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It's the new year - as far as I'm concerned it's a new year until sometime around march. But so far it's been one remarkable year for water. Even without the tsunami's! Las Vegas getting snow and weeks of rain, avalanches on Mt. Charleston - all mighty impressive. Not enough to cure the water shortage at Lake Mead, but...

I bet that this spring we'll have the whole pallate of desert flowers just going crazy with all the moisture. After these inches of rain here in the Desert Southwest, I'm so looking forward to seeing the colors in Red Rock and in Death Valley. Now that'll be the real Desert Bloom!

But walking or driving through the little (or not so little) floods from the rain should remind us of how important it is that the soil have drainage. One thing about desert soils - they're not what anyone would call porous. Water tends to sit at the soil surface and take a very long time to be absorbed. In many places around the world, soil is like a sponge - takes water in, holds what it can and releases the excess, but in a lot of parts of the Mojave Desert, it's more like a concrete slab. Which is also why we get floods - run off. We need to be concerned about how the soils in our own gardens drain. Except for the true desert natives, which have evolved so many curious ways to survive or perhaps ignore the vagaries of the Mojave, most of the plants that we put in yards or gardens don't do well with what are called "wet feet". Check your yard to make sure that plant roots aren't sitting in pools of water. We do have information sheets at the office to help you with that.

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Another thing with all the rainfall, you can skip irrigating if the sky is providing the water. Yesterday, honest to goodness, I was walking in the rain and passed a lawn with its sprinkler irrigation going full blast.

And just a word to the wise as we start thinking about preparing for spring - compost. I know, I must bring up the topic of compost every other show, but it's the miracle stuff. Adding compost helps with drainage because it's so sponge-like, it helps the soil's acid-base balance, and helps provide fertility to our very infertile soil. And it doesn't have to be a big production number to make it, in fact, it's easy enough to buy finished compost from several places around town. The important part is to put it into your soil.

But speaking of new years and spring, isn't that also the time when you want to widen your horizons, and learn something new? I just happen to have some learning opportunities right here!

Cooperative Extension is going to be holding a few interesting classes, and they'll be starting soon. For anyone who's thought about using true desert plants for food, or learning how people in the Mexican desert are growing vegetables, we're having a workshop with faculty from the University of the Sonora this month on that topic. It'll be on Wednesday January the 19th - starts at 9 am with a round table at noon.

On Valentine's day and the day after - February 14th and 15th for you non-romantics, Maria Ryan (extension's natural resource specialist) and I will be running the Invasive Weed Training course. Yes, I know, a weed is just a plant out of place. That's true, but it's when they're out of place. As I've mentioned before, weeds aren't only a nuisance in the landscape, they can actually destroy whole ecosystems, replacing native plants, removing big amounts of water, diminishing the food supply of native animals. And our Southern Nevada ecosystem is under attack from these plants. This is a 12 hour program. It'll be your chance to learn what they do, how they work, and how to identify and control them.

Finally, we'll soon be starting the spring training class for new Master Gardeners. If you, or someone you know, has thought about entering the ranks of the Master Gardeners of Southern Nevada, we're having the orientation meeting on February 8. It's a Tuesday evening. You have to go to orientation to enter the class that starts March first. A few years ago, we set up the spring class for people who are busy during the day, but want to become part of the program. It runs on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, from 6 to 9 pm until the end of May. You can become one of the Southern Nevada Experts!

Call the Extension office to register for orientation, or to find out about any of the programs we'll be having over the next few months.

For KNPR's Desert Bloom, this is Dr. Angela O'Callaghan of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Oh, did I say it yet? Happy New Year!

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