Q: After planting a blood orange tree in our front yard, nothing happened for years. Finally, it started to produce oranges and did so for several years. But last year, once again, it gave no blossoms or fruit. We watered it and fertilized it and trimmed the dead branches but nothing helped. Do you have any idea what could be wrong?
!ital!_ Barney and Erva Gale
Mission Hills A: The fact that it took a number of years for your blood orange tree to produce is not unusual. It often takes fruit trees several years, if not longer, to yield a significant harvest. The process involves the tree getting used to the microclimate around your house. Elaborate preparation of the planting hole, which should be several times the diameter of the tree’s root ball, with soft topsoil and compost mixed in with the backfill to ensure good drainage, will hasten the production of fruit on newly planted trees.
It is somewhat strange that shortly after your tree started to produce fruit it suddenly stopped. I suspect that cultural conditions are to blame. Perhaps a shade tree near your blood orange has taken away its light, water or minerals. If your blood orange was planted in a lawn, you could have a similar problem of competition since lawns readily gobble water and fertilizer meant for fruit trees planted in their midst. Be careful not to overfertilize, since fruit trees pampered in this way will give lots of foliage at the expense of flower and fruit production. Q: About three weeks ago, I noticed what appeared to be a cottonlike beard hanging down from one of my hibiscus plants. Not knowing what this was I took a hose and washed it off. I noticed little white flies flying off. I went to the Internet searching for some advice and found a nontoxic remedy, which I applied. This was 1 tablespoon of detergent per gallon of water. I sprayed the plant and I think this may have saved it. Since then I’ve noticed this bearded problem on many other plants in my yard. I’ve sprayed again today but was wondering if this method is really going to get rid of these pests. Is this year particularly bad for this problem? I’ve lived in the same house for nine years and have never seen this.
!ital!_ Bob Abraham A: Giant white flies have discovered your garden. A problem for nearly a decade in southern California, giant white flies came here from Guadalajara, Mexico. Attempts have been made to control giant white fly with releases of parasitic wasps but the results, so far, have been disappointing.
The first step to combat giant white fly is to drastically prune your plants so that all infested leaves are removed. Then you need to regularly hose down your plants to keep new white fly infestations from getting out of hand. It really is a constant battle with the pruning shears and the hose to keep the giant white fly at bay.
Fall is generally the worst time of year for giant white fly infestations. With proper pruning, this pest generally disappears in winter and spring, starts coming back strong in the warm weather of summer and reaches its heyday in the fall. There is no chemical solution to this problem. TIP OF THE WEEK: Terry Layman, a reader from Natalia, Texas, sent the following e-mail: “I control gophers with spinning daisy wheels, which spin in any slight breeze. This spinning creates a vibration in the wheel’s metal rod (sunk in the soil) which is transferred underground. A gopher doesn’t like this noise and will move from the area. Each wheel is good for a diameter of 50 feet.”