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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Leafhoppers, Hornworm and Skeletonizer Reported on Grapes Now

Leafhopper damage to grape leaf. They are on the undersides of the leaves.
I received an email from a reader who reported leafhoppers already on grape leaves. I had another person report sphinx moths flying now (this moth lays eggs that make the hornworm) and another person reported skeletonizer moths (black or metallic dark blue) flying around the grapes.

Dead sphynx moth on the sidewalk. They lead to hornworms.
This came out of Arizona and southern Nevada but would be relevant for the low and middle desert elevations (500 to 3000 ft). If you had leafhoppers last year you can expect them this year. These are tiny little bugs that hop off of the grape leaves when you walk by them. Some people report that they "swarm" or fly off the leaves. They can't really do this but because they are so small and there are hundreds of them it may seem like it. To find them now you must look on the UNDERSIDES of the leaves.

If they are not controlled early, their numbers will begin to build over the season as they continue to multiply. Once the adults get established they are very difficult to control without using some very harsh conventional pesticides.

Skeletonizer moth.
Leafhoppers don't do a lot of damage to homeowner grapes except for the tiny black dots (feces) they leave behind on fruit and leaves. Commercially this is a problem. But they are a nuisance.

One of the most effective treatments when they are young is a spray of Spinosad. Spinosad is an "organic" insecticide. Even though it is organic, it is rough on bees so never spray if flowers are present. Spinosad is also very effective on the "worms" or caterpillars that you find on grapes. This includes the hornworm and the grape leaf skeletonizer.

I would make two applications of Spinosad to the grapes now and repeat it in about 10 days to two
weeks later. After this time inspect your grapes for these three pests and apply it when you first see them. Use a wetting agent like EZ Wet mixed in the spray. Use a hose end applicator or compressed air sprayer (best) and make sure you spray UP (the bottom of the leaves get wet). Repeat the spray on by spraying down (tops of the leaves). Spray just enough to wet the leaves.

Bt sprays will control the skeletonizer and the hornworm but not the leafhoppers. You must control leafhoppers early.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Pomegranates Produce Best in Full Sun

Q. I'm not getting a big crop of pomegranates this year. I have one Wonderful and one Utah, each about 6 years old. I had about 4 dozen fruit last year.  We have a large ash tree in the yard which throws some shade but the pomegranates both get morning sun.

Five-year-old pomegranate during winter
A. To produce fruit, pomegranate needs at least six hours of sunlight and does best in full sun. As shade increases, the number of flowers and fruits decrease.

Pomegranates produce flowers on new growth. If you are getting lots of new growth and there is
enough sunlight there is no reason you should not be getting lots of flowers. The key is the number of flowers it's producing. If the tree is not producing flowers it can't produce fruit.

If you have lots of flowers but few fruit then the problem may be insect related, e.g., leaf footed plant bug.Check the plant for the presence of this insect on the leaves.

To stimulate flower production it needs quite a bit of water to push new growth. The amount of water depends on plant size. A six-year-old pomegranate should be at least 6 feet tall and 4 or 5 feet across.
Pomegranate requires as much light as possible for good flower and fruit production.
Reduced light causes a reduction in flowers and fruit.
Another indicator of water is leaf density. The plant canopy should be so dense you can't see through it. If it is not dense, it's not getting enough water. Annual fertilizer application is important in quality production.

Pruning comes into play but if pomegranate is not pruned correctly it still produces lots of fruit but the fruit will be smaller in size.

Give the pomegranate as much light as possible. Remove lower limbs on the ash tree for better production, apply a fertilizer in early spring to push growth and make sure it gets plenty of water.

Water Needs of Gopher Plant Different in Small Containers

Gopher plant of readers growing in container
Q. My wife and I are fairly new to the Vegas area.  She is the gardener and we are trying to grow gopher plants in containers. The containers are about 12 inches in diameter and the plants are not doing well. They are watered once every week or two and we added a plant tonic two weeks ago. 

A. Gopher plant does very well in our climate planted directly in the soil or in containers. Remember that the stems die after flowering. Flowering is normally in the spring and sometimes again in the fall.
Cut stems back to the ground after flowering. There will be some small stems growing from the base. You must let these grow and not cut them back. Fertilize lightly after cutting back.
The two basic problems with gopher plants are either related to the soil that is used or irrigation practices.
If this plant is watered too often you will kill it. If you do not water it often enough you will damage it. If the soil used does not drain easily, you will kill it. The usual reason for failure is watering too often and poor water drainage.
I have had good reports from people using cactus juice fertilizer
on cacti and succulents. Let me know how it works for you.
When planting this in a container make sure that you use a soil mix made for this type of plant. A cactus and succulent soil mix would be preferred. It will struggle if you planted directly into our desert soils without improving them.
The plant is easier to maintain if planted directly into the ground. Make sure you amend the soil so that it has good drainage. It will do well in a soil that contains compost.

It will handle low winter temperatures but could be damaged if winter temperatures get extremely low, into the teens for instance. Fertilize it with a cactus fertilizer such as Cactus Juice every 2 to 3 months when you water.

I have two or three postings about gopher plants on my blog. Type in gopher plant in the search engine and see if that information helps.

Posts on my blog that you can click on which are related:

Harvested Hard Peaches Will Ripen

Q. I just picked all these because the birds were getting them. Will they ripen enough to eat?  I covered the others with netting that are still on the tree   Do I need to put them in the sun or in brown paper?

A. Pick them! They will ripen at room temperature in 2 to 4 days I would guess. If you can keep the humidity up in some way it will reduce their water loss. 

But keep them at 65 to 80F if at all possible and out of the sun. They do not need to be in paper bags. Once fully ripened you can put them in the fridge.

Peaches Can Be Harvested Early

Q. Can I pick peaches when the color starts and will they ripen?

A. You can pick peaches when the color begins to change from green to yellowish green or even beyond. I prefer to wait at least until the color has solidly changed from green to yellow but are still firm.
Peach fruit with color breaking from green to red. They can be harvested at
this stage and they will ripen but the quality will be lower than if they were
left to ripen to a more mature stage on the tree. Birds are not yet interested in
them at this stage.

At this stage they will continue to ripen after they are harvested if they are kept at room temperature. They will develop better flavor if left on the tree as long as possible. If birds are not a problem then I prefer to leave them until the fruit has changed color and the flesh has softened just a little bit from being hard as a rock.

At this point, the birds are looking at them and not quite sure if they want to peck them or not. This is the stage also when some of the more hungry birds will peck at them anyway. When I first start to see bird damage I know I’d better get them off the tree.