Make your own fertilizer to get proper ratio

Saturday is the last of the pruning workshops at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Orchard in North Las Vegas. There will only be one class, which starts at 9 a.m. The rest of the time will be spent pruning fruit trees. Come with your pruning shears and be ready to help out; we will match experienced volunteers with you to mentor your pruning efforts.

On Feb. 25, I will demonstrate grape pruning at the orchard. Stay tuned for more information on that workshop and demonstration. Please visit my blog, Xtremehorticulture of the Desert, for more information.

Q: I was looking for the 1-2-2 ratio fertilizer that you recommended for fruit trees. Both nurseries I visited do not have fertilizers with that ratio. The fruit tree fertilizer that they carry has a ratio of 4-2-1. Any suggestions where I can get the 1-2-2 ratio fertilizer?

A: What I have been telling people is to make their own. You just need sources of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. If you are not concerned about organic sources of fertilizer, then pick up some straight nitrogen, straight phosphorus and straight potassium and mix your own. I will address this a bit more on my blog.

You can vary the amount of nitrogen or phosphorus simply by adding more or less of each product to a mixture you create. You can blend them together if you want, but if they are different sized particles, they will tend to segregate and not remain mixed very well over time. I prefer to add them separately.

You can do the same thing with organic fertilizers. An organic source of nitrogen would be blood meal, phosphorus would be from bone meal and, for potassium, you could use muriate of potash. I found all of these locally in at least one nursery. Purely organic sources of potassium are hard to find.

Q: Could you recommend some trees to replace a tree that I think is dying? I do not like desert plants for the most part, especially desert-looking trees. So if there is something that is nice and full, that grows fairly fast and that does well here, I would be interested to hear some of your recommendations.

A: I do not give recommendations regarding specific plant materials. The list of plants can be long and tedious. You and I could go back and forth a dozen times and still not find the tree that suits you. The only person who can do this is you.

If you narrow your search down to five plants, then I can help you or at least give you characteristics of those plants and how they grow here to help you make the right decision.

Q: I have a Meyer lemon that is currently potted. Now that I have lived through a winter here, I have paid better attention to my sun. There are two spots along the back wall that get maybe three to four hours of direct sunlight at the shortest time of the year. Do you think it would survive being planted against a warm cinder block wall with only that much sun?

A: Meyer lemon will freeze back in our harshest microclimates in the valley. On the other hand, some of the more tender citrus, such as the limes, can handle our winters just fine if they are placed in the right microclimate.

The number of hours of sunlight in the winter is probably not as important as the number of hours for the rest of the year. Certainly four hours of sunlight is far too short for nearly all fruit-producing and flowering plants if this light is during the spring, summer and fall months. But if this plant receives eight or more hours during nonwinter months, when temperatures are at least warm, it might do just fine.

To protect from freezing temperatures in the winter it is best that it is placed near a very warm winter wall with very little exposure to wind. Some people wrap or drape them with materials and other use heat sources such as Christmas tree lights along with draping.

Q: Have you had any luck with berries? I have a friend who says she grows blackberries successfully.

A: Some blackberries will do just fine here and others do not. Two blackberries that I have found to work well here are Rosborough and Womack, both of which you probably have to purchase online. They come from the Texas A&M breeding program. One that did not do well from that breeding program is Brazos.

Generally speaking, I would not recommend most of the blackberries with Native American names such as Apache, Navaho, Arapaho, etc., which came, I believe, out of the Arkansas breeding programs. Historically, according to locals who have tried them, they have not done well here so I did not bother trying them.

Raspberries have not done well over time . I did try a Florida variety that had a lower chilling requirement and it failed here. I have heard reports from locals who had some success with raspberries, but either they did not remember the name or had them planted for only one or two years. Others have generally reported failures with raspberries.

Strawberries will do well, with everbearing types probably doing better than the main crop varieties. You will have some iron chlorosis problems, yellowing, that will need to be addressed. I have liked them when they were growing under about 30-40 percent shade here.

With all of these you must prepare the soil adequately prior to planting. Please visit my blog for information on soil preparation.

Q: I have three red plums in my front yard; I attached pictures of them. These trees were planted in 2003. One plum has sap oozing out in five to six spots on the south-facing side of the tree. I cannot find any holes in the tree where the sap is oozing out. The other two trees do not have this condition.

I put down systemic insecticides annually and I have sprayed the trunk of this tree every week with Bayer’s Advanced Insect Spray. I noticed the sap started oozing late this summer.

A: Plums can be a fairly sappy trees, and this may or may not mean you have borer problems. Sometimes stress in plum trees can cause oozing sap. To find out, you will have to take a sharp, sanitized knife and remove bark and dead wood below the sap. You should do this as soon as you see it .

Your picture No. 3 does look like loose bark caused by boring insects. Ultimately, boring insects are attracted to trees that are weak or have been weakened or in poor health. Try to leave as much canopy on the tree as possible so that it can shade limbs and the trunk.

Systemic insecticides for borer control must be used with a great deal of caution when applying them to fruit trees with the fruit intended for consumption even if the label says you can legally apply it this way.

Bob Morris is a horticulture expert living in Las Vegas. Visit his blog at

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