Best fruit trees to grow in area showcased

The "Best Fruit Trees for Southern Nevada" list has been created based on fruit tree performance at the University or Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Orchard and is ready to be released.

The orchard was originally established in 1997 in North Las Vegas to determine which varieties perform best in our climate. More than 160 varieties of fruit trees were evaluated for their growth performance and their ability to produce high-quality fruit during the past 14 years. It should be noted that there are more than 1,000 varieties commonly in existence, but we focused on those that had the highest chances of performing well in our climate.

All of our fruit trees were planted bare root in the orchard. Bare root fruit trees were seldom for sale in Southern Nevada until now.

Beginning early in 2010 the "Best of the Best" fruit trees from this list will be available from the College of Southern Nevada nursery by preordering only. Fruit trees will be ready to be picked up in mid-January.

Fruit tree order forms can be obtained by e-mailing the college at or calling 651-5052. Forms also can be obtained from the cooperative extension at 257-5555. Large orders for groups or small-scale growers are welcome. Instructions on how we plant bare root fruit trees in the university orchard will be provided when the trees are picked up.

Q: A friend suggested I spread Epsom salt around all my plants. I did this past spring and really do see a difference; plants are greener, healthier. How often should I be doing this?

A: The use of Epsom salts has always been kind of a question mark for me. I know that rosarians commonly use it on roses here.

To be honest, I don't understand how it should work so I usually do not recommend it. Our soils typically contain fairly high levels of magnesium anyway so the addition of magnesium sulfate is somewhat questionable.

This doesn't mean it won't work. There are lots of things that don't make sense to me and plants are completely unaware that I don't understand them. So they go ahead and work anyway. This is one of them, perhaps.

There are so-called magnesium-hungry plants. These include roses, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. And just because a mineral is present in the soil does not mean that it is available to plants. Many minerals, if they are not in the right form, cannot be utilized by plants even though they might be abundant.

You are not going to hurt anything by adding Epsom salts and it is a form of magnesium that is readily accessible to plants. Just don't overdo it.

There is this temptation that because a little bit was so successful that a lot more will be that much more successful. Avoid the temptation and use it in moderation; use small amounts annually. Large amounts might be detrimental and the magnesium may get tied up in the soil. Small amounts applied more frequently can help avoid this problem.

Q: I have some Mediterranean fan palms that are in very large pots and I want to know when is the best time of year to transfer them into my front yard landscaping.

A: It is best to do that during the heat of the summer. Losses of palms are highest with fall and winter plantings.

Even though that is best, I would still go ahead and do it now. Make sure that when you dig the hole that you make sure you have good drainage. Use compost or good soil amendments mixed with the existing soil and backfill around them. As you are putting the amended soil back around the rootball, water the soil to a slurry around the roots to remove air pockets. Make sure you do this as you are putting the soil around the rootball, not afterwards.

Use a starter fertilizer in the backfill mix, like 16-20-0, or bone meal if you prefer. I would not fertilize any more than this for the remainder of the year and I would not prune it until you see new growth next spring and summer. Staking is usually not necessary on palms.

Make sure it is planted in the soil the same depth it was in the container. I would mulch the surface of the soil surrounding the plant with about 4 inches of wood mulch. Water deeply, twice a week, while it is still hot during the day. Go to once a week in about a month. Gradually move toward weekly irrigations or less often as we approach and move into December and January. Fertilize in about March or when you see new growth pushing.

Q: We need your help. We have three Anaheim pepper plants in a large pot; they are healthy and dark green and get lots and lots of flowers but we never get any fruit. The flowers all drop off before the fruit form. What are we doing wrong? The pot has a drip water system, full morning sun and is against the building so it gets no wind damage.

A: There are a couple of possible reasons for this. First, it could have been too hot. If air temperatures are above 95 F during the time it is supposed to set fruit, the flower has a high likelihood of dropping.

Secondly, pepper flowers need to have visits by bees to set fruit. No bees, no fruit. This can be from honeybees or wild bees like the leaf-cutter bee. It doesn't matter.

A third possible reason could be drought. If the peppers went through a lack of water they will drop their flowers. Mulch your peppers to help soil moisture remain more stable.

Now that the weather has become cooler, see if they began to set fruit again. Different varieties of peppers are more sensitive to temperature than others. We seem to have less luck with bell peppers than Anaheim or hot peppers, for instance; our climate is a bit tough on peppers in the summer.

If bees are a problem and you want to attract native bees you can build bee houses for them quite easily from dimensional lumber at least 6 inches thick. Drill multiple, 3/8-inch holes in the lumber to a depth of about 51/2 inches and place them around the yard or hang on walls. The more houses, the more native bees you will attract to your yard for pollination. Holes more shallow than this may affect the sexes of the bees released.

The leaf-cutter bees will, however, also cut circular holes out of the leaves of your roses, bougainvillea, sometimes grapes and other plants they like for nesting. This is how I know if they are out and active and don't bother me in that regard.

Bob Morris is an associate professor with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Direct gardening questions to the master gardener hot line at 257-5555 or contact Morris by e-mail at