Sunday, February 7, 2016

Cardboard Pest Control

With the increase of online shopping everything from abacus to xylophones arrive in cardboard boxes. What to do with them? A simple solution combines recycling and soil nutrition and weed, slug and snail control!

Cardboard boxes can be broken down and placed on the ground for excellent weed control; without sunlight the weeds will not grow.  Some perennial weeds, especially those grasses with 'runner roots', although they will not grow under the cardboard, they will not be eliminated.

Most gardeners know that mollusks (slugs and snails) are a major pest. They are able to destroy seedlings and devour well-established plants.
Several control measures are available including chemical baits, trap boards, sanitation, even chickens and ducks. A trap board is a manageable size board, perhaps 12 inches by 12 inches,  placed on the ground near slug and snail activity. Place one end of the board on a small rock, or another object in order to give it enough lift for the slugs to crawl under. This board then becomes a good hiding place for the slugs and snails which can periodically be scraped off and disposed.

Under the category of trap boards, we can also utilize cardboard boxes. Simply break down all the boxes and place them in the garden in an area where slug damage is frequent; preferably in the shade, although not necessary. To escape the heat of the day, the snails and slugs will seek shelter and hide under the cardboard. Periodically, check under the boxes, collect and dispose of them.

Over time, the cardboard itself will breakdown contributing toward a healthy soil. Some white fuzzy growth on the cardboard are various species of fungi which help it decompose. They will not harm the plants and are a benefit to the soil.

The one drawback to this method is that the boxes will not add much to the beauty of the landscape; wood chips or other organic compost can be layer on top of the cardboard.  For more details on controlling slugs and snails see article at this site entitled Slugs and Snails.

Monday, January 25, 2016

What is a cocktail tree? Grafting Different Fruit on the Same Tree

Different varieties of the same species can be grafted together. This is often done to extend the harvest period. As an example, if the Kahaluu variety of avocado were grafted onto a Sharwil avocado, the fall/winter picking season for Kahaluu would be extended into the spring by the Sharwil (winter/spring).

In addition, two varieties can be grafted on one tree in order to save space, especially, if a second variety is needed as a pollinator. In general, plants with the same genus, but of a different species, can be grafted together. Among citrus species, lemon, orange, grapefruit can be put on one tree. One word of caution, lemons are a vigorous growing tree. When lemons are put together with a slower growing citrus, care must be taken to prune the lemon graft, or else it will quickly out grow the other species.

Many deciduous fruit trees can be grafted together.  Peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots can all be harvested from one tree.

Plants belonging to different genera are less successfully grafted, although there are some cases where this is possible. For example, quince, genus Cydonia, may be used as a dwarfing rootstock for pear, genus Pyrus. Plants of different families cannot be grafted successfully, such as orange on a peach.

For more detailed information on budding and grafting avocados, citrus or deciduous fruit trees, the University of California website has excellent information:

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sweetness in Citrus Fruit or Lack of It!

Warm sunny days: The accumulation of heat units is most important in determining the sugar content in citrus. Simply put, citrus fruits become sweeter the longer they remain on the tree up to a point. If the fruit seems ready to pick, but the taste is not sweet enough, then leaving it on the tree a little longer should sweeten it.   

Location, location, location: In certain places, fruit from a given tree will simply not produce enough sugars. Of the hundreds of citrus varieties, not all are adapted to a specific area. For a given region, some varieties won’t produce good quality fruit!

The rootstock factor -  There are numerous citrus rootstocks. They impart a variety of characteristics to the fruit. Some rootstocks will enable the tree to produce an abundance of fruit, but with poor quality, in this case, low sugar content. For commercial growers, choosing the right rootstock is an important factor when selecting new trees for an orchard. Homeowners on the other hand, have few choices in rootstocks when purchasing a tree.