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As Temperatures Drop, It's Time To Get Gardening

By mid-week, it’s going to be in the low-80s in Reno as a high temperature; and in Las Vegas, it’ll be in the mid-90s. 

Not only does that mean your power bill will go down, but Nevada happens to be a state of gardeners, and planters, and tree growers. 

It means it’s time to think about planting again, both for the dinner table and just because it’s fun or relaxing.

Here to answer your gardening questions are the hosts of Desert Bloom, Angela O’Callaghan of UNLV’s Cooperative Extension and Norm Schilling of Schilling Horticulture.

What can be planted right now?
Angela O'Callaghan: Lettuces, spinaches, members of the broccoli family and herbs. Just make sure to amend the soil with organic matter and use a fertilizer that is rich is in nitrogen, which is the first number on the fertilizer.

North Carolina Department of Agriculture

Norm Schilling: Fall is our second spring and it is actually better than the first spring from the plants' perspective because they have more time to establish a healthy root system before the extreme heat arrives.
O'Callaghan: As far as planting anything in the fall in Northern Nevada, you really don't want to think a whole about trying to do a lot of fall planting unless you can protect those plants with something like a cold frame.
Schilling: As long as they are cold hardy, if soils don't freeze, the roots can continue to grow during the winter. I think there is still a window in Northern Nevada to get some of the stuff in the ground.
Anna emailed with a question about watering:
Schilling: One of the biggest problems is when people don't add emitters as a tree grows. A small tree with a few emitters is fine but as the tree grows the leaves requires more water.
The best way to do that is not to water more and more at the base but to actually add emitters around the plant to encourage it to spread its roots out into the surrounding soil.
O'Callaghan: A lot of times people tend to water not enough but too often. When you do water, try to make sure that you're watering deeply but not necessarily so often. 
Schilling: They say water deep, wide and infrequently. We all know that plants need water but plants also need air and if the soil is saturated with water - there is no air. The great Linn Mills used to say that more plants here die of overwatering than underwatering.
O'Callaghan: Drainage is an issue we deal with a lot because Southern Nevada soil is hardpan, hard soil that is almost rock hard.
If there is water just sitting on that hard soil and there is no air, roots literally can't take up water. They stop working.
Koi has a lemon tree and a plum tree in the home he recently purchased and wants to know how to take care of them:
Schilling: Ornamental plums are a bit temperamental so put emitters around it and wood chip mulch from the trunk to the emitters. 
There are two types of lemon trees you'll see in Southern Nevada. They are meyer lemon and regular lemons. Meyer lemons really like our soil. 

Meyer Lemons/Design Build Love from Flickr

Support comes from

With both trees, use a good quality fertilizer with proportional numbers in the spring and in the fall. Spread the fertilizer around and water it in really good.
Don't try to prune a tree by yourself unless you know what you're doing and in fact, some professionals don't know how to prune a tree.
It is a good practice for a newly planted tree to use a highly diluted white latex paint on its trunk. It works like a sunscreen.
Gene is having a problem with a bug on his pomegranate tree:

Leaf-footed bugs eating a pomegranate

O'Callaghan: The bugs are leaf-footed bugs and they are a plague for pomegranates. At the Cooperative Extension, they use a product called 'surround' and it is very pure white clay. Put it in water and shake it up to form a thin coating that you put on the fruit and the bugs don't recognize the fruit.

Picture courtesy:

Robin wants to know why her pomegranates don't ripen:
Schilling: There is a possibility that you are picking the fruit too early. Pomegranates ripen quite late in the season usually not until November. The way you can tell if the fruit is ripened is the rind actually splits.
There are several different kinds of pomegranate trees and they tend to do well in Southern Nevada unlike a lot of fruit trees. They like our soils. It may be that you just didn't get a good tree. 
Deborah removed an overgrown rosemary plant in her yard and would like to know what to replace it with:
Schilling: Stay away from shrubs that will freeze or will be hurt by dropping temperatures. 
There is a group of plants called the tecomas that will bloom for about eight months of the year. They love hot weather. If you plant it now it will have some green leaves, it will probably have some flowers and then it will die back in the winter but that root system will overwinter just fine and it will come back gangbusters in the spring.

Tecoma stans - Yellow Elder/Wikimedia Commons

Paul sent an email asking if rosemary is a good option for a front-yard hedge:
Schilling: Rosemary has what is known as a dead zone, which can be exposed if you cut away too much greenery and expose the brown tissue. Once that dead zone is exposed it will never grow back properly.
The challenge with it as a hedge if you let that hedge go too long and you try cutting it back too far your rosemary is going to look awful - forever. 
Rosemary has naturally very, very beautiful form. Put it in, give it some irrigation, let it do its thing and drink wine.
O'Callaghan: I have yet to find any rosemary that's not considered an edible herb.  
The thing about rosemary is it is just fabulous for bees.
Bettina has a fig tree that she has never pruned and is getting a little out of control:
Schilling: The rule of thumb is that you don't want to remove more than about 25 percent of the total foliage mass in a given year.
The best time to do it is in the winter. The thing I don't want you to do is the thing we call 'stub cutting' or 'hat racking.' You just want to make those cuts back to a lateral branch that is at least one-third the diameter or prune back the tip to a little bud, where there is a leaf scar, where a leaf was. 
If you do remove a branch entirely, don't leave a stub. Remove it almost back to the trunk where there is a swell of tissue where that branch comes out.  Leave that swell intact.
Lucy had what she believes is a worm problem amongst her swiss chard and lettuce
O'Callaghan: If you have a lot of infested plants, you might just want to get rid of them and do something called soil solarization, where you put plastic over that soil and let heat accumulate and it will literally cook the insect eggs and whatever larvae that may still be out there. 
You leave the plastic on for about six weeks and then you take it off and you can replace some of the nutrients with compost.
You could also use BT if the infestation happens again. BT is Bacillus thuringiensis, which is a certain type of bacteria that makes a poison that the plants take up. It gets as far as the leaves and when one of these caterpillars eats one of those leaves it kills them. And it's not toxic to us. It is still acceptable under organic practices as well.


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

UNR College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources

From Nevada Public Radio: Desert Bloom


Angela O’Callaghan, UNLV’s Cooperative Extension; Norm Schilling, Schilling Horticulture.

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