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Messages - jbclem

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Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: Growing avocado in sandy soil
« on: November 05, 2018, 03:43:33 AM »
Thanks everyone for the ideas.  This Fuerte was kept in the container (a deep 9x16" black plastic from Stuewe) for at least two years.  It flushed and bloomed(a bit) last year but didn't set any fruit.  The tree came from C&M Nursery in Nipono.  It's planted on the side of a steep hill on a 8'x4' ledge behind a small retaining wall I built. About 5 feet below it is an Oak tree (probably scrub Oak) that shades the tree from the hot late afternoon sun...that's why I planted the Fuerte in this spot.

Soil tests were done five years ago, the holes dug 4-5' deep,  and showed silty sand and sandy silt.  No mention of organic matter.  And when I've done the settling soil test in a jar of water, there is very little organic matter, and usually just one layer of what I'd guess is sandy silt. Or silty sand.

When I planted it in June this year 2018 (on a small mound but it's settled now to ground level.) the root system looked good and there was a lot of it in the middle and lower part of the container.  There is a 2-3' diameter stucco wire (high quality chicken wire 1" holes) cage around the roots because this is a gopher hill it's planted on.  Right now there are no gophers present in the hill and no sign of tunnels pointed at this tree.  I believe I added some compost to the soil but judging by how often I have to water, not enough.  A few months after I planted it I spread bark mulch around the base, but not up to the base.  A month ago I pulled some o it back because I couldn't see the ground when I was watering the tree.

The trunk is protected from the sun by the cardboard that came with the tree and a piece of shade cloth I draped in front of the trunk.  The tree itself is inside a five foot high, 4 foot diameter deer cage.  Since I planted the tree I've had some 60% shade cloth hug on the front of the deer cage so most of the summer sun has been filtered through the shade cloth.  Windwise, on the north side of the tree there are some thick trees that block a lot of the common Santa Ana winds we get this time of the year.  The sea breeze (from the S and SW) usually isn't very strong up here (1100 ft elevation) in Topanga Canyon.  The strong winds are the NE-NW Santa Ana's and they haven't affected the tree at all so far.  Grasswise, grass does not grow in this sandy soil without lot's of water.  So the only things that grow are native weeds and plants I've planted and watered.  I water by hand.  Yesterday I let the hose run for 15 minutes to the base of the tree, filling the mulch basin I built around it. Previous watering was three days ago, and yesterday the tree was drooping before I watered it.  It had picked up when I checked it today.

This tree hasn't flushed any new growth since I planted it, but the leaves look healthy and I don't think it's dropped any.  It just droops if I don't water every 2 or 3 days.  And the soil feels moist even when it's drooping, so the soil isn't drying out that much in the interval.

I like the idea of planting some hairy vetch if the roots would put organic matter into the soil...did I understand that correctly?

Jack from you know how many gallons of water each day you give each avocado trees in the summer, and how hot does it get there?  Summer's here give us 90-95F weather sometimes until Sept-Oct.  It's been cool-ish lately, the days 80-85F, nights in the low 50's this week but low 60's the past two weeks.

Top dress with a foot of compost?  That's a lot of compost...there are no worms in this dry soil, but I have red worms in my compost pile.  Will they really move the compost down into the soil?  That would be worth trying.

I haven't fertilized the tree since I planted it, and I did so sparingly when it was in the container.  I'd like to hear some suggestions about this.  I do have Osmocote Plus which is slow release.  I also have Jack's Citrus fertilizer, and Miracle Gro, and Ammonium Sulfate, and Mir-Acid.

I hope I've covered all the questions...

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Growing avocado in sandy soil
« on: November 02, 2018, 05:27:16 AM »
I have a two year old Fuerte that I recently planted in soil that's classified as sandy silt or silty sand.  The problem seems to be either that it drains too fast or just doesn't retain enough moisture for the roots to take in.  Even now, in daytime 70-80F fall weather(S. Calif zip 90290), I need to water every two or three days or the leaves will start to droop.  They pick up after I water, but I'd like to know what I can do to lengthen the watering interval.

I'm also concerned about root rot (from watering so much) even though the soil is sandy.

And for the next avocado I plant, I'd like to add to the sandy soil to try to alleviate this problem.  I'm thinking of peat moss, and compost, but also worried that too much organic matter might increase the chances of root rot.

Any opinions and suggestions for me?


Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: Growing avocados in gopher land
« on: November 19, 2016, 06:12:30 AM »
Fruitlovers, do you remember the mesh size of the hardware cloth you used when you were living in S. Calif.  It's easy to find 100 ft rolls of  1/2" mesh, but much harder to find larger sizes.  I'd like to find some 3/4" or 1" mesh hardware cloth.

ScottR, check out Stucco wire.  You can find it at Home Depot, it's about $45 for a 36" x 150ft roll and much higher quality than the Chinese chicken wire that's available everywhere.  It's made in the USA. by Davis Wire.  I find that the holes are usually exactly 1" whereas chicken wire holes vary up to 1.5" which might let a skinny gopher through.  So it's much cheaper and will last longer than the Chinese chicken wire.  You can see the quality difference just by looking at it in the store.

I like the idea of gopher snakes.  Will they stick around after they eat the resident gopher?


I read in an older Willets & Newcomb newsletter(2007), that magnesium nitrate was the best way to correct magnesium deficiency in citrus.  " Magnesium sulfate has not
been found effective as a foliar spray.  Magnesium nitrate has been demonstrated to correct magnesium deficiency."  They also mentioned that in the acidic citrus soils of Florida, magnesium deficiencies had been successfully treated with magnesium sulfate (Epsom Salts).  And that "correcting magnesium deficiency in the soil can be slow in acid soils and very difficult in alkaline soils. Foliar sprays have had the best effect".
 Willets & Newcomb are a wholesale nursery here in California, one of the citrus suppliers for Costco.

I also have a 1969 paper from the Florida State Horticultural Society about correcting magnesium deficiencies in limes, in calcareous soils, using magnesium nitrate.  They wrote: "magnesium nitrate at 10 pounds per 100 gallons was  sprayed  on  spring-flush  leaves 2/3rds to 3/4 expanded.  Magnesium deficiency symptoms were practically eliminated in 4 to 6 months.  The use of  magnesium  sulfate  alone  as  a foliar  spray has produced little or no correction of magnesium deficiency in leaves(5)".  Also, for maximum absorption, magnesium nitrate residues should remain on leaf surfaces for 72 hours or longer before rain or irrigation."  I have this paper as a pdf file if anyone wants a copy.

It took me a while to find magnesium nitrate in small quantities at a reasonable price, found it at a hydroponics website.  It was called Magnisal.  I bought a pound of it and used it for a while, but ran out and haven't re-ordered.  I mostly used it mixed with a soluble fertilizer, only tried it once as a foliar I'm not sure if it's what worked but nine months later my container citrus leaves are looking pretty good, the yellow areas in older leaves mostly gone..   It's available if anyone wants to try it.  I ordered it from this place:

As an aside, I also ordered S.T.E.M  (soluble trace element mix) from them.  And I've occasionally added it to my miracle-gro soluble fertilizer application.

Sorry to barge in, but I'd like to know what you think of this information Millet.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: Growing avocados in gopher land
« on: November 04, 2016, 10:37:06 PM »
I was just reading that prairie dogs are also called gophers and they do surface and look around all the time.  So I suppose you could hang out on the prairie and shoot prairie dogs while they are surveying the landscape.  But pocket gophers are what I have at my house and they don't often show their faces.  Since owls hunt them, they must sometimes come out at night

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: Growing avocados in gopher land
« on: November 04, 2016, 08:58:28 PM »
Scott, since you know and I know (read my first post about the 5 yr apricot that was eaten alive by a gopher) that chicken wire baskets don't work for more than a few years, why do you continue to use them?  What happens to your trees after the chicken wire rusts out?  I use stucco wire, which is better quality (and much cheaper) USA made chicken wire...but it's still going to rust out and let the gophers in.  That's why I switched to hardware cloth, which will last a long time.  But my questions have to do with the size of the avocado rootball and how far and how large the roots are when they spread out...will they go through the 1/2" mesh holes?

To the gun man, you're welcome to come visit and sit next to the gopher holes, from sunrise to sunset, on the chance that a gopher will stick his head out just when you're looking at the hole he chooses(there are probably 30-50 on the side of the hill where I want to plant the avocados) and use your sharpshooting eye to plug him or her between the eyes.  BTW, since gophers are territorial there will probably only be one gopher with 30-50 holes to chose from.

Is there a breed of dogs that will go after gophers, that will dig down 12-24 inches and squeeze through their main tunnels to seek out the gopher nest?  Please let me know if there is, that would be a great solution...but the dog would have to be a lot narrower than a dashshund.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: Growing avocados in gopher land
« on: November 04, 2016, 07:21:02 AM »
I just found this information on avocado tree roots.  Does it seem right?  If the roots are primarily "thin, fibrous feeder roots", exactly how thin (or thick) are they?  1/4", 1/2", ???

"The root system is relatively shallow, and does not extend far beyond the tree canopy, if it even reaches the edge of the canopy. The roots are primarily thin, fibrous feeder roots. They have no thick, anchoring taproot. These are likely adaptations to the shallow layer of rich soils in their native rain forest climates, as well as the absence of high winds in the dense forest growth that would necessitate better anchorage."

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Growing avocados in gopher land
« on: November 02, 2016, 10:47:31 PM »
I have two avocado trees I want to plant on a hillside that's combed with gopher tunnels.  Although there's usually only one gopher in residence at any given time (at least so I think?) I recently lost a nice five year old apricot to them...all the roots eaten back to nubs at the trunk.  That was with a chicken wire basket that had rusted out enough for the gopher to get through.

I usually plant fruit trees in homemade gopher baskets but I've been advised not to do this with avocados since their roots spread out so much.  But I don't really have any choice in the matter, the trees have to be protected.  So I want to ask what others have done in the same situation. 

And also some questions occur to me that I need information on:

1.  how wide does the avocado tree root spread, how thick are the roots 24" from the trunk, and what happens to the tree is this spread is limited...will it be dwarfed?

2.  what would be an optimal diameter for a hardware cloth basket around the tree?  I've used  2' diameter ones but for avocado I'm thinking 3' or 4'.  That's a lot of basket and a lot of work since I clip out many of the 1/2" mesh holes to make them larger.

3.  one of my trees, Fuerte, is in a deep narrow container (C&M Nursery).  The other one is a seedling Duke.  Will only the seedling have a tap root (it's still 8" high and in a plastic 20 oz cup).

Unfortunately, although I check the gopher holes almost daily and put traps and chewing gum in some of them, there's no way I can control every gopher that comes my way by doing this...there are just too many tunnels.  It's just like with squirrels, the minute you relax and forget the be vigilant, there's one ready to strike(ie: eat!).

Any thoughts about this?


Thanks for the planting ideas.  I'm worried that the silty sand/sandy silt I'm planting in won't hold enough moisture to keep the avocado roots at the slightly moist level I've read they like.  If the feeder roots populate the mulch, they should get enough moisture if I keep it wet.  But what about any other roots that are spreading into the non-mulch area.  I lost a lot of young apple trees before I figured out how much they had to be watered in the summers here.

Patrick, unless gophers don't like avocado tree roots, I have to protect the trees.  I live on top of a gopher hill and the trees are going to be planted in an area that's combed with tunnels.  A few years ago I had a nice 5 year old apricot tree die on me and when I dug it out there were no roots...I found gopher tunnels leading through the rusted chicken wire basket it was planted in and the roots had been eaten down to nubs, leaving only the trunk of the tree.  What I've done with two other fruit trees where I used 24"-36" diameter hardware cloth baskets was to clip out parts of the 1/2" hardware cloth holes making them 1" holes.  It's very laborious and time consuming but I don't know any other way to protect the trees.  Do you know how large avocado roots will get out about 18" from the trunk?  And do you think the roots would find their way through holes that are large enough?

I have gopher traps, and I put juicy fruit gum into the tunnels and that keeps the population down, and I might even put broken glass in the main tunnels...but just like with squirrels, they rise early and are active all day long.  And there are a lot of tunnels that I'll never be able to get to.   It's impossible to be that vigilant, there's always going to be a new gopher in town that gets to the tree before I get to it. 

The soil, on the hillside where I want to plant some avocados, is called sandy silt/silty sand according to a soil test a few years ago.  I have a 2 month old Duke grown from seed and a 2 year old Fuerte (in a container) ready to plant.

The soil drains fairly quickly and doesn't seem to have much (or any) organic matter.  I'd like some suggestions for ways to amend the soil in the 2' x 2' hole I'm going to dig for the planting.  I'm going to go down more than the rootball depth because I have to put in a hardware cloth cage to stop gophers.

I also have my own mix of potting soil that I could use if that would work.  That consists of 1/3 compost, 1/3 Earthgro Ground Cover Bark run through 1/2" screen, and 1/3 used SuperSoil (mostly peat).  I also add gypsum to the potting soil.

I'd like to hear what others have done to improve the planting hole for the avocado tree.


Citrus General Discussion / Re: Grafting Tutorials by Joe Real
« on: October 19, 2016, 10:23:37 PM »
I was just  looking for and the Joe Real tutorials and came across this thread.  I'd never heard of the Wayback Machine...what a treasure.  Thanks for the links and the Wayback Machine.


I have some white latex primer paint.  Is primer ok to paint on a tree trunk?  Diluted 50% of course.

If it's sunburn, will the color just stay like that without harming the tree...or can it cause changes in the tree that lead to deterioration?

I swear the "add image to post" was not there before.  I tried using the "insert image" icon but that didn't work.  I'll try again now, and thanks for that. 

You'll see my avocado trunk isn't as blotchy as yours is.

These photos are from about ten months ago.  A few weeks ago the top 2 feet of the trunk (outside of these photos) had turned brown/black.  I cut it off.  The tree currently seems to be growing nice healthy branches, just as in these photos.  There is some green on the backside of the trunk, especially on the back of there these branches are growing...

I wouldn't say that I have black spots on the trunk...just that portions of it turned brown/black.  I sure wish I knew how to add photos here, the photos would describe the problem perfectly.

About 10 months ago my Fuerte avocado (still in container) trunk started turning brown.  The attached photos will show this.  For a while it didn't seem to be spreading any more, but a few months ago I noticed it had spread up to the top.  So I cut off the top two feet.

The tree in partially under the overhang of a large tree, so it get's some sun but is also shaded a bit from the late afternoon sun.

There are still some nice healthy looking young branches growing, just as in the photos, and I'm not sure what to do about this discoloration.  I don't want to plant it in the ground if there's some kind of terminal disease process going on. 

Can someone identify this problem?


ps...since I can't find any instructions on posting photos, I'm trying the "add image to post", but don't have any idea if it will work.  If there are no photos with this post, perhaps some kind soul will tell me how to post them.


Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: I tasted my first homegrown papaya today
« on: November 01, 2012, 06:10:29 AM »
What I'm doing to warm up my grow light plants in the winter...I have 4' T-5 fluorescent fixtures, 4 bulbs in each.  They're wide enough so I can hang some heavy plastic all the way around each fixture, down to below the edge of the base (that holds the plants).  That makes a mini greenhouse and there is enough heat from the T-5 bulbs and heat mat(s) to kick up the soil temperature, at least 5 degrees F more in the winter..  In the summer if it gets too hot, I just lift up one side of the plastic and pin it to the light chains, and of course the heat mat thermostat keeps the heat mat off a lot of the time.  In the warm months, I try to keep the soil temp from going over 85F, and except for the really hot days/weeks, it's usually around 80F.  The room I'm using is semi-basement, opening up to the afternoon sun, but it's 15-20 degrees cooler than the upstairs (in the summer) even the T-5 bulbs are providing enough heat to make a difference.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: I tasted my first homegrown papaya today
« on: October 28, 2012, 05:23:34 AM »
TNAndy, I hope you're still watching this thread.  I'd like to know how often you watered your papaya plants when they were indoors over the winter, especially in the coldest months.  This is important for me, I can't figure out if I'm killing my papayas by underwatering them or watering them at all.  I have them (they are still small) on heat mats and under grow lights...but when the room is cold (45F to 55F at night) the heat mats (cheapo do it yourself ones) can't get the soil temps above 60F-65F.  Your sunroom example gives me the idea to put some of my outdoor (container) papayas (still only 1.5ft tall) indoor on the floor where they'll benefit from the grow lights spillover and hopefully survive the winter that way.  I might even try putting a spare heat mat under them if I can figure out the effect it'll have on my electric bill.  But I think how to water is going to be the key to survivability.


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