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Keeping Those Quarantine Gardens Going During Summer Heat

During quarantine and stay at home orders, many people turned to gardening to cope with boredom. 

Gardening has always been touted as a relaxing recreational hobby just about everyone can do. 

Norm Schilling is the owner of Schilling Horticulture, Angela O’Callaghan is a social horticulturist with Nevada Cooperative Extension and specializes in plant science and desert gardening, joined KNPR to answer all of your summer gardening questions. 


Danielle wants to know how to deal with hornworms on her tomato plants?

Angela: You can use BT but it's not going to heal the plant. Instead, you need to scout out the worms, pick them off and drown them. I feed them to my dog and cat.  

BT is not harmful. It is a soil bacteria that doesn't hurt humans. It does make a chemical that is toxic to caterpillars.

Norm: The chemical is specific to caterpillars and does not harm bees.


Andrew has a planter that is on the north side of his home in a very shady spot. What can he grow there?

Norm: If you want to grow edible plants try leafy greens like kale and spinach and Swiss chard. Peppers and tomatoes and squash need more sun.

Angela: Other things that will grow in sort of part shade some of the herbs like fennel. I've been trying to get rid of fennel. It is so successful.


What grows in a full-sun area?

Angela: Melons and squash and pumpkins. You can plant melons even now.  Plant melons and squash around Father's Day and the squash bugs are less active. 


Kaitlin heard that the warming temperatures in the Las Vegas Valley are hurting ash trees?

Norm: Ash trees are stressed out by the rising temperatures. The average daytime-nighttime temperatures have increased in Southern Nevada by several degrees The heat load on temperate plants like ash trees as increased and that is stressful on trees. Stress from heat is correlated to less resistance to disease. Trees are more susceptible and more likely to succumb to diseases. In ash trees, the disease is sooty canker.

Sooty canker/Wikimedia Commons


Angela: As our average daytime and nighttime temperatures go up, there are going to be a lot more plants that we're going to have to drop from the landscape. There are even some cactus that are not going to survive our high temperatures at night. It's going to be a real big problem.


Melanie wants to know if there are native edible plants she can grow in containers?

Angela: Native edible plants might be tricky, but you can grow melons in large containers. I've grown sweet potatoes in large containers. You can put a sprouted sweet potato in a container and it will grow. 


Blier has iron deficiency in is bamboo plants and citrus trees. He's been treating it both in the ground and spraying down the leaves:

Norm: It is not recommended to do that kind of treatment in the summer. Also, be careful when spraying down foliage, if it is too concentrated, you can blow the leaves off the plant.

The key to using iron is to use chelated iron and to apply it very early in the year before bud break. Think about February. You only need a small quantity.

Chelated iron is important because our soils are iron-rich but our plants are iron deficient because at high ph that iron particle becomes bound to the soil and it's not available to the plant. Chelation treats that iron so it doesn't bind to the soil and is available to the plant.  

Iron deficiency showing  chlorotic leaves in a lemon tree/Wikimedia Commons


Mark has lots of pumpkins vines but no pumpkins:

Angela: Take a look at the flower. If there is swelling at the base it is a female flower and it can be pollinated. If there is no swelling, it is male flowers. Pumpkins make male flowers, then female flowers and then a mix. So, it could be that you just don’t have male flowers yet. 

If you don't have many bees, become the bee of your garden. Grab a paintbrush, collect some pollen from a male flower and paint it onto other flowers. 


Christina has a plumeria in a pot that has stem rot. Can she save it?

Zachi Evenor/Flickr

Norm: I would go online to see if you can grow it from cuttings. Then go up the stem to get away from rotted areas. It might be more advanced than you realize. Then if you have enough of the plant there may be a way to use some rooting hormone to propagate new roots from the stem to save the existing plumeria. 

Angela: Do not expect to get new growth from the base. The dead part is indeed probably dead.


Caroline wants to know how to get leaf-footed bugs away from her pomegranates:

Norm: They are the bane of pomegranates. Use Diatomaceous Earth on the plants. I found a device like a duster. It dusts them. Diatomaceous Earth is particles of crustaceans that cuts through insects exoskeleton.

Angela: Also try Surround wettable powder. You can shake it up into suspension and spray it on the pomegranates. It doesn’t kill the bugs but confuses them so they don’t see the fruit as food. 

Leaf-footed bugs/Wikimedia Commons


How can you get rid of fungus gnats on indoor plants?

Angela: This is going sound strange but if you hang drier sheets it has some effect. The cooperative extension office was plagued by fungus gnats and we hung drier sheets around. It brought down the population

Norm: Also Diatomaceous Earth might work. It will cut their exoskeleton as well.


Caroline wants to know if using bark mulch next to a house's foundation will attract termites?

Norm: No, it's safe. Termites aren’t as big of a problem here as they are in wetter climates. Plus, the foundation is a concrete slab.

One of the most consistent teaching points I've made for the past 30 years is: The single best long-term holistic health care practice you can perform for moderate-water use or temperate-region plants is to use an organic AKA wood chip mulch.

It has so many benefits for your garden plants. It keeps roots and soil cooler, helps increase nutrients in the soil as they break down and helps keep the soil moist.

People ask if the mulch attracts bugs. I think you are more likely to have bugs but a living garden is a healthy garden.  


Hannah has had some of her succulents burn up in the summer heat:

Norm: Some plants we refer to them as 'freeze and fries' They melt in our cold winters and then they burn up in our hot sun. 

Most succulents aren’t going to take full day sun. They prefer filtered sun, like under a tree. When it gets colder out bring them inside. Some don’t like cool temps.

Another big problem with succulents is overwatering. They're much more susceptible to be overwatered. Let them dry out. If they're outside water once a week. Indoor succulents can be watered once every three weeks or a month.

Angela: There is such a variety of succulents. Some are more likely to become incinerated and some less.  


Judy has an apricot tree that this year produced fruit that tasted a little bitter and not as sweet as years past:

Angela: A bigger crop of fruit won't distributing flavor to all the fruit. It's like distributing a pound of something to two versus 100 people. Next year, knock some of the flowers off early to thin out the fruit and concentrate the flavor.




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

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.