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Monday, January 23, 2012

You Can Grow SOME Berries in the Mojave Desert

Womack blackberry grown at the orchard

Q. Have you had any luck with berries? I have a friend that says she does blackberries successfully.

A. Some blackberries will do just fine here and others do not. Two blackberries which I have found to work well here are Rosborough and Womack, both of which you probably have to purchase online. They come from the Texas A and M breeding program. One that did not do well from that breeding program is Brazos.

Dorman Red raspberry grown at the orchard
            Generally speaking, I would not recommend most of the blackberries with native American names such as Apache, Navaho, Arapaho, etc. which came, I believe, out of the Arkansas breeding programs. Historically they have not done well here according to locals who have tried them so I did not bother trying them.

Strawberries at the orchard
            Raspberries have not done well over time generally speaking. I did try a Florida variety which had a lower chilling requirement and it failed here. I have heard some reports from locals where they had some success with raspberries but they either did not remember the name or had them in for only one or two years. Others have generally reported failures with raspberries.

            Strawberries will do well with everbearing types probably doing better than the main crop varieties. You will have some iron chlorosis problems, yellowing, that will need to be addressed. I have liked them when they were growing under about 30 to 40% shade here.

            With all of these you MUST prepare the soil adequately prior to planting.

Lemon Can Get By On Few Hours of Sun During Winter But Not Other Times of Year

Q. I have a Meyers lemon that is currently potted.  Now that I have lived through a winter here I have paid better attention to my sun. There are two spots along the back wall that get maybe 3-4 hours of direct sunlight at the shortest time of year.  Do you think it would survive being planted against a warm cinder block wall with only that much sun? 

Gloria Caruso's immature
Eureka lemon in Las Vegas
A. Meyer lemon will freeze back in our harshest microclimates in the Valley. On the other hand some of the more tender citrus, such as the limes, can handle our winters just fine if they are placed in the right microclimate.

The number of hours of sunlight in the winter is probably not as important as the number of hours for the rest of the year. Certainly four hours of sunlight is far too short for nearly all fruit producing and flowering plants if this light is during the spring, summer and fall months. But if this plant receives eight or more hours during these non winter months, when temperatures are at least warm, it might do just fine.

To protect from freezing temperatures in the winter it is best that it's placed near a very warm winter wall with very little exposure to wind. Some people wrap or drape them with materials and other use heat sources such as Christmas tree lights along with draping.

Can't Find a 1-2-2 Fertilizer for Fruit Trees

Q. I was looking for the 1-2-2 ratio fertilizer that you recommended for fruit trees.  Both nurseries I looked at do not have fertilizers with that ratio.  The fruit tree fertilizer that they carry has a ratio of 4-2-1.  Any suggestions where I can get the 1-2-2 ratio fertilizer?

A. What I have been telling people is to make their own. You just need sources of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. If you are not concerned about organic sources of fertilizer, then pick up some straight nitrogen, straight phosphorus and straight potassium and mix your own.

You can vary the amount of nitrogen or phosphorus simply by adding more or less of each product to a mixture you create. You can blend them together if you want but if they are different sized particles they will tend to segregate and not remain mixed very well over time. I prefer to add them separately. 

You can do the same thing with organic fertilizers. An organic source of nitrogen would be blood meal, phosphorus would be from bone meal and potassium you could use muriate of potash. I found all of these locally in at least one nursery. Purely organic sources of potassium are hard to find.

Planting Zones for Las Vegas Nevada

USDA hardiness zones

Q. What do you say is our planting zone?  I got a Plant Smart Sensor for Christmas and it says we are a 7B which is way lower than I always read.  Just because a website says a tree or plant will be ok for a certain zone doesn't mean it is necessarily right?
A. I use both the USDA and Sunset’s planting zones for our area. Because we have various microclimates in landscapes I will normally include a couple of climate zones colder for very exposed microclimates and a couple of climate zones hotter for protected areas with lots of exposure to sun in the winter time and wind protection. Start with winter time lows reaching 10F and add zones that are just at freezing (32F) to cover our microclimates in backyards. Yes, they will vary that much.
USDA Hardiness Zones

            I like Sunset’s zones but find them a little bit too narrow at times and too restrictive. That is the reason Sunset went ahead in developing their own which they did a fabulous job doing. On the other hand, the USDA zones are too broad. Very little in this world is perfect so I use these fudge factors I mentioned to “fudge in” the microclimates.
Mojave Desert Las Vegas and Arizona
Mojave Desert Las Vegas and California

            Frequently, the selection of a plant and whether it will work or not, depends on several things: the microclimate, where you plant it in the yard, how you modify the soil and irrigate it.

Recommended Shade Trees for Southern Nevada

Q. Could you recommend some trees to replace a tree that I think is dying?  I don't like desert plants for the most part, especially desert looking trees.  So if there is something that is nice and full, that grows fairly fast and that does well here I would be interested to hear some of your recommendations.

A. I do not give recommendations regarding specific plant materials. The list of plants can be long and tedious. You and I could go back and forth a dozen times and still not find the tree that suits you. The only person who can do this is you.
            If you narrow your search down to five plants, then I can help you or at least give you characteristics of those plants and how they grow here to help you make the right decision. Sorry if you were looking to shorten your selection time down to a few but plant selection can and should be a very personal thing if you are serious about your landscape.

 Some places you can try for some non desert plant selections include

http://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/ Monrovia searchable plant database
http://www.hineshort.com/Gardener/GardenerHome.aspx Hines Nursery database
http://davesgarden.com/ Daves Garden searchable plant database
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/picturepages/ Texas A and M's database
http://hortiplex.gardenweb.com/plants/#hortiplex Hortiplex database
http://www.amwua.org/plants_index.html AMWUA's database for desert landscaping
http://www.horticopia.com/ Horticopia can be fee based
http://plantfinder.sunset.com/sunset/plant-home.jsp Sunset Magazines Plant Finder


Sap From Plums Not Always Due to Borers Dig to Find Out

Not the readers pic but this is sap oozing from a day old
cut plum limb at the orchard just to show you how much
they can bleed

Q. I have three red plums in my front yard and I attached pictures of them.  These trees were planted in 2003.  One plum has sap oozing out of the tree in 5 to 6 spots on the south facing side of the tree.  I cannot find any holes in the tree where the sap is oozing out.  The other two trees do not have this condition.  I put down systemic insecticides annually and I have sprayed the trunk of this tree every week with Bayer’s Advanced Insect Spray.  I noticed the sap started oozing late this summer.

more sap oozing from trunk from reader
A. Plums can be a fairly sappy tree and this may or may not mean you have borer problems. Sometimes stress in plum trees can cause oozing sap. However, to find out, you will have to take a sharp, sanitized knife and remove bark and dead wood below the sap. You should do this as soon as you see it next time.

            Your picture number three does look like loose bark caused by boring insects. Ultimately boring insects are attracted to trees which are weak or have been weakened or in poor health. Try to leave as much canopy on the tree as possible so that this canopy shades limbs and the trunk as much as possible.

            Systemic insecticides for borer control must be used with a great deal of caution when applying them to fruit trees with the fruit intended for consumption even if the label says you can legally apply it this way.