LAUGHLIN — M.L. Robinson began his presentation Saturday with an apology.
“I’m sorry it’s not a new car, but you get a seed packet, you get a seed packet and you get a seed packet,” he said to the roughly 50 people gathered in a conference room at the Laughlin Library, while distributing seeds for various pea varieties.
Robinson, a professor of environmental horticulture with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, spoke about the best paths for gardening success given local conditions.
Robinson said growing food has several benefits. Among them are direct knowledge of what’s in what we’re eating, better taste, having a potentially larger variety and the therapeutic effect of working in the garden.
His focus was on vegetables. Robinson said that every plant part that can be named is represented by something people eat.
“We eat roots, stems and bulbs,” he said, listing radishes, asparagus and onions as examples. “We eat bark, if you like cinnamon.”
Robinson said that people have gotten away from growing food for their households, which once was the norm, especially when the Great Depression broke out.
“It’s a shame,” he said during a break. “Kids don’t know where food comes from.”
One area he talked about was pest control.
“There’s no such thing as pest control,” Robinson said. “It’s just pest management, because you’ll never control them.”
He said that home gardeners should aim to use the least disruptive method of getting rid of pests. In some cases, Robinson said, that will mean water. Soapy water and organic solutions should be tried before going to chemical pesticides as a last resort, he said.
Robinson said vegetables and herbaceous (non-woody) annuals have similar needs, and can be planted together). He said that some rules for flower arrangements don’t apply to the vegetable garden.
“I know we live in a funny new era where you’re not supposed to touch anything or anybody,” he said. “But that doesn’t apply to plants. It’s OK for them to touch.”
In response to an audience member’s question, Robinson said that what’s on store shelves isn’t a good indicator of what will grow in the area. He offered as an example a Las Vegas store whose inventory included three Japanese maple trees.
“Where do Japanese maples grow best?” Robinson asked rhetorically.
He also talked about growing seasons, focusing on spring and fall. He said that sequential planting — planting patches of the same item at two-week intervals, for example — allows a consumer to have a steady supply of a crop.
“Who wants a bushel of radishes one week, and then nothing for the rest of the growing season?” He said.
Dave Gamino and Yvonne Gonzalez said they found the presentation entertaining and informative.
“Learning to garden in the desert is not easy,” Gonzalez said. “There’s a lot of trial and error. That’s why workshops like this are important.”
She said Robinson has led her to think about new things she might try out in her Bullhead City garden.
Gamino said that Robinson’s humor-filled approach made the presentation more interesting, and that he was particularly interested in the options Robinson discussed for raised planting beds, including one that looked like a long canvas bag.
“I’d never seen anything like that,” Gamino said. “I thought it was a great idea.”
Other topics covered included irrigation, proper placement and ways that fertilization needs change during a plant’s life span.