Each year, thousands of Arizona residents email or call Romero’s radio show with questions about everything from preventing fires in their chimneys to getting rid of tree roots in their sewer systems. His goal is to provide answers that suit the specific lifestyle wherever someone lives in Arizona. Here are questions about home maintenance and improvement from the Tucson area.
QUESTION: I have a green and healthy navel orange that is about 5 feet tall and that was planted about 4 1/2 years ago. But I have never had any fruit that matures. I get some blossoms, but I never get any oranges. What should I do about it?
ANSWER: First of all, your tree is not that old. Generally, it takes two or three years before a young citrus matures and bears fruit, and your tree is just a little bit older than that. But the other problem is that navel oranges generally don’t like a hot, dry climate like we have in Southern Arizona. If you get a hot, dry, windy day in June, all those orange blossoms can get knocked off and no fruit gets started.
You can try to trick those navel oranges by planting other trees around them to protect them from heat and wind.
You may also not be doing enough fertilizing. August-September is a good time of year to fertilize; so try to do it as soon as possible. Then fertilize again in January-February and again in April-May.
Check charts online for how much and what type of fertilizer to use, depending on the size and age of your plant.
Q: Instead of installing a separate solar water heater, I was thinking it might work better to install a larger solar electric panel system and then just use some of the electricity to heat my water. Would I save money by doing that?
A: For most homeowners trying to produce enough electricity to heat water as well as having a solar system to provide all your other electricity needs would not be economically beneficial due to the higher cost of photo-voltaic (solar electric) panels.
You’d also lose out on the generous incentives from your local utility for installing a solar water heater.
The incentives for solar electric are much smaller than those for solar water heating systems. Though if you’re thinking of going this way and you don’t use that much hot water in your house anyway, you might want to install a tankless electric water heater.
Q: My concrete back patio had been coated years ago with an epoxy finish, similar to what people put on the floors of garages. It’s a bit outdated, so I want to resurface or perhaps tile over the covered patio. Concrete specialists say they need to use very toxic chemicals to get the surface off, but I’m reluctant to do that. What is the best way to remove that old finish?
A: Removing an old epoxy coating to make a surface accept a new treatment can be on the tricky side. However, quality paint companies have developed a line of stripping compounds that work on a molecular level to break the bond between the coating and the substrate it has been applied to. These compounds are water soluble and non-toxic.
You probably should call the consumer hotline of a paint company and ask them what compound will work best for your job.
Q: I am cultivating a small orchard in the desert on my property. Eleven years ago, I ran conduit from my electrical power box to remote places in the orchard to help control the irrigation system for the trees. Now I’m thinking of installing a solar electric system. Can you find a simple system like this on the Internet?
A: You can do that and it can work out. But we would recommend using a local solar company that can meet with you, design a system to meet your needs and then install it for you to make sure it functions as designed. They can also provide a warranty for the installation and the equipment.
You also need to be sure to bolt the equipment to concrete and secure it properly so that no one tries to walk off with it when you’re not around.