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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Fruit Tree Pruning Class in 29 Palms Saturday

I will be giving a fruit tree pruning class in 29 Palms, California,  which will cover basic pruning techniques of all major fruit trees that will grow in the Mojave Desert on Saturday, February 31, 2015, from Noon to 4 pm. Open to the public and free of charges.

A link for this event can be found here

2/2/15 - It was a great event and we all had fun. Here are some pictures taken by 29 Palms Inn at the event in the Faultline Garden.

Below are the notes for the workshop

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Crape Myrtle Requires Additional Care in Desert

Q. I want to plant a crape myrtle tree. Will it survive in the northwest area of the Las Vegas Valley? When is the best time to plant and how should it be done? How do you care for this tree so it still looks good in this climate and soils?

A. Crape myrtle does fine here if the whole is dug wide enough and the soil is amended with a good quality compost at the time of planting. This tree is not a difficult tree to grow here but it’s not the easiest either.

Crape myrtle can handle full sun but it should not be placed in a total desert landscape surrounded by cacti and rock mulch. It will perform best in a wetter part of the landscape, surrounded by other plants and with the soil covered in wood mulch.

The three biggest issues to address are modifying the soil enough at the time of planting, mulching the soil surface with wood mulch and using a fertilizer that prevents the yellowing of the leaves occurs because of iron chlorosis.

I would not trust landscapers to plant this tree properly on their own. This tree will not do well if it’s planted in a cheap hole.

The hole does not have to be dug deep; just deep enough to accommodate the tree. But the hole needs to be dug wide. Make sure the planting hole is dug at least three times the diameter of its container or box.

The soil used for planting around the tree’s roots should have plenty of good compost mixed with it. An equal volume of good compost to native soil would be the right amount.

Fertilize once in the spring, around mid-February, with a fertilizer formulated for flowering woody plants, trees and shrubs. A rose or tomato fertilizer could be used as a substitute.

When you fertilize this tree in February give it 2 to 3 ounces of EDDHA iron chelate as a supplement to the fertilizer. Apply it to the soil and water it in.

If you want to give it a little extra attention and have it look even better than apply a foliar fertilizer a few weeks after the leaves come out. Use a product like a Miracle Gro or Peters that is designed to encourage flowering.

Make sure this tree is watered as frequently as your other woody landscape plants and with the same volume of water as plants of a similar size. They are nearly pest free.

Other questions about crape myrtle on this blog:



Tree Trunk Damage Best Left Alone

Q. I have a beautiful 10 foot tall oak that has provided privacy with it's wonderful light green, very dense foliage. I enclosed a picture of a rapidly expanding bark rot-looking area that seems to be circling the trunk and moving upward at the same time. Can this be stopped, cured, or is it life threatening to the tree?
Damage to trunk of oak from reader

A. From your picture, which I posted on my blog, this damaged area of the trunk near the ground seems to be on the mend. You can see the bark “rolling” in over the wound. Allow for the tree trunk to heal on its own. Pull away any rock or wood mulch touching the trunk and make sure irrigation is not too frequent.
Tree tissue rolling over large wound

From the looks of the damage, this was a “traumatic” event and not a disease. After damage like this the living layer around the damage forms a “compartment” that isolates the damage and heals over and around the wound. This reaction is normal to a healthy plant after an injury that is a one-time event and not getting worse.

At first it looked like collar rot, a disease, that was developing but I don’t think so. Just to be on the safe side, pull any gravel or would surface mulch away from the trunk a distance of 12 inches and keep the trunk as dry as possible.

If there is irrigation water applied close to the trunk, then move the source of the water a distance of 18 to 24 inches away from the trunk. When you are watering, avoid daily or every other day irrigations which might keep the soil wet.

Deliver the water the tree needs for several days all at once, not a little bit every day. Judging from the size of your tree this might be around 20 gallons at a time.

Trees of this size should receive water from drip emitters in at least four different locations under the tree canopy. If you are delivering 20 gallons and you have four emitters then they need to run long enough for each of them to deliver 5 gallons each.

In winter, irrigate about once every 7 to 10 days or possibly longer if you can determine the soil still has moisture. In summer time you might water once or possibly twice a week if you have several inches of mulch laying on the soil surface. 

Diversity of Plants Help in Butterfly Gardens

Q. I've been thinking about growing milkweed plants to help in the Monarch butterfly fight. Any thoughts?

A. I agree with you wholeheartedly on encouraging our local populations of butterflies and moths. They add a lot of beauty and grace to our landscape and provide some pollination and act as a food supply.
Butterflies can be pollinators

To my knowledge the Monarch butterfly does not pass through southern Nevada in its migration. I understand there are two migration routes; one from the Eastern population and the other supports the Western population.

The Eastern population misses us completely in its migration routes to Mexico. The Western population is restricted for the most part by the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Instead of focusing just on milkweeds I think a diversity of plant material for attracting these insects might be important. I have posted some reading material on my blog regarding butterfly gardens.
Reducing or eliminating pesticide use in the butterfly garden area would be wise. There are a number of pesticides that are harmful including two that I recommend frequently to organic gardeners: Bt and Spinosad. When considering pollinators both of these insecticides can be lethal to butterflies.

Always apply pesticides, if they must be applied, at times when these creatures are not active. This means the very early morning hours. Many of our moths fly at night so I would avoid applying pesticides at dusk if a major concern are night flying moths.

I put together some links on general information on Monarch butterflies, moths and butterflies of southern Nevada and how to make a butterfly garden. I wish you much success.

Wikipedia on Monarch butterflies

Threats to Monarch butterflies

Map of Monarch routes

Butterflies of southern Nevada.

How to make a butterfly garden in the southwestern desert of the US

Containers Add Benefits to the Balcony Gardening

Pepper in container
Q. I would like to plant roses or tree roses or possibly a shrub on my balcony in containers. They will be getting morning sun and afternoon shade. When should I plant them? Can the pot rest directly on the plate or should there be a space between the pot and the plate? I want to make sure it drains properly and I don’t want the water staining my white balcony.

A. You have a lot of flexibility in this location because they are in container soil and receive late afternoon shade. The limitations would be the total hours of sunlight the plants receive and winter low temperatures. Flowering or fruiting plants need six hours of very bright sunlight at a minimum to do well.

Best times for planting are in February through April or May. Another great time is in the fall from late September to mid-November. The winter months are okay for winter hardy plants but plants don’t establish quickly when container soils are cold.

Roses and other flowering or fruiting plants will be well as long as they get at least six hours of direct sunlight. Weight is a problem on balconies so use lightweight soil mixes that contain a large percentage of perlite or vermiculite. These types of soils need water frequently.

Mint in container

Because of weight, stay with containers no larger than 15 gallon. The plate under the container that catching the water can be in direct contact with the container with no problems.

If you are using tap water then about about 20% of the water that you apply should drain out the bottom of the container to move salts flushed and not accumulating.

You might also consider vegetables, herbs and smaller citrus such as kumquat or lime.