Nevada Public Radio Listen Live

"Car Talk"
Facebook Twitter Follow Nevada Public Radio

Support Nevada Public Radio
August 17, 2003
Podcasts

DESERT BLOOM: Respecting the Desert

Listen

Respecting the desert just makes sense, especially if you live in one. More than that, appreciating the desert. I was driving in the way-far-north-western part of town recently and just before I got on the 95, my eye was caught by one of the hundreds of signs for new construction that's going on up there. I was horrified. On a billboard there's a picture of an enormous lush green lawn, with something that looked like a maple tree in front of a white wooden fence. As if that was the ideal that this developer was going after. As if that was the ideal that we should be going after here in Las Vegas.

Had there been anyone in the car with me, well, they would have heard how incredibly upset I was. I'm sure that someone who never set foot in the Mojave Desert found a picture of the stereotypical country setting and, without thinking, plopped it on a sign for a new development. Who cares that it couldn't be more inappropriate!

Now, being from the east originally - you know, the right hand side of the map, the side with rainfall, I like trees - broadleaved, deciduous, changing color in the fall trees - but I also know that they take a lot of water. A lot of water that we in Southern Nevada can't afford. Remember drought, Mojave Desert, water shortage? Even if we had rainfall for days, it won't make up for the water that's not coming into Lake Mead from the Colorado River. And anyway, we don't have the right conditions for color changing maples.

But that's beside the point.

Why is it so hard for some people to see the beauty of this area?

A friend told me about a conversation she'd been in with a woman who wanted to see unbridled development in the Las Vegas valley. The reason? According to her, the desert is so ugly, she wanted it to be paved over. How sad can anything be?.

Imagine being ready to destroy an entire ecosystem because you don't like the way a place looks. It boggles my mind. I have to ask why would somebody move here if they hate its appearance. How can anyone look at a desert willow and not see how exquisite that tree is? Or the Texas locust, or some of the mesquites (I myself prefer the thornless ones). All of these can provide shade and they belong in a desert. And let's not forget that if we create environments that are foreign to this part of the world, we push out native species and bring in foreign ones. Mosquitoes and pigeons come to mind.

As I go around town, I've been looking at some of the new developments, the ones where they've put in lawns. Well I've wondered what exactly are the builders thinking? After all, it's not as if you can't have a gorgeous landscape without fescue or rye grass. A lot of members of the group of low growers called "ice plant" make fine succulent ground covers. Not to mention rosemary, or gazanias. Evening primrose and trailing indigo bush - any one of these doesn't grow tall and has great color. You don't walk on these things, but how many people don't really walk on their lawns anyway? It crossed my mind that maybe some developers figure they can put in turf, then take it out to get the rebate from the water district. Not my idea of a good use of resources.

Oh well, that's my tirade.

Before I saw that sign, I thought that I'd actually use today's time to talk about preparing for the fall garden. Since the days are getting shorter, you might as well not be planting things to produce fruits or flowers. By the time these plants get big enough to flower, there might not be enough sunlight to get any fruit from them. Wait until spring. But anything that you might want to grow for the leaves, either pretty ornamental leaves or edible ones like lettuce or spinach, it'll soon be time to get them into the ground. They need fewer hours of direct sunlight, and in general they can tolerate cooler temperatures than something you're growing for flowers.

If you need some information, you can call the Cooperative Extension office and ask for some of the fact sheets and special publications we have: "Becoming a Desert Gardener" covers much of the material you'd on establishing a garden, and there's a lot of bulletins on vegetables as well as specific plants and problems.

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

See discussion rules.

Archives

NormMar 24, 2014 | Spring Garden Party
Spring is here and the garden is blooming . . . so invite some friends to enjoy the rewards of gardening!

AngelaMar 10, 2014 | Lady Banks
If you love roses, but don't care for thorns, you may want to call on 'Lady Banks.' Here's Angela O'Callaghan with Desert Bloom.

NormFeb 26, 2014 | Signs of Spring
It may be February, but if you are paying attention, signs of Spring are visible. Dwarf peach and Mexican plum trees are in bloom. Vibrant Red Spraxis can be seen among the falling Almond blossom. Watch gardening expert Norm Schilling transplant an offshoot. Check out the slide show of photos taken from his backyard.

AngelaFeb 18, 2014 | Mulch is for Winter
Rewards for using mulch in your landscape can be had year-round. Mulch is about mulch more than just "good looks" according to Angela O' Callaghan. In any climate, and certainly in a desert, mulch is an ecologically sound way to conserve our limited soil moisture and to control weeds.

NormFeb 4, 2014 | Investing for Spring
Temperatures are scheduled to stay cool this week, but Norm Schilling finds his yard is ready for Spring. He reflects on techniques to keep older trees healthy even as the surrounding yard may change. Bigger, older trees may need more water.

AngelaJan 13, 2014 | Freezing Temps
If your garden looks like it's been zapped by Jack Frost, there's still a chance that all is not lost. Delicate desert plants can suffer chill damage even when the temperature stays above freezing. Well-established plants should survive.

NormDec 31, 2013 | Leave the Leaves
Just because most of the leaves have fallen from the trees, it doesn't mean you have to rake them all up. Norm Schilling says it's better to use the leaves as mulch to protect the plants and make rich soil. Some woody plants can be pruned now, while others should wait another month or two.

AngelaDec 13, 2013 | Winter Greens
It is the season to enjoy some winter gardening. In Southern Nevada, a cold-snap does not have to mean that your garden is done for. Angela O'Callaghan gives a few cold facts.

NormDec 3, 2013 | Winter Watering
After a recent rain followed by a cold snap this week, Norm Schilling digs in to figure out how much water is needed this time of year. Touch the leaves to get a feel and don't water much at all for the next few months.

AngelaNov 18, 2013 | Herb Gardens
Our desert environment may be hard to handle for many plants, but it is possible to grow your own herbal remedy. The healing properties of some herbs are still widely recognized. Even though we rarely have to rely on them to deal with our infirmities, Angela O'Callaghan says many herbs are pretty and simple to grow.

NormNov 5, 2013 | Fall Color
Our second Spring is in full bloom. Norm Schilling shares his favorite plants that are bringing color to the yard right now, including Chocolate Flower, Mexican Bush Sage, Autumn Sage and ornamental grasses.

AngelaOct 29, 2013 | Pumpkins
Halloween just wouldn't be the same without the jack-o-lantern. But there's more to the tradition of decorating squash than meets the eye. Angela O'Callaghan says pumpkins are more than decorations for a single day. They're food, and a very good food at that.

NormSep 30, 2013 | Fall Pruning and Mulching
Pruning for aesthetics and mulching for rich soil quality are on his to-do list before he gets started in earnest on fall planting. Find out where to find mulch and mulch more on this week's edition of Desert Bloom.

AngelaSep 17, 2013 | The Best Place to Garden
The Mojave Desert isn't the easiest place to cultivate a garden, but we do have a few advantages here. In fact, Angela O'Callaghan says Southern Nevada is the BEST place in the world to be a gardener, partly because dry air helps keep our plants healthy.

NormSep 3, 2013 | Sacred Datura
Sacred Datura is a native, but poisonous, desert plant that offers stunning blooms. Often seen at the side of the highway, it's found a home in Norm's yard.

AngelaAug 20, 2013 | Drought
Living in the desert means - learning to live with less water. The more thought you put into watering, the better off your plants will be.

NormAug 6, 2013 | Casualties of Summer
Ever the optimist, Norm finds something to learn from the casualties of summer.

AngelaJul 22, 2013 | White Prickly Poppy
Is a poppy by any other name just a weed?

NormJul 9, 2013 | Agave
Agave is well suited to our desert climate. Norm Schilling shares his collection.

AngelaJun 25, 2013 | Summer Vegetables
Growing your own food in triple-digit weather is challenging, but not impossible.

© 2013 NEVADA PUBLIC RADIO   
Web hosting facilities provided by Switch.