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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Grants.gov Training Webinar February 8

Grants.gov Training Webinar
Wednesday, February 8, 2017 2:30 PM EST - 4:30 PM EST
Grants.gov is the website where federal grant-making agencies go to post grant funding opportunities and where the public goes to find and apply for those opportunities. The goal of the presentation is to provide information on how to use the Grants.gov website to apply for AMS grant programs. 
Topics covered in the presentation include the registration process in Duns &; Bradstreet, tracking a submitted application, how to find (search)  for funding opportunities and how to apply for those opportunities.

Farmers Market and Local Food Webinar February 15

Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program Webinars

Local Foods

Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program Webinar

Wednesday, February 15, 2017 2:30 PM EST - 4:30 PM EST
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced the availability of $27 million in grants to strengthen market opportunities for local and regional food producers and businesses through the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program.
AMS will host a webinar to help farmers, producers groups and other potential applicants to understand the program requirements.
Topics covered in the presentation include an overview of the program objectives, eligibility and basic information about the application process. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Farmers Market Promotion Program 2016 Report

I was have been involved with farmers market establishment in Las Vegas in past years. The problem has always been finding a suitable location for showcasing LOCAL producers....on a small scale. USDA has a program that helps establish farmers markets in local communities. This is their report from 2016. Read it and get some ideas for establishing one in the future.

Outside farmers markets are the ideal in an ideal world but outside markets during the desert summer makes it hard for producers to keep the quality of many of their products due to high temperatures, low humidity and wind.

The Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is one of the USDA grant programs supporting this movement. The program awards competitive grants, with the goal of expanding access to locally produced agriculture products and developing new market opportunities for farms and ranches participating in direct farmer-to-consumer marketing. Since 2006, FMPP has helped communities establish farmers markets, community supported agriculture (CSA) enterprises, road-side stands, and agritourism in all 50 States and U.S. territories. All project proposals must demonstrate community support and directly benefit farmers and ranchers. AMS has published a summary of the past 10 years of the FMPP.

Las Vegas indoor farmers market on Dean Martin Dr (no longer with us) that featured local producers, once a week, indoors.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Keep Sprinklers off Palm Trunks

Q. My canary palm is getting hit with sprinklers to the point that it’s eating into the trunk. This is damaging to the palm, isn’t it? I talked to my gardener about it but he didn’t seem to think it was much of an issue, doesn’t seem like it can be good for it. If you look from the side you can really see the impact.
Palm trunk. Not readers.

A. Yes, it is damaging and it is best if sprinklers don't water the trunk. Keeping the trunk wet can be responsible for diseases to enter the trunk as well as discolor it and cause damage to the trunk. But it is done frequently so I understand why your gardener responded like he did. But, yes, it should be diverted from the trunk.

Problems Composting African Sumac Leaves and Stems

Q. Any problem composting with African sumac leaves and branches?
A. No problem breaking down and they are a good source of plant nutrients with no known toxicities. The only sumac that has a caution added to it when composting is poison sumac which is not native here and is not planted.
African sumac in a street planting in North Las Vegas

Getting Rid of Palm Seedlings

Q. I have hundreds of palm seedlings coming up in my yard. Can you tell me the best way to get rid of them short of pulling them up by hand, which for me would be physically impossible! I’m 88 years old. 
Palm seedlings like wet soil. This palm seedling emerged after drip lines were installed and laying dormant for several years.
Palm seedling with roots attached. The white part of this seedling was underground. The green part aboveground.

Sneeboer Dandelion Cutter - Manufactum
Dandelion cutter severs the stem below the soil and separates it from the roots.
A. Probably the best way is to use a dandelion weeder when they are still small. A dandelion weeder or cutter is an old-fashioned hoe that has a very narrow tip shaped like a “V” or snake’s tongue. It was used in lawns prior to the 1960s to remove dandelions because weed killers were not yet available.
            This weeder is pushed into the soil next to the palm seedling at a 45° angle and given a strong push. It severs the seedling about a half inch below the soil, severing it from its roots.        I know you don’t want to pull them but they pulled most easily from the soil if the soil is wet and the palms are about 12 to 15 inches tall.
... » Lawn & Garden » Chemicals » Fertilome Brush Killer Stump Killer
Weed killers containing triclopyr will probably kill palm seedlings
            Weed and brush killers will work if they contain the right ingredients. Dandelion killers will not work and Roundup does not work even at high concentrations. Weed killers that are effective will be labeled for use in lawns to control “woody plants”.
            Brush killers will also work but these chemicals may also kill any woody plants that are close by. They also persist in the soil for a few years.

Avoiding Bird Damage to Apricots

Q. I had a lot of bird damage to my apricots this year.
Bird damage to peach fruits

A. Bird damage is easy to stop in apricots but you must harvest the fruit when still hard and let them finish ripening off the tree. When it comes to apricots, plums and peaches, tree-ripened fruit does not mean the fruit is left on the tree until it is soft. Doing that is just asking for bird damage.
Grackel in apricot tree
            Some fruit ripen off the tree while others do not. Most of the stone fruit such as apricot, plum and peach can be harvested when still hard and they will finish ripening off the tree. Fruit like apples, cherries, pomegranates and grapes do not and must be harvested when they are ripe.
Pick apricots when they are sill hard but at the first sign of bird damage. Let them ripen off of the tree.
            It is important to harvest fruits at the right time. One method to use is to inspect the fruit for bird damage daily when close to harvest time. Begin harvesting when damage starts. Birds know when sugar content is rising. That’s when bird damage usually begins.
Pick the apricots with good color and let them ripen off the tree. Come back in a few days and the green ones will be ready.
            I said “usually” because, on occasion, a bird pecks at green fruit too early but this is an inexperienced or desperate bird. Damage to the fruit does not begin in earnest until the sugar content is climbing.

            This increase in sugar content in apricots also coincides with a change in fruit color, approximately 7 to 14 days before the fruit is soft on the tree. Keep an eye on the fruit and look for early bird damage. If the fruit has begun to change color, harvest when the fruit are still hard.
            Apricots develop good sugar content when harvested early. Sugar content does not equal flavor. Flavor is much more complex than just the amount of sugar. It has a lot to do with the mixture of different chemicals inside the fruit such as the organic acids, flavonoids, etc.

Correcting Borer Damage to Apricot

Q. The ‘Royal’ apricot tree I planted three years ago, died. Someone at the nursery told me they thought it was borers. When I was digging the old tree out, I broke a branch and found a dead larva. I plan to replace the tree next week. Is there anything I should put in the soil at the time I plant the tree that gives it some resistance to borers and I can still eat the fruit? I would prefer a nonchemical solution to the problem.
Picture of flatheaded borer in apricot by reader. In the hot desert our most common borer problems are the Pacific flatheaded borer and Flatheaded apple tree borer which attack most ornamental and fruit trees indiscriminately.
A. Borers here are a problem in nearly all trees and shrubs, not just fruit trees. Peach is most susceptible and apricot and plum less but they are also attacked if conditions are right. Apple can be very susceptible to borers, particularly when they are young.
Flatheaded borer damage to ornamental plum.
            This borer is in three different forms during its lifecycle: egg, immature larva or “worm” (which causes typical “borer” damage) and the flying adult which is a 3/8-inch-long beetle. Adult beetles can fly and so find a mate using their sense of “smell”.
Adult beetle of Pacific flatheaded borer from Oregon State University.
            Females lay eggs on limbs of trees and shrubs. They use their sense of “smell” to find the best place for egg–laying. The smell which really turns on their egg–laying is the odor given off by sunburned but living wood. Dead wood doesn’t have the right odor. Only wood that is alive but damaged.
            Their eggs hatch on the sunburned limb in a few days and the newly hatched but small “worm” tunnels into the tree where it finds food and protection from predators while it grows. The food these worms eat is the young “wood” just under the bark which is full of sugars.
Early stages of sunburn on a tree. This is the stage that many borers are attracted to.
            Most of its time is spent inside the tree, not outside of it. The most effective chemical that controls this pest is a systemic insecticide either poured around the roots of the tree or sprayed on the leaves. It is one of the most widely used insecticides in the world commercially and labeled for fruit trees and even vegetables. You can find this product in a homeowner form at any nursery or garden store.
Whitewash is made from white latex paint now. You can make your own by diluting latex paint with at least an equal amount of water. It should be thin enough to apply but shade the trunk and limbs with white to reduce the heat buildup and UV light reaching the living "wood".
Diluted white latex paint applied to reduce sunburn
This pesticide enters the tree and spreads through it (systemically) where it stays put and effective for about 12 months. Scientists are debating, but there are allegations it may play a role in the recent decline in bee populations. Personally, I have a problem with any systemic insecticide approved for use in protecting food from insects whether approved or not. Do not use it on food crops unless the label specifically says you can.

            One non-pesticide approach is painting the trunk and tree limbs with whitewash. It is not 100% effective but does help. An “organic” method is digging out these “worms” from damaged areas of the tree with a sanitized knife. Once removed, allow the tree to heal without applying anything to the wound.
Sap oozing from the trunk of borer infested tree
This is what the limb should look like after cleaning up the damage and removing "hiding places" for adult borers after they emerge.
            Look for borer activity the day after a good rain. Areas damaged by borers push out a dark colored, jelly-like ooze indicating where the pest is located. Start looking for the borer at this spot with a sanitized knife and remove any places where it can hide from predatory birds and other insects.

Compost Applied to Lawns Reduces Disease Problems and Fertilizes

Q. I have a lawn that did not do well this last summer. It browned and had a few patches that had some sort of infection and die-off.  We added compost in early fall and the lawn perked up quite a bit but it browned again considerably even though it is a fescue blend that should remain green through our winter.  I think it probably needs another application of compost at some point. When should I add compost again?
Probably summer patch disease on fescue in Las Vegas.

A. There is solid research from major universities showing that many lawn diseases are controlled by applying frequent compost applications through the growing season. To accomplish this, light applications of compost, about ¼ inch deep, should be applied monthly. This is equivalent to applying 10 to 15 cubic feet of compost per thousand square feet.
            With regular compost applications, and returning grass clippings to the lawn using a mulching mower, no additional fertilizer is needed. One or two applications of compost during the year is not often enough to maintain a healthy lawn.
Bagged compost like this one helps to reduce disease problems if applied monthly to lawns. Apply about 10 to 15 bags per 1000 square feet. Cost is usually less than $3 per cubic foot.
            To keep the lawn from browning during freezing temperatures, an application of compost is needed around Thanksgiving through the first week of December. Depending on the compost, a supplemental application of high nitrogen fertilizer might be needed.
            High levels of nitrogen inside the grass needs to be present before cold temperatures to prevent fescue from turning brown, even in our climate. If nitrogen levels are low when freezing temperatures arrive, any lawn will turn brown.
The easiest way to apply compost to a lawn is probably with a compost spreader like this one. Experienced applicators can apply it by throwing it on with a manure shovel and a raking it. Make sure you water it in immediately after applying it.
            However, most problems with lawns growing in the desert are related to watering and irrigation. Make sure water is applied evenly to the lawn from the sprinklers. Sprinklers must “throw” water from irrigation head to irrigation head.
            The second contributing problem results from the condition of the soil that can result in suffocation of grass roots. Adequate soil preparation at the time of planting is hardly ever done by professionals. This soil problem can be corrected, somewhat after-the-fact, by “coring holes” in the existing lawn once a year using a commercial, gasoline-operated, aerator.
            Make sure your irrigation system is adequate. Aerate the lawn in January/February with a gasoline driven lawn aerator. Apply 10 to 15 cubic foot bags of high nitrogen compost with a compost spreader for every 1000 square feet of lawn. Mow with a mulching mower.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Terroir Important in Apples as Well as Grapes

Q. I am new to this climate and want to plant two apple trees in my yard; one for eating and one for cider. Do you have any experience growing Dabinett apple trees or other apples indicated for USDA zones 4 - 6 in this climate?  I ask because I want apples that produce the right kind of fruit.
A. All apple tree varieties will grow here. Many will even produce fruit here. But there are only a few that will produce high quality fruit here. There is a concept in wine production called “terrior”.

Picking the right terrior is the reason why some wine grapes are better suited to specific agroclimatic regions than others. For instance, in Las Vegas we focus on the “warm climate reds” and a few warm whites, with cool season wine grapes not producing the right balance of acids and sugars. Of these “warm climate reds”, it is still too hot for the best quality.
            The same concept, terrior, applies to fruit quality and apples. First off, our hot desert location is not the best for apples to begin with. It is better suited to apricots, peaches, plums and their relatives. However, it is BEST suited to pomegranates, figs and dates.
            There are only a handful of apples I would recommend for this climate regarding flavor. Some produce here better than others and still others produce better fruit than most. I would recommend finding an apple that grows well here AND produces quality fruit that you like.
            Otherwise, what you are doing is experimental and chances are most will not produce the fruit quality you would like. There is a possibility some might but chances might be slim.
            Regarding Dabinett, an English variety, you are taking a risk. Don’t get me wrong. I love this kind of risk but be aware of the downside in trying. Be aware of, particularly with apples, it may take 3 to 4 years before you get decent fruit.

Organic Certificate Needed to Ship to US from Mexico