Growing Roses in Las Vegas

I recently visited a friend in Las Vegas, Jonathan Daniels, who has become obsessed with gardening.
“When I first decided to plant,” Daniels said, “I spent many long hours with pick and mattock, busting into what seemed like concrete. Every step of the way, I added horse manure and old straw bedding, both acquired at no charge from a stable. After many months of back-breaking labor, I succeeded in creating a six-inch layer of soft earth.”
As for most people, my friend’s idea of gardening was inseparable from the idea of growing roses.
“Roses increase your capacity for love,” my friend is fond of telling me. “After running a business for 25 years, I finally discovered that keeping clients happy was simply a matter of letting them know, on a continual basis, that I truly cared about them. I often did this by sending them bouquets of roses.”
The problems faced by Daniels in growing roses were solved through both conventional and unconventional procedures. Although his soil was uniformly difficult to cultivate at the start, he found that once he had improved it with manure and straw, there were significant differences in how his roses grew. Within a few feet of each other, one plant might have green leaves and another chlorotic (that is, yellow but green-veined) leaves. He had some success greening up the yellow leaves with iron chelate (available at any nursery) but after doing some reading on the subject, came up with another solution.
“I learned that iron-deficient, yellow leaves were often found on plants where the soil drained poorly. I also read somewhere that the less you have to water a plant, the better, and thus mulch is recommended. Mulch should be used not only to save water, but to keep standing water away from the roots.”
Daniels also learned about a concept called “living mulch” whereby excess water or nutrients shed from one plant’s leaves can help another. Thus he surrounded taller roses (hybrid teas, floribundas, climbers) with shorter ones (shrub and ground cover roses, polyanthas, and miniatures) so the water lost through the leaves of the shorter ones moisturizes the air for the taller ones.
Daniels refused to spray chemicals of any type, even if they were organic, guaranteed harmless, or made of products commonly found around the house – and recommended by certain garden gurus – such as dish soap, mouthwash and beer.
“The most sensible approach to pest control is plant diversity. Bring in lots of daisies, herbs (mint family), and salvias (sages) and you will not have any aphids, mites, mealybugs or scales.”
Daniels’ approach was to keep these ornamental plants in lightweight poly-resin containers and move the containers around as needed. If a pest was spotted on a rose bush, he would position the flowering container plants close by so that the predators attracted to the container plants would feed on the rose pests.
Recently, Daniels took his passion for gardening a step further. He transplanted all of his roses into containers and started a vegetable garden/farm in his front yard. Although less than 1,000 square feet in size, he has already harvested six types of tomatoes, four types of lettuce, two different squashes, bell and chili peppers. He also has plans to grow grain crops that will eventually be processed into brea

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