Re-post: Las Vegas Garden assignment

bill_southerncal(10 So.Cal)July 10, 2006

Hi Nevada gardeners:

(I posted early Sunday, and according to the mods they probably disappeared. So my apologies if it comes back.)

Basically, my elderly parents are moving from the SF East Bay to North Las Vegas. I've been given the task of putting fruit trees, vegetables, lemon tree, and gardenias in their new, already-landscaped garden. In addition, my mom wants to keep growing her cymbidium orchids, even if I have to build a greenhouse. I have done some reading on the Southwest Gardening boards, Nursery websites, UNLV, and other gardening websites and boards.

But I'm hoping those who live in the high desert in Nevada can share any experiences - good and bad, opinions, shortcuts, etc. I'm especially interested in the varieties of the above plants you're growing. According to what I've read, only short season tomatoes should be planted (i.e. Early Girls, First Lady, and Champion). And, I'm wondering if the dwarf Meyer lemon tree needs to be put on wheels in case they need to be moved in winter.

I've been gardening for over 30 years, but I'm in coastal Southern California! I like challenges, but I'm a newbee with this area.

Thanks in advance,

Bill in Southern Cal

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Hello Bill,

I think that it's great that you want to help out your parents in this big undertaking. Talk about a climate change, San Fransisco is so different from Las Vegas. I hope they will come to love heat loving drought tolerant desert plants and not try to make the plants that love the cool moist conditions of SF here in our dry furnace (112 today). Otherwise they will be in for some disappointments.

There are fruits and vegetables that do grow here sucessfully. A lot of apricot varieties like gold kist and katy do well here. A friend of mine has a Santa Rosa plum, Anna apple, asian pears, and all in one almond that are very fruitful. However, IMHO apples grown here aren't very good even though our horses sure enjoy them! For trees that actually like it here though how about fig, pistachio, and jujubi. My neighbor has a grove of pistachios and they love it here and are very productive.

I have tried citrus several times and not had great success so I now have a meyer improved in a pot and it seems much happier. I would not try a gardenia here, you might be able to make it survive but I seriously doubt it would thrive as they don't like our alkaline soil and there are so many plants that actually like it here why torture ones that don't. For orchids you would definitely need a greenhouse as they need humidity and to protect them from below freezing winter temperatures but I think days like our 112 today would cook them even in the shade. Maybe they could grow them in their house in the summer?

Tomatoes are good if planted early because they stop setting fruit when the temp. hits triple digits. Peppers burn but eggplant seems to handle the heat quite well. Trying for spring, fall, winter crops of vegetables is the most successful here.

Good Luck! Maria

    Bookmark   July 15, 2006 at 10:03PM
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ljrmiller(z7 NV)

I can't give you a whole lot of advice, because I'm in the colder, Northern part of the state. It's higher, colder and drier than Las Vegas. Lots of all three, actually.

Well, anyways, I do know that Cymbidiums also need a cold period to bloom, but I don't know how cold or for how long, much less if it gets that cold in Vegas. I do know that Cymbidiums can tolerate some pretty awful heat if given a little humidity and some shade--my gramma used to grow them on her shaded patio in Sacramento. I guess that probably tells you something about how much cold they need, too--near-freezing or below 40 at any rate. I'm just starting to fool with Cymbidiums here, and not even my hardy species one has been through a winter yet.

Pretty much everything in Nevada needs more shade than you would think, and it can be so dry that even cacti and agaves can need a splash of water from time to time. I grow a whole lot of my succulents in containers in light shade--and I use regular potting soil to make sure they don't dry out TOO quickly, if that gives you any idea.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2006 at 12:15AM
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Betz11(8 UT)

Get in touch with the tomato lady -
Leslie Doyle
E-mail Address(es):

I can also give you the names and phone numbers of several of my friends that have been gardening there for years.

My husband and I lived in Las Vegas before we retired and moved to our farm in Southern Utah. Email me direct if you want information.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 1:41AM
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bill_southerncal(10 So.Cal)

Maria - thanks for that info. My parents were in Las Vegas this July weekend and they realize they're in a very different gardening world. First, they will probably do without the gardenia. In their current SF Bay Area house, a lush, fragrant stand of gardenias is next to the front door. There are drought tolerant plants already planted in their new house. I will need to explore the myriad of beautiful drought and heat tolerant plants out there.

My mom insists on trying to grow orchids. They have a skylight so the family room might be a good place for it. Their orchids will probably stay indoors (rolling pots)from June-September. I read an article where the author is doing this in lieu of a greenhouse. I will do more research on it. As far as trees, definitely I'll plant one or two of the fruit trees, but will probably not even try apple trees. They'll miss their Fuji, Red Delicious, and Yellow Delicious apple trees they have now, but oh well. Their new backyard is not that big, but they do want some afternoon shade.

Lisa - thanks for the info on the heat and shade requirements. I am a huge believer in mulching as much as possible. They have some plants in large clay pots, though, so I know they have to water regularly.

Betz - thanks for the info on the Tomato Lady. I will definitely email her. Hopefully, I won't need much more info than that. If I run into any more problems, I'll post here. I may need input from your very experienced gardening friends.

This is great to have a Nevada Forum. I don't feel as intimidated as I did the first time my mom said, "Can you please plant a garden for us?"

THanks again everyone.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2006 at 8:59AM
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Hey Bill

I live in Pahrump. It's an hour west of Las Vegas. I am growing apple trees here. Even have my first one growing now and we planted the trees in October 2005. I can't imagine LV being that much different then us here. We are at 2600 elevation if that makes a difference? I know LV is at a lower elevation. I do miss my gardenia :(. Such a sweet fragrant plant!! Good Luck.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 11:53PM
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Looks like you really have your work cut out for you. It might be really helpful to visit some established gardens in Vegas to learn more about what really works down there. I visited the Gardens at the Springs Preserve when I was at a Landscape Confrence 4 years ago, and have remained on their mailing list. I can't belive the scope of classes, tours and demonstartions they offer, it's absolutely wild! It is under 4 acres and is very walkable, and everything is well i.d'd Looks like it has been established at least 10-12 years, so you can see some nice, fairly mature specimens. I believe it is sponsored by the SNWA(S. Nevada Water Authority.) Reno needs to catch up I'm afraid; we have a botanical garden at Rancho San Rafael park, but its pretty feeble by comparison. Larger than its Vegas sibling, but less info is disseminated.Maybe things will change w/ the new director Bill Carlos who recently came aboard.

Here is a link to the Gardens at the Springs Preserve:

I don't know what the topography + architecture is like at your parents new house (probably a stucco ranch, flat as a pancake?) but you might want to introduce some mounding with some rocks/boulders. Quite a few interesting gropundcover and perennial plants will enjoy growing in this type of situation, plus it makes it easier for your folks in that they don't have to bend + kneel so much. Also investigate container gardening (on a separate drip zone). I saw some really cool planters in Vegas, that thrived in a patio setting. Some were very elaborate and had ornamnetal grasses combined with different annuals that trailed out of the pots.Very luscious!
Good luck in your gardening adventures down south!

Here is a link that might be useful: Gradens @ Springs Preserve

    Bookmark   July 28, 2006 at 5:49PM
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bill_southerncal(10 So.Cal)

beca - thanks for the info. What variety of apple are you growing? My parents are very fond of the Fuji apple, but I realize they may just have to do with what varieties work.

kmac - thanks for the link. I'd like to see Gardens@Springs Preserve eventually. Looks like they can show me a lot of what can work in this climate. As I mentioned before, there is a grove of fruit trees at UNLV so I'll definitely see what they've got. My parents house IS stucco ranch with flat topography - how did you know? They're in some new development in North Las Vegas, and they didn't want a huge house or property since they won't want to maintain it too much in the summer heat. But they want about three semi-dwarf fruit trees (apple, nectarine, and a citrus) and maybe a landscape tree. Thankfully, my sister's son who lives in Vegas is willing to do some of the gardening chores when I am not there.

I am a huge believer/user of compost and mulch. I will be visiting the Starbucks near them to get the bags of coffee grounds available for gardeners (like they do here in So. CAL) I am also looking at putting in a drip system. Large pots would be great filled with some annuals, but mostly perennial species plants. Grasses and succulent sound pretty good. They will want one or two tomato plants when their weather is right for it, and maybe one eggplant, some green beans, and bell pepper.

So thanks everyone for the input.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2006 at 9:08AM
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My in-laws moved to Henderson NV from the Pacific NW.
They've got a small garden as I recall and I saw Penstemon planted there.

The Native Plant Society of Nevada might be useful to check out.

Here is a link that might be useful: Nevada Native Plant Society.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2006 at 10:59PM
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Hey Bill...

I am growing a manzano fuji tree!! Also have a granny smith, york, gala, and a golden delicious (with one apple on it)!! So maybe your parents can grow it too.

You certainly have your work cut out for you.
Good Luck!


    Bookmark   August 13, 2006 at 10:51AM
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bill_southerncal(10 So.Cal)


Beca -
Thank you. My parents love the Fuji, and if they could have just one apple tree, that would be it. I'll prepare the heck out of the soil, replacing a 4' x 4' area with potting soil, and adding compost and peat moss all around this area. I'm going to mulch like crazy and will go to Starbucks to get some coffee grounds. I plan on a semi dwarf, is that what size tree you have?

Anyone have a recommendation for a persimmon and peach tree? BTW, where are the farmer's markets in the Vegas area, preferably North LV? Do they sell local fresh fruit there? Thanks in advance for any help.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 10:03AM
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Bill, just remember apple trees need so many hours of cold temps each season to produce fruit. I suggest you research that with Xtension office or online before getting a tree.

My Fuji, here up north, seems to be a producer every other year (which I understand, is not unusual) and is loaded with fruit after just 2 apples last season!


    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 5:55PM
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My Fuji apple tree is not a dwarf tree. Las Vegas does get cold weather so don't worry about that. The winds are fun dealing with though.

I do have a dwarf Bonanza peach tree and a Desert Gold peach tree! They are growing well. My dwarf tree had so many delicious peaches this year. It was planted last November or December. We were shocked but very happy to see peaches growing. We got a few off of it and the birds got the last of them LOL. Next year we will be better at getting more.

I also have two perismmon trees that are producing right now.

I don't know where there are any farmer's markets in Vegas. I am sure they are around though.


    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 11:52AM
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Hi Bill -

Not sure if you had this question answered yet regarding the farmers market but go to this link: they have the locations and times of the markets.

I have not been to any of them yet. I am moving to Henderson when my house is done being built (Jan. 2007 is the est. date), so I will visit them then to see what fresh fruits & veggies are available. Best of luck to you and your parents!


    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 1:25PM
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bill_southerncal(10 So.Cal)


What variety of persimmons do you have again? I'm not sure if I've asked that before. If my parents had a Fuji apple and Fuyu persimmon (delicious when crisp) in their N. Vegas yard, they'd be content. It gives me hope for their yard. They had the most yummy fruit in their old house in the SF Bay Area. I can always remove one of their landscape trees. And definitely a dwarf peach tree would work. Thanks for the info.


Thanks for the info on Farmer's Markets in Vegas. I typically am pickier thanmy parents are about produce. We have great markets year round her in So. CAL, but it'd be interesting to see what is available from local farmers.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 10:11AM
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Sorry Bill...but I don't remember what kind I have. It is producing fruit now.Big help here-sorry.


    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 10:26AM
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