Q: I am having trouble finding a tree to replace ash trees. I want something that doesn’t grow so tall and does well in our climate. We took out our ash trees because they were giant and the roots were all at the surface. I am now guessing we have a soil issue. True?
A: It is not a soil issue. It is a plant issue. I no longer recommend ash trees for our climate. We have had too many problems with them over the years.
There are a number of smaller trees that work well in our climate. It is hard to give you direction without us going back and forth a lot. It is simpler if you go to a nursery and develop a list of four or five trees that appeal to you and I can help you narrow them down.
Shallow roots usually signal a heavy soil or shallow irrigations or both. Planting in our desert soil requires a lot of soil preparation where the tree is to be planted. That is a major key to success.
The second major key is irrigation, both having the proper amount and the timing when to apply it. Make sure your trees receive enough water each time they are irrigated. Space near irrigations far enough apart so the soil drains adequately before the next irrigation.
Thirdly, I would include in that using a surface mulch of wood chips after planting.
Q: We have a monster sansevieria plant we have kept for many years. It’s in excellent health, but threatening to take over the entire room. It has become so big and heavy that we don’t know what to do with it now. What might we do with this plant? It sits on a table in front of a west-facing solar-screened window.
A: You do have a monster plant. It looks like a variety that gets fairly big but if this plant had more direct sunlight it would probably be slightly smaller. However, it’s a beautiful specimen. You might have to find a place for it on the floor rather than on a table. It has nice verticality.
The choices you have are to divide it and repot it or to take leaf cuttings and start the plant all over again. As you know you can’t really cut it back and still have it look good.
I searched online for a video that you could watch on how to divide this plant. Dividing the plant will result in a much smaller plant in diameter but will not do much about the height unless you focus on parts of the plant that you repot that are smaller. I would suggest that you try to get it into a place with more light, which should help keep it smaller.
This video should help you in figuring out how to divide it. I am sorry it is in the Czech language but the video is easy to follow without the words.
Notice how he breaks it apart with his hands. You can do that or you can take a sterilized knife and cut it apart into smaller clumps. This plant spreads underground by rhizomes or underground stems.
Cutting or severing the rhizome results in separate clumps that you can repot. I would just the cut ends with a fungicide such as Thiram or just let them heal over in a safe place inside the house for about 24 hours. Then you can safely replant them without a lot of fear of disease entering the cut wounds.
You can replant as many of the clumps as you want to fill in the container.
You can propagate this plant very easily with cuttings from the leaves. This video will show you how to take leaf cuttings.
Q: My Ozark beauty and Ogallala strawberry plants produced a few berries when first planted and now they want to propagate. This growth is filling my raised bed to my satisfaction. I clip them down, water and watch them grow. Advice, please.
A: You will want to give each individual plant its own space to grow. Space plants no closer than 1 foot apart and remove all of the runners as you see them.
You can plant them further apart and propagate your own plants from the runners but you still want them no closer than 1 foot apart. All the rest of the runners you want to remove from the plants or they will get overcrowded.
The plants that you decide to keep and spaced far enough apart will last you about three years. These are the mother plants. At the beginning of the third year, begin to propagate new plants from the runners of the mother plant with the idea that these new plants will replace the mother plants at the end of the third year.
You can keep these new plants in place by just pegging or securing the new plants in a spot by holding down the runner and baby plant in its new location. When new roots begin to form you can cut it from the mother plant at cool times of the year such as March or September.
You can move them in the fall when they are young if they are not in the right place.
There are three types of strawberries classified on the time of year they produce. Main crop strawberries produce a single crop of fruit and then turn their energies to the production of runners, roots and leaves.
You run the highest risk of not producing fruit by using main crop strawberries in our climate. Everbearing strawberries like Ogallala and Ozark beauty are supposed to produce all during the spring, summer and fall months but usually tend to produce their fruit mostly in the spring with a trickle the rest of the year.
Then there are the day neutral varieties like Tri-Star that are supposed to produce more consistently all through the year but usually end up producing in the spring and fall when it is cooler. So expect to see fruit most likely in the spring and some in the fall. The rest of the time expect to see runners and leaves.
Like most vegetables and fruit trees, they need at least six hours of sunlight every day. They prefer morning and early afternoon sun. They like soils with lots of compost added to it. They like to be mulched with straw or pine shavings such as animal bedding or even shredded newspaper.
Generally speaking strawberries stop producing fruit when temperatures are hot (85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit) so main crop strawberries, kind of like tomatoes, are hit and miss in our climate. We are better off with everbearing or day neutral types which you have.
However, yours are older varieties, very hardy with well-established names but there are better varieties out there. We are very limited here in what is available for home gardens so nurseries usually stay with varieties with names that are recognized. Some people plant all three types to improve their chances of getting some fruit.
Avoid fertilizing plants with nitrogen fertilizers in the early spring. Wait for them to finish producing fruit in the early summer and then fertilize them if they need it. You can tell if they need it by examining the leaf color and size.
Fertilizing them at the beginning of summer you will be pushing new growth at a time when they normally don’t produce any fruit.
The biggest problems with strawberries are iron chlorosis or yellowing leaves, keeping the soil too moist and developing root rot, snails, slugs, pillbugs or sow bugs.
Bob Morris is a horticulture expert living in Las Vegas and professor emeritus for the University of Nevada. Visit his blog at xtremehorticulture.blogspot.com. Send questions to Extremehort@aol.com.