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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Moruga Scorpion chili and Bhut Jalokia Pepper Plants Available Until 5/12/13

Hi, I just subscribed to your blog, looks nice. I have 7 Moruga Scorpion baby chili plants, and 1 Bhut Jalokia that need a good home. I am out of garden room. They are free to a good home. Contact if you are interested.

Sincerely, Craig
Send me an email, Extremehort@aol.com and I will get hold of Craig for anyone who is interested.
Previous hottest pepper

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tomatoes Not Setting Fruit? Shake It Up Baby!

Q. I have only gotten into gardening in the Vegas area the last 3 years and have been successfully growing tomatoes the first 2 years. But I noticed last year that I didn't get nearly the same number of tomatoes that I harvested in previous years. I have a raised bed that I started with a blend of about 4:1 of cheap compost and our desert soil.  The soil level is at least 2 1/2 feet deep.  Each year I have continued adding compost from my own yard and vegetable scraps, at least 3-4 inches of compost each year. I have periodically used a Star Nursery fertilizer as well (the one designated "for vegetables/fruits"). 
The watering for the tomatoes is set to a timer such that during the full heat of summer the plants get watered twice a day (about 10 minutes each time), less frequently when the temperatures are lower. There is microtubing with an adjustable drip emitter used to water the plants. The watering scheme has been unchanged the past 3 years. The plants get full sun all day.

So last year the tomato plants themselves grew well and I saw lots of flowers, but the tomatoes just never developed. This was even before the heat of summer hit. I think I harvested about a third of what I did the year before.
I noticed a lot less honey bees this past year in general as well. I have grown other mixed vegetables that have all done well so I am assuming the nutrient content in the soil is ok. Is there anything I could be doing differently to help get more tomatoes?  What about Mason bees? Are there flowers I can plant to attract bees for better pollination?

A.  Let's look at the list of things that could affect fruit production. These would include the right temperature range, wind, good soil preparation, disease, pollinators such as bees, humidity, sunlight and a few other things as well. If we have a long, cool spring we can expect to potentially have good production of fruit. If the spring is erratic and goes from cold to hot in a short period of time we can expect poor fruit production. I will tell you a little trick you can use in a bit but I want to make sure you read the rest of what I have to say. Little tricks do not work all by themselves. You have to do the whole package to be truly successful.


Irregular Production

Let me first comment on the irregular tomato production. Our desert climate is not the best climate for tomato production. We have a very short spring sometimes. The spring months as well as the corresponding fall weather, are the best times for tomato production here. When it gets too hot, tomatoes stop producing. Tomatoes are very sensitive to both hot and cold weather and have a more narrow acceptable temperature range than peppers or eggplant which are in the same family.
Tomatoes do not set well above 90°F and don't set it all when it stops 95°F. If bees are not working during the cooler parts of the day, you will get poor fruit set. Pollinators are very important and if they are not working when you need them or they have a very narrow window of opportunity then production will be down. Fruit set in the cool spring usually means you will get tomatoes in June and July and then they stop producing Et al. in August because it was too hot for fruit set.

Soil Improvement

Desert soils that are raw (never in production before) are ripped deep with an irrigation
trencher prior to preparation to open the soil for organic matter additions.
You have to be very careful about compost and if you use cheap compost your garden could be in trouble. When I prepare our desert soil for production I use an equal mix of good compost and native soil to begin with and I construct raised beds with outside walls. I will use compost that I know is good quality or make my own. I emphasize this... there is no good quality compost available for sale in Las Vegas. They are making some compost at the Las Vegas Springs preserve which is pretty good stuff but they are not allowed to sell it. 
The second year of production I add about half of the amount I used the first year. The third-year I add about the same amount as the second year. By the third year, that desert soil will become extremely productive. At that point, I only add compost to the area that I'm planting, not the entire growing area.

 I typically modify the soil to a depth of about 12 to 18 inches. However, I do rip the soil as deep as I can with an irrigation trencher when I first began constructing the raised beds.

 I strongly suggest not to use any compost without knowing what's in it. I am going to put a caveat here... the last time I looked one bagged compost that didn't seem too bad was Kellogg's. However, I believe they were using biosolids from Southern California. I believe the bag said not to use it for vegetables. I think this was available either from Lowe's or Home Depot but I have not looked for quite a while.

Good Varieties

Yellow pear tomato
You don't mention which varieties of tomatoes you are using and that can have a huge impact on production. Usually, varieties like Early Girl, Celebrity, Jet Star, Big Boy, Better Boy, and a grape tomatoes, yellow pear and cherry tomatoes will set when others do not. A couple of those plants are good indicators that least you are getting pollination.

Check your varieties and make sure they get in early. Try to keep them out of windy locations and you mention full sunlight but make sure they have a minimum of six hours.

Pollination and Pollinators

 It is not just getting flowers that are heat tolerant, you need flowers that are blooming at the right time as your tomatoes. Having bees coming to your yard during the heat will not help tomato production. They need to be blooming at the same time and this usually means spring flowering perennials and fruit trees.

I was only taking a guess about mason bees. Rather than encourage that type of be which might struggle in our climate I would encourage you to look at our native leafcutter bees which pollinate alfalfa and other legumes. You might also consider clovers and other legumes as a mix for attracting bees.

Finally the Hint

There are two ways of getting tomatoes to set fruit without pollinators. One is the use of applied hormones you can spray on the flowers to set fruit (parthenocarpically) without bees. These are sprays you can buy in the nursery.

The second method is a technique that green house growers use when they grow tomatoes because they dont have pollinators in their houses either. An electric toothbrush. It appears that the physical visit of a bee to the flower is not the only thing that trips the setting of fruit but the vibration caused by the wings of the bees. So when temperatures are good and you see flowers, walk over to your tomatoes and gently flick the flower clusters with your finger or use an electric toothbrush and vibrate the flower clusters for a few seconds to improve flower set.


Effect of High and Low Temperatures on Tomatoes and Peppers

The Effect of Extreme Temperatures on the Tomato and Pepper Crop
Janice LeBoeuf - Vegetable Crop Specialist/OMAF
Creation Date:
16 June 2004
Last Reviewed:
2 December 2004
Freezing and chilling injury in tomato and pepper plants
Although frost occurs, by definition, when the temperature drops to 0º C at 1.5 meters above the ground, this may or may not result in freeze damage to crops. The actual temperature at which freezing will occur depends on such factors as plant species and variety, plant vigor, soil conditions, surface cover, duration of the freezing temperature, thawing conditions, cloud cover, and wind conditions.
In tomato, freezing causes a darkening of the leaf or stem tissues. Damaged areas later wilt and turn brown. It may be difficult, initially, to determine whether the growing point has been killed and damage may become more evident on the day after the frost. Peppers are more sensitive than tomatoes to freezing temperatures and may be injured or killed by a light frost.
Tomato plants are also susceptible to chilling injury at temperatures between 0 and 5º C. Chilling can cause stunted growth, wilting, surface pitting or necrosis of foliage, and increased susceptibility to disease. Low soil temperatures also stunt plant growth and prevent root development. Temperatures below 10ºC during flowering can interfere with pollination and result in catfacing of fruit.
Pepper plants experience chilling injury with prolonged temps of 0-10º C (32-50ºF). Injury may show up as puckering of the leaves and stunting of the plant.
The effect of temperature on flowering in tomatoes and peppers
It is well known that flowering, pollination, and fruit set of tomatoes and peppers can be adversely affected by temperature extremes. The effect of various temperatures during flowering and fruit set of peppers and tomatoes is shown in Tables 1 and 2.
Table 1: The effect of temperature during flowering and fruit set of tomato
Effect on flowering, pollination, fruit set
Greater than 35° C (95° F)
Reduced fruit set
18.5 – 26.5° C (65-80° F)
Optimum for fruit set
Less than 13° C (55° F)
Misshapen or catfaced fruit may result
Less than 10° C (50° F)
Poor fruit set
Table 2: The effect of temperature during flowering and fruit set of pepper
Effect on flowering, pollination, fruit set
Greater than 32° C (90° F) day temp.
Pollen sterility occurs, flowers may drop
16° C (61 ° F)
Optimum for flowering and fruit set
Less than 15.5° C (60° F) or greater than 24° C (75° F) night temp.
Poor fruit set
What you may not think about when you see blossoms and fruit developing, is that low temperatures experienced by the plant weeks before flower buds were visible, can also affect flowering and fruit set.
A tomato plant which experiences temperatures below 15.5ºC (60ºF) for extended periods of time will begin to flower profusely. These flowers may remain open on the plant for several weeks, without fruit being formed. Larger flowers and increased branching of clusters can show up as a result of low temperatures experienced by the plant weeks before flower buds are visible.

Believe it or not…
Daytime temperatures of 15.5°C (60°F) with night-time temperatures of 10°C (50°F), four to five weeks before a tomato flower cluster blooms, may result in misshapen or catfaced fruit.

Night temperatures of 7-10°C (45-50°F) during pepper flower development can cause the fruit to be smaller than normal, or somewhat misshapen.

Chilling and freezing injury of tomato and pepper fruit
The fruit of warm season crops like tomato and pepper can be injured by low temperatures. Chilling injury occurs in tomato fruit if they experience temperatures of 10ºC for longer than 14 days or temperatures of 5ºC for more than 6 to 8 days. Tomato fruit exposed to a shorter duration of low temperatures may still be prone to storage problems, even if obvious injury did not occur in the field. Pepper fruit can be injured by prolonged temperatures below 8ºC.
Frost injury is more severe than chilling injury. Tomato and pepper fruit are usually damaged between 0 and –1ºC.


Japanese Privet Invasive in Landscapes?

Q. I have a narrow area and the local Vegas nurseries have Japanese privet However, I have read on various blogs that birds eat the berries and they get dropped in other areas of the yard and gardens, sprouting up all over. They say it is considered an invasive species in many areas. Have you found this problem to be true and if so, is there anything that can be done so that the plant will not produce berries?

A. I have not heard this to be true in desert landscapes. We can control most growth by controlling water. Where water is applied to desert landscapes, these are the places where weeds and other unwanted plants will grow. There are many invasive species in California and Florida that are not invasive in home landscapes in our desert for this reason.
Leaves of Japanese privet under stress. Notice the curling, lack of density of the foliage and off color appearance.

            However, invasive species can be a problem in persistent or perennial waterways such as the Colorado River basin, washes like the Las Vegas Wash and irrigation ditches. So you do have to be careful with invasive species but in the middle of the desert with no such waterways it is not usually a problem.

            During the establishment period you would want to push stem growth as quickly as possible with deep irrigations and light fertilizer applications about four times a year. Pruning should be done about monthly during establishment and to keep the trellis looking neat and trim.

Kumquat Yellowing in Landscape Planting

Q. Here is one of two kumquat trees that I am trying to grow. As you can see it is not working.  I feed and water them what is the problem? Can you help?  Or should I discard?

A. The issues on the other picture could be related to a mineral fertilizer problem. This one could be the same but with the leaves gone it is hard to tell.

It also might be related to whatever soil amendments you put in the ground when you planted the trees. But I am pretty confident it has to do with the soil, fertilizer issue or irrigation.

It does not help much that they are surrounded by rock mulch. Let’s handle one at a time. Make sure the tree was planted in your soil at the same depth it was in the container. If there was some extreme cold weather, it might also be cold weather damage if you did not see this before it got real cold.

Irrigation. Irrigations should be generous but not frequent. A tree that small can get by with ten gallons of water at each application. If these are on drip emitters you should have enough emitters or run the minutes long enough to deliver ten gallons at this size in its life. This time of the year once a week is often enough. When you start to see new growth, bump it up to twice a week with the same volume of water each time.

Fertilizer. Go down to Plant World Nursery on Charleston (they are the only nursery I know of in town that carries this) and buy a one pound container of iron chelate fertilizer. If you ask for Doug, Brian or any of the main staff they will direct you to the right one since I recommend it a lot. They even have my name on the label now so people will believe them when they direct them to this product.
For each tree mix about two or three tbs in a one gallon container, stir it and distribute it around the base of the tree where the drip emitters are. Water it in with another gallon since it is sensitive to light. Get some rose fertilizer (like Miracle Gro type) and use it on the kumquat or get some fruit tree fertilizer stakes and put the fertilizer under the rocks or drive two stakes close to the emitters. I think the Miracle Gro is better. Fertilizers are salts. Keep all fertilizers at least 12 inches from the trunk when applied.

Mulch. If this were me, I would pull the rock mulch back a couple of feet and put down some good compost (don’t buy cheap stuff) and lightly dig it around the trees from the trunk to a distance of about two feet from the trunk. I would cover the area around the tree in wood mulch but not bark. Keep wood mulch six inches away from the trunk so that it does not cause the trunk to rot if it gets wet. Older trees it doesn’t matter.

Lets see if this works for you.

Suggested Landscape Practices for HOAs and Their Landscape Contractors

Q. We need expert opinion soon about what  to use as fertilizer for Greenway grass, bushes, and trees. Your advice please.

Greenway grass:

A. What is the range of N-P-K in cow manure that some landscapers use for grass?

Not sure what you mean by a "greenway" grasss.... but....It's really not fair to compare cow manure to a fertilizer because it isn't. They are using it more as a top dressing than as a fertilizer application. Manures vary in fertilizer content but are generally about 4% nitrogen and usually low in phosphorus and potassium. You should not rely on cow manure as a fertilizer. The fertilizer should be applied separately from a cow manure. An inexpensive fertilizer for starting plants and getting root growth from seeds, seedlings or newly planted trees and shrubs is 16-20-0 or DAP (18-46-0).

B. What inorganic fertilizer would you recommend and the amount/acre?

For turfgrass you should never apply more than 1 pound of nitrogen every 1000 ft.² or 43 pounds of nitrogen per acre. In my opinion, this is excessive and should be closer to 1/2 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet or 22 pounds of nitrogen per acre. This would be for inexpensive, quick release agricultural nitrogen fertilizers. If you are applying more expensive horticulture fertilizers that contains slow release nitrogen, then you can bump the application rate up and apply it less often. How much to bump it up depends on what percentage of the nitrogen is slow release in the fertilizer.  
The fertilizer you mention (10-10-10) has 10% nitrogen. It is not a good turfgrass fertilizer but it's fine for trees and shrubs. In fact, turfgrass fertilizers are fine for trees and shrubs as well. The best turfgrass fertilizers are in the ratio of 3-1-2 or 4-1-2. An example would be 21-7-14, is a 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer. To apply 1 pound of nitrogen with your 10-10-10 fertilizer requires 10 pounds of fertilizer. Using your 10-10-10 fertilizer you would apply 435 pounds of the fertilizer to get 43.5 pounds of applied nitrogen (there is 43,560 square feet in an acre or 43.5 thousands of square feet). Like I said, I think one pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet is excessive and you will not see the difference once you exceed three quarters of a pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet or about 33 pounds of nitrogen per acre. In fact, if you apply 1 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet it will push turfgrass growth quite rapidly and cause alot of mowing during cool weather. Do you really want that?
Negotiate. If you use only half the fertilizer (1/2 pound per thousand instead of one pound per thousand) then use a better fertilizer at half the rate. Cost of the fertilizer is the same or better.

C. How many times per year and which month(s)?

For tall fescue turfgrass I would apply nitrogen four times a year; Labor Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. During the hot summer months I would always make sure you do not exceed 1/2 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet or you could end up with some burning if people are not careful. If you are using mulching mowers you can skip the Fourth of July application. If you are using mulching mowers you should never exceed 1/2 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet in a single application.

D. Should a roller of punchers be used immediately after fertilizing?

I assume you mean aeration. Core aeration can be done any time of the year and does not really relate to a fertilizer application. The only exception might be when you are applying a high phosphorus fertilizer

E. Should organic fertilizer (cow manure) even be used to fertilize grass?

Cow manure is not a fertilizer. Fertilizers will have the amount of N-P-K listed on the bad as required by state law.


A. What inorganic fertilizer (N-P-K) would you recommend and the amount/bush?

Turfgrass fertilizers in the ratio I mention above are good for most trees and shrubs. You would apply this fertilizer in the very early spring or late winter. The amount to apply is similar to the amount you would apply to turfgrass but is calculated under the canopy area of trees and shrubs. A small tree that occupies 100 ft.² of canopy space would get 1/10 of a pound of nitrogen. A tree that had 1000 ft.² under its canopy would get 1 pound of nitrogen. The driver of growth for trees, shrubs and turfgrass is nitrogen.

B. Applied dry, or liquid, in the gravel around bushes?

Dry fertilizers are applied near the irrigation source. If trees and shrubs are irrigated by sprinklers, then you distribute the fertilizer so that the sprinklers pushed the water into the rootzone. If these are drip irrigated, it is applied in the soil next to the drip emitters and the water carries a fertilizer into the rootzone. If you are applying a liquid fertilizer to the foliage obviously you have to wait for the foliage to appear in the spring to make an application. If this is a liquid fertilizer applied to the soil and make the application close to the drip emitters within a few inches under the mulch or under the turfgrass. Never apply a fertilizer to trees and shrubs deeper than about six or 8 inches. Fertilizer spikes are convenient but expensive. Liquid applications to the foliage last about 4 to 8 weeks. Dry fertilizers applied to the soil last longer if that's important.

C. How many times per year and which month(s)?

Most trees and shrubs will require a single application of a fertilizer to the soil during the months of December through about March. In a pinch you could go as late as April. Some plants tend to get yellow due to iron chlorosis or a lack of available iron. Usually a single application of an iron fertilizer that contains the chelate EDDHA is enough to keep them from yellowing. If these plants have been yellowing and are in poor condition for several years, this will probably not work in correcting a severe problem. The iron fertilizer should be applied at the same time as the other fertilizers, in early spring or late winter.

Tall trees:

A. What inorganic fertilizer (N-P-K) would you recommend and the amount/tree?

You can use a good turfgrass fertilizer for most tall trees and shrubs. To be effective this fertilizer should be applied close to a source of water for the trees so that it is washed into the rootzone. It should not be applied deeper than 6 to 8 inches in the soil. Other fertilizers in ratios like 1-1-1 are also okay but the high phosphorus of the middle number is really not needed unless these are flowering trees.

B. Applied dry, or liquid, near the end of branches around trees?

Fertilizer is fertilizer whether it is applied dry or liquid. The amount of nitrogen applied per tree is what is critical. Liquid fertilizers applied to the foliage or short lived. Dry or liquid fertilizers applied to the soil last longer.

C. How many times per year and which month(s)?

Once per year is enough in the very early spring just before new growth or not long after it begins.

Watering, Mulching and Fertilizing Desert Landscapes

Q.  I have three questions. How often should I water? Do I need to put mulch around the plants and then cover them with rocks or keep the mulch exposed? Do I need to fertilize plants with a desert-type fertilizer or can I use the same stuff I use on my regular plants and how often?

A. How often to water. Winter; once every ten to 14 days. Spring until May 1st; once a week. May 1 through the summer; twice a week. September 15 to December 1; once a week. These are approximate dates. Adjust with the weather.

Purple leaf plum mulched with wood mulch in a desert landscape of rock mulch. Wood mulch
adds organic matter back to the soil as it decomposes and is needed in soils around
some plants like purple leaf plum.
            Wood mulch is a substitute for rock mulch. Rock mulch will cause problems with some plants. If you want all rock mulch, then make sure the plants used can tolerate rock mulch. Wood mulch is used without rock mulch and should be three to four inches deep around plants.

Ammonium sulfate is a high nitrogen fertilizer containing 21% nitrogen (21-0-0)
            Fertilizers are the same for all plants. If you want growth, use high nitrogen fertilizers. If you want flowers and root growth, use a fertilizer with high phosphorus. Good fertilizers are more expensive than ordinary fertilizers and are frequently worth the money.

Sprint 138 iron contains iron in the chelate EDDHA
form which works very well in our highly alkaline soils
            If you can’t afford good fertilizers then make sure you use a good fertilizer at least once a year and use less expensive fertilizers the remainder. Use them when you can and the first application of the season is usually the best time to use them.

            One application per year is enough for most plants except lawns and plants that you appreciate for their flowers. In those cases four applications are best; Labor Day, Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Thanksgiving. If the plants are tender to winter cold, skip the last two fertilizers of the season.

            Plants that turn yellow are usually iron deficient and will need a GOOD iron fertilizer. Not all iron fertilizers work in our soils.



Eight Fruit Trees in a 10ft x 10 ft Space

Q. I have an easement in the backyard where I cannot plant trees. I have decided to plant as much as possible in the space I have left which is about an area 10x10. I would like to plant fruit trees in a high density there and keep the trees small for easier picking.

Multiple trees in a single hole about 18 inches apart. This provides a sequential harvest of
fruit from different varieties at different times of the year.
A. I would really caution you on a high density mini orchard unless you are truly committed to it. It will take more time and effort and require gaining some extra knowledge if you commit to any intensive gardening technique. If you are willing to spend a bit more time and effort (not a lot but the extra time is critical) then give it a shot.

            A 10x10 area is quite limiting but you could still probably get about 8 trees in there with a combination of multiple trees in a single hole and trellising them. You might consider planting fruit trees in a hedge with no space between the trees and letting them grow together.
Apples trellised along a fence on trellis wires about one foot from the fence and shade cloth protecting it from direct
sunlight from the south side of the fence.

            I personally wouldn’t plant any trees closer than about six to eight feet apart for a hedge or trellis. If you use apples or pears try to make sure they are on dwarfing rootstocks such as M111 for apples and OHxF333 for European pears.

            There really is no true dwarfing rootstocks for the stone fruits like peach, apricot or nectarine but the Citation rootstock may give you a little. These stone fruits are normally planted full size and kept small through aggressive winter and summer pruning.

            Another possibility instead of a hedgerow is trellising and I prefer it over hedging for small spacing. Trellising costs more because you have to construct the trellis but gives you more control of the plant and helps you keep it smaller.