Deployed to the Gulf in 1998, my day job often found me sitting in the back of an H-60 helicopter in a wetsuit in the balmy, not-so-nice desert heat. Other days found me headed out to the helo with ammo cans full of 7.62 bullets for my M60. Not so glamorous days, found us vertrepping giant pallets of toilet paper from one ship to another. Kinda like the movie, The Guardian except not really at all- there was a lot more stripping and waxing of floors. The guys in my shop would laugh during mail call when my Martha Stewart Magazine showed up. It was for the articles I told them. Photos of dreamy gardens were my connection to home. Fast forward some years, I’m living in Fallon because I fell in love with it seeing it from the air after multiple air wing trips here. I’m attending UNR for a Biology degree, I get my dream job working at a nursery that I love filled with “Green Goddess coworkers” and I’m married to an active-duty Navy Seal I met here in town (thank you Andy and Deb Nelson for having a bbq so I could, “meet this guy.”) We’re both incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have served and the life we have built in this beautiful town. Does any of this make me qualified to write in a garden column? Probably not, but I’ll take a crack at it anyway!
To continue the introduction, my husband Kevin and I have a small farm here on the South side of town that we’ve been planting on for about 15 years. We have lots of critters and two beehives that “keep” us. We’re growing a huge variety of plants but rare, hot peppers are really our thing. We’re fortunate to share some with a few restaurants, the Fallon Food Hub, and local friends and family.
Does it take military service to grow a garden here in Fallon? Of course not, but I can’t say it doesn’t help. Gardening here is an epic challenge. We have alkaline, super sandy soils and occasional pockets of heavy, clay especially in town or often found five feet down when you’re digging to plant a new tree. We have heavy winds and water issues. Early frosts and late ones. Sizzling 100 degree days in summer and then you get a big box store trying to convince you azaleas will do fine here because they’re labeled full sun. I’m not saying you can’t grow an azalea here in the high desert. I am saying it will take some real effort to provide the right growing conditions for a native southern/east coast range plant. A word of warning for new gardeners, Fallon full sun is serious sun. A little afternoon shade more often than not is your friend! Maybe we get lulled into a sense of easy gardening because of the gorgeous, green fields that surround us? A reminder, the local farm folks put in some serious work to make that Greenwave.
All that being said, some of those challenges are actually what makes our town famous …the daily diurnal shift makes Lattin Farms cantaloupes some of the best in the West. The tomatoes and garlic in this area fall into the same category. Asparagus grows wild on our ditch banks and we grow astounding roses that are free of many of the diseases that plague gardens in other parts of the country.
It’s important to Kevin and me that we not tell you exactly what we think you should be doing in your garden, with so many variables we thought sharing what we’re currently up to on our farm would be a little more helpful. In future articles, our goal is to inspire, share some great advice from local experts and hopefully pass on some of the things we’ve learned through trial and error.
We’re still planting seeds and seedlings here in our veggie gardens and mulching perennial beds. Mulching is absolutely worth your time. It helps keep weeds down, retains moisture so you can water less and keeps the soil surface temperature lower. Simple mulches like grass clippings, pine needles, wood chips, or leaf litter add organic matter to your beds as they slowly decompose. I like Cocoa hull mulch as well but wouldn’t recommend it if you have a dog or cat prone to munching on things. We’re also thinning out our fruit trees. A good rule of thumb is one piece of fruit every six inches. If you’re blessed with a loaded tree, try thinning a few branches each day. You’ll be rewarded with bigger, tastier fruit.
Jaime Sammons carries a pair of pruners in her glove box - just in case, and believes you can be a gardener even with a single planted container on your porch.