Q: My Black Jack fig produced a few large figs early in the season, but for the last month the figs have been small, turning dark and dying. What could it be? The tree is about 40 years old and looks healthy.
A: Usually, when a tree (or other fruit-bearing plant) produces fruit that is misshapen, small, or doesn’t develop, pollination is the problem. With figs, pollination is a bit difficult as the fruit is essentially an inverted flower (actually a whole bunch of flowers).
Figs are pollinated by tiny wasps small enough to get inside the fruit. Each fig species is pollinated by a unique species of wasp, so it’s important to provide a variety of wasp-friendly flowers. This will ensure that the right species of wasp shows up to get the job done.
We found that our fig tree bears the most fruit on its younger branches. Our tree has a multi-trunk shape, so every year we cut the oldest trunk down to the ground. This keeps the tree at a reasonably reasonable size and encourages new, more productive growth. Since your tree is so old, I’m not sure how well this tactic will work for you, but if you see some new growth after annual pruning, watch the new growth for productivity.
Q: How do I protect my tomatoes and cucumbers from rats, mice and rabbits?
A: A fence can keep rabbits out, but it should be narrow and partially buried. I like half-inch hardware fabric because it’s nearly impossible to chew through and otherwise very durable. When installing, partially bury it to prevent highly motivated rabbits from digging under it.
Mice and rats are a bit trickier. Mice are so small that they can easily squeeze through small gaps in your fence. Both rats and mice can climb, but prefer not to because it makes them visible to predators. Keep tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and other vine plants off the ground by propping them up. This may not be 100% foolproof, but should reduce damage.
If possible, remove or move any hiding places such as woodpiles or scrap wood. Owls can consume an enormous number of rodents, so you should make their job easier.
Do not use bait as it will poison owls and other helpful predators. Sticky traps should never be used outdoors as they are likely to harm non-target wildlife.
Snap traps and electrocution traps are humane, but must be cleaned and reset. A quick internet search reveals several ways to capture a variety of rodents with either a large bucket or a trash can, using an ingenious method to lure them in. The problem is that you then have to figure out what to do with a bucket full of mice or a trash can full of rats.
I would recommend fences and trellises.
Are you looking for more gardening tips? Here’s how to contact the Master Gardener program in your area.
Los Angeles District
firstname.lastname@example.org; 951-683-6491 ext. 231;
County of San Bernardino
https://www.ocregister.com/2022/10/01/master-gardener-how-to-keep-rodents-and-other-critters-out-of-the-garden/ How to keep rodents and other critters out of the yard – Orange County Register