy garden. Taking the proper techniques for granted in an area like Reno-Sparks could lead to disappointment and frustration in the form of dry roots and dead leaves.

Wendy Mazet is UNCE’s master gardener program coordinator and a certified arborist. She surrounds herself with several different plants, ranging from small trees to brightly colored flowers in pots, transforming her medium-sized office into something resembling a small desert-rainforest hybrid. Mazet says the classes provide basic, but important information.

“A lot of it’s education on just learning how to live in our area,” Mazet said. “Even though you’re in Reno or in Sparks, there are so many different microclimates, so many different soils. You can live in Reno and your best friend in Double Diamond, and you just live two miles away off ‘Solezi’ and you’ll have completely different growing environments.”

Learning how to grow plants and flowers is not a simple task by any means, according to Mazet. Failing is a part of the game; so when the first harvest yields sour strawberries or dime-sized tomatoes, remember that there are no perfect equations for success. The classes provide knowledge on a multitude of gardening challenges as diverse as the variety of produce and vegetables grown in Reno — a Reno that hasn’t seen very much water in the past few years.

“We’ve got some classes coming in that are going to teach people about growing succulents,” Mazet said. “You know, something that takes very little water. We always have our fruit. Michael Janik, he’s a certified arborist and he grows fruit trees.”

The series of classes goes through February and March, and involves several different subjects, although the information is only a bite-sized portion of years of horticulture education. Lessons range from attracting wildlife to marketability to turning grapes into wine. One session will even delve into dealing with pests that could potentially harm or ruin a garden — a task Mazet says isn’t easy.

“You can’t just have one type of wildlife,” Mazet said. “If you want the birds, you might get the rodents too, if you want wildlife you’re gonna have different wildlife.”

UNCE’s “Gardening in Nevada: The Bartley Ranch Series” begins next Tuesday evening, and participants can look forward to the tutelage of horticulturists and other experts including UNCE certified Master Gardener volunteers — gardeners certified by a program that’s been in place for almost 30 years.

The first class is set for Feb. 2 at Bartley Ranch Regional Park, 6000 Bartley Ranch Road from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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