Type your question here!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Indian Free Peach Will Require a Pollinator Peach for Good Fruit Set

Q. I did some reading on the Indian Free peach tree and one of the articles said that another type of peach tree could pollinate the Indian Free. If this is true, can a May pride or Florida Prince peach (early producers) pollinate the Indian Free?  What month does the Indian Free produce here in Las Vegas?
Indian Free peach on the tree at the UNCE Orchard.

A. With only a few exceptions, peach trees are self-pollinating which means you only need one peach tree to set fruit. Two of the big exceptions are Indian Free and a variety called J.H. Hale. Any other peach other than Indian Free will pollinate it as long as the flowers open at the same time as Indian Free.

            If you have a neighbor with a peach variety other than Indian Free yours will probably set fruit just fine. You only need about 5% of the flowers to set fruit to have a full crop of peaches that will still require thinning or fruit removal to allow the remaining fruit to get bigger.

            I never used to worry about pollination too much at the Orchard because we had so many different varieties growing there pollination was never a concern.

Indian Free peach on the inside.
            Fruit pollination and fruit set can vary with different types of fruit trees as well as among varieties. Fruit set and pollination can vary from no fruit set to partial fruit set (a few fruits on the tree) without a pollinator.  By having another variety of the same type of fruit close by, fruit set can go from light to heavy.

            Another option you have with Indian Free peach if you have a small yard is to plant more than one peach tree in the same hole. You can pick another of your favorite peaches that produce fruit at a different time of year and be picking peaches at two different times. Indian Free peach is not a late peach but it is not early either. It produces fruit around the end of July here.

            You could put an early peach in the same hole as the Indian Free and it will act as a pollinator for the Indian Free and also produce peaches earlier in the season. Any of the early peaches will work just fine such as Earlitreat, May Pride or FlordaPrince. You would plant them in the same hole about 18 inches apart. One peach tree would be planted on the East side of the hole and the other on the west side of the hole.

            You don't want to plant them with one on the South and the other on the North unless you know that the less vigorous of the two is planted on the South side. In other words, if there is a big difference in how robust or vigorous they grow, always put the most vigorous variety on the north side where it will receive less direct sunlight.

            Peaches or any fruit trees which are planted in the same hole will require that you control their growth like a totalitarian regime; each of the fruit trees will have their own space and neither of them will be allowed to encroach or invade the other’s space.

            Once two trees are planted in the same hole, each of them is only allowed to half of the allotted space for one tree. The tree on the east can occupy only the east side and the tree on the west only the west side. Any growth from the east tree which is growing to the west or even northwest or southwest is eliminated. Any growth from the west tree that is growing to the east or even the northeast or southeast is eliminated.

            Food for thought. You are not limited to growing only one or two fruit trees in a single hole. I have grown as many as four in a single hole and I have seen as many as eight demonstrated. Good luck with your Indian Free peach. It is a wonderful peach to grow in the desert.

Will Hazelnuts Grow in Las Vegas?

Q. As a kid growing up in Portland we had a couple of filbert trees. Will they grow in Las Vegas? 

Mark Ruben at the Gilcrease Orchard with peanuts.
A. Filbert is a type of a hazelnut and will have a tough time here. I have seen them growing in the mountains of the Caucuses where it is cool rather than the lower, hot elevations of Armenia. There is a variety of filbert called Willamette which tells you a little bit about what kind of conditions (Willamette Valley of Oregon) they prefer.

            I tried two filberts (male and female) at the orchard several years ago. They were given to me, reluctantly, by Dave Wilson Nursery to try after I pleaded several times to obtain them for testing. They warned me that they would not work. I pulled them from the orchard after the first season due to a lack of vigor.

            But the trees were not in good shape when I planted them and they really struggled for one season demonstrating leaf scorch and just some really bad stress even though they were in the middle of the orchard, the soil was composted and mulched.

            I would have liked to try them again with some trees that were in better condition from the beginning. This time I would put some shade cloth over them for the first season until they got established and demonstrated some strong growth. Then I would remove the shade cloth in the fall when it is cooler and let them acclimate though the fall and following spring.

            The next season, if they appear to be healthy, I would not put shade cloth on them unless they looked like they lost some vigor. After the second season, it is “sink or swim” and no shade cloth would be used.

 Nuts which will grow in the Las Vegas climate include almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts (both from Pinon and Italian stone pine) and even peanuts! In our desert climate because of water issues and space limitations it is best to focus on the smaller nut trees like almond, pistachio and pine nuts rather than the larger types like walnut and pecan. Peanuts grow underground on a vine and grow well here.

Eastern Redbud Can Pose Problems in Las Vegas Landscapes

Readers eastern redbud problems. It is an understory tree in the Eastern
United States and will struggle in our alkaline soils and extremes of
temperature, humidity and high light intensities. It is also planted in a
rock landscape or desert Xeriscape.
Q. I am sending you some pictures of my Eastern redbud tree. It has some problems and I want to know how to correct these.

A. The redbud problem is pretty common with the Eastern type, our soils and climate. Western Redbud is a bit more tolerant than the Eastern Redbud of our conditions and would be a preferred tree for the Western United States.

            Western redbud may not be easy to find in the nurseries but it is worth a look. Another tree that might be even a better selection for you would be the Mexican Redbud which looks very similar and would give you the same impact as the Eastern Redbud. Actually in some circles the Mexican redbud is considered a “form” or selection of the Western redbud.

Readers eastern redbud. She has put wood mulch around
the tree which is good. The water from the irrigation
will help to decompose the wood mulch and improve the
soil. Unfortunately this may not be enough for this tree
to do well.
            The problem you are seeing on the leaves, scorching and discoloration, will always be a problem with this tree in this climate and soils. Eastern redbud is an “understory tree” in the eastern part of the United States which means it does not handle full sun very well even in the cooler parts of this country.

            I usually encourage people to try something new but this is a small tree that you would have to babysit for many years to come even if you've found the right spot for it. I would encourage you to look for the Mexican redbud if this is going into a desert or rock type landscape.

          Below is a hyperlink that will take you to a site that talks about Mexican Redbud.

Science in Action: Development of Spinosad

          Professionals in the horticulture industry have a new but safe addition to their arsenal of integrated pest management products.  This product is a relatively new release for controlling insects such as caterpillars, thrips, leaf miners, dry wood termites and fire ants, and even some leaf feeding beetles while leaving most beneficial insects unharmed. Spinosad would be an excellent choice to use in rotatation with other organic controls for caterpillars such as Bt (Bacillus thuriengensis, Dipel™, Thuricide™).

Even though it is not obvious, this
container of Fertilom's Borer, Bagworm,
Leafminter & Tent Caterpillar Spray
contains spinosad. You would know that if
you read the label of ingredients.
Spinosad has demonstrated good control of Western flower thrips during trials at the University of Nevada's, Center for Urban Horticulture and Water Conservation.  Initial tests on grapes showed some level of activity on immature leafhoppers.  This insecticide will be listed in the ingredients of a pesticide label as Spinosad (pronounced spy’ no sid).

          Spinosad has been categorized safe enough by USDA to be used as a product suitable for organic production, labeled for about 200 horticultural plant types including landscape plants and food crops.  What is different about this product is that it launches a totally new category of products to be used for controlling insects.

          Spinosad is derived from a class of soil microorganisms called Actinomycetes.  Actinomycetes are no longer classed as fungi or bacteria, as they were previously, but have characteristics common to both.  Actinomycetes play a very major role in the decomposition of organic matter. These microorganisms convert raw material to humus and are responsible for releasing geosmin, the chemical identified with that “earthy smell” common to high quality composts.

This is also Spinosad. But you would never know
by looking at the label. This is Monterey Chemical
Company's version of spinosad. Again, to know
this you would have to look at the active ingredients
or see in the upper right hand corner of the label
that this formulation contains spinosad. 
          Spinosad is derived from fermentation products, called spinosyns, produced by one or more mutants of the naturally occurring Actinomycete, Saccharopolyspora spinosa. This microorganism was a chance discovery at an abandoned rum distillery by a microbiologist visiting the Caribbean. The vegetative base used to grow S. spinosa is submerged in an aerated liquid containing proteins, carbohydrates, oils, corn solids, cottonseed flour, soybean flour, glucose, methyl oleate, and calcium carbonate and other minerals.

          When the S. spinosa is allowed to grow aerobically in an aqueous growth medium, it produces a number of different byproducts including several different spinosyns. The spinosyns are large complex molecules containing mostly carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Technically, Spinosad is a combination of spinosyns A (85%) and D (15%) which creates a pesticide that does not conform to any previous class of insecticide; chemical or biological. 

          Actinomycetes are not strangers to us when talking about pest control.  Byproducts from one of the Actinomycetes, a subgroup called Streptomycetes, is responsible for giving us antibiotics such as actinomycin, tetracycline, streptomycin, and neomycin leading to the only Nobel Prize ever given to a soil scientist, Dr. Selman Waksman in 1952. 

          Byproducts from these soil microorganisms have been used by all of us to treat bacterial infections in animals and humans.  We still use a streptomycin product, Agri Strep®, for controlling fireblight in commercial apple and pear orchards.

          Actinomycetes are also nitrogen fixers. Just like the other nitrogen fixers more common to us, the Rhizobia types associated with legumes, Actinomycetes convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form of nitrogen which can be used by plants. Actinomycetes form associations with the roots of some non-leguminous plants such as bitterbrush, mountain mahogany, cliffrose, and ceanothus and “fix” nitrogen from the air, making this nitrogen available to its host and other plants in the near vicinity.

Unlike some other pesticides, Spinosad degrades in the environment to its natural components of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. However, this degradation is quite slow compared to biologicals like Bacillus thuriengensis (Bt; Dipel™, Thuricide™). The leaching potential of Spinosad is very low and so does not pose a threat to groundwater when used properly and no buffer zones are required by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Persistence after application can range from 5 to 10 days. However, it may persist longer in aquatic environments.

          The principal method of entry into insects is orally, by ingestion. So leaf feeding insects are more likely controlled than those which typically “suck” plant juices. At the Center, we have been using weekly applications to control flower thrips and leafhopper nymphs.

Spinosad’s potential for chronic toxicities such as certain forms of cancer, is also quite low. It has been demonstrated that it is not carcinogenic, teratogenic, mutagenic, or neurotoxic.  EPA puts Spinosad in the “caution” category of pesticides but with an LD50 of over 5,000 it is practically nontoxic to mammals and birds. It has wide margins of safety to many beneficial insects such as green lacewings, Lady Bird beetles, minute pirate bugs, and only slightly toxic to fish. 

Spinosad does provide some control of leaf miners. Although not classed as a systemic inseciticide it does cross the laminar covering of leaves and can penetrate to just below the leaf surface where leaf miners are feeding.

One drawback is its potential toxicity to honeybees.  Although not as toxic as many other insecticides, Spinosad has been classed in the highly toxic category but drops considerably after the product has dried on leaf surfaces. Early morning applications before bees fly or early evening applications after bees have returned to their nests would be ideal times of application.

The mode of action of Spinosad is similar to other pesticides which attack the nervous system and is very quick acting compared to other biologicals or natural products. 

Even though a low probability of resistance development was speculated, there has been insect resistance already noted in Hawaii with the diamondback moth.  Resistance management, alternating applications with other products to achieve pest control, is recommended to avoid the development of future resistance.

This article was written by Bob Morris and previously published in Southwest Trees and Turf.

How Do I Fill in Bare Spots in my Newly Planted Lawn?

Seeded grass is new. You can still see bare ground between
the new emerging and growing grass plants. This is normal.
If there are still many plants in each square foot of lawn it will
 fill in nicely after mowing and fertilizing.
Q. I wanted to ask you about my newly planted fescue lawn.  A few months ago, I asked you to give me a step by step project in replacing the old lawn in the house I just moved into.  I have followed the steps and have so far seen nice results.  I laid seed down on the 17th and from the pic I hope you'll agree, things are shaping up nicely.  There are sure to be spots that I didn't seed as even as others, so my question is, when/how do I go back and fill in those areas?  Any other opinion from what you see in the pic?  Thanks so much!

A. It looks good. The open areas between plants are to be expected. If it is open enough at this stage so you see bare ground I would not worry about it. The grass grows straight up in the beginning. As you mow, the grass plant will begin to tiller, or create side shoots, that increase the density of the lawn.

But if you are talking about distances between plants of several inches or more then you will need to reseed in those spots. If you reseed the entire lawn then you will waste alot of seed. Try to focus on those spots that are really open.

Dont worry about spots that have scattered grass plants in them. They will fill in. If this were me I would now apply another light application of fertilizer, probably straight nitrogen if you applied a complete fertilizer at the time of planting. This would be a very light application.

If you use 21-0-0 I would put down about two pounds for every 1000 square feet. I would then (if you have time) soak some seed in water (put a little bit of 21-0-0 in the water) for a few hours, drain it and let it dry overnight. In the morning when the seed is dry to the touch, broadcast the seed in the open area.

If you soak the seed and let it dry too long you will kill the seed. The seed has to imbibe water (like a sponge) let the surface dry so you can spread it but not too dry so the seed loses its imbibed water. The water soak with a little nitrogen will cause the seed to "explode" with growth. You will see what I mean if you do it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

How Much Space Do I Need to Keep a Hive of Bees?

Q. I am just wondering how much space we would need to keep a hive of bees. I have a large backyard by Vegas standards with fruit trees, grape vines and a garden. And how do we keep the bees from being pesky to the neighbors?

A. I forwarded this question to our bee expert, Rodney Mehring, who teaches classes on beekeeping at the UNCE Orchard. Check with your local ordinances to make sure beekeeping is allowed in your community.
Beehives at the UNCE Orchard
You can keep a bee hive in almost any space or back yard. Some beekeepers that live in large cities will even keep bees hive on the roofs of apartment buildings.

The food resource in your back yard is nominal in comparison to the 2-5 miles from the hive the bees will forage. Bees will work the flowers you have on plants in your yard but will also work flowers all over the neighborhood.

There is a limit to the number of colonies a given area can support. Too many hives mean there is not enough food and some colonies will die over winter for lack of food storage. Some areas in Arizona may support 50 or more colonies in the desert. In the city you may be able to support even more.

Queen is center right marked with "17" upside
In Nevada deserts there may not be enough food to even support 1 colony. However it is unlikely that you will be keeping more than 2 or 3 colonies in a city back yard. There is more than enough food in your area of town for 2 or 3 colonies.

And how do we keep the bees from being pesky to the neighbors for example? The short answer is management. The Las Vegas Valley has the Africanized honey bee (AHB) and can make trouble with neighbors, their animals and even cause mortalities. The best way to keep your hives from becoming Africanized is to keep the queens in your hives “marked”.

If you know she is the queen you placed in the colony by her markings, then you know your colony has not become Africanized. If the queen you have in your colony is unmarked, then you should order a new queen from a queen breeder that does not have Africanized genes. Even our genital European hives can be a problem to neighbors.

Bee class at the Orchard for volunteers and future beekeepers
To help them from being a problem for your neighbors, keep the hive behind a fence or structure that is 6 feet or higher. This will force the bee to rise above neighbors heads and prevent unintended stings. Always put fresh water out for the bees otherwise you will force the bees to find water at your neighbors pool. Always communicate with your neighbors and give them some honey each year from your hives. This will “sweeten them up” to work with you.

If you are interested in learning more about beekeeping, Rodney will be teaching classes at the UNCE Orchard. You can get more information about future classes or contact Rodney at his website, www.lvbeekeeping.com .

Why Can't I Find a Decent Looking Rose at the Nursery?

Q. My roses are not what they should be.  Not sure why but here is what I think. The plants we buy are not the same quality purchased 10 years ago, no matter the cost. The alkaline water has destroyed the soil and I am not using enough soil sulfur.

A. I do not agree. Rose producers, such as Weeks Roses, ship good quality roses when they leave their production facility. What happens to the roses after they leave their facility has some impact on the quality of the rose that you can purchase.

First is the shipper. If the shipper is a good one, they can arrive in the nursery in good condition. Damage to plants can occur in shipping.

Secondly are plant brokers. Sometimes plant materials are handled by so-called “middlemen”,  typically called plant brokers. Sometimes the brokers ship directly from the producers. Sometimes plant brokers have their own facilities and hold plant materials for a period of time. Damage can occur during plant brokerage.

Finally the retail outlet may mishandle the plant materials in the nursery prior to sale. Shopping at mass merchandisers or those companies which offer the lowest possible price will affect the quality of the plant. They shop around for the best possible deal they can get. This can mean the plants that have been held for quite a while because they could not be sold.

Anytime you hold plant materials for long periods of time the quality of those plants would be affected. Count on it. This is why the producer can start with high quality material and end up with a garbage with their name on it at a retail outlet  six months later.

There is definitely a difference in quality among producers of roses. But all these other factors will affect the quality of the product available to you. To avoid this as much as possible, do your rose shopping when shipments of roses first come in to the store. Minimize the time they stay at a retail outlet. Buy roses from a reputable grower such as Weeks Roses.  I know at least one nursery in Las Vegas carried Weeks Roses this past spring. They probably had trouble selling them, particularly in this economy because they cost more.


Lastly, buy varieties of roses that do well in our desert climate. I have attached a list of roses that do well here for you to look at. I also posted this list on my blog.

Roses for Hot Dry Climates

The alkaline water does not destroy the soil. Water high in sodium can damage soil structure, be toxic to plants and cause serious growing problems.  Unless you are using softened water from your water softener, local water used for irrigation should not be a problem.

 The five tenets for growing roses successfully in the desert include: start with good quality plant material; choose the right microclimate in your landscape; amend your garden soil at the time of planting; cover the soil with wood mulch after planting; and use appropriate management which includes irrigation, fertilizer applications, pest control and pruning.