Las Vegas Sun

September 21, 2018

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5-MINUTE EXPERT:

Beyond the cactus: A quick-start guide for springtime planting

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Pro tip

If your gorgeous pot doesn’t have a drainage hole, it can still be used for growing. Just put your plant in a cheap plastic container and then place that container inside the decorative one.

After a mild winter, it’s easy for a desert dweller’s thoughts to turn to gardening, but where to start? In many other parts of the country, gardening comes more easily. Lush green plants, bright flowers and succulent veggies seem to spring forth from the soil unimpeded. But the Mojave Desert requires a little more finesse. Here’s how to get started.

Picking a growing container

• Unglazed terra cotta: Classic and inexpensive. The porous material is breathable for plants, which protects them from temperature fluctuations, but also dries the soil quickly.

• Half whiskey barrel: Good for almost all situations. Pricey.

• Fabric shopping bags: Dirt cheap and breathable.

• Metal containers: These aren’t the best for Nevada’s extreme climate, because they conduct heat. Insulate with plastic or double-pot to protect from high temps.

• 5-gallon plastic buckets: Practical and cheap. They may not be decorative, but they are great for growing veggies. Drill a hole in the bottom for drainage.

• Glazed terra cotta: Glaze is like a layer of glass and will keep water from escaping too quickly.

Quick-Start Tips

1. Remember that each species has its own needs. It may be easier to start with a limited number of species and expand from there.

2. Consider your time and money. Be realistic about how much you want to invest in your garden.

3. Don’t feel like a failure if your plants die.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Last frost in Las Vegas: March 15

General plant care

All plants need the right combination of these three things: water, light, soil/nutrients. Too much or too little of any of these will lead to problems.

1. Maintain close ties with your plants: Your plants are your friends. If you check in with them every day, you’ll be able to nip problems in the bud.

2. It takes practice: Gardening is like cooking­—anybody can learn the basics with attention and persistence.

3. Label your plants: When you’re planting, it may feel like you’ll never forget what is what, but you will. Label now to save you time later.

4. “Harden” your plants: Whether bringing a transplant home from the nursery or moving seedlings outside, you need to help them adjust to their new environment, or “harden” them. Put them outside a little bit everyday, gradually lengthening the time. Think of it as the plant equivalent of breaking in a new pair of boots.

Desert-friendly blooms

Call for help

If you have gardening questions, the Master Gardeners of Southern Nevada are ready to help. Volunteers staff the the Home Gardening Help Line (702-257-5555).

See for yourself

Free garden tours at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Garden. Visit at 10 a.m. Tuesdays for a guided tour. Or drop by between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday for a free self-guided tour at 8050 Paradise Road.

• Mexican bird of paradise (desert adapted)

• Desert milkweed

• Desert marigold

• Globe mallow (apricot colors)

• African daisy

• Rose

• Brittle bush (ansilia perenoais)

• Mexican evening primrose

• Angelita daisy

• Yellow cup

• Calif poppy

• Bluehead gilia

• Wildflower

• Flowering flax

• Cornflower

• Oleander

• Lantana

• California poppy

• Gazania (sold as an annual, but is a perennial here

Desert-friendly fruits and veggies (when planted during the right season)

Take a Gardening Class

• Master Gardeners of Southern Nevada: The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension offers monthly gardening classes for $10 per class.

• Springs Preserve offers a variety of classes.

• Carrots (short 'n sweet, touchon)

• Leek (broad London)

• Lettuce (salad bowl, Nevada, romaine)

• Tomato (sweet 100, Roma, heatwave, celebrity, Siberian, Alaska fancy, red zebra)

• Kale (red winter, red Russian)

• Corn (eureka, goldon bantam)

• Broccoli (sun king, green goliath)

• Onion (Walla Walla, yellow sweet

• Swiss chard (peppermint, fordhook)

• Peppers (jalapeño, serrano, Anaheim chili, sweet banana)

• Beans (long ziza, scarlet runner)

• Jicama (Asian bean)

• Peas (Alaska, Tom Thumb)

• Tomatillo (small purple, small toma verde)

• Asparagus (Jersey knight, Martha Washington)

• Rhubarb (Victoria)

• Strawberry (tristar)

Desert-friendly herbs (when planted during the right season)

Springs Preserve Spring Plant Sale

The Springs Preserve will host its annual sale of desert plants March 24-25 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

• Basil (Genovese, sweet, summerlong)

• Chives (onion, garlic)

• Cilantro (long standing)

• Dill (fern leaf)

• Marjoram (sweet)

• Oregano (Greek)

• Parsley (Italian)

• Rosemary (common)

• Sage (common)

• Savory (summer)

• Stevia (honey dip)

• Tarragon (French)

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.