Thursday, December 30, 2010

A comparison of commercially available soil amendments

A Comparison of Plant Growth of Bush Beans Using Three Commercially Available Soil Amendment Products.

The purpose of this trial was to determine if commercially available products sold as enhancements to plant growth were in effect beneficial and did in fact enhance plant growth and production.

The commercial products examined were:
Soil Secrets
Soil Mender

Green beans grown in soil amended with these products were compared with soil amended with acidified composted cotton burrs and unamended soil. Each treatment was replicated six times in a randomized complete block design. There were no significant differences at the 10% level of probability in plant growth, number of flower buds or beans, or nitrogen-fixing bacterial nodules of green beans.

You can find the complete report at

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Selecting the best rootstock for your fruit trees

The rootstock you select for your fruit tree determines the size of the tree, how soon they produce fruit, their susceptibility and resistance to disease and insect pests, what type of support they need, and their tolerance to heavy clay soils. Some rootstocks are even said to increase the cold tolerance of the scion grafted to the rootstock. 

The rootstock is the root system;  the scion is the apple, peach, pear, etc. that will produce the fruit. Very few fruit trees are grown on their own roots.

Dr. Ramesh Pokharel and I have compiled a list of what we feel are the best fruit tree rootstocks for western Colorado.  We have also included rootstocks on our list that we do not recommend even though they are often sold by area nurseries and garden centers.  Research reports and personal experience of the authors have been used to generate this list.

Neglecting to consider the rootstock when you chose a fruit tree can result in a sick tree and little fruit production.  You can find our list at

When you go to the nursery this spring to buy a new fruit tree, be sure to take this list with you.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Landscape Professionals

Have you ever wonder who is qualified to design your new landscape, upgrade or design a new irrigation system for your lawn and gardens, or even who is qualified to do the installation? 

Until now we didn’t have a decent list of those professionals. Now we have a series of lists consisting of landscape architects, designers, contractors, and irrigation system design professionals.

We certainly don’t have all of those who are qualified on these lists. As additional survey responses are received, these lists will be updated.

These lists are specific to the Colordo Counties of Mesa, Delta, Montrose, Ouray, Gunnison, and San Miguel. Other Counties and areas will need to develop their own lists.

The lists we have compiled thus far can be found at .

Monday, December 27, 2010

Huge larva found in dead cottonwood.

This larva is 2 inches (50 mm) long.  This beetle larvae was collected from dead wood from a pile of cottonwood.

When Kathy brought this to the office she stated several large dying branches were removed from the top of their tree. This longhorned beetle may have been the cause of the death of those branches. When friends collected firewood from the pile this creature was feeding in the dead wood.

This is the larvae stage of a beetle, most likely a longhorned beetle, Order Coleoptera, Family Cerambycidae, genus Saperba

The head end.
We won't really know what species it is until it pupates and emerges as an adult.  That might take some time.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Donate to the Ute Learning Garden

The Ute Learning Garden covers two and one-half acres and is an example of the plant life zones of western Colorado from the low desert to the ponderosa pine – aspen zone.  This site promotes cultural diversity, educates people on native plants, promotes water conservation, creates intergenerational appreciation and provides a site where schoolchildren and adults alike learn about Native Americans, life zones of Western Colorado, and native plants and their uses.

We don’t charge our visitors and even cover the cost of busing students from area schools. 523 area children and 277 adults join us at the Ute Learning Garden on organized tours in 2010. The student activities we provide are based on their curriculum of study and support the educational goals of their teachers.

I would encourage students and teachers to visit and learn about the history of western Colorado and the previous residents of this area. If you are interested in learning more about guided tours contact Susan Rose at 244-1841 or

This project funds lodging, transportation and meals for Ute Indian students and elders from the Ute Indian reservation in Utah to visit and present two PowWows, one in June, the other in September.

Much of western Colorado was previously identified as the site of the Ute Indian reservation but in 1881 the Ute Indians were forcefully escorted be the US Army to a reservation in Utah. This project provides an opportunity for Ute Indians to visit their old home site and learn about their ancestors’ and how they lived. This is also an opportunity to provide local residents an opportunity to mingle with and learn from the Ute Indians.

Signs placed throughout the gardens highlight the various native plants and how they were used by the Ute Indians. Wickiups and cooking hearths, all historically accurate, are located throughout the gardens. More permanent signs are being developed for installation in early spring of 2011.

Ute Indian Erected the TeePee
The teepee on site is of Plains Indian design. When funding is available a Ute Indian teepee will be erected. When the Ute Indian students and elders erected our current teepee, many of the Indian youth stated they had never been that close to a teepee let alone help put one up.

Even though this project is located on Mesa County property, county funds are not used to maintain the gardens, support busing of students to the site, or cover the other costs necessary to keep this project alive. Consequently your donations to this project are critical. Your donations help provide funding for the busing of students, cover the cost of items needed to maintain the garden, including irrigation supplies, plants, and decomposed granite for walkways, and support our effort to bring Ute Indian students and their elders back to their native land. Hopefully we can install a riparian site this coming spring.

Fire up your computer and go to and make your secure donation. If you would prefer, you can send a check made out to the CSU Foundation – Ute Learning Garden in care of Dr. Curtis Swift at P.O. Box 20,000-5028, Grand Junction, CO 81502-5028. You will receive a tax credit from the Colorado State University Foundation for your contribution.

You can also drop off gobs of cash or stocks and bonds at my office at the Mesa County Fairgrounds. Every bit helps! Have a great Holiday Season

Monday, December 20, 2010

Seedling Trees and Shrubs for reforestation and

The Colorado State Forest Service seedling tree program distributes about two million trees and shrubs each year, throughout Colorado and neighboring states. The program provides seedlings at low cost to landowners with two or more acres, who pledge to use them for reforestation, wildlife habitat, erosion control, windbreaks, or other non-landscape purposes.

A field of Colorado blue spruce seedlings at the CSFS Nursery.
 These plants are available in lots of 50 bare root, or 30 regular or small potted sizes. The bare root lots are $44.00; the regular potted are $56.00, and the small potted are $36.00. Bear in mind these trees and shrubs are from 5 to 30 inches in height depending on the species.

In the Tri River Area (Mesa, Delta, Montrose and Ouray Counties) we fill over three hundred orders each year. Get your order in as early as possible because many of these trees and shrubs will be sold out well before the end of the order period, in early April. The trees and shrubs can be picked up in late April at locations in Mesa, Delta and Montrose counties. We will let you know when and where you can pick up your seedlings.

Each March, the Colorado State Forest Service holds free “Seedling Survival” workshops, to educate people on the care of these seedlings. We want you to succeed with your seedlings, and will do our best to provide you with the information you’ll need.

The Colorado Forest Service’s website at has the buyer’s guide, with pictures and information about the available species. If you are planning on planting trees or shrubs in a site where you think or know there is salt get your soil tested. We can test your soil for salts in any of our three county office; Mesa, Delta or Montrose.

To order trees through the Tri River Area program, contact Ginny Price at or call her at 970 249-3935.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Flat Apple Virus

Flat Apple caused by Cherry Rasp Leaf Virus
 This apple is flatter than it should be.  It also has strange bumps and a very deep depression at the blossom end.  This problem is caused by a nematode-vectored virus known as cherry rasp leaf virus. The vector is Ziphinema americana, the dagger nematode.

This virus was first identified on Cherry where it causes the leaves to develop strange protrusion on the under side of the leaves called enations.  This virus also infects peaches and raspberries. Many weed species serve as hosts for the virus and when fed upon by the nematode will serve as the source of the virus to infect other plants..

Most likely this apple tree was planted in an area where a cherry or peach orchard once existed and where the dagger nematode was present. 
Note the deep depression on the blossom end and strange bumps

Killing the virus in the tree is not possible without also killing the tree.  This tree will eventually die so it might as well be removed.

Removing the tree and treating the soil is an option but costly and dangerous and is only logical for commercial orchardists using the skills of a licensed pesticide applicator familiar with soil fumigation or soil treatments for nematodes.

For those with only a few trees, the best recommendation is to remove the tree, avoid planting cherry or apple trees or raspberries in this site and purchase those fruits from local farm markets or the grocery store.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Landscape Fabric can Strangle Trees.

Fabric may become embedded into the tissue.
 Landscape fabric placed around trees does not stretch as the tree grows. This can result in the fabric eventually strangling the tree it is designed to protect.

An examination of the fabric around the tree should be made every few years to avoid tree damage. Remove any rock or bark mulch and cut away and remove any fabric pressing against the trunk or strangling roots. Neglecting this simple task can result in tree death.

The fabric around this root needs to be removed to prevent root death.
 When replacing the mulch, keep it 6 to 8 inches away from the base of the tree to avoid excessive moisture and root/crown rot.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lavender and Christmas Craft Fair and Bake Sale

This photo is courtesy of Rosemary Litz and shows just a few of the items available at the Lavender Christmas Fair this Saturday, November 4, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at C Building at the Mesa County Fairgrounds, Grand Junction, CO.

This is no ordinary Christmas Craft Fair. There will be over 60 varieties of handmade soaps (richly formulated, 100% vegetable, colored naturally with herbs and spices) plus herbal bath teas, bath salts, lavender dream pillows and tranquility pillows, pillow liners, eye pillows, neck wraps, back pads, comfy pillows, drawer & closet sachets, shoe stuffers, purse poppers, hand-made jewelry, herbal spa bags, botanical blessing bottles. Other items available will include wood turned ornaments, bowls, and wine stoppers, goat milk soap in five flavors – lavender, rosemary, natural, arrow root, and baby powder – ceramic soap dishes, lavender bouquets, lavender sachets, lavender balm, lavender oil, aromatic holiday houseplants, ad infinitum.

The lavender in these products was grown locally by members of the Western Colorado Lavender Association , a local group of dedicated lavender growers.

I’ve been informed bed bug travel kits will not be available. You might want to see if one of the venders can make a kit for you. Everyone needs a bed bug kit especially when traveling. All this takes is Neem oil, lavender oil, water and polysorbate 20. Mix it together in the correct proportions and use this as a spray. I’m not sure the lavender will kill the bed bugs but the neem oil is a good insecticide. The lavender will at least make you sleep better even if the bed bugs are biting.

Don't miss this great opportunity to stock up on gifts for this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Winter gardening series scheduled at the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens

A series of educational brown bag lunches will be held at the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens the last Tuesday of each month starting in January. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens.

Cost: $5
Time: 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.

January 25 – Rot to Riches: Home Composting Science

February 22 – ABC’s of Bees: History, Cultivation & Bee Keeping

March 22 – Native Plants That Attract Butterflies, Hummingbirds, & Bees

April 26 – Old Garden Roses Pre-1862: Strongly Scented Repeat Bloomers

For more information or to register, call 254-FUNN (3866), visit, or stop by 1340 Gunnison Ave., Grand Junction.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fountain grass invades lawns

I took this photo today, November 18, 2010.  The color is bleached out at this time of year.

Many of you have seen Fountain grass also called Crimson Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum rubrum) in your neighbors’ gardens. Some of you may have this weedy grass in your own gardens and more than likely growing as a weed in your lawn.

Fountain grass foliage does not cut smoothly but shreds and the cut ends turn white. The shredded tips are highly visible on the right side of this photo.

Once in lawns Fountain grass can be difficult and costly to control.

Voight and Reicher found one or two spot treatments of glyphosate were very effective in killing Fountain grass in lawns but since this chemical also kills all other grasses this may not be a great choice especially for lawns with a heavy infestation of this weedy grass. In most cases reseeding would be required.

Products containing quinclorac would be a better choice as this chemical won’t kill bluegrass, tall fescue, ryegrass or zoysiagrass. (See the Drive 75DF label at for more detail). The problem with this chemical is it will most likely damage trees, shrubs and other ornamentals that have roots in the treated area.
Late Breaking News from Dr. Tony Koski, CSU Turfgrass Specialist - "Drive, when used to spot treat these clumps, will not pose a problem for trees. I've never seen ornamental injury caused by Drive, even when broadcast. Drive and quinclorac-containing products are the only effective selective options. Two applications of Drive XLR8 at full rate, about 10-14 days apart, provides good control. The homeowner RTU products (WeedbGon Maxx plus Crabgrass Killer, for example) will require more (maybe 3-4) sequential applications due to lower quinclorac concentrations. And definitely remove seedheads to prevent further problems."
If you decide to apply quinclorac it needs to be applied when the grass is in active growth as it is absorbed through the leaves and the roots.  A 1.5 ounce bottle covers a 4000 square area. Online prices range from ~$17 to $40 for this size container so shop carefully. If you would prefer to have someone else do the treatment check with your local lawn care company or pesticide applicator for a quote!

To avoid the problem of Fountain grass invading your lawn avoid purchasing this grass.
A better option would be to select a Muhly grass such as Muhlenbergia capillaris as seen in the following photo. This is a native and hardy from zones 5 to 10. Some local nurseries should have Regal Mist or other cultivars of this colorful grass available in the spring.

Photo courtesy of Park Seed Co.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fertilizing trees late in the season is not a good idea!

Trees should not be fertilized in late fall or during the winter months.  Trees should be fertilized between bud break in the spring and when leaves start to change color in the fall.  In other words, trees should be fertilized when they are actively growing. 
When fertilizer is applied in late fall, especially if the tree has not acclimated properly for winter, the tree is likely to pop bud as occurred with the tree in this photo.  This photo was taken on November 8; the leaves emerged in mid-October after the tree was fertilized.

The firm that fertilized this tree may have thought they were helping the tree.  Instead their application of fertilizer resulted in the release of buds that should have remained dormant until spring. The release of buds and subsequent development of leaves takes energy from the tree.  As a result this tree may not have the energy necessary to develop new buds next year and is likely to die or be in such poor health it will be highly susceptible to insect, mite and disease pests.. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Die back of trees is often due to root problems.

If you don't believe tearing out a root affects a tree, think again. Root damage due to trenching or other construction tasks can cause the top of a tree to decline and die.

Roots are intimately connected to the branches and since a tree has from 4 to 11 major roots, ripping out one of these large roots can result in the eventual death of up to 25% of the branches. The death of affected branches takes time and depends on the amount energy and water stored in the branch and buds.  Several years may elapse between root damage and symptoms of branch decline depending on the type and size of the tree.

Some trees are said to have an interconnecting vascular system but most trees have roots connected to specific branches.  Thus if a root or portion of a root is damaged, the branch to which the root provides water, nutrients and hormones is negatively affected and the branch dies from the tip back. 

Declining branches are more susceptible to infection by internal rot fungi. Conks, bracket fungi and other fungal fruiting bodies may appear on the branch as the branch dies.  These branches are also more susceptible to failure and breaking off the tree.

Encircling roots as they wrap around and strangle the base of the tree, cause the same type of damage but often affect much more of the tree than when a single root is ripped out of the tree. Some times the complete tree will die back from the top due to encircling roots.

Encircling roots are often due to planting too deep.  To learn more about planting depth check out the publication at

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Concrete debris does not belong in planting areas!

Washing out cement trucks, dumping excess cement or cleaning concrete and texturing tools in an area where you are going to plant flowers, vegetables, trees or other plants reveals the unprofessional character of those involved.  

If the contractor does not have a spot other than the planting area to dump this debris, he/she/they should at least provide a tarp or section of plywood on which to capture the washings and waste cement.  When such contamination does occur it is not unusual for only the large clods of solid concrete to be removed; the remaining contaminates are simply tilled into or buried under more soil. Once such contamination occurs, there is no way to remove all the contaminated soil without a great deal of expense and effort.  It is less costly to do the construction project properly in the first place.

When you see this type of contamination in planting areas, whether it be for a lawn as in this photo or other plant types, I hope you are reminded of the fact this person or persons is/are only concerned in getting the job done quickly and not professionally.  The concern for the health and welfare of the plant material to be planted in areas near such construction projects should also be the mark of a professional. 

As the one who pays the ultimate bill,  you should be watchful for such problems and ensure contamination of this type does not occur.

To learn more about what should and should not be done at a landscape site, check out the web page at

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A soil test can improve the health and production of your gardens.

Soil samples can be submitted through the Mesa County Extension office for $25 per samples.  This will cover the cost of having your sample analyzed by a reputable lab and recommendations from me on what to add to your soil to improve it for plant growth.  I will also provide you recommendations on what not to add and how to correct soil problems.

Samples can be dropped off at the Delta or Montrose Extension offices for delivery to the Mesa County office.  If you live in Mesa County or are driving this way, drop off your sample(s) at my office at the Mesa County Fairgrounds. Payment for this service is expected at the time you drop off your sample(s). Checks need to be made out to the Mesa Extension Fund.

It typically takes 10 days from the time the sample reaches my office for the analysis to be completed and my letter to be sent back to you. I prefer to corresponde with you via email if at all possible.

Soil samples should be taken from several spots in the area you want to have tested. Collect the samples from the soil surface to a depth of at least 8 inches. Use a clean shovel or soil probe and a clean pail, bucket or box in which to collect the sample. If multiple samples are collected that represent one area, it is best to combine them into one sample. Allow the samples to dry on a clean table before submitting them for analysis. The sample can be placed in a zip lock bag. Submit no more than one pint per sample. Please remove any rocks or large organic debris particles from the sample. Only the soil will be tested.

If you are submitting more than one sample, mark each bag with your name, the crop/plants being grown or you are planning to grow at that site and an identifying number or name so you can match the results up to the area where you collected the sample.

I will need the following information from you along with your sample(s):
Name and mailing address
e-mail address
phone number
crop or plants you intend to grow
and whether your intention is to grow this crop organically.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Are your sprinkler system valve boxes too deep?

They should be even with the surface of the ground so you don’t fall in the hole or have problems when mowing.

If your valve boxes are like the one shown in this photo, you should consider correcting the problem before you fall into the hole and break a leg. Valve boxes that are too deep will eventually be covered up with soil and sod making it difficult to find the irrigation valves when you have a problem with those zones.

The valve box can be dug up and reset at ground level. When you do this the valve will still be at the same depth in the ground. Raising the box usually allows soil to seep into the box and cover the valve. If the valve box is only an inch too deep, raising the box should not cause too much of a problem later on as long as the valve is still protected inside the box.

When you have to raise the box more than an inch, soil and other debris will most likely filter under the box and cover up the valve(s) from the sides. This can create problems with the operation of the valve(s) and will hamper any repairs that need to be done later.

Valve boxes are designed with cutouts at the bottom. These are the areas where the pipe enters and exits the box. When these cutouts are removed and the the box placed over the pipe, the valve will be properly protected and placed above the soil at the base of the box. Putting a layer of gravel in the bottom of the box helps keep soil from filter under the sides of the valve box.

Three and six inch extensions are available for valve boxes for your local box store, hardware store and irrigation supply company. This photo  shows a three inch extension placed on a standard size valve box. The item on the left of the photo is a 6 inch extension for a jumbo size valve box.  The lid fits into the recessed area of the extension.

Instead of raising the box, consider placing an extension on top of the box. You may need to dig up the box and set it deeper in order to do that. Be sure the valve box is parallel with the slope of the soil.

The more secure the irrigation valve(s) are ensconced inside the valve box the better. Valves that are covered with mud and other debris are problems waiting to happen.

If you don't feel comfortable correcting valve boxes that are too deep, lawn care, landscape or irrigation installation professionals can do this for you.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Harvest your apples before the temperature drops below 30 degrees F.

Cold temperature injury of apples results in the formation of ice crystals in the spaces between the cells.  When this occurs the cells may die.  A common symptom of freeze damage is seen in the photo below.  This photo is courtesy of Washington State University.

The temperature at which apples suffer freeze damage ranges from 27.3 to 29.4 F depending on variety for an average of 28.4 F. I would suggest apples be harvested and stored in a frost proof area if the temperature is forecast to go below 30 degrees F. 

If you are unable to pick the fruit when temperatures below 30 F. are forecast, as may occur with later ripening varieties, wait until the apples have thawed before harvesting and/or handling.  This will limit the extend of the damage.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Misting in Action

Misting of irrigation sprinklers is due to excessive pressure at the nozzles.

 Irrigation nozzles are designed for a specific range of pressures.  Pop-up spray nozzles as are used at the Red Cross facility shown in this video are designed for pressures between 15 to 30 psi depending on spacing.

This video was taken Tuesday morning when the air was still .  You can tell from the lack of movement of the leaves, wind was not responsible for the misting. 

I'm quite sure this Red Cross office in Grand Junction could use help purchasing and installing the needed pressure regulators to correct this problem.  Installing pressure regulators will reduce their utility bills and conserve water that is now going to waste.

There is a specific procedure you need to follow when installing and adjusting the pressure regulator.  Check out Mark Austin's video at for a short demo. Your irrigation professional should have the necessary Schrader valve and be able to install pressure regulators for you if you can't figure this out yourself.  Pressure regulators need to be installed when the system is still pressurized. So do this before you have your system winterized or first thing in the spring when the system is turned back on.
Hunter and Rainbird pressure regulators are adjusted the same way.  Keep in mind you need to buy the pressure regulator that fits the valve.  A Rainbird pressure regulator will not fit a Hunter valve or vice versa.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cheatgrass control should be accomplished this fall. Don't wait!

Downy Brome, Bromus tectorum, known as cheatgrass, is a weedy grass that germinates in the fall, goes dormant in the winter, begins growth again in the spring and will complete growth next summer.
The long sharp awns on the seed penetrate the skin and ears of cats, dogs and other animals. When the plant dries the chances for fire is very likely.

This grass is soft and hairy on the upper and lower side of the leaves. When you pull a leaf down and look at the point where the leaf touches the stem, you will see a membrane (the ligule)  that is very thin and hairy or toothed as seen in the photo below.  The  photo is courtesy of

This weedy grass should be sprayed now if at all possible. Glysphosate is a great herbicide with systemic properties killing roots along with leaves and stems.  However, this herbicide is likely to kill plants you don't want killed if the spray gets on those plants. If you use glyphosate, use it carefully.  Safer chemicals to use include fluazifop-P-butyl and sethoxydim. Fluazifop-P-butyl and sethoxydim are also systemic and will kill roots and rhizomes.

Fluazifop-P-butyl sis old as Ornamec 170 and Ornamec Over-The-Top.  These products can be used in and around ground-covers, shrubs and trees  in landscape beds, container yards and grower nursery fields without damaging broadleaf plants.  Over 500 plants are listed on the label over which this product can be sprayed. Other Fluazifop-P-butyl products registered for use in Colorado in 2010 include Green Light Bermudagrass Killer and Ortho's Grass B Gone Garden Grass Killer.

Sethoxydim is effective on annual and perennial grasses to include turfgrasses.  This material is not effective on sedges. Sethoxydim is sold as Bonide Grass Beater Over-the-Top Grass Killer Concentrate (13% sethoxydim), Ferti-lome Over-the-Top II (18%), Hi-Yield Grass Killer Post-emergence Grass Herbicide (18%), and Poast Herbicide (18%). . Not all of these products are labeled for landscaped areas so read the label.   Treatment of reed canarygrass, a major weed along irrigation ditches significantly reduced seeding and biomass production of this grass, especially when the dead grass was mowed down prior to the next year's application of Sethoxydim.

Products used for burn-down only.  These are not systemic and will not kill the roots.

Scythe is a pelargonic acid and similar fatty acid combination that burns back the top of the plant.  Since cheatgrass is an annual, it has no below ground buds from which to recover.  When used on perennial weeds, you can expect the plant to recover from its below ground buds.  There is no systemic activity with Scythe. This product is not approved for organic production.

BurnOut II is a blend of lemon juice, clove oil and citric acid and provides non-selective control of herbaceous broadleaf and grass weeds. This product is a contact kill and has no root activity. BurnOut II is approved for organic production by OMRI.

Weed-Aside, an ammoniated soap of fatty acids, has no root activity and thus does not kill the roots of perennial weeds. It is quite effective on annual weeds such as cheatgrass.  While this is said to be organic, I can not find any agency that has certified Weed-Aside as approved for organic production.

The smaller the grass is when it is sprayed the more effective the treatment.  Don't wait until next summer to try and control cheatgrass.  Treat and kill it now!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Change in Job Responsibilities

Greetings from Grand Junction, Colorado

My job responsibilities have been revised and I will now devote 80% of my time to the commercial industry.  20% of my time will be devoted to the Tri River Area Master Gardener Program.

Susan Rose and the Tri River Area Master Gardeners will be handling all homeowner questions. The Master Gardener desk number is 970 244-1836. We have not yet revised Susan's job responsibilities but should have those changes in place by the end of October. 

Questions from the commerical green industry can be addressed to or 970 240-1840.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Imidacloprid drench for insect control.

A simple method of insect control consists of drenching the soil around a tree with a product containing imidacloprid.

The first step is to read the label.

This product points out the need to measure the circumference of the tree 4 1/2 feet above the ground.  This hackberry tree has a circumference of 29 inches.

The second step is to apply the proper amount of product 

The directions say to add one ounce of the product per inch of tree turnk circumference to a gallon of water and use this to drench the soil around the base of the tree. 

I purchased this 40 ounce container for $30. Thus each ounce of product costs 75 cents. Treating this hackberry costs $21.75.  This treatment will provide excellent control of aphids, borers*, and gall-making insects in this tree for a full year, possibly longer. This application will also prevent lawn grubs in the area where I applied the drench around the base of the tree.

While I don't like to apply a nitrogen fertilizer to trees in the fall, many pesticides contain nitrogen to help increase the uptake of the chemical. This small amount of nitrogen (2%) in this product should not be a problem with trees or shrubs even when applied in the fall.

My next task is to spray out the grass around the base of the tree to help protect it from lawn mower and string weeder damage.

I have used the granular form of turf imidiacloprid insecticide on my lawn for grub control.  Since this treatment was made close to lilacs, virginia creeper and other woody plants, a secondary advantage of this lawn treatment was the control of insects (except Leps *) in these plants as well as in the lawn.

Be sure to read and follow the label directions.  If the product does not list vegetables or fruits,  do not use the product on those plants.

* Leps = Lepidoptera species of insects. Imidiacloprid is not an effective control of the larvae of moths or butterflies that bore into the trunk or feed on the leaves.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Trees have stretch marks too!

Have you ever noticed the stretch marks on trees?

Trees grow in height as well as in diameter. Some trees, like the sycamore, allow for the increase in trunk diameter by shedding bark, an all too common occurrence in the spring in my neighborhood.  

Ash, elm and many other trees develop cracks in the bark that run up the trunk.  As new wood and bark is produced under the older outer bark, these cracks allow the tree to expand. 

Cracks also form in the bark when the trunk bends as you can see in the next photo.   

These cracks are normal.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Some Trees are not worth Saving!

This aspen has a canker disease eating away at its trunk.  The disease invaded the tree through a branch stub at least five years ago as can be seen by the annual growth pattern of the damage. 

The fungus feeds during the winter when the tree is at its weakest.  With the onset of Spring, the tree's vigor improves as leaves emerge and photosynthesis begins.  When sugars reach the injured site new callus tissue forms and stops the spread of the fungus. This callus tissue is invaded and killed as soon as the fungus regains control of the tree.  This cycle happens again and again until the tree no longer has the tissue necessary to keep the tree together.  At some point this tree will break at the canker. 

The fungus that causes this problem, known as Black, Target and Ceratocystis canker, is Ceratocystis fimbriata.

Applying nitrogen around the tree after the leaves emerge in the spring will increase tree health.  Two pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square foot area surrounding the tree is the recommended amount to use.  Unless you have had a soil test conducted that shows phosphorus and/or potassium levels are deficient, these nutrients should NOT be applied.  Ammonium sulfate is a good synthetic nitrogen source to use.  Blood meal, cotton seed meal, corn gluten and other organic products are also good nitrogen fertilizers.

Note:  The cat scratches on the trunks are cause for concern. There is a good chance this fungus will be spread to the other trees by the claws of the cat. Removing the infected trunk will help prevent the spread of the fungus.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Poplar twiggall fly causes serious damage.

The poplar twiggall fly is often said to cause little damage to the aspen this insect attacks.

Dead Shoot as a reult of this insect

The vascular damage this insect causes can result in the death of twigs as seen in the photo to the left. 

If these galls are in the main stem of the tree, can the area damged by this insect break off?

An application of imidiclopyrid once a year will take care of this problem.
Note Exit Holes

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

cucumber sun burn, watermelon sunscald

Charleston Gray and other melons can suffer from sunburn
Watermelon, cucumbers and many other vegetables can be burned by the sun.  This causes white spots on the skin  that extends into the flesh.  This dead flesh may be attacked by saprophytic fungi such as Botrytis and Aspergillus.

While the black spots and smugs caused by fungus are often thought to be the cause of the problem, the intense rays of the sun not providing shade is the problem.

Cucumber with sunburn and a fungus infection.

Covering the fruit with the vines, straw or hay can help prevent this problem.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Maple anthracnose may be due to spring weather.

Anthracnose is the term used to describe a disease that causes limited, sunken dead spots such as those on these maple leaves.  The disease organisms involved vary with the plant but they all require the same environmental conditions, wet and cool spring weather.

This year's spring was ideal for these diseases.  Control is an option that requires frequent sprays from bud break until the weather conditions change.  As soon as warm weather arrives the infection cycle of the disease organism is shut down.

At this time of year there is no reason to spray.  Cleaning up the leaves in the fall may reduce a source of this disease for next year's infection cycle.  

The sprays and spray schedule recommended for Sycamore anthracnose should be followed if you want to prevent anthracnose.  If next spring is warm and dry, there is no reason to spray.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Armenian cucumbers may split open if left on the vine too long.

Jude Sirota provide me a number of cucurbit plants (members of the gourd family) for the Grand Junction Community Garden at the Library earlier this year. One was an Armenian cucumber. This striped Armenian variety is called "Painted Serpent".

You can tell by the one Susan Swift is holding they can become quite long and certainly do resemble a serpent.

If you aren't familiar with this cucumber, they stay tender no matter how long they grow.

The only problem I've had with this cultivar is they split along the stem end. The damage shows up as open sores which enlarge into large splits as seen below.

This problem may be due to too much soil moisture.  Slicing cucumbers tend to become bitter when they lack adequate soil moisture.  Which is worse, a cucumber that is bitter or one that splits open?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Glyphosate damage on ash tree.

This photo of an ash tree shows symptoms of glyphosate uptake. Glyphosate, initially sold as Roundup by Monsanto, is now available in generic form at many farm cooperatives, and retail businesses.  When this product is misapplied it can cause damage.  In this case the owner sprayed glyphosate to control weeds at the base of the tree last year.   These symptoms appeared this year.

Glyphosate may drift onto the buds or be taken in through green tissue at the base of tree . 

Symptoms of glyphosate toxicity the year after glyphosate uptake results in clusters of leaves where shoots should develop.  I've seen these same symptoms on trees in local retail nurseries where the wholesale nursery applied glyphosate to control weeds around the trees the previous year. These symptoms are also occasionally seen on grape vines when glyphosate is used to control weeds at the base of the vines.

Herbicides should be used with care.  Don't assume they are safe.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Pumpkin and squash mildew kills plants.

Powdery mildew, a common problem of roses, turfgrass and many other plants, also is a problem for squash and pumpkin especially when we experience the cool, humid conditions of fall.

This fungal disease destroys the photosynthetic ability of the leaves reducing the quality, size and yield of the fruit. 

The first syptoms you will see are white spots on the leaves.  These spots increase and eventually cover the leaf. This disease reduces the sugars and starches necessary for the development and sizing of the fruit.

Controlling this disease is quite easy if you use the correct product or combination of materials.  Some people use SunLite oil in combination with baking soda as a spray.  A better product to use is potassium bicarbonate.  Baking soda can damage plant cells; potassium bicarbonate is much softer in its activity.  Neem oil is also reported to be an effective control of powdery mildew.  Your local nursery or garden center should have one of these products on their shelves.

These products are best applied in the evening as they remain in the liquid state for a longer period of time.  If a rain occurs shortly after you make the application you will most likely need to reapply the product.  You will still see spots on the leaves even after you treat for this disease, but as long as the spots don't enlarge or more spots don't develop, the infection has been stopped.  Follow the label to ensure you apply these at the proper dilution and frequency.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

When should you harvest pumpkins and winter squash?

I  recently harvested two pumpkins. Neither was completely orange but I could not puncture the skin with a finger nail, the stage at which they are ready to harvest. Instead of leaving these pumpkins I cut them off the vine and put them on my back stoop. They continued to ripen and are now uniformly orange.

If you leave pumpkins and winter squash on the vine even though they are ready to harvest, you run the risk of them being damaged by insects or vandals.

Harvest your pumpkins and winter squash as soon as they are ready. If you can cut their rind with a finger nail they are not ready to harvest; when the rind can no longer be cut with a finger nail they need to be harvested.

Always leave a portion of the stem attached to the fruit.  Otherwise you run the risk of a disease organism invading the fruit causing rot.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Do tomatoes experience live birth?

Unless you look closely, it looks like maggots are growing under the skin of this tomato. In this photo I removed the skin of the tomato to give you a closer look. Who would want to eat a tomato riddled with maggots?

Some of these ‘maggots’ have even pushed through the skin and are invading the air space surrounding this tomato. In the photo immediately below you can see other 'maggots' that have escaped through the skin and others that are about to escape.

These ‘maggots'’ turn out to be tiny tomato plants. The seeds germinated inside the fruit and the baby seedlings pushed their way to and even through the skin of the tomato. This is called vivipary.

Why did the seeds germinate and begin to grow? Seed dormancy is usually terminated by low temperatures or by the application of a plant growth substance such as ethephon.

Ethephon is often applied to tomatoes to enhance ripening or to ensure all the tomatoes in an order are the same shade of red when they arrive at the grocer. Was this tomato treated with ethephon or was another substance applied? Or did something else trigger the germination of the seeds?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Corn Smut is quite a delicacy!

Sweet corn is a tremendous treat.  I especially like the Sugary Enhanced (SE) varieties created by Dave Gallinat of Mesa Maize in Olathe, Colorado. Many of his hybrids are sold as 'Olathe Sweet' sweet corn throughout the United States.  I even took some of his seed to Armenia when I worked over there in 1994.  The Armenians were definitely impressed with the sweet ears his seed produced.

Sometimes you get a bonus when corn smut develops along with the ear.  The smut balls growing out of the ear of corn Susan Rose, Horticulture Educator for our four-county area, is about to take a bite out of arrived in our office this afternoon. As far as I'm concerned this smut has already gone beyond what I would consider the edible stage.  Others disagree as they like the more mature smut flavor.

Four to five hundred tons of this fungus are sold in Mexico City every year.  In the United States, increased interest in this fungus is due to an increase in the Mexican-American community and the rising interest in new foods. Chefs in high-end restaurants are reported to pay $30 to $40 for 2 pounds of this mushroom.

Caused by the fungus Ustilago maydis, corn smut, is called huitlacoche by those in the know.  Like puffballs, the gleba, the inner spore bearing mass, is initaily nice and white, turning into black spores as seen  with the smut ball on the left side of this photo.  That smut ball has broken open releasing black spores.

Even small backyard producers may find the production of huitlacoche profitable.  If you are interested, check out Purdue University's article on how to  produce this unusual agricultural product. 

Hackberry leaf spots may be insect caused.

Hackberry (Celtis spp.) leaves often have spots on the upper surface that looks somewhat like measles or blisters but are light green or yellow in color.

These spots are caused by the Hackberry Blistergall maker (Pachypsylla celtidisvesicula). The blisters are 3 to 4 mm in diameter and only slightly raised from the leaf surface.

There are 25 millimeters (mm) in an inch so these spots are quite small.

When you flip the leaf over you will see and can feel many tiny bumps. The feeding activity of this psyllid stimulates the tissue into forming a gall, an abnormal growth.

[Pysyllids are  known as jumping plant lice due to their tendency to jump when disturbed.]

You may find blistergall makers and nipplegall makers on the same leaf as is seen in the next photograph.  The nipple-like galls are due to the feeding activity of Pachypsylla celidismamma.

 Note the three nipple galls mixed in with the galls of  the hackberry blistergall maker.

Psyllids feed by inserting their mouth parts into the phloem of the tissue and sucking out the plant's juices.  They tend to feed on either a single type of plant such as the hackberry or members of the same family of plants.  Consequently you do not have to worry about these insects feeding on any plants other than hackberries.

There is one generation of these gall makers per year with the eggs being laid as the leaves unfurl in the spring.  A dormant or horticultural oil applied to the tree to coat the overwintering adults helps control this insect.  The use of a product containing the insecticide imidacloprid this fall will solve next spring's hackberry psyllid problems.

While this insect is more cosmetic than damaging, one can easily see why homeowners are concerned when they have an infestation of these leaf-disfiguring insects on their hackberry trees.

To learn more about psyllids check out the Psyllid web site.