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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Buying New House May Need Lots of Plant Care

Trees in the readers landscape
Q. My wife and I just bought a house. The house has a backyard with a good selection of different fruit trees and non-fruit trees. We have noticed that as the trees were bearing fruit, the fruit looked a little spotted and not exactly healthy. The same thing was happening to the leaves, spotted & brown around edges. I thought it was due to lack of water? Then we started to notice that all most all the tree stumps had their bark opening in big patches and sort of peeling away. And now we see liquid, all most sap like coming from these areas. The Peach trees bark actually looks white on the outside! The trees don’t look healthy at all. It seems the trees were planted in 2004.

A. After looking at all the trees sent to me in pictures, my first thought was that they could use 4 to 6 inches of wood mulch covering the soil beneath them.  You would see a big difference in their growth and health the season following an application. 
Apple tree and trunk damage

            You can pick up free wood mulch from the university orchard in North Las Vegas.  You just have to drive out there and get it. You can get directions by calling the master gardener helpline any Monday through Friday at 257-5555. The orchard is open for doing this on Tuesday and Saturday mornings.

            All of the trees seem to have a lot of trunk damage probably due to borers.  I would to take a sterilized sharp knife and remove all of the loose bark and damaged parts of the trunk down to undamaged wood. At this point you will make your determination whether to keep them or start over. If the damage is over half way around the trunk, you might consider eventually replacing them. Less than that, it is probably worth trying to save them.

Plum tree with trunk damage
            If you decide a tree is worth keeping then trim the borer damaged areas, removing dead bark, all the way down to fresh, healthy tissue. It is okay to cut into this healthy tissue with a clean knife. It will heal over just fine as long as the trees get adequate fertilizer and water.

            Next, paint the trunk and exposed limbs with diluted white latex paint to help prevent sunburn and lessen borer future borer damage. Dilute the white latex paint half and half with water. 

            Make sure the trees are getting adequate amounts of water on a regular basis. Right now, in late January, that should be once every ten days or thereabouts with about 15 to 20 gallons at each application. Got to once a week in February and twice a week in May.

Peach tree with trunk damage
            Fertilize each tree with a fertilizer that has all three numbers and no zeros. An example might be 10-20-10. You will probably not find this fertilizer exactly but the important part is that the middle number is highest. The easiest thing to do is to buy fertilizer stakes and pound them into the ground where the soil is wet after irrigating and at least 12 inches away from the trunk.

            At the same time apply an iron fertilizer to the soil, specifically iron EDDHA chelate. All in all they look remarkably healthy except for the insect damage. Make sure you get wood mulch and apply fertilizers to the trees again next January.

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