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Time coming to an end for planting trees this year

It is not too late to be planting most ornamental trees and shrubs as well as fruit trees this time of year. However, we are getting to the end of an ideal time for planting. Palm trees are exception and you should avoid planting palms any time during the fall.

Try a little experiment at home if you are harvesting pomegranates or buying some fresh locally. Put a couple in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks and compare the taste to a freshly harvested pomegranate. Tell me what you think.

It is not too late to plant lettuce and other leafy greens from seed, radishes, peas and other cool season vegetables. They will do great near a South or West facing wall and protected from the wind.

Q. I have a beautiful almond tree that does not produce almonds. Could the problem be that I don’t have another almond tree in my yard? My neighbor has one a block away.

A. Several things might contribute to no almonds. First, almond trees can have years when it occasionally bears heavily and the next year lightly.

Secondly, an almond tree can flower and still produce no nuts. If you’re almond is a variety that requires a pollinator tree and one is not available, you will get flowers and no nuts. Trees must bloom at the same time for nut set to occur.

Third, you can have an almond tree close by and still get no nuts. If the almonds are the same variety, they will not successfully pollinate each other. Bee activity is needed to transfer the pollen from one tree to another. No bees, no nuts.

Fourth, your tree can have flowers, immature nuts can develop and then fall off the tree before they mature. An insect such as the leaf-footed plant bug can cause the immature nuts to drop from the tree or the nut will fail to develop inside the shell. We called these nuts blanks.

Fifth, the tree can flower, nuts develop to maturity and suddenly the nuts disappear. This is because of ground squirrels. They can harvest the tree of ripe nuts overnight for their own use. Find out the variety of almond. All-in-One and Garden Prince varieties of almonds do not need a pollinator tree. Most other almonds do.

If it flowers and the nuts never form at all, then either a pollinator tree is needed, a pollinator tree is not blooming at the right time or there is a lack of bee activity.

Q. My figs on my fig tree were not as good as they were last year. I suspect I need to fertilize it more. What is your opinion?

A. With the figs it is most likely a watering problem; not enough water during the fruiting season, not watering often enough or both.

If it is on drip, increase the amount of water you give it by increasing the number of emitters under the tree. If it is watered in a basin that you are filling each time, increase the size of the basin by increasing the diameter and its depth.

In midsummer you should be irrigating three times a week with plenty of water. The larger the tree, the more water it will require. As any tree gets larger, it will require more water. In this case the amount of water it receives in a single application is more important than watering it more often. You cannot accomplish the same thing by simply watering more often. You must increase the amount of water you give it and deliver this water over a larger area under the tree.

You can also put down wood mulch under the tree to a depth of 4 inches and a width of at least 6 feet. This will save about one irrigation each week.

Fertilize all fruit trees once in January

Q. We have had two almond trees for over 10 years. One has been extremely fruitful. The other stopped bearing fruit two years ago. I was advised to put bone meal on that tree to make it blossom. It worked. We had more blossoms than we have ever had before but the shells were empty.

Our pomegranate has borne heavily since it was planted but the crop was destroyed by an ugly bug about an inch long and with long gangly legs. There were also multitudes of red colored bugs. We have never had them before. What can we do to prevent a recurrence of this problem?

A. These problems are perhaps related. The reason someone suggested putting bone meal around the tree was to give the tree some organic forms of phosphorus. Phosphorus helps to promote flowering and fruiting.

However flowering and fruiting is seldom controlled by an “on or off” switch like the addition or the lack of phosphorus. There might be some decline in flowering but it will not totally disappear. Almonds can have some years when the crop is heavy and others when it is lighter. If water management was a problem in the late summer of the previous year it can also affect nut production.

I would suggest that your lack of flowering was due to some other reason, not the lack of or addition of bone meal. However, your fruit trees should be on an annual fertilizer regime including a small amount of phosphorus annually.

Fertilizers should be added in January or just before new growth begins. One application of fertilizer, particularly nitrogen, will assist the tree during one year of production. You can add the fertilizers to the area where the water is applied and let the water carry the fertilizer to the roots.

Never place fertilizer where it will come in direct contact with the tree trunk.

As far as not having any nuts, this might be because oof the insect called the leaf-footed plant bug, which is the bug with gangly legs you mentioned. The small red ones nearby are the “babies.” You should be looking for this insect on your almonds starting in about May. They can cause immature nuts to fall from the tree or empty shells. You will be forced to spray your trees to control these insects.

The second possibility is ground squirrels. These are what some locals call chipmunks. If there is a small population of them they will go into your tree when the nuts are ripe and the husk is opening and steal the nuts.

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.

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