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2. Ask a Desert Gardener, May 2024

Ask A Desert Gardener, May 2024

In May, we have the opportunity to spend a great deal of time completing any remaining activities needed for a successful growing season. 

If you are planning on adding any plants or perhaps adding raised beds to your landscape, you may need to add additional “soil” to your garden. This leads to the question: “Is there a difference between garden soil and potting soil and are they interchangeable?There is a difference and… they are NOT interchangeable! Usually, potting soil is not soil at all, but is made up of organic materials that are mixed with chemical additives necessary for plant growth.  It is primarily used in indoor pots and certain decorative planters around your garden. Garden soil is “real soil” that is rich in organic materials and biological activity that has been augmented with compost to retain moisture. Whether using potting soil (indoors) or garden soil in your garden, make certain that you “solar sterilize” by placing the unopened bags of soil in direct sunlight outdoors for a full day. The sun will heat the soil to about 160 F killing off all insect eggs and organisms.

Outdoors, if you are going to add organic mulch to your soil, first apply a layer of diatomaceous soil to inhibit infestation of “exoskeleton” insects in your garden.

With the exception of Palms, May through early June is the last time to apply fertilizer to your landscaping since you do not want to stimulate delicate plant growth that can be damaged by high temperatures and direct summer sun. Check for yellowing leaves which can be caused by iron deficiency (Chlorosis) and apply chelated iron when needed. 

As a “proactive” measure, you should apply systemic insecticide to the soil around the root areas to prevent insects. For visible insect infestation, treat with any “contact” insecticide.

Follow the Summer irrigation schedule setting timers to a pre-dawn and/or post sunset start time with a 30 minutes run time. Frequently check drip/bubble emitters for proper location and for blockage and reposition and/replace where necessary.

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Howard Galin is a University of Nevada certified Master Gardener and the Chair of the SCA Garden Club House Call Program.