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The Dog Days Of Summer In The Garden

Flo Rogers

Norm Schilling and his dog.

Southern Nevada got its first taste of monsoon rain this week, a welcome relief from the extreme heat of late.

It might have also been a welcome relief for the gardens and landscaping. 

Summertime is some of the best time to enjoy the fruits of your spring labor. 

Norm Schilling and Angela O’Callaghan join KNPR to talk about upkeeping that summer garden.


Is it too late to plant tomatoes?

Angela O'Callaghan: It is way too late to plant tomatoes. They are a hot season plant that need to be started in March. If you're satisfied with your skills as a desert gardening you can try planting tomatoes from seed, but it is probably better to start with seedlings.

Norm Schilling: Smaller variety of tomatoes are better than larger varieties because of the heat load that tomatoes get in Southern Nevada they tend to lose and gain water which causes them to crack.

Skitter from Overton wants to know if the buzzing sound he's hearing from the trees is cicadas and whether they are a garden pest?

Norm: Yes, those are cicadas, but they are not garden pests. They lay eggs in a small branch of a tree and that will kill a few leaves but other than that they're not going to hurt trees.

Cicadas/Wikimedia Commons

Michelle changed out her grass for xeriscape, but now bindweed has started to come up through the weed barrier under the decorative rock.

O'Callaghan: Pulling it up but if you pull it up, you don't just pull the top. They have big rhizomes, which are like thickened underground stems. They will smother and strangle all kinds of other plants if not removed.

Schilling: I really strive to be organic in all things but then there are the really nasty weeds and pests that need heavy artillery. It would be a long and frustrating and ultimately unsuccessful effort to try to manually remove it. Whether its glyphosate (Roundup) or another broad-leaf herbicide, sometimes you make the exception. 

Bindweed/Wikimedia Commons

Christina recently repotted a houseplant and quickly got an infestation of gnats.

O'Callaghan: They can sometimes be in potting soil and they are difficult to get rid of. Try using sticky traps or dryer sheets hung up around your home. You may not get rid of them but you'll cut down on their numbers.

Schilling: Try diatomaceous earth on the soil's surface, which is tiny, dried up crustaceans that cut open the bodies of insects but it feels like talcum powder to us. 

What garden pests are particularly bad during the summer?

O'Callaghan: The rabbits have been a plague this year. It's been insane. We've tried everything coyote urine and fox urine. 

Schilling: They can be devastating to a garden and it is really hard to protect. You can plant rabbit resistant plants, but as they get hungrier that won't matter. 

Another pest you'll see is the fig beetle. Big, big fat beetles. They're like a big B-52 flying through the air. The only thing they eat is rotting fruit. 

Fig beetle/Wikimedia Commons

O'Callaghan: Another pest you'll see is a tobacco hornworm or a tomato hornworm. They're up to about 3 inches long, half an inch in diameter. They'll strip a tomato plant overnight. They're not really summer pests they just love to eat something that comes out in the summer.

Tomato Hornworm/Wikimedia Commons

What is a good shade tree to put near a swimming pool?

Schilling: Don't plant a tree in a narrow space between your house and the pool the tree is likely to break whatever it is on either side. If possible, plant a tree on the west side of the pool and for a 30-foot tree make sure you have at least six to eight feet from a wall or the side of the house.

Avoid any kind of ash tree. Try instead a pistache, the Chinese pistache or the red push pistache are great shade trees. Avoid really messy trees over the pool. A small, shrub trees could work in a smaller space like the Texas mountain laurel.

Chinese pistache/Wikimedia Commons

Texas mountain laurel/Wikimedia Commons

Dave wants to know what he can do to make sure his roses don't get 'cooked' this summer.

Schilling: Don't put roses in rock mulch it is a lot of heat for them, use organic woodchip mulch instead. Try to go out three or four feet, or if you can, make the whole bed organic mulch. Beyond that, make sure they're planted in a place that gets morning sun, but afternoon shade. Try giving them a misting of water in the afternoon to help them cool down, which can help all the plants in your garden.

Elizabeth has been battling ants in her acre of land for years. She's tried diatomaceous earth but it hasn't worked consistently.

Schilling: Try a bait product. There are several kinds. The idea is the worker ants get the bait and bring it into the queen. When the queen dies, the colony collapses. However, use it on areas that are really bothering you, but let the rest of the ants be because they are working the soil. They are bringing organic matter down in the soil and they're aerating the soil. 

O'Callaghan: When I have an ant mound that is particularly troublesome I boil up a kettle of water and pour it down the hole and kill them all.

Jim is looking for a tree to replace the African sumac in his front yard.

Schilling: Try a redbud and give it extra emitters. It is a small deciduous tree. It has a kind of kidney or heart-shaped leaves. It is not really fast growing but it is a showy little tree. 

You could also try a white thorn acacia. It might be hard to find. You might have to mail order it.

Redbud tree/Wikimedia Commons

White thorn acaia/Wikimedia Common

To get rid of the African sumac, cut it down and put Roundup on the stump.

Dan wants to know why his pomegranate bears fruit but the fruit is never ripe.

Schilling: You got a bad draw. I don't think you're ever going to get good fruit out of it. I think that is just the nature of that particular pomegranate that decided to reseed itself in your yard.

I have a deal with my fruit trees. I'll give them three, four, five years to bear fruit and if they don't, they get replaced.

O'Callaghan: We have a bunch of ornamental pomegranates at the extension. The fruit is not why we grow the tree. If you really want pomegranates, move it someplace else. 

Mandy has grass in her backyard that needs help but she's reluctant to use fertilizer on it because she's worried how safe it is for her children.

Schilling: I understand your concern but once a fertilizer is watered into the soil it is not going to be detrimental to kids in any way.

O'Callaghan: It's not poison the same way an insecticide would be. But I'm the queen of compost. I say if you want to get all the nutrients into the soil you apply compost.


University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Clark County

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Horticulture Program

Master Gardeners

Mountain States Wholesale Nursery

High Country Gardens

International Society of Arboriculture

From Nevada Public Radio:  Desert Bloom

Norm Schilling, horticulturist, Schilling Horticulture 
Angela O'Callaghan, associate professor in social horticulture, Nevada Cooperative extension 

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.