Plant it well

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Oleksandra G. Manko
  • Nellis AFB Public Affairs
Gardening in a desert environment can be quite a challenge, especially for those who come to Nevada from far-off rainy places. Does your favorite Californian plant refuse to grow? Perhaps a tree in your yard is thorny and unapproachable like the enchanted foliage around Sleeping Beauty's castle and you would like to do something about it, but you just don't know what? Do even your cactuses shrink up and die on you? Well, all the answers you've been looking for are now here. Just ask a master gardener!

Master Gardeners is a nonprofit organization that trains volunteers to share gardening knowledge within the community. For the past several months local Master Gardeners have been coming to Nellis on a regular basis to help out with the plant life in the recently rededicated Major General Billy McCoy Environmental Grove. Now, Master Gardeners offer free advice on desert gardening to all who stop by the grove when they work.

"So many people come from somewhere else and it takes us telling them they can't grow here what they can in Illinois," said Pete Karnoski, one of the Master Gardener volunteers who regularly works here. One of Karnoski's major contributions to the environmental grove was the complete rewiring of the watering system. Clara Hatz, another volunteer, specializes in keeping the plants healthy and pleasing to the eye.

"There are so many things that can be done to keep things neat and healthy," said Hatz. There's a way trees, bushes and cactuses need to be cut. For example, crossing branches rub against each other and grow weak - one of them has to be removed. If the top of the tree gets too thick, the wind won't be able to blow through and the tree might get uprooted if a strong gust comes by. Branches have to be cut close to the trunk, which facilitates healing. Otherwise, clusters of weak branches will sprout from the stub. "It's called educated pruning," she said.

"Master Gardeners are a lot better than any commercial professional," said Bill Sandeen, 99th Civil Engineering Squadron land. "These guys are volunteers, they aren't in it for the money - they really care. They'll take time and make sure everything is done right. You can't get that anywhere else."

Master Gardeners usually work at the grove Thursdays 9 a.m. to noon and anyone is welcome to come learn a trick or two about desert gardening. Call Bill Sandeen at 652-2834 to check if gardeners will be available. You may also call the Master Gardener hotline at 257-5555 for free information.