To stop fruit production, spray the tree when the flowers bloom
Q: I have an ornamental flowering plum tree that produces fruit. I want to spray it to stop the fruit production and the mess it brings. Last year a commercial applicator applied it, but I think I want to save some money and do it myself this year.
A: Mark your calendar because yours will bloom in the same week, more or less, every year. You’ll need to spray the tree with a chemical every year to knock off the fruit when it’s still small and prevent a mess later. For this to work, spray the entire canopy of the tree when as many flowers are open as possible.
You will find it under several similar trade names such as Olive Stop, Fruit Eliminator, Fruit Be Gone or a similar name. What is important is the active ingredient listed on the front label in small letters. The most common active ingredient is Florel, but you can also find it listed as NAA, Fruitone, etc.
This concentrated spray is diluted with water and first sprayed when the tree’s flowers are 20-30% fully open. For best results, it is sprayed again at 80% full bloom a few weeks later. Commercial applicators spray the tree only once when it is close to full bloom. It’s a good idea to include a wetting agent or surfactant before spraying to improve spray coverage and penetration.
It is important that the flowers are opened and sprayed to the point that the inside is moist and the flower begins to run when you are done. The tree canopy will drip spray when you’re done. This is called “until runoff”. Spraying open flowers above their reach is the usual problem for most homeowners because they don’t have a good way to spray all the flowers.
The ornamental flowering plum is a real fruit tree. Nothing to complain about the fruit. It’s naturally puckery.
Many people make jam and jelly from it when the fruit is not pulverized. I wouldn’t recommend making jam or jelly with it if it’s been sprayed on.
Q: I want to replace all my chemical fertilizers with organic formulations. The problem is that I can’t find organic fertilizers for landscape trees and shrubs such as podocarpus and photinia. Is it possible to make mine? Please tell me what you recommend.
A: Defining organic can be difficult. For some people, organic means no pesticides or mineral fertilizers. For others, it’s things like fish emulsion, kelp meal, or bone meal guano. For others, it means strict adherence to the USDA definition of organic farming. In the United States, the term organic usually means a product listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) which recommends products for the USDA organic program.
There are fertilizers in bags listed as OMRI approved. I would look for the word “organic” mentioned somewhere on the bag. Technically, a product cannot mention the word organic unless it is recommended for the USDA organic program.
One that comes to mind is the OMRI listed all purpose fertilizer made by Grow More. It looks like mineral fertilizer when you open the bag, but it’s one of the organic types.
Q: What do I do with all the partially used chemical fertilizers in my garage?
A: Most mineral fertilizers can be applied as recommended in the fertilizer bag. If you no longer want or need these types of fertilizers, give them to your non-organic neighbors for application. It is better to use them as normal apps than to throw them away as garbage.
Mineral fertilizers that are considered hazardous waste usually have a weedkiller that is no longer allowed to be applied by homeowners. These fertilizers should be considered hazardous waste and disposed of in accordance with county regulations intended to protect our water supply. Other types of mineral fertilizers can legally be applied.
Q: I read somewhere that scattering crushed eggshells on the ground is good for the garden, so I did. I also throw tea leaves and coffee grounds in the garden, which I know is good, but I was wondering about eggshells. Are they useful and should I continue or forget them and throw them away?
A: They do two things: Organic matter improves the structure and texture of the soil and adds to its chemistry. Warm, moist soil breaks down the smallest things first.
Put eggshells and tea leaves in a blender with water before composting or adding to soil. The coffee grounds are already ground, so there is no need to use a blender.
Any type of organic matter decomposes in the soil under the action of organisms which transform it into “black gold”, improving the structure of the soil and slowly releasing the chemicals they contain. A lot of information is available on chemicals released from eggshells and coffee grounds. But make them small if you want them to release faster.
Q: Our back pool is surrounded by 14 year old California pepper trees. This year in particular, the leaf fallout from the trees is excessive, exacerbated by the daily winds, and necessitates extensive daily cleaning of the pool. We are hesitant to remove the trees and start over with more pool-friendly plants.
A: California pepper plants are a better choice than Brazilian pepper plants. California pepper trees grow quickly and reach a height of almost 40 feet and a comparable width. They are one of the few trees that resemble willows but are considered mesic in their use of water. Because they grow quickly, they snap easily in the wind.
Because they are evergreens, they shed their leaves continuously throughout the season in small numbers. You can discourage leaf drop with careful irrigation.
First, make sure the irrigation water applied is over a large area, wetting it 2 feet deep, below the tree. Water should be applied to an area at least half the size of the tree canopy. The irrigation time needed to apply enough water to reach sufficient depth would be one to two hours.
The best way to apply water to a large area under the tree is to use a drip tube laid in a spiral around the trunk. I think this is better than having lots of single drip emitters spaced out under the tree and connected to the waterline with a quarter inch tube.
The second thing to do is start watering in the morning before the windy weather starts. Windy weather forces the tree to use more water than normal. Don’t let the soil get too dry or leaf fall will be heavier.
How do you know when the wind is coming? Check your weather app on your phone. This allows you to better predict windy weather and when to start irrigating.
Q: Will a caper bush (Capparis spinosa) grow in Las Vegas? Where can I buy one? I called a local nursery and got nothing.
A: Salty capers are the unripe flower buds of a wild thorny plant that grows in the Mediterranean region and parts of Asia. The immature flowers of these plants are dried and then put in a brine solution for preservation. Their floral and lemony notes might slightly remind you of green olives since they are added to foods as a condiment.
Plants are usually started from seed, but I’m sure an entrepreneurial online nursery grows them as plants for sale. They stand about 3 feet tall and are wider than they are tall because the stems tend to lay down if given plenty of water. Try planting it on the east side of a building with soil improvement and extra water at planting time.
I’m no expert but if this plant grows in the hot dry Mediterranean region, it also has a good chance of surviving our desert climate. Think bay laurel, oleander, Italian cypress and you’ll get an idea of the climate and soils they like.
The information I have seen maintains that they are good down to winter temperatures of around 20 degrees as they get older and bigger. If temperatures drop into the low 20s, this plant will sucker from its base.
Bob Morris is a horticultural expert and professor emeritus at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Visit his blog at xtremehorticulture.blogspot.com. Send your questions to [email protected]