Desert Plant Guides
Author Archives: Desert Plant Guides

How to Get Rid of Oleander Aphids

It’s that time of year again, the oleanders that make up much of the desert landscape are starting to grow and bud, but some of you are noticing something odd: little, yellow dots on the leaves, buds and pods.

These yellow dots are bugs, aphids actually.

The oleander aphid is typically found in warm climates like Arizona, California and Florida.

They are a golden yellow with tiny black legs and some have wings. Entire colonies can be found on an oleander plant, which tends to really creep out some newcomers to the region!

Rather than overwhelm you with scientific jargon about mating habits and genetic disposition I’ll let you in on the important stuff:

  • Oleander aphids can also be found on citrus and milkweeds.
  • The aphids eat the sap from the host plant and oleanders have lots of it. The sap is extremely poisonous to humans and pets (including horses) so be careful when handling clippings, seeds and flowers.
  • For the most part, the damage these little pests create is aesthetic, but large colonies can stunt the plant’s growth in spots. It is best to try to get rid of the colonies as you see them.

Oleander aphids love the tender new shoots, so start there first for getting rid of them.

Insecticidal soaps are effective but if you prefer something more natural, just a bit of dish soap and water in a spray bottle should do the trick.

Spray down the infected plant generously and leave the soapy water on for an hour.

Spray it off with a strong blast from your hose.

Check back in a few days and if there are still aphids, repeat the process.

In my own yard 80% of the aphids are gone by the first process and all are eliminated by the second spray a week later.

Should You Add Artificial Grass To Your Desert Landscape?

Only a decade ago the idea of putting ‘artificial turf’ in your backyard was almost silly. You pictured football field style crunch green carpet, which stunk when it got wet and bubbled up all the time. Today, fake grass is all the rage and I love it.

Here is a brief list of why artificial grass is something to definitely consider:

1. It’s not as costly to get the ‘good stuff’ as it once was.

2. Artificial grass today actually looks like real grass, only better. Every blade is perfect.

3. There’s no messy smell. The synthetic products out there have breathable pores, allowing water to flow and drain. No piles of standing water.

4. You can give away your lawn mower. Save the environment by saving gasoline, fumes and noise pollution.

5. Zero maintenance. Your new lawn never needs work! No more seeding, raking, cutting, weeding and trimming.

6. Your dogs and kids will love it. After a hard day at play, they will be mud free, saving you time and effort!

7. Cut down on scorpions. Watered lawns attract insects. Mosquitoes love standing, pounding water. So do crickets. If you install fake grass the crickets won’t enjoy hanging out there. No crickets means less scorpions, as crickets are a delicacy for those scary little critters. We all love less scorpions!

8. Your town might give you money to rip out your old grass. Many municipalities offer water conservation rebates when you pull out water-hungry real grass and add artificial turf. Check with your area for full details. It could save you hundreds!

9. Cut back on your water bill. No more constant watering and lawn water run off.

10. It looks great. You’ll have maintenance-free, mud-free, gorgeous green grass every single day and the new products out there last 10, 15 or even 20+ years without fading.

Conserve water, make your yard beautiful and have more time to enjoy the outdoors by installing artificial grass!

Desert Vegetable Garden

There is still time to plant your organic desert vegetable garden.

As the temperatures really start to heat up and our season changes from ‘pretty warm’ to ‘scorching hot’ you might think you missed the growing season for your veggie garden.

That’s not really the case.

You can still plant cucumber, pumpkin (will be ready in the fall), eggplant, melons and herbs.

As I type this in mid August I have a very healthy raised garden that’s doing quite well.

Herbs such as basil, oregano, sage and rosemary are still as healthy as ever, growing like crazy in full sun. The important thing is to keep your bed hydrated.

Many of these plants can tolerate the heat if the roots are kept cool.

Tomatoes are a bit fickle in super heat but all hope is not lost.

Few months ago I planted few tomato plants and today they are 4 feet wide by 4 feet tall, loaded with blooms and fruits on East Valley Land.

Birds and insects are going to love those tomatoes so make sure you protect them, either by planting things that critters hate nearby or putting up a fence made of mesh or wire.

Chicken wire works well. Again, remember to hydrate!

One of the most impressive specimen growing in the summer desert season are sunflowers. There are dozens of varieties and they perform incredibly in our strong desert sun. The sunflower seeds attract birds which in turn helps the rest of your garden.

Birds eat many of the insects that partner up to destroy crops and flowers.

Grab a few survival seeds or tiny plants and give summer gardening in the desert a try.

With ample water and afternoon shade (if possible although not mandatory) you will be pretty surprised by the results!