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Summer Heat

purple-lantana-001-1024x650.jpg

Lantana
Courtesy birdsandblooms.com

Ground cover, such as Lantana, may need to be cut back in the summer time because of its tendency to become overgrown.

Over the past few weeks, many people have been telling me just how tired they are of the summer.

No wonder.

This summer’s been pretty dreadful, especially for anyone who’d want to work in their garden, or do anything outside, for that matter. Unless somebody were prepared to be out, starting at five in the morning and finished by about seven, it was more or less impossible to keep on top of gardening.

In a lot of places around town, it looks like the plants are barely hanging on. I see pine trees all over that are covered in cones. Very dramatic, but when a plant is seriously stressed, it may go into reproductive mode overdrive. Even if it’s dying, it’ll keep the species going.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but my little plot shows a distinct lack of summer care.

I thought I was doing great things just to keep the irrigation going, and my garden’s relatively small. One broken emitter could’ve meant disaster.

It’s not that everything’s dead, mind you. Since it was watered, and the soil’s good, my problem is more that my little bit of heaven is just totally overgrown – completely bonkers.

 Ground cover’s taken over one whole section, my strawberry plants (plants, not fruit) have invaded the brick walkway, and my fruit trees have decided this would be a terrific time to start reaching for the sky. I try to keep the fruit trees down to a level where I don’t need a ladder to pick fruit; the trees don’t necessarily have the same idea.

Support comes from

There are mornings when I step into my back garden and think, “this is the forest primeval” (with thanks to Mr. Longfellow). Quite the contrast to the Mojave Desert landscape in the front, which just keeps perking along. Those plants are comfortable in this environment; for them, it’s home.  

Even my raised bed vegetable garden’s overgrown. Thank goodness, tomatoes and peppers turn red when they’re ripe; I don’t know how I’d find a vegetable in there if it didn’t have a bright color.

I was thinking about getting ready for fall – cleaning out raised beds, putting more mulch all around, but the plants aren’t ready to give up the ghost yet.

Growing anything outdoors in this desert can be a summertime challenge, but I remind myself that from September to June, it’s easy.

I receive a calls from people who want to put up greenhouses, but those are less practical than you might think. We only really need that kind of protection a couple of weeks in the winter when temperatures are much below 35°. In the summer, they need air conditioning, because greenhouses can get mighty toasty when it’s 120° outside.

They take more of a commitment than a raised bed does. You cannot ignore them for a couple of weeks and hope for the best. Plants’ll suffer more, and faster, in an untended greenhouse than in a backyard. Unless you can be sure they’ll be maintained religiously, or if you have staff, you might want to rethink a greenhouse.

On the other hand…

We had an Urban Agriculture conference at Cooperative Extension recently, and we saw how interior agriculture is getting some traction. I’m not talking about a few plants on a windowsill. Modern indoor horticulture – growing food, not philodendrons – it’s becoming more high tech, even on small scales. A local company donated indoor green wall units to four elementary schools in town. These are completely self-contained - they use little water; have carefully designed lighting systems, and relatively few problems.

Except, they’re not cheap.

For a typical household, I don’t know how practical it would be, but a big family might actually use all the produce it could grow.

And speaking of using all the produce, we’ve started a new Food Preservation course at Extension. It’s been wildly popular. Call Chelle Reed at the office for more information, or to register.

For KNPR’s Desert Bloom, this is Dr. Angela O’Callaghan of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. 

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