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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Some Eggplant Varieties That Have Performed Well in the Hot Desert

Japanese Eggplant descriptions

Millionaire. Very popular eggplant variety. Black-purple fruit about 8 inches long is an early producer. One of the most popular Japanese eggplant hybrids sold in markets.

Senryo ni  gou. Excellent for home gardens in Japan. Glossy black oval fruits to 5 inches long and weighing about 1/4 pound. Good for pickling.

Shoya long. Purplish-black fruit up to 14 inches long and purple calyx. Early producer for stir fry, grilling and tempura.

Yasakanaga. Purple-black fruit to about 7 inches long with purple calyx. Grilling, stir fry and tempura.
Mizuno takumi. Popular with chefs, purplish-black oval fruit weighing about 1/2 pound. Used for cooking or pickling.  Very popular in Japan.

Kyoto egg. Supposedly heat resistant according to seed catalogs but most are good producers during the heat. Round fruit to about 3 inches in diameter. Stir fry or deep frying, grilling. Purple calyx.

Kurume long. Ten inch long black fruit with purple calyx. Produces a bit later but prolific when it starts. Open pollinated.

Konasu. Very small round dark purple fruits with purple-black calyx. Can be cooked but popular for pickling when young, stir fry and grilled in a kabob.

Kamo. Round fruit with flat bottom and purple-black skin weighing up to 1/2 pound. Very well-known eggplant in Japan.
Ping Tung. Chinese eggplant that is purple-black up to 18 inches long with green black calyx. Good producer.

Black Beauty. Large purple-black fruit but slow to yield and low yielding but excellent quality.

Thai Long Purple. Very long, purple black fruit with green calyx. Very good quality and good producer.

 Thai Long Green. Fruit is similar to Long Purple but green. Similar quality. Green calyx.

Thai Yellow Egg. More of a novely or decorative eggplant. Fruits are golf ball sized and lemon yellow when ready to pick.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Gardenia Problems in Desert Soils

Q. I have two gardenias in the backyard in 15 gallon ceramic pots with good drainage. One of them is doing pretty well and the other not so well. Our backyard is on the north side so both are shaded most of the day. The picture I sent to you has leaves turning yellow and then brown on the interior of the plant although the ends of the branches still have green leaves. Both plants are on drip and watered the same. I added iron on top of the soil and also Vigoro 10-8-8 plant food but it doesn't seem to be helping. The one I planted about 6 weeks ago has not done well. The other one was planted 3 months ago and is doing well with lots of flowers in May. Any suggestions for the one with the yellow leaves?

Gardenia leaves yellowing in potted gardenia. This could be salt accumulation.

A. It is tough to acidify soils here in our desert due to the alkalinity of our native soils and our water. So if you can acidify the soil as best as you can, it will help. Ways to acidify the soil include using composts, raw composts, manure products, sulfur, acids and aluminum sulfate.

My best shot at the gardenia is iron even though you added some. If you don’t use the right iron, it may not work. Use an iron chelate such as EDDHA with iron. You can pick up a one pound canister of this iron chelate locally at Plant World. I don’t know any other place it is being sold. Combine it with a soil application of your Vigoro fertilizer.

You might also consider some of the Miracid products.

Try to use fertilizers specially made for gardenias in the future if you can find one. If you can’t, use one for azaleas and rhododendrons. If you can’t find that, a third choice would be to use one for tomatoes, fruit trees or roses. Fertilize about once a month during the active growing season. These should be very light fertilizer applications.

Whenever you are watering a plant in a container, you want to add enough water so that about 20% of the water runs out the bottom. This helps keep salts leached from the soil. Our tap water coming from the Colorado River is quite salty and you need to make sure the soil stays flushed of salts coming from the water.

If you don’t, these salts will build up in the container soil and also cause exactly the problem you describe. You can’t let the soil go dry so it might be a good idea to buy one of those inexpensive soil moisture meters used for house plants which can give you a rough idea when the soil is dry and you should irrigate.

You want the soil to dry down between waterings but not too much. If it doesn’t dry down, you may develop root disease problems on camellias. If you let them get too dry, they will drop leaves and the remaining leaves will become scorched.

It is hard to judge when container soils are going dry. One way is to get an idea of its weight. You don’t have to lift it but just budging or moving it a little can give you an idea.

Fertilizer Recommendations for Grass, Trees, Shrubs for Homeowner Associations (HOA)

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

Greenway grass

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

A. It's really not fair to compare cow manure to a fertilizer because it really 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).

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

A. 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 horticultural fertilizers that contains slow release nitrogen, then you can bump it up. How much to bump it up depends on what percentage of the nitrogen is slow release in the fertilizer.   

Q. Use 10-10-10 at 500lbs/acre maybe?

A. The fertilizer you mention 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, a 3-1-2 fertilizer. To apply 1 pound of nitrogen requires 10 pounds of fertilizer. Using your fertilizer you would apply 430 pounds of the fertilizer to get 43 pounds of applied nitrogen. Like I said, I think this 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.
Q. How many times per year and which month(s)?

A. 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.

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

A.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.                           

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

A. Cow manure is not a fertilizer.


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

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

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

A. 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

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

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

A. 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 are short lived. Dry or liquid fertilizers applied to the soil last longer. For this reason if you feed plants through the foliage you will have to do it more often. If you feed plants through the soil as soil applications you would just do it once a year in most cases for general purpose areas. You do not have to “deep root” fertilize if it will cost more to do it.
Q. How many times per year and which month(s)?

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


How Tall Should a Wall Be to Keep Out Rabbits?

Q. We are planning a wall to surround our yard so we can keep the rabbits out.  We live in Sun City Anthem in Henderson. We have been told that the local rabbits can jump very high, and our 3 foot wall will not work to keep them out.

A. We have both the Desert cottontail and the jackrabbit. I don’t agree with the advice you were given. Our chicken coop wire at three feet tall was very effective at keeping them out of our vegetable plots as long as they could not lift the bottom edge of it with their noses or dig a little bit and get under it.

Black-tailed Jackrabbit
            Usually animals will not jump walls if they cannot see the other side. If they can jump to the top of it and look then that is different. I have never seen rabbits do that. But check and make sure there are not gaps in the wall itself. If they can get their head through a hole, they can get the rest of their body through it as well.

Bottle Tree Dropping Leaves Could Mean Trouble

Q. My Australian bottle tree and African sumac are shedding leaves like a maple tree during fall.  However, they are also putting on new growth.  I specifically chose these trees because they remain green all year long. The bottle tree is about 20 ft. tall, on the north side of the house and gets about 20 gallons of water every day during the summer.  The sumac is on the west side and is about 12 ft. tall and gets about the same amount of water.  I’m about ready to cut them down due this leaf shedding. Were they stressed during the heat wave or what?

A. These two trees have very different watering requirements. The bottle tree is a true desert adapted tree while the African sumac is not. Their watering needs are very different for this reason.

            The bottle tree should never get daily watering. Even though the watering needs of the African sumac are more frequent, it should not get watered daily either. It is possible that these trees are dropping leaves excessively because their roots cannot “breathe” due to excessive moisture in the soil.
Bottle tree in desert landscape
            At the most, the sumac should get watered deeply twice a week right about now. The bottle tree less often than that but when it does get water it should be deeply as well.

            Evergreen trees do drop their leaves. No plant is without leaf drop. Some keep their leaves longer than others.

            Normal leaf drop time for evergreen plants is during or shortly after new growth. As they put new growth and new leaves on new branches they drop older leaves from older wood. This is normal. However, excessive leaf drop is not. This can indicate stress ranging from drought to overwatering.

            Please get on a deep and infrequent watering schedule rather than a daily one. This time of year the only things watered daily are fescue lawns, annual flower beds and vegetables. The larger the plant, generally speaking, the deeper the root system, the less frequent the watering but the amount of water applied each time is higher.

            Frequent, shallow irrigations force roots to grow shallower and decrease their tolerance to droughty conditions. Both of these trees can develop root rot from frequent watering and death. Excessive leaf drop can be a sign that this is happening.

Bottle tree in lawn
            I would begin to back off to watering every other day for right now but increase the amount you give them each time you water. Both can handle the heat but not daily watering, particularly the bottle tree.

            Make sure the applied water is distributed evenly under the canopy either by having several drip emitters under them or watering them in a basin and flooding the basin. The water should not be applied in one location under the canopy. Back off on the daily watering. I hope they are not in stages where you can keep them from getting worse.

Barrel Cactus Too Big and Must Be Moved

Q. I have a golden barrel cactus that has grown to 3ft wide in a place that I cannot leave where it is. It's a beautiful specimen, but I have to remove it. Any ideas on how to move it?  The thorns are lethal.

A. Now is actually a good time to move cacti. They can be moved any time except during, and about two months before, winter weather sets in. Unlike many other types of plants they do well moved in the summer.

            When we have moved these sized cacti in the past they were easy to move, taking the relocation without a hitch. We used a lot of thick gloves and old carpet remnants. We dug a trench around the cactus with a pick about 12 to 18 inches from the plant to a depth of about one foot.

            We then watered the trench to loosen the soil a bit and make digging easier in that lousy soil. We then began under cutting the plant to loosen the soil and cut the roots. We stopped when the roots had mostly all been cut and the plant seemed easy to roll with leverage from a shovel.

            Laying the carpet remnant to the side of the plant we were able to free the cacti and roll it on to the carpet pad. We then placed the cactus in a shady spot to heal the cut roots for two to three days before we planted it again.

            Our hole was dug and amended with compost, phosphorus and large rocks removed. The hole was cleared so that it was larger than the root ball of the cactus.

            After that healing period we moved the cactus to its new location and gently rolled it into its new location.  We then placed the amended soil around the roots and watered it in to remove air pockets.

            We tried to get the cactus at the same depth as it was in its old location. After the soil had drained of water we came back and added more amended soil until it was at the same depth and watered it in again.

            Once planted at the right depth we then watered deeply around the cactus no more than once every two to three weeks in the summer heat. In the fall it dropped to once a month and the winter only once during the winter cold.

            The next spring we watered once a month and increased it to every two to three weeks during the summer heat until we saw signs of growth. We then had to make a decision whether we wanted to make it grow more or not.

            If we wanted it to grow, we kept it on the same watering routine and added nitrogen every few months. If not, we reduced the watering to twice or three times during the summer and once during the winter with no additional fertilizer. I hope this helps.

Brown Spots a Big Problem with Lawns this Time of Year in Las Vegas

Lawns are getting toasted right now. This is a truly stressful time of year for plants, particularly plants that are not truly desert plants. Temperatures are out of their “comfort zone” and they become highly susceptible to diseases because they are less capable of fighting through a problem.

I warned on June 10 of 2012 and July 1 of this year on my blog that lawn diseases were“right around the corner.” If lawns are going to have problems, they will happen now. Sign up for my free newsletter through my blog and you will receive notices when things like this are happening in our community. Your email address is never shared.