Type your question here!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Queen Palm Not A Good Choice in Desert Climates and Soils

Q. Our backyard is in full sun, gets very windy, and has very poor soil. We are landscaping around a new pool and would like a tropical look. We would love to put in a queen palm but we read they may not do well here. Any suggestions for a different palm like Kentia or Foxtail?

A. The queen palm won’t work in your situation. It does not like poor soils, heat, lack of humidity and wind. It is not a good choice for our hot desert climate in general.
Queen palm tends to look "ratty" in our desert climate and soils.
Be careful planting palms near a pool. Most people do not like the seeds dropping and the mess it makes.
The only palm which stays small and hearty for our area is the windmill palm. The pygmy date palm is a possibility but it is sensitive to our winter temperatures and may suffer from winter freezing. The Mediterranean fan palm stays short but can get quite large in diameter. Both Kentia and Foxtail palms are not meant for our climate.
Kentia palm is considered a "tropical" palm and intended for interior use in desert climates.
There are plenty of plants that give a tropical look to a landscape that are desert adapted and tolerant of our soils. Mesquite, desert bird of paradise, flax, ornamental grasses, canna lilies, rose of Sharon, crape myrtle, Gold dust plant (shade), papyrus, nandina, mock orange, cats claw vine, can be used to mention a few.

Tropical looking landscapes should be densely planted and designated as a high water use area. Use compost and wood chip surface mulches that won’t blow easily to improve our soils and their growth. 

Citrus Seldom Needs Fruit Thinning

Q. We have a two-foot tall, two-year old Meyer's lemon with 40-50 young blossoms.  Shouldn't some clusters be thinned and if so how?
Lemon tree planted with mulch. Keep the mulch away from the trunk for the first couple of years.

A. Don’t thin them. In most cases citrus does not need to be thinned. The plant will drop the fruit it cannot support.
It is not like a peach, apple, plum where small fruit must be removed to make way for larger fruit. Just let it be and see how well is sets this year. My guess is that it will drop most of the blossoms or fruit that it cannot support. It may drop all of them if the tree is too young to support fruit growth and branch growth at the same time.

Lemon with a good fruit set

            That being said, sometimes citrus does have too much fruit on a limb. Leaving too much fruit on a limb can break the limb. If the fruit is closer than the diameter of a large fruit, start removing some when they are the size of a quarter. 

Leaf Browning Due to Insecticide

Q. I am hoping you can advise me on how to save my rose bushes I planted last spring. I sprayed my them accidentally with a concentrated insecticide, not diluted. The next morning the leaves looked like wilted spinach and I cried. Will the bushes die?  A friend told me I should have applied it to the soil.
Rose leaf scorch and death due to concentrated insecticide application. They will grow back.

A. They will come back. You burned the leaves with the concentrated insecticide. You should see new leaves and growth popping out in a week or so. During this time be careful not to overwater. Water them normally or even less often if they do not have leaves.
Always follow the label directions when applying and don’t listen to friends. Application depends on the insecticide. Some insecticides are root systemic and applied on the soil around the roots and watered in. Others are foliar and applied to the leaves.

You do not know which is which unless you read the label. The label will tell you how to apply it, when to apply and the application rate.

Multiple Trees Together Better Choice Than Multi-Budded Trees

Q. I lost two fruit trees this winter because of an irrigation problem. I would like to replace them with 4-in-1 pluot and plum tree. I’m hoping it’s not too late to plant.

Two-in-one hole fruit trees...one Santa Rosa plum and pluot by reader. 

A. It is not too late to plant fruit trees in containers but it is too late to plant them bare root or sold in packages.
I am not a big fan of fruit trees that have more than one variety on the same tree. In a few years the more aggressive varieties dominate and kill the weaker varieties. In a very short time the tree is dominated by one or two varieties instead of four.
I prefer separate trees planted very close to each other and managed as one tree. I would plant these trees about 12 to 18 inches apart; one on the east side of a large hole and the other on the west.
In the case of pluots and plum, the plum tree should be a Santa Rosa which is a good pollinator for pluots. Pluots are self-pollinating in our climate but having a Santa Rosa plum tree close may help with fruit set and increase yield.

Two rules should be followed when planting trees close together; never let them grow back into each other and keep them both pruned and trained to the same size.

What Causes Holes in Cactus?

Q. My neighbor has a cactus that has these holes on one side. I am hoping you can tell us what is causing this and if this plant is doomed to die.

A. Nothing substantial came to me regarding the holes in your cactus. Generally speaking, these holes can occur from overwatering. They can also be from a disease problem if the humidity has been high or there has been rain.
My first suspicion was a bacterial disease that causes holes in some cacti but I don't think that is the case with yours. Usually this would occur during wet or humid weather. Not if the plant has been dry.
The only thing I can tell you to do is be careful how often you water. Make sure the plant has good drainage. If the hole does not have any soft tissue around it just consider it a temporary thing and not get too excited about it. If the tissue around the hole is hard and not soft then it is most likely not getting any worse.

Here is a link to a publication from the University of Arizona on diseases of cacti and succulents

What to Use When Amending Raised Beds

Q. What should I use to amend raised beds? Mine need to be rejuvenated. Sulfur, rock dust, chicken manure, worm castings, I am not sure which ones to use or to use them all!
Raised beds are probably the best alternative when you are faced with using "fill" that was put in by the developer or builder of the home.
A. There is a lot of hype on the Internet regarding soil amendments. I can understand why it’s confusing. Sulfur, rock dust, coconut coir, worm castings, chicken manure all make promises of miracles.
Stay with the basics if you are just starting out. Amend your soils with compost each year, and your raised bed will be productive every year. The best quality compost is rich in nutrients, consistently black or dark brown in color and a pleasing aroma. Composts that deviate from these characteristics are poorer in quality.
Compost made in Amargosa, Nevada, by a dairy operation using the "windrow" method.
Composts work best if they are mixed with soil.... even desert soil. Many of the subdivisions have extremely poor soils because “fill” was used around the homes rather than soil. In many cases, raised beds filled with soil mixes is the least expensive option to having a garden.
Perlite is one of those amendments used as a soil amendment. It is used mostly for propagation and interior plants.
If compost is applied to these soils every year most of these amendments are usually not needed. Adding compost and growing a productive garden helps to lower its the soil pH so sulfur is usually not needed.
Compost added to the vegetable plots every year at the University Orchard in North Las Vegas
Over a year ago I tested three different rock dusts in several locations around Las Vegas and found no benefit to these additions as long as the garden soil was amended with compost.
The type of compost, whether it is traditional compost or compost made from worms, is up to you and your personal preference. Certainly, if you sleep better at night by adding these amendments to your raised beds by all means apply them. They will not hurt anything as long as you don’t apply too much.
Red wigglers used in worm composting...vermiculture...in a plastic bin and food scraps
Virtually all of the animal manures are effective if they are composted correctly. The only additions I would suggest when first starting off with raised beds are inocula for legumes such as beans and peas.

The type of fertilizers to use are your personal preference but organic fertilizers typically add more to the soil than conventional fertilizers but cost more. However, if your soil is amended properly at the beginning of the season then small amounts of conventional fertilizers would benefit the plants. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Oleanders as Small Trees

 I read with interest your article in the Review Journal regarding turning Oleanders from bushes, into trees.

I have been attempting to do this with my Oleanders for the last year or two and they appear to be doing quite well. I am glad that I have been doing most of the things that you recommended in your article.

I have attached a couple of photos and hoped you would give me your opinion of whether they will continue to do well, or if I should be doing more to them.

The photographs were taken in February when it was still rather cool, but now they are starting to bloom.

Thank you for all the help you give us amateurs with our plants, trees and gardens etc. I’m sure we all appreciate it, Mr. Morris.

Great job, Bill. The only thing I would recommend is to try and get the canopy to occupy about 2/3 of the tree and the trunks 1/3. It is more pleasing to look at. It might be a bit difficult to do that with your limited space but they look nice and make a nice small tree with flowers and is evergreen.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Viragrow Delivers! : Why Did My New Vegetables Die?

Viragrow Delivers! : Why Did My New Vegetables Die?: Q. We bought a yard of compost and filled a square foot garden. We roped it off and had sixteen squares planted all squares and a week late...

Viragrow Delivers!

Viragrow Delivers! : Leaf Tip Death with Red Margin Typical Salt Damage...

Leaf Tip Death with Red Margin Typical Salt Damage...: Q. Any idea what is causing this discoloration on the hawthorn leaves? A. This kind of discoloration with the red margin is typ...

Viragrow Delivers!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Plant Recommendations Colorful, Fragrant, Heat Tolerant

Q. I am fairly new to the Las Vegas area and have a 23' x 3' area on the south side by a cement wall that gets some shade. I'd like to plant some type of bushes that are colorful, fragrant, heat and drought tolerant, need minimal upkeep and will grow approximately 6-8'. I have enough oleander.  Any suggestions?

A. I will assume from your email you want plants that stay about 3' wide, low maintenance, evergreen, and will accept some sun.  Flowers and fragrance would be preferred.  I see you want 6-8' tall   The plants listed below all stay around 3' wide.

These are all medium water use plants that grow about 3' x 3':
Dwarf Bottlebrush Callistemon 'Nana'
Dwarf Youpon Holly Ilex vomitoria 'Nana'
Gulf Stream or Moon Bay Nandina Nandina 'Gulf stream' or Nandina 'Moon Bay'
Box-Leaf Euonymus Euonymus microphylla

Low water use plants that grow about 3' x 3':
Blue Texas Ranger Leucopyllum zygopyllum
Brittlebush Encilia (2 varities available)
Autumn Sage Salvia greggii

Taller growing plants to consider with some trimming to stay 3' wide:
Heavenly Bamboo Nandina domestica
Dwarf Xylosma Xylosma c. 'Compacta'
Baja Fairy Duster Calliandra californica (deciduous)
Classic Myrtle Myrtle communis

A good source for plant information is snwa.com under 'landscapes' and then 'plant search'.   You could look up plants above and decide which are best for you.

Hope this helps.  Get back to me with any further comments or concerns.

Andrea Meckley, CH