It’s nearly time for tomatoes to make a comeback

Here are some gardening concerns I encountered recently at the Springs Preserve.

Restart tomatoes: You can expect another respectable crop before frost. Right now tomatoes are “shaggy” so prune them back halfway. New shoots will spring up in the plant and you’ll see fruit setting as night temperatures drop below 70 degrees. Give them a shot of phosphorous and keep them watered. Harvesting begins in November and will last as long as the weather remains good. When it frosts, take the tomatoes inside to finish ripening.

Plant new tomatoes: Direct seed new tomatoes in your garden, or you may find some at a garden center. You’ll have fewer problems, and watering won’t be so critical when ripening. In other words, it’s easy to grow tomatoes in the fall providing the weather behaves. Several folks sent pictures of tomatoes thriving through the holidays.

Tomato leaves drying: Here is another affliction of tomatoes; it’s the tomato rust mite, related to the red spider mite. It causes lower leaves to turn brown and spreads quickly, weakening the plants. Use direct insecticidal soap down inside the bushes to control them, and wash off the plants often.

Paloverde bark burned: The sunburning happened when limbs once covered by other limbs became exposed because of breakage from snow damage last winter. The bark cracks and now has sap oozing. Because of the toughness of this tree, it will eventually heal and new growth from nearby limbs will cover the damaged wood.

Old blackberries failing: You must constantly rejuvenate blackberries through pruning to stimulate new fruiting wood, otherwise they go downhill fast. They also need micronutrients to keep them producing high quality fruit.

Blackberries are peculiar in the way they produce; it is a perennial, but canes must be biennial before producing berries. It is during the first summer of cane growth you nip them back to waist high to cause branching. It is from these branches the berries will come the next year. After production, you remove the old canes as others are coming to rejuvenate the plants.

Germinating mesquite seeds: Plant seeds before October. Pretreat the seeds by sandpapering the seed coats enough to enable water to penetrate the seeds and then soak them overnight. Plant the seeds that swell a half-inch deep and keep moist until established. Germination occurs in a week.

Mesquites toppling: It may be a combination of issues — it’s possibly root bound so the roots can’t spread; excess top growth prevents the wind from sailing through; watering close to the trunk prevents the roots from spreading to stabilize the tree; and watering frequently leaves the soil base soft.

Fall is the best time to plant in Las Vegas: Plant container plants anytime because they have a built-in root system, but planting this fall gives plants time to establish themselves so you’ll have fewer problems later.

One side of Texas Ranger dead: It sounds like the plant is getting water on only one side of the root ball. If this is on a slope, place a gallon can above the plant and put an emitter in it to trap more water for the plant.

Fast-growing tree appears: I am seeing mulberries sprouting up. The leaves are heavily lobed compared to standard mulberries and they grow fast. Someone has a fruited mulberry nearby, and feasting birds have spread the seeds around. In most cases, the plants will be fruiting trees and can be messy. Use the berries to make jams and jellies.


Whether you are designing a new landscape or converting an existing one, this six-part series will introduce you to the basics of creating a beautiful, water efficient and sustainable landscape. Discover the seven steps of water smart landscaping, the basics of landscape design, how to select a theme and the plants that will bring it to life, and finally, how to plant and maintain your new living work of art. Join us for the first class at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd. Reservations are required by calling 822-7786.


Learn complete drip-irrigation system installation from the street to the plants, including how to select and assemble components. Build a drip system in class and learn how easy it is to save water and still have great-looking plants. Join Springs Preserve experts at 9 a.m. Saturday for this free seminar by calling 822-7786.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at or call him at 822-7754.

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