Las Vegas Sun

September 22, 2014

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Summer gardening survival

With plenty of sunshine and clear skies, gardening season in Southern Nevada is in full swing. But as even the most amateur growers among us know, spring planting is the easy part — it’s getting your blooms and veggies to survive the scorching summer months ahead that compels many a gardener to throw in the shovel come July. Don’t worry, your foliage fate isn’t sealed. We spoke with horticulturalist Paul Noe of Las Vegas’ Star Nursery to get some simple tips and tricks to help your plants stand the heat.

Take cover: Position yard or patio plants for eastern exposure to allow early-day sun and shade protection from stronger rays in the afternoon. If that’s not possible, Noe recommends covering vulnerable plants and vegetables in the afternoons — particularly in July and August — with a tent made of garden shade cloth, burlap or any other material that filters in light.

Water modestly: The biggest mistake casual gardeners make in summer is overwatering. Unlike lawns, think quantity over frequency when it comes to hydrating your garden plants. Water more heavily in summer, but be sure to leave time in between for the soil to dry. Noe suggests watering once a day when high temperatures are above 90 degrees and every other day when they’re in the 70s and 80s, though that can vary depending on plant and soil types. Shrubs and trees need less and can survive with minimal deep irrigation.

Check drainage: Higher temperatures call for more water, but take care to ensure that excess water drains past the root zones so it doesn’t accumulate in the bottom of the planters, drowning the roots. Though surface soil dries out quickly in the hot sun, deeper soil holds moisture much longer; check about 4 to 8 inches down in the planter or ground before watering to ensure the soil is dry all the way through.

Check for pests: Not all insects retreat from the summer heat. Spider mites, cicadas and aphids have a penchant for wreaking havoc on vegetation in scorching temperatures. Washing your plants down with a strong stream of water one to two times a week will help remove pests and prevent infestations. Safe pesticides are also available at garden stores but should not be applied in the heat of day as the chemicals can burn the plants.

Grow smartly: A variety of plants can thrive in your desert garden year-round, but some are better suited for summer than others. Noe recommends the following fruits and vegetables, decorative plants and desert shrubs:

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