Gardeners get started – indoors |

Gardeners get started – indoors

Susan Wood

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Pearl Plummer watches Carole Morgan water her sweet pea seeds.

At high altitude, gardening can be a humbling hobby.

About this time of year when her driveway is still covered with snow, Carolyn Meiers takes the hobby inside. She has better control over the outcome of what she plants.

The plaque on the front step says it all: “You are as welcome as the flowers in my garden.” On Monday, the object of attention was the sweet pea because of its potent aroma and prolific nature.

“Flowers in Tahoe are so precious that I don’t want to pick them. That’s not the case with these. You need to pick them,” Meiers said.

She invited three friends for a sweet pea planting party. The friends said they wanted to do this a month ago, but it was too early. Such is the case for Tahoe gardeners, who often want to rush the process. Even May – with its unpredictable weather – is a risk to protect the plants.

“The rule of thumb always was not to plant anything before Memorial Day, but it’s been known to snow then,” Meiers said.

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She’s known one neighbor to go to the effort of keeping flowers in her trunk and pull the car out in the driveway during the day, so the sun shines on them. At night, she’d pull the car in the garage to protect them. Others have been known to wheel tomato plants around in a wagon, searching for sunny spots.

Sandy Allie said she gets jealous of the Carson Valley gardeners able to hit the nurseries for plants before the snow disappears at Tahoe.

“I just like the idea of just being able to walk in my back yard,” Allie said, preparing her egg crate cartons for planting. The foursome poured soil in their respective planters and dotted the soil with chopsticks.

The hope is the seeds would germinate by mid-May. At the point of germination, they can go in the sun. When the first leaves sprout, the seedlings will be planted in 4-inch containers. Upon signs of the second leaves, they can be placed in the ground.

Meiers soaked the seedlings in water for 24 hours – a delicate process for Tahoe gardeners. The planting squad said they’ve learned a lot through the years from friends, and Meiers said she’s also taken classes.

“Mine (knowledge) has been trial and error, mostly,” Carole Morgan said.

The tenacity of Tahoe gardeners is about as strong as the voles carving through Meiers’ back yard.

“Look at that. It looks like a relief map. The voles are on steroids. We put out mousetraps, and they’ve carried them off,” she said.

Ginger Huber of El Dorado County Environmental Management said she hasn’t heard of increased sightings of the critters but agreed they do like the marshy grounds characteristic of Keys homes this winter. Some voles gnaw their way through the flowers planted outside. Still, snow is the biggest culprit in ruining the plants.

For that, Joe Walton of Grass Lake Nursery recommends placing jars over the outside flowers to wait out the winter.

“They can get sunlight, and the snow won’t cave in on them,” he said. “The snow (we’ve had this year) beats the heck out of the early blooms.

Some people use tarps and blankets. Walton suggests planting petunias and pansies as ideal choices, but he also recommends starting indoors.

“They’re more established and have a better shot at (surviving),” he said. “And it’s time to do that now.”

Walton, who also runs Tahoe Turf in winter, has started fielding many calls of jobs to clean up the yards. He advises homeowners to cut back the perennial plants and remove the pine cones and needles.