What to do with a fig tree with curly leaves and a plum tree with yellowed and disfigured leaves – press enterprise

Q: My fig tree looks in distress lately. I watered it regularly, but the leaves are curled up, drooping and drying out. I also have a plum tree that looks sad. All new leaves turn yellow and curl up. This tree was also watered regularly. What could be the problem?

A: Your fig tree looks really, really sad. One of your photos shows a crack in the trunk, so that could be the source of the problem. Sometimes when a tree receives a lot more water than usual, the cambium swells and splits the trunk. This can happen after heavy rains or accidental over-irrigation.

Another possible cause could be the activity of ground squirrels. Waffles really love fig roots, and their underground nibbling could be disastrous for a sapling. Grab the main trunk and try to move it back and forth. If it moves, the roots have probably been eaten.

If you manage to kill the gopher and backfill its tunnel, the tree might recover. Prune it to reduce water loss from the leaves and watch for new ground squirrel activity. Fig trees are easy to start from cuttings, so you can push some of the pruned wood into the ground to start a new tree.

The plum tree looks quite beautiful, except for the new, deformed leaves. Remove a few new leaves and unroll them. Aphids will target tender new growth, so look for tiny green, yellow or black soft-bodied insects. Aphids are numerous but smelly, so they can be easily removed by spraying a stream of water directly on them. It can be time consuming (and messy), but it’s efficient, inexpensive, and eco-friendly.

Wherever there are aphids, there will likely be ants. If you see ants climbing the tree, place a granular bait around the base of the tree. Tanglefoot, properly applied, will prevent ants from climbing the tree. Once the ants are ruled out, predatory insects will appear and feast on the remaining aphids.

Refraining from using broad spectrum pesticides will protect beneficial insects which reduce the number of pests. If you use the “scorched earth” approach and kill all the insects, the pests will come back sooner than the beneficial ones.

Learn more about goldfinches

Oops! A few weeks ago, I answered a question from a reader who was having trouble with their sunflower leaves. Something was eating them, but there were no caterpillars or other critters present. My mind immediately turned to the pests, but I didn’t consider any other possibility. Soon I heard from many readers (and a few other master gardeners) that goldfinches love to eat sunflower leaves! So I am corrected.

The second part of the question: What can you do to keep birds away from sunflower leaves? Since the damage wasn’t too much, I just let them eat and enjoy their presence. If there are too many birds causing too much damage, drape duct tape to scare them away.

Have questions? Send an email to gardening@scng.com.

Looking for more gardening tips? Here’s how to contact the Master Gardener program in your area.

Los Angeles County

mglosangeleshelpline@ucdavis.edu; 626-586-1988; http://celosangeles.ucanr.edu/UC_Master_Gardener_Program/

Orange County

ucceocmghotline@ucanr.edu; 949-809-9760; http://mgorange.ucanr.edu/

Riverside County

anrmgriverside@ucanr.edu; 951-683-6491 ext 231; https://ucanr.edu/sites/RiversideMG/

San Bernardino County

mgsanbern@ucanr.edu; 909-387-2182; http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/

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