Sunday | October 23, 2016
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Will new soil save grove of ailing trees?

Hi Nick, I look forward to reading your column in the paper each week, I have learned a lot from you. Thanks!

We bought property down in Kapoho Vacationland Farmlots a year ago. The property is mostly a‘a lava with a nice forest of ohia trees. The previous owner had bulldozed a few spots for gardens and fruit trees, but he didn’t maintain them. I used a few of his holes that he dug for fruit trees and replanted. I planted a tangelo, Tahitian lime, grapefruit and Meyers lemon last September. I mixed in a bit of new soil, dolomite and mulch for the new trees. They are all barely hanging on — they have sprouted a few new leaves but not many. I have continued to add chicken manure and other organic fertilizers hoping to give them what they need. A friend suggested that I remove the trees (placing them in a bucket of water) and take out all the old soil mixture, then start over with new soil. Do you think that would be worth trying? I have planted more fruit trees in a different area that I dug the holes and put in all new soil — these trees are doing much better. I am thinking the old holes have something in them that is not good for the trees. I guess it would be worth a try to change the soil risking that I will damage the trees further since they don’t seem to have too much of a chance the way they are. Basically, I am just wondering if you have any other suggestions. Thanking you in advance! D.S.

In theory, it might sound helpful to throw out the old and put in new, but I don’t see anything that you have applied that would be harmful to the trees; true, we don’t know what was originally done. It seems to me that washing off all the old soil would be a lot of labor.

One of the problems with this type of situation is that you cannot see underground. Some holes made in the lava may simply be a closed bowl, while others will have cracks and fissures that will enable water and roots to escape.

I would continue to apply the organic materials you previously used.

Caution: If you encounter tip burn on the leaves, it is an indication of salt burn coming from too much manure.

Be careful of the amount of water applied. Poor drainage would certainly explain the weak condition of the trees. Another course of action is to apply a foliar fertilizer to the trees.

Hi Nick, I’ve found some small brown seed-like things in the flesh of my white pineapples. In one instance, there was some browning of the flesh, but not all. The flesh that doesn’t have the “seeds” is still good. Do you know what this is? I’ve never found anything like it in a yellow pineapple. Mahalo, T.

It is possible that these are pineapple seeds. Pineapple plants, however, are selfincompatible. Therefore no seed will be produced among a field of the same variety. To produce seeds, pineapples must be cross-pollinated. In commercial pineapple plantings, the plants will not produce seed unless several different varieties are planted together and flower simultaneously. For the backyard grower, seedy pineapple fruit is possible since many different varieties may be planted. If you want to plant the seeds, be patient; they are a little slow to germinate.

Class Announcement

I will be teaching a gardening class entitled Common Pests of the Garden & How to Control Them. By request, the class will be on a Sunday afternoon, Sept. 15, from 2-5 p.m. We will look at many of the widespread diseases and insect pests that attack garden plants. Helpful handouts will be available. Call today 974-7664 to register; or go online at There is a fee. Location: UH Hilo.

Hilo resident Nick Sakovich is a professor emeritus of the University of California. He has worked in the field of agriculture for 30 years. Email your questions to Sakovich at


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