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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

In the West, Use Western Redbud

Q. Last Spring(2017) the leaves looked like they were being eaten.  Upon searching thoroughly, I couldn't see any creatures. Tree seemed to be losing some leaves early...some were speckled as shown in attached picture.  I thought the tree would die..Spring 2018...tree in full bloom (with exception of a few branches)...bees were loving it.  Now, it's back to  chewed leaves.  What can be done to establish a healthy tree again. Today, it was fed and watered with attached...what can be done to bring it back to good health.

Leafcutter bee circles in plant leaves. They are good guys.

This is Eastern Redbud. They cannot handle desert soils very well and certainly not rock mulch. Try to find Western Redbud. But use woodchip mulch and apply compost to the soil . Work it into the soil where the roots are.

Its okay but you need compost, soil amendment added to the soil to make it alive again.

Q. The first picture is leafcutter bee. I advocate to do nothing. They are vegetable pollinators primarily since they come out late.

As far as the plant health, this is EASTERN redbud. It doesn’t care for our desert soils much. If you put it in soil covered in surface rock mulch get rid of it and use woodchip mulch. Before you apply it, put about ½ bag of good compost like Viragrow’s Soil Pro and water it in. 

Next time you plant, use half and half soil from the hole and compost and then plant it as you water it in the soil making a slurry. Then cover the rootball area with woodchips and not rock. Eastern plants like Eastern soils. Next time try a Western Redbud. Likes our soils much better.

Check and make sure it is getting enough water each time its watered. Not frequency, how often it is applied, but amount of water.

I Want Larger Tomatoes

Q. I have a tomato garden 4x8x1 foot deep. Ever year I put in 3 new plants of early girl, champion, roma.  I redo soil every year and plants get very big with lots of flowers and tomatoes. My problem is tomatoes only get about 2 inches in diameter what am I doing wrong?
Celebrity and Beefmaster from a reader in the Mojave Desert

A. Remember to rotate your tomato family of plants to new locations each year. Try to replant in the same area every five years if possible. Do it AT LEAST every three years to minimize potential disease problems. To learn more about rotating vegetables in the garden go here.

All three varieties of tomatoes are solid producers for the desert. There are several things you can try to get larger fruit. Varieties of tomatoes will have a maximum fruit size dictated by the variety. Heavy crop loads lead toward smaller fruit.

Soil enrichment

Make sure the soil is amended, biologically active and easy to work before planting. A good quality compost goes a long way to improve the soil in all of these regards. When planting, it should be easy to insert a garden trowel into the soil. No digging with a shovel should be necessary after it has been amended.

Fertilizer applications

Fruit size can be affected by fertilizers. Use a pre-planting phosphorus application to the soil at the time of planting. One pre-plant application of phosphorus each growing season should be plenty. Don't forget potassium. Phosphorus is frequently high-end compost but potassium is oftentimes low. Having a little extra potassium in the soil will not cause problems like high amounts of phosphorus can. 

Use light, monthly applications of nitrogen to the soil as a side dressing to boost performance and keep growth at its peak. I like to tell my students, when the soil is giving to the plants, you must give to the soil. When you take from the plants, give something to the plants. Light, continual applications of fertilizer will maximize production.
Bone meal is high in phosphorus


This is a very important limiting factor in fruit size. Smaller fruit are frequently more intensely flavored than larger fruit coming from the same variety. However, we are conditioned to think that bigger is better. If plants are water stressed when the fruit is gaining size, it will result in smaller fruit. This can be good or bad.

Of course soil moisture monitoring is important but what can even be more important is the use of mulch on the soil surface when air temperatures start reaching about 80° F. I don't like straw much because it's hard to work into the soil at the end of the growing season. A light covering, no more than half inch, is all that you need. 
Pine shavings dissolve into the soil quickly and are not a problem when intensely gardening.

I like things you can apply to the surface that dissolve into the soil easier like shredded newspaper, rice hulls, pine shavings used for animal bedding, etc. yes, they can rob the soil of nitrogen but if you're constantly feeding your vegetables it won't make any difference.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Grapes Produce Shiny, Sticky Leaves When Infested with Mealybugs

Q. I discovered some white things on my grape leaves where it is connected to the branch of the trunk. The plant is only in its second year, bought from a local nursery last year. The leaves are green, but the vine does not grow. Please let me know what I should do.

A. The picture you sent was not clear. But what I could see looked like nothing I had seen here before on grapes. Grapes, both wine and table grapes, are being grown more and more in the Las Vegas Valley. It’s only a matter of time before pest problems in grape growing areas will become our problems as well. Some of these problems can devastate grapes.
            The first thing I noticed on the leaves of your grape plant were “shiny” leaves. The upper surface of the leaves was shiny and sticky to the touch. It was attracting ants and bees. This is from insects that entomologists call “piercing and sucking”. I pushed these leaves aside and found mealy bugs. This was a “new” insect for me on grapes growing in the Las Vegas Valley.
            Piercing and sucking insects (aphids are in this group) damage the plant to get at plant juices that are full of sugar. These insects feed and defecate a concentrated, sugary residue that lands on the leaves. This sugary stuff is what attracts the bees and ants.
            A control strategy, that doesn’t involve spraying chemicals on the plants, is controlling the ants. Ants like piercing and sucking insects because of the sugar. They will move young insects to uninfested locations to increase their supply of sugary “honeydew”. Controlling ants reduces the spread of these insects to new locations.
            Soap and water sprays applied directly to mealy bugs and other piercing sucking insects will kill them. There is no poisonous residue left behind so it should be repeated every three or four days until the problem is under control.

Mesquite Trees are Water Opportunists

Q. Do you have any ideas how to stop the flowers produced by mesquite trees? For the past two years mine seems to have gone crazy producing the little yellow flowers that create a constant scum of yellow on my pool all summer long. This mesquite has 1½ long spines on new growth together with the leaves.
Native mesquite in the Mojave Desert just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. Restrained growth and flowering because of the 4 inches of rainfall the Mojave Desert gets each year.

A. The tree sounds like a native mesquite, perhaps the Honey Mesquite. This tree is native to our desert Southwest, a North American native plant.
            Production of fruit by olives and pods in mesquite, can be controlled by spraying the tree when flowers are open. The flowers must be present and open for the spray to cause the fruit to abort. So, timing of the spray is critical for success. Chemicals like Florel and Olive Stop are used. But sprays to prevent flowering are more difficult to find and apply.

            Under desert conditions of limited rain, flowers are produced only in the spring when temperatures warm up. If the soil has water in it, there will be lots of flowers. If the soil is dry, flowering is sparse. If this tree is watered freely then it is possible it can produce flowers, in waves, all summer long, with each flush of growth.
Mesquite make a good looking landscape tree if pruned and managed correctly. The density of shade has much to do with how much irrigation water it gets in the desert. Infrequent watering would produce filtered shade. Frequent watering produces dense shade. They would grow too fast if grown in wet climates.
            Desert plants, like this mesquite, are opportunists; they take advantage of water when it is present and restrict growth and flowering when water is not available. In other words, growth of all kinds including flowering is tied directly to irrigation.
Mesquite trees do not belong in lawns and they should not have flowers growing beneath them. They are prefect for desert environments.
            Manage its growth and flowering by managing its supply of water. Water less often but with lots of water when you do water. Give it water in the spring to so it can grow and flower and then restrict water the rest of its growing season.
            This restriction of water will curtail its growth and flowering to once a year. At least then the yellow scum needs to be cleaned out of your pool for only three or four weeks each year. 

Plumcots, Plums and Apricots Good Choices for the Desert

Q. I purchased a plumcot fruit tree years ago for my home in New Jersey. I got great tasting, sweet plumcots in early July every year. I never thought it could grow here. Yesterday, I was reading in the Real Estate Section that a house for sale had a plumcot on its grounds. Will they grow here or is it just that particular location?

A plumcot called 'Plum Parfait' producing fruit in the Eastern Mojave Desert. Below is 'Plum Parfait' tree, about six years old and pruned to 8 feet tall entering into fall color in mid October.

A. The plumcot is a man-made hybrid between a plum and apricot. Other hybrids between these two fruit trees, apriums and pluots, also exist. These types of hybrids don’t occur in nature and are not GMO’s but developed the old-fashioned way through plant breeding.
Floyd Zaiger in a propagation house at Zaiger Genetics, one of the plant breeding companies responsible for hybrids like plumcots, apriums and pluots.
            Our climate is a good climate for growing both plums and apricots as well as hybrids like plumcots. In fact, our desert climate is better for growing these types of fruit than the climate in New Jersey. Our intense sunlight and high temperatures help develop high sugar content and good flavor.
Aprium tart made from interspecific hybrid fruit, the aprium.
            Pick a location in the yard that has plenty of sun but away from walls that produce a lot of radiated heat or reflected light. Dig the planting hole plenty wide and mix a good quality compost with this soil when planting.
            Add water to the hole as you are planting to help settle the soil and stake the tree for the first growing season. Cover the soil with a four-inch layer of wood chips after planting. These “dissolve” into the soil where there is water and continue to improve it in the years to come.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Fig Leaves Showing Possible Disease Symptoms

Q. The leaves on my fig tree appear burned after this rain. I foliar sprayed it with Neem oil and soap and fish protein isolate, These trees were planted last fall and mulched with 1 foot of woodchips and looked amazing until now. They are watered three times each week in the summer.

A. The leaves do look like they are diseased. But I have a saying, “When the top looks bad, look at the ground.” First eliminate the easy problems before jumping to more difficult ones.
            I wonder if that 12 inches of surface mulch is rotting the trunk of the tree. It is easy to kill young trees if they sink, the bottom of the trunks buried in dirt, into the planting hole after planting. Or if woodchip mulch on the soil surface is piled against the trunk and kept wet.
            In both cases wet soil or wet mulch against the trunk can cause a disease called “collar rot”. The disease rots the trunk and “chokes” the top of the tree. When this happens, leaves look diseased or as if the plant isn’t getting enough water. This becomes very apparent during hot weather.
            Start on your knees and pull the mulch away from the trunk. Keep it there permanently, 6 to 12 inches away. Next, carefully remove the soil from around the trunk until you find tree roots coming from the trunk growing horizontally.
            If this small area of the trunk looks water soaked, there might be a problem. I will take a small penknife and cut away a narrow strip of the trunk that was buried in soil and mulch. The wood under the strip should be white or greenish white.
            If there is more than ½ inch of soil covering the trunk, or the trunk was buried in wet mulch, the tree may develop collar rot. All you can do is let the covered part of the trunk air dry and hope for the best.
            I have seen collar rot develop on the lower trunk young figs and pomegranate that are buried. Most figs and pomegranates are grown on their own roots. If the top of the tree dies, wait a couple of months and see if anything suckers from the roots or base of this tree. If it does, don’t replace the tree.
            These basal suckers will grow very rapidly into a new tree because the tree already has established roots. When one of the suckers is 12 inches tall, remove the others for a single trunk tree or select 3 to 5 for a multi-trunk tree.
            It’s possible these leaf problems are related to a leaf disease but I don't recognize it. Sometimes when dead areas develop from disease pathogens, the dead area of the is bordered by yellow. This yellowing is where the plant tissue is still dying. Sometimes this yellowing doesn't exist but only because the disease has stopped spreading.
            The humidity in Las Vegas is unusually high right now because of the so-called “summer monsoon” and rains. I expect diseases to pop up during this kind of weather. Having leaf diseases on fruit trees would not be uncommon during this time of year.
            Instead of spraying, driving using a passive approach towards controlling diseases. Remove extra leaves that might be blocking the movement of air and wind through the canopy. As you see leaf diseases, remove the infected leaves and dispose of them. The plant will grow new leaves in places where there is sunlight. Leaf diseases slow down or stop as the weather changes.

Leaf Miner Damage on Many Different Plants

Q. In my morning walk around the garden, I found this unusual pattern on the leaves of my Arabian Jasmine.  Do you have any thoughts on what might have caused this?
Serpentine leaf miner damage on Jasmine leaf.

A. This is one of the leaf miners. Because of its snakelike pattern of damage caused on the leaves, this particularly matter is called the "Serpentine" Leaf Miner. Leaf miners in general are the immature of moths or a flies but in this case of the Serpentine Leaf Miner the culprit is a fly. The fly's lifecycle has four stages; the adult fly with wings for finding a sex partner, the egg, maggot, pupa which finally turns into the adult again.

The serpentine leaf miner adult fly punctures the leaf surface. It inserts its eggs inside the leaf. This is a perfect warm and wet environment for the egg to hatch into a very tiny maggot. Food and moisture are all right there and protected from predators inside the leaf! This tiny maggot tunnels between the upper and lower surface of the leaf in this wet juicy nutrient rich layer where it feeds at the same time. 

Leaf miner attacking these leaves in Afghanistan
If you hold the leaf up to the light you will see that these serpentine patterns are tunnels, have nothing in them, but are surrounded by dark, green leaf tissue. The second thing you will see is that this serpentine tunnel gets wider along the feeding path and shows you the direction this maggot has moved inside the leaf; the tunnel is narrower when it is small and gets wider as it grows. At the end of this tunnel this maggot stops feeding and pupates into the adult fly and exits the leaf.
More leaf miner damage
To control this pastor not depends on the value of the damage it creates. Leaf miners also attack weekly green vegetables like lettuce and spinach. In cases like these, we don't want any damage or very little because we're going to eat these leaves. This insect is also causes damage to some fruit trees like citrus and ornamentals like roses, annual flowers and in your case Jasmine, where leaf damage can be tolerated more.
Leaf miner damage in citrus leaves
So the tolerant to damage of leafy greens is very low and start to control this pest in a variety of ways as soon as damage is seen. Control can be as simple as removing leaves as soon as you start seeing the damage. It takes a while for this past to create these tunnels so with a little bit of diligence, leaf removal works extremely well. Removing leaves as soon as you see damage reduces the level of adults and is very efficient at minimizing damage. When you remove the leaves, don't throw them on the ground but put them in the trash or destroy them immediately.
Heavy leaf miner damage. This damage is heavy enough that it might require spraying for prevention in the next planting.

You can spray the leaves with chemicals, and this is done frequently on leafy greens vegetables grown for commercial production to protect the crop, but if you don't need to spray then don't. Understand and live with the damage if it's minor and use leaf removal if it starts to get out of control.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Sago Palm aka Cycad Growing in Containers Needs Soil Changed to Stay Healthy

Q. The cycad I bought in a container a few years ago is turning yellow even though I moved it out of direct sun and into the dappled shade of a vitex tree. Can you advise whether I still need more shading to correct the yellowing? I’m afraid to plant it in the ground because it might freeze.
Cycad or sago palm, needs the soil renewed if grown in containers. I would recommend amending or renewing it every three years. Take the plant out of the container during cool weather, wash off the roots, renew or replace the soil with a good soil/ this will improve its health. Healthier plants can withstand environmental sress better than those  in poor health.

A. I don't think the yellowing is a problem from intense sunlight. This plant can handle full sun in our Mojave Desert with no problems if the soil has been prepared adequately, organic amendments are added to the soil every year or two and water is available when needed. It’s easier to grow, however, on the East sides of buildings where it gets some protection from the late afternoon sun.
            From your picture, it seems it is growing in the same container that came from the nursery. If this is true, all the organics in that original soil are gone. Even if you are adding fertilizer to the container, the plant leaves yellow because the soil is “worn out”. Basically, the plant is growing in the container hydroponically (only water and whatever fertilizer it gets).
            It is important to add organic amendments to all soils on a regular basis to maintain good plant health, improve its tolerance to our harsh desert climate and stay resistant to diseases.
            Plants grow better and are healthier (they can withstand more problems) if they are grown in the ground and in a healthy manner. Your cycad is growing in an old, “tired” soil that has not been amended, in a container that’s too small and who knows if it’s getting water when needed.
            Pick a spot for it and get it planted. Plants growing in containers are difficult to manage. In the ground, it can grow in full sun if surrounded by other irrigated plants. This plant will be healthier if the soil is covered with woodchips rather than rock. It is not a desert plant for sure, so it needs to be planted and watered with other non-desert plants and cared for in a non-desert way.
            These plants will tolerate temperatures as low as 20°F but may show some winter damage (bronzing) to the leaves at 25F. Remember, winter cold is worse if the plant is growing in a windy location.
            When planting it this Fall, use a quality compost and mix it equally with soil taken from the planting hole. When planting, use this amended soil and flood the hole with water as soil is added. Make sure it’s planted at the proper depth; not too shallow nor too deep.
            Cover the soil surrounding it with woodchips from local trees trimmings. These will degrade over time and add more organics to the soil. Your cycad will appreciate this! Fertilize it lightly once a year with a tree and shrub or lawn fertilizer. Apply it under the leaves, not too close to the trunk, and water it in.
            Leaves that are yellow will stay yellow until removed in a couple of years when the plant gets older and bigger. But the new growth coming from the trunk should be dark green if planted correctly. This new growth eventually replaces yellow leaves as they are removed. Water the same as you would other trees and shrubs in the landscape. Apply about 5-10 gallons of water each time it is irrigated.

Holes in the Ground in July

Q. I found many holes scattered in bare ground at one of the property I maintain. They are small, perhaps the size of a penny. I have attached a photo and hope you can help me identify what could be doing this. I don’t want to hurt any pollinators.

A. It’s mid-July now and I have been hearing the buzz to attract females from male cicadas since around the first of the month. I think what you are seeing are emergence holes of cicadas. The immature cicada “grub” lives underground and feeds on tree roots such as ash.

            Most people know the 17-year, periodical cicadas but there are other cicadas which emerge every year. The cicadas are nicknamed “dog day cicadas”, or annual cicadas, because they emerge every year during the heat of summer.
             That buzzing noise is used to attract females for mating and eventual laying of eggs. The eggs of cicadas are inserted by females into slits cut into small tree branches. Sometimes the small branches die from the damage caused an egg laying combined with the heat of the summer.

Control growth of grapes and fruit trees when you can.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Get Notified Every Time I Post Something New!

Did you wish you had known the Green June Beetles were flying sooner? Or the Grape Leaf Skeletonizer? The Green June Beetle alert was posted on July 5, as soon as I saw them. The Grape Leaf Skeletonizer alert was posted as soon as a friend told me they saw them. I send out notices on Twitter @Xtremehort. But did you know that you can get an email sent to you with each new post? This  can be timely information if you live in the Mojave Desert or the Las Vegas Valley! How about my videos on YouTube.  Watch them and know whats going on in desert horticulture.

The Newsblog comes out when I get enough information to post.

It's New!!!

Put your email here on the "landing page", the page you see when you look at my newsblog. Over on the right, just under signing up for my Newsblog.

Dont miss a post. Sign up now. Its easy to remove if you don't like it.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Goldenrain Tree Was Planted More in the Las Vegas Valley in Years Past

Q. I have a Goldenrain tree in a pot I got several years ago.  It’s about 10 feet high with a diameter of about 1.5 inches. What are the pros and cons of planting it in a desert landscape here in Las Vegas? What planting recommendations would you give?

A. I think it’s a good, nondesert tree. It is better suited growing further north than us but it handles dry arid environments very well. It is considered “drought tolerant” in Midwestern or California landscapes but it is not a desert tree. I would put it on an irrigation valve with other non-desert trees like most ash and pine trees.
            Because this tree has been left in its container for a few years, the roots will most likely be “rootbound”. There is not much you can do to correct this problem if it’s there. This tree may never fully establish in the landscape because of the circling roots inside the container.
            I have never seen it grown with rock mulch covering the soil surface but I don’t think it would be a good soil environment for it in years to come. It would, like most ash trees, grow better in soils covered in woodchip mulch.
            Even though it can handle a southern landscape exposure if it isn’t intensely hot, I would plant it on the east or north side of the home if possible. If that’s not possible, then surround it with other plants to keep it a bit cooler and the roots moist and give the roots somewhere to grow. The trunk sunburns easily so leave lower limbs on the tree until it gets older.  
            Because this is the Mojave Desert, plant this tree in soil mixed with compost. The soil should be dug three times wider than the container and the excavated soil should be mixed with compost when it is replanted. Be sure to run water from the hose as you are planting this tree to remove air pockets. Stake this tree upright for one growing season before they are removed.

Cactus Can Grow Too Fast if Given the Chance

Q. My cactus is falling over. I think I give then too much water.
Cactus falling over due to succulent growth from too much of everything

A. Rather than too much I think you are watering too often. There is a subtle difference. Let the soil dry more between irrigations. Other factors can contribute to this problem.
            The term “watering too much” has two different meetings; watering too often or giving the plant more water than it needs each time it’s watered. Both refer to “watering too much” but may produce two different results. Watering frequently damages plants that originate from environments where they don’t receive water frequently.
Cactus breaking due to its own weight and succulence
            If the soil dries between waterings and forces the cactus to use its own, stored “internal water”, then this will slow its growth. If the cactus is never forced to use its own internal water, the plant grows unchecked, using whatever water is available.
            Desert plants, including many cacti and succulents, are water “opportunists”. When water is present, they suck it up which feeds new growth. Frequent watering of cacti causes new growth to become “succulent”. This type of growth is easily damaged by wind or even by its own weight.
Cactus blowing over in the wind

            If the roots of these cacti are also restricted by the container, or water is applied close to its trunk, the top may get too large to support itself.  We say it is “top-heavy”. It is very likely to fall over or break during winds or heavy rain.
            Other factors can increase succulence. This includes fertilizing too often with high nitrogen fertilizers and not providing enough light.
            Provide your cactus a container or pot that is wide. It doesn’t have to be deep but water should drain from it soon after watering. Apply fertilizer once a year about one month before you expect it to bloom. Apply water when the soil is dry. When watering, you are telling it to grow.

Expect Mushrooms after a Rain in the Desert

Q. Mushrooms have sprung up overnight around some new daylilies we planted in a new raised bed. My husband thinks the soil the plants came in contained mushroom spores. We've never had mushrooms in our yard due to our dry air. Are these toxic? Will they hurt the plants?
Mushrooms popping up in some newly planted landscape plants

A. Don’t worry about mushrooms popping up in planted areas. This is quite normal, particularly after a rain, during periods of high humidity and particularly where there is shade. The potential for growing mushrooms exist anywhere dead wood can “rot” or decompose.
Mushrooms popping up in woodchip mulch after a rain
            Mushrooms pop up from soil mixed with woodchips, a thin layer of wood chip mulch on the surface of the soil, tree roots that have died, wood from construction that was buried and from the dead interior of trunks of even living trees.
Slime mold, another fruiting body of a fungus, popping up in a wet area of woodchip mulch
            Mushrooms are the sexual stage of many different fungi and easily identifies them as part of the “rotting process”. Sexual stage just means that these mushrooms release mushroom spores from the “caps” of the mushroom. The spores are moved about by air currents.
            A few fungi are “bad guys” and create plant diseases. Others are “good guys” and responsible for breaking down undecomposed wood into humus, compost or what might be called “black gold”. Your mushrooms are from “good guys”. But that doesn’t mean they are safe to eat!
            Most fungi that make mushrooms are classified as “saprophytes”. This term means they feed off only dead things, not living things. In other words, they are “decomposers” and not responsible for killing plants.
            Do not worry about these mushrooms harming your plants but I would still knock them over and let them rot so they aren’t accidentally eaten. Once knocked over, they will shrivel into nothing very quickly.
             Mushrooms oftentimes pop up after rains, during periods of high humidity, and disappear in two or three days when things dry out. The fungus network that created the mushrooms is still there, decomposing away, but does not send up any new mushrooms again unless there is rain or high humidity and plenty of wood to decompose.

Leaf Chewing Damage to Plants Present Special Problems

Q. We've noticed leaf damage this year on our rose bushes, apple and pear trees. More than previous years. But, peach, apricot, and pomegranate seem unaffected. Some of our roses were decimated. Any idea what pest causes this and how to control it?

Leaf damage from chewing insects. Very typical of  adult June beetle damage.

A. The picture of leaves you sent show uneven missing parts, many areas with parts missing down to the veins of the leaf.  This type of damage is from insects that have mouths specialized for chewing leaves. Heavy damage means there is a large population you have not seen in the past.
Typical June beetle
            Unless you see this type of damage throughout the year, there is no reason to spray chemicals now. Damage from these types of insects is probably over. Instead, concentrate on getting the plant producing replacement leaves. Let me explain why.
            Common insects that chew leaves include grasshoppers, many different types of beetles, weevils, and others. Some of these insects chew leaves throughout their entire lifecycle (e.g. grasshoppers) and others only during part of their lifecycle (most of beetles). Sometimes the damage progressively gets worse (grasshoppers and some weevils) and other times it lasts only two or three weeks and it’s gone (many beetles).
Metallic Green June Bettle
            Most of this type of damage that begins in summer lasts perhaps three weeks and stops. This is because the damaging stage of this insect is over. The lifecycle of this insect has moved to another stage of development and most likely will not be a problem. If you spray now, you wasted your money and time.
Grape fleabeetle
            When this type of damage suddenly occurs this time of year, it is usually from the adult stage of large insects like scarab beetles. They feed for two or three weeks before they die. An example are June beetles. Chewing damage from smaller beetles, like flea beetles, occurs earlier in late spring. Smaller insects like flea beetles can produce a second “crop” of adults so sometimes damage is seen in the fall as well. But the damage comes on fast and it’s over fast.
Grape fleabeetle damage
            Exceptions are grasshoppers where all stages of its lifecycle have chewing mouthparts. With insects like grasshoppers, we see leaf damage early in the season that progressively gets worse as the season wears on. Grasshopper control is best done as soon as possible if there have been problems in the past.
Probably root weevil damage
            Chemical pesticides reduce damage next year if you kill the chewing adults as soon as damage starts. If you wait until the damage is extensive, it’s too late. The leaf-damaging adults are gone, the damage has been done and have laid their eggs for next year.
            Instead, concentrate your efforts in rebuilding what was lost. Apply fertilizers to the soil and water them in. During hot summer months, use half of the recommended rate on the bag or container. Apply it twice, four weeks apart. Avoid applying fertilizers after August 1 to plants that are tender during cold winter months.

Eliminate Fruit and Seed from Plants But not the Flowers

Q. I have some trees and shrubs that produce fruit and seed I don’t want. Can I spray them and eliminate the fruit and seed? What’s the best spray use?

A. Probably the most popular fruit eliminator on the market is Florel. It is synthetic but mimics natural plant hormones.
            I have never used it for eliminating fruit on anything but olives. The label does allow you to use it on many other plants for fruit elimination. Read the label before you buy it.
            The problem with plants not listed on the label is knowing how much to mix in the spray. For this product to work, the flowers must be open and the spray must come in contact with the open flower. 
            Since flowers on trees open over a period of time, flowers on the top, south and west sides open first. Spray the tree twice to get good fruit control. Spray the plant when 20% of the flowers are open first and repeat the spray in one or two weeks when it is 80% of full bloom. It won’t give you 100% control but spraying twice increases how much of the fruit is controlled.
            I can’t tell you how many days to wait for the second spray because it varies with the weather. If temperatures are hot, flowering will finish in two weeks. If the weather is cool, the time of flowering could extend as long as 3 to 4 weeks. Play it by ear.

Use of Oregano Essential Oils to Control Food Spoilage

Essential oils (EO) have stood out for their potential application as antimicrobial agents, playing an important role in ensuring food quality and safety. In addition, the synergistic effect of EO blends can improve action spectrum for more effective applications. 

The purpose of this research was to evaluate the in vitro antimicrobial activity of oregano, sweet fennel, and cinnamon EOs, and their blends, against the pathogenic bacteria Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, and the fungus Penicillium spp. The antimicrobial activity was determined by the diskdiffusion method, at both microbial optimal growth temperature and refrigeration temperature. 

Different EO volumes were investigated, and an effective inhibition was observed for the concentration of 3 μL. Oregano EO has proven to be effective in all assays, when compared to the EO combinations.

International Food Research Journal 25(2): 540-544 (April 2018)

Go to the Journal Article

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Apricot and Apple Tree Growing Poorly

Q. My apple and apricot trees have small leaves and not much new growth. The few dark green leaves are almost dead. I fertilized the plant in the prescribed periods and watered the plant as in previous years. The apple tree made flowers but few fruits. The apricot had lots of apricots and dropped some earlier but few green leaves.
Apricot tree sparse and not filling in properly. Having a tree with the canopy this open can lead to borer problems if it doesn't already have them.

Apple tree is sparse. The same thing applies to Apple trees. They need enough water and a big enough basin to water the roots, nutrients which we supply through rich compost or fertilizers, and a surface mulch which decomposes to enrich the soil.

A. Thanks for the pictures. I think the problems are a combination of water, fertilizer and soil. As you know, the trees should be thick and dense this time of year. They are not because, I think, they lack these three ingredients.


Your trees are about 8 to 10 feet tall and would need about 20 to 30 gallons of water every other day during the hot summer months. As trees get older and larger, they need more water. That works out to about 75 to 100 gallons each week.
            There is a basin at the bottom of the tree that is maybe 3 feet in diameter. Increase the size of that basin to about 6 feet in diameter or 3 feet from the trunk in all directions. That will accommodate more water and spread it about a foot beyond the basin.

Compost or fertilizer

            Spread about 1 cubic foot of good quality compost in the basin away from the trunk before you water it again. This compost should have a high nutrient content such as Viragrow’s. Many do not.
            After rebuilding the basin in a six-foot diameter around the tree and applying compost, fill the basin with a hose or sprinkler on the end of a hose. Fill the basin twice.


            Cover the soil in the basin with woodchips from local trees if you can find them. If you can’t find any, use straw 4 to 6 inches deep until you can find some woodchips.
            Increase the amount of water to the tree by covering that soil with about one – two inches of water flooding the basin. Water the tree three – four times per week using this basin and flooding technique. You should see new growth starting in about 7 to 10 days.

Design and Installing Lawn Irrigation Not As Easy As It Looks

Q. We installed a lawn 18 months ago, but it has a difficult time during summer months. I aerate it, fertilize it and I know the drainage is good because the landscaper installed the system to our HOA requirements. I water twice daily, six days a week around 5 AM and 9 PM. There is a decent amount of shade and the yard faces south. Even the heavily shaded areas have problems. What can I do differently?

Brown patches in lawns during hot summers will quickly show irrigation weaknesses. Notice these patches are also close to the patio where people walk. This area should probably be core aerified annually due to traffic.

A. I looked at your pictures and the lawn looks good in most places except for a few small brown areas. Brown spots during summer months frequently point out weaknesses in the irrigation system. In your case the brown spots are also in front of the patio where there is alot of human traffic. Areas like this should be core aerified annually.

Hollow tine aerifier

            My first suspicion is the irrigation system and was not installed or maintained properly. Let’s cover the basic “must dos” when installing and maintaining an irrigation system.

Water pressure

The operating water pressure MUST be within the operating range of the sprinkler nozzles. Frequently this is 15– 30 psi. Some expensive sprinkler heads have built in pressure regulators, but lesser expensive ones may not. If the water pressure is too high, fogging or misting will occur out of the nozzle. If the sprinkler head is “fogging”, then brown spots will occur in weak areas. If pressure is too high, reduce it with a pressure regulator. If water pressure is too low, remove any pressure regulator, change it for the proper one or install a booster pump to increase the water pressure.

Head to head coverage

Water must be thrown from the nozzle far enough to reach neighboring sprinkler heads. Sprinkler heads must be installed at distances specified by the nozzles. These distances are meaningless if you don’t have the right water pressure.

Sprinkler nozzles

Sprinkler nozzles specify the operating pressure range, allowable spacing between sprinkler heads and precipitation rate in inches per hour among other things. These nozzles must be matched to each other. If someone maintains the irrigation system and replaces a nozzle with the wrong kind, it will produce brown spots in underwatered, weak areas.
            Curved areas and re-curved areas of the lawn are the most difficult to water. There are adjustable nozzles that can be used but it will always be a weak irrigation area subject to brown spots.

  •             Never water early at night like at 9 PM. If your lawn is healthy and it has a good irrigation system, one irrigation per day during summer is all that most lawns need IF the sprinkler system was designed and installed correctly. Irrigation should finish just before dawn. If you must water late in the day, apply water so that the grass leaf blades dry before it gets dark.
  •             Don’t rake or catch the grass clippings when mowing. Most mowers now are “mulching mowers” with a special blade and deck design. Returning the clippings to the lawn substitutes for one fertilizer application each season.