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Northern Nevada landscapes and gardens: How wrong is this?

My friend Julie lives in Incline Village at 7,149 feet elevation. She recently sent me a photo of a little yellow crocus coming up in a sunny flower bed at her house. She titled it “How Wrong is This?” referring to the fact that in most years her property is still under feet of snow in March.

Although it is always lovely to be greeted by a bit of spring color at this time of year, no matter what elevation you live at, it is unfortunate that we do not have a sufficient snow pack to completely recharge our aquifers, lakes and reservoirs.

My friend Peggy sent me “Nevada Seasons” from Spring Mountain Ranch State Park in Nevada that said the seasons are: Winter, Fool’s Spring, 2nd Winter, Spring of Deception, 3rd Winter, Road Construction, Actual Spring, Summer, Fire, False Fall, 2nd Summer and Actual Fall. It noted that we are currently in “Spring of Deception.”

We are being duped by early crocuses into believing that spring is already here. However, my neighbor Laura was predicting a couple of weeks ago, just before an expected snow, that her poor daffodils, only three inches to four inches tall, weren’t going to make it through the storm. She knew that it wasn’t spring yet, especially in Washoe Valley, just as Julie did in Incline.

In years past, I often received calls at the Cooperative Extension office at this time of year, when the weather was misleadingly nice, asking me if it was too soon to plant tomatoes. I knew by that question that the caller hadn’t lived in Nevada long, so I tried my best not to guffaw. I can’t remember how many times I have had to wait until early June to plant warm season crops such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash in my garden. When I lived at Lake Tahoe, it seemed every Fourth of July we watched the fireworks in down parkas.

Fellow gardeners, we all know weather in Nevada is fickle, particularly at the change of seasons. Although meteorological spring, which is based on annual temperature cycles, began March first, astronomical spring, the Vernal Equinox, began March 20 this year marking when the sun passes directly above the equator. Neither necessarily mean perfect spring weather.

A wise gardener prepares the soil now and possibly plants cool season crops. But, they also watch the weather to protect those crops and wait for the last freeze before planting warm season crops. When that last freeze is depends on where you are located and even then, it’s too variable to predict with any accuracy.

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at skellyj@unr.edu.

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