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Friday, June 2, 2017

Remove Suckers from the Graft Union

Q. You mentioned that citrus trees are often grafted. Are full size trees grafted like dwarf trees? Do I need to remove anything from these grafts? The only tree that really produced was a grapefruit while my orange and tangerine, produced very little over a span of 9 years. They flowered in the spring and work protected from wind and freezing temperatures. Will I have more success in getting fruit from full size trees?
suckers coming from the rootstock
A. All citrus bought from commercial nurseries are grafted with another tree. This grafting gives it a different set of roots. This new set of roots is called the rootstock. Most fruit trees are not intentionally grafted to rootstocks to dwarf the tree. But some dwarfing can result from rootstocks that are not terribly fast growers. If the rootstock dwarfs the tree, it should be mentioned on the label.
            There are five major citrus rootstocks, each with different characteristics that benefit the tree. A citrus rootstock may be added because of soil problems, disease issues, dry soils or survival during freezing temperatures. Knowing the type of rootstock can be extremely important to commercial growers with a certain set of growing problems.
            Nurseries that buy citrus to sell in the Las Vegas market usually focus on rootstocks that survive freezing temperatures. A little of this tolerance to cold temperatures is passed on to the tree itself.
bud union on fruit tree making a dogleg
            Look at the base of your citrus tree trunk. You will see a “dogleg” or bend (or noticeably swollen) where the two trees were grafted together at a very young age. Any shoots growing at or below this “dogleg”, called suckers, must be removed since this growth will not give you desirable fruit or benefit the tree in any way.
            Remove suckers now and continue to remove them as soon as you see them. If you remove them when they are very young, they will break away easily from the tree. Don’t wait or let them get older or they will be more difficult to remove.
            Older trees stop producing suckers from the rootstock if you start removing them early, when the tree is young. But if the top is killed from freezing temperatures, the rootstock will start suckering, even from older trees, and produce a vigorous new tree from or below the dogleg. It looks pretty but this “new” tree will have very poor quality fruit.
Many citrus flower and begin fruiting at the same time we have freezing temperatures. If your citrus is in a warm, protected spot you have a better chance of getting fruit. You can protect them with lights, blankets, burlap, etc. but if the temperature and wind are bad enough, protection will not guarantee fruit and a lack of damage. The tree may require temperatures of 20 - 25° F for damage to occur. However, all flowers and fruit are killed at 30 - 32° F regardless of the temperatures required for tree damage to occur.
            Citrus is “iffy” in this climate. Some years you may have fruit, other years you may not. Some years they may freeze to the ground and other years sail through the winter without damage. This is the nature of our climate and growing citrus here.

Compost and Steer Manure Not the Same on Lawns

Q.  Recently you recommended applying compost to lawns. I am confused if you mean steer manure. How often do you recommend doing this? When should I do my first application? My lawn is approximately 1,000 square feet. How much compost should I buy?

A.  Compost is very different from steer manure.  Steer manure in a bag is dried, poop from cows broken apart mechanically so it’s easy to use.  Compost can be made from animal manure like steer, horse, rabbit or chicken, even human, or entirely from plants.  But it takes time to make it
Composting breaks down manure much faster when compared to Mother Nature doing it au naturel.  Both Mother Nature and composting create a very rich ingredient, the gardener’s “black gold”, which is a valuable addition to vegetable gardens, fruit trees, ornamental trees, shrubs and even lawns.

Steer manure bought in a bag is raw and not composted.  When manure is not composted, it has not yet released its “black gold” that is so valuable.  In its raw state, steer and other animal manures may cause damage to plants if applied incorrectly.  Bagged steer manure is cheap and tempting to use.  But use it with caution.

Research done at Cornell University clearly demonstrates the best compost to use on lawns is made from an urban waste, called municipal solid waste in engineering and science lingo. If composted correctly, compost made from municipal solid waste is a very valuable resource.
We have a big environmental problem with solid and liquid waste coming from cities.  In Nevada, this urban waste is buried in landfills.  In other states putting it in landfills is no longer permitted.  In these states, municipal solid waste is required, by state law, to be put to beneficial use; much of it made into compost.
Compost made from biosolids

University research regarding lawn diseases and compost from municipal solid waste is very clear.  This type of compost not only fertilizes the lawn but helps it fight several diseases including several that damage tall fescue in our climate.

Apply this type of compost evenly over the lawn, about 1/8-inch-deep, equivalent to 11 cubic foot bags applied to 1000 square feet of lawn.  Use a compost spreader to apply it.
Compost spreader

Apply it monthly during the growing season.  In our climate, I would start applying it in February until May. I would avoid applying it during the hottest months of June, July and August.  Resume applying it September, October, November and December.

Yellowing of Pear Might Be Fireblight Disease

Q. The pears started looking like this last week.  Any ideas on what I should do?

A. They look pretty rough. Because of their weaknesses in fireblight disease and this time of year I first think of fireblight disease. They are highly susceptible to this disease which is usually not a problem in the desert unless it is has been wet, windy and cool in the spring and early summer.

This disease can be transmitted from tree to tree on pruners that were not sanitized. One of the reasons I am so picky about sanitizing pruners. Disinfect with 10% bleach and oil equipment afterwards. The disease hits Asian pear the worst, then European pear like Bartlett not as bad and apples as well. Fuji, Pink Lady and Mutsu are susceptible apples. Also quince. It can spread very quickly.

The only remedy is pruning it out far below the infection and sanitizing shears between each cut (10% bleach). If the disease gets in the trunk the tree cannot be saved and should be removed from the property asap and with great care so the disease does not spread. Sanitize all hands, gloves, tools, etc. Very virulent disease.

University of California on fireblight

Other possibilities include planted too deep (move the trunk back and forth and see if moves in the soil a lot or dig to see where the roots are). This usually surfaces like this in hot weather. In cool weather the tree has more tolerance to the planting depth.

Poor drainage and collar rot or root rot. Get any wood mulch away from the trunk. Improve drainage. This can slowly choke tree turning leaves yellow first due to not taking up many nutrients, then leaf scorching because the roots cant take up enough water and eventually strangulation/death/drought due to root rot. Vertical mulch with four holes 18 inches from the tree to act as a sump. Posthole digger works well.

The leaves are yellow like iron shortage but I don’t think it is.

Use Water to Control Root Growth Direction

Q. From your past articles I thought my Vitex or Chaste tree was not going to give me problems if planted near a wall. I was shocked this spring when I saw a 3” diameter root from our Chaste tree over 15 feet away heading toward a wall! I had it removed and the root cut out. You mentioned that Cottonwood trees can re-sprout from their roots after the tree is cut down. Can I expect the same situation with my Chaste tree?

A. Probably not. To my knowledge, Vitex roots will not grow back from the roots if the top of the tree is removed. It will sucker from its base if you do not remove the entire tree stump including a few inches below the soil surface. Removal is done by hand or using a stump grinder.
            Normally, this is a small tree that has few problems. It has few roots that grow on the soil surface so reading your email is a bit of a surprise. This tree is, however, notorious for invasive roots that grow into septic tanks and sewer lines when there is an opportunity. As with any tree, never plant it on top of or close to a leach field.
            I am guessing this tree root found something it liked in the direction of the wall. Like most plants, once they find a rich deposit of water and nutrients, roots grow vigorously in that area and can enlarge quickly.
            Roots do not grow into an area and explore it. They are not adventurers. They are opportunists. Roots grow most vigorously where there is water, air and nutrients. Plants such as Vitex, with few surface roots, grow near soil surfaces because they have to, not because they want to.
            Apply water and fertilizers in areas where you want roots to grow. Discourage root growth by not applying water and fertilizer toward problem areas.

Crimson King Maple Root Loss Needs Top Loss

Q. I have a pair of mature crimson king red maples in Arlington ma that are showing signs of stress due to recent construction close to them and coinciding drought their canopy has reached its limits to receive water easlily from rain or the surrounding irrigation that is in the lawn under them I was told fertilizer and lots of water should bring them back before pruning any suggestions would be appreciated 
Image result for crimson king maple university
Crimson King maple picture  from University of Arkansas Extension
A. I think water and fertilizer is pushing your luck this time of year. It is possible to lose quite a bit of roots and not have many canopy problems but that just depends on which roots were cut and how many. 

General rule of thumb is to correct root loss with decreasing the size of the canopy. Don’t have pictures so I would tell you to prune back the canopy ¼ to 1/3 by reducing the canopy size at the furthest distances from the roots. 

Trees have the most difficult time getting water to leaves and stems furthest from the roots. They show stress first...leaf scorch and limb dieback. This will probably mean you many have to “drop crotch” the canopy. If done by a good arborist, they should be able to maintain its beautiful characteristic shape and you will notice very little change in appearance except size.

Of course putting about an extra ½ inch of water under the canopy weekly beyond irrigating the 
grass will help because of the tree’s shallow roots. They aren't very drought tolerant due to their shallow roots.

I think Crimson King is a Norway maple.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Best Free Stone Peaches for the Desert

Q. I would like to know which freestone peaches are best for Las Vegas and are they readily available at our nurseries?

A. Generally speaking, the most reliable fruit trees for this area are available from local nurseries. Peaches should state on the plant tag if it is a cling-type or freestone. The trend in home gardening is towards freestone so most peaches and nurseries will carry freestone types.
            It can be fun to look at plants from the national retailers but be knowledgeable about what you want and what will work in this climate if you go plant shopping there. Sometimes you can find some real jewels. Sometimes you will find some real challenges as well.
            Fruit trees are in limited in quantities this year; worse than past years as the trend toward growing your own food has grown and inventories were sold out early. Nearly any peach will grow here. But the quality of fruit they produce will be different than the same fruit grown in other climates.
            There are literally hundreds of varieties to pick from. It is not possible to list them all and tell you which is the best. Rely on knowledgeable staff. Stay with standard size or so-called “semi dwarf” types if you are growing them in the ground.
            Big trees are not always the best. Select trees that are moderate in size and have branches growing from the trunks in many different directions and at locations along the trunk 30 inches from the top of the container or lower.
            Select miniature or genetic dwarf peach if you are growing them in a container. Generally speaking, full-sized trees have better quality fruit than miniatures or genetic dwarf.

For a start you can look at my recommended tree list by clicking here

Ideal Climate for Almond

Q. What is the ideal climate for almond tree. How can we give cooling to an almond planted outside. It is because if I take the almond plant  to India Kerala.
Thank you for your time and effort.

A. The tree will cool itself if it had water applied to the soil regularly. At air temperatures of 45C, plants will cool themselves to about 35C if the soil is kept moist.

Almond originates from Central Asia where temperatures can reach 40+C at daytime extremes. We have had almonds growing successfully at 48 to 50C in the Mojave Desert. I don’t think you will have a problem with summer temperatures.

The cooling you might need is for winter chilling hours because I think in Kerala you may not have enough winter chilling hours. Select an almond with the lowest winter chilling requirement. Almonds have a chilling requirement of around 300 to 500 hours of temperatures below 7C. Read more about chilling requirement below.

It is worth trying and let me know how it does for you.

Jerusalem Sage May Need Some TLC

Q.  My phlomis plants have leaves that have died and some have yellow with brown tips. Should I cut it down in February? Should I increase the water? Do I just leave it alone? What causes the edge of the leaves to dry up?

A.  Commonly, this plant is called Jerusalem sage.  It grows like a weed in the Mediterranean region and has become somewhat of a pest in parts of England where it escaped from gardens and become a “weed”. 
            Judging from the pictures you sent, the newest growth looks great!  It’s some of the older growth which has yellowed or turned brown.  Cut the plant back to the ground just like you would lantana, and let it grow again.  It will.

Want to see what it looks like?

            Even though it has started to grow, you can do it now.  Next year cut it back in January just before it starts to grow.  Apply compost to the top of the soil around it in a 12-inch ring, 1 inch deep, to improve growth, color and flowering.  If it’s growing in rock, apply compost on top of the rock and wash it in with a hose.
            If a plant is going to be a weed it might as well be pretty and taste good!  This is both. Most people grow it as an ornamental because of its yellow flowers.  But it’s in the same family of plants as mint and basil so it smells and tastes good.  Use the leaves as a substitute for common sage; pull off fresh leaves, let them dry, put them in a plastic bag for storage and crush them directly when preparing stuffing or cooking meat.
            Our climate is not Mediterranean and our soils are worse than Mediterranean soils.  Grow Jerusalem sage as you would any other perennial vegetable or herb in our desert climate and soils.  Do not plant in locations where there is intense temperatures and mix compost into the soil at the time of planting in a ratio of 1 to 1.  
            My guess is the damage to the leaves is old, from winter cold temperatures and some watering problems perhaps.  Avoid growing it on the south and west sides in intense hot locations.  Water and fertilize as you would any other perennial vegetable or herb.  Pinch new growth for a fuller canopy and harvest young leaves for more intense flavor and aroma.

Pyrethrum Doesn't Kill Thrips

Q. I was advised to spray my nectarines and peaches with a garden pesticide containing pyrethrum to kill thrips. Would you still eat the fruit once this chemical has been applied? And if I spray it, will the fruit not be deformed?
Thrip damage to netarine.

A. If the label for this pesticide does not have fruit trees or gardens on the label, then it should not be used for that purpose. This is a legal response, not a technical response to your question.
            Nectarines, not peaches, are deformed and scarred mostly because of the feeding damage on the skin of the fruit by Western flower thrips. These insects are tiny but when there are hundreds of them all feeding on the skin of one nectarine, they rip and tear at this so badly that the fruit becomes deformed and scarred horribly. Killing off the thrips prevents fruit deformity and scarring.
            Strangely enough, thrips damage does not occur on peaches so they will not have to be sprayed. Evidently the hair on the peach skin is enough to interfere with the feeding damage by these extremely small, flying insects.
            By the way, thrips are so primitive they don’t have wings like most insects. They have “sticks” that come out of their body with hairs on them. They are very poor flyers and can’t travel very far.
/Thrip. Not my picture but don't remember where I got it.
            On the label of the pesticide it tells you how many days you must wait before picking fruit. This is called the “Re-Entry Period” or “Days before Harvest”.
Years ago I had to find out if the damage was because of thrips so I put this fine mesh insect netting around an apricot tree. The fruit was not damaged. It was due to thrips.
            There is a lot of science that goes into that label. It’s not guesswork. It does not mean that the pesticide is totally gone. It means that a reasonable amount of the pesticide has been degraded by our weather and the EPA has deemed it “safe to eat” if the fruit is washed before eating.
            As far as the insecticide goes, it is called a synthetic pyrethroid and does a good job killing most insects including those in the home. However, on thrips it does not do a great job. Spinosad is much better to use and organic to boot.
Doesn't say it in the common name but this contains spinosad.
            But Spinosad is lethal to bees so spray only when there are no flowers present in the tree or beneath it and bees have gone home for the day. This will be at dusk. Rotate this spray with Neem oil and soap sprays.

Qatar Coconut Palm Possible but Difficult

Q. I would like to know why coconut trees are not bearing coconuts in Qatar.

A. Probably it is not old enough. Given proper care and growing conditions, coconut palms produce their first fruit in six to ten years, taking 15 – 20 years to reach peak production. It will take longer if it is in poor health or stressed. Some coconut palms require cross pollination from another tree.
            On fertile soil, a tall coconut palm tree can yield up to 75 fruits per year, but more often yield less than 30 mainly due to poor management and fertilizer practices. I don’t think high temperatures of Qatar will be a problem for tree survival but low temperatures will. Refrigerator temperatures for long periods of time outside may discourage coconut production.
            Your coconut palm will have difficulty with new growth during dry weather. The fronds may have trouble opening so if they do, hose them down with water. The fronds will also brown or scorch on the tips, more so than in tropical humid climates. They may not look the best.
            If your temperatures get much below 10° C (refrigerator temperature) and stay there for a while they may not produce fruit. Also, some coconut palms may require cross pollination to set fruit much like corn does. Some of the specialty coconut palm trees, particularly the dwarf types, are thought to be self-fertile and may set fruit on their own.
Dwarf coconut palm in plastic container
            Coconut palm roots are very similar to grass roots except bigger. A large container is needed if container grown because they need to support themselves as they get taller and require a large enough area to grow this root system. Under natural rainfall, these roots could spread perhaps 30 feet from the trunk.
            They like water but do not keep the soil around them constantly wet. Keeping the fruit continuously wet works for germination of the seed but not once they start growing.
            So, in short, protect it if temperatures drop close to refrigerator temperature and keep it as close to 50 or 55° as you can during these cold periods. Summer temperatures shouldn’t be a problem unless it’s setting fruit during these temperatures. It will probably drop fruit. The fronds may not look the best due to high temperatures, low humidity, and wind.

Yuccas Are More Sensitive Than You Might Think

Q. I have a five-foot Yucca tree that I cannot get to be disease free after two years of trying.  I have tried several insecticides and fungicides. I hope you can identify the problem from the picture.

A. The Yucca leaves are scorching or turning brownish white in the middle, at the bend where the leaf is curving down. This is not a problem you can correct by treating with insecticides or fungicides.
            This is an ornamental Yucca called Spanish dagger with flat leaves coming from the trunk and curving slightly downward. You would think that yuccas would be a plant not requiring much care in the Mojave Desert. Well, this one does. It is native to coastal Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and Alabama.
            This is a cultural management problem. It should be addressed by transplanting it to a new, protected location and adding amendments the soil at the time of planting. Water it more like a palm tree than a cactus.
            Although classified as a disease, it is not caused by anything biological so pesticides won’t do any good. This problem is more correctly classified as “leaf scorch”. It is a soil/planting location/water management problem.
            Don’t plant this Yucca like you would yuccas that grow easily in desert environments. This particular Yucca prefers protection from the hot, late afternoon sun and grown in richer soils, soils amended with compost at the time of planting, and not surrounded by rock mulch.
            What to do now? Move it to a new location which gives it protection from direct, late afternoon sun. If it is surrounded by rock mulch, get rid of it. With a posthole digger or soil auger make several vertical chimneys in the soil about two feet deep and 18 inches from the trunk. Pack these vertical chimneys with compost and then soak them with water.
            Water this plant like a normal landscape plant with good drainage and make sure it is watered on four different sides with enough water each time to percolate 18 inches deep. 

Magic! My Rose Bush Suddenly Has Small White Flowers

Q. I have a rose bush that did well for years but now it only produces small white roses. What happened?

A. The top of your rose bush died but the rootstock survived. Two different plants are combined into one plant through a propagation technique called budding. The top of the plant is desired for its beautiful flowers. The rootstock is selected for a variety of reasons but performs better in soils than the top of the plant if it had roots.
            All rose bushes available commercially are grown on rootstocks. These rootstocks are also roses but their flowers are a different color and size than the rose you selected. In your particular case, the rootstock was perhaps Rosa odorata, a rose that produces small white flowers.
            If you don’t like the plant then remove it and replace it with a variety that grows well in our hot, desert climate. On the website of Weeks Roses, they publish a list of roses by flower color and rose type that perform well in our hot desert. Or talk to some neighbors who love roses and know what they planted.

Roses for the Desert Southwest

            Be careful when pruning roses. Prune them in January but do not cut them back too short. Pruning roses short cause the rootstock to grow vigorously and send up suckers that could dominate an overly pruned rose bush. And remove all suckers coming from the rootstock.
            I noticed in your picture that your roses were surrounded by rock mulch. No, no, no. Roses do not like rock mulch. Get rid of the rock and lay down some compost and cover the compost with three inches of wood chip mulch instead. They will be much happier. 

Cape Honeysuckle Is All Confused. Or Is It?

Q. Our cape honeysuckle has done well, even bloomed during the past winters. But this time of year it always stops blooming. Is there something I should be doing or not doing to keep it flowering through the summer?
Its winter for cryin out loud. Why are you in bloom, ag shame?
A. Cape honeysuckle is from South Africa, below the equator, so it's bloom time is the opposite of ours; blooms in the winter and not during the summer. Another plant from South Africa, African sumac, does the same thing.
No flowers now. Must be spring or jost sommer.
            Cape honeysuckle is a great plant for the dry desert because it is not as invasive here as it can be in wet climates. The only drawback is it being winter tender at temperatures around 25 degrees F.
            Watch for freezing damage during particularly cold winters or in cold landscape microclimates. Much like Bougainvillea, if the base is protected with mulch during the winter it will grow back again from the protected base.

Apricot Tree with Pink Leaves!

Q. We planted a bare root tree Blenheim apricot earlier this year and it's put out these pink leaves in the spring. Is that a sign that it will flower or fruit or that we are watering too much? 
New growth that is red on some varieties of apricot like Blenheim (Royal)
A. No, that's a typical color of new growth for some apricots. It doesn't indicate anything except new, juvenile growth.
            Fertilize it once a year in January. Compost is best. If you use woodchip mulch on the soil surface beneath the tree, you can get by with using mineral fertilizers. Otherwise, use compost as a combination fertilizer and for soil improvement.
            Make sure the tree is getting enough water. Lots of new growth in the spring is a good indicator that it is. A new tree like that should get at least 5 gallons of water every time you irrigate it. Slowly work your way up to 30 gallons by the time it's is 5 to 6 years old. Blenheim is a good apricot in our climate and I'm sure you will enjoy it if you like apricots.

You Ever Heard of Guttation?

Q. I have never had a problem with pests on my little leaf Cordia plant before. I found a small round liquid balls on the edge of the leaf. What am I dealing with here? 

Guttational water from Cordia.

A. Great pictures and they help a lot. It’s nothing to worry about but it’s very interesting so I want to talk about it.
            I am taking an educated guess that this is water released from small openings on the leaf edges called hydathodes. The release of excess water from inside the plant is called guttation. Guttation is normal and it happens under certain conditions.
            . Basically, small plants can push a lot of water inside them through a mechanism called root pressure. Root pressure takes water from the surrounding soil, if there's plenty of it, and pushes it inside the plant.
            Sometimes the water pressure inside the plant can be so great that it needs to release some of this excess water. Many plants have specialized openings on leaf edges called hydathodes and this is where the water comes out. Technically, the process of taking excess water inside the plant and releasing it through hydathodes is called guttation.
Image result for whipping the greens
Whipping the greens for the US Open. from https://golfcontentnetwork.com/news/u-s-open/u-s-open-theres-nothing-quite-like-oakmont/ 
            It can happen on grasses a lot. Golf course superintendents are concerned about this phenomenon because the water coming from the plant is full of sugars. It can be a rich breeding ground for grass diseases. If this water rich with sugars stays on the leaf surface for several hours, disease problems can be a reality.
            Superintendents, years ago, used bamboo poles to “whip the greens” and remove this excess water from the leaf blades. It was thought by doing this the water was removed from the leaves and disease problems were reduced as well. Most now use a quick pulse of irrigation water instead.
            So, what does this have to do with you and your little leaf Cordia? If this is guttational water, the plant is telling you not to water so often. The soil is full of water. Make sure you give it a "rest period" without water before the next irrigation. Other than that, nothing to worry about.

Rhubarb Growing in the Hot Desert?

Q. I would like to grow my own rhubarb. Could you tell me where I can find the plant or the bulb, and when would be a good season to start?
Not my picture of rhubarb but I figured some readers have never seen it. From Wikipedia By Dieter Weber (User:Uellue) - own work, photo taken in a private garden in Kiel, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=743387 

A. Rhubarb can be grown in our climate but it is commonly grown in more northerly states including the Midwest, upper Midwest, Pacific Northwest and New England. It is less commonly found in warmer climates. So, it can be tricky to grow here.
            It is technically classified as an herbaceous perennial which means it’s large leaves and fleshy petioles comes from underground rhizomes, much like iris, artichokes and asparagus. All the top growth freezes back to the ground with the first hard frost. If it doesn’t freeze back in our climate, cut it to the ground in late winter.
Image result for rhubarb rhizome
Rhubarb rhizome for showing growth from  http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/propagating
            Seeds are available but start it from a good-sized rhizome instead. They are a bit pricey. Order them online from a reliable seed company.
            Rhubarb will struggle in our heat. There are complaints from people that it doesn’t taste the same when grown in cool climates. Probably true. Grow it on the north or east side of a building and keep it out of late, hot afternoon sunlight. It needs plenty of sunlight in the morning, but not the afternoon.
            Amend the soil with quality compost at the time of planting. Mix compost with your existing landscape soil at a rate of 1:1 by volume or use a bagged, commercial soil planting mix amended with compost.
            Never cover the soil with rock mulch or plastic but use 2 to 3 inches of wood chips instead. Fertilize it with compost or a lawn fertilizer in late December to mid-January. It comes out of the ground early.
            The leaves are toxic so cut off the leaves and compost them. The leaf stems or petioles are what people eat provided it's cooked with a lot of sugar. 

Don't Be Afraid to Prune Small Trees

Q. I have some stick sized trees growing very well. Some are about 12" to 18" tall. The leaves are around the bottom of the stick and none at the top. Should I cut the stick off down to the leaves?

A. Yes, if you think it's dead cut it back to the leaves. When new shoots begin to grow taller than 1 foot, remove all but one if you want a single stemmed tree. If you want a multi-trunked tree remove all but three or five, and leave an odd number growing. If you can prune it with a hand shears then prune any time of year.
            Lightly fertilize it every couple months to push new growth. If this tree is tender to winter freezing temperatures, don't fertilize after an August 1.

Is MiracleGro Really All That Great?

Q. Is Miracle grow all it's made to be?  I haven't seen any results yet after I sprayed it on my plants.

A. If your plants are in great shape to begin with you won’t see any results from MiracleGro fertilizer applied to the leaves or any other product for that matter. Applying a liquid fertilizer to the leaves gets fertilizer inside the plant faster so results, if there are any, will be seen sooner than applying a fertilizer to the soil. That’s the primary reason for using it.
Peters is an alternative for Miracle Gro. It has an outstanding commercial reputation among greenhouse growers. i don't know how good the homeowner product is.
             I used several types of powdered, fertilizers mixed with water and applied to the leaves because I’m curious about them. These include MiracleGro, Peters, and Grow More. Honestly, I have never seen much difference in any of them. If I were to lean toward a product in that group it would probably be Grow More because it’s the least expensive.
Grow More has a very good line of water soluble fertilizers that are not as expensive and have a great reputation particularly among marjuana producers.
            There are steps I would recommend when using any of these products to get the best results. Use distilled water. The effectiveness of liquid fertilizers has a lot to do with the quality of the water used. Our tap water is alkaline. Our tap water can cause problems with foliar fertilizers.
            Add a spray surfactant to the spray mix before applying it. Spray surfactant is a fancy term telling you to add something to the mix to help the fertilizer get inside the leaf. The leaf is covered with waxes and using a spray surfactant helps the fertilizer get inside.
Use distilled water rather than tap water if your tap water has a bad reputation or has some pH problems like it does in Las Vegas. Distilled water has a ph of 7 and wont have problems with micronutrients become unavailable.
            You can buy commercial spray surfactants called “wetting agents” or use a high-quality soap such as a liquid Castile type. Use about 1 tablespoon in a gallon of spray mix.
            Spray this mixture on the leaves, both front and back, only until the surface of the leaf is moist. No more than this.
EZ wet is a very gentle wetting agent/surfactant  that helps fertilizer nutrients move inside the leaves. Liquid Castile soaps are also good. Stay away from dishwashing liquids because they are hard on plants and have personal care products in them now.
            Use it all up. Don’t store this spray solution. Make a new batch for the next time you spray.