Lemons, Weeds & Palm Trees

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Q. I’m curious as to why the leaves of large palm trees are tied up when they are being transported? Also, how long are they kept tied?

A. There are two reasons for this typical method of transporting palms. The horticultural reason is to protect the critical terminal bud from windburn and dehydration as palms have no lateral branches. The terminal bud is where the new leaves/fronds or growth originates. If this area is damage the mortality rate is huge. The second reason is to narrow the canopy so they can be transported on roads, highways and freeways without any special precautions. They are left tied up for several weeks to months depending on the time of the year, location and variety.

Q. I have a six-foot high Meyer lemon tree that is a wonderful producer. However, this past year some bug or animal has skinned the lemons even though they have remained attached to the tree. It is a very strange site to see a lemon with some or no white pith, exposed to the air. Have you ever heard of such of a thing happening before?A. Yes, I have. This is becoming more and more of an issue for gardeners as it’s happening to citrus, tomatoes and other edibles. It’s highly unlikely that a bug would be the cause of the problem. Their mouth parts are not large enough to due this type of damage. Also, it would take an army of insects to skin a lemon so you would see signs of their activity. It’s more likely a rodent or larger animal that feeds at night is the culprit. Raccoons, possums or roof rats are the primary suspects and roof rats would be my guess. A roof rat is dark brown to black and measures thirteen to eighteen inches in length including the tail. They weigh five to nine ounces, are slender, and their ears are large and nearly hairless. Although they will nest in structures, we do find outdoor nests in dense, thick, shrubby ground covers such as Cotoneasters, Junipers, Ceanothus, and Ivy. Roof rats are omnivorous. They feed on fresh fruit, plant material, nuts, seeds, vegetables and even tree bark. They can be a problem with birdseed, both in feeders and stored in bags along with dog and cat food. They love to eat citrus and tomatoes because it serves as both a food and water source, hence they visit vegetable gardens often during the summer. I’d look along the ground for droppings which are black, long and cylindrical. Controlling the problem outdoors is easier said than done. Your best options are trapping and habitat modification. Climbing vines or hedges on fences or buildings should be thinned as should overhanging tree limbs. Again this is easier said than done because they are so mobile and move effortlessly from yard to yard. I wouldn’t use poison baits because of the threat to domestic animals. Traps should be placed off the ground like on the fence runners as they are more likely to catch them there. Overall, your success rate will be low. Fortunately, they should leave your lemon alone once the rainy season starts.

Q. When is the best time to use a pre-emergent weed control?

A. Pre-emergent herbicides are those chemical weed killers that control seeds before they germinate in a landscape including turf. They can be applied year round but once the seeds develop roots they are ineffective. Hence, they can be applied over the top of existing plants without damaging them. Pre-emergent herbicides do not distinguish between good or unwanted seeds. When installing trees, shrubs, ground covers, seasonal color and perennials, pre-emergent herbicides are applied just before adding any mulch and watering. Moisture is the critical factor in activating the chemical barrier that kills the seeds. As long as you don’t break the barrier by cultivating, the pre-emergent herbicide should last a growing season. I’d double check the label for the specific time period of each product. With an established landscape, reapply pre-emergent herbicides annually in mid November to control the unwanted weed seeds that have blown in all summer long. In non-irrigated areas, it’s applied just before the first major rain of the season. Pre-emergent herbicides are only applied to an established turf, January through March. Bonide Crabgrass Preventer and Preen are two granular pre-emergent herbicides while Monterey Weed Impede is a liquid. Also, they cannot be used as a pre-plant before laying sod or sowing seed.  With all herbicides, get second opinion from a nursery professional at your favorite garden center, so, you don’t make a critical mistake.


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