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Monday, May 27, 2013

Grey Colored Beetles on Zucchini Most Likely Squash Bugs

Q. Every year my zucchini plants are infested with grey-colored beetles that destroy my zucchini.  How do get rid of the beetles?
Squash bugs on the underside of squash leaves.

A. These are most likely squash bugs. You can verify it by visiting my blog and checking the picture I posted to confirm it. It is not just zucchini they will attack but other squashes such as winter squashes, melons and sometimes cucumber. It is reported that butternut and acorn winter squashes are somewhat resistant.

            You can plant late, in June, after their infestation time has passed. However you may have a hard time getting the fruit to set when temperatures are very high.

Squash bug damage and infestation on squash
            You can hand pick them as you see them. You must do this as they appear soon after planting and get rid of them as soon as you see them. Do this for about three weeks and the numbers will be greatly reduced.

            Thirdly, you can vacuum them with a handheld vacuum cleaner. They will be on the undersides of the leaves so look for them there. 

Fruit Tree Selection for Nevada at 5000 feet

Q. My friend and I would like to plant a few fruit trees on some property at Acoma Siding in Nevada. It is near Barclay, Nevada, east of Caliente about 20-30 miles. I was wondering if you had some advice on types and varieties of fruit trees that may do well there. I believe it is in the 5000' elevation.

A. This advice would also apply to property in southern Nevada on the way up Mt Charleston and other higher elevations.

            Your best bet will be to plant on the side of a hill, if you can do it, to avoid late spring freezes. The major limitation for you is minimum temperatures and late spring frosts. To avoid these as much as possible planting on the sides of hills and avoiding low spots where cold air can accumulate would be safest.

            Without knowing your exact low winter temperatures it would be safe to assume you are in apple, pear, sour cherry and plum country. Perhaps you might also try berries such as raspberry and other cane fruit. The best website for general growing information on fruit selection for colder spots of the West will be Dave Wilson Nursery and can be found at http://www.davewilson.com

            Stay with fruit with a higher chilling requirement, probably around 800 to 900 hours, and check their requirements for pollination. Some apples might be Rome, Delicious, Northern Spy, Harrelson among others.

            European pears might include Bartlett, Comice and D’Anjou. But higher chilling hours may be one indicator that they will probably perform better for you. On apples, have them on a dwarfing rootstock such as M111.

            Because you are in a very arid climate with desert soils, mulch the soil and add plenty of soil amendments at the time of planting. That should get you going.


Bottle Tree With Dying Branches

Q. Our bottle tree branches are getting dried and  one side of the branches died 2 years ago. I am enclosing photos of the tree. Can you tell what is wrong with this tree? We love this tree very much. Is there any way to keep the tree from dying?
Bottle tree with dying branches.

A. There are two main problems that can develop on bottle tree; those are sunscald on the smooth branches and trunk if put into very intense sunlight and root death due to too much or too frequent watering.

Trunk of bottle tree
            We must also remember that their smooth green trunk and limbs get brown and furrowed with age so there is a natural progression from green and smooth to brown and furrowed. This must not be confused with brown and dead or dying.

            Some of the pictures you sent seems to show much of the dead parts of the limbs are on the upper surfaces of the limbs which kind of points to sunburning. This can lead to limb dieback.

Upper canopy of bottle tree.
            It is important for this tree to maintain a full canopy to shade the limbs. Most of this type of damage might be on the side facing the most intense sunlight which is on the upper sides of limbs particularly on the south and west sides of the tree. If someone got in there and pruned them improperly this could cause a lack of shading and sunburn with limb dieback.

            The other possibility is root rots due to frequent irrigations and not letting the soil dry out between irrigations. This plant comes from semi-arid (but not necessarily desert) regions of Australia. They will tolerate lawns but the soil must drain quickly.

            All you can do now is to remove dead limbs, keep it watered adequately but not excessively and fertilize once a year in the early spring. Surface wood mulches will help as well.

I Planted an Apple Tree. Now What Do I Do?

Q. My husband went out a couple of weeks ago and picked up a Pink Lady apple and I have planted it.  I have it planted how you recommended and I have it mulched the ground  except for the 6" next to the trunk. I have it securely staked it and I am watering by hand everyday. What next?  Food, or what to make it do well?  
Anna apple at UNCE orchard in North Las Vegas in October

A. I would not water daily but probably every two or three days. If you are doing it by hand you should put a moat around it about four feet wide and 4 inches deep. Fill the moat twice when watering.

            If you have drip irrigation going to it you should still handwater the first couple of weeks before you transition to your drip irrigation. This will help to settle the soil around the roots, remove any air pockets and moisten the soil outside the root system. After transitioning to drip, you will not need the moat UNLESS you use the adjustable drip emitters.
Bare root fruit trees planted, staked and protected from rabbits with chicken wire. The trees
are surrounded by a moat or basin for holding water. These are watered with an irrigation bubbler.
They were then mulched with green waste, chipped trees removed from Las Vegas landscapes.
The mulch is kept away from the trunk several inches to prevent collar rot of the tree.

            If you added plenty of compost to the soil when planting it probably will not need anything else applied to the soil this season. If you were skimpy with the compost in the planting hole then add a fertilizer application now or no later than about mid-June. If you are an organic grower, use a compost addition to the irrigation moat or compost tea as a fertilizer source.

            However if organic sources are not that important to you then you try using some liquid fertilizers, such as Miracle Gro or similar product. Dilute this fertilizer into a five gallon bucket and use the five gallon fertilizer solution for one of your waterings in the moat. If you do not have a moat, try some fertilizer stakes pounded in next to the drip emitters.
Fruit tree fertilizer stake with plastic cap for hammering into the wet soil near a drip emitter.

            You will remove the stakes holding the tree roots still (not the fertilizer stakes) at leaf fall this winter. Staking the tree to stabilize the roots during one season of growth is all that is necessary.

            If you have rabbits in the area you will probably need to add rabbit protection in the form of a cage around the tree. This will require chicken wire that is two feet wide with one inch hex openings or smaller. Cut a piece three feet long and circle it around the tree into a cylinder, tying the ends together to keep the cylinder from coming apart.

            Bury the bottom a few inches below the mulch and stake it to the ground. This helps to keep rabbits from going under the cage.

            You can prune lightly any time but removal of larger pieces of the tree structure should be done in the winter. It is too late to remove large wood from the tree. If you do, you run the risk of sunburn damage to the trunk or limbs.

            Some pruning you can do now includes removing small limbs that are broken, weak or are competing with other branches. If there are branches growing directly above another branch, remove the weakest or less desirable of the two.

            If there is one branch growing into another branch, remove or cut back the one which is interfering. If there are branches that are growing straight up or straight down, remove these. These are all cuts you can do now. Removal of branches is usually preferred over just cutting them back.

Birdseye view (from above the tree) of the scaffold limbs radiating from the trunk like spokes in a wheel.
            If growth is excessively long, I usually cut them back as well to about 15 to 18 inches. This will help initiate fruit producing spurs if the tree is a spur producing tree like apple, pear, plum or apricot.

            If you would like to keep the tree smaller than it would normally get, this next winter remove the center, if it has one, from the tree at around waist height or below leaving five or six limbs radiating from the trunk. After pruning this winter, paint the tree with diluted white latex paint (50/50 with water). Paint all the trunk and all major limbs to help prevent sunburn.