The weather here in Vegas means that there’s pretty much always something that you could be doing in the garden. The good news is that if you use your time wisely in the winter, spring and fall, there are precious few reasons for you to be stuck outside with a lot of work to do during the summer months.
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This is the time to prune your fruit trees and roses and to spray them down with horticultural oil and a copper-based fungicide in order to mitigate pests and disease later in the season. January’s also a great time for getting these plants in the ground, as they’ll be able to get their roots well-established before we start to get hot.
If you have a lawn, you can apply a high nitrogen fertilizer this month in order to push new green growth. Be sure not to walk on your lawn if there’s any frost on it, as it could cause damage that you won’t see until later on.
Since there’s not as much to do in the winter and the holidays are finally behind us, January is the ideal time for putting down landscaping rock or installing other hardscaping elements in your yard. The weather’s usually fairly mild and landscaper contractors are typically in a seasonal lull, making it easier to schedule and get the work done. Better yet, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor when the heat does set in.
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Early spring is primetime for putting down soil sulfur around your plants, particularly those that prefer a more acidic soil. If you aren’t sure whether or not your trees and shrubs are acid-loving, you can still apply soil sulfur without doing damage to your landscape. Las Vegas soil is notoriously alkaline, so a little sulfur will only serve to neutralize it a bit and make it easier for your plants to draw up other nutrients.
About three to four weeks after pruning roses, it’s time to wake them up with fertilizer. You’ll want to use epsom salts, cottonseed meal and superphospates in order to provide them with everything they need to put on a good show throughout the season. It’s also time to feed your fruit trees with the same components that you would use on roses, but with a high-nitrogen fertilizer added in as well.
If you want to get a spring vegetable garden started from seeds, plant them indoors in February so that they’ll be ready to move outside in mid-to-late-March. Use a seedling mix and start them in a sunny window or under grow lights in 4″ pots. Keeping a spray bottle nearby makes it much easier to water the soil without washing out the seeds.
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March is a busy time for gardeners in our Valley. First of all, you should change your irrigation clocks to their springtime settings, which is two days a week for landscaping and three days a week for lawns. Because the weather changes so dramatically in March, it’s best to wait for consistant daytime temperatures in the high 70’s before resetting your clock.
Check your irrigation to ensure that everything is working properly and that all of your plants have enough emitters on them. As trees and shrubs get bigger, they need more water, just like we do, so you’ll need to add a dripper to your line occasionally. Since it tends to heat up here pretty quickly, it’s a whole lot easier on both you and your plants if you get to this task early in the season.
This is the time to prune back your shrubs and evergreen trees, clearing out interior and crossing branches and creating the shape that you want to see. It’s best to do this with pruning tools, avoiding the use of a chainsaw to hedge a shrub, as this practice promotes woodiness beneath the top layer of leaves.
All those heat-loving plants that were damaged by the frost can also be pruned back late this month. That includes lantana, desert birds-of-paradise and members of the bells family, among others. Remember that the last chance of frost in Las Vegas isn’t until the middle of March, so cutting plants back any earlier can leave them open to even more severe damage if the temperatures do drop one last time.
If you have a lawn or a problem with weeds anywhere in your landscaping, now’s the time to put down pre-emergent, which will stop the seeds of weeds in your yard from germinating. Pre-emergents won’t kill weeds that are already growing, so if you’re already seeing them come up, you’ll want to apply a broadleaf weedkiller at the same time.
Start prepping your vegetable garden early in the month and you’ll be all set to put in your favorite veggies by mid-March, which is the ideal time for putting in everything from tomatoes and peppers to cucumbers, squash and corn.
Fertilize your leafy trees, shrubs and vines with a fertilizer that has a good amount of nitrogen in it, in order to promote new green growth through the spring. You can apply an iron chelate to your plants at this time as well. The only things you’ll want to hold off on feeding for awhile longer are your palms and cacti, which should be fertilized during the warmer months.
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Start watching out for insects this month. The moths that lay the eggs for grapeleaf skeletonizers and hornworms will be hovering around their host plants these days, especially during the early morning and evening hours. A good natural strategy for dealing with these pests is garlic spray, which masks the scent of the plants and makes it harder for the moths to find them. Keep in mind that garlic spray should be sprayed on your plants every 2 to 3 weeks and after a rain or strong windstorm in order to be truly effective.
If you haven’t aerated your lawn in awhile, April is a great time to do it. Grass should be aerated every couple of years to reduce soil compaction and allow water and air to reach the roots. This results in deeper roots and a healthier overall lawn that will require less water in the summer. Reseeding should also be completed by the end of the month, but you should only do it if it’s really necessary. This process uses a lot of water and produces new grass that will be thirsty for the rest of the season.
You should have the majority of your landscape planting done by the end of this month. Temperatures will start to rise in May (it’s not terribly uncommon for us to reach 100° before it’s over with), so it’s best to have your trees and shrubs in the ground and getting comfortably settled in April at the latest. Use a good starter fertilizer and a transplant shock preventer to stimulate root growth and soothe any stress that your plants might be experiencing. Also, make sure that you’re watering deep in order to establish a deep, healthy root system.
This is a great time for putting down a layer of mulch around your plants, to help conserve moisture and add organic matter to the soil. You can lay down a couple of inches of planting mix if you’re main concern is enriching the soil, or you can use decorative bark mulch for a more finished look.
Summer bulbs can also be put in during the month of April. This includes canna lilies, iris and gladiolas, all of which will bloom for you throughout the summer. Put them in with some starter fertilizer and then feed them every few weeks with a granular flower food.
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It’s time to change your irrigation clock to the summer watering schedule. Many people erroneously believe that this means their trees, shrubs and grass should be watered every single day, but that’s actually not correct. While the Southern Nevada Water Authority does indicate that you can water your grass every day, that certainly doesn’t mean that you have to. Take a look at this post for advice on watering established lawns. The summer schedule for drip irrigation is only three days a week, but it should provide a long, deep drink when it does run. This post on summer watering for trees and shrubs explains what that means.
The warmer May weather and fresh new growth on your plants will usually increase the number of pests in your garden, especially aphids. Garlic spray works well for keeping some types of aphids at bay, but it’s ineffective when it comes others. Check your plants early in the morning or late in the evening and look for bugs on new buds, the undersides of leaves and along the stems. If you have containers with a lip around the top, check underneath it for caterpillars.
Grubs will become more active at this time of year, shortly before they emerge from the ground as beetles. Since they’ll eat the roots of virtually any type of plant, including grass, you’ll need to keep an eye out for these pests. Unfortunately, the signs of damage from a grub infestation is often hard to spot until it’s too late for many plants, but if you find them, you should treat the rest of your lawn or landscape so that they don’t do further damage. If you see a plant go through a sudden decline with no other apparent causes, dig in the soil around it and look for fat white things that look a lot like thick worms. Very often, you can pull up a plant that’s been damaged by grubs with a gentle tug, since its root system has been almost entirely consumed by them.
Get in one more feeding for your trees, shrubs and lawn this month, as it’ll be too hot to use anything higher than a 7-7-7 before long.
Palm trees love the heat, so it’s not too late to put them in if you haven’t already. If you have palms in your landscape, the time to start fertilizing them is in late May. After that, you should do it about once a month throughout the rest of the summer, with the last feeding in early September. Palm pruning should also be done in the summer, so you may want to schedule an appointment with a good tree service if you have large palms that you can’t reach. Take a look at the post on how to prune a palm tree properly for guidance on what a palm should, and shouldn’t, look like once it’s been pruned.
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You’ll probably need to put down another application of pre-emergent to control weeds, particularly if you had a big problem with them in the springtime. Summer is also when fungus starts to strike in lawns, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for any irregular brown patches that seem to spread. Treat them early with a granular fungicide and be sure that you aren’t watering your grass at anytime other than early morning, since evening and nighttime watering actually promote fungus.
Late June and early July is normally when roses in Vegas start to produce some of the saddest little blooms you ever did see. Don’t take it personally, it’s usually just the heat. If the buds on your rose aren’t opening up at all though, you should probably check it for thrips, which are tiny little bugs that suck the moisture out of your flowers. Get a white piece of paper and break the bud open over it. If you have thrips, you’ll see what looks like yellow specks of dust that’ll start to move around on the paper. Most multi-insect killers will take care of these pests, but you’ll need to spray inside the buds to get to them.
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July is when female beetles lay their eggs in the soil, and they’ll go on to become grubs about two weeks later. When they’re small, grubs prefer to feed on the tender roots of grass, so you can put down a granular grub control in mid-to-late July as a preventive measure. If they aren’t eradicated early on, grubs will get get bigger and eventually move on to eat the roots of larger plants in the area. Here’s the thing to keep in mind: since you won’t normally see the damage to your lawn from grubs for a few weeks, it’s entirely possible (probable, even) that they will have moved on to your nearby landscaping plants before you realize that they’re there. That’s why if you do find damage to your grass from grubs, you’ll definitely want to treat the whole yard with a good grub killer.
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After a couple of months of intense summer heat, a lot of plants may need a little extra something to help them make it through the last few weeks of scorching temperatures. If you find that your trees, shrubs or grass are showing signs of nutrient deficiency, you can use a low nitrogen fertilizer to give them a boost. Signs of deficiencies include leaves that are yellowing from the base, spindly growth, small leaves and leaf scorch with curled edges. Use a balanced fertilizer like a 7-7-7 to deliver a dose of nutrients without risking burning the plant.
If you want to take advantage of the cooler temperatures that are just around the corner and get a crop of fall tomatos and peppers, you can get the seeds started now. Either start them indoors or put them in a place where they’ll get some morning sun and a lot of afternoon shade. Look for tomatos that will either produce fairly quickly or that can tolerate some cold to ensure that you get a decent fall harvest.
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If you ask me, fall is unquestionably the best time of year in the desert. We don’t have the crazy winds that we do in the spring and we have the summer heat behind us, with a mild winter just around the corner. You’ll generally want to start cutting back on your watering this month, going to three days a week for grass and two days a week for trees and shrubs.
If you like the thought of having a cool season vegetable garden this year, September is the time to get it going. Start the month off by preparing your beds with fresh compost, and then put your seeds directly in the ground at the end of the month. Lettuce, spinach, cauliflower and broccoli are all great winter vegetables in Vegas.
The end of September is also when you’ll want to give your roses a quick trim back. They should start to produce big, beautiful blooms again as soon as the high temperatures drop, so it’s good to give them a nice cleanup this month. Be sure that they’re well-fertilized too. It takes a lot of energy to make a rose from scratch.
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Fall is the best time to plant many deciduous trees and shrubs in the desert, as they’ll be working on developing nice strong roots throughout the winter months. It also gives them a chance to get acclimated to their new home before we get to the summer heat.
You should get in one last feeding for your shrubs and trees as well, including those that produce fruit.
Hit your grass with a higher nitrogen fertilizer to perk it up after the summer heat. If you need to overseed due to a fungus or grub infestation this summer, now’s the time to do it. Get rid of thatch in your lawn using a power rake every couple of years too, in order to increase the ability of the grass to draw up nutrients and to improve its water efficiency.
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Reset your irrigation clocks to the winter schedule at the first of Novemeber. This means that you’ll be watering trees, shrubs and grass one day a week. Remember that you’ll still be giving your landscaping plants long, deep drinks of water. If a plant is dehydrated or shallow-rooted, the damage from a hard frost can be much more severe, so make sure that your drippers are going for a long time.
You should stop watering your cacti and succulents altogether from now through March. Winter watering can cause big problems for these plants, so make sure that the drippers going to them are plugged or turned off. This post will help clarify why it’s such a bad idea to water cacti and succulents during the winter months.
Be prepared for a frost. We can get them in Las Vegas as early as the second week of November, so move potted plants which are tender to the cold indoors or to a more protected spot. Pick up some burlap or use an old sheet or blanket to protect any plants that are in the ground that you need to protect, like pygmy date or queen palms, citrus trees or tropical plants. For upright cacti that are cold tender, use a styrofoam cup or a small box to cover the tips, where damage starts.
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Plant spring bulbs at the end of the month for cheery color in March. Tulips, daffodils, crocus and hyacinth will all bloom in early spring here in Vegas. The bloom cycle on these flowers tends to be shorter, due to the heat, but you can extend it by at least a couple of weeks by planting the bulbs in a spot where they get morning sun and afternoon shade.
It’s also time to divide your bulbs and other tuberous perennials for next season. This includes grasses and daylilies, which will be dormant by this time. Just dig them up and gently pull the plants apart to create multiples, before replanting where you want to see them grow.
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