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Saturday, February 20, 2016

What Vegetables to Plant Now

This is the transition time between cool season vegetables and warm season vegetables in the Mojave Desert. We are still growing cool season or winter vegetables and planting warm season or summer vegetables as we harvest our cool season crops.

Plant SOME Winter Vegetables Now

There is time left to plant SOME winter vegetables like radishes/leaf lettuce/spinach/arugula and harvest them before it starts to get hot. I would not be afraid to plant vegetables now that you will harvest in the next 45 days. Always tweak information for elevation and microclimate. For international readers I would also include latitude.
Viragrow is just wrapping up its harvest of cauliflower now from its raised beds. It is too late to plant more cauliflower or broccoli at 2000 ft elevation in the Mojave but not too late to still squeeze a crop of radishes, spinach, lettuce, arugula in.

Freezing Temperatures

Historically, the last frost date (95% sure there will be no freezing temperatures) is March 15. Looking ahead at the weather for the next two weeks I am reasonably comfortable that we will not have any more freezing temperatures until late fall or early winter at a 2000 ft elevation. When setting out transplants early or growing from seed early it is best to protect warm season vegetable
Wall-o-Water is one product used to protect tomatoes from chilling temperatures at night when they are set out early. They are probably the most effective at modifying freezing temperatures and preventing freeze damage.
plants from chilling temperatures at night by using hot caps, Wall-o-Water or frost blankets. You will see improved growth and faster establishment.


This information focuses on vegetables grown at the 2000 foot elevation in the Mojave Desert. Tweak this information earlier if you are growing at elevations of 1000 feet and later if your elevation is at 3000 feet. Lower elevations are seasonally warmer and higher elevations are seasonally colder.


Tweak this information for different microclimates of your garden. South and West facing gardens are warmer and planted earlier than gardens facing east or north. However, you can harvest later from east and north facing gardens. Take advantage of microclimates by placing growing areas in different locations in the yard.


Wind is always damaging to gardens. In winter, freezing temperatures are more damaging if there is wind. In summer, the heat is more damaging if there is wind. Even when temperatures are mild wind affects vegetables, Put up small windbreaks around your growing area. The most effective
Produce better vegetables with a windbreak on the windward side of a garden spot. Century fence with pvc slats is about an 80/20 mix of solid /openings to slow wind for  improved vegetable production.
windbreaks allow about 20% of the air to move through it while 80% is stopped. A good example is a Century fence with PVC slats inserted or reed fencing is attached. This type of windbreak is about an 80/20 windbreak. The effective area of a windbreak is downwind of it a distance equal to about five times its height.


I know vegetable plots can be very small but whenever possible plant something different in spots in the gardens. This is called "crop rotation". When growing "by the book", "rotate" vegetables to different spots from different families. If tomatoes (Nightshade family) were grown in a spot, then grow onions (Onion family) or squash (Cucumber family) in this spot the next year Try to NOT grow something in the same family in the same spot for three years. This helps to reduce disease problems that remain in the soil.

Summer (and some winter) Vegetable Calendar

Key: s=seed; T=transplants

These are recommended months. Exact dates vary with elevation, variety and microclimate. The Las Vegas Valley is between 1700 to 2000 feet in elevation. Elevations lower than this are planted earlier in the spring and later in the fall. Elevations higher than this are the reverse. 

Some varieties of vegetables perform in heat or cold better than others. Consult information on the variety you are planting. Some landscape areas or microclimates surrounding the home are warmer or colder than others. Warm microclimates are planted earlier in the spring and later in the fall. Some of the herbs are perennial. Many herbs can be started from cuttings which is not noted below.

Beets (s), carrots (s), sweet corn (s) (later in the month), kale (s), lettuce (s), onion sets, potato (later in the month), radish (s), spinach (s), Swiss chard (s), turnip (s)

Bush beans (s), carrots (s), sweet corn (s), eggplant late in the month (T), green beans (s), pole beans (s), kale (s), kohlrabi (s), lettuce (s), onion sets, onions (T), peppers late in the month (T), potatoes, radishes (s), spinach (s), Swiss chard (s), tomato (T), turnip (s), rosemary (T), mint (T), oregano (T), mizuno (T), thyme (T)

Sweet corn (s), cucumber (s), eggplant (T), green beans (s), pole beans (s), melons late in the month (s), peppers (T), tomatoes (T), summer squash (s), basil (T), lemongrass (T), lemon verbena (T), cilantro (T), rosemary (T), mint (T)

Cucumber (s), eggplant (T), melons (s), peppers (T), sweet potato (slips), summer squash (s)

Melons (s)

Sweet corn late in the month (s), green beans (s), pole beans (s), melons (s)

Beets (s), broccoli late in the month (s,T), cabbage late in the month (T), cauliflower late in the month (T), sweet corn early in the month (s), green beans (s), pole beans (s), spinach (s), Swiss chard (s), winter squash at lower elevations (s), parsleys (T), cilantro (T), dill (T), fennel (T), chervil(T), salad burnet (T), sorrel (T), tarragon (T)

 How To Plant

Bone meal is a fertilizer used by organic growers at planting time
Before Planting in an Existing Garden: Apply 1 inch (1 cubic yard covers about 320 square feet) of good quality compost to the surface of the garden. Mix phosphorus fertilizer (triple super phosphate, rock phosphate or bone meal) to a depth of 8 to 10 inches in the row for planting seeds or with the
backfill around transplants.

Large Seed: Soak large seed (corn, peas, beans, melons, squash) in cool water 6–12 hours before planting. Soaking seed speeds germination and promotes even emergence. Form ½ inch deep planting trench with hoe or dibble. Place wet seed in trench or “hills” and cover seed with soil or mulch. Water lightly with a sprinkling can or hose breaker. During hot weather, cover seeded area with straw or horse fresh horse bedding to shade the soil surface. This is not deep but a light application. Soon after emergence, remove seedlings which are too close together by cutting them, not pulling. Sidedress or foliar spray seedlings with fertilizer one month after planting.

Small Seed: Lightly scratch soil surface with garden rake to create small furrows. Sprinkle or drop seed in rows created with rake. In Square Foot Gardens, distribute seed evenly throughout a planting grid. Cover seed with 1/8 inch compost or soil mix. Water lightly with a sprinkling can or Dramm© hose breaker. During hot weather, cover seeded area with enough straw or horse bedding to shade the soil surface. Soon after emergence, cut off seedlings which are too close together. Lightly sidedress or foliar spray seedlings with fertilizer one month after planting.

To speed up germination, water seeds and then cover planting area with clear plastic. Remove plastic or cut slits in it to allow seedlings to grow above the plastic.

Add Compost Now

Compost is very important to add before planting summer vegetables and herbs. Use it in place of fertilizers to feed trees and shrubs, improve the soil and growth. Add it to backfill 50/50 with soil dug from the hole for improved plant performance, rooting and growth. Don't forget to mulch fruit trees after planting.

Viragrow sale on compost ends in 10 days. Bulk and bagged.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Viragrow Delivers! : Growing Raspberries, Blueberries, Bananas, Papaya,...

Viragrow Delivers! : Growing Raspberries, Blueberries, Bananas, Papaya,...: Q. What soil and mix do you recommend for berry bushes like raspberries, blueberries and so forth. I am also planting some oranges and exo...

Viragrow Delivers!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Dormant Sprays or Dormant Oil?

Q. I have a peach tree that has been in the ground one year. I was supposed to spray it with dormant oil spray before leafing out. Is copper fungicide okay for spraying in the spring? Want to avoid bad pesticides because of birds, good bugs, etc. 

A. There is a confusion out there concerning dormant sprays and dormant oil. Dormant sprays can be a number of different types of sprays. The name “Dormant Spray” is a trade name and tells me nothing about its contents.
Dormant oils or horticultural oils help prevent insect pests in the coming growing season
If I have the trade name (Dormant Spray) and the manufacturer then I can look it up and I will know exactly what it contains. There is no hard and fast rule that you can apply when you are talking about dormant sprays.
However, dormant sprays are usually a traditional pesticide or combination of traditional pesticides that are sprayed during the winter or early spring. Sometimes they contain a fungicide that has copper in it and sometimes they contain an insecticide as well. They are not typically organic.
Dormant oils, on the other hand, are very specific. They vary a little bit among manufacturers but not like dormant sprays.

There is no reason for spraying a copper fungicide contained in the dormant spray if there are no problems to solve. However, dormant oils are very important to apply as a preventive measure for controlling some of the insects common on fruit trees.
There is no reason for spraying copper fungicide now unless you have a good reason for it. Be sure you have a SPECIFIC reason for doing this before you do it. On a one year old peach tree I doubt it unless you have disease pressure from Coryneum blight/shothole fungus. 
If we have extended periods of wet weather or rain you might consider it after the rain has finished. But otherwise I would not do it.

Small Area Will Fit Trellised Fruit Trees

Q. I have a very small back yard and a 20' x 18" planter against the back wall of our property that is now empty. We were thinking of espalier fruit trees in the space. My wife wants a Myers lemon and I like a peach or nectarine, pear, or even an apple.

A. You can fit about three fruit trees on a trellis 20 feet long. They don’t have to be dwarf except for the apple. The easiest trees to trellis are those which produce fruit on spurs; most apples, pear, apricot, plum and pluot. Citrus will work if the location is in a warm microclimate during the winter and protected from the wind.
Apple trellis to close to a century fence but not on the fence
Nectarine can be difficult because it frequently requires a lot of spraying for Western flower thrips to prevent the scarring this insect causes to the fruit.
Peach can be more difficult because it does not produce fruit in spurs. Purchase these trees at any local nursery or garden center but reference my list for the best varieties. You will find it on my blog or email me and I will send you a copy.
Buy a small tree if you are going to trellis. The wires for trellising should not be against the wall but away from it at least a few inches so you can prune behind it.
Trellis wires start at a height of about 18 inches from the ground and vertically spaced 18 inches apart. Everything growing towards the wall is pruned off.
In the first year cut the top of the tree about 2 inches above the bottom wire. The growth closest to the cut is directed to the next wire above it. Two side branches are tied tightly to the bottom wire.

Next year repeat this process at the second wire, then the third wire and finally the last wire. Once the tree occupies the entire trellis any branches growing above the top wire are removed. Branches growing away from the wall are cut back to three or 4 inches.

Cut Oleanders down Now

Q. You had an article awhile back about trimming oleander down before spring. I have five in my backyard and have never done that. I am afraid to trim them down. Let me know because I am ready to fertilize.

A. If oleanders are getting old and unsightly you have two choices if you want to improve their locks. You can cut them down to the ground leaving stubs about 3 to 4 inches above the soil and they will sucker and regrow from these stubs.
This eliminates flowers early in the season but it will start flowering probably around July when it gets old enough. You can cut them back now. They grow back very quickly when it’s warm and they have plenty of water.
The second option cuts back a few of the oldest and largest stems in the same way but leaves the smaller ones unpruned or only cut back with some of the foliage remaining. The advantage of the second way is that you don’t leave and open space and the remaining smaller stems will flower much earlier.
Pruning them with a hedge shears in the spring and summer removes the future flowers and you’re faced with a green plant until it regrows and flowers.

Fertilize them and water them after they are pruned. This is important if you want them to grow back quickly.

Pine Tree Dripping Sap from Holes

Q. I have a one-acre lot in east Las Vegas with large pine trees. One of the trees recently started dripping lots and lots of sap. Upon inspection, we found some horizontal lines of holes in the bark.  Other areas the sap is just dripping from the natural seams of the bark.  I looked online and it suggests a bird rather than a borer if the holes are in lines. Are there woodpeckers in Las Vegas?

A. Yes, we have the yellow-bellied sapsucker here which is in the family of woodpeckers. They cause the kind of damage you are seeing and drill holes in horizontal lines which can drip sap. It looks a little bit like someone took a drill and drilled holes in the tree close together and in a straight line.

There is not much you can do except to try to exclude these birds from the trunk which is difficult. The good news is that these trees can live many years with this type of damage from this bird if the tree is healthy and growing.

Big pine trees use a lot of water so make sure yours is receiving enough water in the spring and summer months so that it will grow enough and recover from the damage.

If damaged trees do not grow enough to recover from the bird damage then it can be a problem for the tree. 

Try looking here on my blog

Lemon Tree Leaves Eaten up

Q. I have a lemon tree with the leaves eaten up by something. I have been spraying with soap and water weekly but I’ve not seen any improvement. Any ideas?

A. I looked at the picture of the leaves you sent. Damage caused by critters is frequently characteristic to the feeder. The leaves are chewed from the tips and entire portions of the leaf are gone.

Commonly we see root damage but this does not look like root weevil damage. Root weevil damage leaves a characteristic “notching” along the edge of the leaf.
Rabbits can damage citrus but they usually eat the small twigs or branches and entire leaves. This damage usually extends only as high as they can reach. For cottontails it is about a foot. For jackrabbits it can be 2 ½ feet or more.
Rabbits also damage the trunks if the trees are fairly young. It does not look like rabbit damage but I will not rule out rabbits. Look at where the damage is located on the tree and see if it extends to a certain height only which might point at rabbits.
This damage resembles grasshopper damage to the leaves but I would not expect damage from grasshoppers this time of year because they are not active now. Perhaps this damage happened awhile back and you are just now seeing it.
Soap and water sprays will not leave behind a toxic residue that kill pests. Soap and water sprays will only kill insects that you spray.
Traditional pesticides like Sevin insecticide will leave behind a toxic residue. Try spraying with Sevin if the lemon tree is not in flower. The damage resembles the chewing from insects such as grasshoppers and Sevin insecticide should do the trick.