This column comes through the Grant County Extension Service out of New Mexico State University.
Question: What fruit trees are recommended for my area?
Karena, Dulce, NM
By guest contributor Dr. Gill Giese
Question: My husband and I are planting a few Marquette grape vines this year in Santa Fe. I would like to plant a tree approximately 8 feet from the vines. Could you recommend some trees that would be “a good idea” to plant close by? I read that planting a rose bush at the vines will help to indicate any diseases since the roses would get this first. Is this a good thing to do? Are rabbits a problem with grape vines? We have quite a few roaming freely. Should we protect the vines with a net around them?
with guest contributors Dr. Carol Sutherland and Dr. John Formby
Question: I took these photos on one of the piñon trees nearest our house. We have thousands of piñon here on our land and our neighbor’s land, some of which have died within 12–14 days of turning brown. We would hate to see an epidemic, but it does seem to be spreading. What is it and what should we do?
- Paula P., Mora, NM (submitted via NMSU Extension Agent for Mora County, Suzanne DeVos-Cole)
By guest contributor Dr. Leslie Beck
Question: Silverleaf nightshade and nutsedge are taking over parts of my yard! Please help. Organic control options are appreciated.
Helen B., Las Cruces, NM
Both are annual weeds with vengeful, spiny seeds, but sandbur (top) is a grass and goatheads (bottom) are a flowering, broadleaf species. Photos from the NMSU website here.
Question: Can you help me battle my weeds organically? I’ve got sandspurs and goatheads. Are there soil conditions weeds hate?
Helen B., Las Cruces, NM
Answer: Ouchie, that’s a nasty duo of weedy enemies. Most readers can commiserate all too well. Sandbur is a grass of the Cenchrus genus, also commonly referred to as “stickers” or “sandspurs.” Goatheads (Tribulus terrestris), also known as “puncturevine,” have tiny yellow flowers; delicate, compound leaves; and spiny seeds that are even meaner and tougher than sandburs. Many people mistakenly call sandburs “goatheads,” and I understand why. Both have spiny seeds. Both get all tangled in your socks and shoelaces when you’re not looking. Here’s the quickest way to tell the difference: place one of each seed type on the floor and then step on them both while barefoot. They both hurt, but pay attention to the depth of the pain and the length of time that pain persists. The goathead spines feel like they punctured all the way up to your knee and the spot of contact may ache for over an hour. You’re welcome.
Question: The Texas red oak, live oak, and pecan trees in my yard were looking bad going into the fall, as were my neighbor’s honey locust and maple. When I searched for problems online, I found different possible pests and diseases for each tree. Can you help me narrow down the possibilities?
Richard V., Hobbs, NM
Answer: This is Part II of the column on diagnosing tree problems. Last week, we learned that water stress and weed whacker injury are the most common tree problems in our landscapes, and that the rooting area necessary for large trees to survive and grow is much bigger than most folks realize.
We also touched on the reasons why symptoms are rarely sufficient for conclusive diagnosis of a tree disorder. This is partly because symptoms may point to secondary or tertiary problems. Many—but not all—insect pests and pathogens are more likely to attack trees that are already stressed.
Plant stressors can be broadly divided into two categories: biotic and abiotic. Biotic stressors are caused by living or once-living organisms, like insects, bacterial and fungal pathogens, and animal pests.
Nature's Notebook is a national, online program with the USA National Phenology Network that uses amateur and professional naturalists to record plant and animal observations in a given location over time. The steps for becoming a volunteer are straightforward. And you can set your backyard as a location or pick a public space and get a group to sign up together (Visit Nature's Notebook here).