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April 7, 2012

We have a 50 foot long run of pyracantha along a wall, but there's about 2 feet where it's just gone totally dead and it's all brown. Is there anyway to nurture and feed that or do we have to go in and just cut it out?

-- Well there's a couple things that could have happened, the first possibility being spider mites. To take care of that you want to use a systemic insecticide and then wash them off with water. Also, a little extra iron goes a long way with pyracantha so you might want to look into that. The third problem you could have is fire blight where the leaves turn brown, much like you've burned them with a torch. The fire blight is pretty lethal to pyracantha and if that happens you're going to have to remove the plant and replace it.

I'm looking at getting a Petite Oleander and I'm wondering if that's a good plant.

-- They're wonderful and very easy to grow. It's actually sold as a tropical flower. It's a great plant, very hearty, easy to grow and does great in a pot. If you want to keep it in a container over the Summer, plant it in straight dirt, don't use potting soil, and don't fertilize it if you want it to grow a little slower. For a 16 inch pot you'll want to get a 5 gallon.

When planting Basil, how far down do you dig and do you put the whole packet of seeds in there or just a few?

-- Well you'll want to put it down about 1/4 inch, cover it with the potting soil, keep it wet, and sprinkle the seeds in about 3 or 4 inches apart, so not that much seed. You don't need a lot more than that because you want individual plants to grow instead of a cluster of basil plants.

I have an Olive Tree that's about 3 years old, how much water do they need?

-- If you want to keep it smaller, say around 10 feet, you want to water sparingly. This time of the year (April) water it about once a week to every 10 days. And probably no more often than once a week during the Summer.

What are the odds of having Plumeria do good out here in the Valley?

-- They're wonderful and it's a great plant to grow in the desert. You just have to make sure to protect it from the frost during the Winter. It likes a lot of sun and does really well.

I've got a Dwarf Orange and everything seems to be falling off and it's not looking very healthy. What could cause this?

-- Well there's a few things that you want to do. Make sure to water it about once a week, fertilize it with some 60/60/60 fertilizer, and make sure the trunk isn't getting hit by the sun. It's going to be slow, but it should eventually grow some good fruit.

I have a Fig tree that I planted a couple of years ago and it grows figs about twice a year. It made it through the Winter, but now there's a lot of green figs on the tree and I'm wondering if I need to pull those off to make room for the newer figs.

-- No, because the older, green figs will eventually fall off if they are some leftover. The trick with figs is to fertilize with cow manure because they thrive with that type of fertilizer. Get a big of cow manure and mix it in around the surface and you should be good to go with some new, great looking figs!

I have a lemon tree that is growing a lot of fruit, but it's also dropping a lot of leaves and I'm a little concerned about that.

-- Well, it'll do better if you fertilize it lightly a few times a year, anywhere from 3 to 6 times, instead of twice a year. If it's not looking it's best right now you can spray a water soluble fertilizer on it and it should really kick out and grow. Then fertilize it around early May and you should start seeing your lemon tree get healthier and stop dropping so many leaves.

I've got a Navel Orange tree that produced great fruit this Winter and it blossomed just fine this Spring, but now it looks like something is eating leaves off of the tree. It's dropped a lot of leaves and it looks like something has just chewed them off.

-- Well if you look around you may find a big caterpillar or some grasshoppers and that's all real common this time of year. The best thing to do is remove the caterpillars if you can find them. The grasshoppers come and go a lot so you don't really need to worry about them. The Navel Orange should have some good growth this time of year to replace the eaten leaves.

We've had some Grape Vines in the ground for about 3 years now, but just last week I noticed that one of the vines is starting to wither and it's got some powdery stuff all over it.

-- That's powdery mildew and it gets on grapes and roses. If you have some humidity or been watering too much you may get some powdery mildew. You can get an all-in-one spray to kill the mildew (just use the spray that is labeled for roses). When it gets hot and dry the plant will kill the powdery mildew on it's own.

I'm wondering what to do with my tomatoes. I've had them in the ground since September and they're still living, but the leaves are drying out and then the branches are eventually dying.

-- Well with tomatoes that are well-established there's no reason to water them anymore than once a week. You may want to spray some Miracle-Grow on the foliage and that should green them up pretty quick. They should bloom great right now. Just remember to not be shy with the fertilizer.

If I wanted to use chicken manure as fertilizer, I'm concerned that it might be too hot to put right under the trees and in the garden.

-- Well, chicken manure is probably my favorite fertilizer of all. What's really cool is that it's high in phosphorous and nitrogen, but you just have to be careful with how much you put on. Even the odor will green your foliage up. Just put it on sparingly and it'll work really, really well.

I have little critters all over my Oleanders and I'm wondering if they're aphids and if they will hurt my plant.

-- I wouldn't worry too much about them because as soon as it gets to be hot, above 95, they'll all die and go away. You don't have to treat them, but if they're really annoying you, go ahead and take a hose and just blast them off.

I have a row of fruit trees that are all doing really good, except for one plum tree that doesn't produce any fruit. What fruit it does produce just dries up and falls off.

-- It's probably one of the wrong varieties that really doesn't do as well here. We need low chill trees that have 300 hours or less of freeze. My guess is that you have a different type of fruit tree that needs colder weather.

I'm having a disagreement about pruning or stumping Oleanders. I'd like to have them just pruned and look nice and green all year long, while the other people want to chop them back down to bare root. They cut them back about once a year.

-- Well that's one way to prune them and you can cut them like that, but the typical thing is to butcher them once every 3 to 4 years where you really take them down. And then go ahead and prune them back about twice or so in an average year. There's no right or wrong way with Oleanders.

Can you start Oleanders from cutting?

-- Sure you can! We used to grow thousands that way. You can take a little wood cutting that's about as big as thumb and about a foot long, put it in a jar of water and start it that way. Then once the roots start to come out in the water pretty good, you can transplant it into the soil.

I have a question about a Peach tree. We planted a 24 inch box in the Fall and it survived the Winter just fine. It was getting water about once a week and it was going very well, but about 3 or 4 weeks ago the tree just looked really wilted. The peaches are growing just fine, but I'm worried about it.

-- I would say that the gopher probably did a lot of damage to your roots. You really got to get rid of them if you want your Peach tree to thrive. If you don't get rid of them the tree is destined to die. If you want to take care of the tree you now you can get a product called Super Thrive and you can buy that at pretty much any nursery. It really works and does help a lot.

I have a Grapefruit tree that's about 8 or 9 years old, but last season after I trimmed it, the tree looks like it's dying.

-- Well you don't want to feed it too much, but you want to make sure that it has fertilizer to grow on. If the wood is exposed to the sun, you either want to paint it white or wrap it so the sun isn't going to cook it. You want to water it heavy about every 5 days. Make sure it stays plenty wet and you should be good to go!

We've got some animals that have decided they like our Agave plant. I've got a rabbit fence up, so it's not rabbits. The plant is about 20 inches tall and when they come in they just destroy it.

-- If it's being eaten that much it sounds like javelina, but I'm not sure how they would get through the rabbit fence. The other thing to look for would be ground squirrels, but they really only eat during the day. The only other thing might be packrats if they're eating your plants at night. One thing about packrats is that they're pretty easy to poison and you can get rid of them that way.

I've got an Artichoke, but they seem to be water hogs. I probably give them 5 gallons about 2 or 3 times a week, but they seem to want water everyday.

-- Well if they're new plants and you've got some rocky soil you probably want to water a little more than usual because the rocky soil won't hold the water. The water will just run right through past the plant, which is why they might be asking for more water.