Angela M. O’Callaghan, PhD, associate professor and social horticulture specialist at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, shares her expertise on what Nevadans can grow in their gardens in the fall, to enjoy throughout the winter and into the spring. Here are her recommendations:
The first advantage of fall gardening in Nevada, explained Dr. O’Callaghan, is that it is cool enough to grow many varieties that can’t stand the summer heat. “By the beginning of September, you can plant lettuce, spinach, and other leafy plants that are both attractive and edible. Think of colorful ruby red lettuce leaves and the purple variety of basil, which has both beautiful leaves and a wonderful aroma,” she said. “You will have a crop before the end of October, so long as the night-time temperature stays above 45 degrees. Always use the night-time temperature as your guide to the coldest it will get.”
Many varieties of bulbs can be put in the ground by the end of October to flower by mid-spring. “In Southern Nevada, plant one of the many iris varieties, and in Northern Nevada, plant tulips and daffodils. Don’t forget to thin out the flowered bulbs so they don’t overcrowd each other,” Dr. O’Callaghan advised. “Do that once they have flowered in early spring. Dig up half and move them to another place ― or better yet, give some to a neighbor.” Fruit trees can be fertilized in the late fall after their leaves dry, and then you will have blooms in the spring, with fruit to follow.
But, fall planting time means more than getting ready for spring blooms, reminded Dr. O’Callaghan. Plenty of varieties will give you enjoyment throughout most of the winter as well. For example, some herbs are not only pretty, but also hearty and tough, such as oregano and thyme, which can also be used as ground cover. Plant in early fall and these herbs, which are perennials, will come up again and again, assuming it does not get too cold. “The plants have cells that act like antifreeze, so they will survive even if it gets below freezing, although 29 degrees is probably the absolute cut-off,” Dr. O’Callaghan explained.
“Not too many blossoms in the winter, but you can have beautiful colored leaves, such as from caladiums, which will survive the winter in southern Nevada if there is no chilling frost,” she said. “Honeysuckle is green all year round, but you will need to establish the root system before it gets too cold. These plants are so hardy they are almost invasive. Cut them down to the ground and they will be full-size again in six months. Ornamental grasses may survive the winter if you cut them back enough. Plant these in early fall so that they have a couple of months to get established before the harsh weather comes in.”
Dr. O’Callaghan reminded us to expect harsher winters and more snow in Northern Nevada. “You can still put bulbs in the ground for spring. There won’t be any attractive growth over the winter, however,” she noted. Since there are so many variations in the Nevada climate, Dr. O’Callaghan said it’s important to look at the zone in which you live. “The United States Department of Agriculture has a climate zone which goes by the coldest temperature, and the American Horticultural Society puts out a heat index zone which goes by the hottest temperature. You will need to compare both of these,” she noted.
And what is Dr. O’Callaghan’s final fall gardening advice for us? “No matter what, you can never go wrong with adding compost to your soil — do this at least once a year.”
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of ZB, N.A.
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