Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Get Ready To Fall For The Desert's Best Fruit Trees!




Fall is a great time to plant that fruit tree you've been dreaming of!
Planting fruit trees now gives you the longest period for the tree to become established and strong before the heat of summer.
Whether you're looking to plant just one tree so you can harvest your favorite fruit or you're wanting to plant a mini-orchard full of different fruit varieties, there's something for everyone!

Many people are surprised to learn that deciduous fruit trees do well here in the Desert. 
(Note that Citrus Trees are not addressed in this article. See Star Note #510 for Citrus.)

There are some factors to consider before planting:




 WINTER CHILL HOURS: Are expressed as “Low (400 or less), Moderate (400 to 700) and High (over 700) hours of winter temperatures below 45 ˚ F. The lower the winter chill requirement for a tree is, the better the chance for high production in our climate.




 Warmer winters will negatively affect high chill requirement trees more than those with a low-chill requirement. Temperatures in the range of 45 to 55 degrees also have considerable benefit toward fruiting. Conversely, temperatures above 70 degrees during the cooling period may be detrimental to fruit production. Production is also affected by proper watering and fertilizing as well as unusually hot or cold spells during the flowering period. Follow proper planting and care instructions described by StarNote 500, Fruit Tree Selection, Planting and Care and you will be successful. If you have specific questions about any fruit tree, discuss them with a friendly sales associate at any Star Nursery location. 




POLLINATOR TREES: Some fruit trees need pollinator trees in order to produce fruit. Any tree needing an additional pollinator tree usually needs a different variety of the same fruit. Some, but not all; are listed below. Peaches and nectarines can cross-pollinate within certain limits.

VARIETIES: The following fruits are most often available and commonly grown in our climate with varying degrees of success.





ALMONDS are among the easiest to grow of all fruits or nuts in the desert. Most varieties benefit from a pollinator. Almonds are drought resistant and produce better with deep, infrequent irrigation.





APPLES have been grown in our climate for some time. Harder, more tart apples seem to take summer heat well without turning mushy. All apples benefit from a pollinator tree. Yellow Delicious and Dorsett Golden pollinate most other varieties. Fruit is produced on short branches called spurs. These occur on wood at least two years old. Spurs may be productive for many years so restrict pruning on mature trees to the removal of weak or dead wood and crossing branches. Young trees may take 3-5 years after planting to develop fruiting spurs.




APRICOTS bloom early and generally grow best where late frosts seldom occur. They are dependable, heavy bearers in desert climates. All are self-fertile; chilling requirements are not a factor. Thin fruit in early spring, as necessary, to prevent overloading branches. Most container stock produces fruit the first year after planting. When the birds start pecking, it’s time to start picking!




CHERRIES will survive in hot climates but they do not thrive. All sweet and most sour varieties have High Winter Chill requirements which makes them better suited to cooler areas. On young trees, thin, tender bark is best protected with white latex paint which prevents sunburn, splitting bark and helps prevent invasion by borers. Prune to maintain good branch structure only. Fruiting spurs are long-lived and do not need to be renewed.




FIGS are among the easiest fruits to grow in desert and semi-desert climates. Though naturally large in size, some varieties reaching 40 feet or more, all can be kept small by pruning heavily. In cooler areas they may freeze back in severe winters, keeping them in large shrub form. Prune out dead wood or runaway shoots annually and avoid high nitrogen fertilizers. Figs make excellent container plants. All varieties grown here are self-fertile.




GRAPES are easily grown in our climate. They tend to be a little smaller, but much sweeter than those grown elsewhere. Pruning for maximum fruit production is a complicated affair, but remember that next year’s fruit is produced from this year’s wood. In most cases, plenty of grapes will be produced on vines used to cover an arbor. When planted in southern or western exposures, they can provide valuable shade as well. The grape-leaf skeletonizer is a native pest that can destroy leaves. Control with Spinosad® or Bacillus Thuringensis (BT) products.




NECTARINES tend to be shorter lived in our climate but produce excellent fruit; well worth your efforts. Trees are not well suited for lawns and need regular fertilizing and pruning for best production. Keep tops of trees pruned to control size if desired. Dwarf varieties give full-sized fruit on 5 to 6-foot trees and are well-adapted to container gardening. Plant different varieties for early, mid or late season fruit. Thin fruit in early spring to avoid branch breakage.




PEACHES also have a relatively shorter lifespan (about 8 years) but produce heavily and are easy to grow, especially if planted out of lawns. All benefit from regular fertilization and pruning. Dwarf varieties give full-sized fruit on 5 to 6-foot trees and make great choices for container gardening. Plant different varieties for early, mid or late season fruit. Thin fruit in early spring, as necessary, to prevent overloading branches. Stone fruits ripen from the inside out and may smell ripe while still hard. If birds start pecking the fruit, it’s a pretty good indication that harvest time is at hand. Pick when colorful and full-sized and they will soften nicely indoors in 2 to 3 days while retaining all their flavor.



PEARS grow remarkably well in our climate; not grown as much as they should be. Most varieties take lawn conditions better than many other fruit trees and have a greater tolerance for wet, heavy soils. Fruit is best if harvested before ripe and allowed to ripen indoors.




PECANS grow easily in the southwest, contrary to popular belief. However, container stock is sometimes difficult to find. They make excellent shade trees in large yards. Excellent soil drainage is required. Be sure to plant western varieties which are suited to hotter climates and alkaline soils. Most bear without a pollinator but all benefit from one. Mahan and Mohawk may be best since both are smaller and bear young. Popular varieties. Cheyenne, Choctaw, Mahan, Mohawk, Navajo, Pawnee, Sioux, Tejas, Western Schley.




PERSIMMONS are highly ornamental and Asian varieties do quite well here. They will perform better with afternoon shade and amended well-draining soil. The popular varieties most often sold are Fuyu and Hachiya.




PLUMS occur in Japanese and European varieties. Japanese strains typically have larger, juicer fruit and are used primarily for fresh eating. European plums include prunes which have higher sugar content and are good fresh or dried. Most varieties are well adapted to our climate and are self-fertile except as noted. Prepare your soil well, make sure the drainage is good and give an iron supplement like Ironworker each year to control chlorosis.




PISTACHIOS grow very well here in the desert. If you enjoy eating them, you will need to plant a male (Peters) and a female (Kernan) in order to get fruit. The male will not fruit, but its pollen is vital.



POMEGRANATES are among the prettiest, strongest and most productive fruits for dry climates. They tolerate heavy, alkaline soils, are extremely drought tolerant when established and make nice ornamental trees as well. Fruit is produced on new wood so prune to shape as desired. As the fruit matures, watch for leaf-footed bugs that can sour the fruit. Treat with Sevin® as needed. Dwarf flowering varieties produce no edible fruit but make a colorful, ever blooming accent to any dry landscape. Varieties. Utah Sweet – reddish-pink flowers spring through fall followed by lots of tasty, pink-fleshed fruit on a short, bushy tree. Wonderful – bright, orange-red flowers followed by sweet, reddish purple fruit on a fountain shaped tree to 10 feet or more.

For more information on Fruit Trees in the Desert Climate, see Star Note #505.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Fall Veggie Gardening 101 - Pssst... It's Easier Than You Think



Vegetables have been grown successfully in desert climates for many years. This is often a great surprise for gardeners that are new to the desert. Soil preparation is very important in producing crops here. For the home gardener a few basic rules apply:
  •  Don’t try to garden in caliche or hard-pack clay! If you have an impermeable layer near the surface, build raised beds and fill them with a mixture of native soil and bagged organic material like Dr. Q’s Paydirt™ Planting Mix, or if you plan a larger garden try our pre-mixed landscape soil.
  • Use the right fertilizers for what you’re trying to grow. Leaf crops need lots of nitrogen; root and fruit crops like carrots and peas need less nitrogen and more phosphorus and potassium. A Star Nursery sales associate can help you pick the right fertilizer. A good choice is Dr. Q’s® Tomato & Vegetable Food.
  • When amending vegetable beds, a mix of no more than one-half organic material to the native soil will suffice. To keep the soil fresh and viable, add more organic material each time you plant a new crop. Add Dr. Q’s® Gold Dust Starter Fertilizer, according to package directions, a day or so before planting.


  • Surface mulches help prevent weeds, conserve water and protect plant roots. Cedar Mulch will repel insects without the use of pesticides. Use them generously.
  • Pests can often be controlled by hand and sprays of water from the hose. The biggest pest in winter vegetable gardens, besides aphids, is usually the cabbage looper, which can be safely controlled with organic sprays like Spinosad ® or equivalent bacillus thuringensis (BT) product. ALWAYS FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS.
  • If your vegetable bed will be used again in the spring and summer, you may want to plan for some afternoon shade.

Here are some of the Vegetables For The Cool Season:


Beets (Dec through Jan– seed): Prefers sandy soil. Plant regularly for long harvest season. Harvest young; older beets tend to be woody.


Broccoli (Sep—seed; Oct thru Feb–transplants): Easy to grow; side shoots continue to produce long after the main head is harvested. Recovers well from extremely cold weather.


Brussels Sprouts (Sep-seed; Oct-transplants): Larger plant prefers good drainage. Pick cabbage-like heads when smaller than a golf ball. A single plant may yield 50-100 sprouts.


Cabbage & Kale (Sep to Nov—seed, and transplants):


Carrots (Sep.; Feb to May—seed): Choose short varieties unless you have excellent soil a foot or deeper, otherwise carrots will be distorted and stunted. Plant them often for fresh crops and harvest when young for best flavor. 


Cauliflower (Late July-seed; Feb, Oct-transplants): Similar to broccoli. Use large leaves at the base to cover over developing head to keep it white, or it will mature purple or green (but still tasty).


Collards & Mustard (All year—seed/ transplants): Different plants with similar appearance, taste, and culture. Choose “hot weather” varieties if available.


Lettuce (All year–seed/transplants): Leaf lettuce, like Black Seeded Simpson and Romaine, can be grown all year. Head lettuce can only be grown in the cooler parts of the year and is more difficult. Plant every two weeks for a good, regular crop–favorite food of loopers, snails, quail and neighborhood cats…


Onions, Dry (Oct to Mar–seed or sets): Thin early; harvest next year after the tops wither.



Onions, Green (Sep to June–seed or sets): Easy from sets; plant regularly for a continual crop of young, sweet onions. 


Peas (Nov; Feb—seed): Bush varieties are much easier to deal with. Try snap and sugar hybrids and choose heat resistant varieties if available. Prefer rich soil with excellent drainage.


Radish (All Year—seed): Gets pithy and hot fast, especially in poor soil. Plant small quantities every two weeks for a regular supply. Enrich soil for sweetest, mildest radishes.


Spinach (Sep to Oct; Feb—seed): Thin plants to 6 inches apart. Feed once during the season. Cut off at ground level to harvest, avoiding the extra grit that comes from pulling up the whole plant.


Tomato (Aug to Sep—transplants): Made possible by long desert growing season. Plant fast developing varieties like Early Girl for a late fall crop. May need to harvest green in late October or early November to prevent frost damage. Wrap in paper and store at room temperature. Will keep through most of the winter. Place in kitchen window when you want them—they’ll ripen in a few days.



Turnips & Rutabagas (Aug to Oct; Feb—seed): Grow turnips for a relatively quick crop; rutabagas if you want to store them. Both have tasty greens which can be sparingly harvested without hurting the developing bulb.

For More Information On Growing Cool Season Vegetables, Check Out Star Note #200.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

10 Cool Season Flowers To Up Your Garden Game




Many people don’t consider flower gardens in fall because they believe it to be a short season.  After all, winter is coming.  Shrubs and trees go dormant and flowers 
don’t do well in the winter cold, right?

  Not exactly--winters in southwest deserts are traditionally mild.  There are a surprising number of flowering plants that like cooler weather and tolerate severe cold snaps as well. Not only are there flowers  that survive winter, but there are several that will
 blossom all winter and thrive in the cold weather.

 Here are some of our favorite annual cool season varieties:



Calendula is a compact plant with large yellow or orange flowers.  It does well planted in masses, borders or containers.  Clip spent flowers to encourage repeat blooming.  At its peak in late fall and early spring.





Carnation is very hardy, takes full sun and needs no protection in winter. Garden varieties normally seen as bushy, compact dwarfs, thrive under routine care. Shades range from scarlet through pink to white. Some are sweetly fragrant.





Cyclamen has unusual and beautiful blooms. It prefers light shade to filtered sun, is a low water user with good drought tolerance. Flowers range from white magenta, red and purple.




English Primrose is a classic, cool weather favorite that does very well in filtered sun to full shade.  Large-leafed and compact, it has flower stems in rich colors of yellow, pink, purple and white.  Plant in shaded areas where pansies, stock and kale would perform poorly.




Ornamental Cabbage and Kale are edible but prized for their deep colors of purple, pink and white.  The colder the weather, the brighter the colors!  Excellent in borders or masses; surround with smaller cool season flowers like pansies and violas.  Plant smaller specimens in fall, larger sizes in winter.




Pansy is a very popular, tough little plant available in nearly every color imaginable!  Majestic Giants have large flowers with “faces,” the Crown varieties have vivid colors without faces.  Plant these in fall through winter in any sunny spot.  Not bothered by the coldest weather.  Great in masses, borders or containers!  Pick spent flowers and pinch back occasionally to keep compact shape.






Stock is an old fashioned favorite known for its strongly fragrant flowers.  It blooms profusely in shades of purple, lavender, pink and white right through the winter and into late spring.  Midget or Green Leaf Stock is a short variety with brighter flowers.  Trysomic or Seven Week Stock is taller and bushier.  Use the tall varieties for background color and shorter varieties as borders or mixers.





Viola resembles a miniature pansy with loads of purple, yellow or bicolor flowers atop pansy-like foliage.  It’s delicate, tough and attractive.  Plant in borders or masses, or mix with other cool season flowers.


Here are some of our favorite cool season (perennial) varieties:




Dianthus is a member of the carnation family that makes perfect mounds of color in fall and spring.  Deadhead after blooming. Shows nearly endless color varieties from deep red through pink, purple, white and bicolor.  You’ll even get summer blooms if the plant has some afternoon shade. In the winter Dianthus will stay green and healthy, but you are not likely to see many flowers. Will also grow well in part shade.  Plant anywhere in the garden.  





Snapdragon is a winter specialist! You will have blooms from September through May. Can survive summers if it develops deep roots or gets afternoon shade. Snaps are available in many colors and sizes; Dwarf varieties are excellent for masses, foregrounds, and borders.  Taller varieties work well as background plantings.  All do well in containers.  Self- sows readily and produces endless color variations due to cross pollination.

For More Information On Planting Cool Weather Flowers, Check Out Star Note #305.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

5 Easy Maintenance Tips To Transition Into Fall



Summer's coming to an end and there's a to be done in the garden in preparation for the
cooler days ahead. 

These few basic chores will help you to maximize the time you spend outdoors whether you're planning on adding some trees and shrubs to your landscape or simply planning on dining and entertaining on the patio in the cool evenings. 



Reset sprinkler clocks to match requirements of the Southern Nevada Watering Authority Drought Watering Restrictions Guide if drought conditions are in effect. Get a copy from any Star Nursery. Inspect your irrigation system for correct water delivery to all plants.




Cool season vegetables.  Turn your vegetable beds and amend with organic material like Paydirt™ Planting Mix. Begin to plant cool season vegetables from transplants available at any of our stores. Sow seed directly in the ground to start carrots, radishes, lettuce, peas, onions or spinach. Feed monthly with Dr. Q’s® Tomato & Vegetable Food (6-10-6).
For More on Cool Weather Vegetables, Check Out Star Note #200.



Kill unwanted Bermuda grass that has appeared this summer. Use Remuda® or Round-up® for effective control. It’s your last chance to control before the dormant period sets in. Once dormant, Bermuda is unaffected by herbicides.
For More Information on Weed Identification and Control, Check Out Star Note #625.



Give fruit trees a final feeding with low nitrogen, high phosphorus fertilizer to stimulate fruit buds for next spring. Feed shrubs and trees with complete, organic-based fertilizers from the Dr. Q’s®fertilizer line to help them recover from summer stress and get ready for the winter.
For More On Fruit Trees, Check Out Star Note #500.


Clean and feed roses to bring them from the summer blahs to the fall color show. Prune dead wood, spindly twigs and lightly shape the bush. Remove and discard all old leaves and other debris to prevent insect and disease problems. Feed with Dr. Q’s® Rose & Flower Food (6-12-4) and enjoy the blooms. 
For More On Roses, Check Out Star Note #520.

For More Seasonal Gardening Information, Check Out Our Star Notes!