Type your question here!


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Meat Certification Course in Reno

Wolf Pack Meats Certification Program is being offered at Wolf Pack Meats through the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources (CABNR)and the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) Herds & Harvest program. Each certification program will guide students through the operation of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) protocols to ensure that program participants will learn the latest food safety and sanitation guidelines. Each program will be limited to 10 students due to the size of the Wolf Pack Meats facility and the Main Station Farm classroom size. A brochure is attached with all the information regarding this class. 

July 7, 2016
Basics l Slaughter
This Basics I certification program will be for beginners who want to learn about meat processing. This training is designed to provide insight on how to slaughter and process an animal carcass under USDA inspection, this class is hands-on.

To register follow the EventBrite link. http://slaughter-july07-2016.eventbrite.com/

July 19, 2016
Basics I Processing
Processing certification for Meat Cutting Basics I will provide hands-on specialized training in the accuracy of cutting, knife handling, portion control, merchandising and the utilization of all carcass products including food safety and sanitation guidelines.

To register, follow Event Brite link. https://processing-july19-2016.eventbrite.com/

June 30, and July 1, 2016
Basics ll
This Basics II certification program will be a two-day educational program related to the meat packing industry. Day 1 will be at the UNR Ag Experiment Station on Clean Water Way in the classroom and in the feedlot learning how packers make their money. Day two will focus on the processing of carcasses focusing on grade and yield at Wolf Pack meats processing facility in the morning. In the afternoon, the class will move to UNR Fleischman Agriculture Room 104, UNR Meat Lab, to conduct meat product color analysis, tenderness and packaging techniques.

To register for the two-day event, click the Eventbrite link. https://basics2-june30andjuly1-2016.eventbrite.com/ 

Coconut Trunk Rot in Philippines

Q. I had gone thru your blogs and thanks for I got idea how to connect with you. I am from the Philippines. I had a small coconut plantation but had some problems I had observed. (Please see attached photos).

A. This looks like basal stem rot disease….Ganoderma…It is usually associated with poor drainage during the rainy season. Water accumulates around the trunks and the soil does not drain well. This standing water causes the palm to weaken and invasion by this disease pathogen which is either in the soil waiting for weakened trees or brought in with the seedlings. I attached a paper that discusses this problem and some corrective measures but the best is preventitive, making sure you have adequate drainage during heavy rains and soil that drains well.

We see similar problems with fruit trees in temperate regions and it is called collar rot. Similar symptoms but different disease organisms.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Viragrow Delivers! : Q. This is the 8th year for our honeysuckle plants...

Q. This is the 8th year for our honeysuckle plants...: Q.  This is the 8th year for our honeysuckle plants and, although they appear healthy, we cannot get them to produce blossoms. They do get...

Viragrow Delivers!

Starting From Seed in the Garden During Summer

Q. Just came across your site looking for gardening tips.Great stuff! Just wanted to reach out and say hello. I'm just starting to get into gardening myself. I didn't know there was so much involved with
starting seeds and pots!

I just started planting some seeds for different flowers but I've been having problems with birds hanging out and ruining my garden. I'd love to get your thoughts on it. Have you had this issue? I would appreciate your feedback!

A. I know pigeons can be a problem with grass seed but I have not seen it in garden seeds. I have experienced ants hauling off the seed in another country and resulted in the loss of about 1 lb of onion seed in about two days.

Fresh horse bedding used as mulch
Sometimes it is better to start the seed in pots or in one location and then move them as transplants when they are about 6 inches tall. This doesn’t work well with root crops but I have seen it done when I thought it would be a problem. 

Horse bedding
Covering the seed with mulch now is also a good idea because the soil/seed dries out too quickly this time of year for good germination. Presoaking large seed…soaking them in water for about six hours…. Works very well and can cut down a day or more on germination time. 

Paper cups work well as containers. Just make sure they have holes in the bottom for drainage. You have to cut and remove them when planting. You should cut are remove even peat pots when planting as they will interfere with getting established.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Holes in Tomatoes Probably Tomato Fruit Worm

Q. I have only found about 4-5 like this. I have been getting ripe tomatoes for about 30 days, only found these in the last two days. I searched for bugs, eggs and leave damage did not find anything. Any ideas?

A. The holes in your tomatoes look like tomato fruit worm damage. These are worms or caterpillars that are about an inch and a half long and 3/8 of an inch wide. They eat holes mostly in tomato fruit, usually when they are green or when they turn red but are still hard. Frequently the fruit becomes rotten. Organic sprays of Bt or Spinosad when the fruits are starting to form usually prevent this.

Grape Vine Killed by Winter Cold

Q. I planted two vines in my backyard  3 year ago and it sprouted and grew very quickly but as you can see this year it has not done anything with the exception of the few countable leaves and the three new shoots.  I do notice some holes in the few leaves.  I live in Montreal Canada.

A. You are a little bit out of my climate zone but I'm going to take a stab at it. I am guessing, from the looks of it, it had some winter cold damage. There is a difference in cold tolerance among grapes. Those with some vinifera genetics in them (most of the European wine grapes are vinifera types) are less cold hardy than some of the American hybrids.

For instance Thompson seedless grape has vinifera in it and is less cold hardy than Concord, an American grape. I don't know where you got your particular grape and whether it was grafted onto a rootstock or not but if it was grown on its own roots than any suckers which could grow from it could be used to replace the dead vine.

Suckers growing from it should be extremely vigorous because of the already larger root system. It could be back up on top easily this growing season if you remove all but the strongest sucker. As it grows longer, tie it to the post. Strip all of the leaves and shoots off of this sucker until it finally gets on top. This way it will grow faster and you will direct the growth.

Give it a little extra water and nitrogen fertilizer and it will grow faster when the temperatures are warm. That's my best guess at it given the information I have and pictures. I saw one strong shoot coming from close to the ground in one of your pictures. You would cut it just above the strongest growth to reestablish it.

Apricot Fruit Rot Probably Due To Wet Spring

Q.  My apricots were doing very well as they have for the last several years.  After thinning a large crop this year, they were growing very well and appeared to be getting ready to pick when all of a sudden this appeared.  When I opened the cots, I found the insides to be rotting.  I've tried to do a little research without success.  Your expert opinion would be greatly appreciated. 

A. This may be ripe fruit rot, sometimes called Brown fruit rot. It can happen if there is rain near the time of harvest. There is not much you can do except hope that rain does not occur at that time. Here is some information from the University of California. See if this description matches your problem.

They recommend fungicide applications Earlier in the season but we get such a little chance of rain here to me it doesn't make any sense to make these applications.

Getting Rid of Leafhoppers

Q. What is the best way to rid the garden of leafhoppers? I have read that worm castings are effective (over time) in eliminating aphid and white fly infestations - is it effective on all insects that suck plant juices?

A. Once leaf hoppers have matured and they are hopping around a lot when you pass by them they are difficult to control without conventional "hard" pesticides.  About the only organic method I know of that does a pretty good job controlling leaf hoppers is Spinosad. Soap sprays may also work but I have not tried them when they are young. We are talking when they first come out, in April or May, well after bloom and fruit set.
Leaf hopper damage on grape leaves

However Spinosad has to be applied when leaf hoppers are immature in the nymph stages. It never totally eliminates them but reduces their numbers considerably if they are applied early enough and the sprays are directed where they are living. As an example I have used Spinosad sprays in about May on grapes to reduce leaf hopper numbers. 
Variegated leafhoppers and leafhopper poo-poo (the black specks)

I apply the spray about one week apart for 2 to 3 applications as soon as I see the nymphs on the undersides of leaves. I direct the spray upward so that the bottoms of the leaves are covered and then I repeat the spray on the tops of the leaves as well. To my knowledge worm castings have no effect on any kind of insect pests or beneficials. Treat it just as you would compost.
Spinosad by Monterey chemical

Worm Castings and Insect Control

Q. What effect do worm castings have on beneficial insects? Are there any special instructions or precautions to be considered when using worm castings around fruit and vegetable plants? 

A.  I had not heard of worm castings used as an insect repellent or an insecticide until you mentioned it and followed up with a web link to a worm farm. They mention chitinase being the "active ingredient" that has an effect on insects.The word chitinase implies that it is an enzyme which dissolves chitin, a primary component of the exoskeleton in insects.
Red wigglers from our worm bin

I had to do some digging on this subject because I knew very little about it. The claim by the worm farm is that worms produce chitinase and deposit it in the worm castings. This chitinase produced by worms has an effect on bugs. Let's keep in mind that insect exoskeletons surround good bugs as well as bad bugs. So anything that targets bugs in general kills all bugs whether they are good or bad. 

Personally, I think this is a pretty big stretch about the chitinase produced by worms. There has been quite a bit of research on the use of chitinase and developing synthetic chitinase for targeting insects for pest control. But to make the jump from the chitinase produced by earthworms reducing insect pests in the garden is a pretty big leap and one that I am not ready to take. The research is just not there to support this kind of claim.

Let's stick with something we do know. Worm castings are a great natural fertilizer and help to improve poor soils. I personally have red wigglers in a worm bin for digesting kitchen vegetable and fruit scraps.Like them a lot.

Xtremehorticulture Reaches Over 30,000 Visitors a Month

Xtremehorticulture of the Desert reached a milestone over the past month with over 33,000 visitors in one month. Visitors are from all over the world but dominated by the United States, followed by Russia and the Ukraine, France, Canada, Australia, India and China.

Harvesting Butternut Squash

Q. I enjoy reading your gardening articles in the RJ.  I liked the one about the Butternut Squash as I had planted one in early April and did not record the planting date.  I have one squash almost 10 inches long that looks as if it might be ready to harvest, while there are two other smaller ones.  I call the vine as a "Monster" as it has taken over my raised bed planter. How long should I wait before harvesting the larger squash?
Butternut squash ready to harvest

A. When to harvest really depends on what you are going to do with it. If you plan to eat it soon after you pick than just wait until the squash is a dark tan color, cut it or separated from the vine, prepare it and eat it. If you plan on keeping it in storage for a while before you eat it then I would wait until it is a dark tan and check the hardness of the skin before you harvest it. 
Butternut squash at an expo in Zimbabwe. It looks like the seed was saved because of all the different shapes and sizes

You can do this with your thumbnail. If the skin is really hard and difficult to puncture with your thumbnail than it is ready to harvest. Immature squash will have a softer skin that is easier to penetrate with your thumbnail. Also, it won't be a dark tan color. If you plan on keeping it for a while, cut it from the vine with a pruning shears leaving about two or 3 inches of vine still attached to the squash. 

Harvesting it so that the vine slips from the squash leaves openings in the squash and it will not keep as long. It will store at room temperature for a couple of months if the skin hasn't been damaged and the vine is still attached.

Poor Growth on Meyer Lemon

Q. I wrote you about my Meyer lemon tree back in early spring.  I water 3 times a week plus give extra water during extreme heat.  It doesn't seem to be growing at all.  In the spring there were some flowers.  I put fertilizer and composted new dirt.  Any thoughts.  Your help is appreciated.

A. I looked at your pictures and I think I get it. You have a bubbler, probably 1 gallon per minute. So you flood the area where the lemon tree is. I could not figure out what mulch is on the soil surface. It looks like colorized wood chips. It was hard to tell the condition of your soil. It certainly is not performing very well. So here goes.

From the sound of it, it sounds like you're giving it plenty of water. When you have bubblers it's best to construct the basin around the tree. Those types of bubblers release water so fast it can go everywhere and not penetrate the soil very well.

Secondly, from the look of other plants in the picture I don't think the organic matter content of the soil is high enough. So this is what I would do. I would buy some decent compost and start adding it to these areas. I do some consulting for Viragrow in North Las Vegas. They have the best compost in Las Vegas in my opinion. I would buy four or five bags of their compost. They are one cubic foot bag's and they will cost you about $2.50 a bag. I would apply the compost to the soil around fruit trees and gently start mixing it into the soil surface. Then construct some basins around the trees to collect the water from the bubblers.
Put compost around the tree but not touching the trunk
Next, I would cover the soil around the fruit trees with 3 to 4 inches of wood chips. You can get the wood chips free from the University Orchard in North Las Vegas. It is located 100 yards east of the intersection of North Decatur and Horse Drive. You can get it any Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday morning for free. The compost should improve the soil if you lightly scratch it into the soil surface. If this were the winter time you could scratch it in deeper but during this heat I would be a bit careful.

Wood chip mulch at the base of fruit trees
I think the problem is a lack of soil aeration because the organic matter content is too low. You will add organic matter to the soil by incorporating compost and covering the soil with organic wood mulch. You will not see an improvement over night. But you should see a flush of new growth after you do all of this in two or three weeks. Let me know how it goes.

Worms in Palo Verde

Q. This is  a picture of the worms we find on our PaloVerde tree in the back yard.  We would like to get rid of them but do not know how.  Is there something besides spraying the whole tree which is huge, a systemic maybe,  that would do the trick and not kill the tree. They make a mess of the sidewalk and other stuff under the tree.  Any help would be appreciated.

A. These critters have been reported elsewhere in the desert Southwest. Must be because of our wet spring weather. They should disappear in a matter of a week or two or less. It is a larva or caterpillar of a moth. I am not sure which one.

Some caterpillars fold or roll leaves together with silk to form shelters. Others feed on leaves beneath a canopy of silk, sometimes creating "nests" in foliage, and others devour entire leaves along with stems. Your tree can get a lot of damage from these critters and still be fine. If there is enough of them you should see a lot of their poop on the ground because they eat a lot, voraciously, before they pupate and begin the change into a moth.

You can spray with an organic pesticide such as BT or Spinosad but as far along as they are I think it's a waste of money. Even if they defoliate the tree it will relief again and come back out. Relax and have a glass of lemonade but don't put your lemonade under the tree.

Cancer like Growth on Tree Is Crown Gall

 Q.I found this at the base of my plant. What is it?

A. This looks like crown gall. Not a big problem. It is a cancer like growth that is woody caused by a bacterium which lives in the soil, Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Note the second name resembles the word "tumor" because it produces a tumor like growth. 

Just clip it out (with a sanitized pruning shears) and don't worry about it. Somehow the bacterium was transferred from the soil to the stem when it was cut. Most likely the pruning shears was laid on the soil and got dirty and was not sanitized before it was used to cut the branch.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Water Every Day and Still Not Enough

Q. I put four African sumac trees in our backyard last September. I am watering them now every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for 20 minutes. About two weeks ago the leaves turned brown and fell off. If this continues will the tree lose all its leaves?

A. You can be watering newly planted trees and they can be suffering from drought at the same time.
Container and boxed trees are grown in soils that are totally different from the soils in the landscape. Container soils are looser and lighter than landscape soils.
When these trees are planted, the soil is pushed in around the root ball and, if you are lucky, the plants are watered in twice with a hose. A basin is placed around the trees so they can be given additional water until they are established.
Irrigation emitters are sometimes placed too far from the trunk and the water from the emitters wets the landscape soil but it does not move into the root ball because the soils are totally different from each other.
How to correct this? Always, always, always water newly planted trees and shrubs with water from a hose directed on top of the soil and at the base of the tree. Never, never, never rely on an irrigation system by itself to deliver the water where it is needed after an installation.
Hand water with a hose twice a week. Supplement the water from the hose with your irrigation system on the same days you water by hand. Select your irrigation days and give the plants a rest (no applied water) for one or two days between irrigations.

Why Apricots and Early Peaches Were Bland This Spring

Our spring this year was cool and wet. Even our early summer was that way. This kind of weather was good for producing a lot of tomatoes but not necessarily for high-quality tree fruits.

Early apricots and even some peaches can be harvested in mid to late May in our climate. The best early-season fruit bright, sunny skies and warm temperatures. This year our skies were overcast and temperatures were cool all the way into May.
Earlitreat peach, one of the earliest peaches, can be harvested in mid-May in the Las Vegas area. This is even before most apricots are ready. On a five star scale, this is a four-star peach.
Temperatures below 95° F are great for setting tomato fruit but not necessarily the best when it comes to producing high quality tree fruit. The taste of fruits is complex. It isn't just about sugar content. Devices like refractometer
Refractometers measure total soluble solids which is a "reflection" of sugar content. But sugar content may not tell you anything about quality.
s only measure total soluble solids which can be equated with sugar content. Sugars only provide sweetness.

We need other tastes to provide a good flavor profile to fruit. Flavor begins with a balance between sugars and acids that we find favorable.This includes a mixture of organic acids such as acetic, tartaric and malic acids to balance flavor and aromatic volatiles that provide that first whiff of the fruit even before it enters our mouth.
This is Indian blood peach which has a wonderful floral taste and aroma when grown in our desert climate and allowed to tree ripene. It has been around for a long time and is implanted much anymore.Most people pick it too soon and you do not get all of those floral notes.
Cool temperatures and cloudy skies do not promote good sugar development. Under these conditions sugar content stays lower than normal and the acid content remains high. So the ratio of acids to sugars is not the best. When we have bright, sunny skies and warm to high temperatures then sugar content is boosted and the ratio of sugar to acids becomes delicious.

The only other thing we need to make this a perfect fruit is to allow it to mature so that those volatiles fill our noses. This is why when I shop for fruit I use my nose before I buy it. You can smell good fruit before you taste it. Ask any fruit loving bird.

Prevent Plant Sunburn with Adequate Water and Wood Mulch

Some thin barked trees and shrubs will get sunburned if they don't have enough protection from strong sunlight.
This reddish-brown discoloration is sunburn. In the first stage of sunburn we see the beginning of death onsides exposed to the South and West
Plants that typically get sunburn include many of our fruit trees, mostly peach and apples. Ornamental trees and shrubs also get sunburn. I get a lot of pictures of sunburn sent to me with sunburn and include Japanese blueberry, locust trees, ash trees, Indian Hawthorn, and others. 

This is the trunk of an ash tree on its west side. It first got sunburn. After sunburn the borers attacked it. What you see now is loose bark covering dead wood killed by borers. You can take your fingers and just pull this bark off of the trunk easily. You should do it anyway. You will not hurt anything. That site is already dead. The tree is still alive because the trunk is alive on the other side of the tree.
The natural way to protect these plants from sunburn is to allow these plants to shade their own trunks and stems with leaves. Not providing enough water can thin out the canopy of trees and shrubs and encourages sunburn. 

When you pull this bark away from the trunk you will see oval-shaped holes in the wood. These are exit holes of the bores. Removing the bark also removes hiding places and birds have a better chance picking them off when they emerge.

Having rock mulch around plants that do not like rock mulch also reduces the number of leaves and increases the chance of sunburn. Plants that do not like rock mulch, like the ones I mentioned above, will develop an open canopy, leaf loss, and sunburn. 
This is sunburn on a bottle tree. The leaves drop from the canopy and expose the trunk and limbs. High sunlight intensity causes sunburn once the leaves are gone
What's the problem with sunburn? When we get sunburn we recover. When plants get sunburn, particularly in a desert climate, they frequently decline and die. Attack by boring insects, or borers, is the first phase after sunburn. The borers create more damage and more leaf loss and more sunburn. After that, the plant falls into a death spiral. 
Sunburn caused the top of this Japanese blueberry to die. Then the top had to be removed and it was pretty ugly. Japanese blueberry should not be in rock mulch. They should have wood chips around them.
Use surface mulches particularly wood chips and not bark. Don't water trees and shrubs daily but water them two or three times each week during the heat of the summer. Reduce the number of times per week during the cooler months. When you do water, give them adequate amounts so that the soil is wet to at least 12 inches and preferably 18 inches.

Master Gardener 2016 Fall Graduates

Do you love gardening and want to share your experiences?

It’s time to register for the FALL 2016 Master Gardener Training class in Las Vegas!

The Master Gardeners of Southern Nevada will hold registration on Wednesday, June 22 at 9 a.m. We will give you an overview of the training and program requirements, and offer you the opportunity to fill out an application and have an interview with a current Master Gardener.  Students will be notified of their acceptance by June 30. Payment of class fees ($200) will be due by July 8.

Our mission is to train community volunteers in appropriate desert gardening practices. Eighty hours of class training and 50 hours of volunteer work on approved projects are required in order to become a Master Gardener. Classes are scheduled on most MWF from 8:30 – 12:30 from September 9 through October 26 (based on instructor availability). You must attend all 20 classes. Classes are held at Cooperative Extension, 8050 Paradise Road, LV 89123 (Windmill exit off the 215)

You do not need a gardening background in order to become a Master Gardener! The most important qualifications are commitments to complete the Training and to share your knowledge through Volunteer service.

Contact Lori Leas at leasl@unce.unr.edu to reserve a space. Please indicate the registration date of your choice. Full details will be emailed to all who pre-register. 

Pine Trees Need More Water in the Summer

Q. How often and how many minutes of water should I give my pine tree?

A. Regarding your pine tree, it will do best if you can give the tree lots of water all at once very slowly and then hold off on your watering.To do this, it is sometimes best to construct a basin around the trunk 2 to 3 feet wide to hold the water.
When I pine tree looks sparse and not fall it is usually because of a lack of water. Add water to the base of the pine tree with a hose once a week during hot weather or add more drip emitters
Because of how irrigation systems are designed, sometimes you can reschedule your irrigation clock and sometimes you cannot because it's tied to other plants and their watering schedules. If you can hold off your watering to twice a week it would be better for the plant.

As far as the number of minutes goes, I don't know. Trees drink gallons of water, they don't drink in minutes. If you feel like the trees are not getting enough water then I would not increase the number of minutes. I would increase the number of drip emitters or, if you are not using drip emitters, increase the number of places that deliver water so that the tree receives more water during each irrigation.

Browning on Apple Tree Is Drought

Q. see (photo) my apple tree it is not in good condition, why? Can you tell me what I can do to help my tree? 

A. Thanks for the picture it helped. That is leaf scorch and leaf scorch is caused by not enough water making it from the roots to the leaves during hot dry weather usually. A lack of water getting to the leaves can be caused by soil problems such as too much salt in the soil, a lack of water in the soil, root damage, damage to the trunk so it transports less water or damage to limbs which does the same thing. 

When leaf scorch appears all through the tree canopy then we can pinpoint the trunk, roots or soil. In your particular case I think it is just a lack of water around the roots. The tree appears healthy otherwise. Take a hose and soak the area under the tree canopy with about 30 gallons of water. Repeat this again twice during the week. 

The leaves which are already damaged will not recover. But any new leaves produced after you begin this new irrigation should come out without scorching. 

If this is the case, you need to add more drip emitters around the tree or increase the number of minutes you water. Increasing the number of drip emitters is a better solution if everything else is getting the right amount of water.

Geranium and Petunia Damage on the Rise

Q. I had a beautiful  Geranium plant with lots of flowers in a large pot that has a dripper. Now that the blooms have died all the leaves are turning brown and  have holes in them. What went wrong? If I cut the plant back, will it bloom again.

A. Two things come to mind without looking at the plant, the soil or container. First of all, geraniums are cool weather plants and don't like the heat. If they are going to survive during the heat they need to have an Eastern or northern exposure which is protected from late afternoon sun. They do best in bright locations that have filtered shade. 

Secondly, this is the time of year we start to see flowers eliminated by tobacco budworm. Holes in the leaves are dead giveaway for tobacco budworm. Read more about it here.

It is possible to cut them back, fertilize and water them and get them to regrow but you should spray for the tobacco budworm to protect the new blossoms. If you have petunias, they can attack them as well.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Viragrow Delivers! : My Palm Leaves Have Brown Spots

Viragrow Delivers! : My Palm Leaves Have Brown Spots: Q. My fan palm has black spots on the fronds.  Someone said it may lack iron.  Or, is it getting too much water? A. Without seeing ...

Viragrow Delivers!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

No Lemons on My Lemon Tree

Q. My tree has been in the ground for six years and each year I get plenty of new growth, leaves and flowers. The problem is, no lemons at all. I have applied fertilizer and even  miracle grow--no luck. What do you suggest other than removing the tree and starting fresh?

A. The usual reasons for no lemons is either freezing temperatures after they bloom that kill the flowers or small fruit (usually in January or February) or irregular watering that causes trees to stress and drop flowers and fruit before they can mature.
A light freeze will kill flowers and fruit without damaging the tree. If you have been pruning the tree, stop pruning it. Fertilize it once a year in January or February. Put a surface mulch of wood chips around the tree at least 6 feet in diameter and 3 inches deep.
Cover the tree with a sheet or light blanket if temperatures during the winter approach freezing. Put a basin around the tree and fill the basin with water each time you irrigate. Avoid watering daily. Skip at least one day between irrigations.