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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Orchard April Todo List

This is what you are trying to avoid by thinning apples

Apple before thinning
     Thin fruit, apples and pears. You should be removing or thinning fruit so that the resulting fruit receives more “food” reserves from the leaves and gets larger. The larger the fruit, the greater the distance between them. Nut trees are normally not thinned. Leave one fruit per cluster in apples and European pears. Peaches and nectarines are four to six inches apart. Asian pears are thinned very early; sometimes in the flowering stages if you know you have had good fruit set in the past; perhaps leaving no more than one fruit a foot apart if you want Japanese-style large fruit.

Apple after thinng
     Apply calcium chloride sprays to pears and apples susceptible to bitter pit or corky spot, five times in the spring, spaced about one to two weeks apart. Bitter pit or corky spot might appear on Comice pears and Mutsu apples for instance. These are sunken brown spots in the flesh just under the skin. Food grade calcium chloride is applied as a spray to the tree (focused on spraying the fruit) along with a wetting agent to aid in absorption through the skin of the fruit.

Corky spot in Comice pear
     Thin corn to 12 inches apart. I like to plant seed fairly close together in March and then remove plants so the remaining plants are 12 inches apart in the rows. No, you cannot replant these plants to fill voids. Kernels in the ears fill in better if you have a minimum of three rows of corn since they are wind pollinated. Corn likes lots of nitrogen fertilizer applied frequently.

     Weeding. Stay on top of your weeds and remove them as soon as you see them.

     Flower thinning of Asian pears. Mentioned earlier.

     Harvest asparagus daily. Now that it is getting warmer the spears are growing faster and need to be harvested more often. You should stop harvesting asparagus after about 8 to ten weeks of removing spears. After harvest you must let the spears mature (let the spears become that five foot tall, ferny growth) which is cut down in December or January.

     Wind protection on the emerging corn. If we get some high winds this time of year and you planted corn in a potentially windy location the wind can flatten your corn rows. A wind barrier such as some fencing like chain link with pvc slats or chicken wire with vines can prevent this from happening.
Pull or cut off onion flowers

     Mulch. As temperatures rise and with our low humidity surface mulches can help keep seeds planted in the summer from drying out and not emerging. Straw, shredded paper and other surface mulches can preserve soil moisture and aid in more complete germination. Presoak large seed for 12 hours in cool water prior to planting.

     Fertilize corn every four weeks.

     Pull onion flowers. Remove any flowers from onion plants and use them in cooking or as garnishes to keep them from robbing energy from developing onion bulbs.

     Mulch garlic and onions. Mulching garlic and onions before it gets hot will aid in getting larger bulbs and reduce stress.

     Fertilize onions and garlic and all vegetables in the ground every 3 to 4 weeks. If you used a good fertilizer at the time of planting then all you need is a high nitrogen fertilizer. If you used compost or decomposed manures you may be able to skip these applications.

     Harvest beets and peas. Peas and other cool season vegetables are coming to the end of their growing season. Replant in mid fall.
Pheremone winged trap in tree. Pheremone lure is orange
inside the trap.

                  Set pheromone traps for peach twig borer (PTB). PTB causes wormy peaches, nectarines and apricots. You first see their evidence on the occasional death of new growing shoots on these trees. Traps help you to reduce their populations or determine when or if spraying is required. I would suggest purchasing lures and complete wing traps from Alpha Scents: (http://www.alphascents.com/Lures/lures.html; http://www.alphascents.com/Traps/traps.html#wing )

Insects caught on sticky insert on the bottom of
winged trap. Here the lure is hung from the bottom
of the top of the trap. I prefer placing directly on the
sticky bottom instead.
     Spray for peach twig borer if necessary using BT sprays or spinosad.

     Spray for Western flower thrips on nectarines using spinosad.

     Spray insecticidal soap for artichokes and aphids. Spray the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves.

     Stake tomatoes, peppers to keep fruits from lying on the ground. Expect more fruit losses if plants are allowed to sprawl on the soil surface.
Green almond stage for harvesting immature nut

     Mulch tomatoes, peppers, eggplant. These plants will benefit from surface mulches.

     Label vegetables in vegetable plots. Keep track of what varieties you are planting so you know which ones to purchase or not to purchase in the future.

Immature almond nut in the "green" stage
     Green almond harvest. Almonds can be harvested green when they are very small (1/2 inch long) and the entire small green nut can be eaten raw or in salads or allow the nut to enlarge and harvest the immature nut for salads or cooking such as stir fry.

     Young garlic harvest. If garlic was planted 2 inches apart in the fall you can now harvest immature garlic (before the bulbs have enlarged) and use them for roasting or grilling resulting in the remaining garlic plants four inches apart and harvested when fully mature in May or early June.
Young garlic stage

     Fix irrigation leaks.

     Prune palms.

     Reapply iron where necessary or spray iron. If you see some trees or grape vines starting to yellow on new growth then reapply iron chelate to the soil now. Spraying fruit trees now with iron may result if iron-stained fruit.

     Dig up root suckers. Remove suckers as you see them sprouting from tree bases or the soil a foot or two from the tree.

     Summer prune. Watch for trees that are extremely dense with new growth. If the canopy is getting very dense and shades the interior of the tree then remove unnecessary new growth by pulling down on it and letting it decompose on the ground if you are using wood mulch.

Orange Tree Leaves Losing Green Color (Yellowing) With Green Veins

Q. I have 9 orange trees on my property and pamper them like my “kids”.  One of them (perhaps two) is losing the green color in the leaves although the veins are staying green in color.  I would like to send you a couple of leaves for your inspection as I have tried to trouble shoot the problem using the computer and pictures. A local nursery disagrees with my request for manganese sulfate to resolve the problem. Would you send me an address so that I can send a few leaves for your inspection and suggestions?

A. A picture of the leaves will work just as well as sending me a sample. I will be out of the country and so samples will probably not reach me.

            Nine times out of 10 a yellowing leaf with green veins, particularly if it is the newer growth at the ends of the branches, is iron chlorosis and not typically manganese or zinc. The manganese sulfate would be used for a manganese deficiency or you could use a manganese chelate.

            You can sometimes take an iron solution with a few drops of Ivory liquid detergent and, making sure the iron solution is slightly acidic with a little bit of vinegar, dip the leaves in the solution for a few minutes. You should see a color change in the leaves in about 24 hours or less.
            Otherwise you can take some liquid iron chelate with a little bit of detergent like Ivory liquid and spray the leaves three or four times over a period of a couple of days. This will also turn them a darker green if it is iron.

            If it is something other than iron, it won't do anything. Then go ahead and try your manganese application.

            If this color change occurred during the winter it is possible it could be cold damage. This appears more like a bronzing of the leaves rather than yellowing. I hope this helps.

Planting Ocotillos So They Don't Die

Q. Ocotillos, the most beautiful plant in Nevada. I have tried twice to grow this and not even one sign of life in 5 years. Now I'm trying at a different home.  I wonder where am I failing?
            The soil is mostly poor in Henderson and sandy. I have lots of sun but I avoid western afternoon sun. I also have an area with partial shade. Is this a failure to properly fertilize?  Watering?  A local nursery indicates I'm doing it correctly but it is a tricky plant. (Now they tell me).       

A. These ARE tricky plants and not easy to transplant if you are not familiar in dealing with desert plants and cacti. It is also possible to pick up dead plants from the nursery. When they have no growth on them it is very difficult to tell if they are living or not.

            One method you can use is the thumbnail method. You can use your thumbnail and scrape a small layer of bark from the stem. It should be green under it and scrape away fairly easily. If it does not, or it is brown under it, then it very well could be dead.

            If you want to know if the plant is at all alive, check in several places including near the base closest to where the soil would be and look for green as well. When planting it, make sure it is securely staked into the soil so the roots do not move.

            Water around the base of the plant no more frequently than about once every two weeks during the summer. These plants are easily propagated or started as cuttings, stem pieces cut and planted directly into the soil. The trick is not to water so often the stem rots and dies.

            I attached a pamphlet on how to establish ocotillo from the Tucson Cactus Society. I am not a big proponent of wetting the canes but the Tucson cactus society is.


Planting Ocotillo -

Espalier or Trellising Fruit Trees or Grapes Can Reduce House Cooling Costs

Q. I just saw this video on the internet on espaliering fruit trees. It is located at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MP7voRKFUoE
Is that something that would work well in Las Vegas or just cause more stress to the tree? I have a small area on the south side of my house where the A/C unit is and would love to get a green wall of sorts on there to keep our bedrooms from roasting in the summer. I had thought about grapes, but the espaliered fruit trees might be an option.

A. Great video! Yes, John. It will work here. Just keep your water emitters to the outside of the fruit trees and not near the foundation. We have high salts and don’t want to undermine the foundation or walls used for trellising. This will help direct roots away from the structures.

            Make sure you whitewash the limbs as they can sunburn in hot, very exposed locations.

            I can see you are thinking now in terms of microclimates and growing spaces in the yard. Plants are flexible. Make sure they have enough sunlight to be productive, match the plant to the microclimate and manage the plant to make it fit and make sure you commit the time to doing it. It is that simple.

Rosemary Bush Very Susceptible to Dieback if Overwatered

Rosemary dieback from reader
Q. Can you diagnose what is wrong with my rosemary bush?  We have two rosemary bushes which are less than three-feet apart.  One is beautiful; the other has die-back in the center.  The one that has the die-back was replaced last year because the previous one had the same problem.      Both of these plants receive the same water and the same fertilizer.  When I replaced the rosemary plant last year, I did a 50/50 mix of compost and native soil.  I don’t see any pests on either of the plants.  Any suggestions?

A. I looked at the pictures. There are no specific pests that would cause this type of damage on rosemary. The most likely culprits would be physical damage to the stems (broken stems) or root rot or collar rot from either planting it too deeply or keeping the soil around the one with dieback too wet.
Healthy rosemary of reader

            If the soil was heavily amended with mulch or compost and it was planted in this then it is possible it could have been planted too deeply while the other one was not. Sometimes plants will sink in the planting hole if the soil is too "fluffy" at the time of planting.

            This sinking and soil consequently coming in contact with the stem due to follow-up waterings, can cause the main stem or side stems to decay and then entire stems can dieback.

            I would carefully lift the plant out with a shovel and examine the main stem or trunk and side stems and see if they were planted too deeply. Rosemary is very susceptible to collar rot or keeping the soil too wet. If the stems are rotten, dispose and replant in a new location.

Fig Cuttings and Transplants Benefit from Slow Immersion Into Harsh Outside Environment

Q. I have several fig cuttings that are growing in a vermiculite and perlite mix inside the house.  Attached is photo. When is the best time to move them outside and transplant them into the ground? Or do I have to go through an interim stage of a small pot with potting soil first?

A. I would move them outside into an area protected from late afternoon sun and wind as soon as you see signs of new growth but leave them in the containers. This is called “acclimating” the transplants.

            All transplants grown inside the house or in a greenhouse should be acclimated to the outside environment before planting. This will improve the success of your transplanting and lessen transplant shock.

            You could put them in a cardboard box for instance but they need to be exposed to the outside environment gradually before they are planted in full sun and full wind. Plant them in the ground with amended soil after 2 to 3 weeks of acclimating. At that time they can handle full sun and some wind.

            Stake them if they need to be staked because a large canopy that can catch the wind and disturb them or potentially uproot them. Lightly fertilize them. Begin to deep water them with 1 to 2 gallons of water at each watering. A good sign of success is vigorous top growth.