Ask A Master Gardener
2012 is here and time to begin thinking about our gardens and fruit tree production. Be sure to get in on our rose pruning workshop being held in mid-February. Contact the UA Mohave County Extension at 753-3788 for more information and to register.
Q. Are You Planning Your Garden For This Year?
A. Most of our gardens at this time of the year are dormant and waiting for the spring weather to appear. However, now is the perfect time to start planning for what you want to do with your garden this year. You might want to consider some of the following:
How did your garden do?
Did you start enough seeds to compensate for loss due to transplanting or weather?
Were your plants healthy and productive or did you have issues with pests, insects, disease or weather?
Plan for varieties that might need a longer or shorter growing season or take longer to germinate. Remember, Arizona has two growing seasons - spring/summer and fall/winter - so you want to make sure you are planting the right fruits or vegetables for the right season. Try a new variety that you have not tried before. You might find out it works in your garden and you really like it.
Make a garden plan. This will help with spacing, intensive planting or succession planting and growing more food in your garden. You might even have enough to share with your neighbors. Grow a pollinator attractant. These can be herbs or flowers that can dramatically help your garden's production and help ward off harmful insects.
Q. When is the correct time to remove the stakes from my young trees?
A. Generally, they can be removed in two (2) years. New trees need staking and will allow the roots to establish. Small trees may not need staking, but larger trees, especially ones with large tops, should be staked to prevent wind damage. Staking should be loose enough to allow the tree some movement which aids in strengthening the trunk. As the tree becomes established, the ties can be lowered and the stakes can be removed by the second or third year. If you leave stakes on for many years, the trunk may not strengthen enough or the ties can become embedded and cause damage to the tree. If the ties or stakes touch the tree, damage will probably occur creating an entry for insects.
See Publication AZ1022 - Planting Guidelines: Trees & Shrubs
Q. What is causing small, round holes in the trunk of my tree?
A. Generally there are two causes. If the holes are in a line and about the same size, near the size of a pencil eraser, it is probably a woodpecker or sapsucker, which is in the woodpecker family. The birds may show up in our yards as they migrate but do not generally stay. They possibly hear insects under the bark and peck through it to get at them. To prevent further damage to your tree, you can wrap the trunk or apply a sticky substance that the woodpeckers do not like. If your tree is healthy, these small holes will not do permanent damage to your tree. The second cause are borers. Their holes are more random and a severe infestation could kill your tree. If there is sap oozing out of the holes, this is normal and is the tree's natural method of repairing the damage.
Q. Why should we prune fruit trees and when?
A. January is an ideal time to prune fruit trees. This year some of the fruit trees didn't lose their leaves until later December. It is better to wait until this occurs because then you know the tree is dormant and it is easier to see the branches. Some of the reasons to prune are to remove dead branches, removal of branches that touch each other, removal of water sprouts and suckers (which do not bear fruit and sap energy from the rest of the tree), to open the center of the tree to sunlight and air, removal of downward growing branches (they don't produce much fruit), to control height for easier harvesting of fruit, and to control the size of the tree if you do not have the space.
Know on what wood the fruit grows to be able to maximize fruiting. Peaches and figs produce fruit on the previous years wood, where apples, pears, apricots, plums and cherries produce on spurs for a number of years. Generally do not prune more than about 10-20 percent of the tree, but peaches and nectarines benefit from more aggressive pruning.
Also, spray your trees with a dormant oil spray after pruning to smother insects and their eggs for a more successful production (it is important to follow the directions on the dormant oil product for success and protection of surrounding plants).