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Sunday, August 19, 2012

The End of Ramazan. How Did I Do?

Children's kite landed on our roof. Just like in Kabul
they children fly kites here on windy days.
Ramazan, or Ramadan in Arabic, is over. Today, Sunday August 19 is the official end of Ramazan and the beginning of a celebration called Eid. Some Afghan friends estimate that about 80% of the population in the cities probably fasted during Ramadan. In the rural areas it was closer to 100% excluding children, the elderly and the sick. Also women who menstruate are also excluded for three days during that period of the month.

I have to admit it was tough when those temperatures hit 110F and above. Ramazan moves around on the calendar so it is not always during the peak summer months. I have to admit it was much easier when the day time temperatures were closer to 100F which fortunately was fairly often which was unusual here.

Afghan local tomatoes. 
Yes, they are as good as they look. 
How did I do? I came to a crisis point. One Afghan woman asked me in a rather impatient tone why I was fasting. She actually seemed like she was offended. I told her that I wanted to find out what my staff was going through. How could I know what I could ask them to do or not to do if I did not understand their situation. Her gaze softened. Her face turned to one of shock almost. She had  never considered this as a reason why someone might do this. Once she understood my motives she became a good friend but she was distant until she understood the Why.

This also caused me to think through my reasoning and the fasting restrictions I had put on myself. If I wanted to understand what they were going through, couldn't I just do it for a couple of days, understand the hardship, and break the fast for myself? I could. Would I understand the long term effects that fasting for a month had on my staff? Probably not
. But certainly there was no reason for me to wait for the Mull
Local higher end retail market. The low end is at the
ah to give his prayer some time around 7 pm to break my fast. I was not Muslim and I didn't need to live by this conduct. So I would break my fast after they went home for the day and I was alone...usually around 6 pm. Did I need to get up at 230 am and eat and drink so I could start fasting when the Mullah gave his prayer at around 430 am? No. So when I got up at 5 am i belted down my cup of java and then began my fast. Water and food.

The time of Eid is a time when family and friendships are renewed. The first day family visited each other. Food, massive amounts of good food they could or could not afford, was laid on the table. Candies, fruits, vegetables, meat,... it was all there. The second day close friends would visit other close friends. And the third day everyone joined in. It is a special time for children. Almost like our Halloween without costumes, children visiting and given candy and goodies at each of the houses.

I have been invited to two homes so far on tomorrow. I feel honored. It is the second day of Eid. I have close friends. I feel blessed.

Where Do I Get Pheremone Traps?

Q. Thank you. I have learned a lot from you. Thank you for all your newsletter. I hope that you continue to do all the good work. Do you know where I can get pheromone traps for insects that cause damage in our area and also for thrips that damage nectarines?

A. Try Peaceful Valley at

            Pheremone traps can be used to identify what insect problems you have in your backyard orchard and when to spray. Commonly we use them for peaches, nectarines, apples and pears. You will want a trap for each insect and about three or four lures for each trap since they have to be replaced regularly. You will replace the lures about every 4 to 5 weeks until harvest then you can stop.

            There are no traps for thrips. For thrips you will need Spinosad biological insecticide which you can get from local nurseries. The label may not say spinosad but may say something like borer, bagworm control. You may have to look at the ingredients to see the spinosad.

Emerald Ash Borer in Southern Nevada?

Emerald ash borer damage to
Green ash. From Wikipeida.
Q. Each summer when I vacation I note the westward movement of the Emerald Ash Borer, now in Eastern Nebraska.  Is it safe to assume this menace will make its way to Nevada and, if so, is there any defense against its damage?  It seems that Ash trees make up a large portion of the urban canopy here, many of which are already stressed by lawn removal.  Do you anticipate a problem? 

A. There is a good chance it will not reach southern Nevada and become a problem. It is currently restricted to lower Canada and the northern tier states extending as far south as Missouri as far as I can tell. Our climate may not be favorable for its spread. But we will not know until it gets here and it will get here. Also the ash trees it favors seems to be northern zone ash trees. Let’s keep our fingers crossed on this one.


When to Add Compost and How Much?

Compost being made by Ponderosa Dairy in Amargosa
Nevada by the windrow method
Q. I hope you remember me from the last time you were in Kingman teaching.  I am a Master Gardener.  My question involves composting in the home garden for spring planting.  There seems to be no definitive answers as to when is the best time to add compost to the garden, and exactly how much compost to apply.  I hear that it may be better to apply the compost before the first frost so that it has time to break down before spring planting, and then again I hear that you should add it maybe a month or so before you plant.  The latter is normally the approach I take.  So far, so good, but can you share your thoughts with me on these two topics?  Thanks.

A. I do remember you, Ron. Regarding the compost, I usually look at the color of the soil to determine how much compost to add. For instance, a dark rich soil that crumbles easily will need less compost than one which is hard to dig and does not crumble easily. A well prepared vegetable bed should be so friable that you can dig it nearly with your hands, unaided by a shovel. This kind of soil structure we call "crumby" like cake crumbs.

Compost being added to the vegetable
plots at The Orchard in North Las Vegas
Once we achieve this state in a vegetable garden soil we just need to replenish the organic matter which was lost during the growing season. Generally we figure that we lose about 1/3 of our organic matter content of our soil each year. So the first year it is 1/3 of our total organic matter content. The second year it is 1/3 of our remaining organic matter content, etc. So you see it will not run out
in three years to zero. It will continue to diminish annually but at a different rate as the total amount of organic matter diminishes.

When preparing a raw (never amended) desert soil for a garden it will take about three years of applying a heavy amount of compost to the soil each year. These applications of compost must also be accompanied by growing vegetables in it. Just putting a compost into a soil and doing nothing else and waiting for three years will accomplish absolutely nothing. Water and microorganisms must be in the mix as well. I like to compare it to making bread or a cake. You can add all the dry ingredients to a bread or cake mix you want but without adequate liquid they will sit there and do nothing.

In the raw desert soils of the Las Vegas Valley we have less than 1/10 of 1% organic matter. That is amazingly low. In other rawvdesert soils the organic matter may reach 3 /10 or 4/10 of 1%, still not much. We want our soils to get to 5 to 8% organic matter. This is 50 to 80 times higher amounts than we have. To achieve this I like to add a minimum of 50% compost to our raw desert soils. I would even push it higher, closer to 75% the first year. Every time the soil is prepared for a new planting, organic matter or compost should be added. It does not matter the time of year in the warm climate of Las Vegas. In colder climates when soil temperatures drop into the 40's, most compost will sit there and not do much. As soon as the soil temperatures hit the mid 50's the microorganisms will kick in and start to work.
Yes, this is my foot on top of a desert soil typical
of what we would use for vegetable production.
It is modified heavily with compost over a three
year production cycle.

Compost by definition has finished its decomposition. It is then ready to release all the goodies that was built up into it during the composting or rotting process. So if a compost is a finished compost it will not continue to decompose. This is not true of unfinished composts or manure. These will continue to "rot" or decompose and they create their own heat when they do so and are piled together into a pile. Heat builds in the center of the pile to over 160F which is what you need to start killing weed seeds and bad plant pathogens.

So add a finished compost every time you plant. The amount varies with the color of the soil. Darker, rich soils need less than lighter colored less well developed garden soils. But if you add compost every time you plant and you continuously garden for three years in it, then the garden soil will be sustainable with small amounts of compost every time you plant. I hope this helps.