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October 13, 2012

I have a Palo Verde and there's a lot of little black ants on the tree. Will they do any harm?

-- Not really because they're feeding on aphids and other little insects while up in the tree, which is pretty normal. They're here naturally and they're not going to hurt anything so you don't have anything to worry about.

At what temperature can I start setting out the succulents so they won't get sunburned?

-- It's really got more to do with the sun and it's intensity rather than the temperature. Most of them you can set out in the full sun right now, mid October, and you can feel pretty confident that they won't get hurt. This is the time of year when we put our succulents in the full sun right now.

I've got a topsy turvy and it says to put soil in it and I was wondering if I just go out into the yard and dig up some dirt to throw in there. Is that what they mean?

-- No, because the way that container is set up upside down, the weight is very important, so I would use a potting soil.

I have a Pine tree that is planted to the side of my house and it's now taller than my house and it just continues to grow. I water it about once a week, but recently I've noticed a whole lot of pine needles. Is that natural?

-- Yes, because the pine trees are going through seasons. As the trees get bigger, you'll notice a monumental difference in the amount of pine needles that are going to fall off the tree, especially after windstorms.

My bougainvillea used to do great, but recently I've noticed that something is eating them like crazy.

-- Well recently we've had a lot of little caterpillars that seem to be feeding on the bougainvillea in the Valley. I've never seen them like this before, but it has a lot to do with our weather and they're going to cycle out so I wouldn't be too concerned. With the cooler change in weather all the little insects are going to be phased out soon enough.

I have an Italian Cypress that is about 20 years old, but I can never get it to be green and lush. Is there something I can do?

-- If you fertilize it this time of year with a good, balanced fertilizer you should get a flush of new growth. Also, just hose it down about once a month to wash all the spider mites off and you should be good.

I want to put a Winter lawn in, but I'm wondering if it's a good idea to put the gypsum down.

-- Well you need the gypsum more for your Summer lawn, but it never hurts to put gypsum or soil sulfur in our soil here in the desert. I wouldn't discourage it, but it's probably not as necessarily.

I've got an opportunity to rescue some mature, very large plants and I was wondering if it is a good idea and how I would transplant them.

-- Well, transplanting plants always has some risk involved. What I would do is cut it back real deep where the canes are about 6 to 8 inches, leave about 10 canes on them and dig away.

I'm having some issues with some apple trees we got. Something is starting to strip the bark off of them. Our has is fenced, no dogs, and I don't see any gopher holes, but I do see a lot of ants. Could the ants be causing the bark to strip?

-- No, probably not. It's most likely ground squirrels or rats. If there's any cover within 30 or 40 yards, the rats will go in there at night and eat the bark right off the trees. What you might want to do is trap and poison them, which is probably the easiest way to get rid of them.

I have a Beauty Plum tree, but I'm always seeing little pinholes in the leaves, and I've looked for caterpillars and eggs, but I can't find any. I also spray it with organicide, but it seems like they always recur.

-- That actually happens quite a bit with plum leaves, but really it doesn't seem to do any long term damage. I wouldn't be too concerned because it'll probably happen to you again next Summer.

I've lived in the same house for 14 years and every year I plant 2 rose bushes, but every year they die.

-- Well, first off you would want to plant your rose bushes on the south or the east side of your house because that's where they're going to do their best. They will get sun all Winter and they get a little break from the real hot afternoon sun in the Summer. After you plant them you want to keep them fairly wet and probably water them twice a week around this time of year (mid-October). Also, right now is the perfect time to go ahead and plant rose bushes if you want to try again.

I have a two foot edge of bare dirt that goes right up next to my wall, under the trees. It appears to have green mold on it and I'll be over seeding this week and I'm wondering if that mold will hamper the growth.

-- Nope not at all. It's going to be a wet spot in the shade so your grass should take off just fine. You don't need to worry about the mold at all, although it is a sign that you're keeping the ground a little wetter than you need to.

I have a Chilean Mesquite tree that blew over last year and when they put it back in they left one of the roots out. Right now the root is really big and growing toward a fence. Can I save the tree?

-- I would save it in the form of barbecue and firewood material. The problem with Chilean Mesquites in general is that they tend to be surface rooting and that's why your tree blew out of the ground before. So now you have a tree that's already been compromised, a root growing out of the ground, and you have a Mesquite which is one of the fastest growing trees there is. So my recommendation is to take it out and change it, probably plant an American Mesquite because it'll never blow over, never split, and the roots won't be the problem. If you don't want to plant a new tree then what you might do is really prune the tree and the root back every couple of years.

I've got a Fig tree in a pot and I planted there about February, but around the Summer the leaves started turning black around the edges. About a month ago (mid-September) I got beautiful, green foliage on it. So when do I fertilize it?

-- You can fertilize it moderately right now because you're going to get growth for about the next month.

I planted some lettuce and it was doing great, until I woke up one morning and all of the leaves were completely gone.

-- Well, between rabbits, birds, and even humans there are quite a lot of things that like lettuce. If you see little black bugs they're probably caterpillars. There have been big caterpillars out this year and they're so big that if a little herd of them moved in there they could have devoured all the leaves in one night.

I have an area where I want to go ahead and plant a tree, but it's about 15 feet from the septic tank, so I was wondering what would be a good tree with non-evasive roots to plant there.

-- An American Mesquite will be a great tree that will do fantastic in a desert environment. It'll grow big very fast and it'll do well with low water, as well as provide a good amount of shade. And the roots won't do any damage to your septic system so you don't have to worry about that.

I have a question about our front lawn. It's pretty small and it's got Bermuda grass, but this last Summer we had a lot of problems with clovers, over-growth, etc.

-- What you might want to do is over seed the lawn right now (mid-October) and mow it short, but then get rid of it in April. When the days hit about 90 degrees, shut the water off and kill the rest of that grass. It'll take a concentrated effort to get rid of it. Then what you want to do is come back right after you do that and cut it real short, and before you water it, lay down a pre-emergent. That pre-emergent will prevent Summer weeds from germinating.

We planted a Chinese Evergreen Elm in about a 24 inch box around April. They dug a large hole and they put stakes into the root to hold it. It's in the sun and had plenty of water, but it's not doing very well. We're wondering if it's going to make it?

-- Well now would be a great time to fertilize it (mid-October). You're really a couple weeks later, but go ahead and fertilize it right now. It'll grow a little bit for the next 3 or 4 weeks and then it'll go dormant for the Winter, but all the while it should be rooting out so come next Spring it should flush and grow very nicely. You can use pretty much any lawn fertilizer, as long as it gets nitrogen and the minor elements, like Zinc, Manganese, and Magnesium.

I've got an Elm tree that started from a seed and it's about 4 feet tall now, I'm thinking about moving it so should I wait for it to go dormant before I dig it up?

-- Yes, it's definitely better to wait another month or so for it to go dormant, probably at least Thanksgiving.

I have a couple of questions about some Sissos. I'm living in Phoenix and have heard about those 3 inch long, green worms and I'm wondering if those will attack my Sisso trees?

-- No, they're probably about to cycle out right now so you don't have to worry about the trees. If you want to get rid of them in your garden then use a product called Bacillus Thuringiensis.

Will I be able to keep an Argentine Mesquite in the ground?

-- Yes of course because those are grafted to a native Argentinian root stalk and it roots straight down so you don't have to worry about it blowing out of the ground in a windstorm. It's the Chilean Mesquite that you have to worry about blowing out of the ground.

I have some Mastic trees and I really enjoy them, and I was wondering when would be a good time to fertilize them?

-- They're pretty hearty evergreens and they will grow a little bit now, but mostly in the Spring. I would fertilize them kind of like citrus, so the best schedule would be to fertilize them like February, May, and early September. If you haven't already fertilized them and you're looking for more growth then you can go ahead and fertilize them right now because they're really not frost tender so it certainly won't hurt anything. A balanced fertilizer will do just fine with any Mastic tree.

I've got a Fig tree and I'm wondering when to prune it back.

-- I would wait until December or January to let all the sap come down out of the tree. The trick with Fig trees is to give them a bag of cow manure. Just dig right down around the tree and work in a bag of cow manure before an irrigation.

I'm wondering what is a good thing to plant in a vegetable garden.

-- Well you can plant root and green plants pretty much all Winter so radishes, turnips, potatoes, pretty much anything that is going to be a root plant. And then greens, so lettuce, cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. There's a lot you can grow in the Wintertime.