Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Salt Build Up in Soils

The following is a text message between a friend of mine in California and myself regarding his fruit trees and why the leaves are browning at the tips. If you have similar questions and would like to be featured on this blog, please call, text, email or message me pictures of your trees.

JB: Do you Know what I can treat my avocado tree with to help with the browning leaves? it has made a lot of the leaves already fall off. It is also happening to my peach and plum trees.

Russ: Lack of water.. I know you are probably thinking. "I water my trees regularly!" So, it's not that you are not watering it enough, it usually means the tree is unable to draw the water up from the roots, and there are at least three things that could cause this.

First, Over watering could cause the roots to rot. Scratch the soil around the base and see if it smells rotten.

Second, nematodes or other soil bound organism attacking the root system. this is nearly impossible for the average back yard gardener to diagnose.

Third, and most likely...because all of the trees are suffering and because of the time of the year, you probably have salt build up in the soil.

Most water has lots of dissolved minerals that build up over the summer, especially in dry climates or drought conditions. This salt build up will prevent the tree from accessing the water that is present in the ground. Best thing to do is to prevent the build up of salts by minimizing the watering. Sounds like the opposite of what you should do, but it's important to keep the water that you put in the ground, in the ground. Put mulch around the base of the tree, do less often, deeper waterings, amend the soil around the base of the tree with organic matter and use rain water as much as possible. (Collect the water that falls off the roof in large barrels and us that instead of the hose.)

Hope that helps!

For now you can try to push the salts down in the soil by leaving the hose on really low over night. Just make sure it has a chance to dry out before you water it again.

JB: Amend the soil with organic matter? I water it every few days with the hose about 1-2 gallons.

Russ: Get some well aged compost, and spread a 1 inch layer out to the drip line (the farthest edge of the tree's canopy) and use a hand rake to work it into the soil two to three inches deep. It would be better to water the trees ten to twelve gallons once weekly. Depends on the size of the tree though. How big are the peach and plum?

JB: Can I buy the compost at a store? Similar to manure?

Russ: In the picture you sent me of the avacado, make the dish of soil that holds the water twice as wide and fill the entire dish with medium shred bark mulch. For amendment don't use manure! Look for something that says forest compost.You should be able to buy it at the store in bags. Or make your own with leaves and kitchen scraps.

JB: Plum tree hasn't produced anything this year.

Russ: That one looks stressed, like lack of water. The leaves are small and sickly. To conserve water, lots of fruit trees won't fruit. Pull up the grass around the base and build a large shallow dish out to the drip line and fill the dish with mulch.

JB: Peach tree, only produced about 5 small ones and they dropped before they could grow. Both trees are about 7-8 feet tall.

Russ: The Peach looks good with water, I would move those blocks, mulch and thin the branches. Looks like you lost some big branches in the past. The plum and peach need a good pruning. Should be done in the winter.

JB: It was before I moved to this address. The blocks are holding the tortoises shelter up. Ok, so I need to prune this winter.

Russ: Correct

JB: Ok thanks I'll probably get a hold of you later for help with that. Thanks Russ!

Russ: Any time!

For more information about some of the pruning terms used in this post, visit our website at and under the services tab, click on education.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Increase Light

Solar energy is becoming more and more popular as engineers improve efficiency and lower cost, yet plants have been harvesting energy from the sun before the existence of mankind. Before any other life was introduced to the earth plants were thriving on solar energy. As a matter of fact, plants are so efficient at harvesting the sun's energy that all other life forms on this earth rely directly or indirectly on the energy they store.
Energy Storage - Electricity vs Sugar
Solar panels and plants differ in that solar panels create electricity which is difficult to store and transport. Plants store energy in a very stable, efficient substance with the chemical make up C6 H12O6 (sugar). For every carbon atom there are two hydrogen and one oxygen atom, so another way to write the equation is 6 C (carbon) and 6 H2O (water). Plants take in CO2 (carbon dioxide gas) and water and with the energy from the sun they create sugar and emit oxygen as a byproduct.

To maximize your sugar generator's ability to create fruit, make sure you treat them like a solar panel. Plant them in full sun, open up the center of the tree so that light can penetrate the tree and touch each and every branch.
Solar Energy Converts Carbon and Water to Sugar
Sunlight is extremely important, but remember, for our formula to work you must also provide plenty of water and carbon dioxide. So water your tree regularly and your trees will have no shortage of carbon dioxide. I guess if you were worried about a CO2 shortage you could keep your car idling in the driveway, ... but I don't recommend it.

For more information about some of the pruning terms used in this post, visit our website at and under the services tab, click on education.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

What is the Drip Line of a Tree?

The drip line of a tree is the imaginary line on the ground at the furthest edge of a tree's canopy. You can see the dry mulch in the image below where rain has been blocked by the canopy, making the drip line perfectly visible.

Dripline of a Tree
Drip Line
What does "drip line" mean? During a rainstorm, trees catch precipitation and funnel it to the tip of each leaf. As moisture falls to lower leaves, it continues to move out until it reaches the edge of the canopy where it then falls to the ground. This is the "line" in which the moisture "drips" from the tree. The small, fibrous, feeder roots are located at the drip line where they can absorb moisture and other nutrients and send them to the rest of the tree. The roots between the drip line and the trunk have less to do with intake and more to do with anchoring and stabilization.

Drip Line of a Lemon
Water Dripping From Leaves
Fertilizing and watering of fruit trees should be done near the drip line instead of next to the trunk. When building a berm of soil around your tree to capture and hold water, make sure that it extends to the drip line. Also, fill the dish with a layer of organic mulch to help retain water and to minimize the growth of competing weeds that will rob the tree of moisture and nutrients.

Trees located in lawn areas should, ideally, be free of grass from the trunk out to the drip line.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Out With the New in With the Old!

Many life lessons can be learned in the garden. Take fruit tree pruning as an example. We remove damaged, broken, or unproductive branches at the beginning of the year so we can harvest good fruit in the fall. At the start of a new year we declutter our lives by removing old habits and set new goals for the future.

It's an ongoing joke that resolutions for the new year last about two weeks. Well, the two week mark is just around the corner. Do we still have that same fire to change? Maybe we didn't even try because history has taught us that the two week "joke" is not a joke at all. Maybe it's reality.

Before I cut away any weak, broken, or damaged branches from a tree, I cut away a lot of the new growth. I can't hardly see the tree until the water sprouts are removed. The water sprouts are very persistent. They are strong healthy branches that have sometimes grown more than 10 feet in length. Why cut so much growth? Because it doesn't produce fruit! Fruit is produced on older more mature wood. Healthy spurs take years to form. 

Type "self help industry statistics" in any search engine and you will see that billions of dollars are spent every year in the US on books, seminars, diets, and workouts. Well, before spending another dollar on self help remove all the popular persuasions competing for our self indulgence and stand back to take a good look at what is really fruitful.

The purpose of fruit tree pruning is not to maximizing growth, although growth in young trees is desirable. The three main purposes for fruit tree pruning are as follows:
  • Increase light 
  • Increase airflow
  • Strengthen branches
Each to be discussed in detail in the following blog posts, but to summarize these three main purposes for pruning do the following respectively:
  • Increase energy absorption
  • Decrease susceptibility for disease
  • Improve the trees ability to withstand heavy loads
Growth in the garden that we call life is ok if you're young and have need to grow, but consider being fruitful this year. Adding to our lives for the sake of growth will only set us up for failure, so try removing from your life to increase energy, decrease illness, and strengthen your branches to better hold the fruitful abundance that you will develop this new year of 2014.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Protecting blossoms from frost and fruit from pests

Now that your trees are pruned, how do you protect them from frost? How and when do you start your pest control routine?

The following links will answer those questions and are provided by the Utah State Extension Service.

Critical Temperatures for Frost Damage on Fruit Trees

Information on Dormant Sprays and Frost Protection

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Pest Winter Home

Rotten Apple Still Hanging on Tree

 To minimize pest infestations make sure you clean up at the end of each season. Rotten fruit hanging from a tree, or scattered on the ground is a great place for pests to over winter. Leaves should also be raked up and disposed of to prevent powdery mildew and other fungi spores from re-infesting your trees.

For more information about some of the pruning terms used in this post, visit our website at and under the services tab, click on education.

Monday, April 1, 2013


Suckers are those branches that come up from the base of your tree that seem to just multiply every year! 

Suckers on a Young Pear Tree

The truth is, they do multiply every time you cut them! So how do you prevent them from getting worse? Don't cut them! Yes, they do need to be removed, but break them off or pull them in the spring while they are still soft and herbaceous. If they are too large to break or pull, make sure you cut them at a really sharp angle rather than flat. This will cause the branch to dry up and will minimize the chance of the sucker branching into multiple suckers the following year.

For more information about some of the pruning terms used in this post, visit our website at and under the services tab, click on education.