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Monday, November 5, 2012

Figs Won't Make it Before it Freezes

Q. We have a Black Mission fig tree with about one hundred well-formed but still very green fruit. This will be the second crop for 2012. It is now the first week of November. We are afraid that the frost will come before these fruit mature. Do you have any suggestions on maximizing our yield from these trees? This is becoming an annual problem.
Two different crops of figs on the same branch: early figs
(briba) on the older, darker wood and the second crop
(main crop) on the green new growth.
A. In our Las Vegas Valley climate it is very common to have two crops of figs each year. In fact, if we could maintain warm temperatures through November we would actually get a third crop of figs.

            The first crop of figs in the summer comes from growth or wood that grew the previous year. In other words, the first crop of figs you should be getting the summer of 2013 will come from wood that grew in 2012. It is easy to see the difference between wood produced in 2012 from older wood because of the color difference.

            The second crop of figs, as well as the late third crop which you are seeing now, comes from the current season wood. So this coming year the second and third crop will grow on wood produced in 2013.

            There are the two things that you will most likely have to do this coming winter and the subsequent growing season. When you prune your fig tree this winter, leave some wood on the tree that grew this past season.
Fig along fence after winter pruning at The Orchard

            If you want an early crop, the first crop, you must leave some of last year’s wood on the tree. If you remove this wood by cutting everything back you will remove the early crop of figs. If this wood is excessively long, you can cut some of it back and it will still produce fruit. I would leave 2 to 3 feet of this wood remaining.

            If this wood, last year's wood, is not very long it means your tree is not getting enough water. Normally the wood produced last year could range from 2 to 6 feet or more in length. It varies with how much light it is getting, position on the tree, if it is upright or not, etc.

            Two things that will give you more growth is water and surface mulch. Fig trees do very well with organic surface mulch or wood mulch on the surface of the soil. 3 to 4 inches or more would be great.

            You would water a fig tree just like any other landscape tree that is not a desert plant. Figs are not really desert adapted. They are typical of more Mediterranean climates and they do like water for the production. I hope this helps. Watch my blog for this question and I will post pictures.

Cottonwoods (Poplars) Not a Good Choice for the Desert

Poplar or cottonwood growing in desert
landscape. It is difficult to water these
types of trees in our climate due to their high
water demand and our irrigation systems not
intended for very large, high water-demand trees.
Bob, I have 2 cottonwood trees that are about 15yrs old. They were doing very well until about 2 years ago. At that time I noticed a limb here and there dying. Now more and more are dying off. I cut off a limb that broke in the wind recently that was partially dead at the top. I saw bugs in the area that was dying. The bark turns brown and peels off the limbs that are dying. Also when I cut off limbs that are dead or dying the wood under the bark is turning a dark brown at the center. I found info on the internet that recommended using a pesticide applied to the soil along with a 10-10-10 fertilizer mix. I just did this last week so I don’t know if this will help. What do you recommend? What do you think is the problem? Am I doing the right thing? What do you suggest?

I really appreciate your help. It would be a shame to lose these beautiful trees.

Cottonwood trees require lots and lots of water. I hope these are not growing in a rock or desert landscape or you will have problems. If you will be successful they should be growing in a large turfgrass area with you supplying supplemental water to them deeply twice a month. This means not only are they receiving water from the lawn, but you would be watering them with extra water down to a depth of 18 to 24 inches twice a month during the growing season. The area that you are watering under the tree should be approximately the same area that is under the canopy or spread of the tree.

It is hard to judge but my guess would be that you are getting branch dieback from a lack of total water applied to the tree. These trees will not survive for any length of time if they are in drip irrigation. I would highly recommend that these trees be watered with a bubbler that releases large amounts of water quickly into a basin beneath the tree. This basin should be the size I mentioned above.

I don't believe that there is anything wrong with this tree that lots of water applied under the canopy would not cure. Watering schedule during the summer months would be every 2 to 3 days. The frequency of applied water decreases in the cooler months but the volume of water applied remains the same... that water needs to travel in the soil to a depth of 18 to 24 inches beneath the tree.

Pruned Newly Planted Peach and Got Only One New Shoot

Dear Bob
I purchased this nectarine at the orchard in either Jan/Feb of this year.  Since I planted it on a slope, I cut the trunk to 30" versus the 24" recommended by the gardener.  Unfortunately, as you can see from the picture, it only put out one scaffold branch?

I know you get hundreds of pruning questions, I read all of them on your blog, but I was wondering if, since it is still a young tree, if I should lower it another 6" in the hope that it will put out  more than one scaffold branch.  Or, if I should just live with the existing scaffold and hope that others will develop?

Any suggestions you could offer would be greatly appreciated.



That also happened to me on a peach once. These things do happen. When we make these dramatic cuts we sometimes don’t get pretty results. Peaches and nectarines both sometimes, depending on the variety and the size of the trunk, may respond by making one new shoot or several.

However, the larger the trunk on peach or nectarine we cut the more chances we will have of getting fewer new shoots. Smaller trunks will give you more shoot development… typically. There are three things you could do. This might depend on what you want the tree to look like. For production purposes you are fine where you are…. A bit higher than I would have liked to see but you will get fruit. But it does look a bit odd when it is young. This will disappear over time and you can enjoy the fruit soon.

You can recut the trunk (gulp). This is risky but what the heck. You will learn something one way or another. It might again send up one shoot. It might send up more than one shoot. It might not send up any new shoots. I can’t tell you what is going to happen but if I truly did not like the look of it I would recut the trunk and take a chance. If I don’t care about the looks so much then I would let it go.

Next time, pick a younger tree with smaller diameter trunk and cut it at knee height to start your scaffold branches. In one season you will not have any difference in size between the two.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Internal Browning of Pear May Be Due to Late Harvesting

Hi Bob:  I understand you are in Afghanistan.  Stay Safe over there!  If you have time to address my rather insignificant problem compared to where you are right now I would appreciate it.    If not ...no sweat! I have a large 12-15 year old Keiffer Pear Tree that always has literally hundreds of large pears on it each year. 

            I am just harvesting them and this year the pears look fantastic and are especially large but when one cuts them open all of them have rotten areas within the pear.   Perfect on the outside but ruined on the inside.   Last year they were perfect both inside and out…no problems but not so this year. I am sending a picture…hope you get this.   Any clue as to what’s going on with these pears?  

            The only issue I had with the tree early In the summer was a severe iron deficiency that I treated with an iron solution.  Don’t know if this caused the pear problem or not. I would appreciate any info you can give me. 


Keiffer pear at The Orchard
Billy. This is a tough one but I do not believe your applications of iron had anything to do with it. From the picture I believe this is called brown core or pithy brown core. I could be wrong. But the brown area would be pithy, not wet or watery. If this is in fact what it is I do not have good news because no one seems to know what causes it.

Let's run down a list of possibilities. One suggestion is cool weather. Some suspect that unusually cool weather can cause this problem in fruit. Another suggests that if you leave the fruit on the tree too long the fruit can develop this problem. Another suggests if you harvest the fruit and do not cool it down soon after harvesting this problem can develop.

Whatever caused it, from your description, it happened to all of the fruit this year. Look and see if the fruit on the South and West sides are harder hit than the ones on the North or North East side. Let's rule out over heating of the fruit. If you don't have good leaf cover on the tree this might be a problem because the fruit may not get enough for shade and cooling.
Corky spot on Comice pear at The Orchard

When harvesting the fruit, try harvesting the fruit a little earlier, maybe mid-October, and let them ripen a little bit off of the tree but inside the house. Make sure when they are harvested they do not sit in the sun for any length of time.

There is another disorder called corky spot that cause the flesh to be brown and pithy just under the skin. This is due to a calcium deficiency and calcium sprays are recommended five times during the growing season to alleviate this problem. But this does not appear to be corky spot.

That's about all I have to offer. If it does not happen again next year and you have not done much different perhaps we can conclude it was due to weather.