Probe: April 18, 2002

April 18, 2002

QUESTION: What happened to the bowling area they were talking about building in El Centro? An article in the newspaper said the bowling alley was coming soon. With the hot months on the way, it would be nice to have something to do in a nice cool building. — Bowler, El Centro

We didn't say a bowling alley was "coming soon." We said the new owners of Jacques 'n Jills Health Club had "big plans" that included a water park, skate park and a bowling alley.

So far the plans have not materialized. Fred Kim, a San Diego man who heads an investor group that bought the health club, warned it would take time to obtain permits to develop the family athletic project.

El Centro City Planner Oliver Alvarado said he had neither heard nor seen anything new on the project.

QUESTION: Does anybody know why Indian laurel trees are dying here? I asked at a local nursery but nobody knew anything about it. Can you find out? — Tree Nurse, e-mail


There are some sick laurel trees in the Valley but none is suffering from a laurel tree disease, said Keith Mayberry, a plant expert at the University of California-Imperial County Desert Research Center. The laurel malady comes not from a virus, bacteria or fungus but from gardener abuse. Smacks from the weed whacker or thumps from the lawn mower damage laurel bark, he said.

A laurel can't handle hard knocks to its trunk. Its bark and the thin sheath under it bruise easily, reducing the circulation of food from the leaves to the roots. Damage the sheath and the tree starves. Leaves turn yellow and drop off. If the abuse continues, the tree will die. Once the thumping stops, the tree heals.Keep the mower, weed whacker and hoe away from the trunk. Clean around it with a herbicide like Roundup. Don't let the spray touch the tree. Shield the trunk with cardboard held between the bark and the spray.

The above remedies won't help sick mulberry, ash, citrus and apple trees suffering from sooty canker fungus, Mayberry said.

Twenty thousand trees may be affected by the fungus, Mayberry said, "I lost six in my yard."

I am a former Valleyite living in Texas. It's been raining for over a week. While waiting for the sun to come out, I have been browsing through gardening books.

In "Taylor's Guide to Melons," I came across a cantaloupe called Hale's Golden Globe. The guide related it was found in 1923 in a Japanese market gardener's patch near Brawley.

"Taylor's Guides," published by Houghton Mifflin, are internationally known. I was surprised to find the Brawley reference. Do you know who the market gardener was? — Homesick Gardener, Dallas

We don't know but we bet one of our readers will know.

In 1923 most farmers were new to this area. Nobody knew what would grow here so the newcomers planted everything. They even grew strawberries.

The one thing everybody knows now is you can't grow avocados here (The land and water are too salty) but Louis Hartshorn grew an avocado tree in his Holtville back yard that produced an avocado that ripened.

Another Holtville man, John DePaoli, grew apricot trees and harvested apricots. The first time we saw an artichoke in the Holtville garden of Joe Davis, we said, "Artichokes don't grow here. They only grow around Castroville in Monterey County."

We haven't seen any but we hear acres of artichokes grow in the Valley.

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