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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Scorching Brown Leaves of Grapes May Be More Than Water

Q. My grapevines are not growing as usual. I have had them for 7 years. They always give me nice big leaves but this year they are very small and brown around like they are dying or lacking something?

A. Before we get into some more difficult problems please make sure they are getting watered with enough water at each application and the timing of the irrigations are correct. The bigger the grapevines, the more water they will require.

            So it is hard for me to tell you how much water to give them without knowing if you have them covering a large area like a patio or if they are highly restrained on a trellis like you might see in a vineyard. Also make sure they are not watered too often such as daily or this could cause some problems like you are describing as well.

            Highly restrained and trellised grapes, like you see in a vineyard, might be irrigated with perhaps only 10 to 15 gallons at each application while an unrestrained vine might require twice this amount or more.

            Grapes have the capability of growing very deep roots; thirty to sixty feet under the right conditions. Most fruit trees do not have this capability. In our soils and conditions deep-rooted grapes are highly unlikely since there are very few places where they can tap into water at this depth. So that being said let’s assume you will be watering them like a fruit tree.

            If watering is adequate then we can look at some less likely problems such as Pierce’s disease that is carried by an insect called the glassy winged sharpshooter. To date this disease and insect has not been reported in Southern Nevada. Try deep watering your grapes first. Then, to be on the safe side, please contact the Nevada Department of Agriculture in the Las Vegas office and coordinate a sample to be sent to the state Plant Pathologist for examination and his comments.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Afghan Qabali Palau

One of the mainstay meals you are given when you get here is their rice palau or palaw. Sometimes it can be called Kabuli palaw or Qabili palaw or just plain palau. It consists of usually long grain rice mixed with lentils, rasins, carrots and a meat, usually lamb and sometimes nuts like almonds. It is considered the national dish.

For me it is served with a side dish of fresh vegetables, their round, flat bread and hot tea. In Tajikistan when I was there it is a similar dish made with rice called plov. Where I am, close to the Uzbek, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan borders, the population is about 30% Tajik by ethnicity.

Side dish of fresh vegetables
Qabili Palau is widely regarded as Afghanistan's national dish. It is best described as rice cooked in a broth-like sauce, then baked in an oven and topped with julienne carrots, raisins and chopped nuts. If meat is added, it's usually lamb, chicken or beef; the meat will be covered by the rice.
The Ingredients:
3 cups Basmati Rice 
10 lamb pieces 
2 yellow or brown onions, peeled and chopped 
1/2 cup vegetable oil 
1 cup chicken broth 
2 small carrots 
1 cup of raisins 
2 tablespoons ground cumin 
1.5 table spoons ground cardamom 
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper 
12 cups of water (estimate - use your judgment!) 
Salt (according to your tastes) 
The Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
Chop and saute some onions in a pan over high heat until the onion is a nice brown; this should take about 5-6 minutes. Don't burn the onions!
If the lamb pieces are too big, cut them into tiny pieces.
  • Add the lamb into the pan and sprinkle with salt
  • Cook the meat over medium-to-high heat for about 6 minutes, turning occasionally to get an even golden brown on all sides.
  • At this point in time, the onions will start to caramelize nicely, and there will be a nice, thick sauce.
  • Add about a quarter cup of broth, then continue stirring until the liquid dries up, at which point put another quarter cup in again, and repeat until you've used all the broth.
  • This really gives the meat that extra flavor! Once the thick sauce is truly good and going, bring to a boil, cover with a lid, and let the whole thing simmer for around 10 minutes. Then, remove the meat from the brown broth, and set aside (keep warm).
  • Stir in the ground cumin (2 teaspoons), ground cardamom (1.5 teaspoons) and the crushed black pepper (0.5 teaspoon) into the broth and continue to cook on low heat for another 5 minutes.
  • This allows the spices to get their flavor into the broth.
Immerse the rice completely in a bowl of water, and drain in a colander. Repeat this step a few times, until the water that you're draining becomes clear. Meanwhile, cook the rice in any sort of pot that has a fitted lid. This is where the 12 cups of water come in. Put some salt into the water before cooking the rice, so that your rice will just have that hint of saltiness to it when cooked. Cook the rice until it is just ever so slightly crunchy (nearly cooked), then strain any remaining water. Put the rice into a cooking pot, add the prepared broth. Make sure the broth and the rice mix well and add the meat pieces on top. Cover the pot with foil, and then with the lid.
Bake the rice for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.
Once you've put the rice into the oven, julienne the carrots, and do a quick stir-fry with them, along with raisins. You'll be putting them into the pot, but you want to be stir-frying them just enough so that they're slightly cooked, but do not overdo it, as you will be putting them into the pot, and let the cooking process complete in the oven. Set aside.
Once the 20 minutes have passed, take it out, and put the julienne carrots and raisins into the pot.
Reduce the oven's temperature down to 250 degrees, and let it cook for another 20 minutes.
Once that's done, take the pot out from the oven.
Arrange the meat pieces on a large platter. Then cover it with the rice. Make sure that the carrots and raisins are evenly spread in the rice; you don't want them to be just piled all up in one spot (it's all about aesthetics!).

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/5449166

This Thing in My Lawn and Dwarf Fig

Q. This thing is throughout my lawn and I don't know what it is. Can you tell by the picture? I also want a dwarf fig and the local nurseries do not carry them. I looked on the web and found several and wondering what one you might recommend.

A. The lawn grass picture is not something that I recognize immediately. The first two things that come to mind are the mushrooms that pop up in lawns after some rains and during the cool times of the year and earthworms surfacing and pushing up soil.

            It is hard to see it from the picture but the mushrooms make the most sense. These do not look like typical mushrooms since they don't have the caps that normal mushrooms have and so homeowners immediate response is to say no it's not a mushroom.

            These mushrooms come from decaying organic material in the soil like woody soil amendments were buried or even dying roots from trees and shrubs. Sometimes they look like vomit (sorry for being coarse) on the lawn or wood mulch. They will disappear with the heat and as they exhaust the supply of wood in the soil.

            If it is the mushroom then just destroy the mushrooms with a rake turned upside down. If it is earthworms, jump up and down for joy (not on the lawn) and punch some more holes in the lawn with an aerator. I don't think I was much help on this one.

            Blackjack fig is a good one and stays somewhat small and I see it in most nurseries.

Sago Palms Growing Different in Same Yard

Q. I have two sago palms in my front yard. One has nice growth in the center and the other does not. Attached is a photograph of each one. I learned that all the landscaping was put in at the same time so I’m sure they are the same age. Any ideas on why this might happen or how I can encourage growth in the second one.  

A. Both look fine. They are at different stages of growth; one has its new growth upright and lightly colored (since it is new growth) and the other has not grown from the central bud yet so there is no new upright growth at the center.

            Sago palm (a misnomer since it is not a palm) grows its new fronds from the central bud in the same way palms do. If one of the sago’s is in a bright sunny (warmer) location than the other one then it will show new growth earlier than the one in a colder spot.

            Plants in shadier spots usually have fronds that are larger and more succulent and luxurious in appearance. To me the ones in the shade look like they need more light and are kind of spindly in appearance but that is my view.

How to Get Fewer Disease Problems on Tomatoes

Q. At the nursery I purchased some heirloom tomatoes. They got silvery/shiny areas on back of leaves which turned into dry dead spots.  The plant is also dropping blossoms what is this? I applied fungicide but do not know if this is appropriate. My homegrown tomato plants do not have this. Please let me know.  I do not want my other tomato plants infected.

A. You have noticed something that I have been talking about. This is concerning the quality of homegrown vegetable transplants being superior to the transplants grown by commercial growers for the mass markets.
            To get transplants ready for markets growers usually have to grow transplants in some sort of protected culture such as greenhouses, cold frames, hot frames or hoophouses. When grown for mass markets the grower has to produce transplants at the lowest cost possible to improve profit margins.
            This may mean that in many cases these transplants may not be grown under the cleanest conditions and the growing conditions also may not be the best. This means that mass market transplants can be very subject to earlier development of diseases and insect problems.

            When you grow transplants at home you can afford to start with cleaner materials and as a consequence have fewer insects and diseases to contend with. You can also get the exact variety you want by ordering the seed ahead of time.

            Sometimes the commercial grower will apply pesticides just before shipping transplants to the nursery to remove any pest problems that might be developing, pests that may already be there and make sure they are pest free when delivered to the nursery.

            Several problems can cause silvery discoloration to the leaves including the natural silvery-green color of some tomato plants. These dead spots may or may not be related to the grey green color of the leaves. The brown spots could be due to feeding damage by insects or a disease problem. It is hard to say exactly without seeing a fresh plant sample with the disease present or several high-quality pictures.
            As far as blossom drop on tomatoes remember that they are finicky. Temperatures to high during the day, too low at night, and irrigation which is missed, an unusually hot day when temperatures abnormally been cool, all can play a role. Tomatoes grown excluding bees for pollination may cause the flowers to abort.

            If you are worried about a lack of bees then use your electric toothbrush to vibrate the plant for better fruit set. Touching the electric vibrating toothbrush to portions of the plants close to the flowers for a few seconds may improve fruit set if bees are limited.

            I would suggest you consider applying some preventive sprays to transplants brought into the garden from a nursery or garden center. This is seldom needed for homegrown transplants or from commercial growers who maintain clean facilities and planting material. Sprays would include insecticidal soap applications every few days, spraying Neem oil and some other organic sprays specifically for vegetables.
            In the future I would recommend growing your own transplants if you can and you will see fewer problems like you are mentioning. Local producers of vegetable transplants can be found and are usually higher priced but cleaner with fewer pest problems.

Ruby Red Grapefruit Not Putting Out Like It Should

Readers disparity in fruit size
Q. I wanted to know a couple of things. First, what happened to my Ruby Red grapefruit tree. Why are my fruits so small relative to the store bought one that I show in the picture. I call it "orange sized".  Granted it is a young tree (planted in 2010) so is that why? It not only put out only 2 fruits but tiny ones at that.

Thickness of the rind or albedo
            Also if you look closely at the picture of the cut fruit there is more rind than fruit.  What would have caused that?  The first year the tree put out one grapefruit and although it was small the fruit while sour the fruit looked like a typical ruby red grapefruit in proportion of fruit to rind. The two from this year had that little flesh inside and it was pale, not like a white grapefruit and definitely not ruby red.

A. The picture of the plant that you sent is a bit odd. It was hard to discern from the leaves whether or not it's a grapefruit. Grapefruit leaves have pronounced 'wings' on the petioles (the little 'stem' holding the leaf blade and the branch). If you see most of the leaves with the winged petiole then I vote for grapefruit.

Readers grapefruit tree
            Another test is to taste the young leaves. Lemon leaves taste like lemon, lime leaves taste like lime and I'll bet you can guess what young grapefruit leaves taste like.

            The fruits in your pictures with the very thick albedo (rind) look like grapefruit and a very thick albedo on fruits coming from a mature plant can be caused by too much nitrogen, overly wet conditions and just quirkiness.

            If you can taste the fruits, taste the leaves and check to see if the leaves have winged petioles then confirm it's a grapefruit then I wouldn't worry. This is a juvenile plant and will produce higher quality fruits as the plant matures.

            The plant looks fairly healthy so do the confirmation checks about the type of citrus . . Keep it watered and fertilized. Remember the saw for when to apply fertilizer is Valentine's Day, Memorial Day and the most important is Labor Day. If you want to fertilize more often with less fertilizer at a time, that would be great.

            Let us know after you check the fruit and/or leaf taste and leaf morphology (cool word, huh?) for the winged petioles and get back to us. Just remember the citrus plants will live for decades and once they mature the fruits get much better. Terry.

The pictures of the leaves really look like grapefruit leaves. . . Besides the winged petioles the bright, shiny, emerald green color are so indicative of grapefruit . .  Terry

Some Defects on Grape Leaves May Be Normal

Q. Can you tell me what is wrong with the leaves on my Thompson seedless grape vine (see attached picture)?  Are there grape leaf miners?  What is the best pesticide to use to control these pests?

Readers grape leaf looks pretty healthy
A. I really did not see too much to be concerned about on the top of the leaf. Make sure you look at the bottom of the leaf, not just the top. Some insect pests will invade the leaves from the bottom. The leaves look pretty normal to me and I do not know of any leaf miners and grapes.

            However you are getting into the season where you will get grape leaf skeletonizer starting in May. Keep inspecting your leaves and around the next week or two begin spraying your grape leaves with Bt, an organic pesticide.

            Do this twice about 10 days apart in May. This should eliminate grape leaf skeletonizer as well as hornworm attacks. If these little bugs called leaf hoppers that jump when you walk past your grapevine are problem in the summer months then you might also apply to applications of spinosad around the same time as the BT.

            Do not mix them in the same sprayer because I am not sure they are compatible together in the same sprayer. Make sure you spray the top of the leaves as well as the bottom of the leaves. This is very important to get good coverage. Good luck.

How to Preserve, Dry, Store Apricots

Q. Back in 2010 you sent out info on how to preserve apricots, but I lost it. Is it still possible to find this information?

A. The one you're referring to is excellent and published by Utah State University. I posted it on my blog or otherwise you can retrieve it by googling “Preserving Apricots Utah State University”.

Go to the publication on how to preserve apricots