Now is the time to plant warm-season vegetables

It’s the end of the season for winter vegetables. Warm-season vegetables should be going in the ground now if they haven’t already. In protected hot microclimates, it should have been sooner.

Warm season vegetables include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squashes, cucumbers and melons.

When you buy your vegetable transplants, get small ones. A good size is about 6 to 8 inches tall and bushy. While you are at it, buy some compost, a starter fertilizer, some Dipel or Thuricide and insecticidal soap.

Mix the compost with your garden soil when planting the transplants. After planting, sprinkle the starter fertilizer around the base of the plant and water it in.

Don’t fertilize again until you see fruit setting. Lightly fertilize all vegetables once a month.

Use soap sprays on plants twice a week. The soap sprays are more effective if you spray under the leaves, not just on top. With squash, you might have to cut or pinch off the lower leaves so you can spray under the other plant leaves.

Spray soaps early in the morning or late in the day as the sun is setting and bees have gone home. Alternate soap sprays with neem if you’d like.

When seedlings are starting to pop out of the ground, protect them with a Dipel or Thuricide spray or dust applied to the soil immediately around them. This helps protect against cutworms that can damage your new plants. After watering the plants, you have to apply cutworm control again.

Amend the soil at the time of planting, spray regularly for pests, fertilize lightly once a month, and you will have a better harvest.

Q: The edges of the leaves on my Majestic Beauty are getting brown and crispy. Is that salt burn? They get watered twice each week for 20 minutes and each plant has two emitters.

A: Knowing the number of emitters and how many minutes water is applied does not tell me the gallons of water being applied. Drip emitters vary in their gallons of water applied depending on the type of emitter.

Water applied from drip emitters is measured in gallons per hour. If your trees were planted as 15 gallon plants then about 6 or 7 gallons each time you water should be enough.

Six to 7 gallons would require emitters applying 3 or 4 gallons of water per hour in your case. If you must apply water for only 20 minutes, then you will need more and larger emitters. It’s possible the leaf scorch you mention is a lack of water.

Please realize as trees get bigger they will require more water. In the future, the number of emitters must be increased, the number of minutes increased or both.

Whenever you see burning or scorching on leaf edges, or on leaf tips, it is a sign the plant is not getting enough water or there are toxic or excessive salts in the soil.

Excessive salts cause leaves to brown along the edges or tips to burn. These salts can come from applications of compost rich in salts, too much fertilizer applied or even very high salt levels in our native soils.

Some soils and composts carry specific types of salts that are very damaging to plants such as boron, sodium or salts containing excessive amounts of chlorides.

In any case, a couple of good deep waterings with a hose would flush the salts out of the root zone and correct the problem.

Having wet wood mulch in contact with the trunk can cause the trunk to rot, “choke” the plant and cause leaf scorch as well.

Keep wood mulch away from tree trunks for the first couple of years to prevent this.

Other reasons for leaves to brown along their edges include damage to the roots, trunk or stem. Inspect the tree for mechanical damage like this.

Q: I planted six cat claw vines two summers ago in full sun. They are on a drip system and I hope to wean them from regular water once the area is covered. I believe you mentioned to avoid mulching cat claw vine. Of course I had already done this and the plants are struggling.

A: Cat claw vine is a very vigorous tropical and semi-tropical vine that is one of those rare plants that does well in the tropics and the desert. If the mulch is staying wet and in contact with the plant, then this might be a problem.

It does like to grow along waterways and it would probably be invasive if it escaped along the Colorado River or any of our surface waterways in our lower elevations of Southern Nevada.

Not so in the desert where we can restrict its growth with drip irrigation. It is a beautiful vine, it is aggressive and nearly pest free. It may die to the ground during cold winters or just drop its leaves when it gets below freezing.

This vine may have some trouble getting established on south-facing walls during summer months. But once they cover the wall they will do a good job shading it and reducing the reflected heat and glare from that wall.

It will do well in rock mulch provided it gets adequate water and the soil was composted at the time of planting. I would not allow it to climb on stucco or house siding as it may cause some minor damage.

When it does climb on these surfaces, pull it off, cut it back and let it regrow a different direction. This vine should be fine growing along the ground or allowed to climb cinder block walls.

In your particular case I would pull mulch away from the trunk at least a foot until the plant gets firmly established. Fertilize once a year in the early spring to push new growth.

It loves the heat so fertilizing lightly during summer months will not hurt it. As it gets older it tends to get woody at the base revealing wood stems. To reinvigorate it, cut off one of the older stems and let it regrow with new leaves to cover bare areas.

You can cut it back to the ground in late winter after it has been established a few years. The underground tubers will send up new shoots that will start the vine all over again.

Bob Morris is a horticulture expert living in Las Vegas and professor emeritus for the University of Nevada. Visit his blog at Send questions to