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Recap of the past years’ columns

Posted 5/31/2016

Angela O’Callaghan

Angela O’Callaghan, Social Horticulturist

This will be my last article for this paper. My schedule has become unmanageable, and sadly, I had to give up some of my writing. Since this is my final article, I thought it might be a good idea to highlight some of the points I made over the past four years.

It is possible to grow virtually anything in southern Nevada, if one is careful to provide plants with sufficient water and fertility as well as the proper environmental conditions. One way to determine what correct conditions might be is to look at where the plant evolved. Certainly one that originated in a tropical rain forest would have a different set of requirements from one that evolved in a desert.

In general, plants get their nutrients from the soil in which they are growing. It will probably not come as a surprise to hear that Mojave soils are notoriously infertile. For desert natives that evolved here, this is not a problem. They are generally slow growing and use soil nutrition very judiciously. In a home garden, they would need a small amount of soil improvement, but it would be unwise to add a large amount of fertilizer to these plants. Promoting fast growth could make them too tender to survive this stressful environment. On the other hand, a quick growing plant will suffer from nutrient deficiencies unless that soil receives a considerable amount of compost or other amendment.

Water is a critical issue in the desert, as we all know. Our lack of water is not necessarily the cause of all watering problems here. Many times a plant will suffer and appear dry when in fact the opposite is true. If there is poor drainage in the soil, the roots will be stuck in airless mud. They cannot take up water from it, and the result is plant death. If the plant has received irrigation but looks dry, check the soil drainage. Poor drainage is probably the main cause of landscape plant death. This poorly drained soil will often smell foul, like ammonia or even sewage.

Like many other things, finding garden problems early can prevent them from turning into disasters. When looking over the landscape, remember not only to look at the beautiful plants, but also examine their leaves (including the undersides!) and stems for signs of trouble. Insects like aphids and thrips can lurk in hidden places such as the junction where leaves meet stems.

Some of the plants in our gardens can actually suffer from sunburn.

When this occurs on thin-barked trees like peaches and their cousins, it can create a highway for disease organisms. To limit the chances of this happening on your fruit trees, paint their trunks with a very dilute coat of white latex. Note that the paint must not be thicker than milk. This acts as a sunscreen for tender bark.

Thank you for your interest in gardening and in my columns. I will continue to be a faculty member of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, and welcome your questions. I can be reached via email or at 702-257-5581. You will find all of my previous four years of categorized articles on our website!

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