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Thursday, August 25, 2016

How to Plant in Raised Beds Using Compost

Q. I am going to till up a new area for a vegetable garden. The soil is high clay content "good old desert dirt". Beside the obvious generous addition of compost, what else do you recommend to improve the soil? Washed sand, gypsum, greensand, steer manure? All of the above, none of the above? I thank you in advance for your answers, :)

A. If you add compost you wont really need anything more. I am sure some others have their favorites to add but the backbone is the “black gold” of the compost. The amount of compost depends on the organics in the soil to begin with. This can be judged oftentimes by soil color. A very light color usually indicates very low organics and I would add about 50/50 compost with the soil. If the soil is darker then you can add less. I would make raised beds. You can do this without sidewalls.

I attached two information sheets I wrote for Viragrow. The planting calendar is a general calendar and don’t take it as gospel. Just a guideline. It is for Las Vegas so adjust it accordingly. The calendar also has some instructions on making raised beds without constructing sidewalls. The other information sheet is on planting in compost rich soils and avoiding some possible burning of transplants and seeds during the summer months.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Anti-Microbial Soaps an Environmental Problem?

Triclosan or TCS is routinely used in those sanitizing hand soaps we see in grocery stores, the airport and other places. Find out if it shows up in compost.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cut Back Difficult Plants to Get Them to Change

Q. This is the 8th year for our honeysuckle plants and, although they appear healthy, we cannot get them to produce blossoms. They do get one or two blossoms each year but do not produce massive blossoms. Tried various fertilizers to no avail. What can we do to stimulate blossoms?

A. I also had a problem with honeysuckle not flowering many years ago. We have a basic tenet in horticulture. When a plant is not doing well or not what we want, cut it back hard. I did that with honeysuckle and it started to bloom. 

I don't think it will be a special fertilizer or anything else. Make sure it gets fertilized once or twice a year, usually in the spring and as early as February. Make sure it gets plenty of water. This is not a desert plant but it can handle our extremes. 

To improve it's looks, add a half a cubic foot of compost to the base of the plant and watered in thoroughly. You can do that now. Viragrow in North Las Vegas has compost available for $2.50 for one cubic foot bag. I consult with them but that is the best compost available and it will improve the health of plants if they are struggling due to soil problems.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Mulch and Sprays Reduce Black Fruit Rot on Tomato

Q. I planted tomatoes in late feb. in  my raised boxes..The cherry tomatoes have been doing great.. producing almost more then I can handle.The neighbors are enjoying the excess..However the larger varieties  develop  good size fruit but as they ripen  start to turn black on the bottom..making them unusable.. Any ideas or suggestions ??

A. This is a physiological disorder (not a true disease caused by a pathogen) called blossom end rot. It is suggested that it is caused by irregular soil moisture causing calcium deficiency. Here is a nice discussion by Bonnie Plants

Use mulches to reduce water stress. I like the horse bedding pine shavings you can find at Viragrow.

Calcium sprays might help such as Monterrey's Tomato Blossom Spray available from Viragrow.
Lawn & Garden Products LG 7236 Tomato Blossom Spray 16oz.
Some varieties of tomato or more prone to blossom end rot than others. Keep track of the varieties you are growing and try different ones. It should improve later in the season.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Viragrow Has Rock!

Because of several requests regarding rock mulch, Viragrow now has rock for its customers. Remember, rock mulch is not organic so covering the soil around plants with rock mulch will slowly (in three to five  years) deplete the organics in the soil.

For a decorative look, instead of rock, use wood mulch such as "Gorilla Hair" or Sequoia Blend found only at Viragrow. These organic mulches are very popular with landscapers and hotel gardeners for that very "finished" and decorative look.

Compost, unlike soil mixes, contains no sand or "filler". It does not add bulk to a soil but improves soil and root health. It is always best mixed with the soil at the time of planting. But it will also slowly improve soils when added to the soil surface near water.

Apply 100% compost to the rock mulch WITHOUT MOVING THE ROCK. Apply it near drip emitters or wherever the soil will be wet. Wash it into the soil with a hose. It will wash through the rock and on to the soil surface. As long as the soil becomes wet it will continue to "feed" plants and improve the soil.

Viragrow Small River Rock Mulch

Viragrow Large River Rock Mulch
Viragrow Rose Rock Mulch
Viragrow Gold Rock Mulch
Viragrow's Gorilla Hair Organic Mulch
Viragrow Sequoia Blend Organic Mulch

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Friday, May 6, 2016

Using Steer Manure to Replace Compost?

Viragrow carries Red Star Steer Manure
at $2 for a 2 cubic foot bag or
$1 for the Garden Gourmet steer manure
in one cubic foot bag
People are coming to Viragrow and telling me they are buying steer manure for their garden rather than compost. It's okay to do that and you might save maybe one dollar per cubic foot but let's understand the difference. If you are going to do that, do it the right way and understand that steer manure is steer manure and compost is compost.

The usual terms applied to packaged steer manure is "aged". Fresh steer manure contains lots of urea which is "too hot" for plants and can burn or kill them. Aged manure has the urea lost or volatilized as ammonia (ever smell ammonia in a feedlot?). The urea not lost as ammonia is converted by soil microorganisms into nitrogen "fertilizer".

Manure has stuff in it besides urea. The manure varies in nutrients depending on what the animal ate. The quality of a steer manure is directly related to what the animal was fed.

"Aged" steer manure is dried manure. It has not been composted. The composting process takes manure and plant waste high in carbon and converts it into humus. Humus is the "black gold" that experienced gardeners value. Steer manure is steer manure. It is not compost. It does not contain humus. Buying steer manure and calling it compost is like buying eggs and calling it an omelette.

If you want to convert a bag of steer manure into compost you can. Mix it half and half with wood
shavings or pine bedding or straw or shredded newspaper, put in the shade, keep it moist and not too wet and turn it when the inside temperature of this pile reaches 160F. This temperature kills the microorganisms, good and bad, in this mixture. Cow poop WILL have E. coli in it. Dried cow poop can have living E. coli in it for months after it has been dried.

Cow poop is not safe to handle (unless you take precautions just like it is poop) unless it is composted. Turning the compost pile reintroduces the good microorganisms back into the pile and re-inoculates it. They grow again because of the rich mix, dominate the bad microorganisms.
Viragrow Compost. $2.50 per cubic foot

Continue to turn it, over and over, when the temperature reaches 160F and don't stop until the temperature starts dropping. Once it starts dropping the compost is "finishing" and

turning into humus, "black gold".

OR you can pay $1 more per cubic foot and have Viragrow do it for you. Your choice. I think a buck is pretty cheap for all that work.

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

My Palm Leaves Have Brown Spots

Q. My fan palm has black spots on the fronds.  Someone said it may lack iron.  Or, is it getting too much water?

A. Without seeing what the fronds look like I will assume it is a nutrient deficiency such as iron which is a common to desert soils. Nutrient deficiencies occur for a variety of reasons, not simply because it’s missing or unavailable in the soil.

I doubt it is a leaf disease because we have such dry weather in the desert.

First on the list of reasons is, of course, the soil. There is a lot of bad soil surrounding homes. Soils supporting the growth of palms should be amended with organic materials such as compost in a 1:1 ratio at the time of planting.

Most landscapers and homeowners don't use enough compost or don’t use substitute a soil mix instead. Soil mixes are not compost. They contain mostly sand.

Compost disappears in about 3 to 4 years if the soil is covered in rock mulch and nothing is done to add more. As a result, the soil becomes compacted, drains poorly and begins suffocating the roots of plants like palms. As roots die, these nutrient problems emerge as black spots on leaves even when fertilizer is applied. Black spots appear first on older fronds. As this condition progresses, it is seen on newer fronds.

People see palms declining in health so they give it more water. More water suffocates the roots even further and more roots die. In a slow death spiral, black spots on the fronds graduate to fronds turning yellow.

Because they are weakened, palms may become susceptible to diseases like Fusarium. Because roots are dying, palms cannot pull nutrients like iron out of the soil and the plant becomes deficient.
Amending poor soils at the time of planting and covering this soil with wood chips instead of rock improves the soil and adds nutrients as it decomposes. Organics from decomposing wood chips applied as a surface mulch improves drainage, adds nutrients and helps drain water away from the roots. The soil health improves and more critters inhabiting the soil are seen including earthworms.

Adding iron fertilizers to the soil may help in the short run. The same is true of iron applied as foliar sprays to the fronds. But water and poor drainage may be at the core of the problem and can only be corrected permanently with additions of organics like compost and wood chips as a surface mulch.

Other nutrients can cause black spots on the leaves such as potassium and magnesium deficiencies. The same approach will help with these nutrients as well.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Butterfly Iris Are Not Desert Plants and Need Improved Soils

Q. A number of these plants are in the backyard.  The tips of the leaves have a burnt or dead appearance.  Is there something I should be doing for these plants?  They are occasionally fertilized with general Miracle Gro plant fertilizer (a few times per year).

A. This may be butterfly Iris, I'm not 100% certain but it doesn't really matter, the problem is the same. They don't like desert soils all that well so it is best to grow them without rock mulch. They like soils with more organic matter in them. If I'm correct and it is butterfly Iris, they are native to Africa and are sometimes called African Iris.

The leaves can turn brown at temperatures below 25° F. They are removed either by pulling or cutting at the base. Some plants that look like this have leaves that can be pulled easily while others do not and they must be cut off close to the base.

About every three or four years the plant should be entirely dug from the ground and separated or divided when they are too large. When they get large, you don't see as many flowers and they are not as vigorous. They don't look as good. They can tolerate a little bit of dry soil but they really like wet soils better.

They don't like full sun but they prefer filtered light such as the light beneath trees that are not overly dense.

So, in short, I would lift it from the ground and divide it. It is easy to do because they are growing in clumps. You simply cut these clumps apart and replant a smaller clump in the same place. But this time add an equal amount of compost to the soil when you're replanting it. Instead of using rock mulch, use 3 to 4 inches of wood chips. When you are dividing them, remove the brown leaves at the base. Keep the roots moist but not overly wet. Lightly fertilize 3 to 4 times a year.

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The Best Fertilizer to Use for Lantana

Q. What is the best fertilizer to use on Lantana?  I have yellow and purple and the yellow just never seems to keep the flowers long in the summertime, they come and go and do no not look very vibrant.  I am afraid of some of the fertilizers after too much fertilizer wiped out some other plants of mine in the past. Is there such a thing a a mild fertilizer to use? 

Yellow lantana flowers
A. For pushing new growth you want something high in nitrogen. For flowering, you need something high in phosphorus. For overall plant health potassium is good. For "mild" fertilizers use fertilizers with smaller numbers or slow release fertilizers.
Even though some of the numbers are fairly high, this is a relatively "mild" fertilizer because the first number, nitrogen, is low. Fertilizers with a high first number can be damaging to plants if too much is used. This fertilizer is called a starter fertilizer because it is high in the middle number, phosphorus, which stimulates root growth, important for new transplants and seedlings. This fertilizer blend is $18 for 15 pounds.

So if you are looking for an inexpensive fertilizer something like a 16 – 16 – 16 is okay or 20 – 20 – 20 or anything with all three numbers the same.
This is a water-soluble 20-20-20 intended to be an all-purpose fertilizer that promotes leaf and stem growth, flowering, rooting and overall health. This 5 pound bag sells for $9.80. Compare that price with MiracleGro, also a water-soluble fertilizer.
Another option is to use straight compost but you have to use a lot of it compared to a fertilizer. The fertilizers I mentioned, probably one handful of fertilizer is all you will need and water it in heavily. You can also use water soluble fertilizers like miracle grow or peters. You mix the fertilizer in a bucket of water and pour it around the plants.

Viragrow compost is rich in nutrients and microorganisms. It can be used as a fertilizer around fruit trees, ornamental trees, shrubs and even your lawn. You will never see a darker green color for a lawn then you well when applying compost as a fertilizer. Bulk viragrow compost sells for $43 for cubic yard. It is also available in one cubic foot bags for $2.50.

With compost you would probably apply one fourth to a half of a cubic foot bag and water it in. The compost or composted manures will give you the best results. The fertilizers I mentioned will also work very well. So it is your choice which you want to use. 
Compost can be applied directly on top of wood or rock mulch and watered in with a hose. Compost not only feeds the plants nutrients but also improves the soil. With desert soils that is extremely important.
But I am talking compost, not a soil mix. They are totally different. You can get bags of compost for about $2.50 for one cubic foot bag at Viragrow in North Las Vegas. Soil mixes you can get anywhere. Fertilizers that work you can get anywhere.

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Change is Coming to Viragrow!

Significant Changes are Coming to Viragrow

Viragrow will carry rock for desert landscaping to be sold in bulk. It will be available when May arrives. Just like our compost and soil mixes, we will have smaller amounts available for homeowners with pricing structured the same way we sell other bulk materials. Load it yourself and take advantage of bulk pricing in smaller than bulk quantities. River rock, brown, red, gold rock will be available as decorative mulch. Pictures will be posted here on our blog so stay tuned.

Prices will be increasing on all of our products on June 6. These price increases will be significant across the board and posted on our website by June 6.

I would stock up on products while you can. Visit our website and see what you need.

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Friday, April 1, 2016

Xtremehorticulture of the Desert: Lots of Nutrients are in the Soil and Water But So...

Xtremehorticulture of the Desert: Lots of Nutrients are in the Soil and Water But So...: Q. Are there any micronutrients in our hard Vegas water of significant quantity?    I ask because I'm wondering if say a fertilizer I ...

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Xtremehorticulture of the Desert: Science in Action: What Does Sulfur Do In Desert S...

Xtremehorticulture of the Desert: Science in Action: What Does Sulfur Do In Desert S...:  Granular sulfur remaining on the surface of a desert soil three years after its application. Arid soils and irrigation water in t...

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Xtremehorticulture of the Desert: Acidifying Soil and Water Can Be Beneficial for De...

Xtremehorticulture of the Desert: Acidifying Soil and Water Can Be Beneficial for De...: Q. Have you ever heard of adding vinegar or citric acid when fertilizing plants in our area? A. Quite a few people have thought a...

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Xtremehorticulture of the Desert: What Is an Amended Soil?

Xtremehorticulture of the Desert: What Is an Amended Soil?: Q. You recommended that to grow a persimmon tree in our area, the soil needs to be amended. What is amended soil? Do you a technique you r...

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Xtremehorticulture of the Desert: White Crust on Soil Surface Is Alkali or Salt

Xtremehorticulture of the Desert: White Crust on Soil Surface Is Alkali or Salt: Q. I dug up some of our native soil and amended it with 50% planting mix. The next day after it dried, this white substance appeared on th...

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The Old Photinia Yellowing Problem

Photinia with yellowing and leaf scorch due to iron chlorosis. 
Q. I have a bank of Red Tipped Photinia of about 25 feet. They are 10+ years old. Two years ago they started turning yellow with brown edges. I have been everywhere and they say take them out. One place in January suggested adding 16-8-4 which I have done twice. Now they tell me to wait until late April to add anything else.

A. There are two problems going on; the soil is being depleted of organics and the photinia has developed iron chlorosis. To keep photinia dark green, both of these need to be present. This happens to photinia planted in our soils as the organics in the soil run out, usually in five years if none is added. It is worse if the soil around them is covered in rock mulch.

EDDHA iron chelate
1 lb  $14 / 5 lb $48
Put a layer of Viragrow compost around them along with iron chelate that is EDDHA.  Each plant should get about 1 to 2 tablespoons of this chelate sprinkled on the soil around them and watered in. Use about 2 to 3 cubic feet of compost around each plant Apply the compost to the soil and water that in as well.

Existing leaves will not turn green but leaves emerging after the chelate is applied will. The only way to get yellow leaves green again is to spray them with iron or cut the plants back and let them regrow after applying compost and iron EDDHA.

Bottom line, your photinia needs iron and improved soil.  the EDDHA iron along with compost and a normal, once a year fertilizer application. By the way, wood  chip mulch makes a big difference!!

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Add Compost to Raised Beds Every Year

Q. I have a 500 SF raised bed garden.  I would like to add Viragrow compost to it this year.  My soil is pretty good.  How much should add?  I usually rototill in 20 1QF bags of steer manure every other year.

Yes, Viragrow has bagged steer manure
but compost is better for raised beds
2 cubic foot bag is $2.00
A. You can use steer manure but compost is more effective because it has already been broken down and the nutrients readily available to plants. It also helps the chemistry of the soil benefit plants.

When you apply steer manure it has to break down in the soil first before it can be used by plants. It can be effective but it takes longer. Compost is a better product because it is a combination of animal and/or green manures and plant products that have fully rotted or composted.

Composting releases a lot of humic and fulvic acids that are considered the "black gold" of gardening. It is an improved product over using uncomposted manures. Compost is also a safer product than untreated manure because commercial compost must be free of human pathogens because of the heat generated in commercial composting.

            I am using a calculator for determining eating how much compost you would need on a 500 ft.² raised bed garden. You can find this calculator on the landing page at the Viragrow website .

Viragrow has bagged and bulk compost.
1 cubic foot bag is $2.50. I cubic yard is  $43
For raised beds that were productive last year, I would recommend a 1 inch layer of compost applied to the surface of the raised bed and mixed into the raised bed as deep as you can, at least 8 to 10 inches.

You should do this to a garden area every year since compost breaks down and totally disappears in about three years. In the first year of actively gardening about 40% of the compost content of a raised bed is used up.

If it has been three years or longer since you've added compost, I would suggest you consider a 2 inch layer of compost and mix it into the raised bed. You can tell how much compost you need by how easily the soil in the garden digs.

If it has been a year but your raised bed digs fairly easily, put down a 1 inch layer. If it has been longer and the soil is pretty compact and harder to dig, then put down a 2 inch layer and mix it in. Be careful, because you can add too much compost to a raised bed.

Viragrow has phosphorus fertilizer.
20 lb is $18.20
            A 1-inch layer of compost applied to 500 ft.² would require about 1 1/2 yd.³ of compost which is about 40, one cubic foot bags.

But remember, if you are using good quality compost this compost application will substitute for several months of fertilizer applications. Once you put compost into your existing raised bed, very little fertilizer is needed for the next 3 to 4 months.

After about three months, side dress or dribble a high nitrogen fertilizer 3 to 4 inches from a row of vegetables and water it in. When putting in transplants or planting from seed, always add a small amount of phosphorus to the soil around the seeds or the soil used when planting the transplants.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Understanding Nematodes and What to Do

Nematodes are microscopic roundworms found everywhere but quite common in managed soils. A fertile soil may contain billions per acre. Most don’t cause plant damage. The ones that do are called plant parasitic nematodes because they feed and rely on the energy and nutrients derived from plants.
Some parasitic nematodes are beneficial such as the so-called entomopathogenic nematodes that parasitize insects. They parasitize many different types of soil insects including so-called “grubs” like white grubs and other larvae of butterflies, moths, beetles, and flies. Some parasitize adult crickets and grasshoppers as well. These can be found marketed under several different trade names.
One of several products that use beneficial nematodes
Nematodes are not a huge problem in most turf and landscapes. Some may never encounter them. But when they are present, they draw a lot of attention because they are difficult to control. Nematode damage falls into that category of “out of sight out of mind”. But once plant damage from nematodes is identified, they are no longer “out of mind”.
Root knot nematode on tomato
There are two primary groups of nematodes that concern us in horticulture; those that feed upon plant roots and those that feed on plant foliage. Those that feed on plant roots live their entire lives in the soil. Those that feed on plant foliage spend most of their time above ground, feeding on leaves and succulent stems.
Root knot nematode on mulberry
Most nematodes do not just attack one type of plant but might feed on a number of different plants. Generally speaking, nematodes that feed on plant roots can damage turfgrass, ornamentals, nursery plants, houseplants or tropicals and greenhouse plants. Nematodes that feed upon plant foliage are, for the most part, restricted to ornamentals, nursery and greenhouse plants.
Sometimes we discover soil dwelling, plant parasitic nematodes when infested roots are exposed during soil preparation. The most common soil dwelling nematode is the root knot nematode. They leave behind root nodules or “swellings” on the roots.
But most of the time we see above ground plant symptoms which cause us to inspect the roots. Aboveground clues to a nematode attack to the roots include leaf yellowing and scorching, leaf drop and poor or stunted growth.
Mulberry infested with root knot nematode but kept going with plenty of water, compost and fertilizer
Sound familiar? Nematode damage can be confused with nutrient deficiencies, drought, salt problems, root damage, under or over fertilizing and plant disease.
However, depending on the type of nematode, root damage may vary from the presence of galls to the stunting and decaying of roots. In some cases, nematode damage might be confused with root disease.
Types of root damaging nematodes include the stunt nematode, lesion nematode, ring nematode, cyst nematode, spiral nematode, and lance nematode which produce other symptoms. These include shortened or stubby roots, malformed roots that are multi-branched, darkened or browning lesions which resemble plant disease which frequently accompanies nematode damage.
Damage from nematodes that feed on foliage are easier to identify since plant symptoms are easier to directly trace back to nematodes. This type of damage frequently occurs in greenhouses. Why? Nematodes need a moist environment to survive and spread. The higher humidity of greenhouses and the presence of surface water on plant leaves contribute to these types of nematode problems.
Most references refer to the presence of “angled lesions” that result from the feeding of foliar nematodes. Perhaps a better description than “angled lesions” is “brown spots on newly attacked leaves that are not round but longer than they are wide”. In advanced stages, severely attacked leaves may turn brown and die which masks the presence of these lesions. In cases like this, search for leaves that are more recently attacked to verify these “angled lesions”.
Nematode damage to turfgrass is common in warm climates and may resemble some turfgrass diseases, soil compaction, nutrient deficiencies, herbicide injury among others. Symptoms from nematode damage may gradually enlarge as much as three feet per year. Machinery that comes in contact with soils, such as aerators and hand tools, may spread nematode infestations with equipment. A common symptom occurring due to nematodes is a lack of a response from applied fertilizers.

How to control nematodes?
Nematodes are nearly young impossible to eliminate using traditional pesticides without killing infested plants. Prevent nematodes from entering the property through exclusion. Most problems develop when soils, composts, soil mixes and plant materials are brought in from unreliable sources. Reduce the spread of nematodes through sanitation. Clean equipment and tools between worksites that have been in contact with infested soils.
Recognize that the presence of nematodes is not always bad. In the past, the general recommendation was to improve plant and soil health so that plants “grow ahead” of their damage. There is quite a bit of evidence that increasing soil organic matter through the use of compost and organic surface mulches, particularly in arid and desert soils, helps keep nematodes in check.
It is thought that compost from organic matter stimulates micro and macroorganisms antagonistic to parasitic nematodes. A population of nematodes antagonistic toward plant parasitic nematodes is an important tool used to keep undesirable nematode populations in check.
Amendments with a low carbon/nitrogen ratio (C:N of 20:1 or lower) seem to be the most effective types of organic matter for keeping nematodes in check. For low organic matter content soils, such as arid or desert soils, there is a direct relationship between controlling nematodes and the nitrogen content of the soil due to additions of compost or chemical fertilizers.
North America is estimated to be the largest market for nematicides; pesticides aimed specifically to control or kill nematodes. Nematicides sales are predicted to dominate the agrochemical industry from 2015 to 2020. That’s the size of our problem.
Chemical control of nematodes is becoming more difficult because of environmental problems associated with their application. There is one traditional pesticide that remains available for nematode control. This product, Nemacur, an organophosphate pesticide, is being phased out. Only the remaining inventory on shelves will be sold. When this inventory is gone, there will be no other traditional pesticides available for use against plant parasitic nematodes.

Bob Morris is an independent consultant for ViraGrow, Inc.
This article appeared in Southwest Trees and Turf, a regional trade magazine.

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Why Did My New Vegetables Die?

Q. We bought a yard of compost and filled a square foot garden. We roped it off and had sixteen squares planted all squares and a week later every thing is dead. What did we do wrong?

A. You mentioned you bought compost and filled a square foot garden. I hope you did not plant directly into Viragrow compost. I am assuming you meant you bought a soil mix and planted in it.

Soil mixes we carry include Tomato Lady, Premium Garden Soil Mix and Rejuvenate. These are blended soil mixes containing about 30% compost. If you plant directly into compost then everything would die. That would be a normal thing because the compost is too rich to use as a planting mix. Nothing would survive planting directly into compost.

Compost must be mixed with an existing soil at least 50/50 or with sand as it is done with bulk soil mixes or in bags.
We test all of our soil mixes in the back of our facility. Here are our raised beds filled with our soil mixes and growing some of the best the vegetables you will ever see!

If you mean you bought a soil mix and they died, this is not common but it does occur if transplants are planted directly into the mix and the soil mix is too dry. The soil mix is rich in nutrients. Nutrients in the soil compete with plants for water. If water is not available, then the nutrients win, take the water from the roots and the plants die. Always, always, always plant into moist or wet soil mix. Never plant directly into dry soil mix.
salt damage to raddichio because it is very salt sensitive
The principle nutrient responsible for this competition for water is nitrogen and your soil mix is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus. Under most wet conditions this nitrogen will move directly into transplant roots and the transplants grow and become established quickly.
Salt damage to Italian Parsley

I would water your soil mix thoroughly three or four times before you plant again. This extra watering will flush out extra nitrogen and make it "safer" to plant directly into it. This extra water removes nitrogen from our soil mixes easily. The extra nitrogen is lost to growing plants but makes it safer for you to plant into if you choose not to keep the soil wet.

I hope this works for you because so many of our customers love how plants perform in our soil mixes.

Extremely Sensitive
Green beans, parsnips, celery, radish, squash, peas, onion, carrot 

Cucumber, capsicum, lettuce, sweet corn, rock melon, potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, watermelon, broccoli, pumpkin, squash, tomato

Moderately Tolerant
Asparagus, kale, garden beets.

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Why Use Gypsum?

There are times when gypsum is needed and other times it is not. Viragrow wants you to use products that have results. We do not want you to use products and we all hope for results.

Gypsum is a soil mineral that can improve soils but will do absolutely nothing to a soil if it is not needed. 90% of the time compost will do the same thing. Gypsum is sold by some companies hoping it will work but not really knowing if it will.

Viragrow is different. Let's discuss when gypsum is needed.

Gypsum in its purest form.
Gypsum bagged for gardening should be nearly 100% pure gypsum. Gypsum is composed of calcium and sulfur in the form of sulfates. It's pH or alkalinity is neutral at a pH equaling 7.0. Anyone telling you gypsum is used to lower soil pH is wrong. There are other products that do a much better job of lowering soil pH such as pure sulfur products like soil sulfur (good),
Bagged granular sulfur is used for lowering soil pH and alkalinity and does a much better job than gypsum.
But it has its own set of problems id doing this. $20 for a 20 lb bag

The truth about soil sulfur and learn why

Water soluble sulfur lowers soil pH very fast and learn why

Organic Magic lowers soil pH the fastest and learn why

water-soluble sulfur (better), aluminum sulfate (We don't sell) or Organic Magic (Best). Don't use gypsum to lower soil pH. You are better off using straight compost.
Water dispersable sulfur, dissolves immediately in cold water
50 lb/$50
Organic Magic 30 lb/$30
Does gypsum improve drainage? Gypsum has a reputation among home gardeners for improving drainage in soils. Frequently it is sold for that. This is because the reasons for it doing this is poorly understood by most.
Gypsum, 40 lb/$4.25
Gypsum CAN improve drainage. This is only partially true. Gypsum improves soil drainage ONLY when there is sodium that must be removed from the soil. When soils contain too much sodium, this sodium destroys the drainage channels needed for good water movement. Soils with too much sodium have difficulty draining water. But soils with a lack of compost, or organic matter, do exactly the same thing. If sodium is the problem in a soil, then additions of gypsum improves water drainage. If sodium is NOT the problem then additions of compost will do the job.

What to do? 95% of the time all that is needed is compost (organic matter) mixed with the soil. The rare times gypsum is needed is revealed with a soil test. Use compost first before you try gypsum.

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Leaf Tip Death with Red Margin Typical Salt Damage

Q. Any idea what is causing this discoloration on the hawthorn leaves?

A. This kind of discoloration with the red margin is typical of salt damage/drought. Salt damage can be from a lack of water. Why? Because as the water in the soil becomes more scarce the remaining salts in the soil/water solution becomes more concentrated resulting in a higher concentration of soil salts than the plant can handle.

When the soil is wet this salt level is less damaging. When water become scarce then these salts are more concentrated causing damage from salinity. One strategy for minimizing salt damage to plants is to water more often with smaller amounts of water so that the concentration of salts never gets to be damaging.

In this case this plant is in rock mulch. Indian hawthorn is not found in soils with much salt in them and it is not originally from the desert. So putting it in rock mulch is a bit of a gamble in the long term. It will not handle salty soils or drought very well.

Compost is full of good salts. These salts are "fertilizer" salts and not bad salts full of sodium, chlorides and the like. This is why Viragrow encourages you to plant in WET soils, not dry soils. If you plant in dry soils you run the risk of salt damage to those plants that are sensitive to salts and salinity.

The only other thing you can do besides adding water is to add a soil penetrant safe for plants such as PenMax which sells for $29.99 per quart and $89,99 per gallon. It helps water move through the soil if that is a problem. Otherwise, don't use anything else. Gypsum will not help unless there is a reason for applying gypsum. Use 2 oz of PenMax applied to 100 square feet. Usually this is mixed in 1 gallon of water in a spray application. The quart container has a hose end applicator included for this purpose.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Xtremehorticulture of the Desert: Mulch Can Create Problems for Peach Trees

Xtremehorticulture of the Desert: Mulch Can Create Problems for Peach Trees: Q. I bought a Babcock peach in the summer of 2014 and planted it at about an elevation of 3700 feet. I planted it as you recommended includ...

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Xtremehorticulture of the Desert: Bugs are on the Attack; Fruit Trees and Vegetables...

Xtremehorticulture of the Desert: Bugs are on the Attack; Fruit Trees and Vegetables...: Many questions sent to me right now are about bugs appearing on fruit trees and vegetables. Remember, never apply sprays of any sort while...

Monday, March 7, 2016

Not Too Late to Apply Oil

It used to be called dormant oil. Everyone thought the only time you could apply it was the winter. Now it's called horticultural oil because it can be applied anytime temperatures are warm but below 85° F.
Monterey horticultural oil in pints, $18

Don't be afraid to apply these insecticidal oils any time trees, fruit trees, shrubs are NOT in bloom. It does a great job in controlling aphids which is a number one problem this time of year on most plants. Don't apply it to plants in bloom because it will interfere with honeybees.

Viragrow carries Monterey Horticultural Oil which is a refined mineral oil manufactured for spray equipment. Use a hose and applicator or for better results a pressurized sprayer or backpack sprayer.

Viragrow Delivers!

Protect Nectarine Fruit from Scarring

Do you want fruit from your nectarine tree that looks like this?
Western flower thrips and damage to nectarine
I didn't think so. The scarring of nectarine fruit like this is caused by a very tiny flying insect that rips at the skin of nectarine fruit beginning when they are very small. This ripping is caused by their feeding.
Thrips damage to nectarine fruit.
These tiny insects have mouthparts like a tiny saw that rips at the skin. The fruit releases juice that this insect lapse up like a dog and a bowl of water. Once full, the insect leaves and reproduces itself to make more of these flying insects.

Western flower thrips are so small that you can barely see them with your naked eye. A magnifying glass helps. To stop this insect requires the spraying of an insecticide that either comes in contact with the insect and kills it out right or leaves a film on the surface of the fruit that is poisonous to their feeding.
Spinosad by Monterey With hose and applicator; $30

Fortunately, there is a natural pesticide that works quite well on thrips. The name of this pesticide is called Spinosad. Spinosad is a natural product but it is deadly on many insects including "worms" that turn into moths, flower thrips and very young leaf hoppers. You can use it on vegetables, roses and grapes as well.

Spinosad should not be applied over and over without a break. Break up these applications every couple of weeks with other weekly, natural sprays such as insecticidal soaps, Neem oil and pyrethrins. But the most effective spray in the group will be Spinosad.
EZ Wet, a natural spreader and sticker for better thrips control; $17
Always mix natural sprays with natural products that help it to spread over the fruit and stick to it. We recommend a product we carry called EZ Wet, a natural spreader and sticker made from saponins derived from agaves. It cqn be used to help liquid fertilizers penetrate leaf surfaces and is safe enough to use when washing vegetables free of insects and debris.

Begin applying Spinosad with EZ Wet as soon as the petals of the flowers drop from the tree. Repeat this combination of sprays weekly until the fruit is harvested. Always wash fruit before eating even if these control measures are natural. It is the right thing to do.

Viragrow Delivers!