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Friday, July 27, 2012

My 30 Days of Ramazan - Day 4

I cheated today. I put a small bottle (1/2 liter) of frozen water next to my bed and woke about 4am. The alarm didn’t go off but I grabbed my bottle of now warm water and drank about half of it and went back to sleep. You older folks can sympathize. You know if you wake up early in the morning there is a very good chance you will not go back to sleep. Not true when I was much younger but this fear of not going back to sleep and not getting my rest affected my decision whether to get up or not. Probably subconscious but I thought my alarm was set but it was not.

Vineyard with disease problem near a Level 2 village in
northern Afghanistan
I got up at 5 am because I had staff going into the villages today early. I give the villages security numbers from 1 to 3. These numbers I establish from local reports of “undesirable” activity which might be a problem for myself or my staff. Taliban controls much of the rural areas while city centers are much safer. Those of you who understand, most of the security is handled by ISAF.  If a village is remote, it usually is not safe for any of us. This gets a “3” ranking. There are other villages which are safe for locals but not for me. If I do go into places like this I should spend only about one hour there and get out. I never tell anyone where I am going. I watch my driver. He is secure and I trust him but he makes mistakes too. He does not know where we are going until we go and he is not allowed to use his cell phone while we are gone unless it is from the office. Places like these are given a “2” rating. Then there are places that are relatively safe for us all and this is given a “1” rating. This morning it was a “2” so I was not going and I knew my staff was experienced enough to handle it without me. Before they go I brief them, cover what needs to be done and review and send them on their way.

 
I was having a hard time this morning. I just couldn’t wake up. I don’t know if it was the lack of caffeine or the dryness I felt in my mouth from the previous days but I just found it very hard to get going. So a little after 5 am I had a small (maybe two to three ounces at most) cup of coffee with extra Maxwell House freeze dried crystals thrown in. That did the trick. Now I understood why opium was used by some in extremely poor villages where there is little food. I didn’t need or want any opium but caffeine is a legal drug and got me on a little bit of a high for the morning. I was now on after burners.
Iranian glyphosate, same percent active ingredient as
Roundup Pro

I had salary contracts for staff to finish and didn’t get out the door until nearly 10 am. I had to test some Iranian glyphosate I found at the bazaar and see if it would help to control some of these woody weeds in our new saffron plots. First it was Iranian glyphosate so I had no idea if the label was accurate, secondly I was spraying some weeds I did not recognize at all. I didn’t even know if this would work. I had formed a saffron working group of educators and we were putting together four saffron demo plots to demonstrate how to correctly plant, manage, harvest, and process saffron. Saffron is very labor intensive and does bring in enough income to make a possible alternative to growing poppies. Some of these Extension agents had never grown saffron.
Saffron with straw mulch

Many of the farmers do not know how to grow it either and do it incorrectly. I was told that the local saffron was better than the Iranian and that is saying a lot. These plots, it was hoped and we did a good job of documenting for many illiterate farmers, would show them how to do it correctly. The spraying went well but it was hot and by the time we finished. I knew today would be probably one of the toughest days of the fast, at least regarding dehydration. Hunger had disappeared for the most part or it was covered up by the more acute dehydration. During the spraying I felt a bout of heat stroke coming on; intestinal cramps, dizziness. We finished quickly (as quickly as you can because these people are now my friends and there were lots of questions about what we were using, why and the rate of application and explanations were in full sun.)

When we got back to the office around 2 pm my staff had returned from the villages and had very good reports. That is always good to hear. My mouth was full of cotton. My voice sounded different. I could tell the dehydration had affected the sound of my voice. My lips were parched as well as my staff’s. I told them all to go home and rest. The Professor who was working for me, a very kind and devout Muslim, had trouble pronouncing some words as well. I had trouble concentrating. We all tried to conserve moisture by using as few words as possible. We all rested in the air conditioned office and spoke very little. After they all left finally at 4 pm I went upstairs and laid down to take a rest. As I did, I remember saying to myself, I am not hungry. I wonder why… as I dozed off.

Eliminating the Fruit on Texas Umbrella Tree a Tough One


Q. We have a Texas umbrella tree which is approximately 15-years old. In spring when it blossoms, it produces these peas/pods which drop on the lawn and are a pain to remove since we have synthetic grass. This also occurs in the fall when the leaves drop.
            Is there a spray or solution we can use to eliminate these annoying peas/pods? I really don't want to remove the tree (it's my favorite) but it really hurts my husband's back when he has to rake them and vacuum them with the indoor/outdoor vacuum. Can you help us?

A. This is going to be a tough one. There are several products that are supposed to eliminate or remove flowers or fruit from trees and shrubs. The problem will be they've never been tested on Texas umbrella tree so the rate of application and timing might be difficult to establish without doing some experimentation.

            Most likely any chemical that you use will have to be sprayed over the entire canopy of the tree at least once or possibly even twice depending on what the label tells you to do.

            You can try Florel Fruit eliminator for example and follow the labels precisely if it is going to work. Missing an application by even a couple of days might mean it will not work. Let me know how it turns out.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Will Gingko and Tulip Tree Grow in the Desert?


Q. I’m a Las Vegas resident and just bought a house in the Desert Shores community. I had a question with regards to a couple deciduous trees that I really like and are said to grow/survive in USDA zones 4-9 which Las Vegas is considered zones 8a-9b but in the Sunset Western Garden Book, Las Vegas is zone 11 because the heat index is part of the equation.  Will the Tulip Poplar and Ginkgo Biloba thrive in our climate with proper planting care, adequate watering, good drainage and a slow release fertilizer or would they eventually die anyway, becoming heat stressed and succumb to disease/ insect problems???? 

Information on Gingko from Wikipedia

Information on the tulip tree from Wikipedia

A. It is hard to make sweeping generalizations but why in the world would you pick those two trees for here in the desert? Both, if they would grow to maturity are very large trees. They would consumer enormous amounts of water just due to their sheer size. They are out of their ideal habitat so they would require a great deal of care IF they would make it to maturity which I would rather doubt.
            There is at least one example of a gingko in Las Vegas growing on the campus of UNLV on the north side of the old Biology building. It is growing slowly and an oddity which is why they probably planted it on the campus in the first place. I didn’t mean that UNLV is odd but that it does house an arboretum on its campus so this is a good place to grow these kinds of things.

            I would have to guess on the tulip tree since I am sure someone has tried to grow it but I have no information on how it would do here. I would guess much of it would have to do with how it was planted, cared for and the microclimate.

            Heat tolerance is kind of a relative thing. Much of tolerance to adverse conditions, like any organism, has to do with its general health. If the plant is kept healthy, it can handle a lot more adversity than if it is sick.

            Just because of its sheer size, and the fact it is not native to arid and desert climates, at some point will do it in. Pest problems are not a factor for gingko since it is relatively pest free.

With so many other really good plants out there I would pick something more suitable to our desert climate unless you want to babysit them for the rest of their lives.

Is This Brown Beetle a Pest in My Garden?


Joe's Bug
Q. What type of pest is this?  They seem to be on and around several of my fruit trees (apple, pomegranate, plum) but don’t appear to be causing any leaf or bark damage.  I did notice that there were several worm holes in the soil around my grape vines, but didn’t see any of these bugs on my grape leaves.  Are these pests harmful to my vines/trees? If harmful, how can they be controlled and/or eliminated?
-Joe

A. Well Joe this is one of the June beetles. They can also be called scarab beetles. Generally they all look the same except for their color. They are obviously beetles with that hard outer shell and range from ½ to 1 inch in length generally speaking. Colors range from your light brown one to dark brown and shiny metallic colors like the Green June beetle common here.

Green June Beetles attacking Kadota fig at the orchard
            There are so many different types that it is hard to narrow it down unless you were to take it to an entomologist. But some of them, like the Japanese beetle which this is not and does not live in southern Nevada, can cause a lot of damage to plants.

            Another scarab beetle is the Green June Beetle which we will start seeing now can also attack fresh fruits like figs and peaches. Yours is not the Green June beetle either since that pest is a very distinctive metallic green color. I will post in on my blog and it does live in southern Nevada.

White grub larvae attacking the roots of a lawn grass
            The immature form, grubs, of some of these June beetles can cause a lot of damage like white grubs which attack the roots of lawns causing wilting and extensive brown patches. The best I can tell you about this one is that the immature form (the beetle is the adult) could have possibly been attacking the roots of some plants in your garden.

            They could also have been in a compost pile since these grubs do like rotting and decaying plants. Some are actually dung beetles.
            If you don’t see a lot of them and don’t see any damage then don’t worry about it. They are part of some life cycle out in the garden and as long as the numbers are low they are not causing much damage.

Thompson Seedless Grapes Fell Off When BB-Sized

This is not the readers grapes but is what
good berry set should look like
Q. We had a problem with our thompson seedless grapes, the grapes are about the size of a " bebe", dried up and fell off.

A. Unfortunately there is not much you can do about that. It was poor pollination. Climatic factors have a significant effect on fruit set. Fruit set is greatly reduced when temperatures fall below 65°F or exceed 100°F during set.
            Rainfall or high humidity may reduce fruit set, hindering pollination. Rain can also interfere with the germination of pollen grains and inhibit fruit set. The berries appear to set and then fall off when they reach a small size. I hope this helps.

Tree Damage from Dormant Oil?

Q. I need some help. About a month ago I was advised by a gardener that two ornamental fir trees needed to be sprayed. He suggested I use Ortho Volck and I did this at the prescribed dilution rate. Now both trees seem to be in trouble as shown in the attached photographs. Did I spray too heavily? What can I do to try to save these firs?
"Fir" damage from oil
A. Dormant or summer oils are not supposed to be applied to Douglas Fir, Spruces such as birds nest, many juniper and cedars. I assume Volck oil says this on the label. It may cause defoliation or needle drop. In some cases you might have some branch dieback, perhaps enough to ruin its looks. It is safe on pines if you follow the rate of application.

You mention that you have fir trees which is unusual in the Las Vegas valley but if these are in any of these categories you could have spray damage. If the damage is not too severe I think they will drop damaged needles and show some new growth from terminal buds and buds inside the canopy (branches). Hopefully they will recover.