Winter Is Coming. Is Your Yard Ready?


Rennett Stowe/flickr

Snow blankets a Joshua tree December 18, 2008.

Yes, it’s Election Day.

And we’re giving you a break. Enough political. We’re going to talk gardening.

Joining us are Nevada Public Radio’s own Norm Schilling, who is a co-host of “Desert Bloom,” a regular feature on KNPR.

The vote tomorrow, however, does figure into some of your gardening habits. If adult use of marijuana is approved, will you be planting a pot plant? And what kind of veggies can grow in cooler weather? 

Ruth from Las Vegas wants to know if she needs to change the soil in my raised garden beds?

It depends on the soil that you already have. If you’re trying to grow veggies and herbs and things like that you want a nice rich soil with organic material. I’ve encountered beds which are basically just sand.

Your garden beds should have a nice rich darker brown color that’s the organic matter in the soil. If you don’t have good soil to start with then you should dig it out to a depth of 12 inches or even more 18 inches or 24 if you really want. Roots can extend down to 24 inches.

Caller Kendra also had some questions about raised beds. She wanted to know if she should worry about mushrooms growing in her raised beds:

Mushrooms are the fruiting body of fungus and fungal organisms are typically associated with the decomposition of woody plants. That’s just the natural decomposition process.

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She also wanted to what to do to keep water from running out of the bottom of the beds.

Water is lazy. Everything in nature is lazy given the opportunity and what happens is water over time will build its own pathways like a river through the countryside. It will choose that path of least resistance and that’s what can happen with our irrigation. So if you were to work that soil a little bit. The act of digging is going to break up the pathways the water may have created.

Caller Tim wanted to know when to prune his pomegranate tree:

The leaves produce the energy for the plant. If the plant leaves out in the spring and you prune it immediately after all the energy it put into those leaves is lost. So, if you wait until fall, once those leaves are yellow or have dropped, then they’re done photosynthesizing. They’re done with the energy production that’s the time to go in and prune.

The most common mistake I see in pruning with pomegranates is they tend to put up a lot of suckers from the base. And people cut those back, which you should do but most of time when people cut them back the leave these little stubs – a half inch, an inch or two – those leaf out with a stubbly mass at the base that is not attractive. So, when you do prune those off take little bit of extra time and I actually lay down on my belly and just get in there. I try to remove those little branches right at their point of attachment. When those new suckers come up, you can just rub your thumb across when they’re really young and it takes 30 seconds to prune it.

Caller Oscar wanted to know why some trees in his yard are thriving and others are struggling:

One of the most common things I see in gardens is a mix of plants with very different water needs. If you have desert plants and moderate water-use plants or even high water-use plants all on the same valve or station or zone basically you have to over water the desert plants in order to get the more water thirsty plants enough water.

The problem is its desert trees then they grow really fast and fast growth is weak wood. They’re more likely to rip themselves apart in the wind. The thing to do is to segregate plants by area into a moderate water-use zone and a desert zone.

Caller Stephanie wanted to know how to get rid of nematodes in her raised garden beds:

Nematodes are small worms that are in the soil and some of them can do a lot of damage to root systems.

Nematode/Wikimedia commons

Mycorrhiza are even smaller and they have often developed beneficial relationships with plant root systems. They’re really important.

What you want is a broad spectrum of mycorrhiza, because some of them will do better in our environment and some will do worse. What you want to do is establish a population that is self-sustaining. So get a broad mix of mycorrhiza and introduce those into the soil.    

Mycorrhizal root tips/Wikimedia Commons

Caller Sue wanted to know what to plant in an area of her yard that doesn’t get much direct sunlight – even in the summer- but still will be very hot.

That’s the most challenging environment in Southern Nevada. What you want are basically broad-leaved plants. The type of plants that normally don’t survive here in Southern Nevada things like bear’s breech, Grecian pattern plant. You could try some of the jasmine. Shade loving succulents.

If you’re going to do pots, even if those pots are in the shade, they’re going to dry out quickly. Keeping leafy plants in a pot is a challenge even in the shade. Don’t put them on the regular irrigation system. Some salvia is shade loving.

You may have to do some replanting to get something to go in that area. If you have an area that is three feet or more try gold dust plant, which has really rich green leaves and it looks like someone put these little gold flecks on there. So, that’s another possibility.  

Grecian pattern plant/flickr

Bear's breech/Wikimedia common

Caller Lee wants to know how to make sure bougainvillea thrives:

Bougainvillea is a cold sensitive plant and that’s why nurseries are telling you they don’t survive the winter. If you don’t do anything about it, often they won’t survive the winter.

Bougainvillea/Wikimedia commons

It likes hot weather and will flush out, grow really fast when it warms up. When the cold hits – I think right at 32 degrees that tissue freezes and dies. What you want to do is protect the base of the plant for winter. The best solution is to take organic mulch, wood chips or you can take blankets or packing popcorn. Take an old planting pot, cut the base of it off, split it down the side open it up, put it like a chimney around the base of the plant and then fill that with whatever insulated material you want. And you want to do that before the first freeze.

Caller Mike lost several of his agave Americana and agave tequilana plants to the agave weevil.

Agave weevil/Courtesy:

It’s the agave weevil. When they get the weevil they stress out and the spike stays intact but the leaves around it start flopping down. By the time you see the signs of damage, it’s usually too late  

It’s flying beetle so they’re all over the valley. There are certain species of agave that they seem to like more.

The only way I know of to prevent the problem with the weevil. Your agave you can water five times a year. It will grow slower and live longer and it’s tougher and less susceptible to the weevil. Water: April, May, June, July, August, September – once a month.

You can use a systemic insecticide as a preventative measure. It’s imidacloprid. You want to use it on the plants before they get the weevil. You do it as a soil drench.  Apply it in the spring, probably in March. 



University of Nevada Cooperative Extension

Master Gardeners

Mountain States Wholesale Nursery

High Country Gardens

International Society of Arboriculture

From Nevada Public Radio: Desert Bloom


Norm Schilling, Schililng Horticulture

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