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April 20, 2004


Among the problems that people have when they start gardening, especially when they start gardening here in the glorious Mojave desert, is a terrified feeling that they'll have to do everything on their own, and that there's just no help for them. And that everything's going to die.

And really, nothing could be further from the truth. Even if you don't feel comfortable calling the master gardener helpline (and I can't believe that somebody wouldn't), but even if you don't have those issues, you might prefer looking at books and pictures before talking to an individual.

Yes, there are books that you can refer to if you want a hand with growing things here in lovely Southern Nevada. OK, there's not many, but you can look to a few. Before I start, I'll admit that many of the books put the bulk of their focus on other parts of the southwest, but that doesn't mean they can't be useful to us.

When I started asking around the office about what book our gardeners found most useful, the majority of people answered "Sunset." For the uninitiated, that means the "Sunset Western Garden Book". It covers everywhere from Washington State down to New Mexico. In fact, Sunset has created its own climate zones based on the overall weather that an individual area has. We in the Las Vegas area are in zone 11, by the way.

Among the nicest things about the Sunset book? The pictures are clear, and the descriptions are comprehensible. The editors are very careful about what they suggest for planting, also. They call our office for input about new plant recommendations, and are very thorough. It's from Sunset Publishing, and you can get it almost anywhere that you'd buy books. On the down side, as I said, it covers a relatively huge area, and it could stand to have a few more pictures. One of our senior members recommended How and Why of better gardening by Manning. I respect her opinion, although I haven't seen the book.

There are some others that refer specifically to desert gardening. Three are from Fisher Books, which is located in Tucson. George Brookbank wrote "Desert Gardening - fruits and vegetables; The Complete Guide" which gives a lot of good information. He not only talks about specific crop plants, but also about preparing the soil, using fertilizers, and how to select varieties that have at least a chance of survival. "Plants for Dry Climates - How to select, grow and enjoy", by Duffield and Jones gives a lot of information on landscape plants.

The pictures and descriptions are really good, but before you decide to use a plant that's recommended in this book, please call the help desk to make sure it's appropriate for here. "Landscape plants for dry regions" is similar to the book I just mentioned, but it also has additional information on potential problems with each plant. That can be so important. If you're going to use these books, though, you'll have to look up plants by their scientific names. I think that's a great idea, although not everyone does.

If you're interested in native desert plants, you should take a look at some books put out by the Southwest parks and monuments association, particularly Flowers and shrubs of the Mojave Desert and Shrubs and trees of the southwest deserts. Both of them are by Bowers and illustrated by Wignall. Unfortunately, they only have line drawings, no photos. .

Because we had so much rain this winter and spring (but let me iterate - we're still in a drought) but with the rain we seem to have a lot more weeds popping up in yards than in previous years. I don't think it's my imagination. There's a terrific book that you might want to take a look at calledd "Weeds of the West" from the Weed Science Society of America. If you are concerned about weeds at all, this is a terrific book. It has wonderful photos of the plants at different growth stages so you can identify them more easily, and the index uses both scientific and common names.

Of course, you might be interested in some more rarified topics, rather than general gardening or the weed problems that can plague us. I think it's fascinating to check out plants that have been used for medicines, even here in the desert southwest. When I was out at Red Rock Conservation area, I picked up a very informative book entitled "Medicinal Plants - of the desert and canyon west" by Michael Moore. Nobody's recommending that you give up going to the pharmacy, but it's remarkable that there are plants growing outside that early inhabitants actually relied on for their survival and well being!

So, that's a quick list of a few books a new gardener, or an old gardener looking for something new, might examine.

For KNPR's Desert Bloom, this is Dr. Angela O'Callaghan of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Happy reading.

See discussion rules.


AngelaFeb 19, 2015 | Tricky Spring
If you're thinking that our warm weather means your plants are safe from a late frost, you're probably right. But then again, you never know. It only seems that Jack Frost has skipped a visit to Southern Nevada this year. Here's Angela O'Callaghan with Desert Bloom.

NormFeb 14, 2015 | Selective Pruning
Norm Schilling guides gardeners to keep up as Spring approaches. Selective pruning will keep things on track in the yard.

NormJan 21, 2015 | Prepare for Spring Now
Don't look at the calendar. Look at your plants to tell you what do to in the yard right now. Your plants think Spring is near, so use this time to transplant and prune. Desert Gardener Norm Schilling tells us what to look for.

NormDec 30, 2014 | Winter and Citrus
Citrus can thrive in Southern Nevada - even in our cold - when you choose the right varieties. Norm Schilling tells us how.

AngelaDec 13, 2014 | To Prune or Not to Prune
As winter draws near, leaves begin to fall. And the bare view may prompt some excessive pruning. It's tempting, but your plants may appreciate a little restraint. Here's Angela O'Callaghan with Desert Bloom.

NormDec 6, 2014 | Prepare Your Plants for Cold Weather
It's not cold . . . yet, but Norm says be ready and your yard will appreciate it. Don't let a cold snap cost you your investment in plants in your yard. Norm Schilling has some ideas to get ready.

AngelaNov 25, 2014 | Evergreens
As we head into the holiday season, more attention is given to 'evergreens.' Too many cones on a pine tree might be a sign of weakness. Angela O'Callaghan tells us all about evergreens on Desert Bloom.

NormNov 14, 2014 | Fall Colors
Even in the desert, Fall colors can brighten your landscape. Here's Norm Schilling with Desert Bloom.

NormOct 28, 2014 | Fall Colors - Web Only Edition
With glorious weather for our yards to fall back into bloom, Norm has some additional suggestions for color to add to the profusion of blooms for this time of year. (Web-only content)

NormOct 7, 2014 | Second Spring
The call it a "second spring" Norm Schilling has some plan ideas to make Fall colorful in your yard. He has a checklist of plants looking their best, because now is the time to plant in Southern Nevada.

AngelaSep 30, 2014 | Fountain Grass
A weed by any other name is still a weed even if it doesn't look like one. If only everything in our gardens thrived as well as weeds. Here is Angela O'Callaghan.

NormSep 15, 2014 | Desert Heat
Norm describes a significant casualty of the desert heat. There's going to be a big gap in Norm's Yard and a lesson on the reality of our desert landscape.

AngelaAug 12, 2014 | Organic Pesticides
Choosing a method for ridding your garden of an unwanted guest, be it bug or weed, is not always a simple choice. But the more you know, the better it goes. Here's Angela O'Callaghan

NormJul 28, 2014 | Lose that Lawn
We know, it's a desert out there including every place there's a lawn. Norm Schilling reminds us all the ways he wants you to consider losing the lawn... permanently.

AngelaJul 14, 2014 | Protect Fruit Trees from Birds
If you put a good deal of care into growing fruit trees, there are likely some birds who will take advantage of your effort. Here's Angela O'Callaghan.

NormJul 10, 2014 | Palm Care, Part 2
To keep, or not to keep. Norm Schilling ponders his palm trees, on this edition of Desert Bloom.

NormJun 10, 2014 | Palm Care
Norm Schilling has mixed feelings about how we use Palms in our yards. Full grown palm trees transplanted into the entry way of a mall is a common sight that tells Southern Nevadan's "something" is nearly open for business. He reminds us that those palms come with challenges.

AngelaJun 3, 2014 | Hot Weather Plants
As temperatures across the Valley begin to climb, you might be wondering what will survive in your garden in the months ahead and what probably won't. There are some 'sweet' options. Here's Angela O'Callaghan

NormMay 20, 2014 | Desert Color
Norm Schilling just got back from Belize and has some ideas for lush leaves in your desert yard. He reflects on some well suited plants to provide color and variety in this edition of Desert Bloom.

AngelaMay 6, 2014 | Emerald Ash Borer
Raising a healthy shade tree in the Mojave is not always easy. And if one particular insect makes its way here, it could get even harder. Here's Angela O'Callaghan with Desert Bloom.

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