Seed money

The last Master Gardener plant sale?

Plant-lovers peruse the pickings at the 2010 Master Gardener plant sale. With budget cuts threatening the program, 2011 could be the annual sale’s final year.

Plant-lovers peruse the pickings at the 2010 Master Gardener plant sale. With budget cuts threatening the program, 2011 could be the annual sale’s final year.

Photo By kat kerlin

Master Gardener Plant Sale is Master Master Gardener Plant Faire Extravaganza will be Saturday, May 21. 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, 4955 Energy Way. 784-4848.
The Great Basin Community Food Co-op’s Seedling Sale is also Saturday, May 21. 9 a.m. to noon. 542 1/2 Plumas Street. 324-6133.

There will be no shortage of options this weekend for people who want to buy locally grown plants and seedling starts. Both the Master Gardener Plant Faire and the Great Basin Community Food Co-op’s seedling sale will take place Saturday, May 21.

The Master Gardeners are hoping it won’t be their last. The program is part of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. The University of Nevada, Reno has proposed a 72 percent budget cut to UNCE, while Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed a 32 percent cut to the Extension. [Full disclosure: Writer Kat Kerlin’s husband works for a separate program within UNCE.] If the larger cut is accepted, Master Gardener program coordinator Wendy Hanson Mazet says her program could be eliminated, with a slightly less chance of that happening with the governor’s smaller percentage cut.

“Hopefully we won’t lose as many programs,” says Hanson Mazet. “It’s very much in the hands of the Legislature.”

This will be the 13th annual plant sale for the Master Gardeners. This year, more than 5,000 plants representing about 200 varieties of perennial and annual flowers, vegetables and herbs will be for sale. All the plants are grown by local Master Gardeners without pesticides, though an inorganic fertilizer was applied to some. The MGs have placed an emphasis on short-season, heirloom varieties, especially of tomatoes. Look for varieties like Cream Sausage—a 73-day tomato similar to a Roma but with a creamy, white to yellow color—or Azoychka, a 70-day Russian heirloom that can produce over 40, 3-inch tomatoes on one plant.

A key difference this year at the Master Gardener sale is its location. The Cooperative Extension recently moved to 4955 Energy Way. So the garden scene of previous years will give way to a parking lot, and participants will be directed through the UNCE office to get to the plant sale. People who mistakenly go to the old location will find signs pointing them in the right direction.

Hanson Mazet points out one of the key benefits of buying plants grown by local growers in the local environment: “The selection and varieties that we’ll offer, specifically on vegetables, we’re offering ones we know grow well in this climate and you can expect to see fruit on in the short amount of growing time we have.”

The Master Gardener sale will be from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Starting a couple of hours later, another parking lot seedling sale will get underway from 9 a.m. to noon at the Great Basin Community Food Co-op. Now in its fourth year, the sale will feature seedlings grown by over a dozen local farms, including Ecologica Farms, Churchill Butte Organics, Loping Coyote, Hungry Mothers Organic, Salisha’s Delicious and more. They’ll accept cash and check only. There will also be vendors representing local meat, organic bread, and other local foods.

“A lot of them are certified organic, and if they’re not, they’re in transition,” says co-op cofounder Amber Sallaberry of the growers. “None of our farmers use GMO [genetically modified organism] starts. They’re acclimated to Nevada’s climate and growing conditions.”