I will be giving fruit tree pruning classes at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension orchard in North Las Vegas every Saturday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. until noon beginning this Saturday until the end of the month. A $5 donation to the orchard program would be helpful.
Las Vegas Valley Rose Society will be giving its annual rose pruning demonstration Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1112 Oak Tree Lane which is near North Rancho Drive and West Washington Avenue. The demonstration is free and open to the public.
Q. Can I start feeding my fruit trees now or should I wait until spring?
A. It is best to wait a couple of weeks, toward the end of January, before new growth sets in and up through about March for a single application of fertilizers.
A convenient method of application are fertilizer spikes that can be pounded into wet soil about a foot from the tree trunk using the plastic cap that is normally sold with them. You pay extra for convenience and lower mess. Fertilizer spikes have the added advantage of releasing nutrients slower than a handful of fertilizer.
You can use good compost if you want, but good compost contains about 1 to 2 percent nitrogen compared to traditional fertilizers which can be 20 percent or more. So you have to use more compost pound for pound compared to a fertilizer for good results.
Don’t forget your single iron application also in January. Use the EDDHA form of iron chelate and follow label directions. It contains about 6 percent iron but is not an organic source. For organic gardeners, blood meal can be used as a nitrogen source as well as iron but has about a 30:1 ratio of iron compared to EDDHA so you need to use a lot more blood meal compared to the chelate.
You can mix the blood meal with the compost if you like. Compost, although not labeled as a fertilizer, contains a complete source of plant nutrients. Adding blood meal to it enhances the uptake of iron, and compost helps to lower soil pH.
Alternatively you can make one application in January or half in January and half after you harvest. For citrus or other winter tender fruit trees, do nothing after June to keep succulent growth at a minimum before winter.
Q. I have started two avocado trees with the intent of having them available to my son if and when he buys a home in Las Vegas. I went online and doubt that this is going to be possible unless he is willing to nurse them religiously. Do you have any suggestions?
Do you know if a myrtle variety the wax flower can be grown here? I know it is native to Australia and some varieties are hardy to 25 degrees.
A. I would suggest that you take a look at my blog located at http://xtremehorticulture.blogspot.com/ and search the word avocado in the search box near the top. I’ve talked quite a bit about this plant and growing in Las Vegas in this blog.
I do not really recommend it for our climate unless you want to grow it more as a curiosity. Avocado trees do not survive much below freezing. In December, we had two solid days that never really broke freezing in some parts of the valley.
They are much too large for a greenhouse. Your son would be much better off trying some citrus rather than an avocado. And even with citrus, there are some parts of the valley that will be too cold for any citrus to survive one of our five year lows.
If you really want to give your son a reliable fruit tree for our climate, he would be better off with pomegranate, pistachio, apricot, peach or almond.
If you still want to move ahead with your avocado then make sure you put it in a window that will give it full sun for at least six hours every day. Turn the container 180 degrees every week to prevent the plant from leaning in one direction toward the sun and growing at an angle.
If you do not have this kind of window, then you will need to supplement the avocado seedling with extra light. If you do not supplement with extra light, the small avocado seedling will become tall, thin and spindly and probably drop its leaves.
You can use fluorescent lights a few inches from the plant on a timer with about 16 hours of light each day. This will work while the seedling is still small but eventually it will have to be planted outside.
There are parts of the valley which have a better chance of growing avocado than others. Locations downtown surrounded by a lot of concrete are usually much warmer than outside the city. These locations should be in places where it is not windy. But even in these locations when the avocado tree gets larger it will be damaged.
There is the dwarf avocado called “Little Cado” that you might be able to obtain from an online source that he could use in a container. The container would need to be protected when there is danger of frost.
I have never heard of a variety of crape myrtle called wax myrtle. But then again there are a lot of things I’ve never heard of. There is a woody plant native to the U.S. called wax myrtle and it should do well in most parts of the valley. That is the problem with using common names. If you have a scientific name for the plant I might be able to tell you more.
Q. My backyard is planted with a 20-tree fruit orchard. Last year I got overrun with Bermuda grass. I put cardboard down, more mulch down, and the grass just came up through it. Do you have any tips on getting rid of it naturally?
A. From your picture, you do really have a really nice stand of Bermuda grass. Because it is so dense you might consider managing the Bermuda instead of trying to get rid of it. Bermuda grass has a very high requirement for sunlight, more than other grasses. This requirement can be used to your advantage.
Organic controls include burning it down with organic chemicals, mowing it, whacking it and burning it. Of course it will come right back since the roots and rhizomes, stolons are not controlled.
I have not had much luck with standard vinegars since the acetic acid level is too low. Vinegars with higher acetic acid content are available from retailers on the Internet but be careful they are very caustic. You must use all plastic or stainless steel sprayers or they will corrode them quickly. It is expensive for large areas.
I have used propane and a fire torch such as the 400,000 BTU Red Dragon models. You must be very careful with this since you are hauling around a propane tank, pressurized rubber hose and a fire torch. Check your local ordinances to see if this type of burning is permitted.
Wet the grass with a hose before you torch it. This will cause more smoke but give you more control of the fire. With 400,000 BTUs it will kill wet grass. Torches of smaller capacity may not.
Find some old carpet. Natural fiber backing is best but synthetic backings will work. Cut it in pieces 1 yard square. Cut a slit to the center and cut a hole out of the center for the trunk. Lay the carpet on top of the grass and it will shade it and kill it.
Carpet allows water and air to get to the soil and roots of the trees. Putting plastic down does not. The carpet basically smothers the grass.
We use 4 to 6 inches of wood mulch over the grass at the orchard and keep any new growth under control. The idea is to provide shade with the mulch; eliminate new growth as you see it so it cannot emerge and rebuild itself on top of the mulch.
Bob Morris is a horticulture expert living in Las Vegas and professor emeritus for the University of Nevada. Visit his blog at xtremehorticulture.blogspot.com. Sent questions to Extremehort@aol.com.