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October 20, 2012

I've got some questions about peach trees. Should I be fertilizing it now? And what should I be putting on it?

-- Well, now probably isn't as important because it's going to be heading downhill and the sap is going to come down. It's growth is finished pretty much for the year, but when I would fertilize a peach tree is in January. Then you want to use a good balanced fertilizer that has some of the important elements, like zinc, manganese, and magnesium. They can be very important for stone fruits. If you want to prune it, you should wait until all the leaves come down and then go ahead and prune it back.

I have an orange tree that is doing really well, but I don't want it to branch out, I'd rather have it get a little taller. When is the proper time to prune it back?

-- You can prune citrus moderately anytime, so if you want to do a little side pruning, now would be a great time. It's going to grow for the next 3 or 4 weeks so if you want to do some moderate pruning to it, go ahead. You want to do your major pruning before March.

I have a Palo Verde tree in my front yard and my neighbors just got solar panels. The tree is shading the solar panels and my neighbors have offered to switch it out for something else, so what would be a good plant there in a desert landscape?

-- You might look at a Texas Ebony. It's a desert tree that's a little darker with some evergreen that only grows to about 25 feet, instead of 35 or 40 feet. That'll give you a nice alternative that'll fit in nicely with your desert landscape.

I've got an orange tree that's loaded with oranges, but they look like clementines.

-- What I would do is track those branches that have all that fruit down to the trunk and see if you don't find somewhere where those root stalks are growing up and prune all that off. It takes about 15 years, no matter what size you start from, to get a good navel orange. That being the case, I would try and preserve the navel you have. Trace those limbs all back and chainsaw them off the trunk. I think you should have some navels come back pretty quick for you.

I heard that when watering house plants you should only use reverse osmosis or distilled water, how do you feel about that?

-- Well, I don't feel that's necessarily too good because you're not going to get any minerals at all. If you're going to use water with reverse osmosis or distilled, you're going to have to be fertilizing.

We have a small lime tree that I'm cutting some suckers off at the bottom, and I was sold some spray that's a pruning seal, but the problem is that there will be black spots all over the tree, right?

-- Right, so here's what I would do. When we grow young citrus trees we wrap the trunks, that's black on the inside and white on the outside. The white reflects the sun and the black on the inside keeps it from suckering. Then the idea is with your citrus trees you let them grow full enough and bushy enough that the sun will never hit the trunk and that will stop them from suckering. The reason why you're having a lot of suckering is because the sun is hitting the trunk. The branches should be about 2 feet off the ground to prevent the sun from hitting the trunk.

I just bought a tree that's very small, it's only about 3 feet high and the trunk is about the size of one of my fingers. It's called a Sissoo tree and I'm wondering if I should stake it or not?

-- What we do is to get a tiny bamboo stake, just about a quarter of an inch of smaller, and use that to stake the tree. It'll move around in the wind and it should be the only stake you'll need for that tree. You can stake it on any side, but make sure to tie it a little loose.

I have two Bougainvilleas that are 20 years old and are no more than 6 feet tall, but they are very bushy. We were gone for a few days and came back and as when we came back we found that every leaf on the two plants have been chewed away.

-- Here's what you can do. Go ahead and by some bacillus thuringiensis, which is BT or Thuricide brand. You can put that on and it should be good. What's happening is little worms are devouring the leaves and they seem to be pretty prevalent this year in the Valley. The Bougainvilleas should come back out just fine. They won't do any long term damage and they'll cycle out fairly soon. I wouldn't be too concerned at all.

I have a couple of big trees and I really didn't like what I was told about how to water them. They said to flood them everyday.

-- Yes that's right, you should flood them everyday for the first week only. After that you should really only flood them heavily about once a week.

I've got an Anna Apple tree that I planted back in the Spring. It suffered a little bit in the Summer, but it made it through. The problem is that now the very center stalk on it has about a foot of the top of it that is completely black and brown.

-- Just go ahead and prune that out right now.

I planted some Citrus and I heard that you say it takes 15 years to start growing fruit.

-- Well that's true, but to speed it up what you would want to do is prune any suckers off the bottom 18 inches of the tree. If there's little branches come out on the bottom go ahead and take them out. Then what you want to do is take a piece of cardboard and wrap it around the trunk and keep the sun off the trunk. Don't let the sun hit the trunk because it will burn and damage the tree a little bit. Then you want to start a regular fertilizer program in February and fertilize them once a month, February through September. You want to water about once a week in the Summer heat and about once a week now in the Fall.

I planted some Succulents that were purple when I got them and they're growing well, but they've lost their purple color.

-- They do vary some and it'll probably color up again, especially during the Winter.

I have Queen Palms that don't look good, so what is a good way to take care of them?

-- Queen Palms are a tropical tree that come from Brazil and unfortunately they don't do as well in the Valley as some of the other types of palms. If you really want to keep them here, what you're going to want to do is deep water them real heavy, at least once a week. Then they'll also do better if you fertilize them with a good balanced fertilizer like a Palm Tree or Citrus food. Then the last thing you'll want to do is put in a manganese spike. It'll give the tree some extra manganese which will do good for the tree. Follow those steps and you should see some improvement with the trees.

I have some Lantanas that'll bloom for about a week then all the blooms die then they'll be dormant for a while and eventually come back again. What's that about?

-- What you might want to do is reprogram your drip system timer to run 3 hours, once a week. That'll get them a lot wetter and leech the salts away, which should give you some pretty good results.

I planted a Pecan tree about 5 years ago and it's growing nicely, but I'm not getting any pecans.

-- Give it some extra zinc-sulfate around January and you want to work it into the soil with a shovel. That should help a lot with your Pecan tree.

When do Pecan trees flower and when should I start seeing fruit?

-- Well they flower in the Spring before they leaf out, which with Pecans is usually about April, but it will depend slightly on the variety. You won't notice any nuts until June or July.

When should you cut a Bird of Paradise back?

-- Whenever you feel like it. Typically you should let the bloom cycle finish and then go out there and cut it back.

I've got 2 rose bushes and I'd like to transplant them, is that possible?

-- They can and the best time to transplant them would be around December or January. You will want to cut them way back to about a foot above the ground and then just dig out a root ball and they should move just fine.

Is it too late to plant Winter grass?

-- Not at all, actually this is the time I would recommend planting Winter grass because it gives your Summer lawn a much better opportunity to grow, fill in, and be healthy.

I've got a dead hibiscus and I'm wondering why they died.

-- I think you might have some problem with root rot, so what I would do is dig them out and if the roots are mushy and soft you've had some root rot, which is basically a soil fungus. What I would recommend is to not put hibiscus back in because if you have an area with root rot it'll definitely get the hibiscus.

I have some Yellow Bells and they were recently planted. One of them is just dying, the leaves are dropping off, and someone said it's probably a worm or something.

-- That's right, probably little caterpillars. This year they've attacked Yellow Bells and Bougainvillea like I've never seen before. The best thing to do is to go ahead and just prune the Yellow Bells back. They're definitely not going to kill the plant so you don't have to worry about that. You can prune them back as far as you like because pruning won't hurt a Yellow Bell at all.

I have a lot of trees that are all of different varieties and every so often I'll get a load of wood chips and I spread a couple inches in all the wells around the trees. Is it worthwhile to fertilize these desert trees?

-- Well you're not going to get too much results from wood chips because they break down and decay. Most woods decay and they'll use about as much nitrogen as it produces. What I would recommend if you want the trees to grow a lot faster is to go ahead and fertilize them 2 or 3 times a year. The main thing that they need to grow faster is extra nitrogen. Water them at least once every 2 weeks during the Summer. As far as the wood, you're not going to get many results.

I lay wood chips around the base of my desert trees and I'm wondering when I fertilize them with commercial fertilizer, do I need to pull wood chips away from the trees?

-- You can water it in right through the wood chips, but what you have to realize is that those wood chips are probably robbing some of your nitrogen as they decompose.

I have Crape Myrtles in my yard and they're doing okay, but I'm looking to make them bloom more.

-- What you need to do is some moderate pruning this Winter. Let them go until they lose their leaves, around December or January, and then come back and thin them out a little bit. Prune all that old wood off the outside edges and they'll bloom a lot more. They bloom with the new wood in the Spring and Summer time. If you take the time to prune them you'll get a lot more blooms.

Is there a specific fertilizer you would recommend for Crape Myrtles?

-- Anything that's reasonably high in phosphorous. You would want to fertilize those before they leaf out in the Spring, probably in January and then again in May.