weather icon Clear

Container trees have problems retaining water, fertilizer

Q: The leaves on my 3-year-old almond tree, planted in a container, started to dry out quickly due to a problem with drip system. To compensate, I hand-watered but apparently not enough. Once the system was remedied, very small new leaves starting to grow. Will this tree survive the coming cooler weather? I watered heavily and applied a tree and nut fertilizer.

A: I have seen this before on young almonds planted in the ground, and it is usually, like you stated, an irrigation or drainage issue; the leaves dry up, turn brown and drop from the tree before winter. Once the leaves are without water for a day, the amount of hand-watering you apply will not save any of the leaves. The leaves are goners. But the buds already formed for next spring will grow instead, usually no flower buds just leaf buds. That’s what happened to your tree.

The tree will have no problems surviving the winter, with or without fertilizers, if the soil is moist and drains water. That’s not the issue. They used up buds saved for next spring. That’s the issue. Hopefully, there is enough time remaining for the tree to grow new buds before it gets cold. If not, you might see a delay in leaf development and flowering next spring.

Trees grown in containers are more finicky than those planted in the ground because the roots don’t have access to as much soil mass. The limited soil volume in containers makes watering and applying fertilizers more complicated; the tree runs out of both more quickly. Watering and fertilizer applications are in smaller amounts but applied more often to compensate for the small amount of soil.

Almonds put on a beautiful floral display in the spring. I can see why you wanted it in a container. Hopefully, you planted a dwarf almond-like Garden Prince or All in One and used a large container. Remember it needs to be repotted every few years to keep it vigorous.

Q: I have a kumquat citrus tree that has been in the ground for eight years. During the last two years, a lot of leaves fell off in the fall, leaving some branches leafless. Yet some branches stayed green with new shoots coming out. What might be the cause of the problem?

A: The tree, from the pictures you sent, looks dense and full, with a few “blind” shoots here and there. The tree might be too dense. Leaves need sunlight and produce a net energy for the tree to stay productive and healthy. Rather than leaves producing energy for the tree, leaves growing in total shade will be dropped from tree limbs because the tree must expend energy to keep them.

I would open the tree canopy to admit light to the inside. That will encourage fruit to develop throughout the canopy rather than just at its edges where there is light. Do this by total limb removal with thinning cuts. Prune so that limbs are 4 to 6 inches apart, not growing on top of each other.

A trick to know if there is enough light penetrating the canopy is to look at the tree’s shadow on the ground at noon during midsummer. The shadow created by the canopy should have speckled light throughout it. If an area of the shadow is totally dark, then this is the area of the tree that needs to be pruned to admit more light. Admitting more light allows better fruit production throughout the tree canopy, and removing a few limbs here and there during the summer does not hurt the tree.

Otherwise, you might be giving the tree water and fertilizer, particularly nitrogen, too often. Water when the soil moisture is starting to dry. On a soil moisture meter this would be an average of “5” on a 10-point scale at a depth of about 4 to 6 inches and measured in three different locations. Never water daily. Apply water to at least half the area under the tree canopy and apply enough water to get it 18 inches deep.

Q: After reading about the many desirable qualities of screwbean mesquite trees, I am determined to plant two of them in my yard. However, today I searched the nurseries and discovered there was none to be found. One nursery offered to order them for me. I would rather see what I am buying. Do you know of any place that carries them? Do I have to start my own from seed?

A: Screwbean mesquite is a very nice small desert tree native to Southern Nevada but not in high demand by the public. So, the local nurseries typically don’t carry them. It’s a “chicken vs egg” problem in marketing and sales. Some nurseries will order them for you, and that’s nice they offer that service. You may or may not be able to see the tree ahead of purchase going this route. Ask.

Locally, try the State Tree Nursery at Floyd Lamb Park and check the availability there. It has a website and posts plant availability, but it doesn’t hurt to give them a call because not everything is posted.

The tree is easy to propagate from seed, cuttings or marcottage, but for the inexperienced gardener, probably seed propagation is the easiest method. Just remember, all tree seeds in the mesquite or legume family will have a hard coating surrounding the seed that prevents accidental germination. You must damage this seed coat for good germination.

Pick seed from pods hanging from good-looking trees in midsummer or when the pods are brown. Open the pods and pick 10 of the largest seeds you can find. Damage the seed coat with sandpaper, small file or razor blade with as little damage to the seed as possible. Soak this seed in warm water for a few hours to get germination started.

While you’re waiting, fill a clean nursery container with potting soil to within 1 inch below its top lip. Plant the seed ½ inch deep and 2 to 3 inches apart. Keep seed moist but not wet. Don’t water too often.

Q: I have vines producing melons during the summer. They wanted to split, and the taste was bland. But the same vines producing melons in the fall were much sweeter. Can we conclude that when it is too hot, sweetness suffers and splitness reigns?

A: I wish it were that simple. It’s really a question of the type and variety of melon grown as well as time of year.

During times of high water use, some types of melons easily split. Splitting is usually an irrigation issue; soil gets dry followed by an irrigation. That happens frequently in the desert when growing in uncovered, bare soils.

Water loss from the soil can be over 4/10 of an inch per day. This is about 50 percent higher than water lost from the same crops in melon-growing regions. It helps if you make sure the soil is not dry when it enters the hottest time of the day.

Melon splitting is a variety issue complicated by weather and climate. If splitting is a problem with a variety, then select sequential planting times or choose a different variety. It can make a difference. Write down your choices in a garden calendar and learn from these notes.

Never harvest melons that do not separate from the vines easily. Melons can be harvested early, and they will ripen, but they don’t get any sweeter than when they were separated from the vine. That is not true of many tree fruits. You can have a fully mature melon that is not sweet if harvested too early.

Melons are hungry crops and can deplete the soil of nutrients quickly. That’s why it will be necessary to add nutrients back to the soil at least yearly.

Some varieties and types of melons just don’t perform ideally during our hot summer months. If you grow tomatoes, that might sound familiar. The heat is great for helping the plant make sugars but not in developing acidity. So, in the future keep good notes, pick varieties of melons that are consistent quality producers, plant them so fruits are harvested during cooler times of the year and wait to harvest until the melon slips easily from the vine.

Trials can be fun, but I would caution you about putting all your eggs in one basket. Rely on a proven variety that you like and combine it with something new. And don’t rely on one season of growth. It can be a bad year. Three seasons are better, and five are best.

Bob Morris is a horticulture expert and professor emeritus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Visit his blog at xtremehorticulture.blogspot.com. Send questions to Extremehort@aol.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Local Videos
Fire damages 7 cars at Las Vegas airport parking garage - VIDEO
Firefighters on Saturday morning extinguished a car blaze that damaged six other vehicles in a parking garage at McCarran International Airport. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rj Consumer Tips
Financial safety while shopping in-store and online during the holidays.
Thunderbirds get ready for Aviation Nation - VIDEO
The Thunderbirds, based at Nellis Air Force Base, will be among the performers at Aviation Nation 2019 at Nellis this weekend, Nov. 16-18. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Weekend traffic, what you need to know
What you need to know to get around including traffic, events, and alternative routes.
Suspected drunk driver traveling wrong way on I-15 dies in crash - VIDEO
Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Jason Buratczuk said the crash happened about 3:30 a.m. when a woman driving a dark-colored vehicle believed to be a Volkswagen was heading the wrong way on northbound Interstate 15, between Lake Mead Boulevard and Cheyenne Avenue, on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Family of DUI fatal crash victim speaks out - VIDEO
The wife and children of DUI fatal crash victim Marcial Escobia, 65, of Las Vegas, speak out about the crash that killed a loving father, husband and grandfather. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sheridan Su’s Every Grain Is Now Open
Sheridan Su's latest restaurant, Every Grain, is open for lunch from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
University Center Drive unveiling - VIDEO
Swenson Street has been renamed University Center Drive after a four year effort by UNLV. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Training canine good citizens in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Nicole Fox, an enrichment specialist with The Animal Foundation in Las Vegas, trains large, high-energy dogs in canine etiquette to boost their chances for adoption. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Red Rock Canyon free to all Monday for Veterans Day - VIDEO
In honor of Veterans Day, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is free to all visitors on Monday. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Artist dedicates heart sculpture on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Artist Katy Boynton dedicated her sculpture depicting a giant steel heart to the Las Vegas community Saturday night outside Fashion Show mall. (James Schaeffer /Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2 dead in suspected DUI crash in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Two people died early Saturday morning, Nov. 9, 2019, in a two-vehicle collision on Boulder Highway near Flamingo Road. A 24-year-old man was arrested on DUI-related charges in connection with the crash, police said. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Coyotes spotted inside a guarded and gated Summerlin community - VIDEO
Coyotes were spotted inside the Summerlin gated community of Queensridge. Residents are said to have seen as many as eight coyotes nearby the developed residential area. Residents said one neighbor's schnauzer was taken by a coyote and later found dead. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Warm weather in the Las Vegas Valley sticking around - Video
With an area of high pressure staying firm along the West Coast, the mild weather conditions in the Las Vegas Valley will remain for several days. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
O.J. Simpson files lawsuit against The Cosmopolitan over TMZ story - VIDEO
A lawsuit filed Thursday alleges that The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas defamed O.J. Simpson when hotel employees told TMZ he was kicked out of the casino “for belligerence” in November 2017. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas firefighters give oxygen to cats - VIDEO
Las Vegas firefighters gave oxygen to cats rescued from a house fire in northwest Las Vegas on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Accused murder mastermind Frank LaPena is granted a pardon - VIDEO
A onetime Las Vegas casino bell captain who spent 25 years in prison as the accused mastermind in a notorious 1974 contract murder won his last legal battle for freedom Wednesday when the state Pardons Board granted him a conditional pardon restoring all his civil rights. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ethel M Chocolates cactus garden lit for Christmas - Video
The 26th Annual Ethel M Chocolates Cactus Garden Lighting in Henderson, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. The garden will be open until 10 p.m. daily through the holidays. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Smith Center will now be charging $5 fee to park - VIDEO
Patrons now have to pay to park to attend events at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in downtown, continuing a recent trend in the Las Vegas Valley. (James Schaeffer / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Valley campaign launched to protect pedestrians - VIDEO
Law enforcement, safety advocates and community members launched the Dusk to Dawn Pedestrian Awareness Campaign on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, after the Las Vegas Valley saw a spike in pedestrian deaths this spring. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Car hits a pedestrian and crashes into a Smith's - VIDEO
Las Vegas police are investigating after a car struck a pedestrian and crashed into a Smith’s grocery store in the east valley. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Two people were displaced after a fire caused heavy damage to a home
Two people were displaced after a fire caused heavy damage to a home near downtown at 1403 South 6th St. on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Latest charges against Giovanni Ruiz, accused in the killing of UNLV student Paula Davis - VIDEO
Prosecutors added sexual assault charges Thursday against Giovanni Ruiz who stands accused of killing UNLV student Paula Davis. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Homeless in Las Vegas struggle to deal with bitter cold.
Homeless in Las Vegas struggle to deal with bitter cold. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye)
Therapy dogs dress up for Halloween at Poets Walk Henderson - Video
Therapy dogs dress up for a Halloween costume contest at the Poet's Walk Henderson Memory Care facility. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prove you're a local: Try to pronounce these Nevada cities - VIDEO
Try your hand at pronouncing these Nevada cities and watch as other locals from Downtown Summerlin attempt to get the names right along with you. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The town drowned by Lake Mead
St. Thomas was founded by Mormons in the 1800's, was drowned by the creation of the Hoover Dam, and then resurfaced in 2002. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Thursday could be the coldest October day in Las Vegas in 48 years
The National Weather Service forecast an official low of 34 degrees at McCarran International Airport. Parts of the valley will be several degrees colder. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Teenage boys waiting for a school bus hit by a car - VIDEO
Two teenage boys waiting for a school bus were hit by a one of two cars involved in a crash at West Ford Avenue and Chieftain Street, near South Fort Apache Road, on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
RV crashes into North Las Vegas casino - VIDEO
Samuel Scott talks about what he saw after an RV crashed into the Cannery casino in North Las Vegas on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. (Glenn Puitt/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
BLM will sell cactus and yucca salvaged from public land - VIDEO
BLM will sell cactus and yucca salvaged from public land where a solar energy development is planned. The plant sale will take place north of the Apex Industrial Area, along Interstate 15, about 10 miles northeast of the Las Vegas Valley, this weekend, Oct. 26-27. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas homicide lieutenant discusses house fire murder-suicide - VIDEO
Las Vegas homicide and arson investigators believe Renai Palmer intentionally set her 6-year-old son on fire, igniting a house fire that would kill them both. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cat survives 15-mile commute in car bumper - VIDEO
A Las Vegas Review-Journal employee was surprised to learn she had a passenger during her 15.5-mile commute to the office on a September Sunday. (Tony Morales & James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Shortages of OB-GYN doctors in the Las Vegas Valley - Video
Dr. Michael Gardner discusses the shortages of OB-GYN doctors that will happen and what steps are being taken to entice them to come or stay in the Las Vegas area.
Southern Nevada is in a West Nile virus hot zone - VIDEO
Southern Nevada, along with Central Arizona and Southern California, make up a “hot zone” that is reporting the highest number of mosquito-borne West Nile virus cases in the country. The Southern Nevada Health District recently reported 28 cases of West Nile virus in Clark County. (Le'Andre Fox/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Paul Browning Released from Ely State Prison - VIDEO
Paul Browning greets his mother, Betty Browning, after being released from Ely State Prison. Browning served 33 years on Nevada’s death row. (Rachel Crosby/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Deep watering stakes not necessarily needed for new tree

The annual South Valley Rose Show will be held Nov. 9 at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension offices on the corner of Windmill Lane and Paradise Road. Rosarians will be present to answer questions about growing roses in our hot desert climate and poor soils from 1 to 4 p.m.

Select desert plants for privacy hedge

My Saturday, four-week class, “Fix Your Landscape” will start Oct. 26 in North Las Vegas. This weekly landscaping class will show you design tricks that save water and electricity, plant selections that work, planting methods that are successful and how to fix problems, and irrigation installation and how to water.

Skeletonizer damages leaves of yellow bells

Skeletonizer insect damage is common to Tecoma in warmer parts of the Southwest. It’s feeding damage by the young — or larvae — of a moth given the common name Tecoma leaf tier skeletonizer.

Over-pruning tomato plants could lead to sunburn

You can harvest fruit from tomato plants when it’s hot, but they won’t set fruit again from new growth until the temperature drops back into the mid-90s. Either pull the tomato plants when they’re done producing and plant new ones from seed or prune the old ones back and let them flower and fruit again when it’s cooler.