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Monday, May 21, 2012

Why Not Mulberries in Las Vegas?

Toots or white fruits of the female
mulberry tree. They also come in dark
purple or black and red. Some fruits can be
up to four inches long.
Q. I have this thing about Persian black mulberries and was peeved that Lowe's and Star Nursery cannot sell them locally for that lame reason (per county ordinance) that the yummy fruits stain sidewalks. Sadly, the very pigment(anthocyanins) which stains sidewalks is that same pigment which make it and blueberries extremely rich in antioxidants. Blueberries won't thrive here, so they are not banning it, but mulberry, which could provide kids with healthful fruits they could pick fresh, on almost a daily basis, for at least a month straight from the bush (and not from the supermarket), seems to be that one desert fruit kids actually care for, and which require less water than most other fruiting plants. Figs thrive on little water just as well, but most kids, let alone adults, would not care to put them in their mouths.
If it so happens that you agree with me, I was wondering if I could petition you (knowing your clout and authority) to tell Clark County to reverse the ban, or at least revise it, allowing Las Vegans to raise them with the simple requirement that they plant it in their backyards, away from public walkways. I really feel no child should be deprived of the learning experience and the benefits of watching the berries evolve from flowers to delicious fruits which taste of gummy bears. Why something so good, or something which provides so much despite needing so little should be banned is just wrong.
Mulberry catkins or flowers of the male mulberry tree. These
flowers only produce pollen, no fruit.
I have been taking lots of cuttings from a feral mulberry bush by Tropicana Ave, but so far, no luck in getting any to root. Still hoping I could successfully clone it before the property owner or the 'plant authorities' remove it, hahaha.
As always, thanks so much for your time.

A. It is my understanding that only the male mulberry (thus fruitless) has an ordinance against it,  not the female (fruited). Mulberry trees can be either male or female; the male tree produces the pollen from its male flowers while the female tree produces fruit which can stain (the red and black ones and admittedly in my opinion the better tasting ones compared to the white one).

Mulberry is an example of plants we call dioecious. Humans are dioecious; we have separate people who are male and others that are female. Mulberry is similar to humans in this regard. I know the botanists in the crowd will have trouble with my definition.

Fruitless or male mulberry tree in bloom and releasing
allergenic pollen in Clark County, Nevada.
The staining can be pretty bad when the fruits from the female trees drop on your car, patio or sidewalk and the birds absolutely go nuts over the fruit. The fruit would be coming in about now in our climate. the county ordinance is concerning the pollen and associated allergies of the MALE tree, not the female.

By the way, in many central Asian (Afghanistan) and Indo European countries (Armenia) they share the same name for the fruits - toots.

Retail Vegetable and Fruit Markets in Northern Afghanistan

Wholesale fruit and vegetable market in Mazari Sharif
Last week I showed you one of the wholesale markets in Mazari Sharif. It was focused on potatoes and onions for the most part. This week I wanted to show you some pictures of the wholesale vegetable and fruit market and the retail markets that get their fresh fruits and vegetables nearly daily from the wholesale markets.

Zarang (motorcycles converted with a small truck bed) drivers
getting ready to haul produce to retail markets as soon as they
are hired by the owner of a market to do so.
There are basically two wholesale markets in Mazari Sharif. The local farmers usually dont bring in their farm fresh fruits and vegetables to the wholesale market. This is  usually handled by some sort of "middle man" who has transportation and travels among the farmers buying product and delivering it to the market. Other times larger trucks drive in from Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan with products from wholealers there. So there is a wide selection of products ranging from bananas and citrus from Pakistan or the semitropical areas of Afghanistan like Jalalabad.

Taxis are sometimes used to haul fruits and vegetables to
local retail shops for sale.
Balkh Province where Mazari Sharif, the capital, is located is at best subtropical in parts but more temperate with a climate similar to Las Vegas but with a bit more humidity at times. Right now apricots are coming in as well as early onions, radishes, leafy greens, and numerous other spring crops.

Farming in the Philippines

Our family farm in Batangas, Philippines

Q. Just saw you on one of those weekly Vegas journals and was pleased to learn you have a horti project from the Philippines. I lived there many years before migrating to Vegas. While grateful you are sharing your expertise to my fellow Filipinos, am a bit worried about your safety. It is not a very safe place, especially for foreigners in Afghanistan.

I really miss the orchids, night jessamines, heliconias, water lilies, sugar apples, jackfruit, sapodillas, duhat, papayas, mangoes, ferns, pineapples, lakatan and latundan bananas I used to raise in our backyard. Besides coffee, what else are you growing there specifically, if you don't mind me asking?

My neighbor who watched me digging holes
to plant trees for a long time. Finally he said
in the local dialect, "I never saw a white man
(canok) get his hands dirty before." and he
walked away shaking his head.

Come visit or join the Rare Fruit Society of the Philippines

A. Thanks for asking. I dont get there much right now due to my work in Afghanistan but our farm is a work in progress. When we bought it, it already had established mangoes and coconut in over/understory planting with a few citrus.

We have now introduced to the farm coffee, papaya, bananas, rambutan, lychees, durian, jackfruit, and many others. It is located in Batangas Province not far from Padre Garcia. To the south about 45 minutes is Laiya Beach with its shallow protected coral reef for snorkeling and diving. All my friends are welcome there so please come and visit us. But make sure we are there!

Crape Myrtle and Mimosa (Silk tree) Similar in Care

Readers silk tree in excellent shape in rock mulch

Q. I have a mimosa tree and I am giving it a lot of TLC and it seems to do well here.

A. Your Mimosa or silk tree looks great and is doing well judging from the picture you sent to me.  It looks like it has good growth and a nice dark green color.  You must be giving it a lot of attention as it seems to be thriving there in rock mulch.  I will caution you that these are not long-lived in our climate and tend to suffer a lot of branch dieback or decline as they get older.

            They particularly struggle in rock mulch that is fully exposed to summer extremes.  They seem to live a bit longer when surrounded by grass rather than rock mulch.  It has never been diagnosed, to my knowledge, but this decline may be mimosa wilt disease, a disease that infects and plugs the vascular or water transporting system in the tree. 
Crape myrtle 20 years old growing in
alkaline pH 8.2 soil with little soil amendment
 following regimen suggested here. There is some
wood mulch at the base of the tree in
the irrigation well.

            Continue to keep it healthy and it’s possible to keep it going for quite a while.  Another plant which can suffer here in rock mulch is crape myrtle but is, in my opinion, a better tree for here if you give it some TLC like you are doing.  With this tree you can keep it looking good growing in desert soils by fertilizing it with a well balanced fertilizer like 16-16-16 in late January along with iron chelate applied to the soil and watered in. 

            Follow this about two months later with a liquid fertilizer applied to the leaves until the solution begins running off the leaf surface and dripping onto the soil.  I usually apply a wetting agent with the liquid fertilizer applied to the leaves.  If you can keep plants healthy, they can withstand diseases and extremes of temperature and soils better

Good Price on Fruit Trees Does Not Equal Success Sometimes

Bareroot fruit tree
Container fruit tree

Q. What nurseries you would recommend buying fruit trees from (local or online)?  I would be looking to get them in the ground in February or early March so my only concern with local nurseries would be whether they would have their stock in that early.

I wouldnt buy this fruit tree
regardless of the price. It is exhibiting
poor or slow growth and the roots are
exposed in the container. Yuck.
A. If you are planting trees that early you will probably find mostly last year’s trees held over that didn’t sell but usually at some very good prices. Just be careful and buy trees in good shape and don’t feel sorry for a tree and think you can nurse it back to health.

            Some of the mass merchandisers will bring in trees early to sell but be careful of the varieties you select. Some of these mass merchandisers have a good person or two in the gardening department but many times they do not. I have seen some “innovative” gardening methods at some of these places. And I don’t necessarily mean that kindly.

            Many times the mass merchandisers do not look for what grows well here but sometimes you can get lucky and find what you are looking for. All time popular varieties that do well here are usually good bets. Local nurseries usually don’t bring new trees in until weather warms up in late April.
            Be careful of rootstocks on apples in particular. You want semi dwarfing rootstocks like M111. The extreme dwarfing rootstocks on apple can be a problem here due to our high light intensities. and sunburning of the fruit and limbs due to the extreme dwarfing and poor canopy development. It is harder to glue limbs on trees when shade is needed than it is to prune out unnecessary canopy development and too much shade.

            Nothing wrong with fall planting either if you can find trees in good shape. Plant mid-September through October the same way you would at normal times of the year. This is a great time to plant because you essentially have two “springs” the plants go through before you hit the hellish summer weather.

Just Because a Tree Looks Funny Dont Rip it Out

Desert Museum Palo Verde growing at
an odd angle and developing an odd shape
Q. I would like to ask your opinion on a Desert Museum Palo Verde tree I planted in my front yard here in the Las Vegas area about 2 years ago.  It looks like it is half of a tree with most of its branches on the side sagging toward the ground.  It is quite bent over and seems to be getting worse over time.  The yard’s terrain is slanted, but other trees on similar topography don’t seem to have this problem.  Do you think it should be staked, limbs removed, or whole tree removed? 

A. I see what you're saying from your pictures, the tree is leaning away from the house and does not look perfectly straight up as you're picturing in your mind it might become. Personally, I try to visualize what this tree might look like as it gets older.

Picture the tree as it might look ten years from now.
It looks strange now but adverse conditions
can create character in plants.
            I find that frequently a tree's character is shaped by its environment and it tends to grow in reaction to that environment. In other words your tree leaned and grew in that direction because of its location and the impact from surrounding plants and the environment.
            As I picture this tree 10 years from now, with this leaning trunk and major scaffold limbs pruned so they are not in the way, it might have a lot of character. This character would be entirely different than the picture-perfect tree you imagined when you bought it.

            I would tend to let it go and as it gets larger remove or cut back limbs that might damage the house and begin to remove the lower limbs if they interfere with human or vehicle traffic. It will begin to straighten out in the next few years. In my opinion, you have the beginning of a tree with quite a bit of character.

Desert Plants Dont Like Desert Soils

These ash trees were planted along Aliante Parkway in
North Las Vegas just north of the Aliante Casino heading
toward Horse Drive. When you are driving along here look
at the sizes of the ash trees planted in grass vs those planted
in rock. They were planted at the same time. Those in
rock mulch are much smaller but all in good health.
Q. I often enjoy your pieces in the NLV neighborhood View, and your suggestion of replacing rock mulch with wood chips caught my attention. I have an 18 year-old velvet ash in a small (20' x 20'), red rock covered front yard.  Does this tree do better with rock or wood chips around its trunk?

A. This is where my comments can sometimes be misconstrued. What I am trying to tell people is that for the most part, plants that originate from nondesert or nonarid climates perform best growing in wood mulches in the landscape. They also do better with growing in soils that have been amended at the time of planting with organic materials like compost.
            Plants like Velvet ash (aka Arizona Ash) which is native to the desert and arid Southwest, TOLERATES desert soils and so can be grown more successfully under rock mulch than non-desert plants. Nearly all plants perform better with a higher organic content in the soil but desert plants, like Velvet ash, can TOLERATE rock mulch landscapes.

            This is true of many cacti and succulents as well. You will see them perform better if we amend the soil at the time of planting with some organic matter like compost.
            In the case of your Velvet ash, because it is native to the arid and desert Southwest, it can tolerate rock mulches better than say Japanese privet (native to Japan) which does not tolerate rock mulch very well at all but is frequently placed in rock landscapes here with, over time, very little success.

Birds Love Our Fruit Trees and What to Do

Bird damage to nearly ripe peach
Q. What can be done to keep birds from eating all the fruit in an orchard? My brother has an orchard in southern Utah. There are about 100 trees, mostly dwarf and semi dwarf. Last year birds got 90% of the fruit. He has tried scare crows but that didn't work. He has also tried aluminum foil pie tins but that only worked temporally. Is there any solution for him other than buying netting to cover the trees? He needs a solution soon before the birds start feasting on the apricots.

A. Fruit usually damaged are the soft fruits; apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, etc. Birds focus on fruit as it starts to build sugar content, mature but not fully ripe.

Grackel ready to pounce on our apricots
            We harvest soft fruit just before they are fully ripe and finish ripening them off of the trees at room temperature. After they have reached physical maturity for eating we can then put them in the refrigerator for longer keeping. They will store better if they are in a humid part of the refrigerator but they still must “breathe” or they will deteriorate quickly.
            We start looking for bird damage and begin our harvesting schedule just ahead of their damage. Otherwise you will have to net the trees.

            Scaring devices don’t work more than about one to two weeks and after that the birds are no longer afraid of them. This is true of most animals that are pests to our gardens. The hungrier animals are, the more chances they will take in getting food they like.