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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fertilizing Pecans: When and With What?

Q. When do I feed a 50-year-old pecan tree growing in our front yard and with what?

A. Pecan trees do well in our climate. But they are such a large tree and require so much water you really have to think twice about growing them here in the desert.
            If your pecan tree has been doing well in the past, then don’t change much. However, fertilizing pecan trees can mean an increase in the production of nuts and prevent alternate bearing (producing nuts every other year).
            Fertilize in February. If there is grass under the tree, then use a shovel to apply the fertilizer beneath lawn roots but above tree roots. Fertilizer is applied in “slits” in the grass about 6 to 8 inches deep. Make these slits in two concentric rings around the trunk and a distance equal to the spread of it’s canopy.
            The fertilizer is applied in the slit, watered, and the wet slit closed by stepping on it. Water these slits thoroughly to prevent damaging the grass.
            If there is no grass, then apply fertilizer where water is applied and in a similar manner. Let the water move the fertilizer to the roots of the tree.
            Select a fertilizer with all three numbers the same such as 10-10-10 or 16-16-16 or 20-20-20. If using 10-10-10, then apply four pounds of this fertilizer for every inch of trunk diameter at chest height. If it is 20-20-20, use two pounds; 16-16-16, use three pounds.
            Look for leaf yellowing or leaf growth in bunches at the ends of branches. If you see either of these problems, apply iron or zinc as well as the fertilizer. If not, then don’t worry about it.
            Water deeply during the growing season to make sure you get strong growth and flower production. If there is a late freeze, the tree may not have much, if any, nuts. Both a male and female tree are needed. If there is no pollenizer tree nearby, you won’t see any nuts produced. 

Common and Dwarf Myrtle Make Excellent Landscape Plants in Las Vegas

Suggested by Andrea Meckley at Imn2plants@aol.com

Why in Las Vegas Fruitless Plums are NOT Fruitless and Have Borers

Q. Perhaps you can tell me why in Odessa, Texas, fruitless plum trees are actually fruitless and don’t fall easy prey to borers.

A.  Ornamental plums, we sometimes call purple leaf plums, are actually fruit bearing trees (fruit trees) that are sold for landscaping because of their showy flowers. They are from a group of fruit trees collectively called “cherry plums”. Actually, some cherry plums have purple foliage and some have green.
            Two popular purple varieties are ‘Thundercloud’ and ‘Atropurpurea’. Cherry plums require a pollenizer (another tree similar but distinctly different) to set fruit. If no pollenizer is nearby, then there is little to no fruit.
Purple leaf Plum flowering
            Some cherry plums will set a only few fruit by themselves but many more fruit if a pollenizer tree is closeby. If there is a pollenizer nearby, you might see a lot of fruit produced.
            Fruit set without a pollenizer can depend on the climate as well. Late frosts after flowering can cause any fruit that might set, to fail.
            The types of borers present vary with the climate and geographical location. Also, borers are transported inside nursery plants between states. This is one method they have for getting around…by truck!
A very good indication that this purple leaf Plum has borers working inside the trunk
            If a state like Nevada is dominated with nursery plants grown in California, these plants are much more likely to have pests common to California. If plants are bought from nurseries in Texas (Texas has a booming nursery industry) then the pests are more likely to be pests common to Texas.
            Borers are decomposers. They are attracted to plants that are weakened or damaged. Our intense sunlight is tough on plants and can weaken them. Our soils are poor and can lead to unhealthy plants as well. These all make a nice hunting ground for borers.

Can't Find Yellow Honeysuckle in the Nurseries

Q. I cannot find the white or yellow honeysuckle here that grew in West Texas, Odessa, and smells so wonderful. 

A. The primary reason you can’t find familiar plants here is because of marketing and sales of local nurseries and gardens centers. The temperatures and soils are similar enough between West Texas and southern Nevada where many plants grown there would work here.These are Texas native plants that have become mainstreamed in Texas nurseries. Start asking for them at your local nursery and they will probably bring them in.
            You also have Texas A and M University which is very involved with the Texas nursery industry and, through their Extension Service, is helping homeowners and local nurseries in providing a wider variety of plants that will work there.
            Odessa is a little colder and not quite as hot as Las Vegas and the soils are…believe it or not… Better than ours primarily because there is more organics in the soils and more rainfall. West Texas is considered semi-arid, a part of the High Plains, while Las Vegas is in the eastern Mojave Desert.

Read This to Remove Confusion on Pruning Grapes

Q. I read your column about fruit and flowers only growing on 2 year old wood grapevines.  So now I am confused about how to prune my beautiful grape vines. Just what do I remove, or do I even need to remove any of the vines?

A. Yes, it can be confusing. Maybe you can think of grapes this way. The first year the plant pushes new growth. There is no fruit on first year growth (first year wood). This new growth must be fully grown and mature to support the fruit that will grow on it the following year (second year wood).
This is new growth of grape, a few months old. This growth will produce fruit the next year, second year wood.
The second year the plant again pushes new growth from its end or sides (first year growth). First year growth always comes from second year wood. While it is pushing this new growth, it is also pushing flowers and fruit to grow on the previous year's growth (second year wood). The vine is doing two things at the same time. It is always pushing new growth that does not support fruit (first year wood). At the same time it is pushing flowers and fruit from the previous year's growth (second year growth).
This is a grape flower cluster that will become a bunch of grapes in about five months. These grape flower clusters can only grow from stems or wood, that are growing in their second year.
Different grapes produce flowers and fruit in different locations along second year of growth. Some grapes produce flowers and fruit at the very base or bottom of the second year growth (second year wood). This fruit is mostly produced very close to the juncture of the first and second year growth. When pruning these kinds of grapes we only have to leave about 1/2 inch of the second year growth remaining. The rest is cut off. 
Immature bunches of table grapes developing along second year wood
Removing all of the second year growth except for one half inch results in a "spur" of second year wood. We say that these kinds of grapes should be "spur pruned". From these "spurs" we allow new growth but this new growth is always cut back again leaving only about 1/2 inch. From these "spurs", it is a continuous cycle of growth one year and cutting it back to 1/2 inch in late winter of the second year. Growth and cut back to a half inch, growth and cut back to a half inch, etc.
Grape vine pruned to spurs. The one year old wood is a nearly totally removed leaving behind only one or two buds. These spurs were left a little bit long because of fear from die back due to winter damage. Just before new growth begins, these spurs will be pruned even more leaving only one bud.
Other grapes do not produce flowers and fruit at the base of the second year wood. Instead, they produce flowers and fruit further away from the base at a distance of perhaps 10 or 12 inches from the base or more. When we prune these grapes, we must not cut back too much or we will remove all the fruit. When pruning grapes such as these we must leave very long spurs to accommodate for the flowers and fruit. We no longer call these "spurs" because they are too long. Extra long spurs are called "canes". Grapes that are pruned so that second year wood is 10, 12 or perhaps 18 inches long are "cane pruned".
Some grapes will fruit only further along the vine. If you spur prune these types of grapes you will remove all of the fruit. These types of grapes must be "cane pruned". A cane is simply a long spur that has 8 to 10 buds along its length rather than just the one or two on a spur.
When pruning grapes it is important to know where the fruit is produced along the second year wood. If the fruit is produced at the base of second year growth, it is "spur pruned". If the fruit is produced several inches away from the base, it must be "cane pruned".

My Tree Trunk Is Dying from the Inside to the Outside

Q. What’s wrong with my tree? The tree trunk is dying from the inside to the outside.

A. The vast majority of trees are dead in the center of their trunk as they get older. This dead interior gets larger and larger as the tree gets older.The dead inside of the tree is covered by a thin layer that is living. This living thin layer is constantly getting bigger and bigger in diameter. To the inside of this thin layer, the dead wood is left behind. This occupies the vast majority of the center of the tree.
Living part of the tree on the outside of the trunk growing over the dead inner portion of the tree
            The only living part of the tree is a cylinder of living wood just below the bark. The living cylinder of wood can heal itself. The center part of the tree, which is dead, cannot. If this cylinder of living wood is damaged and the dead center of trunk is exposed, it can become infected. About 90% of the time this infection cannot spread to the living cylinder of the tree.This is because these infections only feed off of dead wood, not living tissue.

The only living portion of this tree trunk is the green cylinder close to the bark
            The dead interior of the tree rots. The living cylinder stays healthy. The dead center rots away leaving the center of the tree hollow. A tree like this can live for decades with the center of the tree gone or rotted. But the strength of the tree is compromised. It is more likely to be damaged during heavy winds that cause "shearing" damage. Hollow cylinders have good "compressive strength", but poor "shear strength",
Here is the trunk of a Chinaberry tree. It has been damaged enough to expose the dead inside of the tree.
            Normally, we don't pay much attention if the center of the tree is rotting. We get concerned when the living cylinder becomes infected. From the pictures you sent, it looks like the dead interior is under attack. To me, this appears to be normal for a tree which has its center rotting out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

October 29th Farm to Table Dinner in Moapa Nevada

I hope you will repost this event and like it so others know about it! Let's give them a boost and sell this event out!

The Omer Family in Moapa, Nevada, about 50 minutes from Las Vegas, have been operating their CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) farm operation since 2009. They are a wonderful family and produce some great locally grown and produced products, naturally and organically. They are focused on sustainable food production, agriculturally, economically and as a family farm!!!

They are having a Farm to Table Event on Oct 29th, 2016, featuring locally produced foods and entertainment. I would highly recommend going if you can. Please repost and visit their website below for more information about them as producers and this event. Support your local farmers....please!!

Meadow Valley Farm go here!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Plants for a Fourth Floor Apartment Facing North

Q. I have a 4th floor apartment facing north. Any suggestions for plants on the porch which can survive winter in Las Vegas?

A. Below is a list of shade accepting plants that will take our cold winters.  I listed all different size plants because you did not specify size requirements.   A good source for info on particular plants is snwa.com under  'landscapes'. 

Spider Agave (Agave bracteosa)
Soap Aloe (Aloe saponaria)
Guara-pink and white (Guara species)
Variegated Flax Lily
Yew Pine (Podocarpus microphylla or macrophylla)
Japanese Aralia (Fatsia japonica)
Gold dust Aucuba (Aucuba "Gold Dust')
Asparagus Fern (Asparagus spengerii)
Foxtail Fern ( Asparagus 'Foxtail')
Bay Laurel (Laurel nobilis)
Heavenly Bamoo (Nandina domestica)
Ivy (Hedera species)

Hope this helps.  Feel free to contact me with other questions.

Andrea Meckley
Certified Horticulturist
Contact Andrea at Imn2plants@aol.com

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.