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Friday, December 30, 2016

Most Frequently Asked Question in 2016 About Fig Trees

            The most frequently asked question asked in 2016 concerned fig trees. Readers wanted to know why their fig trees did not produce good fruit. Either the fruit dropped from the tree when they were small or the fruit clung to the tree and never became large, but remained small, hard and dry.
If not given enough water the fruit will stay small, hard and dry

            There are hundreds of local fig trees that produced fruit consistently for 20 plus years in our Las Vegas Valley. In most cases, these problems are a human management problem, not the fault of the tree or the climate.
If not enough water reaches the fruit they are like any other fruit, the fruit remains small. In this case hard and dry as well and inedible.

            Fruits of fig trees are “multiple fruits”, similar in basic structure to fruit of pineapple and mulberry. Multiple fruits have dozens of flowers produced in a cluster at the end of a fleshy stem. Each flower produces fruit which expand, growing into each other, as they get larger. These type of growth produces a single, large fruit composed of dozens of smaller fruits.
Fig fruit are "multiple fruits" like pineapple or mulberry that have been turned "inside out" with the soft single fruits on the inside and the "core" on the outside

            Fig fruits are strange. When picturing fig fruits, think of a pineapple turned “inside out”, miniaturized, with “fleshy moist fruits” on the inside and a more durable “core” on the outside. Pretty cool adaptation for dry, harsh climates.
            Figs originally came from drier parts of Asia, transported to the Middle East, perhaps over 10,000 years ago. Growing figs by humans predates wheat. Once transported and grown in deserts, they could no longer survive and produce fruit without additional water. The tree would survive and grow but could not support a crop of fruit without additional water. They needed irrigation to be productive.
            Fast-forward to the Mojave Desert and the planting of fig trees. Fig trees do not need much water to survive year after year. But like any other fruit tree, the tree needs additional water to support a crop of figs. As the tree gets larger, it needs more and more water to support this larger tree plus a crop of figs.
Cacti and figs are not a good mix in a desert landscape. The figs need lots of water for fruit production while the cacti don't.

            If your fig fruits are not a good quality it is most likely not enough water. If the tree is allowed to get big, and they will, add more drip emitters or enlarge the water basin around the tree. Put a four-inch layer of wood chips around the base. Or make them smaller.

Fig trees like this 15 year old fig can take some hard pruning to keep its size small.
            Fig trees can be pruned without mercy. They will recover from a stump if they must. Keeping the tree smaller requires less water for irrigation. Prune them smaller in December and January but keep some of the growth from 2016 if you want an early crop of fruit.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Young Tree With Curved Trunk: Stake It?

Q. I planted a 24 inch boxed "Ped Push" Chinese pistache. After it was in the ground I removed the nursery planting stake. Now the trunk has a curve in it. Will properly re-staking help straighten the trunk?

A. The tree requires staking but not because the trunk is not straight. This will correct itself, on its own, over time. The tree requires continued staking for other reasons. Unfortunately, the production nursery that grew this tree did a bad job. The retail nursery that bought this tree got it at a good price. They are both at fault because they passed these problems on to you and they knew better!
            Looking at the pictures it seems like you did a very good job planting. I like the idea of the berms around the planted area to hold water and help push that water deep enough to water the entire roots.
            Remember that the berm should be about 4 inches high and the bottom of the burned area should be as flat as possible or all the water will build up on the low side resulting in roots that get plenty of water on the low side but not enough on the high side.
            To compensate for uneven soil, the berm must actually be taller than 4 inches; taller on the low side and shorter on the high side.
            I want to point out something to you about the tree and it will relate back to the staking. Look at the trunk of the tree. Notice that it does not have a lot of taper to the trunk. What I mean by taper, the trunk diameter does not change a lot along its entire length.
            This is the primary reason it does not stand on its own very well and will require staking now. In a strong wind, because of the lack of taper to the trunk, it is very possible this tree could snap in two. If the trunk had taper, it is much less likely to snap in a strong wind. This has to do with a lot of engineering mumbo-jumbo.
            The reason this tree does not have good trunk taper is because of how it was grown in the production nursery, not the retail nursery. But I will fault the retail nursery for buying these types of trees.
            They know better but they got a good deal on it and they pass the savings on to you, hopefully, and you probably bought it because it was inexpensive compared to others and you didn't know any different.
            Trees with a lack of taper on the trunk are grown too close together in the field, they are pruned incorrectly to encourage height at the expense of a lack of taper. Then they stake the trees because they cannot support their own canopy weight because of a lack of taper and this problem is passed on to you. And I challenge these nurseries to prove me wrong! I know I'm right and it makes me mad to see these kinds of production practices all because they want to make a buck.
            What can you do to correct this problem? You're going to have to stake this tree or it will snap in a strong wind. Guaranteed.
            Where to stake it is important. The bending and flexing of the trunk is important in the development of taper. If the tree is staked so the trunk cannot move back and forth, e.g. flexing and bending, this will contribute further to this problem.
            Secure the trunk to stakes so that the bottom of the trunk does not move. You do not want the bottom of the trunk going into the ground to move. You want the top of the tree to flex back and forth, but not the bottom.
            The trunk should be secured high enough so that it does not snap but the top of the tree can still move. This would be roughly about halfway up the trunk.
            Secondly, if any shoots grow from the trunk, do not prune them off!! Let them grow until they get about pencil diameter and then prune them off from the trunk leaving no stubs behind.
            New shoots should always be allowed to grow from the trunk because they help contribute to trunk taper. But remove them when they get older, always allowing the young ones to remain. Once the tree no longer requires staking, then keep the trunk clean of any new growth and remove it as soon as it appears.
            If you by any large trees, 15 gallon and above, in the future I hope you will consider trunk taper or the growth of side shoots along the trunk when purchasing a tree avoid nurseries that sell inferior plant quality.

Fruit Tree Pruning Classes 2017

I will be giving fruit tree pruning classes on both very young trees and established trees December and January in two locations every Fridays and Saturdays  January 6,7; January 13, 14; January 21, 22; and January 27, 28.

The two locations are:
Master Gardener (University) Orchard in North Las Vegas (Saturdays from 9 am to noon at 4734 Horse Drive, North Las Vegas 89084) and a Private Orchard (young trees only on Fridays at 1 PM downtown near MLK and Bonanza, Las Vegas). Those wishing to attend classes at the private orchard must be approved by sending an email to me at Xtremehorticulture@Gmail.com Attendance there is limited.

                                                      New Year 2017
Tuesday, Jan 3       UNCE                                   Mature fruit trees                  Master Gardeners
Friday,    Jan 6       Private Orchard                    Young fruit trees TBD           Volunteers
Saturday, Jan 7      Master Gardener Orchard      All mature fruit trees            General public

Friday, Jan 13        Private Orchard                     Young fruit trees TBD          Volunteers
Saturday, Jan 14    Master Gardener Orchard      All mature fruit trees            General public

Friday, Jan 21        Private Orchard                     Young fruit trees TBD          Volunteers
Saturday, Jan 22    Master Gardener Orchard      All mature fruit trees            General public

Friday, Jan 27        Private Orchard                     Young fruit trees TBD          Volunteers
Saturday, Jan 28    Master Gardener Orchard      All mature fruit trees            General public

Viragrow Delivers! : Which is Better? Compost or Fertilizer?

Viragrow Delivers! : Which is Better? Compost or Fertilizer?: Research article concludes that compost/vermicompost + fertilizers gave the best yields of cabbage. Make sure you use a high quality comp...

Viragrow Delivers! : Fertilizers for Improving Potato Production

Viragrow Delivers! : Fertilizers for Improving Potato Production:  Phosphorous and Foliar Applied Nitrogen Improved Productivity and Quality of Potato Growth, yield and quality of potato are greatl...

Viragrow Delivers! : Intercropping Improves Soil Fertility and Soil Hea...

Viragrow Delivers! : Intercropping Improves Soil Fertility and Soil Hea...:  Pepper-Garlic Intercropping System Improves Soil Biology and Nutrient Status in Plastic Tunnel A two year (2009-2011) experiment ...

Viragrow Delivers!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Use Apple Seed Color to Predict Maturity

Q. I have an apple tree that produced some apples but they didn't have any color or taste.
Anna Apple will develop a red blush when they're ripe.

A.If you don't know what apple it is, it must be difficult to know when to harvest. Apples do not get sweeter once they are removed from the tree.
Even a green apple like Mutsu or Granny Smith will change color from a green apple green to a lighter green color when it matures.
If these apples are getting a blush of red, you might want to wait longer to harvest them and see if they turn completely red. Seeds inside the apple turn dark brown when the apple is close to maturity. But the sugar content may increase if it stays on the tree longer.

Apple seeds turn from white to brown when the apple matures.

Leave a few on the tree longer and don't harvest them all at once. See if you can push the sugar content higher by leaving them on the tree longer.

Eastern Redbud Scorched Leaves Appear to be Salts

A couple years ago I sent you a picture of a crispy leaf from the tree.  The tree did not look too well.  Your recommendation was the Eastern Red Bud tree was not acclimated to our environment and to get a Western Red Bud tree or another tree.  

My post on eastern redbud
Second post on eastern redbud

Eastern redbud after following a landscapers advice and deep water it pushing salts below the roots
After paying for the tree and having the hole dug and planted I decided to give it another try.  

A landscaper told me later that the  tree does not like our salty soils and to leach the soil around the tree once a month. 

 As you know that pushes the salt below the root line. The tree perked up after I started doing that. 

Here is a picture I took this spring.  Earlier in the spring the tree was filled with pink blossoms.  So that’s my success story.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Fall and Winter Care of Onions

Q. My onions are up from seed I planted in September and doing great. I planted Candy and Texas Super Sweet. Both are sweet onions. What should I do now?
Nevada has a great climate for onions, both northern types like this long day Walla Walla grown in Las Vegas, short day like Texas Super Sweet or in between. Spend a little bit more and get some good sweet onions instead of traditional types.
Texas Super Sweet, a short dqy onion that grows well (and tastes great) in Las Vegas
Or this intermediate day onion, Candy
A. Onions are planted from seed in the fall. September is good timing. Planting them too early in July or August can cause too much top growth and flowering. The trick is finding that happy balance between late summer warm weather and cool fall weather. Mid to late September and early October are usually good months for that in our climate. Watch local weather to make your final decisions.
Onions can be planted from seed in the fall or transplants an sets in the spring.
            Onions seedlings, now called transplants, are dug up around 1 March and replanted at their correct spacing for bulb development. I broadcast the seed in the fall so the seed is very close together. I don’t care about spacing or bulb development at that age. I just want seedlings up high enough, 6 to 8 inches tall, so I can space them out in the spring 4 inches apart. If I am shooting for jumbo size, I will plant them 6 inches apart.
            If your seedlings are already about 6 inches tall then I would not fertilize them anymore. However, if they are still small I would broadcast a high nitrogen fertilizer like 21–0–0 or blood meal (12-0-0) and water it in. This shot of nitrogen fertilizer will give it a last push of new growth before it gets cold this winter and they stop growing.
            In late February or early March, dig up the seedlings, careful not to damage the roots, and replant them into rows or blocks depending on your gardening method. Always replant using a starter fertilizer such as 16-20-0 or a fertilizer with a similar nitrogen to phosphorus (16/20) ratio. Fertilize onion seedlings once a month, lightly, with a nitrogen fertilizer or a foliar nitrogen fertilizer.

Crop Covers Better Than Plastic Bags

Q. With cooler weather here I was wondering if it is safe to cover frost sensitive vegetables with every day trash bags. I would cut some vent holes in the bags so these vegetables don’t overheat. I would not keep them covered except the coolest evenings. I have used burlap but sometimes it is difficult to keep it on some larger plants.

A. Warm season vegetables and herbs like tomatoes, basil and peppers get chilling damage below 45F. It isn’t just freezing temperatures that could be a problem, but “refrigerator temperatures” could be as well.
Crop covers give about 5 or 6F added protection during freezing weather. And they breathe. And they let in light. And they protect from insects. And.......
            Plastic bags won’t give the plants enough protection from these types of temperatures. Row crop covers (frost covers, frost blankets) that are draped over the entire row and in contact with the soil are a better choice. Unlike trash bags, they can be left on top of the plants for several days at time. Use row crop covers that weigh about 1 ounce per square yard. They can be used for three or four years, “breathe”, and transmit at least 50% of the sunlight.
            Row crop covers keep temperatures under the cover about 5 to 6° warmer than the outside temperature. Plastic bags won’t do this. Make sure row crop covers cannot be blown off the plants or the row. Tack or peg the edges to the soil. Cover the edges with soil.
            The added benefit from row crop covers is protection from insects OUTSIDE the cover. If insects are trapped under the cover that won’t help protect plants and fruits from being devoured or attacked.

            If using some form of pest control, apply it and then cover these plants soon after the application. Warm temperatures under crop covers help cool season types of vegetables (lettuce, spinach, broccoli, carrots) grow a bit faster and protects them from wind damage as well.

Pruning Texas Ranger Different From Oleander

Q. I was reading your article on pruning overgrown oleanders close to the ground to renew them.  Our community has a bunch of 10-15 years old Texas Rangers. They have not been properly maintained.  If they were pruned like the oleanders, would they come back so they don’t have woody stalks at the bottom? My concern is they may not recover quickly enough and be an eyesore.

A. The big advantage oleander has when cutting them close to the ground is their rapid growth the following season. With water and fertilizer applied in the spring, they can be 3 to 5 feet tall the following year after being cut nearly to the ground in late winter.
Oleander can be cut to the ground, renewal pruning, without problems because it grows back so fast. Different story with Texas Rangers.
            This is not true for Texas Ranger. They grow more slowly. But yes, they will regrow from the base if they are pruned close to the ground. They may take two seasons to fully recover to your satisfaction. It is up to you to decide if that is too slow under your circumstances. You may decide to take them out and replace them instead.
Texas Ranger can be pruned back to the ground but they grow back slowly. This can be a problem if you want a quick recovery.
            Remember, the reason that oleanders and Texas Rangers look so bad in the first place is because of how they were pruned after they were planted. If they were pruned properly in the first place they would never have “woody stalks” at the bottom. As long as the same landscape crew is pruning them, the same problem will appear in about 3 to 5 years of pruning. Then you’ll be faced with the same problem all over again.
Texas Ranger gives a great floral show most of the year if it is not sheared with a hedge shears.
            The proper way to prune Texas Rangers is to remove one or two of the largest or oldest “stalks” near soil level every 2 to 3 years and not use a hedge shears. This will cause the shrub to grow from these cut stalks and fill in from the base. Using a hedge shears and pruning only the top and sides causes the stalks to become older, woodier and larger in diameter. The leafy stems and flowers will be found only around the top and sides of the shrub.

When to Prune Indian Hawthorne and Still Have Spring Flowers

Q. I'd like to trim my hawthorns because they are too tall. If I do that now in October, will I be removing the blooms that emerge in the spring?

A. General rule of thumb is if a plant blooms in early spring (January, February, March and even April) then its flower buds developed during the previous late summer and fall months. Pruning with a hedge shears, or cutting off all the new growth with a hand shears, removes flower buds as well as the spring flower show. Think photinia and pyracantha.
Photinia showing its red leaves and flowers in the spring
            If it blooms during the summer, then it produces flowers on its new growth. In this case, winter pruning will not remove the flower show. But summer pruning does. Think oleander.
            The key to whether you get a spring flower show is really more about HOW the pruning is done. Trees or shrubs that bloom in the early spring, if pruned correctly during the winter, will still provide a flower show.
Pyracantha blooms in the spring
If pyracantha is pruned correctly we will get these red berries for fall and winter color.

            Pruning with a hedge shears, unless the plant is part of a hedge, is never the right way to prune. When pruning shrubs, choose between two different techniques: renewal pruning or rejuvenation pruning.
            Renewal pruning is what is done to Lantana. It is cut to the ground, leaving one or 2 inches sticking above the soil to provide for new growth. This type of pruning is done to overgrown, woody oleanders and many other overgrown shrubs.
Lantana is pruned to the ground every year, renewal pruning, because it will die back in the winter in cold climates
            Rejuvenation pruning is selectively cutting 2 to 4 of the older stems, close to the ground, every 3 to 4 years. This is done to plants that don’t grow back as quickly as Lantana or oleander.
Look at the base of the shrub. Several older stems were cut to the ground leaving others. This is rejuvenation pruning.
            Rejuvenation pruning selectively removes a few of the oldest stems to make way for younger growth which grows from the base. This pruning technique always leaves a floral display, regardless of the plant and when it blooms.
            Prune hawthorns now and you will not interfere with the spring floral display if you use rejuvenation pruning. Pick 3 to 4 of your tallest stems and prune them back to within a few inches of the ground.

Houseplant ID, Salt Damage and Rosemary Not Flowering

Houseplant 1
I have three issues I was hoping you could help me with.

1) Could you identify what kind of plant is in the photo "House Plant 1"?

2) Could you tell me what may be causing the edges of the leaves on that plant to be turning brown (House Plant 2)? And is it ok to stake this plant upright like it is?

3) Could you identify the plant in the photo "House Plant 3"? It was given to my girlfriend as a gift. Is it meant to be an indoor plant? Any special care involved with it?

4) I have three Rosemary bushes in my yard. One of the three (Rosemary 1) is browning on the tips of the leaves/needles. It's still flowering though. Any ideas of the cause? "Rosemary 2" shows one of the 'normal' bushes. The leaves are green and supple but no flowers.


Might be wrong but I think ......

1. Variegated ficus. To confirm ficus (genus, all plants that are ficus including figs) cut or break a living branch and white latex should be seen from the broken branch

2. Probably salts or poor drainage. Make sure the pot drains freely. When watering with tap water make sure at least 20% of the applied water drains through the container and exits taking excess salts from tap water is moving and flushed from the soil. 

Don’t water too often. Use a moisture meter to gauge when to water again, lift the pot to judge its weight or use a pencil inserted into the soil to judge moisture content. 

Dilute tap water with RO or distilled water about 3RO/1tap water to miminize salt damage due to the tap water. It comes from the Colorado River.


3. I think your flowering houseplant your gf gave you is one of the kalanchoes. They come in dozens of flower colors. Google it and see if it is or not. 

They can handle some dryness but not too much. Water them and let them get fairly dry before you water again. 

 To keep the flowers going as long as possible keep the temperature as low as possible, water regularly, give plenty of sunlight during the winter and apply small amounts of fertilizer (Miracle Gro, Jobes, Peters) once a month…LIGHTLY.


4. Rosemary should be flowering now or very shortly. Don’t cut anything back or if you shear or prune it now you will cut off all the future flowers. 

Brown leaf tips with leaves that are otherwise healthy is a sign of watering too often or poor drainage or both. 

If leaves are discolored and brown tips then it might be a nutrient deficiency such as iron.