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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Plant Winter Vegetables Now, Its Not Too Late

Plant lettuce, peas, cabbage (transplants), cauliflower (transplants), carrots, radishes and spinach. These vegetables can germinate and handle lower soil temperatures in the warmer parts of the garden (45F soil temperatures for germination). Prepare the soil by loosening it and applying a starter fertilizer high in phosphorus. Cover the seeds with a dark topdressing to help warm the soil. Activated carbon works great for transferring heat to the soil.

Orchard Calendar: December

Lowering the height of fruit trees
Pruning: lower the heights of fruit trees. Lower the heights of fruit trees if you want to do most of your tree management without a ladder. Lowering the height of your fruit tree to a pruned height of 6 1/2 feet will allow you to prune, spray and harvest while standing on the ground. Most full sized fruit trees can be kept to this height through judicious pruning methods. Apples should be grown on a semi-dwarfing rootstock.

 Pruning: begin pruning for production. Each type of fruit tree is pruned differently. You must know where your fruit is being produced on the tree that you are pruning.

4 to 8 inches of mulch on the orchard
Mulch. Use organic mulch in the Orchard or around fruit trees. This is not the same as bark mulch which is inferior to wood mulch. Wood mulch can be kept to a depth of 4 to 8 inches around fruit trees. On younger trees, keep wood mulch 12 inches away from the trunks until they are 6 to 8 years old. Green waste from pruned and chipped ornamental trees makes an excellent mulch. Avoid using trees such as Mesquite with their large thorns and palm trees which decompose very slowly. Organic mulches such as wood mulch return nutrients to the soil, increase microbial activity, retain moisture around the plant roots, reduce weed problems and help keep the soil cool.

Fruit trees at Orchard irrigated by modified flooding:
bubbler and basin

Asparagus turning brown in the winter
Irrigate fruit trees deeply every 10 days. After leaf drop, irrigations can be applied every 10 days to two weeks if you have a surface mulch applied to the soil. Sandy soils may require irrigations weekly to every 10 days. Heavier soils may require an irrigation every two weeks.

Applying compost to the raised beds
Cut down asparagus. Asparagus growth is cut to the soil surface when it turns yellow or brown. If this does not happen by the end of the month, cut the asparagus down to the soil surface.

Compost planting beds to be rototilled. Those beds which have not been planted should be prepped for next season. Use a high grade of compost to improve the soil to a depth of 12 inches. Incorporate a high phosphorus fertilizer in the planting row or in the backfill when planting transplants.

Borer control. This time of year concentrate on removing borer damage from fruit trees. Look for borer damage on the upper surfaces of limbs, particularly of peach, nectarine and an apricot. Using a sharp, sterilized knife remove the damaged wood from these areas. Be sure to cut all the way down to fresh wood when removing damaged wood. Let the tree heal by itself. Do not apply pruning paint but you could apply whitewash.
Whitewash applied to fruit trees

Dormant oil application. Dormant oil is an insecticide made from petroleum products used in organic production. The oil itself is not toxic but spraying it on the limbs and trunk of fruit trees helps to suffocate overwintering, usually soft bodied, insects that are pests of tree fruits. Usually to applications are made during the winter months.

Weed control. Weeds that are living close to your fruit trees provide homes for overwintering insects. Once your trees begin growing in the spring, these insects move from weeds to your trees. Keep in areas near your fruit trees without weeds.

Borere control with a sharp knife
Renew whitewash on fruit trees if needed. Whitewash provides a light colored covering to the outside of the bark of the tree and its limbs. It is particularly important in reducing sun damage to fruit trees due to our high light intensities. Whitewash can be made by diluting white latex paint with an equal amount of water or more. Dilute the white latex paint so that it will color exposed areas of the tree white and reduce sunburn. Reducing the sunburn will reduce the damage from borers.

Pull wood mulch away from the trunks of young trees about a foot. Wood mulch that gathers around the trunks of small trees can damage them.
Limb spreaders on a young apple tree

Remove any stakes from trees planted early in the year. Fruit trees that are planted correctly and are not overgrown in their containers will need staking for only one season. If your trees have not become established after one season, there is a problem.

Remove limb spreaders that were used earlier in the year. Limbs spreaders are used to increase a limbs angle of attachment to the trunk of the tree. Ideally, this should be a 45° angle. Limbs spreaders can be applied to the tree now but there is less danger of breakage in larger limbs when the sap is flowing in March. Ideally they should be applied when the limbs are one to two years old.

The Problem I Warned About on Pruning Pine Trees Just Happened

I said it might happen and it did.
This pine tree has a limb that broke in a
windstorm not too long ago. It is just
at the bottom of the trunk.

Thinning pine trees by removing smaller limbs from larger limbs (thinning the canopy) is NOT a good idea. This has been a relatively recent trend in tree trimming (I do not want to call this arboriculture) is done to reduce the potential that trees will blow over in high winds. Instead, thin the canopy  by removing entire limbs from the trunk to reduce wind damage and blowover . Here is why.

Plants grow both in length (called primary growth) and width or diameter (called secondary growth). When secondary growth occurs along a limb or trunk, progressively, as it get longer, then the limb or trunk exhibits "taper" or a gradual increase in girth along its length. This is good unless you are growing trees to use as telephone poles or for lumber.

A plant develops taper along its trunk or large limbs if the trunk or limb can bend freely in the wind as it is growing. The free movement of the tree trunk or limbs increases the degree of taper. If the trunk or limb is held so that it cannot move (staking so no movement occurs), primary growth increases but its growth in girth (consequently its degree of taper) decreases.

Here is the limb that broke

Taper also inceases if smaller, lower limbs are left attached to a limb or trunk. These smaller limbs, with leaves attached,  send carbohydrates manufactured in the leaves or needles back to the limb or trunk. This helps "feed" secondary growth causing more taper at areas closest to those small limbs. A distribution of smaller limbs along a trunk or limb causes an increase in its degree of taper. On the other side, removing these smaller limbs along a trunk or limb REDUCES the degree of taper.

The limb that broke is in the center of the picture. Notice
how little taper the limbs have. Leaving all the growth
at the ends of the branches also causes the limbs to have
a "weeping" effect.
When a trunk or limb bends, and it is tapered, the stress of the bend (shear) is distributed along a great deal of its length. If there is little taper to a limb or trunk, then the stress is localized at a very small portion of its length. When a limb is not tapered, the stress of bending causes the limb or trunk to "snap" (shear)  at its weakest part or where the majority of the "load" or stress is localized.

Here are three principles to follow to increase taper in a tree:
1. When planting a tree, make sure stakes are located as low on the trunk as possible. Tree stakes should keep the rootball or rootsystem stabilized, not the entire trunk. The trunk and limbs should be free to move in the wind if possible.

2. Remove stakes as soon as possible after the root system has become established. This should normally be one season or less. If it is longer than this then you may have a problem.

3. Leave smaller limbs attached to the trunk for three to five years if they are healthy and vigorous. Try to maintain a ratio of canopy length to pruned trunk of at least 2:1.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fertilize Lawn in the Winter?

Q. I remember you said to apply fertilizer to a lawn around Thanksgiving. But during that time it was cold and the fertilizer bag says to water frequently.

A. Fertilizing is different from seeding. I recommend fertilizing tall fescue with a high nitrogen fertilizer around Thanksgiving. This helps keep the lawn green through the winter months. Once the fertilizer is applied, it should be watered in with a single, normal irrigation. If you haven't done it yet, it may not be too late. Pick a warm, winter day and apply a high nitrogen fertilizer.

            Weekly waterings after that will be adequate to move the fertilizer into the soil and made available to plant roots. High nitrogen fertilizer applied just before cold weather helps keep lawn grasses green and better looking for a longer time into the winter.

            Watering once a week after you apply a fertilizer is adequate for fertilizer but not adequate for seed. This is not time to seed the lawn. That has to be done when temperatures are still relatively warm but not too hot; usually from September 15 through October 15 or thereabouts.

Help Me Save My Lawn!

Q. I have some problems with my lawn and I sent you some pictures. I am a recent transplant here from Chicago and I am not sure how to manage this lawn and get it flush, green and thicker. The lawn has bare spots and the tree in the center of the lawn has roots on the surface of the soil. How should I repair this lawn? How do you manage a lawn here? Is this lawn savable? Was the tree planted too shallow? What is this green net in the lawn I found? I remember you said to apply fertilizer to a lawn around Thanksgiving. But during that time it was cold and the fertilizer bag says to water frequently.        

A. Thanks for sending the pictures. That really helps a lot. Yes, your grass is savable but there are some important things that you need to check out before we can proceed. I hope you understand the importance of water and if water is not applied appropriately it doesn't matter what you are trying to grow, it will not do well. The first thing you must do is check the irrigation system. These are the things that your irrigation system should do for your lawn if it is going to be successful here.

            From the look of the lawn it appears to be tall fescue. Make sure the irrigation sprinklers, pop-ups, rise 4 inches above the lawn. Some pop-up sprinklers are 2 inch, 3 inch and 4 inch. With tall fescue it is important that these are 4 inch since the lawn will be mowed at 2 inches or higher. 2 inch pop-ups are not adequate and you must replace them with 4 inch pop-ups. The pop-ups operate on a spring. You have to pull will pop up with your hands to measure the height or turn the irrigation system on.

Head to head coverage
            Next, when the irrigation system is on the water from one sprinkler should be thrown all the way to a neighboring sprinkler to get head to head coverage. 100% coverage or head-to-head is very important for sprinkler system to operate efficiently in the desert. Thirdly, when the sprinkler system is operating you should see droplets coming from the sprinkler and it should not be fogging or misting. If you see fogging or misting the from the sprinklers this is an indication that the pressure of the system is most likely too high.

Pressure regulator
            A pressure regulator would then be installed on your irrigation system to lower the pressure within the manufacturer’s suggested operating pressure which is usually somewhere around 40 or 45 PSI. Or you can replace the nozzles of the sprinkler pop-ups with pressure regulated nozzles. This may be a less expensive option for you since the nozzles are relatively inexpensive. The nozzle unscrews from the top of the pop-up. If the pressure of your system is 60 or 70 PSI you will definitely see some fogging if these are the older type nozzles. You should make sure that the nozzles are matched. This means that they all come from the same manufacturer with the same specifications or model.

            The pop-ups should be spaced such that the water from one sprinkler should be thrown far enough so that it hits the neighboring sprinkler. This is head-to-head coverage or 100% coverage. Making sure you have 100% coverage will give you better uniformity in the application of the water to your lawn.
Small triangular piece of lawn in upper right that makes the
lawn difficult to irrigate without water running into the
street, over watering the lawn or under watering the
small triangular piece

            I noticed on one of the pictures there is a small, triangular space as a part of the lawn. This will always be a problem for you since water cannot be applied efficiently and evenly to a small, oddly shaped space. The best shapes for lawns are square or rectangular since water use thrown by sprinklers in straight lines and distances varying from 10 to 18 feet depending upon the nozzle.

            As part of your maintenance program you should be checking to make sure the nozzles are not plugged and clear the grass around the nozzle. I would strongly suggest that you not let someone convince you to cut the lawn short around the nozzles instead of replacing them. Yes, this is an easy temporary and inexpensive fix to the problem that tall fescue must not be cut shorter than 1 1/2 inches or you will see weed invasion of your lawn in these areas. The principal weed that will invade your lawn in these damaged spots will be common bermudagrass.
Depressions in lawn around sprinkler due to a line trimmer
instead of replacing the two inch popup with a four inch

            Now the tree. The tree was not planted too shallow. This is an older tree. Because I could only see the trunk I could not determine what kind of tree it is but from the picture this is a tree which tends to have roots that grow toward the top of the soil. Or, the tree has never been irrigated deeply and so has grown its roots on the top of the soil where most of the water has been applied. Or, it can be a combination of the type of tree and shallow irrigations. Some trees are notorious for having shallow roots. The next question is whether the roots could be removed. This would be difficult to answer without knowing what type tree but it might be possible.

Differences in texture between a coarse textured tall fescue
like K31 and turf type tall fescue. The Kentucky 31 tall
fescue was seeded into the finer textured fescue to
save money, from an old slide of mine.
            It is also possible if the tree creates a lot of dense shade underneath it that the lawn will begin to thin due to a lack of light. In this case, the usual recommendation is to begin to remove lower limbs and thin the canopy of the tree to admit more light for the lawn. An option you might consider if you want the lawn to remain is to remove the tree. Another option if you want the tree to remain, is to remove the lawn and revert the landscape to a desert themed landscape.

            Fertilizing is different from seeding. I recommend fertilizing tall fescue with a high nitrogen fertilizer around Thanksgiving. This helps keep the lawn green through the winter months. Watering once a week after you apply a fertilizer is adequate but not adequate for seed. This is not time to seed the lawn. That has to be done when temperatures are still relatively warm but not too hot; usually from September 15 through October 15 or thereabouts.

            This time of year would be difficult to establish grass due to cold weather. You will now have to wait until around the end of February if you want to seed with tall fescue. When choosing seed to reseed the area, choose good quality tall fescue seed. It will not make much difference which seed you use but do not use inexpensive seed. Avoid K31 or Kentucky 31 tall fescue seed in this particular case. This is a pasture grass and not suitable for residential landscapes.

Plastic netting on a roll of tall fescue sod.
            General maintenance of a tall fescue lawn would be fertilizing on Labor Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. If you are mowing with a mulching mower and returning the clippings back to the lawn and then you can skip your Fourth of July application. The fertilizer that you use should be high in nitrogen, low in phosphorus and moderate in potassium. These represent the three numbers on the fertilizer bag. If you were to make a ratio of these numbers by taking the lowest number and dividing it into the other two the ratio should be 3:1:2 or 4:1:2. Examples might be 21-7-14; 15-5-10; 20-5-10, etc. These numbers do not have to be precise but they should generally be in those ratios.

            The green netting came with the sod when it was planted. The netting held the sod together. Do not pull on the netting. If you pull on the netting you may very well pull up the grass. Instead, cut the plastic netting and remove it. If someone pulled on the netting previously this may be a reason for the bare spots. I hope this helps answer some questions.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Get Lemon Fruit Picked No Later Than Late December

Q. I have a Meyer lemon in a container that still has lemons on it. They are not totally ripe. What trimming should be done and what time of year?

A. You should remove all the lemons by the end of December even if you don’t think they are ripe yet. If you let them stay on too long they can interfere with next season’s production and the fruit might get a bit pithy if left on too long.

            After removing the fruit you can prune the tree if it is needed. Citrus does not require much pruning. You would prune for size control, remove crossing or damaged branches, opening the canopy for a bit more light penetration inside and maintain limbs that are at good fruiting angles. Remove branches going straight up, straight down, too close together or overly vigorous. I hope this helps.

Pruning Roses Watch for Rootstock Growth That Overpowers the Plant

Q. I haven't pruned my roses back yet because there are still blooms. Should I wait awhile?
How far back should I trim; 1/3 or 1/2?  I have two favorite bushes that are 4-5 feet tall with very thick canes. How severely should these be cut back?

Strong growth from the base
can mean the rootstock has
taken over
A. You could wait a bit on the roses if you want. Wait until total leaf drop and then prune. If they do not drop their leaves, then pull the leaves off sometime in late December or very early January and do your pruning.

            Depending on how warm the microclimate is in your yard try to prune before you see any new growth early in 2012. This could be a bit tricky because in warm microclimates they might hold their blooms and leaves or continue blooming well into December and even January. 

            I would not wait past the first or possibly second week of January to get it done. If there are still flowers and leaves, harvest and enjoy them inside. Most garden roses have some scent to them, unlike greenhouse roses. If the leaves have not dropped, pull or cut them off before pruning.

            Make sure this strong growth is not coming from the rootstock. This is frequently the case on homeowner’s roses. The top of the plant dies back and they see this very vigorous growth coming from the base of the plant and oftentimes growing straight up. The dead growth is removed and the strong growth is permitted to remain. This is growth from the rootstock.

            You should still have a bud union (look for a “dogleg”) on the stem coming from the ground. If this bud union was lost (the rootstock grew and replaced or overpowered the top of the plant) then replace the plant.

Nevada rose
            The homeowner sees this strong growth and thinks “WOW, I am going to preserve this cane because it is doing so well!” The rose used for the rootstock will also produce flowers so there is even less incentive to cut it off. You can leave it on but it will have inferior blooms to hybridized roses and very vigorous growth harder to control.

            How far to cut back depends on the vigor of the plant, the type of rose and where you want to see the flowers produced. If you think the plant does not have the rootstock taking over then cut back about two feet below where you want your flowers produced. You may have to modify this if the canes are enormous.

            Select four to five major canes growing outward in different directions that you want to keep and remove the rest making clean, fresh cuts. Sharpen and sanitize your pruners before pruning. The local Rosarians usually have a rose pruning class in January so I will keep posted as soon as I hear of one.

Lots of Thanks to Floyd Zaiger for Pluots

Flavor King pluot from the UNCE Orchard
            What are pluots, plumcots and apriums? Technically they are called “interspecific hybrids”. Let’s break that down. Most people know what hybrids are. They know them as a new class of vehicles. These hybrid vehicles are a cross between a traditional gasoline or petroleum fueled vehicle and an one that gets its power from a source of energy other than petroleum such as, in these cases, electricity.

            Hybrids occur in plants. These can be crosses which occur in nature or selectively done by hand by plant breeders. When we take two plants that don’t normally breed with each other we can get a new generation in that some of the offspring are superior to the parent plants. These superior traits can be in the how they grow, how they look or how or what they produce. These superior offspring we say have “hybrid vigor”.
Orchard volunteers assisting with fruit evaluations at
Zaiger Genetics with Tom Spellman from Dave Wilson
Nursery who coordinated the event

            Most crosses found in nature occur between plants of the same species. So when a plum crosses with another plum this can be fairly common and is between plants of the same species; plums. The seed or offspring will have traits from both plum parents. But if a plum crosses with a plant like an apricot, a totally different species, then it is called an “interspecific” cross (cross between two totally different species). This rarely happens in nature. This type of cross is manipulated by people like plant breeders or hybridizers.

Floyd Zaiger with Tom Spellman describing the operations
at Zaiger Genetics
            Floyd Zaiger, a plant breeder and founder of Zaiger Genetics in Modesto, California, is one of a few pioneers in plant breeding involving fruit trees. He was responsible, by creating interspecific crosses between apricots, plums, peaches and nectarines, to create fruits never before seen on the planet. These fruits include what we now call pluot, aprium, plumcot, nectaplum, peacotum and others.

Donut pluot, a cross that has not yet made it
 to the marketplace.
            According to Floyd Zaiger out of about 5,000 crosses that he must do by hand, perhaps one of these crosses will be accepted for marketing as a new type of fruit tree, an interspecific hybrid. This is why there is a royalty charge, usually a couple of dollars, when buying these interspecific crosses. These royalties are returns on investments (ROI) in the 5,000 crosses that were "invested" in a successful cross. A small price to pay for this wonderful fruit. When a person propagates one of these crosses illegally it prevents these royalties from coming back and supporting new research which will lead to new introductions. Rumor has it that China now has over 10,000 acres of "stolen" Zaiger Genetics plant material.

Their common name usually tells you what was used in the cross; plum, apricot, nectarine or peach. We can thank people like Floyd Zaiger for giving us these new, wonderful fruits to enjoy. Many do very well in our hot, dry desert.

Tom Spellman from Dave Wilson Nursery which owns the marketing rights for Zaiger Genetic's new introductions, coordinates the orchard volunteer tour of their facility every year. Thank you Tom and Floyd for some wonderful experiences and a great wealth of information!

Thanks to Dave Wilson for the following information. I thought it might be a quick reference when thinking about these interspecific hybrids.

Pluot® is an "interspecific" - a complex hybrid of apricot and plum.
The complex, intense flavor of both the Aprium® and the Pluot® is unique to interspecifics, much like a blend of fruit juices where the mixture is an improvement over any of the separate ingredients. Additionally, the sugar content of interspecifics is much higher than in standard plums or apricots, yielding fruit of incomparable sweetness. Pluots® have predominantly plum parentage and smooth skins like plums. Pluot® and Aprium® are registered trademarks of Zaiger Genetics of Modesto, California

Dapple Dandy Pluot®
Creamy white and red-fleshed freestone with wonderful plum-apricot flavor. Skin greenish-yellow with red spots, turning to a maroon and yellow dapple. August harvest in Central Calif. 4-500 hours. Pollenized by Flavor Supreme Pluot®, Santa Rosa or Burgundy Plum. Pat. No. 9254. (Zaiger)

Emerald Drop Pluot®
Medium to large size with green skin and yellow-orange flesh. Prolonged harvest: early-picked fruit is firm, yet juicy sweet. Left to hang, fruit turns greenish-yellow with honey-like orange flesh. Upright tree sets heavy crops once established. Harvest mid-July to late August. Estimated chill requirement: 400 hours or less. Tested as 7HC165. Pollinizer required. Pat. No. 14599 (Zaiger)

Flavor Finale Pluot®
Medium-to-large sized Pluot® with purplish-red skin and amber-red flesh. Exceptional complex flavor. Harvest begins in Early September and fruit is edible well into October. Upright tree sets large crops. 500 hours. Pollinizer required. (Zaiger)

Flavor Grenade Pluot®
Elongated green fruit with a red blush. Crisp texture and explosive flavor. Taste-test winner. Hangs on the tree for 4 to 6 weeks. Pollinize with a Japanese plum. Estimated chilling requirement: 400 to 500 hours. Patent No. 12097. (Zaiger)

Flavor King Pluot®
Unique plum-apricot hybrid. Remarkable, spicy bouquet and flavor. Reddish-purple skin, sweet red flesh. Harvest mid August in Central Calif. Naturally small tree. Estimated chill requirement: 400 hours or less. Pollenized by Flavor Supreme, Santa Rosa or Late Santa Rosa. Pat. No. 8026. (Zaiger)

Flavor Queen Pluot®
Greenish-yellow skin, amber-orange flesh. Prolonged harvest: mid-July thru August. 5-600 hours. Pollinized by plum or other Pluot®, (Dapple Dandy Pluot® or Burgundy Plum) but not Flavor King. Pat. No. 7420. (Zaiger)

Flavor Supreme Pluot®
Plum-apricot hybrid with sweet, richly flavored, firm red flesh. Greenish-maroon mottled skin. June harvest in Central California, about two weeks before Santa Rosa. 5-600 hours. Pollinized by Santa Rosa, Late Santa Rosa, or other Pluot®. (Zaiger)

Flavorich Pluot®
Large, dark purple-skinned fruits with firm, very sweet, yellow-orange flesh. Harvest begins late August/early September in Central California, 2-3 weeks after Flavor King Pluot®. Vigorous, upright tree. Originated from a cross of Friar plum and an unnamed Pluot®. 800 hours. Pollenizer required: another Pluot® such as Dapple Dandy or Flavor King, or a Japanese plum such as Santa Rosa or Late Santa Rosa. Pat. No. 8546. (Zaiger)

Flavorosa Pluot®
Deep purple-skinned fruit with red flesh. Mild, sweet flavor. Ripens at the end of May. Pollinize with a Japanese plum. 400 hours chill required. Patent # 10285 (Zaiger)

Geo Pride Pluot®
Red-skinned, yellow-fleshed plum/apricot hybrid, ranked in top 5 at both July & August tastings in 1997. Balanced acid-sugar to predominantly sweet with unique plum/apricot flavor. Medium size, very heavy production. Harvest in mid-July to early August, just ahead of Flavor Queen Pluot®. Estimated chill requirement: 400 hours or less. Pollenizer required:Flavor Supreme Pluot®, Dapple Dandy Pluot®, Santa Rosa Plum. Good pollenizer for other plums & pluots®. Patent # 10386 (Zaiger)

Splash Pluot®
 Small to medium sized red-orange colored fruit, with very sweet orange flesh. Round to heart-shaped fruit is excellent eaten fresh, dried or in desserts. Upright tree sets large crops once established. Estimated chill requirement: 400 hours or less. Pollenizer required. Pat. No 14583 (Zaiger)

Dave Wilson apriums
The Aprium® is an "interspecific" - a complex hybrid of apricot and plum. The complex, intense flavor of both the Aprium® and the Pluot® is unique to interspecifics, much like a blend of fruit juices where the mixture is an improvement over any of the separate ingredients. Additionally, the sugar content of interspecifics is much higher than in standard plums or apricots, yielding fruit of incomparable sweetness. Apriums®, with their scant fuzz, resemble apricots in the expression of their parentage. Pluot® and Aprium® are registered trademarks of Zaiger Genetics of Modesto, California

Cot-N-Candy Aprium®
Early season harvest, ripening 1 week later than Flavor Delight Aprium™. Flesh is extra sweet and juicy, with a plumy aftertaste Cot-N-Candy’s size is 2 to 2 ½ inches on average. Self-fruitful. Patent #17827 (Zaiger)

Flavor Delight Aprium®
Resembles an apricot but with a distinctive flavor and texture all its own. Pleasant, lingering after taste. Early June. Bigger crops if pollenized by any apricot. Estimated chilling requirement: 200 to 300 hours. (Zaiger)

Dave Wilson peacotum
The Peacotum® is an "interspecific" - a complex hybrid of peach, apricot and plum.
The complex, intense flavor of the Peacotum®, Pluot® and Aprium® is unique to interspecifics, much like a blend of fruit juices where the mixture is an improvement over any of the separate ingredients. Additionally, the sugar content of our interspecifics is much higher than in any standard plum or apricot, yielding fruit of incomparable sweetness. Pluot® and Aprium® and Peacotum® are registered trademarks of Zaiger Genetics of Modesto, California

Bella Gold Peacotum®
Peach x apricot x plum. Bella Gold Peacotum® has a slightly fuzzy skin like an apricot, and a bright yellow color with an attractive red blush. Bella Gold has a wonderful, mildly sweet flavor all its own. Naturally semi-dwarf tree. Known to be pollenized by Flavor Grenade Pluot® and Blenheim apricot. Estimated chilling requirement 500 hours. Pat. No. 17826 (Zaiger)

The Plumcot is a hybrid between an apricot and a plum. Plumcots have a higher sugar content and a much sweeter flavor than plums or apricots.

Flavorella plumcot
Medium-sized fruit with translucent golden color, light red blush and slight pubescense; ripens in late May to early June. Excellent flavor with firm, juicy flesh. 250 hours. Pollenizer required. Flavor Delight, Gold Kist and Flora Gold all work well. Pat. No. 8470. (Zaiger)

As the name suggests, an interspecific cross between nectarine and plum.
Spice Zee Nectaplum®
The first Nectaplum® from Zaiger Hybrids. It is slightly acidic and loaded with sugar giving it a spicy sweet flavor. One can detect both Plum and Nectarine traits with ease. Along with great flavor, Spice Zee is a beautiful ornamental tree with a tremendous spring bloom followed by dark red leaf in the spring that matures to a rich green-red in late summer. This variety is self-fruitful and very productive. Estimated chill requirement: 200 to 300 hours. (Patent Pending

Peach plum hybrid
This white-fleshed peach/plum hybrid can be eaten firm. It has a mild, classic flavor with a wonderful plum aftertaste that makes this a unique treat. Early ripening in June. Superior quality canning clingstone. Estimated chill requirement: 400 to 500 hours.

Cherry plum

Delight cherry-plum
Hybrid of cherry-plum and Japanese plum. Flavorful, tangy, clingstone. Heavy crops. Very productive, even under adverse conditions. 400 hours. Pollenizer required. Interfruitful with Sprite. (Zaiger)

Sprite cherry-plum
Japanese plum x cherry-plum. Sweet, freestone, not tart. Flavorful, refreshing - wonderful fresh eating. Ripe fruit holds on tree 3-4 weeks. Adapted to most climates. 400 hours. Pollenized by Delight. (Zaiger)

Come Help Me in Nevada's First Commercial Harvesting of Olives for Olive Oil

Do want to be a part of southern Nevada's historical re-emergence in small-scale, high value (really it is horticulture) agriculture? Contact me at Extremehort@aol.com

Monday, November 21, 2011

Preparing Your Equipment for Pruning

I know most people dont sharpen, adjust or sanitize their equipment but plants are alive. You are cutting into living tissue. Would you like it if your doctor didn't have sharp or didn't sanitize his/her equipment? You are now a plant surgeon. Sharpen, adjust and sanitize your equipment before pruning. If a plant is obviously diseased, sanitize before moving to the next plant. Do these three steps at the beginning of each new day pruning.

Pruners should be the bypass-type, not the anvil-type. Bypass pruners cut by passing the sharpened flat blade past a bar. The other type, called an anvil pruning shears, is not preferred. An anvil type pruner cuts by pushing a sharp blade through a stem by pushing against the opposite side of the stem with a bar. The anvil type is not prefereed by reasoning that this pushing of the bar against the stem damages the stem where it is being cut.
Hand shears and loppers. Recommended brand names include Corona, Felco and Fiskars.

  • Sharpen. Sharpen one side of the blade only (the beveled side) holding the stone at a consistent angle and running it along the beveled edge as you slide it across the bevel. If you are not comfortable using a stone then you might consider something like an Accusharp Gardensharp tool designed for pruning shears. These can be purchased for $10 or less and are much easier to use. Make sure you buy one for garden shears NOT the one for scissors or it will ruin your pruner's blade. It sharpens only ONE side of the blade unlike the one for scissors which sharpens BOTH sides of the blade.

If you are doing alot of trees you might have to stop and "put an edge" on the blade (just a two or three slides across the blade).
  • Adjustment and Lubricate. An adjustment nut that holds the pruners together is tightened or loosened to allow for easy opening and closing of the shears and lopper. Too loose and the shears or loppers tears the branch. Too tight and it creates early fatigue of the person pruning. Use a wrench to tighten the bolt until the blades move with some very slight resistance. You may need to tighten this nut a few times during the course of a day's work so carry the wrench with you.
  • Sanitize. Alcohol is sprayed or wiped on the cutting blades of the hand shears and lopper. You can use bleach but be sure to oil the equipment after its use or it will corrode the metal. I sometimes just use alcohol in spray bottle. A chef friend had no alcohol when we were pruning his fruit trees so he used Absolut vodka.

Now you are ready to prune.

Pruning Fruit Trees to Control Their Size

These full-sized peach trees are 17 years old and lowered
each year to 6 1/2 feet tall

Pruning at our orchard is a two step process: first for size control and secondly to enhance production. Pruning for size control is done the same way for all the fruit trees but pruning for production varies among the different types of fruit and how and where the fruit is produced on the tree.

We keep the size of all fruit trees so that the orchard is ladderless, easy and safe to perform work and harvest. This also allows us to plant trees closer together and get more fruit production in a smaller area. It also reduces our work load so we can get it done faster.

The tallest branches are identified visually.
These branches are visually traced to where
they join another branch somewhere
around 6 to 6 1/2 feet off of the ground.

Initial pruning for size control can begin before leaf drop, usually in November when leaves are beginning to turn color and we are sure all tree growth has stopped for the remainder of the year. If you have only a few trees to lower then you can wait until after all the leaves have dropped. If leaves are hanging on even into December you can turn off the water to the trees for two weeks and then turn the water back on again. This will stress the trees moderately and accelerate leaf drop.

Trees heights are lowered to 6 to 6 ½ feet tall using vutually all thinning cuts. The tallest limbs are identified, followed visually down to a point of attachment around 6 feet off of the ground and lowered to the proper height with thinning cuts.

The pruning cut is made at a "crotch" or
where two branches come together. This leaves
terminal buds intact to resume growth next spring.
Since we have our trees in rows, we must create space around each tree so that we can spray and harvest. We create space between trees by identifying limbs that are encroaching on a neighboring trees "space" or need to be removed so we can get between them. We trace these limbs back to a point of attachment (crotch) with another limb and remove it with a thinnning cut, not a heading cut.

Limbs that do not support fruit high enough to keep the fruit off of the ground or out of the reach of rabbits is removed with thinning cuts.

What Kind of Pruning Cut Do I Make?

Pruning Cuts. There are only two types of pruning cuts; thinning cuts and heading cuts.

Thinning cuts are made where two
branches or sems come together.
No stub is left after the cut is made.
Thinning cuts are made anywhere where two branches come together. The thinning cut totally removes one of the branches without leaving a stub. Thinning cuts result in a less dense canopy and less regrowth since terminal buds of the remaining stems remain after the cuts. New growth easily grows from the remaining terminal buds which helps minimize growth from side or lateral buds.

Heading cut - removal somewhere
along the stem just above a bud
Heading cuts are made anywhere along a branch NOT at a location where two branches come together. Heading cuts result in several new branches at buds growing immediately below the cut since the terminal bud is removed. Heading cuts are used to shorten the past season’s growth to increase a branches girth. Heading cuts encourage the development of short shoots that support fruit called spurs in fruit trees that grow fruit on spurs. If you do not cut back too severely and you make the cuts at the right time of year (around July or August) you may be able to get spur producing fruit trees to produce fruit a year or so earlier.

This growth resulted from a heading cut. Once the terminal bud was removed the side or lateral buds grew to replace it, fighting to see which might take over and dominate the new growth. The buds closest to the cut usually grow more erect (more straight up) than buds lower than this one. The lower buds tend to not grow as erect as the one closest to the removed terminal bud (the cut).

45 degree angles above horizontal
are the best angles for fruit production.
Here limb spreaders are used to push
the limbs into a 45 degree angle.
The most productive branches for fruit growth and development are at 45 degree angles above horizontal and should be preserved whenever possible. Branches are less productive as they are grow more vertically (more upright or downward). By the way, a branch that is at a 45 degree angle can be directed to be more upright and its growth will actually speed up (at the expense of fruit production, the energy goes to growth rather than fruit) and branches directed to be more horizontal will have slower growth (you can actually slow down its growth but it will still not put its energy into fruit production).

Vegetable Gardening in Southern Nevada

Here is a publication which is also posted at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension website on vegetable gardening in the Moapa Valley. The Moapa Valley is located about 60 miles outside of the Las Vegas Valley, on the eastern edge of the Mojave Desert, with a very similar climate to the Las Vegas Valley. Planting dates will be similar but the soils of the Moapa Valley are typically much better than those in the Las Vegas Valley.

Here is the planting calendar that I pulled out of the publication so that you can use it without having to open the publication.

Learn About Hydroponics and Aquaponics April 9 -14, 2012

Sign up for this course at the University of Arizona if you have been wondering about raising fish in the same environment as a hydroponic greenhouse.

Which Roses Do Best in Hot Desert Climates?

Roses do well in the cool times of our hot desert Mojave Desert climate. They struggle during the heat but rebound nicely in the spring and fall months, about 7 to 8 months of the year. The lack of humidity and relative isolation helps keep insect and disease problems low. Here is a recommended list of roses from Weeks Roses, Inc., a top quality producer of garden roses.

Rose Insect Pests

This is a presentation I made to the South Valley Rose Society in Las Vegas, NV, on November 17, 2011.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Watering a Lawn May Not Be Enough For Trees Growing in a Lawn

Q. My tree is 30'x 25' and it is in a lawn area. We follow the SNWA guidelines for watering our lawn. Very little die back has occurred on this tree, and the only fertilizer it gets is what it steals from the lawn.
Tree dieback after the lawn was removed and rock
landscaping replaced the lawn.

A. Watering enough for a lawn is not enough for a tree planted in the lawn if you are not overwatering the lawn. Watering a lawn is enough for the lawn only if you are watering it correctly.

            When you put a large tree on it then you must deep water the tree as well as water the lawn. Different types of trees require more or less water than others. Tree water use is dictated by the size of the tree and the type of tree. Size is most critical. The only time trees do well in lawns is when the lawn is overwatered. The reason trees did well in lawns in the previous years is because lawns were overwatered.

New growth is often a different color from
the older growth
            As the price of water has gone up, people have chosen to conserve more and follow lawn watering guides more closely. This has caused some trees to be underwatered even though they are in lawns.

            Lawns are big fertilizer hogs, particularly nitrogen. If you apply fertilizer to the lawn then the lawn is what is going to get the fertilizer due to its extensive fibrous root system. Trees should be fertilized separately from the lawn with applications in the rootzone, just below the rootzone of the lawn so that the lawn does not burn.

            You can judge if the tree is growing enough by looking at its new growth this past year. It will be a different color than the older wood. Or you can see where the previous year's growth stopped. On a tree that size you should get 12 or more inches of new growth each year. If not, then something is wrong. It might be a lack of water or lack of fertilizer or both.

Modesto ash decline
            I don’t know the type of tree you have but make sure you do not have Modesto ash decline if the tree is Modesto ash. I sent to you a picture of Modesto ash decline and have posted it on my blog. It is common here but does not hit every Modesto ash. I have been working with this problem for over 25 years with other professionals and no one has been able to determine its cause. This is why I no longer recommend this particular ash tree.

Several Options Available When Fertilizing Plants in Rock Mulch

Q. I know that this is not the time of year to fertilize plants, but I have a few questions regarding that subject now that it is on my mind. Do you have any suggestions for good way to apply fertilizer to plants that are in rock mulch? It's somewhat of a hassle to move the rock from around the plants, apply granular fertilizer, work it into the soil, and then replace the rock. I've used Miracle-Gro for foliar feeding, but they recommend that you feed the plants every 7 - 14 days. Is there another liquid option that only needs to be applied once or twice a season?

A. Let's cover a few options that you can use to fertilize plants in rock mulch.

            The liquid drench method. You can take a fertilizer which is soluble in water and dissolve it in a bucket of water and apply it to the root area where it is irrigated. This works very well with iron products that should be applied to the soil provided the product dissolves or is suspended in water.

            The dry fertilizer drench. Apply a dry fertilizer to the rock mulch between the plant and its source of water. Take a hose with a nozzle and wash it into the mulch. Make sure the fertilizer is not applied too close to the plant or the fertilizer might damage or even kill a plant.

One type of fertilizer stake with a plastic cap for driving
the stake into the wet ground with a hammer.
            The fertilizer stake method. Take a fertilizer stakes and either push them or hammer them into the soil after an irrigation and in the area close to the source of water. Of course you will use the plastic cap that comes with the stakes when you hammer them into the soil.

            Foliar applications of fertilizer. This works quite well but as you mentioned it is short-lived compared to a soil application. Make sure you use a wetting agent with the foliar spray.

            Install a fertilizer injector. These can be very pricey. Remember that with an injector the fertilizer is applied in proportion to the amount of water that is given to a plant. Those plants which receive more water, receive more fertilizer. It is important to have an irrigation system which applies to water correctly if this is to work well.

Increasing the Size of Pomegranate Fruits

Q. We have a pomegranate tree which grows fruit but not to the size of those that sell in stores or larger, they are very small.  This tree is growing on a slight hill and gets watered for about 20 to 30 minutes a day, plus my wife gives it an additional 2 gallons of water almost every day during the summer months.  What can I do to get larger fruit and more of it?

A. Increasing the size of your pomegranatefruits is more about pruning, watering and fertilizing than anything else.  Larger fruit will be produced on older wood so pruning a pomegranate to be more like a tree than a shrub will help. 

            During fruit formation it is very important to make sure pomegranate receives adequate water.  Water shortages during fruit development will result in smaller fruit at maturity or split fruit before the fruit matures.  Irrigations should not be daily but they should be applied in larger quantities but less often.
One fruit has already formed. The flowers arising from
the same point of attachment are removed to cause
the remaining fruit to get larger.
            Fertilize pomegranates lightly or in moderate amounts in February.  More fertilizer does not translate to more fruit or larger fruit.  But adequate amounts of fertilizer will.  Mulching with organic mulch around the tree will help.

We do some thinning of the trees when the fruits are about the size of walnuts. The only thinning done is when the fruits are arising from the same point of attachment. Then they are thinned to just one fruit. This has to be done all through the flower and fruit development period and not just thinning once but several times.

Wind A Problem for Fruit Trees But Maybe Not for the Reason You Think

Q. I am writing you in regards to a problem I'm having with my fruit trees in the spring when the winds are here.  I have a tree that grows 5 kinds of citrus fruit; Pink Lemonade, Bearss Lime, and 3 varieties of oranges (Washington Navel, Honey Mandarin, and Valencia).  I also have two other trees, a lemon and an orange, but do not know their variety.  My problem is the winds in spring when they lose their blossoms which then causes them not to bear fruit.  These trees are planted near the south wall in my backyard.  How is it best to prevent the loss of the blossoms in the spring due to wind?  How is this done in your orchard?

A. I do not believe that wind is blowing the flowers off of your trees.  In order for that to happen, you would need it gale force winds.  It is more likely that there was a dip in temperature causing a little bit of freezing damage. 

            All of these trees you mentioned cannot withstand cold temperatures.  Just the slightest freezing temperatures will nip them and cause them not to flower or drop their flowers. The most cold tolerant in the group is probably the Pink Lemonade which is most likely Eureka lemon which may withstand 26° F.  Just the slightest freezing temperatures will nip them and cause them not to flower or drop their flowers if nipped during flower formation. 

            All of these trees must be in a warm microclimate if they are to produce any fruit in the Las Vegas Valley.  And even if you have a warm microclimate, the chances of production will be iffy due to late spring freezes.

            The best advice I can give you is to provide some wind barrier to the area of the yard where they are planted. Wind combined with low temperatures can make freezing damage worse in the spring.