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Monday, June 20, 2011

Is Twenty Minutes Enough Water for an Olive Tree?

Q. My fruitless olive tree is losing leaves branches on the south side of the tree. It has been in the ground since December 2010 having been planted from a 36" box. I have been watering it 3 times a week for 20 minutes each time since March, less frequently the past winter.

Cactus Cuttings Need Healing Before Planting

Pup growing from base
Q. The 'pups' that grow off of the mother plant, you said to cut them off and let them dry out for a period of time. What is the time to leave them dry out and unplanted?

A. In most cacti when we take a pad, offshoot or a pup (young offshoot that comes up from the ground right next to the mother plant) we just want some time for the damaged tissue to heal and begin callusing over after separating the plants. This helps in disease problems that might enter the wound once in contact with the soil. In warm weather this can be just several days. This can be out of doors but should be in the shade. Some take an extra precaution and dip the callused end into a fungicide before planting.

If you are taking a pad from a cactus such as an opuntia (bunny ears or prickly pear) then while it is healing put the pad on end and don’t lie it flat on the ground or a table. If you lie it flat it can begin curving or cupping toward the light and makes it kind of hard to plant a curved pad. Sever a pad at the base of the pad exactly at the “joint” or where the two pads come together. I have used a sterilized, very sharp knife and even a pruning shears.

Removing pad from Opuntia with sharp knife

If you are planting a healed pad from a cactus such as an Opuntia then I would make sure you plant the pad so that its flattened sides face East/West, not North/South. If the flattened sides both receive light about equally then the pad is more likely grow more uniformly.

On pups and chollas they are three dimensional in shape so there really is no “flattened” sides. Plant healed pads during the warm or hot months, not the winter months. Plant pads so that one third of the pad is below the soil level. Now is an excellent time.

Make sure you add compost to the planting soil and water infrequently, about once every two weeks in the summer. If you water too often you will rot the bottom of the pad or the pups.

Pads from Opuntia cupping when laid flat

Agaves Are Tough But Like To Be Treated Nice Too!

Yuccas and agaves will look better if treated more nicely
Q. I have an agave in the yard that shows signs of stress where the outer leaf starts dying from the tip and progressing back toward the base of the leaf. Are they lacking water? (I only water it once every 2-3 months). Is there a nutrient that I can get for it and how often would it be applied?

A. Agaves, yuccas and other cacti and succulents look better with improved soils and regular waterings. They don’t like our unimproved desert soils but are very successful at surviving in them (even though they may not look very good).

Even though they are desert plants and do not receive much water in the desert they will perform better and look better with more frequent waterings. Water about once every two weeks in the summer; once a month or longer in the winter.

Harsh location even for a desert plant to look good

They should improve unless they have other problems. If you plant more cacti and agaves, or replant this one, then make sure the soil is improved with compost at the time of planting.

Adding compost to the soil surface will help but is not as effective as putting it in the planting soil.

Composting in New York is Identical to Composting in the Desert - But Different

Compost pile at The UNCE Orchard in North Las Vegas.
I always wanted to put a shade structure over it.
Q. When I lived in New York, I used to compost and I would love to also compost in Henderson. Do I follow the same rules for composting in Nevada as I did when I lived in New York?

A. The ingredients and methods are the same but I would like to add a few things that you might want to consider. A great place would be a heavily shaded and protected spot away from the house.

I would keep it out of the wind as much as possible. Wind just drives the moisture out of the pile quickly and the exposed surfaces have a harder time composting usually requiring more frequent watering and turning.

Secondly, there is no reason for it to be in the sun and it would be better if it weren’t. Sunlight is not needed in a compost pile. All the energy driving the decomposition is coming from the microorganisms feeding on what is in the pile.

Thirdly, we have lots of horse manure here that is taken to the landfill where it is dumped. Use it when you can. It is nearly identical in attributes to cow manure. The compost pile is meant to decompose so it will attract decomposers like cockroaches and grubs so keep it away from the house.

The pile should be kept moist but not dripping. Make sure it is getting lots of air so keep the piles small or turned frequently. I hope this helps. By the way we usually have some compost available at The Orchard for a small donation.

Pignut (Hoffmannseggia densiflora) Weed Causes Reader to Squeal

Q. I have pignut on my property and I want to know how to get rid of it.
 A. If this is in fact pignut then it will require either killing or exhausting the “nuts” or tubers that will cause the plant to regrow if the top is killed. It is a perennial weed that grows from these tubers once it is established. Of course it spreads by seed at first or comes in with contaminated, transported soil if any was brought in. A three to four inch surface mulch will help to keep this plant from getting established from seed.

Once the plant grows from seed it produces tubers which will regenerate the top of the plant year after year. So if you try to hoe the top out or “grub it out” the tuber will use its food reserves and grow back. However if the tops are grubbed out religiously as soon as they appears this practice will eventually exhaust the tuber and the plant will die. In wetter climates these tubers can be about a foot deep so digging up the tubers is another possibility if you do not have a lot of this weed around and want some exercise.

Because the nuts are so deep, soil solarization or tilling the soil and covering it in plastic and “cooking” the soil is not practical. I would not use the chemicals recommended for its control (Tordon/picloram). These are primarily soil sterilants and can make the soil unusable for years.

Actually Indian Rushpea but picture is very close to pignut