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Monday, August 6, 2012

Why Do People Like to Bash Miracle Gro?

Q. I have a small garden with a big Mexican palm, some Cana lilies, various green plants and flowering annuals. Everything does well but I would like to encourage flowering and general health especially during the hot months. I have used Miracle Grow and I think it does a good job with flower growth but I do find that some flowering plants die off during the summer, particularly, marigolds and petunias.
            I was told not to use Miracle Grow as it adds too much sodium to an already salty soil that we have here. I have tried others recommended by plant stores but they require mixing with the soil and are difficult to apply once the garden is established. I like the spray on method that Miracle Grow uses. Any suggestions for a good fertilizer to use?

A. The idea that Miracle Grow adds too much sodium to an already salty soil is hogwash.  Whoever told you that doesn't know what they're talking about. All fertilizers are salts.  But too many people salt is sodium chloride.  Sodium chloride is common table salt, not a fertilizer salt.  There is virtually little to no sodium in Miracle Gro. 
            Other quality inorganic fertilizers you can use include Osmocote and Peters as well and they do not contain sodium either.  What is more important than the manufacturer to promote flowering is the fertilizer ratio or the numbers associated with that fertilizer.  That is what you need to focus on. 
            For flowering plants the middle number needs be higher than the first and third numbers.  For nonflowering plants the first number should be higher than the second and third number. When focusing on reducing stress then the last number should be the highest. 

            Try to use a fertilizer that has all three numbers present (no zeros) but use fertilizers which have ratios, as I suggested, promoting specific types of growth.

            Other problems with marigolds during the summer include spider mites. The biggest problem related to the decline of nondesert type annuals in our desert climate and soils is the lack of adequate soil preparation at the time of planting.

Aren't Those Quail Cute!!!

Q. I'm hoping you can help me with my quail problem.  I once thought they were adorable but now that they've eaten lots of my garden, I'm less thrilled with them. They have eaten my radishes (2 plantings), carrots, spinach (2 plantings), Swiss chard (2 plantings), lettuce, beets, jalapenos, Hungarian wax peppers. 
            I've made wire covered with plastic into arches and put plastic netting over them and held it down with U-shaped large clips.  They have eaten through the netting in places.  Or they have just landed on the netting and collapsed it enough to reach the new plants.  And the thing I hate the most is that they peck through a stem and leave the leaf just lying there.  To top it off, they now have eaten my mock orange into half its size and taken some rosemary (which grows so fast, I wish they would just stick to it!). 
            Last fall they pecked off two thirds of a valentine plant.  I would greatly appreciate any help you can give me.  I hesitate to use an ultrasonic type of machine as I enjoy all the hummingbirds and other small birds that come to the yard. 

A. I usually cut down the questions a bit but yours was so interesting (and I’m sorry but kind of funny) that I had to put the whole thing in. Those quail sure are cute aren’t they! When they are in someone else’s garden! I can almost hear some of the readers, “Get a cat!”

            Quail, as you have found out, can be a big problem for vegetable gardens.  The best way to keep them out is to fence the garden plots with metal chicken wire, 1 inch diameter hexagonal.  The ultrasonic bird repellents only work for short periods of time until they get accustomed to it.  That has been our experience at the orchard using these devices. 

            When you put up the chicken wire make sure it is 48 inch wide metal mesh and that it is staked securely about every five or 6 feet.  You must then run a wire between the stakes at the height where the top of the fence will be and tightly secured to the wire to keep it from sagging.             You should dig a trench about 6 to 8 inches deep on the outside of the stakes so that this fencing can be buried 6 to 8 inches deep.  This helps to keep animals, like rabbits, from getting under the fencing.  This is preferable to staking or stapling the bottom of the fence to the ground.         The mesh should be no larger than 1 inch diameter and even though this size will still allow small rabbits and baby quail access if they choose to leave their mothers.  This should reduce and nearly eliminate the problems to the vegetable beds.

An Apparent Relation of Nightshades (Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant) to Arthritis

Journal of Neurological and Orthopedic Medical Surgery (1993) 12:227-231

N.F. Childers, Ph.D.1,2, and M.S. Margoles, M.D.3

1Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08903, USA, 2Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA, and 3Arthritis Nightshades Research Foundation, 177 San  Ramon Drive, San Jose, CA 95111-3615, USA.


Diet appears to be a factor in the etiology of arthritis based on surveys of over 1400 volunteers during a 20-year period. Plants in the drug family, Solanaceae (nightshades) are an important causative factor in arthritis in sensitive people. This family includes potato (Solanum tuberosum L.), tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum L.), eggplant (Solanum melongena L.), tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.), and peppers (Capsicum sp.) of all kinds except the black pepper (family, Piperaceae). A buildup of cholinesterase inhibiting glycoalkaloids and steroids from consumption and/or use (tobacco) of the nightshades and from other sources such as caffeine and some pesticides (organophosphates and carbamates) may cause inflammation, muscle spasms, pain, and stiffness. Osteoarthritis appears to be a result of long-term consumption and/or use of the Solanaceae which contain naturally the active metabolite, vitamin D3, which in excess causes crippling and early disability (as seen in livestock). Rigid omission of Solanaceae, with other minor diet adjustments, has resulted in positive to marked improvement in arthritis and general health.

See the full article below.

Relationship between nightshades tomatoes and arthritis -

Silkworm and Silk Production in Afghanistan

Two Afghans overseeing the demonstration of
silk production for the research center in Balkh
Province. The have to keep the temperature
and humidity in the proper range for good
Afghanistan has a long history in the national and international silk production and silk carpet markets. Balkh and Kunduz provinces were major silk producers in the North of Afghanistan 30 years ago. During the years of conflict, the production level of silk cocoons decreased because producers of silk products were unable to continue their business, so there was less demand for cocoons and silk thread. Although much of the know-how still remains, it takes a push-and-pull action to encourage farmers to start silkworm propagation and to get back into home-industry making silk products. Traditional farmers are concerned that they cannot develop this market alone. 
Thank you, Wikipedia, for this information. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sericulture 
Sericulture, or silk farming, is the rearing of silkworms for the production of raw silk. Although there are several commercial species of silkworms, Bombyx mori is the most widely used and intensively studied. Sericulture has become one of the most important cottage industries in a number of countries like China, Japan, India, Korea, Brazil, Russia, Italy and France. Today, China and India are the two main producers, together manufacturing more than 60% of the world production each year.
Not any old mulberry leaves is good enough. There are
different types of mulberries so one of the tests going
on here is to find out which of the mulberries is best for
commercial production. When they first hatch the worms
must be given mulberry leaves that are finely chopped.
Sikworm larvae are fed mulberry leaves, and, after the fourth moult, climb a twig placed near them and spin their silken cocoons. This process is achieved by the worm through a dense fluid secreted from its gland structural glands, resulting in the fibre of the cocoon. The silk is a continuous-filament fiber consisting of fibroin protein, secreted from two salivary glands in the head of each larva, and a gum called sericin, which cements the two filaments together. The sericin is removed by placing the cocoons in hot water, which frees the silk filaments and readies them for reeling. The immersion in hot water also kills the silkworm pupae. This is known as the degumming process.

Single filaments are combined to form thread. This thread is drawn under tension through several guides and wound onto reels. The threads may be plied together to form yarn. After drying the raw silk is packed according to quality.

Here the silkworms are old enough to start spinning silk
pretty soon. Now they can handle whole mulberry leaves
The stages of production are as follows:
·       The silk moth lays eggs.

·       they feed mulberry leaves.

·       When the silkworms are about 10,000 times heavier than when they hatched.
·       They are now ready to spin a silk cocoon.

·       The silk is produced in two glands in the silkworm's head and then forced out in liquid form through openings called spinnerets.

·       The silk solidifies when it comes in contact with the air.
·       The silkworm spins approximately 1 mile of filament and completely encloses itself in a cocoon in about two or three days but due to quality restrictions, the amount of usable silk in each cocoon is small. As a result, 5500 silkworms are required to produce 1 kg of silk.
·       The silk is obtained from the undamaged cocoons by brushing the cocoon to find the outside end of the filament.

·       The silk filaments are then wound on a reel. One cocoon contains approximately 1,000 yards of silk filament. The silk at this stage is known as raw silk. One thread consists of up to 48 individual silk filaments.

Yucca Flower Stalk, Leave it or Remove It?

Q. I have a Yucca that has finally matured enough to flower. Do I leave the flower stock on or cut it off once the flowers are dead?

A. Normally we cut off the flower stalk as soon as the flowers are finished. You would trace the flower stalk deep inside the yucca and cut it off leaving as little stub as possible and hidden.

Asparagus Fern With No Leaves

Ferns of real asparagus, hence how asparagus
fern got its name
Q. I recently purchased an asparagus fern, which now, after a few weeks of tender loving care has decided to go bonkers.  It is sending up spikes of growth with little or no "leaves" on it!  Should these be trimmed or left alone and see how they end up?

A. If these “spikes” look like a spear of asparagus, then that is normal and why it is called an “asparagus” fern. These spikes will “fern out” just like an asparagus spear and will be all bushy again. Just be patient and observe.

Have A Lawn in Las Vegas? I Feel Your Pain.

            If you still have a lawn in the Las Vegas valley, I feel your pain. Lawns seem like they are a dying breed in our valley. But rest assured, they have their place even if you feel a bit slighted.
This is a disease problem. You can tell because it is scattered
through the lawn and the pattern cannot be tied to the
irrigation system directly. It is also possible it could be
an insect problem but not likely if it is tall fescue.

            Lawns provide a great deal of comfort in a desert landscape. It is the only plant surface that is durable to foot traffic and stays a cool 95F even if temperatures soar to 115F or more. Since our body temperature is normally around 99F, a lawn remains cool to your touch. Asphalt, cement and synthetic grass will hit 160 - 170F in full sunlight on a balmy 105F day. I know. I measured it.

            Lawns have their problems particularly this time of year. If you miss an irrigation, have a plugged or broken irrigation head, or a poorly designed or installed irrigation system you will see the results now as brown spots popping up which may die. A lawn in this inhospitable climate without a really good irrigation system is disaster.
See how the spots are distributed through the lawn? Disease
or insects because it is a random pattern. See how the grass
looks healthy around the spots? The disease timing for
treatment with a fungicide has passed. Fungicides are
preventive, not curative. You have to catch it earlier to use
a fungicide.

            Then there are diseases and insect problems as well. Those with a tall fescue lawn will see fewer insect problems but there are a couple of serious disease problems that popup this time of year. They usually start appearing in late July or in August, oftentimes when the “summer monsoons” enter the valley from the south.

            The biggest culprit for fescue lawns is humidity coupled with high temperatures. The humidity at the lawn level is entirely different from the humidity you feel. As I used to hear Linn Mills say, “Never put your lawn to bed wet.” How true. Never, never irrigate your lawn in the summer with only a few hours to dry out before it gets dark. Irrigate any time after 2 am but before the sun comes up.

This is drought. If you look at the centers of the dark green
spots you will see sprinkler heads. The sprinkler heads were
spaced too far apart or there was inadequate water pressure
to give head to head coverage.
            Other things that reduce the humidity at the lawn level and reduce disease problems are to avoid thick, dense lawns during the summer months; if you fertilize in the summer use very light applications during the hot months; dethatch your lawn (it thins the lawn and lets humidity escape) in September or October when fewer weeds will try to invade; mow a bit shorter during the heat to let moisture escape.

            I will post some pictures of common lawn problems on my blog. Come take a look.