LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — This pandemic has put a lot of extra stress on our plates and everyone's looking for a way to unwind. With a little extra time on their hands, many people have discovered gardening is the key to relieving that COVID -19 stress.
Living in Las Vegas, we know we're dealing with a very unique kind of climate. But, if you know what you're doing, plants can grow really well in the desert.
As the director of Vegas Roots Community Garden, Roz Brooks has seen the hobby of gardening grow a lot in popularity during this pandemic.
"I’ve had more people than ever now who live in Vegas that are saying, “hey, I need to learn how to grow my own food and how do I go about doing that?” said Brooks.
They've come to the right person and place. But more importantly, they've come for the right reasons.
"People now understand the need to slow down, the need to get out in the fresh air, the need to get your immune system healthy, to start moving your body," said Brooks.
For those who only see strenuous manual labor, Brooks will tell you all about the mental health benefits of getting down and dirty.
"Gardening is so therapeutic. When you come into the garden and you’re basically exercising, you’re shoveling, and you’re moving, you’re getting your hands in the dirt, you’re using your muscles, all of a sudden, that fog just lifts," said Brooks.
"It is a very good stress reliever just to get out and work in the garden," agreed Paul Noe, a horticulturist at "Star Nursery," more famously known on their commercials as "Dr. Q."
At Star Nursery, business is booming during this pandemic, thanks in large part to the newfound interest from first-time gardeners.
"They are definitely wanting to grow their own food, rather than to go out and buy food because that does help them be able to stay closer to home and actually produce more edible things that are going to be in their own home," said Dr. Q.
But before you begin, you should know that Las Vegas' alkaline desert dirt is not ideal for growing a garden. For starters, Dr. Q recommends a raised bed, filled with a mixture of potting soil and organic matter.
"It increases the drainage because a lot of our soil can be very hard and compacted and so it doesn’t drain real well and those delicate plants need good drainage," said Dr. Q.
In the summer, the strength of the sun means plants need to be watered at least once a day, and you can cut back to three or four days a week in the cooler months.
"The key is to make sure that you can keep that soil mix around the roots at an even moisture content, not real soggy wet, but not allowed to dry out completely either," said Dr. Q.
With the fall growing season set to start in September, Dr. Q says it's a great time to start a garden, and there are lots of plants that thrive in Las Vegas in the fall.
"Fall plants are a lot of the leafy plants: cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, Swiss chard. Also, root plants like turnips, onions, beets, carrots. All of those are good for the fall crops as well," said Dr. Q.
Whether you start from a seed or a seedling, Dr. Q says the most important part is enjoying the process.
"It’s very therapeutic and relaxing. You get satisfaction from actually growing things and producing things that you’re able to eat yourself or even if it’s just a nice flower, it looks good," said Dr. Q.
If you're interested in starting your own garden, for $350, you can lease a plot of land in the Vegas Roots Community Garden for an entire year. That includes seeds, soil, irrigation, and gardening tips from Roz Brooks herself. To learn more about the community garden, click this link.
And if you already have your own garden at home but some of your crops are struggling, for $90, Star Nursery will come to your house to diagnose the issue and get your garden on the road to recovery. For more information on Star Nursery, click this link.