Garden dectective: pomegranate tree

Published: Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 11CALIFORNIA LIFE

My mom's pomegranate tree has very low fruit yield. It's been low for several years. Most of the blossoms just fall off.

Could you give me some helpful hints on how to take care of this old tree and help it produce more fruit?

– Yumi Tenario, Vacaville

Pomegranates, after the winter rains cease, require deep watering once a month, according to the UC master gardeners. But too much water can cause flower drop in late spring and will also cause fruit to split in the fall. Over-irrigation may be causing this tree to drop its blooms before fruit set.

A moderate amount of high-nitrogen fertilizer – a cupfull, scattered under the tree, scratched into the ground and watered in – should be sufficient for this old tree.

How is the tree pruned? Severe pruning may be eliminating too much mature wood. Those mature branches produce growth upon which fruit will form.

Pomegranates are both self-pollinated and cross- pollinated by bees. They also need a minimum of six hours of sun a day to produce fruit.

This may not be a garden query, but perhaps for zoology, and hopefully, it is nothing for inquiry of outer space. I'm puzzled.

I pulled out a dead mature azalea bush and found this odd object between the outside of the root ball and the wall of the 15-inch pot. This bright pink-orange object was in part of a sac, which was opaque white and flimsy. The coral contents spilled out immediately.

I took a photo. One part looked like the end of a chicken wing. It was glistening, but there was no movement, pulsation or quivering. I found nothing else like this in the roots.

I rushed away for tongs to pick up the empty sac, which looked to have been larger. The sac began to harden immediately. The coral-colored "chicken wing" began to lose its moist appearance. By evening, it was much drier.

The next morning, all the coral pieces were gone. The empty sac I had saved in a plastic bag shrank and hardened, so I threw it away.

I am surprised that the azalea died as it had plenty of water, but the rootball was quite dry. I thank you for any help with this weird thing. My family is curious, too.

– Doris Pichly, Sacramento

After examining your photo of the coral invader, the UC master gardeners determined that a space alien didn't kill your azalea.

The strange object in your azalea pot was one of the funguslike organisms that develop in wood and forest products such as wood chips and sawdust. Some commercial potting soils contain a small amount of aged sawdust.

Some of these growths are called "slime molds." They are white, yellow or orange in color and grow to many odd shapes. Slime molds – which can look slimy, but are not actually mold – often pop up in mulch and can grow up to one foot across.

Slime molds are not plant, animal or fungus, but soil-dwelling single-celled organisms. Hundreds of species exist. And, as you might have guessed, many people believe slime mold inspired the 1958 sci-fi classic "The Blob."


Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties.

Send questions to Garden Detective, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Send email to h& Please put "Garden Detective" in the subject field and include your postal address.

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