Fertilizing too late can leave plants vulnerable

Here are some gardening questions I dealt with this week.

Question: Is it too late to fertilize my evergreen shrubs?

Answer: It’s getting on the late side. A shot of fertilizer now causes spurts of growth, leaving your plants vulnerable to severe frost damage. We recommend making your final fall fertilizing in early September.

Q: Am I too late to plant flowering annuals in patio containers?

A: No, we have the ideal climate to grow flowering annuals for fall color. Make sure they get at least six hours of sunlight to bring out their true beauty.

Flowering annuals love our cool winters. I recall finding snapdragons and pansies under snow still blooming, and they continued well into next season.

Q: We are leaving town until April and wondering if we can prune our sumac trees before leaving? We generally prune them twice a year.

A: You can prune anytime your pruners are sharp. It is easier to prune deciduous trees after leaves fall. Pruning twice a year suggests you may be watering them too much, causing the need for additional prunings.

Q: Why isn’t our 3-year-old ornamental grass Regal Mist blooming this fall? We didn’t cut it back last spring, and it’s showing a lot of distracting dead growth.

A: The dead grass buildup might inhibit the blooming display, or you need to divide the clump, but do it next spring. Pop the clump out of the ground, split it and replant.

Many gardeners cut them back even now before blooming. Don’t do that because that ugly stubble clump will stare at you all winter. The long lacy grass blades are beautiful dancing in the winter breezes.

Next spring when you see new grass emerging, that’s the time to remove the dead grass.

Q: Why didn’t my May planted corn have any kernels on the ears?

A: There are three possible reasons:

You planted too late. Plant it during March and into mid-April.

The low humidity and high heat dries up the pollen so it doesn’t stick to the silk.

If you planted only a single row, then the pollen blew away with no side rows to trap it. Always plant clusters of corn so that adjacent rows trap the pollen, making it possible to fall to the silk.

If you have room for only a small plot of corn, place a large grocery sack over the tassels and shake the stock so the pollen drops straight down to the ear.

Q: Enclosed is a picture of my organ pipe cactus that’s toppling. What is the long-term solution to keeping it upright?

A: Longtime cactus enthusiast Dave Turner said: It is not an organ pipe cactus. It’s a Trichocerus spachianus. It grows up and falls over and then re-roots lying on the ground.

That being said, cut the top part off with a sharp knife while holding it with tongs or several layers of newspaper. The mother plant will re-sprout from the cut area and grow more columns. Place the detached part in shade for three weeks and then plant elsewhere.

Q: We want to grow our own apples but heard they don’t do well here?

A: Bob Morris of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, who tested several apple varieties, said his top apple choices for Las Vegas are Dorsett Golden and Pink Lady. He also mentioned Anna, Einshemer, Fuji, Gordon, Mutsu and White Winter Pearmain. My favorites are Anna and Dorsett Golden.

Remember: Apples grown here will be tart because they ripen in the summer. It takes the cool temperatures to sweeten them up. I find after a couple of bites and a little tightening of the jaw muscles, I enjoy them.

Because many of us come from more ideal places for growing apples, we want to wait until it’s cooler to harvest them.

Q: When is it the best time to plant bare-root fruit trees in Las Vegas?

A: If you are ordering them from a catalog, inform the nursery that you need to plant them before Washington’s birthday.

Early plantings give plants time to establish themselves before heat sets in. This also is true for roses or any other bare-root stock.


The Las Vegas Chrysanthemum Society will be selling mums at 8 a.m. Saturday until sold out at Plant World Nursery, 5311 W. Charleston Blvd. The society has a limited number of gallon-size exhibition mums and several varieties of smaller flowering mums. For more information, call 459-4633.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at linn.mills@ springspreserve.org or 822-7754.

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