Q: I have had much success with sugar snap peas, but lately I’ve been planting sugar snap peas and getting snow peas instead. Is it because the seed is old?
A: I’m not sure the difference you are seeing between these snow peas and snap peas. Snow peas have flat pods when young, and we see them frequently used in a stir-fry. Snap peas, or sugar snap peas as they are sometimes called, have round pods when they are young and not used conventionally in a stir-fry.
Snap peas, when they first emerge, are flat. As the seed inside the pod begins to enlarge the pod becomes round. If you pick snap peas too early they will look like snow peas.
When harvesting snap peas, wait a little bit longer for the seed to enlarge and the pod to become round. But harvest the pods before the seed becomes mature. If you wait too long, the seed contains more starch rather than sugar and is not as sweet.
The differences between the two are genetic so it should have nothing to do with the age of the seed. Snap peas were genetically bred from their ancestors, the English or garden pea and snow peas, to be less fibrous when they are young.
You also might be referring to the strings in the pod or how tough the pod is. If strings are a problem, harvest when very young or the pod may get tough when older. If you’re having problems with strings, remove the strings from the pods before using them and start harvesting earlier.
Q: I noticed my Anna apple tree is seeping fluid and a white pasty substance from a previous cut done last year. What shall I do to help it?
A: Smell the fluid. Take your finger and wipe it against this wetness and use your nose to judge whether the smell is yeasty or not.
If there is a strong yeasty smell, there might be a bacterial infection going on. If it does not smell yeasty, then there is probably no infection.
I would not do anything to the tree regardless. The yeasty smell is caused by a nonlethal infection.
The inside of a tree has a central core of dead wood. The living part of the tree is an outer cylinder of living wood that enlarges year-to-year. The inside of the living cylinder increases the diameter of this dead, central core each year.
Growth in the length of branches is called primary growth. Growth in width or diameter is called secondary growth.
Secondary growth is responsible for rolling over pruning cuts so they can no longer be seen. When this secondary growth rolls over a wound, it surrounds or engulfs the wound, covering it, but the wound doesn’t heal like it does in animals.
The central core of the tree is dead. This dead wood can rot due to different microorganisms. This rotting caused by microorganisms can cause the seeping fluid you are seeing.
I would do nothing to the tree at this time unless you see other problems developing in its overall health. Judging from the picture you sent, the old wound seems to be healing and rolling over the pruned cut very nicely.
I would not disturb it in any way but let the tree heal on its own. It should stop weeping when tree growth begins in earnest in the next few weeks.
Q: Do you have any idea what causes deformed leaves to appear on my shrubs? I thought it was from the heat this past summer,but I also see it on trees that are not in this sunny spot.
A: If you look at the edges of the deformed leaves on your shrubs, they have brown margins or edges, very typical to salt burn.
If too much fertilizer is used or placed too close to the plant, it can cause this kind of brown leaf margins. It can also cause unusual growth. Most fertilizers are salts and can cause salt burn if too much is applied or applied too close to the trunk or main stems.
Salt damage sometimes occurs after a heavy rain. This is because salts are pushed away from the roots with applied irrigation, but rain can push the salts back toward the roots.
The return of salts to the roots can cause plant damage. For this reason, it’s a good idea to run drip irrigation right after a heavy rain.
Salt damage is much worse for plants when air temperatures are hot rather than cool.
Was there not enough water applied? This has nothing to do with how often water is applied, how many days each week, but about how much water is applied during each irrigation. Drought-like conditions can also cause smaller leaves with brown margins.
Salt burn can look a lot like drought.
What about a mulch problem? Mulch placed too close to the trunk can cause disease problems when the trunk is in contact with wet mulch too often? This is true of wood chip mulch and rock mulch.
Zinc deficiency can cause something similar, but I don’t think this is a zinc shortage.
So what can be done? Flush the area under the canopy with a large volume of water to wash salts away from the roots. Secondly, pull wood mulch or rock mulch away from the stems or trunk of the plant. Third, add one or two more drip emitters to the plant so as to increase the volume of water applied without having to change the minutes on your irrigation clock.
Q: Should bougainvillea be cut back in the winter? I have two in large pots. I want to see them grow fuller this spring and summer. Should I cut them back or leave them?
A: Wait until about March 1 and see if there is any winter damage from freezing. Then decide. If there is, cut it back close to the ground and let it regrow again.
If there is no winter freeze damage, make this plant fuller by cutting the stems back at various heights (so it doesn’t look like a butch haircut) anywhere from a foot to a foot and a half from the ground. For every cut you make, three new shoots will grow and increase the density of the plant.
Q: I picked up 10 acorns that were laying on the ground in Illinois. If I were to plant these, would the acorns germinate and produce an oak tree? What are the chances it will survive in the desert climate?
A: There are about 20 different kinds of oaks native to Illinois. Two of the more common oaks are northern red oak and white oak. Both of these oaks are not native to the Southwest, and you will have trouble growing them here as they get older.
We have oaks native to the Southwest and you are better off planting those than bringing some from Illinois. But you could have fun with them for a while.
If you found acorns on the ground, then most likely the seed inside the acorn is mature. However, the seed may not be alive. Put them in a bowl of water and use the ones that sink and discard the ones that float.
Plant them on the north or east side of a building. Mix compost 50/50 with native soil in an area 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep. Plant the acorns on their side in this amended soil, about 1 inch deep, in mid-November. If the winter is cold enough, the seed inside the acorn will grow when it warms in the spring.
If you missed this November window, put them in a plastic bag with a moist sponge in the refrigerator. Take them out after two months and then plant them in the same way.
Oaks have a very strong taproot. If you move them from this spot, do it when they are very small. They do not move easily to new locations once they establish a taproot. Otherwise, remove extra seedlings and grow the strongest ones the same way you would grow any other landscape tree.
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.