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Desert Gardening Tips from a Las Vegas Master Gardener

April 1, 2010

At our March Shamar meeting, guest speaker Linn Mills, a horticulturist for the Las Vegas Valley Water District at the Springs Preserve, offered tips for desert vegetable gardening.

Here’s a bullet-list synopsis from “Dr. Green Thumb.”

• Problems with Las Vegas soils: salty, little organic matter, caliche, alkalinity, dry

• To improve the soil: clear garden of debris, spread organic matter 4”-6” deep over garden, add vegetable fertilizer (for organic use bone meal, blood meal, cottonseed meal), add soil-sulfur to counteract alkali, spade additives in 10” deep, level garden and moisten soil

• *Or *  Use raised beds and fill with good soil for vegetable gardens.  Still spread fertilizer over the soil and blend into soil.

• Choose where to put the garden, what to grow, size for garden, need at least 6 hours of sunlight for your garden, avoid plant competition such as tree roots

• Begin Planting.

Direct Seeding: soak larger seed over night moisten soil prevents crusting, follow directions on the seed packet and save seed packet for future reference, space seeds don’t dump, don’t overplant seeds, have faith they will grow or you’ll have lots of thinning to do, thin out seedlings by cutting, follow spacing on seed packet when thinning, remove plants between the plants you save

– Benefits of direct seeding: plants acclimate better, more varieties to choose from, plants don’t go through transplant shock, costs less, save your seeds in a cool dry place

Transplanting – Pick short, stocky plants with good green color, moist potting soil, not too large for their container, and with flowers or fruit already on them if possible.  No sad looking plants with yellow or spotted leaves.

– Benefits of transplanting seedlings: usually nurseries get varieties proven in the area, makes your gardening space more productive sooner, no thinning

• Henderson / Las Vegas qualifies as Zone 8-9, Sunset Zone 11.

Mulch: controls weeds, keeps moisture in soil, shades roots from heat, returns organic matter to the soil, keep mulch at least an inch away from plant stems, spread after plants are up and established.

– Good mulches for vegetable gardens: compost straw, pine needles, shredded leaves, newspapers, cardboard, shredded bark.

Fertilize every 3 weeks.

Shade with 20% shade June through September.  Use shade cloth or give only morning sun.

Container gardening: Use 5 gallon minimum container size, use potting soil, needs more watering.

More Tips:

• For lettuce, sprinkle seeds on lightly wet soil, sprinkle layer of pearlite, water very gently so seeds don’t scatter.

• Grow things close together so plants shade each other.

• Grow radishes and carrots together.  Radishes come up first and loosen soil for carrots.

Stewardship for Contentment

March 3, 2010

Ask yourself this:

What things have you said you need lately?

Now consider:

1.1 billion people in developing countries lack access to clean water.  2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.  1.8 million children die from diarrhea per year.  Nearly 1 in 4 people in the world lives on less than $1/day.  1.1 billion people are undernourished.  Approximately 30,000 people died of hunger today.

Has your list from question 1 changed after reading these statistics?

Hebrews 13:5 says “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.

How would you rate yourself on contentment?  How caught up are you in the current culture of consumerism and materialism?
What impact does our discontentment or materialism have on creation?

Psalm 104:14 “He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he may bring forth food from the earth”.  This verse and others indicate that God created the earth in such a way to sustain people and animals.

Do you think God created the earth with the capacity to sustain the overconsumption that happens in the richest parts of the world?

Luke 16:13 “You cannot serve both God and money”.  Matthew 6:33  “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
What things should we pursue?

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.   Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Do you keep the Sabbath as a holy day for the Lord, to worship him and to rest?  The commandment indicates that manservants, maidservants and animals should also rest.  How do you feel about engaging in activities on the Sabbath,  such as shopping or visiting a restaurant, that require others to have to work on Sunday?

Leviticus 25:4 says “But in the seventh year the land is to have a Sabbath of rest, a Sabbath to the Lord.”  Do you think the Lord still intends for the land to have rest?  Though we cannot control whether or not the agricultural industry gives the land rest, we could give the land a rest from our own consumerism on our Sabbath.

What would this look like for the typical American?