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Ripe figs attract omnivores this time of year

Q: Your advice has helped me get a couple of dozen figs off my relatively young trees this year. However, the attached photos show where there were two figs a few days ago and now they are entirely eaten. I have a net over them so I don’t think it’s birds, and I cannot see bugs anywhere on the plant.

A: Any animal that is an omnivore will eat figs. Birds usually peck at the fruit, and it is obvious the remaining fruit was pecked apart by a bird. Birds get under netting unless it is tightly pinned to the ground. You can visualize where the bird landed on the branch and did its damage.

June beetles are flying now and they also will devour figs. They seem to prefer yellow or white figs. However, the bird netting should keep them out. These insects will be gone in a couple of weeks, and your tree will continue to produce fruit.

Other critters, such as rats, eat them ripe or unripe and leave exactly what you are seeing: the fruit entirely gone except for its stem is still attached to the tree. Look at where the fruit was eaten and ask yourself the question, “Is the branch strong enough to support the weight of a rat?” If the answer is yes, you know rats are in the area.

Other possibilities include ground squirrels. They like to steal grapes when they are ripe and can climb trees as easily as rats. Ground squirrels will completely clean out almond trees overnight.

Q: We planted a fruitless Bradford pear tree in our yard about six years ago when it was about 6 feet tall. It is more than 20 feet tall now and has done very well over the years until just recently. Quite a few leaves turned yellow. Is that normal during this heat? I’m giving it extra water now.

A: No, it is not normal for this tree to have yellow leaves this time of year. This means some type of stress is going on, and these yellow leaves will drop from the tree. My gut feeling is your irrigation is not keeping up with the water it needs during unusually hot, windy weather.

I agree with you; most likely giving it more water will solve the problem. I would give it additional water, slowly with a hose, once a week under the canopy. But stress this time of year can also come from a lack of good nutrition or disease.

Avoid watering daily. If possible, give the tree at least one day between irrigations when it receives no water. With high temperatures and wind, it may need water three or more times per week depending on the water given to other plants around it. As temperatures cool, eliminate one day each week.

I’m assuming it’s watered by drip irrigation. If you have not already done so, add more drip emitters under the canopy and distribute them so at least half the area under the tree is getting water.

Drip irrigation is fine but don’t water it in minutes, but think in terms of gallons delivered to the tree each irrigation. This means converting the minutes, number and size of the drip emitters to total gallons of water applied. I would need to see the size of the tree, but at 20 years old, it might need as much as 30 to 40 gallons each time it’s irrigated.

These trees can also get yellow leaves from a lack of iron. If iron is the problem, the yellow leaves will be at the ends of branches and the veins of the leaves will be a darker green color. Unless it’s severe, I would wait with an iron treatment until next January and apply it to the soil.

Less likely, it could be the beginning of a disease problem common to many members of the rose family, including apples and pears. When fireblight disease first begins to rear its ugly head, it causes leaf yellowing and leaf drop. One or two branches begin dying and the wood of these branches turns black, hence the name. This is probably the least likely of the three causes, but it’s possible.

If fireblight disease is believed to be the culprit, the limb or limbs are removed at least 12 inches below the yellowing, put in a plastic bag and gotten off the property. This disease can be very lethal and spread easily to other plants. Disinfect and sanitized tools between cuts and when you finish cutting.

Q: Respectfully, au contraire, Mr. Morris regarding your advice to not water daily. I rescued my beautiful, full-grown pomegranate several years ago from certain death by daily watering, continuing to date.

A: I realize your comment is not really a question, but I want a chance to discuss it here. Yours is an exception.

It depends on the soil, its drainage and how much water is applied. Daily watering can work under some circumstances and, under these circumstances, it might be the right thing to do. However, it can be dangerous to recommend it for plants, particularly in our environment.

Pomegranate is a drought-tolerant fruit tree compared to most other fruit trees. You can search any posting on irrigation and pomegranate, and all posts from knowledgeable growers will say the same. I would hate to tell people to irrigate pomegranate based upon one person’s success.

It is well-known that shallow, frequent irrigation of woody plants, trees, shrubs and fruit trees for instance, cause the roots of plants to grow closer to the surface of the soil where there is a good mixture of water and air. When plant roots grow close to the soil surface, they lose their potential tolerance to dry conditions or drought.

If the soil surface is dry, the roots of plants will grow best at depths in the soil where roots find a happy balance between water and air. Allowing the soil surface to dry discourages roots from growing there but encourages them to grow deeper in the soil.

Deep root growth provides a “buffer” during times of “drought stress” when water is not freely available. Deep root growth also provides a more stable plant during high winds or when they have a heavy fruit load.

Sometimes watering this way does not seem to pan out, but homeowners find that watering daily with shallow irrigations is easier for them. I agree that under rare circumstances, such as very sandy soils, shallow frequent irrigations are needed. But most landscapes should not be watered this way.

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.

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