Each year, thousands of Arizona residents email or call our radio show with questions about everything from preventing fires in chimneys to getting rid of tree roots invading their sewer system. Our goal is to provide answers that suit the specific lifestyle wherever someone lives in Arizona.
QUESTION: I have an old red brick courtyard that is very faded and looks as if it hasn’t been cleaned in a very long time. Is it OK to power-wash the bricks without damaging them? The bricks were probably installed about 50 years ago.
ANSWER: Power washing is unlikely to damage the bricks, but because the bricks are so old, you want to be careful to use a wide fan pattern at a lower psi for the washing process. Using a nozzle might chip material off the bricks. It’s good to try out the power washer on a test area first. Afterward, you might also want to try putting a sealer on the bricks to give it a deeper, richer color. However, once you do that, you may have to repeat the process every couple of years.
Q: I have three citrus trees in my yard that have produced lots of fruit in the past — a lemon, grapefruit and an orange. But this year there doesn’t seem to be any fruit. By now there should be some. Did I do something wrong?
A: If your trees are healthy looking, keep on irrigating and fertilizing. It’s possible that you had an especially heavy crop last year, so the trees might not produce as much this year. You should also be careful not to prune fruit trees heavily because citrus trees tend to produce fruit on old growth. If you prune heavily, you won’t have that old growth.
Q: I have a question about using manure in the garden. When you buy animal fertilizer from a store that is packaged in plastic, how does that compare to using fresh manure from animals?
A: Store-bought is generally a better way to go. If you use fresh manure, it could take a while for it to start working properly in your garden. In addition, weed seeds in the manure may germinate among your plants. These weeds are generally killed during the processing of the bagged material.
Q: I have a fence made of ocotillo branch panels that was installed about a month ago. We had it put up because we’d had some trespassers on our property. But now, I want to know how often to water the fence area so that the branches will start to put out roots.
A: You don’t need to water them very often; just once in a while during a dry spell. Once they’re established, they’ll do fine without serious watering. Some of them really never “grow” although they may have roots.
Q: I have moved into a home in Tucson built in 1961 that has a slightly pitched roof, aluminum windows and absolutely no insulation. If I replace the windows and insulate the walls and ceiling, how long would it take to recover the cost of the improvements? We have a swamp cooler now and our highest monthly electric bill is $140 during the summer.
A: It’s possible that you will spend several thousand dollars on the insulation and windows; then it’s going to take a long, long time to recoup your costs. If you would like to cool down your home more significantly in summer, you might install a mini-split air conditioner in a centrally located room.