You can add fall color to landscapes

Here are some questions I encountered last week.

Q: What plants will introduce more fall color into my yard?

A: Consider Chinese pistachio, Chinese tallow, Modesto ash, ornamental pear and persimmon trees. For shrubs, try fountain grass, crape myrtle, glossy abelia, nandina, pomegranate and rosemary. For ground covers, include blue fescue, bronze ajuga, rock cotoneaster and wintercreeper. And for vines, plant Boston ivy and Virginia creeper.

Q: When do I harvest persimmons?

A: They’re tart if eaten too soon. Wait until the fruit softens to enjoy them. Chilling makes the fruit sweeter.

A persimmon tree is extremely attractive in the fall when its dark green leaves turn stunning shades of yellow, orange or red, and later with fruit hanging on the branches.

Q: Why did our 20-year-old almond tree stop producing nuts?

A: Almonds require two different varieties to get nuts. I suspect a neighbor removed his or her tree, leaving you in this predicament. Either plant another almond or place bouquets of almond blossoms from another tree in your tree next spring.

Q: How do you tell when to harvest pistachios?

A: When the shell coverings loosen, harvest them and let them dry so they’ll split. To salt them, boil the nuts in a salty solution for a few minutes and then dry.

Q: Why was our apple tree loaded with fruit last year, and it hardly had any this year?

A: If an apple oversets fruit one year, all its energy goes to producing fruit. It taxed the system so much it didn’t have any energy to produce this summer. You might have a bumper crop next year. We call this alternate bearing. To bring the tree back into balance, heavily thin the fruit after blossoming next year.

Q: When do I harvest winter squash?

A: If your thumbnail creases the skin, it’s still immature and will rot. To extend its life after harvest, keep 2 inches of stem attached to the fruit.

Q: What’s eating my peas as they emerge?

A: Birds love the seedlings. To deter them, run two strings 2 inches above the seedlings. They won’t go under the strings to get the peas.

Q: Can we grow Jerusalem artichokes in Las Vegas?

A: You bet, and they are heavy producers of nonstarch tubers. They’re easy to grow, so plant them where you can almost forget them. They have lots of similarities to sunflower plants.

Q: How do you plant garlic?

A: First, remove the cloves from the bulbs. Plant each clove with the flat base downward 1 to 1½ inches deep and 2 to 3 inches apart in the rows. Expect good-sized bulbs next spring as the tops die down.

Q: What is causing holes in my broccoli leaves?

A: Cabbage looper larvae are the culprits. The adult loopers are those pretty white moths fluttering across your garden laying eggs on your broccoli leaves that then hatch into larvae that feed on the leaves. This is what causes the holes. Go after them with an organic product called Bt that is safe and does best when you follow label directions.

Q: What are some flowers I can sow for color next spring?

A: Some sure winners are forget-me-nots, California and Shirley poppies, bachelor’s button, larkspurs, sweet peas and Johnny-jump-ups. They’ll germinate this fall and will produce flowers into next spring.

Q: Why don’t we use more night lighting in Las Vegas?

A: A good question! Some well-placed lights bring new drama and warmth to entryways, paths and landscaping. It isn’t hard to wire, nor do you have to dig trenches to put in lighting. Give it a try!

Q: Will windmill palm grow in Las Vegas?

A: Yes, it loves our heat and is hardy to 10 degrees, making it one of the hardiest palms in Las Vegas. It needs a well-drained soil.

Q: Is it too late to move cactuses?

A: No. Dig them up and let dry for two weeks to slow down their growth before moving. After planting, keep the area moist, but not soggy into next season.

Q: I’m putting in a fescue lawn and wondering how to get it up with the once a week watering schedule that starts in November?

A: Planting a new lawn is an exception to the rule. You have 30 days to get your lawn up and established. Since we live in the desert, consider Bermuda grass because it uses 40 percent less water.

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

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