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Stay Home For Nevada - And Garden


Kate Ter Haar/Flickr

If you’re worried about food in light of the pandemic, you're probably getting ready to seed your garden. But what to plant? And how about those overgrown trees?

We’re taking a short break from the pandemic with Norm Schilling and Angela O'Callaghan who have been doing horticulture for so long in the Mojave Desert, there's almost no question that can stump them.


Are allergies a problem right now?

Norm: Yes. Male mulberries are producing pollen along with ash, cedar and junipers. Olives are on the brink of producing pollen. To minimize the pollen on an olive tree, take a high-pressure nozzle and blast the flowers off. You can knock 60 percent, 70 percent, 80, 90 percent of those flowers off so you’ll reduce pollen and you’ll also reduce olives.


A listener has pistachios trees in their backyard for five years but they haven’t produced any nuts.

Norm: You do need one male for however females you want. Look at the flowers to determine if you have all female or all male trees. The flowers look different.

Angela: Wherever there is a tree that can accept that pollen, as we all know because we’re all sneezing, the pollen goes everywhere.


Penelope from Ridgecrest has several dead branches on her ash tree. She had a person cut out the dead branches last year but there are still some dead branches:

Support comes from

Norm: It is a high probability that your ash tree has a disease called sooty canker. Sooty canker is a fungal disease. Fungus produce by spores. They are wind-borne.  As summer temperatures continue to increase it puts more stress on plants and more stress makes them more susceptible to diseases.  

The symptoms of sooty canker are individual branches dying off and when you peel back the bark it looks black underneath and if you touch it, it will come off in your fingers like soot.

To treat it remove dead wood and be careful not to spread it the soot around to other trees. Don’t take off live branches because the tree will need that energy, fertilize it and give it a wide and deep watering.

It is a fatal, incurable disease. All you can do is keep the tree as healthy as possible as long as possible.

Sooty Canker/wikiemedia commons


Is soilless gardening an option?

Angela: When you can come to the cooperative extension in Green Valley, you’ll see that we have about 10 different hydroponic units that we use to teach some of our adjudicated youth that we help with.

We have these hydroponic units that are growing everything from bok choy to radish to lettuce to spinach. We’ve got a big tomato plant with tomatoes in our vestibule.


Vanessa from Las Vegas has started her plant seedlings but should she wait to plant until it’s warmer?

Angela: It depends on the seedlings. If you’re planting spinach, kale, lettuce that sort of thing, as long as nighttime temperatures are above about 45 degrees you will have no problem.

Tomatoes, on the other hand, you don’t want to put out until nighttime temperatures are above 50 degrees. And the reason I always tell people to look at nighttime temperatures is that the soil is going to be no colder than that.

If you’re thinking about something later in the season, like melons or pumpkins or squashes. Then your night time temperatures need to be higher than 60.


Skeeter from Overton wants to know why his lemon tree hasn’t produced fruit.

Norm: The key on lemons is Meyer. The Meyer lemon likes alkaline soils. All other lemons like acidic. They look like hell. They perform like hell compared to the Meyer.

Meyer lemons are smaller. They’re orange in color. They’re thin-skinned. If it looks like the plant is declining, it is probably a eureka.

Meyer lemons/Wikimedia commons

Robert wants to know how he can save his orange jubilees which have started to have brown leaves and some shiny residue on the leaves:

Norm: Orange jubilee is one of the tecomas. Tecomas are heat-loving plants and that’s not what we’ve had. So in a cold winter, they’ll freeze back all the way to the ground but it’s been a mild winter. So new growth is coming on, old-growth is dying off and will be replaced with new leaves.

The shiny residue is likely caused by aphids. You can wash them off with water or soapy water. But aphids aren’t really going to hurt the plant. Leaving the aphids will invite predators because they’ll see that food source and so they’ll move in and long term you will have fewer pest problems.

Orange jubilee tecoma/wikimedia commons

Ampy from Las Vegas has plants in plastic pots, but the pots get too hot in the summer.  

Angela: If you have a pretty glazed pot what you can do is put the plastic pot inside and what you’re doing is creating a little cooler environment for that plant in that plastic pot.  

Norm: Anything you can do to shade the sun from hitting that pot. Smaller pots staged down towards the sun, the foliage of each addition plant is going to shade out the pot. You can use burlap. You can use pretty fabrics. You can use a garden art of sticks. It’s a world of artistic possibilities.   


Where should you position a raised garden spot to get the best light and shade for edible plants?

Angela: For leafy greens, root vegetables, bulbs, they need a minimum of six hours of direct light. Not hot sun but sunlight from about 6 a.m. to noon. They will like you a lot. Look for a place in the garden where the light will be brightest in the morning.

For things like peppers, tomatoes or melons, they need eight hours of sunlight.


Chad wants to know where to plant blood orange that is currently in a pot.

Norm: Citrus likes soil with compost that is well decomposed. You don’t want wood chips. You mix about 25 or 30 percent. Long term, the plant will be happier in the ground not in a pot.

Angela: If you want to keep it in a pot, you to be more attentive, keep it moist not wet but well amended with organic material.


Eric wants help with his Japanese blueberry and wants to know if it too late to plant one to replace one that died.

Norm: They are not good plants for Las Vegas. They don’t like the heat or the soil. They’re highly challenged. You have work to keep the blueberry happy.


Lenore from Pahrump wants help with the sandy soil in the area so she can grow gourds.  

Angela: Compost is your friend. It is a terrific fertilizer. For good garden soil use about 5 percent compost. It creates structure in the soil and keeps the moisture levels even because organic material acts like little sponges to hold onto moisture.


Julia in Henderson has a condo with a small patio that doesn’t get a lot of sun. She wants to know what she can grow:

Angela: Even a place that doesn’t get a lot of bright light gets indirect sun. Basil grows anywhere and you can’t sage with a stick. Try different herbs. Bring the pots close to the house for more protection.


Merritt has mock orange bushes that are starting to yellow but he says the bushes have been at the house since they moved in 30 years ago.

Angela: Well, nothing is immortal. Sounds like you got a good 30 years out of the plant.

Norm: If leaves are yellowing, give the plant some nitrogen and wide wetting area when watering.



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


Norm Schilling, co-host of KNPR's "Desert Bloom", Schilling Horticulture; Angela O'Callaghan, University of Nevada, Reno Extension horticulturist

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