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Ask the Experts – March 2017

By Kelly Young

Plant broccoli in the fall when temperatures have cooled.

I planted broccoli for the first time in February and was very disappointed. The plants grew tall and bloomed yellow flowers, but they never produced crowns like you see at the grocery store. What did I do wrong?

The broccoli crowns you buy at the store are actually flower buds. At some point, your plants produced those buds, but it may have bloomed or “bolted” too quickly for you to notice. Hot weather and lengthening days encourage broccoli to bolt. For a spring harvest next year, plant broccoli in the fall, once temperatures have cooled. Be careful to avoid drought stress, which may also trigger bolting.

Lately I’ve noticed that the oranges that have fallen from my trees have been hollowed out. Could roof rats be the culprits?

Yes, unfortunately, hollow fruit is a sign of roof rat feeding. Once roof rats are established, they can be very difficult to eradicate and can do extensive damage if they take up residence inside your attic. Consider stripping the fruit from your trees and removing it from your property. Although we don’t recommend pruning the canopy of citrus trees, you might want to cut back any branches that touch your house. Since the Arizona Department of Agriculture has lifted the restrictions on donating to food banks, consider contacting a gleaner to strip your trees. You may also want to hire a pest control company that specializes in roof rat eradication to be certain you aren’t cohabiting with these pests.

Our neighbors just built a second-story addition on their house and now they can see directly into our yard. What can we plant that will grow tall and provide privacy?

For year-round privacy, select a nondeciduous evergreen that will not lose all of its leaves at once. A tried-and-true performer is the common oleander (Nerium oleander). Given ample space and irrigation, this dense shrub can grow to a height of 20 feet and will produce stunning pink, red or white flowers throughout the warm season. Once established, oleanders require very little care, other than infrequent deep irrigation. For more plant choices, check out the Arizona Municipal Water User’s Association’s online tool, “Landscape Plants for the Arizona Desert” at


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