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Navigating Fall Gardening In Las Vegas

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Greyson Orlando/Wikimedia Commons
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Ladybugs feast on aphids, but will usually only stay in gardens a short time. Other natural ways to control aphids include using water to spray them off plants.

Summer is ending, the fall cooldown is coming, and with it the best time to add new plants and trees. Planting now gives them several months to establish their roots before the hot weather returns.

State of Nevada spoke with two plant experts about the joys of gardening and how to avoid any growing pains. Here are some of the topics:

Aphids: The pesky insects “are always around,” said Angela O’Callaghan, an associate professor with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Program, “and what you do is you deal with them, you don't just curse them, as tempting as that may be.”

She recommends hosing the bugs off plants or introducing a natural predator.

“Everybody knows ladybugs love aphids, of course, but there's also other things, and lacewings are my new favorite insect because number one, they're pretty, number two, they create a little colony wherever they land and so they are more likely to eat up the aphids.

Horticulturist Norm Schilling said aphids rarely harm healthy plants, and unless there’s an “absolute infestation,” let nature take its course.

“By not treating, you are creating an environment where predators move in and then you build an ecological balance,” Schilling said. “In my garden, I have almost no aphids ever because somebody's always waiting to eat them.”

Container plants: “I'm a big fan of plants in pots, but I really prefer either succulents or very drought-tolerant leafy plants because pots dry out quickly,” Schilling said. “Sometimes you need to water twice a day, just to get enough moisture; those pots can dry out really really quick.”

Desert landscaping: With state and local efforts encouraging the removal of grass, Schilling said business owners and homeowners need to be thoughtful in creating desert landscapes.

“You drive around town there's a lot of desert landscapes that aren't particularly attractive,” he said, something he blames on rushed jobs during construction or people proceeding without a plan.

“You want a design that's very specific, that says what goes where and then you research it right,” he said. “Especially look at mature plant size and that they have room to grow and water needs.”

Schilling said he rarely recommends chemical herbicides, but makes an exception when removing Bermuda grass before replacing it with desert landscaping.

“You want to get 100% kill on that Bermuda before you plant, and you can't do it by pulling it,” he said, adding that it would otherwise regrow and take over the new landscape.

Heat tolerance: When selecting trees and plants in an era of rising temperatures, “take a look at the true desert natives,” O’Callaghan said.

“Plants that actually evolved here in the Mojave are the ones that have survived a drought out in the wild, and nobody was walking around with little watering cans and fertilizer,” she said, adding that desert-adapted species, while not native, “but they can tolerate our conditions better than other things.”

She also encourages using quality soil and mulch, which provide nutrients and hold water.

Angela O’Callaghan, associate professor, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Program;  Norm Schilling, owner, Schilling Horticulture in Las Vegas.  

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Zachary Green is the Coordinating Producer and a Reporter for KNPR's State of Nevada Program. He reports on Clark County, minority affairs, health, real estate, business, and gardening. You'll occasionally hear Zachary Green reporting and fill-in hosting on the State of Nevada program.