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Monday, October 7, 2013

Rabbits a Problem? Fencing and Rabbit Resistant Plants

Q. Do you have any solutions for keeping rabbits from eating plants? I live in Sun City Anthem and they are a real problem. I just planted some lovely gerbera daisies and they've eaten the plants to the ground.

Rabbit damage to mockorange by rabbits. They chew off plants at an angle.


Rabbits cut off plants at an angle with their teeth

A. There are two solutions as far as I know. One is to put in plants resistant to rabbits or the other is to exclude them with fencing that keeps them away from the plants. If rabbits are terribly hungry, garlic or pepper sprays don't seem to help much. Hunger overrides fear of getting caught.

            Usually one inch mesh chicken wire will work as long as it is about 24 inches high and buried a few inches below the soil surface so they cannot get their nose under it or dig.

            If rabbits have other food choices they may not damage your plants so much. Encourage your neighbors to plant carrots!

Rabbit resistant plants University of Arizona click here

African Sumac Limb Dieback Probably from Disease and Wet Soils

Q. I have attached a picture of my African Sumac.  The tree showed several branches with dead leaves so we started cutting back to a point where there was moisture and some green in the bark.
Should we continue cutting to make the resulting tree symmetrical or leave it alone and hope the tree recovers from our efforts?

Mushrooms Common in the Desert After Rain

Q. After the great rain last week I have large mushrooms with diameters of  8 inches in  my back yard.  One is in the middle of my Mexican Bird of Paradise.  Will it kill the plant?  My friend’s dog wants to eat the mushroom.  Is that dangerous?

Good Apples for Mojave Desert

Q. I live in Summerlin and have a Bartlett pear tree in the ground. I wish to plant an apple with a harvest time as far as possible from the Bartlett pear, so as not to have too much harvested fruit on hand at any one time.

Elberta Peach Fruit Problems is in Management

Q. Thank you so much for the recommended fruit tree list.  When we were out at the orchard, we talked to one of the grape pruners who liked the O'Henry peach.  It seems to be quite high in chill hours.  Does it do well here?  We have an Elberta, which harvests in August, and the fruit is always small and on the mushy side.  Other than that question, I think we have our list picked out.

Aerate Soil Around Trees by Coring not Punching Holes

Q. You mentioned drainage could be a problem for my trees.  When I water with the drip process the water does pool but eventually drains. I have not dug up the ground to see if the roots are wet and lying in water, but I did take a 2 foot spike (1/2 inch diameter) and drove it into the ground around the tree. Seemed like a good way to help drainage. Is it?

Will Green Light Chelate Cure Iron Chlorosis in Highly Alkaline Soils

Q. I used a product called Green Light. It contains chelated iron, copper and zinc for correcting plants that are yellow. Is this similar to the chelate you talk about for our soils?

Bottle Tree Losing Leaves

Q. I have bottle trees planted next to the house and for some reason the one in the middle is losing leaves on the bottom branches. The trees are getting watered two times each week for 40 minutes. I cleared out the rock mulch and replaced it with cedar mulch around the base of the tree. I lost a bottle tree last year so I'm trying to figure out why.

A. Bottle trees represent about 15 or 20 different types. All of them have a swollen trunk which, some people speculate, they use for storing some water during dry periods. We typically use only one type of bottle tree in the valley.

            The cedar mulch won't add any nutrients to the soil but it will slow evaporation of water from the soil surface. Bend side branches without leaves to see if they are dead. If they are still flexible and don't snap, they may come back when it cools.

            Remove any branches that are growing toward the house. Planting those trees in that location was not the best idea.

            I remember these trees being brought into the valley as early as the late 1980s during our first push on desert landscaping. They were brought in by landscape contractors and architects because they were being used primarily in Southern California.

            The first problem I remember was irrigation. People did not know that these trees required watering less often. They were watering them much like any other landscape plant. These trees are very susceptible to over irrigating.

            Although not a desert tree like the Acacia, it does handle arid climates and infrequent waterings. These waterings, when they do occur, should flood the entire root system about 2 to 3 times a month during the summer. The next irrigation should not occur until the soil is dry or you run the chance of getting root rot and the tree may suddenly die during the summer heat.

            The next problem was how they were being used. The tree needs to be in full sun. They should not be planted against hot South or West facing wall. Very young, green trunks of this tree can get severe sunscald in these locations followed by limb and branch death.

Insecticides Applied to Soil Not Good Idea Around Food Plants

Q. Something is eating the leaves on my lemon tree. What can I use to prevent this? I found a product at the nursery and it says you can apply it to the soil to control bugs.

A. If something is eating the leaves I would not be too concerned unless it is really eating a lot of leaves. We really have to be careful when we apply these types of poisons on the soil and around the food we eat.

            If this insecticide is taken up through the roots and spread through the plant to kill a bug, we might also have small amounts in the fruit as well. The insecticide dissolves in water and moves down through the soil where it is absorbed by the roots. Once absorbed, it moves up through the plant providing protection from insects.

            These types of products are called systemic insecticides and move into new growth after the application. The insecticide stays inside the plant and gives it protection from bugs. Rain or water cannot wash off this internal protection and you cannot wash it off by scrubbing the fruit.

            There is an old saying, “The dose makes the poison.”  Insects, because they are small, require less of a poison to kill them than larger animals.  Even though insecticides have a label to tell you what you can or cannot apply it on, it does not mean that the product is entirely safe.

            If you have to use an insecticide to control damaging insects, then I would recommend something that you spray on the outside of the plant rather than something which is taken up by the plants through its roots. In many cases, these insecticides which are sprayed on the plant will wash off or degrade in the environment.

            It is up to you as the consumer whether you want to purchase this product and use it. As for me, I would not eat the fruit from a tree where an insecticide was applied to the soil and taken up by plant roots.