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October/November 2021 Garden Solutions

By Kelly Murray Young | Illustration by Gary Hovland

We keep finding masses of bugs that look like tiny shrimp floating in our swimming pool. Every morning there is a new group of them. What are they, and how do we stop them from getting in our pool? 

It sounds like the insects you are finding in your pool are springtails, which thrive in moist locations and can sometimes be found coming out of sink drains. As temperatures cool and the vegetation that the summer monsoons brought out dry up and die, the tiny shrimplike springtails seek moisture in our landscapes and often drown, en masse, in our swimming pools. No action is needed on your part. They will eventually decrease in numbers on their own and stop invading your yard.

Are there any attractive landscape plants that I can plant at our rental property in Chandler that can survive without water?

All plants need water, but there are some species that can thrive on very little. Many plants native to the Sonoran Desert will survive with very little supplemental water after they’ve become established, which usually takes about three years. Think native trees like mesquite (Prosopis spp.), palo verde (Parkinsonia spp.) and ironwood (Olneya tesota); shrubs such as creosote (Larrea tridentata), desert lavender (Hyptis emoryi) and jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) and perennials such as brittle bush (Encelia farinosa), globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) and bursage (Artemesia tridentata). There are several flowering shrubs that have been introduced from parts of the world that also thrive in hot, dry Chandler climate. Bougainvillea, oleander and lantana can often be found brilliantly blooming in abandoned lots or neglected properties that haven’t been watered in years.

I have heard you should use an inoculant when planting peas and other legumes. Is this true?

The roots of legumes, such as peas and beans, are colonized by bacteria that convert nitrogen gas found in the air into ammonia, a form of fertilizer. Legume crops may do better when seeds are planted with an inoculant that contains “nitrogen-fixing” bacteria specific to the crop. When ordering pea and bean seeds from online seed companies, check to see if they also sell an appropriate inoculant. Mix the seed with the bacteria before planting and water well to activate the product. Only buy as much inoculant as recommended on the product label; they tend to have a fairly short shelf life and won’t be viable in subsequent years.


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