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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Why Can't I Find St. Augustine Grass Here?

St Augustine grass growing in Las Vegas during the 1980s in a residential lawn. Notice how coarse it is in texture.
Q.Why can't I find St. Augustine grass here in Las Vegas? I can find it in Odessa Texas. It grows well in the shade.

A. St. Augustine grass, grown in Arizona, does very well here and was offered for sale during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. It never became popular. People in southern Nevada preferred the all-green, winter lawn that tall fescue provided.
St. Augustine grass in a residential lawn

            Overseeding in the fall for a green winter lawn, as you can with Bermudagrass, is not possible with St Augustine grass. Even if it could be overseeded, the “winter brown” lawn that St. Augustine grass provided was a “hard sell” for Las Vegans.
            Generally, there is a lack of enthusiasm here for the warm season grasses such as Bermudagrass, Zoysiagrass, Buffalograss, St. Augustine and Seashore Paspalum. So these are a few of the reasons southern Nevada is different, horticulturally, from Odessa, Texas. It is a desert here in many ways.

Correcting Yellow Plants Timing is Critical



Q. I was told I need chelated iron for my roses. So, per instructions, I added the granulated type today. My question is, how often do I do this? They do not mention this on the label, just the dosage.

A. Chelated iron means the iron is “captured” by a chemical, called a chelate, that protects it. As long as the iron is protected, it can be used by the plant. Once the iron is “let go”, it is no longer protected. In our soils and water, if left unprotected the iron can no longer be used by the plant.
Iron EDDHA chelate for applying to the soil.
5 pound bag.
            You must have mentioned that your rose bushes were yellowing to get this kind of advice.  If the person helping you is knowledgeable, they would ask if the yellow leaves were on the ends of branches (new leaves) or further inside the plant on older leaves.  If this is an iron problem, the yellowing would be on the newer leaves.  If yellowing is on older leaves, it is a different problem.
            There are two methods of correcting yellow leaves because of iron problems.  One method is to apply chelated iron to the soil.  The other method that is to spray chelated iron, mixed with water, on the leaves.
            Timing, or when to apply the chelated iron, is critical depending on the method.  Chelated iron must be applied to soils in the very early spring before, or as new growth is emerging. 
            Applying chelated iron to the soil is the most effective way of correcting plants with yellow leaves because it only requires a single application.
Iron EDDHA chelate for applying to the soil
in 1 pound container
Iron chelate for mixing with water and spraying on the leaves
            The most effective chelated iron to apply to soils contains the chelate “EDDHA” in the ingredients. The more EDDHA iron on the label, the more effective it is.
            At this time of year, or any time after early spring, chelated iron must be sprayed on the leaves to be effective.  Applying it to the soil will not work. Unlike soil applications which are required only once in the spring, spraying iron on the leaves requires multiple applications for most trees and shrubs.  Applications to the leaves may be required four or five times, a few days apart, to get a decent green color again.
            The label may not tell you so but always use distilled or reverse osmosis water when mixing chelated iron to make a foliar spray. Our water is very alkaline and reduce the effectiveness of the iron chelate.
            Also, use 1 teaspoon per quart of spray of a mild liquid detergent such as Castile soap mixed into the solution as the last ingredient. Liquid detergents help move the chelated iron through the waxy leaf surface and inside the plant.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Sunflower Oozing From Damaged Area

Q. At one of the schools I have a garden club at there is a sunflower that has oozing coming out on stem. I think it is sweet because the wasps love it. Looks like slim flux.  Any ideas what it is? 



A. I am not a pathologist or entomologist but maybe this is bacterial stem rot which could make a yeasty smell in any sap coming out. It could possibly be stem borer but I think stem rot makes more sense to me.
            Cut it open and see if you see a “worm” inside the stem. If you do, it is stem borer.
            Smell the liquid coming from the damaged area that attracts wasps and see if it smells “yeasty”. If it does, then it is probably Erwinia (bacterial) stem rot. Anyway, this bacterial disease should have a foul smell if you get your nose right up to it. Plant diseases don’t hurt animals do it won't harm you.

In any case, you can wait and let the seeds mature for eating or planting and get rid of it OR get rid of it now. If this is bacterial stem rot it can spread from plant to plant through open wounds and spread by insects. Pruning of infected plants followed by pruning of uninfected plants can transmit this disease from plant to plant. Dont water these plants with splashing water from a hose or hose end sprayer. Sanitation is very important.

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Sunday, September 4, 2016

Leaves on My Apricots Are Drying Up

Q. I have a three-year-old apricot tree in the southeast part of Las Vegas. For some reason, the leaves have dried up (have the consistency of potato chips) and it appears to be dying. It gets watered daily at 3:00 am for 2.5 hours with drip irrigation at 8 gallons per hour. 

A. The problem may be daily watering if there is poor drainage. If this is the problem, you should be able to push on the tree and see if the bottom is loose in the soil or if the tree is very firmly anchored and does not move.
            If the base of the trunk moves as if it is not firmly anchored then this is a root problem due to, most likely, watering too often. If the soil is continuously wet it can promote root diseases that favor very wet soils and tree roots that are weakened due to suffocation.
            I would try to water every other to every third day but give it more water when you do. You can give it more water by adding a couple more emitters.
            Another method is to put some vertical holes in the soil about two feet from the trunk to a depth of about two feet and backfilling these holes with gravel to improve drainage. This is called vertical mulching. You can use a posthole digger for this.
            If this is not the case, then look at more exotic possibilities such as weed killers applied to the soil or drifting into your yard from your neighbor.

Irrigation Water Can Direct Where Tree Roots Grow

Q. I just planted a white fruit mulberry tree at my house and close to the street. It is away from my front door or walls about 20-30 feet and it is 5 feet away from the water meter. Am I okay?  By the way, this tree is a fighter. I transported it once, almost lost it, and it came back to life after dying or shedding its leaves.
Mixture of black and white mulberry fruit in Afghanistan
A. You should be okay if you make sure that no water is leaking from the meter or anywhere you do not want the roots to go. The roots are extremely invasive.
            Make sure you apply irrigation water to areas AWAY from places you want to keep the roots from going. Roots will grow where there is water and nutrients. They don’t go “looking for water”.
            Remember, if you are focusing on harvesting the fruit you will prune it differently than a shade tree. If you want to feed the birds, then let it grow as a shade tree.

How To Get Rid of Palm Seedlings

Q. I have 100's of palm seedlings coming up in my yard. Can you tell me the best way to get rid of them, short of pulling them up by hand, which for me would be physically impossible! I’m 88 years old.
Palm seeds are released in abundance from Washingtonia fan palms. These seeds are nearly 100% germination. They will land in shrub beds and even come up through mulch.
When you try to pull them when they are very young and in dry soil they frequently break off.
But when you pull them when they are a bit larger and the soil is wet they will frequently pull out with their entire root system.
A. I am sure there are probably some weed killers that will kill palm seedlings but those weed killers would not be safe around other landscape plants. I have had no luck killing them with Roundup even at the highest rate.
            I understand your dilemma in pulling them but If you pull them when they are about 12 inches tall and the soil is wet they should pull out fairly easily including the roots. If you try to pull them when they are small or cut them off they may regrow.
            I know this may be a lot of work but if you use a shovel in wet soil and just push the shovel in three or 4 inches a couple of inches from the Palm seedling you can pop them out of the ground pretty easily.
            If you are to use chemicals, a.k.a. weed killers or herbicides, then you would select something that kills woody plants and spray them individually so that the chemical does not harm other plants.

If you are going to use a weed killer, pick one that kills woody plants but apply it with a spray bottle, wedding only the leaves and not the soil. These types of weed killers can damage other woody plants in the landscape including trees, shrubs and fruit trees.