People contacted me who had problems with vegetable transplants and even fruit trees after planting in composted soil. I did some testing with transplants, seed and fruit trees.
When planting in composted soils you can create problems if you are not careful, particularly when temperatures are getting hotter.
Here are my recommendations.
Never plant into any dry soil. I realize it is easier sometimes to plant directly into dry soils. However, roots of transplants and fruit trees, particularly bareroot, are very tender. When young tender plant roots come in contact with dry soils, they dry out very quickly. Root desiccation and death can happen in seconds, not minutes.
When tender roots die, the plant has to make new roots to replace them. The plant wilts, leaves may get brown edges or leaves may die. If the plant cannot recover from this “shock,” it can die.
This is called “transplant shock.” Transplant shock, if it doesn’t kill the plant, can set it back days or even weeks. In trees, transplant shock can last a month or longer.
Transplant shock is worse on small plants because they cannot recover as easily as larger plants. It also is worse when it is windy, air temperatures are high and the amount of compost added to the soil is high.
Always make sure soil is wet when transplanting. Don’t think you can plant in a dry hole and quickly water the plant.
There are good salts and bad salts. Fertilizers are good salts. But too much of a good thing can also be bad. If the compost is particularly rich, it can damage plants if it is not kept wet when planting.
As a precaution when you have purchased or amended garden soil, water the soil and let it drain two or three times before planting. This helps to “flush” some of the salts from “rich” soils.
Wet the soil before planting. This helps reduce root desiccation because of dry soils and “dilutes” salts contained in the soil.
Water transplants thoroughly immediately after planting in wet soil. Do not rely on just the drip system to water plants after planting. When planting during warm weather months, from April through September, water twice a day with a hose for one week right after transplanting.
Q: I planted garlic in the fall. It is very close to harvest time for them as they are full grown and some tops are starting to brown. I pulled one the other day to check them. It seems fine and full of cloves with the papery outer skin, but the stalk above is very thick and dense. I’m wondering, do I hang them to dry and, if so, for how long?
A: You harvest garlic when the tops dry down about halfway. No further than this or the paper on the outside of the bulb will disintegrate and expose the cloves.
You dry them the same way as onions basically. Put them in the shade in open air. Do not wash them first.
There are two types of garlic: hardneck and softneck. The softneck you can braid together. The hardneck you cannot. Sounds like you have hardneck.
When tops die after a week or two, cut the tops back further for storage or future use. I like them the most when they are still fresh from the garden.
I think that is when they have the best flavor.
Q: My Blenheim apricot tree planted in 2012 is not doing well. A few branches have lost all their leaves. Other leaves are starting to curl and cup. This year it had plenty of apricots but few leaves. I thinned them out since the tree is young.
A: First thing I see in the picture you sent is that you have wood mulch. Please pull it back 12 inches from the trunk. The symptoms you sent to me could be damage to the trunk from wet mulch.
Cupping is due to damage to leaf edges, not the entire leaf. The damage to leaf edges could be lack of water, salt damage, wind damage, damage from sprays or insects.
The lack of water could be either from a lack of applied water or damage to the trunk from wet mulch.
Salt burn can be from applying fertilizer too close to the trunk or applying a heavy rate of fertilizers in the irrigation basin. Always keep fertilizer at least a foot from the trunk.
It is best if the fertilizer is buried slightly in the soil or there is wood mulch present to keep the fertilizers from washing against the trunk after watering. Water the soil generously when applying fertilizers.
When watering the fertilizer into the soil and you do not have wood mulch, try not to flood the basin around the tree. This can push fertilizers against the trunk and cause damage.
Even “hot” manures such as chicken or other poultry manure can cause problems like this if they get too close to the tree trunk.
We have had quite a number of reports of stinkbugs in neighborhoods in Henderson and other places. Stinkbugs can cause feeding damage to leaves as they are expanding, causing leaf cupping. Look for stinkbugs on the trees and apply an appropriate insecticide if they are present in large numbers.
Q: We have a 3-year-old quince tree which looked very good to me until today when I noticed brown or dark purple, small, pee-sized bumps on the top brunches. Removing the bumps causes a fluid to ooze out. I guess the fluid must be sweet since there are ants running up and down the branch.
A: From your description, and the pictures you sent, it looks like it might be one of the scale insects.
I have never seen scale insects on quince in the Las Vegas valley but they do infest trees in other climates. Scale insects, particularly the soft scales, will exude a sugary liquid that drips on limbs and leaves and attracts ants.
They are easy to squish and act just like you are describing it. There is an insect under the harder outer shell. Young are produced by the female and they leave the protection of the mother’s shell, move about and find a new home. Here they can suck plant juices and also build their own protective shell on the outside of their body.
The usual method of control is using horticultural oils and spraying the oil on the plant to suffocate the insect. This is done in winter or early spring.
If you are lucky enough to see the young emerge and start looking for a home, most any spray will kill them including soap and water sprays like Safers insecticidal soap. But you will have to spray oils and soap and water sprays through the year to get them under control.
Once under control an oil spray in the dormant season such as winter months when it is warm should help keep the populations reduced.
A wild guess from the picture, it might be brown soft scale particularly because you mentioned the ants.
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. Send questions to Extremehort@aol.com.