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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Cilantro, Parsley and Basil Are Easy to Grow in the Desert

Q. Please, I would like to know what is the best way to grow Cilantro, Italian parsley and basil in Las Vegas. I have tried several times growing them in pots from small plants or directly transplanting them to the raised bed we have. I am not sure if I water them in excess or not enough but the leave start falling out or dry out.

A. All three of these are pretty easy to grow here if you have prepared your soil adequately and growing them at the right time of year. All three can handle full sun but they should not be put into areas of the landscape that are extraordinarily hot due to reflected heat from walls in the late afternoon.
Basil test plots in North Las Vegas. Here we grew 17 varieties of basil and all of them did well under drip irrigation.
I have grown all three of them frequently and have had no problems with them except some insect management. Basil loves the heat and should not be put in the garden until temperatures start to warm
up, perhaps late March or early April if temperatures are warm. They do not like cool temperatures below 55° F.

Cilantro and Italian parsley also do very well here but prefer cooler temperatures of spring and fall rather than the heat of our summer. A great time to plant cilantro and Italian parsley is in the early fall or late summer when temperatures begin to cool off.

Italian parsley growing in North Las Vegas with drip irrigation
If we have a hard freeze you might lose them during the winter months but if winters are mild and you place them in a warm part of the landscape protected from wind they will probably survive the winter. After it gets established and growing well, basil can handle temperatures all the way down to freezing but nothing below freezing.

Parsley Hamburg growing in North Las Vegas. The only problem I had with it was dodder one year.
When temperatures get cold in the late fall and you fear a freeze, throw a light sheet or even better a crop cover over the top of them just before sundown when soils are still warm. This will protect them 5 to 6° F below their freezing point.

Your basic elements of success in this order will be planting at the right time, soil preparation, watering correctly, protection from bugs and location in the yard for protection from cold and wind.

Leaf cutter be damage to basil
Insect problems, generally speaking, include aphids and “worms” which are larva of moths mostly. I would focus on for organic options; insecticidal soap, oils such as horticultural oil or Neem, Bt or Spinosad and a pyrethrum product for fast knockdown. I would use them in rotation as pests begin to appear in the spring and as needed. Leaf cutter bees can be a problem on basil but I do not recommend any insecticides. It is better to cover basil with insect netting or ignore it.

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