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Palms prefer water frequently

: We recently bought a foreclosed home. There are no dripping or sprinkler systems in place as the previous owner had a dog who chewed them up. I know that they did not receive water for a few months. The backyard has two huge tall palm trees along with a short but very lively palm. Although I know that there is a layer of palm fronds that needs to be trimmed, I noticed that the fronds are turning brown and I do not want to see them die. So, in the interim I have moved the river rock away from the base of the trees and have taken the water hose and watered the bases of them in the morning and the evening when the sun is not bearing directly on them. I am not sure how long to run the water and do not want to overwater them.

A: Palms have relatively high water use compared to other desert trees and several do well here. This time of year, once a week watering would be fine. I would give them about 20 gallons of water in a basin around the trunk at each watering. They are not terribly deep rooted so watering excessively deep will not cause them to root even deeper.

They respond well to frequent watering so watering them two to three times a week during the summer should result in some improvement. You will not see any improvement in them until next growing season.

It is getting late in the year so I would not remove any of the damaged palm fronds until next spring. Next spring, around a February/March time frame, would be fine to remove the damaged fronds as new growth will begin pushing shortly after that. Fertilize them next February when you are doing your frond removal. Cut the fronds close to the trunk.

Leaving some of these fronds attached to the tree through the winter will help protect the central bud that is critical for the tree’s survival.

Q: I am thinking of planting a corn patch next spring in a pasture behind my home. I have sufficient space to do an 8-by-20-foot area. Can I kill the current pasture grass (mostly Bermuda and native grass) with Roundup this fall and turn it under and manure it later in the winter? Will the Roundup be residual in the soil and harm the corn? Is there a better way? The pasture grass is very thick and matted. What corn variety would you recommend for the Mesquite area? Planting time and watering schedule?

A: I am assuming you mean sweet corn. The Roundup herbicide application will have no residual problems in the soil on the corn the following year. Turning it under is great as long as you add some nitrogen to help break it down, which the manure should do. The Bermuda will be back with a vengeance next year around April or May so you will not completely control it with Roundup and turning it under.

I do not know of a better way to control the Bermuda grass. But, for best control I would recommend that you get it actively growing with an application of nitrogen fertilizer and plenty of water, mow it and then spray it. Spray it with Roundup a second time, applying it the opposite direction. Bermuda grass is going to sleep for the winter now so if it is not green when you apply it, you will be wasting your money. Good fall control is important but you can get some control next spring with a directed spray of Roundup.

The Roundup will have no control on seed that has been dropped. You will probably have to spot spray the Bermuda with Roundup as it appears in the spring, keeping the direct spray off of the corn. If you stay on top of it, you will get it under some control but not all.

You might try Silver Queen, Candy Store, Illini Extra Sweet, Sweet Rhythm, Sweet Symphony or a very early corn called Seneca Arrowhead. Get the seed in the ground as soon as soil temperatures reach 55 F and freezing has past. This might be some time around the first or second week of March.

Q: I have three pine trees that need trimming. Is there a best time of year to have this done? Also, they are dropping lots of needles lately. Is it normal for there to be so many or should I be concerned? I also have a Raywood ash that my husband planted five years ago. It goes through the cycles of losing its leaves in the fall and getting new ones in the spring and it looks quite healthy. However, during all that time it has only grown about 6 inches taller. Do you have any idea what the problem could be? One last question — how often should these trees be deep watered?

A: Major pruning should be done during the winter or at least late fall. Light pruning can be done anytime. Needle drop is normal but if the tree canopy is thinning, then you are probably not giving it enough water.

Deep watering should be done more frequently during the summer than winter — something like once every 10 days in the winter up to about twice a week in the summer. It should be incrementally increased as the weather gets warmer and decreased as the weather gets colder.

If Raywood ash is in rock mulch it will typically not grow very well. It will do better in an organic mulch such as wood chips. You might be able to get it to grow better in a rock mulch with fertilizer applications, including iron in January, with foliar-applied fertilizer like Miracle-Gro as it leafs out in the spring. The choice of iron is important and there should be iron EDDHA in the ingredients.

Regular deep irrigations will be important for good growth. These trees are probably moderate in their water use and should get somewhere around 30 to 60 gallons at each watering. The amount depends on their size, increasing along with their size. Frequency will be the same as the pine trees so they can be on the same valve.

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 morrisr@unce.unr.edu.

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