Summer Heat Is Around The Corner, Is Your Garden Ready?


Rob Bertholf/Flickr

It just rained but does that mean it’s time to put the tomatoes in? Or should you have done that already?

If we have another hotter-than-usual summer, how do you get your trees ready for it?

Plant whisperers Norm Schilling and Angela O'Callaghan are with us again to answer all your gardening questions.


Any suggestions for what to plant now that could be used as salad fixings this summer?

Angela: Forget lettuce it’s too hot. Lettuce needed to be planted in February. Try planting any of the chards or New Zealand spinach or Malabar spinach, which isn’t a true spinach but does well in Las Vegas. 

Norm: Try prince's plume. It's a native green that was cultivated and used by Native Americans. 

Prince's plume/wikicommons media

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Now that the warmer weather has returned so have the bugs.

Norm: Bugs are an important part of the natural environment. They are part of the natural balance and should be encouraged. Try making sure there is something blooming in your garden all year round to encourage pollinators and predators to the garden.

Angela: Try to have an area of the garden that is messy. Your yard shouldn’t look like an overly manicured golf course. The messy places of yard provide shelter and breeding areas for beneficial insects. 

Sandra from Henderson wants suggestions for a tree or shrub that will block her cement brick wall in her backyard and provide some privacy from neighbors.

Norm: Try planting shiny xylomas. It can grow about six feet tall and will cover the wall and provide some privacy. Also try citrus trees like Meyer lemon or grapefruit, which do well in the desert and grow about six feet.

Shiny xylomas 

Skeeter from Overton wants to know what we can spray on edible plants to get rid of pests but not harm the plants:

Angela: Put two tablespoons of dish soap, one quart of water and a little bit of rubbing alcohol into a spray bottle and spray it on the plants, leave it for about an hour, then rinse it off with a hose.

Norm: The best way to fight the creatures causing problems in your yard is to find out what is causing the problem then research the best way to get rid of it. Bringing in natural predators like praying mantis or encouraging those kinds of predator is also helpful.  

Stan from Las Vegas put in an Arizona ash tree last year but it is not doing well. The leaves are small and curling.

Norm: It may be an insect called the whitefly that is causing the leaves to curl. But ash trees struggle in Las Vegas. The increasing daytime and night time temperatures are making it harder for moderate-water use trees like ash to survive.

It is probably better to yank out the tree and replace it with a Chinese pistache tree.  

Chinese pistache

Kristen from Las Vegas wants to bring in more bees to her tomatoes so her tomato plants will flower and fruit.

Norm: Try planting annuals that have a lot of color that attract bees and other pollinators around the tomato plants. However, be careful not to plant flowering plants that aren’t compatible with soil conditions that tomatoes like in the bed with the tomato. Instead, plant them NEAR the tomato plants. 

How should a newly planted queen palm be cared for?

Queen Palm/Wikicommons 

Norm: Queen palms really don’t belong in Southern Nevada. They don’t like it here. They don’t thrive here. You can try fertilizing it and giving it a deep soak to help leach out the salt in our soil, which it doesn’t tolerate well. Also, try pulling it out and replacing it with a Mexican blue palm. They’re much better suited for our soils and climate.

Angela:  Queen palms can suffer serious wind damage. They don’t tolerate our desert winds very well. The Cooperative Extension has a large catalog of palms that are much better suited for Southern Nevada.

Bill from Las Vegas lives in a high-rise apartment with a balcony facing east and he wants to know what potted plants can he grow.

Angela: Because you’re facing east you’re getting morning sun, which is the best. Don’t start any leafy greens right now, but you can plant peppers and eggplants. Make sure to fill the pots with good, fresh soil mix and don’t let the pots dry out. Pots are smaller so they dry out and get hot faster than gardens in the ground. Don’t worry about putting rocks in the bottom of pots it really doesn’t do much.

Also, try growing mint, rosemary, oregano or sage in a pot. 

Ron from Las Vegas would like to grow plants native to Southern Nevada in his yard:

Norm: The Nevada State Division of Forestry has a nursery at Floyd Lamb State Park where they sell native plants. The Springs Preserve also sells native plants at its plant sales, which are held twice a year now. True native species like creosote will sometimes make their way into a yard on their own. You can also ask a nursery to bring in more native plants. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so if you ask they can order them for you.  

Angela: Some nurseries also stock the seeds for native wildflowers like the desert 5 spot. 

Rick from Las Vegas abandoned his five raised boxes vegetable garden a few years ago after back surgery. He’s ready to start gardening again and wants to know the best way to get rid of the grass that has taken over.

Norm: Unfortunately, it’s probably Bermuda grass, which is very difficult to get rid of any other way than by using chemicals like the weed killer found in Roundup. However, to really kill Bermuda grass you have to kill it when the grass is really green and it is really hot outside. So, get the grass growing really well and then spray it down with Roundup in July or August.

When the grass is gone, read the label on the weed killer to see how long after you can plant something else. 


University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Clark County

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Horticulture Program

Master Gardeners

Mountain States Wholesale Nursery

High Country Gardens

International Society of Arboriculture

From Nevada Public Radio: Desert Bloom


Norm Schilling, Schilling Horticulture; Angela O'Callaghan, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension

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