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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Meyer Lemon With Few Fruit

Q. Our Meyer lime is full of blooms.  In previous years it has yielded lots of fruit.  However, last year the blooms were abundant but all of the bloom fell off and we had a crop of one lime.  What happened? 

Meyer lemon flowers
A. This is probably Meyer Lemon. Can be difficult to say exactly but we can start to narrow it down. The major culprits are irrigation, late spring freezes and poor pollination.

            Meyer lemon is self-pollinating which means it can pollinate itself. However there does seem to be some evidence that bees will increase fruit set and the number of fruit produced. Check your fruit and see if you lots of seed. If you do have lots of seed then a lack of pollination was probably not the problem. If there were just a couple of seed then maybe the tree needs access to more bee activity.

            If we have a late spring freeze then it is possible that the flowers were killed after pollination resulting in poor fruit set. This can happen some years. If this might be the cause then try to restrict cold winter and late spring winds from directly landing on the tree. Use a wind barrier after or during bloom but don’t cover the tree and restrict bee activity.

            If the tree is not being watered evenly, a very dry and wet cycle or even one very dry period during or slightly after bloom can cause fruit drop.

            Watch how you prune. Prune right after harvest which should be December and no later than the first part of January. If you delay harvesting the fruit into the spring then this can interrupt the normal flowering and fruiting cycle.

25 Year Old Grapefruit Tree With Crystals Coming From Trunk

Readers grapefruit tree trunk with crystals coming out
Q. My grapefruit tree is about 25 years old and has always produced an abundance of fruit.  A few months ago, I noticed a crystallized substance coming out of various spots on its lower trunk.  Also, some of the leaves had developed tiny black spots, had turned yellow and had fallen from the branches. I attached photos.

            I would appreciate any help you can give me about this and what to do to stop the flow and save the tree. There are about a dozen or so grapefruit on the tree now. Are they OK to eat?

A. I posted your photos on my blog for others to see. Probably my biggest concern for your tree is it getting enough water and applied at the right times and deep enough. Frequently this type of damage is associated more with stress than anything else.

Readers grapefruit tree with crystals coming from limb
            It is also possible that this could be the result of some cold/freezing damage from a previous cold winter. In other words, I do not believe it is due to insects or an active disease. It is possible it is due to some “disease” caused from environmental stress. This type of damage can revert to an active disease problem if you do not keep the tree healthy.

            So my recommendation is to not put down any chemicals for insects or disease but to concentrate on plant health by fertilizing in the spring with a citrus fertilizer. This would be done around or prior to flowering.

            Put the fertilizer near the drip emitters or source of water so the fertilizer is pushed into the rootzone of the plant. You might want to take a look at tree fertilizer stakes but keep them at least a couple of feet from the trunk. If the source or water for irrigation is close to the trunk, move it away the same distance. 

            It is okay to start with two drip emitters for new trees but in a few years you should be adding more emitters which will allow you to spread the water more evenly under the trunk and add more water at the same time which it needs as it gets bigger. Bigger trees need more water than smaller trees regardless of the type of tree it is.

            This spring water the area under the canopy deeply and thoroughly. Add an iron chelate fertilizer when you are adding your other fertilizer as either granular, liquid or tree stakes. Like any fertilizer, it needs water to move these fertilizer salts into the rootzone.

            Prune out any dead or dying branches, crossed branches, branches growing straight up or straight down. These are unproductive and just shade the interior of the tree.

            The fruit is fine to eat as long as you have not applied any pesticides recently.

Base of Nectarine Tree Rotting I Think

Q. We have a nectarine tree trunk that we have a question about. I am attaching photos of it. It looks like it’s rotting. We were going to wrap the trunk to further protect it but we don't know if it's the right thing to do. Please view the photos when you have the time and advise us on what we should do.

Readers nectarine tree
A. Nice pictures. I will post them on my blog. It looks like there is damage to the trunk as you suggest. I would pull the rock away from the trunk about a foot. Make sure that the source of the irrigation is not close to the trunk. Put the water source a foot to 18 inches from it if possible.      Secondly, make sure you are not watering too often. You should be watering right now about every 7 to ten days but with a large volume of water when you do… enough to wet the soil to a depth of 18 to 24 inches deep on at least two sides of the tree. Three or four emitters watering this tree would be better than just two as the tree gets bigger.

Closeup of readers nectarine tree
            Pull the bark away from the damaged area if the bark pulls away easily. If it doesn’t, then cut the bark away with a sanitized knife so the damaged area is exposed and clean for healing. Keep water off of the damaged area during irrigations until it heals, perhaps around May or June.

            If the rock was put around the trunk and it keeps the trunk wet above the soil line for the first several years, you may very well encourage trunk rot or collar rot on young trees. On young trees it is important to keep mulch away from the trunk a foot or so for about 5 years or more until the trunk matures and is less susceptible to rotting. Secondly, never irrigate frequently but deeply and less often.

Irrigation Water Coming Out of Container Red After EDDHA Application

Q. I went and bought the iron chelate stuff you recommended however the instructions were not really clear.  This was for the lemon tree in the whiskey barrel with yellowing and not too many leaves.  Anyway I put about three teaspoons in the barrel and applied water.  I did not know this was going to turn the water red.  It all drained out red.  Hopefully enough stayed in to help the tree.  When should I do this again?

A. Well the water coming out all red is not a good indicator of good soil health. It also means that any fertilizer applied is going to run through it as well. I would go to foliar fertilizer applications until you can improve the soil.

            This EDDHA iron chelate that I recommend is not a good iron fertilizer for a liquid application to the leaves. Sorry. But it will be great once you improve the soil and it holds nutrients again and you apply it at the right time.

            Another method you could use would be to lift out the whole rootball out of the container if it will come out easily for you and in one piece. You can cut around the tree with a shovel and see if you can lift it out of the container. If the rootball wants to fall apart and not come out in one piece, then I would forget lifting it out and replace the soil a bit each year.

            If the tree can be lifted out, dump the excess soil left in the container, wash some of the soil from the roots and replant it in the container again after sanitizing it.

            You can inspect the roots and cut off any unhealthy roots when it is out of the container. Do not let the roots dry out when you are doing this. Before you replant it, put the tree rootball in a container full of cool but not cold water and let it soak for a couple of hours.

            Replant the tree. Stake it for a couple of months and repot the whole thing. Then apply the iron fertilizer you bought to that soil. But you will get very limited results from that iron without improving the soil. If this doesn’t make sense, email me with questions so I know what you understand and don’t understand.