Free-tree program promotes benefits of trees

Free trees are available from the Nevada Division of Forestry, but you must be qualified. The program aims to help communities in Clark County increase public awareness about the benefits of trees and the number of trees planted in communities.

This state project provides free trees to local governmental units, tribes, tree advocacy groups and service organizations. State forestry staff are available to demonstrate proper tree care and planting for successful applicants.

An application for free trees can be found online at To have a copy mailed to you, contact Community Forester Adria DeCorte at 486-5123.

Q: I am interested in growing loquats, boysenberries and an orange or grapefruit in Las Vegas and wish to know if these are good choices. Can you tell me what varieties have the best chance to survive in our desert?

A: Loquat does well in our climate particularly if it is grown in an area protected from late afternoon sun. It tends to get borers in the trunk and limbs if put into hot locations with late afternoon sun.

Be careful not to prune this tree too heavily as that will open it up for sun damage followed by a borer infestation. Do not plant it in rock mulch; instead you should surround it with wood mulch much like you would many other fruit trees.

Boysenberry resulted from crosses with three other berries not known for desert growing: blackberry, raspberry and loganberry. So the chances are not terribly good that it will do well here. We have not tried it at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Orchard in North Las Vegas. If you elect to plant it anyway, then amend the soil well at the time of planting, use wood or organic surface mulch and place it in a location that is protected from late afternoon sun. It will require a moist, amended soil.

Many oranges are sensitive to cold and are less likely to survive than grapefruit or lemon. However, if you have a real warm location in your yard, then they may have a chance of survival. You may have better luck with mandarin orange such as a Satsuma. It will take temperatures to the mid-20s.

Q: I noticed that my bottlebrush shrubs are turning brown in the front yard, as you can see in my picture. Can you tell me what the problem is and how to correct it? The bottlebrushes in the backyard look green.

A: From the picture, this looks like extreme iron deficiency. Apply a chelated iron around the plants in late January along with a normal fertilizer application. That chelated iron should be EDDHA in the ingredients.

These are not the best plants to grow surrounded by rock mulch; they will always have this problem. The problem arises because of a lack of organic material in the soil or possibly watered too frequently. But most likely it is a lack of organic matter.

You can try applying compost around these plants every year to see if you can get them to improve. Usually an iron chelate plus a good quality tree and shrub fertilizer will improve the plant over time. This spring apply an iron foliar fertilizer multiple times in an attempt to get the foliage to begin to turn dark green again. I hope this helps.

Q: Please tell me the right time of year to trim our chaste tree. I notice some are doing it now. Is this correct?

A: A good time to prune chaste tree, sometimes called Vitex or monks pepper, is anytime after leaf drop in the fall and before new growth in the spring. These trees bloom on current season growth, so pruning now will not disrupt flowering.

Summer pruning should be avoided because this will discourage flowering just as it does when oleander or any other summer-blooming plant is pruned.

Q: I have two rather large mesquite trees in my yard and I would like to have them pruned back. When is the proper time to do this and how much can they be pruned? Also I have noticed a black liquid material oozing from the trunk about 6 feet above the ground. What is it and does this condition need treating?

A: For major pruning you should wait until January or early February. Light pruning, removing an occasional small branch, can be done anytime of the year.

The biggest problem with mesquite is irrigation timing and volume of water. Most of our landscape mesquites that originate in arid and desert climates are what we call riparian plants. They persist along perennial waterways where water can be plentiful in rare occasions but the usual norm is hot and dry.

When water is available and abundant, they grow rapidly. When no water is available, they have characteristics that allow them to withdraw water from the soil at great depths, 200 feet or more. A mesquite also can survive long periods of drought by dropping its leaves and even die back, and still survive until the next water event.

When we use these types of riparian plants in landscapes, we tend to irrigate them like most of our other landscape plants: shallow irrigations and relatively frequently. Sap oozing from the trunk can be an indicator of watering too often and keeping the soil too wet. It is usually associated with some sort of plant stress .

Disease is also a possibility, but probably less likely. Insect damage or pruning damage also can be a possibility, and it is easier to spot than water stress or disease. For this reason I would suggest that you check your irrigation schedule. If watering might be a problem, then this is most likely.

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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