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Monday, August 27, 2012

Leaves Burning Up on Cherry Tomato Plant in Container

This is not the readers tomato plant. These
are some leaf spots on tomato that were
never identified but probably diseased. Make
sure your leaf scorch is not a disease problem.
Q. Hi, I just read your gardening article in the Summerlin South View paper and thought I would take a shot at sending you an email with some concerns I have with my tomato plants. I moved down here a year ago from MN and was an avid gardener up there.  Down here?  It's a different story.  I have cherry tomato plants on my patio.  Not always in direct sunlight, but I water every day.  They seem like the leaves are burning up on the plants and the fruit has tapered off.  Any suggestions or ideas?  If you aren't able to answer this, can you point me int he right direction please? 

A. I dont know how you prepared your soil for the container but that is important. So make sure it is a good quality soil if you prepare it yourself or buy it in bags. Tomato production tapers off when temperatures consistently stay above 95F. Tomatoes and many other vegetables do not set very well under high temperatures. As temperatures drop, they will begin to set again.Vegetables that set fruit will need at least 6 hours of strong sunlight every day.
Morning sun is preferable to afternoon sun because usually afternoon sun also means a hotter microclimate. Direct sun on containers can fry a soil, particularly if the container is small, single-layered, dry when it gets the direct sunlight and dark colored.

I would double pot containers (one container inside another) to help reduce direct sunlight on the growing container. Put the plants in direct sunlight in the morning hours, make sure you use a good soil each time you plant and modify it with good compost.

Cukes Yellowing and Deformed and Beans Not Producing

Royalty Purple Pod Bush bean growing at The Orchard
Q. I am a fan and follow your column religiously. I have planted a garden for the first time this year. Out of three tomato plants two gave a good yield, the other had blossoms but nothing. The cucumber plants are growing like crazy, and have a bumper crop of cukes, but now they are turning yellow, and some are deformed. The leaves are turning yellow, and there are hundreds of these tiny little flies all over. I have sprayed with water but they come right back. The string beans have tons of blooms, but no beans, even though the vines are growing like crazy. My dill didn't make it. I have some sorrel, and the basil did well. My strawberries gave three or four little berries, and that was about all.
Dragon Tongue bush bean growing at The Orchard. Very
susceptible to crown rot by the way.
            I need and would like to take some classes, if I could find the time, but my husband has dementia, so I am kept quite busy. If you could shed a little light on my problem I would appreciate it. Do you think I should tear it all out, and start to get ready for Fall planting?

A. I am sending you a copy of Sylvan Witwer’s vegetable production book. He was retired from Michigan State University and was a celebrated horticulturist and vegetable scientist living in Overton, NV, after retirement. He has since moved to Utah.

I would read through this and follow his planting guide for time of year for planting things. It is pretty hot right now for alot of things to set fruit. Many have trouble setting fruit when tempertures top 95 to 100F. Your beans are out of season now.

Start ripping out the things that are not producing or producing pooly. Reamend those spots with compost, a GOOD compost. Good composts are expensive. Use a preplant fertilizer at the time of planting  high in phosphorus and mixed with the composted soil where you plant. If you are organic, use bone meal or equivalent high in phosphorus.

Variety selection is important. Record which varieties worked for you and which did not. If you plant at the right time, your beans and cucumber production should be better.

Crooked cucumbers. Generally, misshapen fruit are the result of stress or poor pollination. Poor pollination (cukes require about 8 to 10 visits by a bee) result in crooked cucumbers. However, fruit shaped like a lady's figure may be the result of drought during its development or not enough visits by bees. As temperatures get hotter, bees are less efficient as pollinators. They spend alot of their time and energy trying to cool down their hives or homes. We have to rely more on our native pollinators like the leafcutter bee.
So poor pollinations can cause crooked, misshapen and yellow cukes to form. As temperatures drop and if you keep your plants alive and healthy, you should see your production pick up again. However, replanting cukes from seed will also work and then you get the advantage of having younger, more prolific plants.

As far as your "flies" are concerned, I am not sure what they are or if they are causing problems but if you feel they are then usually frequent applications of insecticidal soap like Safers can reduce pest problems if sprayed directly ON the insects. This means spraying UNDER the leaves as well as on top of the plants. Never spray plants when they are in bloom unless it is at dusk or a few minutes after sunrise.

Asparagus Crowns Not Covered Deeply. Bury them now?

Asparagus started in a trench from seed and
on drip irrigation at The Orchard
Q. I planted asparagus crowns in March at at depth of 12 inches. They are in a pit and my plan was to cover the shoots with soil, an inch at a time, as they grew. Well, they grew rather sporadically so I didn't want to inadvertently bury a new shoot...so I never backfilled the pit to the level of the surrounding soil. Currently, I have about five shoots (out of 12 crowns) that have ferned. The crowns are about two inches underground and about 10 inches below the level of the surrounding soil. Is it OK to backfill the remaining 10 inches at this point? Or would that damage the plants? On the watering, there's no set schedule. Just keep the ground moist, but not too damp, at a certain soil depth, correct?

A. I would slowly add the soil over time up to the correct level. The problem you have now is that the crowns have adjusted to this soil level and I would be worried that completely covering the crowns might damage what you have already. When you begin to backfill, mix in plenty of compost with the soil you are using for backfill.

Asparagus started from seed and the trench
is all filled in. The asparagus spears are not
harvested the first year from seed. Spears
are allowed to grow and fern out to help
get the crowns established.
Dont just use desert soil. Make sure the soil is loose and can drain easily. Remove any large rocks so that these rocks do not cause the spears to emerge damaged or interfere with their emergence. Part of the sporadic emergence, I would guess, would have been your watering or how the soil drained. Asparagus loves to grow along streambanks or irrigation canals. It is an oasis plant so to speak and loves the same environment as palms, grapes, figs and even pomegranates. I hope this helps.

Prune Out All Dead Areas of a Bottlebrush?

Q. I have a Bottlebrush shrub with a dead area. My question-What would be the best course of action to improve the condition of this shrub, pruning out all dead areas, then cutting it back?

A.  On your bottle brush I would guess this is either lemon or Scarlet bottlebrush. Depending on the bottlebrush it can get anywhere from 15 to 25 feet tall. You can train it as a large shrub if you want or small tree. This is an Australian plant that is not really considered a desert plant. However, they are typically fairly drought tolerant which just means they can survive periods of time with little water and recover when water is reapplied to them in sufficient quantities.

They don't particularly like desert soils and have a tough time in our alkaline soil environment. For this reason they tend to go yellow which is chlorosis most likely from a lack of available iron. They also would rather be growing in soils heavily amended in organic material such as compost at the time of planting. They will also grow better in a wood mulch, not rock mulch.

To correct iron deficiency apply an iron chelate to the soil in early spring or late winter. You can do it now and still get some response from it. The best iron chelate for the job is iron EDDHA (check the ingredients label on the label). You can spray the foliage with an iron solution several times and get a similar result but the soil application is much more ineffective and efficient.
Another bottlebrush showing extreme chlorosis in rock mulch

You will have to do this every year particularly if you continue to grow it in bare soil or rock mulch. This plant should be fertilized in January with an all-purpose fertilizer for trees and shrubs as well.
You should make a determination about whether you want it to be a shrub or tree. I like them better as small trees. If you decide to keep it is a tree then prune at the soil level so that you have 3 to 5 major trunks originating from the soil surface. Remove everything else and keep that area under the tree free from new suckers. Remove any broken or crossed limbs.

After you have fertilized this tree with an all-purpose fertilizer and iron for the next two years, then begin to work on developing the architecture of the trees canopy.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Early Mid and Late Peaches for Season Long Production

Q. I live in the Mesquite area (1800 ft elevation) and was looking to plant 3 differant varieties of peach's that would not ripen all at the same time. Would also appreciate some advice on when to plant them and where I might obtain them should you recommend bare roots.

The eye-popping visual of Indian Free peach. Flavor is
incredible as well when it is grown in the desert.
A. It is hard to predict which peach trees will be available for you to purchase to help you plan. I can make recommendations but these trees may or may not be available.

Off of the top of my head, I would probably pick a yellow peach, a white peach for sure. Something like May Pride, Babcock and Indian Free. If you look at my downloadable recommended variety list it will tell you which are early, mid and late peaches.

You can also look at varieties posted on Dave Wilson Nursery at