Each year, thousands of Arizona residents email or call Rosie Romero’s radio show with questions about everything from preventing chimney fires to getting rid of tree roots in their sewer systems. Our goal is to provide answers that suit the lifestyle wherever someone lives in Arizona. Here are questions from the Tucson area.
QUESTION: I have just moved to a house that was built in 1999 and has double-paned windows. Two of the windows face west and get a lot of sun and heat in the afternoon in the summer. I don’t think I want to put tinted film on the windows. But would sunscreens work?
ANSWER: Sun screens would be much more efficient at blocking heat gain than having film put on the windows later. Although you can install windows tinted by the manufacturer, you need to be careful about putting tinting film on windows that are already installed in your home. That process can void the warranty from your window company. That’s because manufacturers contend that the build-up of heat on windows with film on them can sometimes cause the glass to break or fail.
Q: I have a chinaberry tree in my yard that will leaf out in spring and then has clumps of growth that never seem to get very big. What’s wrong?
A: The chinaberry is a deciduous tree that comes from Asia and usually grows very rapidly to heights of 40 feet and a spread of 20 feet. Its yellow berries or fruits are toxic to humans and small mammals, but birds love them and don’t experience any harm. Chinaberries like full sun, heat and alkaline soil. If it’s not growing well in your yard, you probably need to do more long, deep watering.
Q: I have an acre of property at my home that has an elevation of 3,000 to 3,500 feet. I want to plant a small orchard of 20 different fruit trees. What would be best to plant? What about citrus, date palms and cherry trees?
A: You should probably start by getting advice from a nursery in your area about what will work best in the mini-climate on your home site. Cherries should be OK, but the ripening dates may vary because of the elevation of your home. Citrus trees won’t work in the ground, but you can grow citrus on your patio where you can cover the plants on frosty nights. It’s also going to be pretty cold for a date palm. Date palms work best in places like Phoenix and Egypt. But apples and deciduous fruit trees will do just fine. You can probably do interesting things like growing trees on espaliers on walls. You could even try planting pecans and or other nut trees.
Q: I’ve been living for 18 years in my house, but recently I’ve experienced some glugging noises when the water is running. We have a lot of trees on our property. Could they be clogging the pipes? Do I need to do some cleaning out of the drain lines?
A: It’s hard to say for sure what is going on, but you do need to have a plumber out to take a look at your drainage system. You may have to have someone use a root-auger on your pipes to clear any partial blockage.
Q: I have a large saguaro on my lot that has experienced some damage due to frost in the last couple of years. It actually has some dead rings on it due to the cold. Now it has started sprouting arms in a couple of spots. Does that mean that it’s in its death throes somehow?
A: Some plants do react to severe damage and stress by trying to put out new growth. You could ask the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for some advice. But you have to remember that saguaros are pretty darn hardy and resilient. They’ve survived out in the desert for thousands of years with birds pecking holes in them and freezing temperatures everywhere. So yours is will probably be around for quite a while.
Q: We have a pomegranate shrub in our yard that bears fruits in the spring that turn red in the fall. But these pomegranates are very small, maybe 2 inches in diameter, and they tend to start cracking in the summertime. What is going wrong?
A: Usually, the answer to this question is all about inconsistent watering. Pomegranates can do very well in the desert; after all, they thrive in places like Egypt and Israel and were brought to Arizona in the 16th century by the Spanish. They need full sun and can tolerate alkaline soils and super-hot summer temperatures. They can also survive winter lows of 10 degrees F. But splitting can occur when trees are watered inconsistently or their water cycle suddenly changes. In cool times of the year, water them once a month. Once temperatures exceed 85 degrees consistently, they need deep watering every 10 to 14 days that wets the soil to a depth of two to three feet. Use a soil probe or a piece of rebar from a home supply store to see how far down water is going. The rebar should go down easily through moist soil and stop when it hits dry earth.