Not Just The No. 1 Hobby, Gardening A Relief From The World's Madness


Wikimedia Commons

The world feels chaotic right now but a lot of the usual stress relievers like live entertainment, going to the Strip, or hanging out at a bar aren't the same during the pandemic.

There is one tried and true stress reliever that also happens to be the world's number one hobby: gardening.

The summer heat has left the valley, but what does that mean for your garden? 

Is it time to put in another crop of tomatoes or peppers? Or replace the plants that didn't make it through this year's brutal heat?


Do plants like turmeric and ginger grow in Southern Nevada?

Angela O'Callaghan: You can plan those plants. They will grow here. You can't plant them now and expect a crop. They have to get established. 

Norm Schilling: There is an old garden saying: first they sleep, then they creep, then they leap and depending on the plant it might one year for each stage. It takes time. Lemongrass does well here and you don't need much.

Paula from Henderson wanted to know about pruning her Arizona yellow bells:

Support comes from

Schilling: They're a heat lover and a sun lover and the times that I see them not bloom as much is typically when they're getting shade. They are also pretty drought tolerant. You could now, since it cooled down, pulling the emitters back from the base of the plant. 

Desert plants don't like their feet wet. If you're a plant that doesn't like its feet wet and you're watering it right at the base, it can't move because it's too wet but if you water a few feet away it can move its roots there. 

O'Callaghan: If you prune, not drastic pruning, but pruning often will result in more flowers.

Schilling: Even during the growing season because they bloom on new growth.

Spurge/Courtesy: Pixabay

Brian is having a problem with spurge in his lawn:

Schilling: There are two ways to approach this. One: weed it out with a little weeding tool. Do it in small sections, spend five or 10 minutes a day or every other day. The other option, and I don't like the use of chemicals, but herbicides... spurge is an annual, so if you put down a pre-emergent herbicide in the cool season then it creates a little residual layer of herbicide in the top inch of soil, plants germanate and they contact that... it kills new plants coming up, but it doesn't affect existing ones. Read the label and make sure any of your existing plants won't be affected by it.

O'Callaghan: Spurge tends to grow faster in moister parts of the garden. If you can pull it, remove it, hoe it -- but it's in the lawn so you are stuck. The problem with using a regular herbicide is because it's an annual, it has probably already produced its nasty little flowers. You may have killed today's plant but that doesn't do anything for the seedlings that are going to come up.

Paul wants to know how to take care of pomegranates:

Schilling: As they get bigger, their water needs might increase. Pomegranates are well suited for our desert soils. You can actually kind of leave them alone and then the fruit, when it turns red in the fall, starts to split and that's how you know it is starting to get ready and you harvest and eat your pomegranates.

Susan wants to know if she can put small trees in her backyard. She called the Call Before You Dig hotline and they put all kinds of markers in her backyard telling her where she couldn't dig:

Schilling: Call before you dig - that's stuff if you're going down below two feet. These trees, especially small trees should be just fine. Roots generally don't go down more than two feet because there is no oxygen there.

O'Callaghan: Make sure though that you are planting trees that are not going to grow more than say 10 or 12 feet tall because whatever you have growing up, you're going to have growing at least out.

Schilling: If the trees are in a sunny spot, try Texas olive, mountain laurel, mastic pistache or little leaf ash.

Mountain laurel/Wikimedia Commons

Patrick asked about his Chinese elms and cottonwoods, which both had limbs dieoff in the summer:

Schilling: We had the most brutal summer ever because July happened twice. Normally, in August, the monsoon season comes in and it becomes more humid and the temperatures drop, which gives our plants a break. That didn't happen this year.

In addition, as trees get bigger, they need more water but you can't do it by watering more and more often. Instead, you need to move out the emitters and create a wider wetting pattern. Spread the roots out and the only way to spread the roots out is water resources.

O'Callaghan: If you're saying its a branch or two, is there possibly a hole that you have noticed. Are there any unpleasant, unwelcome visitors? If it's the whole tree that's getting stressed, that's one thing but when you see one branch or two branches I always now think about borers. 

How do you plant something from a store?

O'Callaghan: Look at the top of the plant to see if it looks healthy and green. When you get it home, gently take it out of the pot and inspect the roots. The roots should be creamy white and not wrapping around and around.

Put good potting soil in a pot slightly larger than the one the plant came in so the roots can grow out. Loosen up the plants' root system a little bit. Don't take all of the original soil off. Put the plant into the new pot.

Peggy has a fern on her patio that looks fried to a crisp:

O'Callaghan: Try moving it away from direct light. Ferns grow in shady, woody areas. This year was a brutally hot summer. Also, if it's been in the same pot for a number of years, you might want to scrap off the top inch or so of soil and replace it with something fresh, some fresh potting soil.

Jeff has tomatillos in his garden that have flowers but no fruit:

O'Callaghan: I'm guessing that when the temperature goes down a little bit, you're going to start seeing fruit. Because the summer was so hot and there was a lot of wind that dries out the pollen, making it non-viable. When it gets cooler and the plant isn't losing all that moisture from the pollen, you have a much better shot of getting fruit.

Tomatillo plant/Flickr: Sarah Oh

Tomatillos are 'monecious' plants, meaning they have both male and female reproductive parts in the plant. They're also referred to as 'perfect flowers.' Plants that have separate male and female reproductive are known as dioecious.

Schilling: They'll produce flowers but it's not until it drops below 90 degrees I think that they'll actually start fruiting again.

Stephanie noticed that several of the plants in her yard are struggling with brown leaves and die-off. She wants to know if it is some kind of fungus problem:

Schilling: I do a lot of consultations and I see a lot of yards and what I see is a lot of privets and Indian Hawthornes and it's not fungal problems, it's nutritional problems.

They are not well suited for our soils. There are a bunch of challenges to gardening here but more than anything else it is our alkaline soils and some plants just don't like alkaline soils. They start showing that by discoloration in the leaf, yellowing or spotting. 

Ginny just moved here from California and wants to know if she can plant rose bushes:

O'Callaghan: Yes - roses love it here. What you remember to do is you refresh the soil. You prune them down around January.

Make sure that when you plant a rose you look at the size of the root ball, make sure you make your hole wider than the pot the plant came in, amend the soil a little bit, come January throw a handful of Epsom salt into the soil and work it in. You're going to have wonderful, happy flowers.

Michelle needs help with her desert bird-of-paradise:

Desert bird-of-paradise/Wikimedia Commons/Stan Shebs

O'Callaghan: You know what kills them faster than anything is lack of drainage. Check your drainage that will kill those plants better than anything. 

Schilling: They're pretty drought tolerant so if you have clay soils that don't drain well or you grab the soil and it sticks together like clay in your fingers then just water it less often.



Norm Schilling, owner, Schilling Horticulture; Angela O’Callaghan, social horticulturist, Nevada Cooperative Extension 

You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.

More Stories

KNPR's State of Nevada
KNPR's State of Nevada