Corn, beans, squash grow well together

Here are some questions I dealt with this week.

Question: We want to plant the three sisters (corn, beans and squash) this summer.

Answer: This is a Native American idea and it’s fun to do if planted soon. These crops have a symbiotic relationship. The corn supports the pole bean that fixes nitrogen to feed the corn, and the squash shades the soil to conserve water.

Native Americans still plant corn in groups or hills 4 to 5 feet apart first until it gets 3 to 4 inches tall. Then they plant the beans and squash so they won’t suffocate the corn.

Q: What strength of fertilizer do I put on my peaches?

A: There is a formula but save the fuss and purchase a balanced fruit fertilizer from your nursery. Feed again around Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Q: You said in your tomato class to provide shade for your tomatoes. Will growing them along the edge of our shade tree be enough shade?

A: Probably, but right now tomatoes will take full sun. When it gets hot, provide some shade. Nurseries sell shade cloth with varying degrees of shade. I find 50 to 60 percent shade is enough but 70 percent shade is too much.

Q: My Bermuda grass lawn has lots of bare patches. Do I overseed or sod it?

A: If the grass was a hybrid Bermuda lawn, sod it; hybrids can’t produce seeds. But first, check your sprinklers for alignment or clogged heads that may be causing the problem.

Then irrigate the lawn, and an hour later push a screwdriver into the troubled spots. If it’s dry, adjust your sprinklers. To rewet the dry soil, put a tablespoon of dish detergent in a gallon of water and spread it over the troubled area.

For good measure, aerate and fertilize the entire lawn and it will bounce back.

Q: I bought a large livestock trough to plant vegetables. Can I fill it with sand before putting in composted soil?

A: Yes, but first make drainage holes in the trough. Put sand in the bottom of the trough and fill the last foot with your enriched soil. Install a drip irrigation system to keep your veggies watered. Protect the trough from the heat as metal heats up fast.

Q: What type of herbicide will control the weeds around my home?

A: There are contact herbicides to kill existing weeds, and pre-emergent herbicides to prevent weed seeds from germinating. If your weeds are already up, spray them with a contact herbicide. Once weeds are gone, apply a pre-emergent herbicide and water it in. It creates a physical barrier so weeds can’t emerge. The pre-emergent herbicide becomes useless if you disturb the soil surface after applying it.

Q: When is the best time to plant a fescue lawn?

A: Now before it gets too hot to establish itself. To ensure success amend the soil before planting. Have you considered converting your yard to a low-water-use landscape?

Q: We planted peach, apricot, plum and pomegranate bushes and want to know how to care for them?

A: They are basically the same. Water is the critical factor. Fruit trees like deep irrigations with a few days between each. The organic matter you worked into the soil sponges up water and releases it as plants need it.

Q: How can we get rid of our oleanders?

A: Using Roundup and an old paintbrush, cut the oleander stalk off close to the ground and immediately “paint” the open cut stump. It goes into the plant’s tissues and prevents sprouting. It’s safe to replant in the area after 48 hours.


The green industry of Southern Nevada lost Joe Fortier, who became the premier irrigation specialist in the Southwest. Fortier worked in the irrigation industry 36 years, becoming a highly requested speaker at major conferences.

Fortier was a self-made man. He “thirsted” for irrigation knowledge seeking every opportunity to learn more. He played a major role in developing the Desert Green Conference into the Southwest’s largest. Even with all his knowledge, this humble man shared his information with everyone.

There are four major awards offered by the green industry and this guru earned all of them. He once said, “Linn, there are only four men who have received all four and I am one of them,” as tears freely fell from his eyes. We’ll miss this great man.

Linn Mills’ garden column appears on Sundays. You can reached him at or call him at 526-1495.

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