Nevada Public Radio Listen Live

Facebook Twitter Follow Nevada Public Radio

Support Nevada Public Radio
June 03, 2014

DESERT BLOOM: Hot Weather Plants



Tomato PlantsOnce it starts getting warm here in the beautiful Mojave Desert, some gardeners throw their hands up in acute despair.  After all, the temperatures will rise well above 100° and we probably won’t be seeing much rain until October. Summer always looks like a terribly tough time for Southern Nevada horticulturists and their plants. Few edible plants will really thrive under these conditions, but that’s not to say there aren’t any. Some fruits and vegetables will brave the heat, as long as the intrepid gardener gets water to the growing plants.

Sadly, the list doesn’t include tomatoes. Or, not usually. Tomatoes aren’t generally their best when temperatures get much over 85°, if they produce at all.

No, I’m talking about different fruits altogether. Think about delicious cantaloupe.

Melons and their cousins like warm, even hot, weather. You can seed these vines in the ground as soon as the soil’s consistently above 60°. When it’s any cooler than that, the little seedlings won’t take up water. As a rough guide, look at nighttime temperatures. That’s as low as the soil temperature can get. When the melons are fully ripe, they’ll almost slip off the vine into your hand. Even if they’re a little overripe, who’s going to complain? They’re amazingly sweet, and it’s not like you’re shipping them across the country.

Hard-shelled squash, like pumpkins, are related to melons. If you get them started when the soil warms up, you should have pumpkins by Halloween – how’s that for convenient! You probably shouldn’t try growing the world’s largest pumpkin unless you have a lot of land; the vines become gigantic.

All the members of this family suffer when they get dry, so irrigation’s critical. And they’re all a little gluttonous when it comes to soil fertility, but if you amend the soil with compost or a slow release fertilizer, they should be fine.

When I think of hot weather, I think of okra. As far as heat and drought tolerant plants go, okra’s one of the best. You don’t need to put in a lot of them; a single plant produces enough for a lot of gumbo. It’s not that I’m so enamored with the taste and texture, but the flowers are really attractive, like hibiscus. They’re related, also to cotton! By the way, although you don’t eat cotton, the flowers are pretty, and it’s got an interesting seed package – a boll of cotton!    

Sweet potatoes, which some people insist on calling yams, but they’re not, are another great vegetable for high temperatures. If you have one with some sprouts popping out, put it in the ground when the soil’s warmed up. They have lovely foliage, so you can use it as a groundcover, or even let it grow up on a trellis! Through summer and fall, you’ll have a sweet potato vine. Come Thanksgiving, you should have your own little crop of sweets, which is perfect since the leaves die back in the winter. You’ll be digging up the whole plant, though, so don’t put them around anything that shouldn’t be disturbed.

Peppers, especially hotter peppers, appear to tolerate higher temperatures than their cousins, tomatoes, but even tomatoes aren’t hopeless. As I said before, in the dead of summer, it’s likely they won’t be as terrific as they were back when temperatures were under 90°. You can keep them growing through July and August if you provide some shade and never let them get dry. If you’d rather use the summer for melons and okra, then try this.

Around the end of June, cut your tomato plants down to about five or six inches, water them, and cover the soil with a good layer of mulch. They’ll start growing again, and by the end of September you should have a new crop of tomatoes that’ll go until the first frost. They won’t be the fabulous fruits you had before, but they’ll still be more flavorful than what you usually see in the supermarket.

Remember, when you’re outside in the summer garden, drink fluids and use sunscreen. For KNPR’s Desert Bloom, this is Dr. Angela O’Callaghan of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension

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.

Web hosting facilities provided by Switch.