Prevent Citrus Leafminer

obj6014geo3317pg352p7[1]Watch for Citrus Leafminer
Citrus leafminers have been regular visitors to Tri-Valley gardens over the past few years. They burrow into the citrus leaf and cause extensive damage to tender new growth. The leafminers thrive in the fresh new growth that is occurring now. Leaf

Leafminers originate when the tiny adult moth lays her eggs, they hatch, and the leafminer or larva burrows below the leaf surface. Hiding out between the upper and lower leaf surfaces makes Leafminers hard to control with sprays. Younger trees are especially vulnerable. Older trees, having a lot of older, tougher leaves should be fine without treatment but younger trees can be especially hard hit as most of their leaves are susceptible to damage.

As we come up on that time of year when prevention can be the best cure, we are getting the word out regarding what can be done to lessen the negative impact while there is time to take preventative steps.

Discouraging an over- abundance of new growth can be helpful in reducing damage. Plants that are watered more than 2x a week, and those receiving excessive fertilizing are more likely to produce the soft foliage that leafminers favor. Our grower recommends a steady, light supply of citrus food monthly as opposed to heavier feedings 3 times a year, as is common.

Hang Leafminer traps to detect proper time for spraying.

Hanging Leafminer traps can be an effective tool for knowing when to spray… hang traps in at least one of your citrus trees and monitor frequently so you can spot the arrival of adult moths.

Of greatest concern when applying any pesticide is protecting bees. Only apply pesticides after the citrus trees have bloomed so bees are not drawn to pollen while the tree is being treated. Citrus trees, for the most part, have long past their bloom period now, but pinching out flower buds if they appear after spraying will prevent the bees from visiting a plant that has been treated.

captain-jacks-rtuCaptain Jack’s is our go to organic spray. It has shown to be an effective treatment for the leafminer, especially when applied between the time adult moths arrive and young leafminers are visible.

Citrus trees are clothed in new foliage. Watch for activity then spray every 10-14 days. Watch closely for leafminer activity and pinch out effective leaves as soon as damage is detected.

Tasty Tropicals

Vivid green kiwis, buttery avocados, red strawberry guavas, plump passion fruits . . . all grown at home. Wait – what? You mean we can grow luscious tropical fruits right here in the Tri-Valley? I thought our Sunset Zone 14 (USDA Zone 9) winters were too cold for tropicals!

While it’s true we are a bit too cold for many truly tropical plants which come from a climate with nary a frost, with a little imagination and shift in our thinking we can grow lots of similar fruits which can withstand a bit of cold below 32 degrees. Many of these are from sub-tropical regions of the world. Not only will you be adding delicious treats to your yard, you also gain gorgeous assets in your landscape.

Lots of theses plants will look right at home in a landscape themed with layers of palms, large-leaved shrubs, and bright, hot flower colors, straight from your most recent vacation to the tropics. Plant them in sheltered spots in your yard – up close to your house on the south or the east side is a good spot for the most frost tender. Most like a minimum of six hours of sunshine to produce well. And think frost protection for at least the first few years – cover with frost blankets over the tops and down to the ground, and/or wrap with small incandescent Christmas lights for extra warmth.

Try growing a couple of these juicy edible tropicals:

  • Avocados – yes, challenging, but can be done! Pick a sheltered spot, and choose one of the hardier Mexican varieties, like ‘Stewart’, ‘Mexicola Grande’, ‘Fuerte’, or ­‘Zutano’. They ripen 6 to 8 months after flowering.
  • Bananas – though you won’t harvest any fruit, what a great accent plant, and probably the best way to grow your own plates!
  • Guavas – so many sub-tropical varieties! They are beautiful, small scale, easy to grow, evergreen trees or large shrubs which deserve a place in every yard. Consider flavors like Pineapple ‘Nazemetz’ or ‘Coolidge’; Strawberry; Lemon; Chilean with its fine-textured little round leaves; or the stunningly beautiful variegated Chilean Guava.
  • Kiwis – funny fuzzy little fruits from down under grow on vines overhead. It takes two to produce and they need a few years to settle in. Or try self-fruitful ‘Issai’ hardy kiwi vines, which are fuzzless.
  • Limes – add some sweet/sour zest to your Mexican and Caribbean dishes. ‘Bearss’ lime is an all purpose juicy workhorse, while the smaller, rounder Mexican lime dazzles in cocktails and for eating fresh.
  • Loquat – easy growing and tropical looking with its coarse texture and serrated large leaves. Try loquat for virtually effortless clusters of fruit.        
  • Passion Fruit – exquisite, weirdo purple and white and green flowers like something off a space ship give way to green, then purple hanging orbs with sweet orangy-citrusy pulp inside. Try spooning it out.

To grow tropicals, practice good soil preparation incorporating lots of compost. We recommend Bumper Crop. Raise up planting beds, and add Sure Start at planting. Mulch well, and water deeply, allowing ­plantings to dry down a bit between soaks.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor!


Planting and Growing Citrus

Citrus are the most versatile of the trees and shrubs that grow in our valley. They can be grown as specimens, in hedges, as espalier or in containers. Citrus plants offer beautiful foliage, decorative fruit, and fragrant flowers. Growing citrus can be easy; the difficulty is in selecting the variety which you will enjoy the most.

Growing Citrus

Choosing the Site
citrus-planting-diagramCitrus prefer a hot south or west facing location with good draining soil. Test how well the soil drains by digging a 1’x1′ hole. Fill it with water. The water must be gone in 24 hours. Citrus should not be planted in a low or soggy spot that has poor drainage or in a lawn. If the water does not drain it may be necessary to raise the overall soil level by creating a mound or building a planting box or look for an alternate planting location. An open-bottom-box measuring 3’x3′ wide and 8″ deep makes a great raised bed. A reflective wall or fence is helpful and planting a citrus under the south or west facing eve of the house will provide some important protection from winter cold temperatures.

Preparing the Planting Hole
Dig a hole three times as wide as the root ball and just as deep as the root ball. The edges of the planting hole should then be dug out deeper than the center to accommodate additional soil amendments. (See Illustration)

Improve the existing soil from the planting hole with Master Nursery Acid Planting Mix at a ratio of 75% Planting mix to 25% existing soil. To this improved soil, add the appropriate amount of Master Nursery Master Start and Osmocote Slow Release Fertilizer, mix thoroughly.

Plant by carefully removing it from its container. Gently rough the outer edges of the root ball if the soil is tight, and place it in the hole so that the top of the root ball rests slightly higher than the existing ground level (never place any soil above the root ball, covering the stem). Back-fill around the root ball with the improved soil mixture. Tamp to compress the soil as you go. Use some of the extra soil to build a circular dam around the new plant to hold a generous quantity of irrigation water.

Water the plant thoroughly after you have finished planting it. Let the water soak in, and then water again. Citrus plants need less frequent watering than most garden plants. Give it a deep soak once or, at most twice a week, depending on the weather, (frequent watering is the most common cause of failure with citrus). However, to preserve the crop, never let the plant dry out during the bloom & pea-sized fruit stages.


Prevent Worms in Cherries

Spotted Wing Drosophila or Cherry Fruitfly is affecting cherries and other soft-bodied fruits such as berries in California.  Numerous gardeners have complained about finding the little white worms in cherries just at harvest time.

These worms are the larvae of a fruit fly that has been a pest in Japan for decades but somehow made it to the US.  It has no known enemies in the US, so it has spread, unchecked, like wildfire.  This pest has turned up in raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries, but especially Cherries.

The University of California at Davis has guidelines for dealing with the past so homeowners can preserve their harvests.  For a detailed look at the problem check out the UC website:

Summarizing the approach suggested is as follows:

Good control can be achieved with a few well-timed pesticide sprayings beginning when the earliest maturing variety in the orchard is just starting to turn from green to straw-colored.

Spray trees using Spinosad or Malathion. Spinosad is Organic and has been seen to yield successful results, so it’s the preferred solution

Traps should also be set to determine if the fruit flies are present. Directions for making traps are included in links below.

It has been said that no treatment is effective unless the entire tree can be sprayed.

Helpful Links

Oregon State Extension has a nice collection of videos to help wth the control of Spotted Wing Drosophila Fly.



Prevent Wormy Apples – Controlling Codling Moths

damage from codling moths and larva
traps for codling moths

If you have apple trees and want to monitor codling moths to determine the best time to spray, use our Codling Moth Traps.

Periodically looking into the trap in search of captured moths will alert you as to when the moths are present and therefore when to spray.
When codling moths first appear (usually when about 3/4 of the flower petals have fallen from the tree), wait one week and spray every 10 days with Captain Jack’s, (Spinosad) for 3 applications. Some gardeners have had satisfactory results spraying only Captain Jack’s, which is organic, others start with a single application of Sevin, which is not organic, followed up with 3 sprayings of Captain Jack’s. Replace traps monthly and repeat spray regime after additional generations of moths are trapped.

Replace traps monthly and repeat spray regime after additional generations of moths are trapped.

Check out the UC Cooperative Extension Service website for more detailed options.

Remineralize Your Soil

Azomite is flour-fine rock dust

California’s big Central Valley is the breadbasket of the nation. Its alluvial soils are rich and friable because centuries of seasonal flooding have deposited minerals from the eroding Sierras into the fertile lowlands.

Alluvial soils are perfect for growing crops partly because they are so full of minerals and nutrients.  Adding minerals to your own soil using rock dust is similar to centuries of valley flooding. Spread a 40 lb. bag of rock powder around your landscape 3 to 4 times a year. Gardeners doing so have achieved noticeable improvements, not only in leaf color and vigor but in fruit and vegetable flavor and production as well.

Where do you suppose vegetables get their nutrient content from… “the soil” Azomite replenishes and enhances the soil. Azomite® powdered rock is a naturally mined mineral product with 70 micro-nutrients rarely available in one place. It is odorless, won’t burn your plants and won’t restrict aeration or water penetration. Unlike some products, Azomite® powdered rock is not a manufactured, chemically prepared fertilizer. It is 100% natural with no additives, synthetics or fillers.

Azomite® has been shown to loosen hard soils, build healthy, more pest-resistant and drought-tolerant plants and promote lusher growth. Use Azomite® powdered rock to improve all your gardening and landscape areas from lawns and vegetable plots to compost piles and enjoy:

  • Increased fruit and flower production
  • Increased vitamin content in your fruits and vegetables
  • Better tasting fruits and vegetables
  • Increased pest and disease resistance and greater cold tolerance in all your plants
  • Lawns with better color while using less fertilizer

Best of all, Azomite® powdered rock is easy and economical to apply – one 40 pound bag can cover 1000 square feet. Azomite® powdered rock – gardens and landscapes have not had it this good since the last ice age.

Citrus Suffering from Yellow Leaves

Citrus tree with yellow leaves
Restore the green color to yellow leaves of citrus and other evergreen shrubs

Citrus plants often suffer from yellow leaves. The same can be said of other acid loving plants. Yellowing leaves are usually related to low fertility, alkaline soils, or low levels of available iron.

Citrus food can address the fertility, Iron Sulfate or Soil Sulfur can improve the soil pH by steering alkaline soils toward acid, both make the existing iron in surrounding soil more available to the plant.  Iron Sulfate also adds additional iron for quicker nutrient uptake.

Our citrus grower recommends a little bit of citrus fertilizer each month of the year. (Calculate the annual supply of fertilizer needed for your citrus tree by reading the fertilizer bag, then divide the whole quantity by 12 to determine your monthly dose).

We also recommend treating the soil with either Soil Sulfur or Iron Sulfate 3 times a year.  Now is an ideal time because remaining rains will carry these products down into the soil. The impending spring growth will benefit immediately from this nutrient blast. Iron products such as Iron Sulfate help prevent yellow leaves on citrus, azaleas, and camellias and also keep a lawn greener with less mowing.

Products containing iron can stain paving. Take extra precautions to be sure you don’t stain your patio or driveway.

Plants take nutrients up from the soil most efficiently when soil pH is neutral or slightly acidic. pH Adjuster Plus gently acidifies the soil and allows nitrogen, iron and other essential nutrients and elements to be released for uptake by plant roots. Apply these granular products over the soil surface and let the rain water them in. The end result is a healthier, more beautiful plant with brighter, greener foliage.

pH Adjuster Plus is a pelletized soil sulfur that is much easier to apply than more conventional soil sulfur (no annoying dust).

Almost all plants will appreciate 2 to 3 applications per year but those plants that respond most dramatically to a pH adjustment include citrus, blueberries, camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons, gardenias and other plants that develop a seasonal yellowing of the leaf related to iron chlorosis. Most likely you can think of at least one plant you have around your home that suffers from leaf yellowing. Apply and then water or time your application to let winter rains do the watering for you.

Magnesium Sulfate has also shown to have a great greening effect.  A little bit goes a long way and should only be applied twice a year; once in early spring and again in early fall.

Dormant Spray for Fungus Control

February into Spring (About Valentines)
The timing of the dormant spray  spring sprayings for various fruit trees can be crucial and focuses on fungus control.

Leaf curl on nectarines and peaches is controlled with an application of  Bonide Liquid Copper Fungicide when flower buds swell but before they show any color.

To control brown rot and shot hole fungus on stone fruits, spray Bonide Liquid Copper Fungicide when the buds crack and show color, then again 2 weeks later.

For control of fire blight in apples and pears, (if your trees have a history of fire blight,) Spray with Bonide Liquid Copper Fungicide every 5 days during the bloom cycle.

Additional spring spraying will minimize wormy apples & pears. To properly time these sprayings, hang Codling Moth Traps in one of your fruit trees just before blossom time. When codling moths first appear (usually when about 3/4 of the flower petals have fallen from the tree), wait one week and spray with GardenTech Sevin once, and then spray weekly with Captain Jack’s Spinosad mixed with Bonide All season Spray Oil for 2-3 weeks.

Replace traps monthly and repeat spray regime after additional generations of moths are trapped.


Grow your own Luscious Fruit

Warm, juicy fruit picked fresh from your personal backyard orchard and garden will cause your taste buds to stand up and clamor for more! Nothing could be easier and it doesn’t require acres just a small plot in the garden. Today’s multi-grafted fruit trees and high-density plantings should give you plenty of tasty fruit to enjoy.

We have a tremendous inventory of fruit trees, berries, and grapes available for your selection. All of our trees are pre-planted in biodegradable pots which stop damage to the roots and prevents them from drying out.

Try rhubarb, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, and many other fruits, small and large. All those luscious fruit pies start this winter with bare root starts.

Remember fruit trees are very versatile in the garden. They provide shade, hide unwanted views and provide seasonal color as well. Grow an espaliered apple or pear along your fence or wall, train a grape or kiwi up over an arbor or trellis, plant a dwarf peach or apple in a container on your deck. If space is limited a multi-grafted tree producing different varieties of the same fruit could be the answer – it will give you a summer of fruit!

Try a tasty pluot, peach or nectarine. We have many, many varieties of peaches and nectarines – white or yellow, sweet and juicy ripening from May through September and multiple varieties of grapes – black, red and white, seedless or not, to keep your table supplied from July to October.

So come in and meet our expert staff. Whether you have space for a whole orchard or just a single tree, come in and see our extensive selection and soon you’ll be picking ripe fruit from your garden.

January Pruning

What to Prune When

pruning[1]We have officially entered pruning season. Most leafless plants are fair game for pruning right now…exception: Plants like ornamental flowering cherries and plums lilac, hydrangeas that bloom once a year and are leafless now should only be pruned just after they bloom…(otherwise you will be cutting off next spring’s blooms). Most other plants, including roses, fruit trees, Japanese maples and shade trees can be pruned in December and January. Say “can” be pruned as opposed to “must ” be pruned because many plants are fine with little or no pruning. Take advantage of our upcoming free pruning classes, listed below.

Upcoming Pruning Classes

Learn the basics to shape deciduous trees and shrubs, prune fruit trees properly, or get any of your own pruning questions answered. Call 925 447-0280 to register for classes.

Saturday, January 14th for our ever popular ROSE CARE & PRUNING SEMINAR led by the Mt. Diablo Rose Society from 10 – 11:00 a.m. – Seminar will cover proper pruning techniques, feeding, and general care or roses.

Saturday, January 21st from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. ROSE CARE & PRUNING SEMINAR – by Gerry, Alden Lane staff member. – This seminar will cover proper pruning techniques, feeding, and general care or roses.

Saturday, January 21st from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. GRAPE PRUNING with expert, Jim Ryan.

Saturday, January 28th from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. for the last PRUNING BASICS CLASS. Learn the basics to shape deciduous trees and shrubs, prune fruit trees properly, or get any of your own pruning questions answered.

Saturday, February 4th from 1-2 pm. Get Your Maples Ready For Spring!
Join Japanese Maple expert, Barry Hoffer – He will discuss proper pruning, in-ground and container planting along with root pruning.  There’s something for everyone. Call to reserve your spot in this informational class. Call 925 447-0280