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Friday, June 17, 2011

Saturday, June 18, 2011 Orchard Todo List

Saturday todo

Irrigate. We are now irrigating twice a week right now, Tuesdays and Saturdays

Corky spot on Mutsu apple
Pick up fallen fruit. This helps to control those nasty pests that get into fallen and soft fruits like the dried fruit beetle and confused sap beetle.

Harvest designated fruit. This will include peaches, apricots, early plums and nectarines. We are getting into Peaches like May Pride and nectarines like Arctic Star, some of the best fruit out there. Plums are Beauty and a really good  one coming up, Burgundy. Also Flavor Supreme pluots are just starting to come on but I think they have all been purchased ahead of time.

Evaluate any fruit which does not have a history of evaluations. We have some new fruit we just planted during the last couple of years that we do not have any evaluations on. These are sensory evaluations primarily for the market and restaurants.

Pick up any branches lying in the orchard aisles. Please! Someone can get hurt!

Corky spot on Comice pear
Put in irrigation boxes. We need to get that main valve, a Schrader valve, covered and buried.

Put privacy fencing on south fence. We will remove that old green screening that is getting shredded on the outside and put this new screening on the inside of the fence between the trellised trees and the fence.

Spray calcium (weather permitting). This should be our fourth application of calcium for corky spot and bitter pit of pears and apples.

Spray Mpede on vegetable plots. This is insecticidal soap which goes on lots of leafy stuff about three times a week.

Check hops and fertilize. We are trying some hops this year and they need some attention.

Weed control. Always a problem.

Container Grown: Tomato Black Bottoms and Pepper Sunscald Prevention

Q. These are my first 2 vegetables this year. All the others comming along appear to be OK. If I take down the fence, will the chipmunks still cut down the tomato plants?

Blossom end rot of tomato
A. The tomato looks like blossom end rot which is a mineral deficiency usually enhanced with irregular or somehow uneven applications of water. Watch your watering frequencies and if you can make sure your soil is enhanced with compost at the time of planting and use a surface mulch such as straw once they start blooming.

Sunscald of pepper
On the pepper this looks more like sunscald on the fruits. This is poor canopy development to shade the fruits and  having these fruits exposed to our extremely high sunlight intensities. You have two options. One is to focus on getting better canopy development through the use of fertilizers and soil improvement on a regular basis or grow them under about 30% shade. 

Those little varmints will eat the fruits of tomatoes and peppers. You need to keep the veggies fenced or get on a program of varmint suppression or control. A good product for this is a bait called Quintox and can be used under certified organic operations. However you should follow the directions for baiting quite closely which starts at the beginning of the season. There is a movement on to protect the Mojave ground squirrel but I do not believe the Antelope ground squirrel is protected or there is a movement to protect it.

Antelope ground squirrel
Another thing you should keep in mind. You are growing these plants above ground in black plastic containers. I could see them in your pictures before I cropped them. These containers, exposed to our sunlight, will generate surface temperatures on the containers of 170F. I have measured them with an infrared gun. Plant proteins begin to denature at 140F. You will kill significant numbers of roots with this kind of heat transferred to the soil inside the containers.
Pepper pic before cropping.
I could see the top of the black plastic container.

Two things you need to do with containers in our climate. Use double-potted containers. One container nested inside an outside container will take some of the heat from being transferred to the soil. Or plant the containers in the soil still using a double pot. This is actually best.

Secondly, irrigate about 9 am just before temperatures begin so soar. This will make sure the soil is wet going into the heat of the day. Wet soil can absorb alot more heat than a drier soil.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pecan Trees Not The Best Choice for Edible Desert Landcaping

Q. I would like to plant a pecan tree in my backyard but some friends told me they are so difficult to maintain plus they need to be close to another one to be pollinated. If I can plant a pecan tree which do you recommend to plant for some shade and nuts?

A. Pecan trees will do well in this climate but I would not recommend them as a shade tree in the desert. Pecan trees can be monsters in size and spread and, because of their size, require very large amounts of water as they mature. They are not well suited to a desert climate where water is a premium.

For shade, all you need are trees in the 20 to 30 foot range in height and they will use considerably less water. If you want a nut tree then pick an almond or pistachio instead. If you are concerned about shading a home for energy conservation, then select trees and shrubs which shade the south and west walls, not the roof. This is where you’re going to get the most energy conservation.

But if you must have a pecan, try this website for selecting the variety you want.
Pecan Selection from Dave Wilson Nursery

Since these may be hard to find in Las Vegas you can try ordering online this winter for early spring delivery.
Bay Laurel Nursery bareroot nut trees

Does Your Compost or Garden Feel Kind of Grubby?

Q. Recently I discovered some white round worms or grubs in my soil when I was planting. What are they and what can I do to get rid of them? Will they feed on the roots of the plants and kill them? Do you have any idea where they came from?

Grubs found in compost
A. It is hard to tell without seeing what they actually are. There are some grubs which have six legs on the front and are grayish white which we see a lot of in decaying organic matter. They It is hard to tell without seeing what they actually are.

There are some grubs which have six legs on the fun and are grayish white which we see a lot of in decaying organic matter. They can also feed on the roots of some plants usually herbaceous plants like vegetables and herbs flowers and that kind of thing. These are frequently larvae of beetles rather than moths. And because they are larvae of beetles they will not be controlled by a very many organic chemicals.

If plants are present than you can use a soil insecticide drench of things like pyrethrum or a heart are pesticide such as Sevin as a liquid drench. If the soil does not have plants than you can loosen the soil, moisten the soil, cover it with plastic and let it cook and the sun making sure that the edges of the plastic or sealed tightly to the ground so that they do not escape. By now they probably have stopped feeding and have pupated, turning into adult beetles and will emerge to mate with other adults. By this time there feeding damage has probably stopped.

After mating the female then lays eggs in well prepared garden soils or compost where the young hatch and feed on decaying organic matter and soft tender roots of plants. I hope this helps. Above is a picture of one of the grubs I’m talking about.

And because they are larvae of beetles you will not have as many organic controls available to you. If plants are present then you can use a soil insecticide drench. Things like pyrethrum, an organic pesticide, or a hard pesticide such as Sevin can frequently be found as a liquid drench.

If your soil does not have plants then you can loosen the soil with a spade, moisten it, cover it with plastic and let it cook in the sun making sure that the edges of the plastic or sealed tightly to the ground so that the heat does not escape. This is called soil solarization.

Green june beetle on kadota fig
By now they probably have stopped feeding and have pupated, turning into adult beetles and will emerge to mate with other adults during this summer. By this time their feeding damage has probably stopped.

After mating the female then lays eggs in well prepared garden soils or compost where the young hatch and feed on decaying organic matter and soft tender roots of plants. Readers of my newsletter and blog will see what this grub looks like and get more information.

No Pain Compost Pile and the Las Vegas Waterbug (Cockroach)

Q. I would like to start a compost pile if it is not a back killer turning it. Any suggestions on how to get started so I don't have to return to trashing my kitchen garbage and coffee grounds? We also have tons of cockroaches and wondering what organic gardeners are doing to get rid of them.

Compost piles at The Orchard
A. Cockroaches are decomposers. They are out there looking for food that they can eat and, in the process, eating aids in their food breaking down and decomposing. The problem is that they do not distinguish between “their food” and “our food” so it is important to keep compost piles as far away from where we live as possible.

It is also important to try and keep an open area between the house and the compost pile where they can be pounced on by predators such as birds, lizards, wasps and even cats.

Stale beer works well as an organic control as it does also with slugs and snails. No, I own no stock in beer companies. You can make a bait station that they cannot crawl out of by using a slippery sided steep container with a bait such as stale beer, coffee grounds, vanilla or human food scraps containing sugar or fat combined with an inch of water for drowning them. They have to be cleaned out regularly.

Diatomaceous earth works well as long as it stays dry as does boric acid powder. This can be placed on the outside of the home at possible points of entry. Leaking water serves as an attractant such as irrigation boxes and laundry rooms with washing machines or hoses that leak.

Don’t keep wet sources of water close to the house or, if an irrigation box is continuously wet, then get it fixed and in this case important in reducing cockroach populations.

Wash containers before putting them in the trash. Wash garbage containers frequently to eliminate possible “their food”. Finally there are chemical sprays that are quite effective sprayed in an area where the house meets the ground and sealing any possible holes or cracks where they can enter.

Use chemicals as a last resort in pest control.

Bare Naked Peach and Apple Shoots and Summer Pruning

Q. About 15 years or so ago, I read about fruit trees that have limbs that are bare for 18 - 24 inches before new stems and leaves come out. I have forgotten what the cause is and what the prevention or cure is. I presently have a peach tree with this condition and wonder how I could have prevented it or can cure it.

A. This can be a complicated area and it depends on what you might be referring to on the tree. If you are referring to fruit trees with new growth that has normal vigor but without the development of leaves along its length, these can be referred to as “blind shoots” or “blind wood”. Older thought used to say it was due to a lack of winter cold weather or a lack of “winter chilling”. Some are questioning whether this is true or not.
Blind wood in apple

If you are referring to new growth that is excessively long and vigorous but lacks side branches then this can be excessively vigorous growth that could be handled through summer pruning.

If I want to keep a tree small, I try to summer prune as much as I can every late spring and early summer. This helps to control tree size and keeps them smaller and more manageable.

Summer pruning is only pruning growth that has developed since spring. Growth older than this is not pruned until winter dormancy.

Starting about in April in our climate I begin the summer pruning process at The Orchard. The first growth that I remove is growth that is not worth keeping. These are vigorous shoots that grow straight up, straight down or toward the center of the canopy. Remove these at their point of origin. Once these unproductive branches are removed I then focus on shoots that I plan to keep or at least until I can see them better when the leaves drop this winter.

Remember the most productive branches grow in the canopy at about a 45 degree angle above horizontal.

Watersprouts in apple should be removed
Any shoots that have grown longer than about 24 inches in length since spring are cut back to about 18 inches in length. I know yours is a peach in your case but on fruit trees that produce fruiting spurs along their branches (think short side shoots that produce fruit like in apples, pears, plums, apricots) cutting them back sometime between April and June will encourage earlier fruiting along these branches. Cutting these excessively long branches so they are shorter will force fruit to be produced closer to the ground where it can be harvested easier.

Most peach and nectarines do not produce spurs for bearing their fruit. They bear their fruit along the length of one-year-old branches. Do not allow this year’s new growth to become excessively long.

Apple spur (short compressed shoot) supporting fruit
In your peach tree’s case, if branches are growing straight up, straight down or toward the center, remove them at their source. If new growth is growing excessively long, either remove them (if growing straight up, straight down or toward the center) or cut them back to 18 inches in length if they look like they will be productive in the future.

Is Bagrada Bug or African Painted Bug (Bagrada hilaris) in Southern Nevada?

A good series of pictures of this insect can be found published online by the University of California Riverside at http://cisr.ucr.edu/bagrada_bug.html
Here is Arizona's information.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wormy Corn is a Problem

Corn earworm thanks to
Michigan State University
Q. My corn is 3-4 ft high and has ears on it already. According to "the book", I shouldn't be harvesting until mid June by the 'days to harvest' guide. The ears are about half formed. The silks have turned dry and brown, which is when they should be harvested. I pulled one off to see what is going on inside, and it is forming, but I found an ugly green worm about 3/4" long. Is that an army cutworm? I thought they were brown, as that looks like what is feeding on my Lantana. Yuck!

A. You may have planted your corn a bit too late in the season and this may have been because of cold spring weather. This was not a good spring for corn because of the cold weather. In fact, it was not a good spring for many vegetables that prefer heat unless you had a nice warm microclimate for your vegetable garden. The cool spring vegetables were fabulous!

You can try a fall crop of corn by planting the seed around the middle of July or the first part of August. One other reason the corn may have been short is a lack of water. If they were stricken with drought they will not get to their full size but try to produce ears on shorter plants.

Corn showing signs of drought and lack of nitrogen
The insect you describe is corn ear worm. As your corn plant begins to silk or produce those soft silky filaments out of the ends of the young years then you must begin to apply an insecticide to prevent ear worms from damaging the ears. The insecticide can range from oils to Bt or spinosad to a hard insecticide such as Sevin.

Corn showing signs of drought and lack of nitrogen

The insect on your lantana was probably tobacco budworm. Bt or spinosad will work great on these grubs or larvae as well.