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Pruning basics to be taught at orchard

The fruit-tree pruning schedule for the coming months is now available at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Orchard in North Las Vegas. This Saturday I will teach the basics of how to start pruning and how to lower and contain the heights of fruit trees. It is the first in the series of pruning classes to be offered at the orchard.

Classes are held at the orchard near the intersection of Horse Drive and North Decatur Boulevard and start promptly at 10 a.m. For more information, contact the master gardener help line at 257-5555.

Q: In our homeowners association, the codes, covenants and restrictions prohibit trees that are above the roof line. At a recent meeting, we agreed that palm trees could be exempt, but we disagreed on how and when they should be trimmed to avoid damage to the palms. How often should palms be trimmed? Once a year, quarterly or when the fuzzy things stop shedding? What time of year? How aggressively should they be trimmed? Until just a few fronds are left? Or should a nice canopy be left?

A: If you would like, I would be happy to sit down with your board and discuss these items as my answer may generate more questions than it answers.

The problem you may have is that my answer may be the best for the palms but not be the best for your budget. Sometimes we have to bend what is best for the plants for that which may be acceptable and still not break the bank.

Ideally, you would prune the palms annually in summer so that there is some palm growth prior to the coldest winter months, removing only those fronds that are dead or dying. You should leave a canopy that is basically a half circle of healthy fronds.

It is unacceptable to prune so that what remains is a few fronds at the top of the palm that resemble a feather duster and doing this late in the fall. Avoid pruning palms during the late fall or winter, particularly just before the coldest winter months.

Perhaps you can find a happy medium somewhere between these extremes that is acceptable to your budget.

Q: Should Texas sage be irrigated with a drip system on the side of our house in rock mulch?

A: Should work great. Texas sage or Texas ranger can handle rock mulch and drip quite well. Use two emitters that will deliver about 2-4 gallons per application per plant.

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: I wouldn’t worry too much about the sap coming from the trunk. It may be slime flux, which is a nonlethal bacterial infection.

This can result from using dirty pruners or saws, moving this bacterial disease from an infected tree to a healthy tree. It is always best to disinfect pruning equipment between trees to help prevent this.

It is also best to always clean your tools that will penetrate healthy tissue with some sort of disinfectant. This can be alcohol sprays, alcohol wipes or bleach, making sure to oil your tools after using bleach on them to prevent them from rusting.

Most of the time it is best to prune during the winter months or in very early spring if removing large branches or a large percentage of wood. Small amounts, or light pruning, can be removed any time.

Q: I am planning to replace all of the stone mulch under and around the existing shrubs in my yard and replace it with bark mulch from the orchard stock pile. I have been told that bark mulch attracts cockroaches. Is this your experience?

A: Roaches will invade wet areas for breeding and feeding. They will congregate anywhere it is wet, whether that is under wood mulch, rock mulch, irrigation boxes, leaking pipes, etc.

Keep wood mulches away from homes and their foundations to minimize the number of roaches coming inside the house. Treat irrigation boxes with appropriate insecticides to reduce their populations.

Compost piles also attract roaches and if that bothers you, then don’t have a compost pile either.

Q: Is it too late in the year to plant Bermuda grass or tall fescue?

A: Bermuda grass, like other warm-season grasses, must be planted during the heat of the summer and no later than July or at the very latest early August to get a firm rooting before the winter turns it dormant.

Tall fescue, on the other hand, is a cool-season grass and is best planted from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 for best results, or in the spring beginning at the end of February and into April.

Q: I live in a condo complex and am on the association board. We have many dead and almost-dead large trees. I had a plant nursery representative come give an assessment of their condition and choices of trees better suited to the drip system. He also informed me of bushes that needed replacing and stated it was a good time to plant. What is your opinion?

A: If you are doing total tree or shrub removal, then removal at any time is fine. For major pruning you should wait until winter or when the plants are dormant. Light pruning or pruning for flower management (removal or cutting current growth only) can be done any time.

Planting is best in the fall months, if you can find plants that you like. Spring planting is the second best time to plant, but selection is better then.

Q: I have two Mediterranean palms that were planted 15 years; they have been grown with a single trunk. New shoots keep popping up from the ground around the trunk. Is there anything I can do to stop these shoots from popping up?

A: No. These plants sucker from their base. That is their nature. If you want a single trunk, then replace these trees with palms that grow only as a single trunk or continue to remove these “suckers.”

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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