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GARDEN DOCTORS

Pomegranate blossoms drop

Dana Lozano and Gwen Kilchherr.

Published: Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 3:58 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 10:09 a.m.

Mary Kate Dreyer writes: "I have a 10-year-old pomegranate bush. It has set blooms twice now, and they get to the semi-open stage and then they drop off. I can't figure out why this is happening. I don't believe that I am over- or under-watering."

Yes, one of the main reasons for blossom drop is indeed too much or not enough water. How much is too much and how much is too little water? This is a very frustrating question that faces all gardeners, especially with the extreme temperature changes the last few summers that can influence whether you have bloom drop.

Sprinkler-type irrigation can be applied every one to three weeks during the summer heat, depending again on your soil type. Check the soil with a long screwdriver or trowel, making sure your have provided enough water to wet the soil to a depth of 18 to 24 inches. (This is your guideline to check if you have applied too much or not enough water.)

Drip irrigation has become an effective and efficient way of irrigating and there are many different types of emitters on the market. Avery effective type is a ¼-inch inline that can be configured to surround the base of the tree and deliver equal amounts of water around the root ball.

Plus, it provides moisture for fertilizer to be effective over the growing season.

Mini-sprinklers have also become popular. Drip irrigation can be attached to a faucet with a timer to ensure regular and consistent watering. Check with your local irrigation specialists to find out what is best for you and your soil type. They can also help you determine the amount and frequency of irrigation.

Following are some cultural guidelines for growing pomegranates that may help you identify and solve your problem of premature bloom drop.

Poor drainage resulting in a soggy soil can result in blossom drop, so mulch, mulch, mulch — which in turn will help break up the soil and lead to better soil health. (This is also recommended for sandy soil.)

Lightly fertilize your 10-year-old pomegranate tree with nitrogen (21-0-0 ammonium sulfate fertilizer) over the course of the growing season. Young trees should receive nitrogen fertilizer in March, May and July.

An easy way to determine the correct amount is to use a 12-ounce juice can as a simple measuring device and apply about a third of a can at each fertilizing. (Remember, more is not better!) Immediately water in the fertilizer to avoid nitrogen loss.

Prune during the months of late November and December, cutting back smaller branches to ¥ of an inch to ¼ of an inch for larger flowers. Also remove any suckers and water sprouts that are quick to develop each season. Open up the tree to allow more sunlight by eliminating crossing, broken and diseased branches.

Is your pomegranate tree receiving 6 hours or more of sunlight, the amount needed for fruit production? Over the years, nearby tree canopies can prevent sunlight from reaching sun-loving plants. If so, prune (open up) that nearby tree canopy for more sunlight penetration.

For those readers interested in more information about growing fruit and nut trees in your own garden, there is an excellent publication on the subject by University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Publication 3485. The title is "The Home Orchard, Growing Your Own Deciduous Fruit and Nut Trees."

This can be obtained/ordered by our local book stores or by contacting the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Communication Services, 6701 San Pablo Avenue, 2nd Floor, Oakland, CA 94608-1239.

Janice writes: "I tried planting rhubarb with no luck. It simply rotted away. What went wrong? I am going to try again with a bare-root variety called 'Victoria.'"

You planted the crown of the rhubarb with its bud too deep. Make sure this time that the crown surface is a little above the soil level — say at least one-quarter of an inch. Rhubarb should have good drainage, be planted in sun to part shade and next fall (provided all goes well), give it a small amount of a high nitrogen fertilizer.

You chose a good variety of rhubarb that should do well in our area.

(Send your gardening questions to The Garden Doctors at pdgardendoctor@gmail.com. The Garden Doctors can answer questions only through their column, which appears twice a month in the newspaper and online at pressdemocrat.com.)

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