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October 27, 2012

I've got a Texas Sage and I let it grow to about 8 feet by 10 feet and I wanted to know how much I can cut it back.

-- You can cut it back to about 3 feet if you want, but the problem is if you cut it now it won't fill out again until next Spring. You might do some minor pruning right now and leave it, then come back around the first of March and cut it way back.

I've got some fruit trees, peaches and apricots, and when they were planted they didn't take into the final level of the area. They're sunken in about a foot and half lower than the surrounding area. Will that cause a problem?

-- That will cause a problem, but you'll have a great time to fix it this Winter. What I would do is leave them alone right now and then in December, when they go dormant and lose their leaves, go ahead and dig them up and plant them a bit higher than they are now. You want to make sure the graft is well above the ground and the root level is to where it's not going to have the soil fill in against the trunk. They should come back much better after doing this!

Can you grow raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries here in the Valley?

-- My experience is that blackberries can do really well. Raspberries on the other hand, I've never eaten a good Phoenix raspberry. There are a lot of different types of blueberries that people try and grow, but I have yet to see one that does good in Phoenix. My experience would be to just stay with the blackberries.

We want to plant a Fig tree in our backyard and we were wondering if this would be a good time to do it?

-- It's probably the best time of the entire year right now to go ahead and plant a Fig tree.

We planted a Plum tree, a Peach tree, and an Apricot tree, but this past Summer the Plum tree really took a beating with the heat and the Peach tree as well. The Plum tree has no leaves on it and the Peach tree has very few leaves on it. Any recommendations for bringing them back to life?

-- Well, make sure you deep water them, that's really important. Second, with those stone fruits if you use some sulfur or gypsum to help break the salts down in the soil to leech better, that's a good idea. I would pre-fertilize them before Spring comes so around January. Also make sure your fertilizer is balanced and has zinc, manganese, magnesium, etc. Those trace elements really help them take the heat better when they're established. Then I would go ahead and fertilize them again about April. Doing this you should see a nice bloom come out around Springtime.

I have a Queen Palm that I believe I cut a couple of limbs too early before the naturally bend over. Now it's bowing all the future growth on that side of the tree.

-- That's probably not causing that kind of problem. What's probably happening is that it has a deficiency in zinc, which happens a lot with Queen Palms. You can't help it a lot right now because the growing season is just about over, but what I would do is next Spring go ahead and fertilize. Also you probably want to buy a manganese spike, which you should be able to buy at any nursery or garden center, put one or two of those in around the base of the palm and then fertilize it heavy for the Spring. The new growth which should come out in March, April, or May should be much better.

I've had several Oleanders cut back last June and I use them as protection and privacy. Do you recommend any fertilizer that I could use to increase the growth on them?

-- Well you're not going to change it too much this time of year. You can feed them anything right now and you might get a little jump. If you're going to feed them right now, I would recommend something that's like Ammonium Nitrate based. That's going to work the best in the Winter time. They'll grow for another 3 or 4 weeks, but then they're going to go dormant for the Winter. If you really want them to grow back fast next Spring, fertilize them about the first of March with the same type of fertilizer.

I have four grow boxes and I planted four tomato plants. Last year I planted them and they did wonderful. The instructions said keep the same soil for the second year, so I did that and planted four more plants. 2 of them have already died and the other two aren't looking so good.

-- That advice to keep the same soil, might not have been so good. Here's what I would do. I would flood those boxes, put a hose on them and let them run slow. The problem with using the same soil is that salt will build up and then when you go to plant new tomato plants, the salt will damage the tomato plants. You want to try and get those salts to break down.

We've got a couple of rose plants and although we pull off the dead ones and we trim the edges. When can we cut them back down towards the ground?

-- Well, typically the time we really butcher roses here is going to be right after Christmas. You're going to cut them down within 8 to 10 inches off the ground. Cut everything off, leave 5 or 6 canes on them and let them grow back out.

I've got several Porchulaca plants and they did great during the Summer months, but now some of them look like they're close to death.

-- They're life cycle is running out. It's not really a perennial plant and it's time for them to surrender. If you want something similar, plant Geraniums now.

I've got a Cat Claw that I put into the ground. I water it everyday, but it seems to be wilting and almost dying.

-- Well, it shouldn't have to be watered everyday. It should be watered deep about once a week so you want to make sure the ground isn't sour. Dig down into one of the roots and see if it is wet or dry. If it's dry that means it needs to be deep watered a little bit more, and if it's wet it needs to dry out.

I had my backyard over-seeded and I've been watering real diligently, but there's three spots that are about 3 feet by 4 feet with well defined edges, where the seeds are just sitting there, not sprouting or anything.

-- What I would do with those areas that aren't germinating very well is to reseed them and go out and get some mulch and just mulch over those areas. Keep them wet for the next week or so.

I would like to plant a Pomegranate and I would like to know the best time and the best type.

-- Now is the perfect time to plant pomegranates. They're going to go dormant in the Winter, but what happens by planting this time of year, is that they'll root out all Winter and you'll get a bigger, faster, nicer plant next Spring. The most popular variety of pomegranate trees here in the Valley is called Wonderful.

I've got a question about horse manure. Is it useful for roses and vegetables?

-- Well, horse manure is real low in nitrogen and as a compost in breakdown it uses up pretty much all of it's nitrogen in the composting process. It can be pretty useful, but it doesn't add a lot of nitrogen. If you want to add nitrogen to the horse manure during the composting process it will work very well.

What is a good organic way to get rid of ants?

-- If you can find the little nest, Diatomaceous Earth works pretty well on ants.

I have a small yard and I want to make it private so I'm looking at putting in some Skyrocket Junipers in, how well do those do out here in the Valley?

-- They do fair out here, but I would recommend a sour orange hedge, which is a citrus that is meant to be grown as a hedge. You can also trim it fairly narrow, about 18 inches to 2 feet. If you want to use some of those Junipers for accents, it'll look real good. The problem with Junipers is that when you grow them real close together as a hedge, you will have a real problem with spider mites and the plants not filling in and doing as well as they could. They're a lot better as accent pieces.

We put in a Blue Palo Verde in March and it's doing really well. How often do I need to deep water that?

-- This time of year if you planted it in March, probably almost not at all. You might give it one good, deep irrigation right now and then if it doesn't rain by the 1st of December, then do it one more time. Then you'll be good for 2 months, all the way to the first of February, when you should start to water it again.

We put in 2 apple trees this week, how often should I water those?

-- With young apple trees you want to get the ground saturated, maybe water them every other day or every third day. Make sure the ground is really well saturated and after that you're going to deep water them about once a week. When they lose their foliage, go ahead and water them once every 2 to 3 weeks.

I'm thinking of planting an Olive tree and the space I'm thinking of is about 6 feet. Is that something you can grow an Olive tree in?

-- Well, Olive Trees can be pruned and manipulated so you can grow them in pretty tight areas. Depending on the Olive Tree you want and how you're going to form it there are a lot of different varieties. If you're looking to plant them for their fruit, then they will grow pretty big, about 10 feet, so you may need a little more space than just 6 feet.

I'm wondering if I can plant calliandra vine on a wall that gets extreme sun exposure.

-- You can, but what's going to happen is because it's so shaded there during the Winter it's not going to perform that well. It's going to be very thin in the Winter and then it'll fill out and get quite nice in the Summertime. As far as taking the Summer heat, it'll acclamate and take the heat just fine. Because it can be a little frost tender, I would go ahead and wait until the first of March to plant it.

I have a raised bed and my cat has discovered that the soil in there is perfect for her to use as a litter box. I'm going to try and sift out what I have found what she left, but is that going to be a hazard to me health-wise?

-- No, not at all. What I would try and do is put in some garlic or some moth balls to deter your cat. The cat manure is not going to hurt anything at all so you don't have to worry about that.

I have a question regarding weed killer. I was told that most weed killers can discolor the rocks, and I'm especially concerned about a flagstone area that I have around my mailbox.

-- Well, a lot of the pre-emergents have dye in them that will definitely stain your rocks. Contact weed killers, like Roundup, don't have any dye in them so you might try using those on your rocks. What you really need to do is check and see if a weed killer has dye in it. Most of the dye will break down and not last forever, but they will definitely stain things for a while.

I have 3 pine trees in my front yard and I'd like to trim them back a bit. Does it hurt to cut them off at the top?

-- You can do that, but it will change the shape and growth pattern of the tree. It changes the whole budding and growth character, so it'll probably branch out horizontally. Some variety of pines it might stunt their growth forever so you want to watch out for that.