Thursday, July 13, 2017

One Step To Healthier Plants, Better Soil And Less Water!

Would you like to have healthier plants, better soil and use less water? Regular use of mulches can give you all this and more.

What, exactly, is mulch? Mulch is organic or inorganic material that is used as a protective covering placed around plants to prevent evaporation of moisture, insulate roots, and prevent weed growth. It can be coarse or fine and even consist of rocks in some landscapes. “Compost” is mulch that had completed the composting (or decomposition) process. Mulch is for surface applications only, while compost can be used as a mulch or planting mix.

Regular use of mulch also helps drainage and improves the soil. Most mulches release natural humic acids when broken down by soil microbes. These acids neutralize alkali deposits frequently found in our native soils and make nutrients more readily available to plants. Mulch also cools the soil while reducing water use during the hot summer months. Some mulches like bark and rock are highly decorative in the landscape. Others can also be used as amendments to improve soil at planting time. Here are examples of the most common mulches normally used in our area:

Dr. Q’s®Paydirt™ Premium Planting Mix and Mulch is a peat moss based, a fully composted product with a small charge of long-lasting organic fertilizer added. It is free of sewer sludge and adds to soil structure, over time, when used as surface mulch. Best when applied as a 1 or 2-inch layer twice a year in spring and fall. Specially formulated for our tough desert soils, Paydirt™ is also the best soil amendment available! Mix it with landscape soil to get all your plants, flowers and vegetables off to the best possible start.

Humus Gro and Top Dressing are fully composted, humus-based products that give a rich color to the soil surface when used as mulch. They also break down naturally when used as surface mulches and release beneficial humic acids. These products can also be used as seed covers and soil amendments. Apply 1 or 2-inch layer in spring and fall to provide maximum benefit to plants.

Bark mulches insulate the soil from heat and cold as well as control evaporation. Coarse, medium and large bark mulches are especially useful in high-wind areas since they aren’t likely to blow around like fine-grained products. Apply a 2-inch layer around plants and in shrub beds. Do not mix bark mulches into the soil. They remove nitrogen during the composting process and can cause plant stress if used incorrectly. Scatter fertilizer on top of the bark when feeding your plants. It will speed composting while providing proper plant nutrition.

Bulk or bagged rock is a decorative landscape product that doubles as mulch by reducing evaporation from the soil in covered areas around desert shrubs, trees and cactus. Rock is normally applied in 1 to 2-inch layers. Since it is highly heat-reflective, be careful when using it around traditional plants. Leave a 2 or 3-foot circle around those plants and use bark or humus-based mulch instead. If using rock over a large surface area, keep in mind that sandstone rock decomposes into the soil rather quickly, while quartz rock does not.

Grass clippings and leaves are frequently used as mulches by the home gardener. If using these materials, do not mix them into the soil as they remove nitrogen while undergoing the natural composting process. This can cause severe plant stress. Consider building a composting bin (wire fencing works well). Add the leaves and clippings, sprinkle with a high nitrogen fertilizer like Ammonium Sulfate (21-0-0) or a commercial compost starter product. Water and turn the pile over every 2 weeks or so. You’ll have a fully composted mulch in about 6 weeks which will be fine to use around your flowers, trees, and shrubs.
For more information on keeping your plants healthy, check out Star Note 900A!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Stunning Herb Garden Ideas You'll Want to Steal

We recently visited the Herb Garden at the Cooperative Extension Botanical Gardens and took a tour of the many different varieties of herbs grown as a demonstration for what's possible in our desert climate.

Any misconceptions about
 growing herbs in a hot, dry place, would surely dissipate upon entering the herb garden courtyard that is maintained by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension's Master Gardeners
The area is full of inspiration and is a perfect example of how careful placement and design can yield beautiful results.

This unique setting allows for morning sun and afternoon shade, ideal for growing herbs.
Interplanting of flowers allow for great pollinator activity and a thick layer of wood mulch on the ground suppresses weeds while holding moisture near the plants to conserve water. 

The are some fun and creative ways to use containers for growing herbs mixed into the garden.
A  potted bird bath is a double feature for growing Variegated Lemon Thyme while providing much-needed water for when our feathered friends come to visit.


A spiral support for potted herbs is a great idea for gardening in tight spaces, such as patios or balconies.

A short walk further into the demonstration garden, past the masses of Penstemon and the scent of Chocolate Flower, leads you to rows of various herbs surrounded by large shrubs of Lavender.

The Master Gardeners are growing several different varieties of Lavender in this area, as well as multiple varieties of other herbs like basil, oregano, and sage.

The garden was designed in such a way that no matter where you are standing, you are overwhelmed with the brilliant contrasts of foliage as well as an assortment of color from the flowers of annuals or perennials mixed with the flowers of the herbs themselves.

The addition of scent from the leaves of the herbs as well as the flowers is intoxicatingly fresh, leaving you with an overall sense of relaxation and well-being.

Herb gardening has many benefits that reach beyond the visual aesthetic of the plants, and with a little care, consideration, and planning, you can reap the many health and wellness rewards of having your own herb garden oasis.

Click here for more information on the Cooperative Extension Botanical Gardens or here for the UNCE Master Gardeners.

Don't forget to take a look at our Star Note #215 Growing Herbs In The Desert!

Friday, June 16, 2017

5 Epic Dad's Day Gifts!

We rounded up some great gift ideas for Dads who love to be outdoors!

The backyard fire pit is where everyone wants to hang out on a summer night!
Whether you're roasting marshmallows or snuggling up in the cooler months, this gift would be the perfect memory maker.

Find a new use for something that needs a new life!
These truck succulent planters are fun and manly at the same time.
The possibilities are endless!

If you're handy with a paint brush, these pots would be perfect for anyone that's a fan 
of Star Wars and plants!

This gift keeps on giving! Give dad an endless supply of his very own limes to go with his relaxing backyard brew!

Give dad the ultimate place to relax with his very 
He'll be able to practice his putt until his heart's content
 right in the backyard.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Ultimate Guide For A Fuss-Free Summer Yard!

Second application of Pre-emergent weed control.  Depending on the amount and timing of your first application, it may have become ineffective by now. Weeds will continue to start from seed throughout the warm season (especially with the summer rains).

Do NOT fertilize your regular (non-Palm) plants with high nitrogen (over 7%) now!

Fertilize palms 2-3 times during this period with Dr. Q’s® Palm Tree Food (14-4-14) to provide the special nutrients needed for vigorous growth and rich, green color.

More is not always better! Resist the temptation to water everything to death in the heat. Just because a plant “looks dry” does not mean it needs more water. If the soil is too often watered, the plant can not breathe, and can not take up the water in its soil.
Consult your watering guides. Check out Star Note #900A and Star Note #900B.

Prevent and control Spider Mites on evergreens like cypress and juniper by using a high pressure hose to wash the foliage every 2-3 weeks. Symptoms include a dusty, off color or rust colored appearance and fine webbing on the foliage. Apply a miticide like MalathionBug-b-Gon or InsectMite & Disease Control if infestation becomes severe.

Keep your lawn healthy without excessive growth by using a balanced, high iron fertilizer like Dr. Q’s Triple Play (7-7-7) or Super Iron Plant Food (9-9-9). Watch for summer weeds like dandelions and spurge. Pull by hand or spot spray with a broadleaf weed killer. Don’t spray your whole lawn. Herbicide-temperature interaction could cause severe damage.

Control insect pests like roaches, ants, black widows, earwigs and so (roly-poly) bugs with chemical or pyrethrin based insecticides. When using any pesticide, read complete instructions and follow package directions exactly! (top)

For more information on the Gardener's Calendar, check out Star Note #100.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Cutest Father's Day Garden Gift!

Here's a fun, homemade keepsake for the 
Dad that's always out in the garden!
Dress up a plain plastic Hand Trowel with colorful paints and a clever way to tell Dad how awesome he is!

Here's what you'll need:

  • Hand Trowel (Fiskars)
  • Assorted Paints (use acrylic)
  • Paper plates for paints
  • Paint Brushes
  • Tacky Glue
  • Ribbon
  • Small amount of Small Rocks (bagged or bulk)

Start by removing any dust or stickers from the hand trowel.

Use a larger paint brush to paint several layers of paint onto the inside of the trowel.
You can also paint the handle a different color if you wish.
Use a smaller paint brush for the lettering or any other smaller details.

Pick complimentary or contrasting colors that you know 
dad will love!
Acrylic paints give the best results and dry quickly.

With a paintbrush, dab a generous amount of tacky glue to the bottom tip of the inside of the trowel.
Place a few rocks onto the glue and allow to dry thoroughly before holding upright.

Top it off with a colorful ribbon and your gift is ready.
Made with Love!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

5 Essential Tips For Growing Succulents

Succulents are fun and can add a fresh and trendy edge to any indoor or outdoor space!
They're easy to mix and match, since they all have similar light and water requirements.
Here are some tips to ensure your succulent growing success!
Tip #1
Use sandy, well-draining soil.
Succulents don't perform well in a traditional potting soil so be sure to look for a soil that is specifically for cactus & succulents.

Tip #2
Empty drain plate after watering.
Soggy roots are a recipe for succulent death. 
If container doesn't have holes in the bottom for water to drain out, place a layer of gravel or rock in the bottom.

Tip #3
Let soil dry out between watering.
Indoor succulents can go weeks between watering, possibly months!
Outdoor specimens will need to be watered every week to month depending on sun exposure and temperature.

Tip #4
Place them in bright direct or indirect light.
Succulents will not perform as well if placed in a shady or low light location.

Tip #5
Make sure there is adequate airflow surrounding plants.
Terrariums are a fun way to display succulents, just remember to keep the top of the container open to allow air to the plants.

Succulents are one of the easiest and forgiving plants you can grow and they make great gifts too!
Have Fun!