Deep watering helps grape berries set

The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners Orchard will be open for pruning instruction Saturday and the Saturday after New Year’s Day.

Q: I have two grape plants. They had baby grapes (1/8-inch size on a cluster) but they suddenly got brown and fell off. The opposite vine got what can only be called “rust spots” on the leaves, and some holes in the leaves. Is something munching on them?

A: It sounds like the grape berries did not get pollinated and fell off, which is odd. They do require lots of water when they are setting berries so make sure they get deep watering twice a week.

The holes in the leaves might be grape flea beetle, which was around earlier in the season and is now gone. Damage from flea beetles is usually not extensive and short-lived. The plant usually recovers without the use of pesticides.

Q: I noticed last summer that our bell peppers grow well until they are about to ripen. Half of their fruits get rotten and wrinkled around the rotten part. What could be causing this?

A: Most of the problems associated with peppers in midsummer is sunburning of the fruit and varmints eating them. Peppers typically start producing now when they are very young and do not provide much leaf cover to the developing fruit.

When the fruit begin to develop, it is important to make sure that these plants get an extra dose of fertilizer or the developing fruits will stunt the plant. If the plant is small, provide shade for the fruit or the fruit will sunburn. I would fertilize them lightly once every three to four weeks so the plants can get some size and provide some cover for the fruit.

You also might consider pulling off the first few peppers until the plant can get some size on it.

Q: I am concerned that my palm trees are not in very good shape. Please see attached picture of the trees. A tree service came out last November and February of this year to deep-root fertilize. Can you tell by these pictures what I’m doing wrong?

A: The palm trees have yellowing fronds or leaves on the very bottom layer. The leaves above that look fine. The palm trees with yellowing or bronzing older leaves (bottom leaves) appear to have been damaged last winter and are just now being pushed down into a more horizontal position. Usually that bronzing color is related to previous freeze damage. They can be removed any time.

The newer leaves, the ones above them, are very dark green and appear healthy.

The other palm, with fronds coming from the center that appear yellow, is a different story. From the look of it, I think that is one of our winter-tender palms. The yellowing could be either iron chlorosis or an infection in the central bud.

If the central bud is infected, it may die. Once the central bud dies, the palm can no longer grow and is considered dead. I am guessing the palm may have become weakened from freezing winter temperatures. This may have led to the central bud becoming damaged, resulting in some chlorosis in the newly produced fronds.

I would take the easier route and assume it is an iron problem. I would spray some iron chelate and an all-purpose liquid fertilizer on the fronds to see if you can get it in a bit healthier condition. Add a small amount of liquid detergent to the iron mix to help it penetrate the waxy frond surface.

Be careful not to let any of the spray fall into the central bud of the palm. Liquid collecting near the bud may weaken it further. I also would put a soil application of iron down in very early spring along with an all-purpose fertilizer in preparation for 2010 growth.

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

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