Q: Why do my two Valencia orange trees take months longer to ripen than my brother's? He lives near the desert. I live near the ocean. Also, his pink grapefruit are much more pink inside than mine. --F.A., Oxnard A: Valencia oranges mature about three months earlier in hot climates than in cool, more-humid coastal areas. Although your brother's oranges may attain acceptable maturity and can be picked 10 or 11 months after flowering, you do have one advantage. Your fruit can be stored on the tree after maturity for up to six months before they deteriorate. Climate also affects the quality, size and color of pink-fleshed grapefruit. Fruit from genetically identical trees of the same age, with the same cultural treatment, can vary considerably; high temperatures produce early-ripening grapefruit and stimulate a deep-pink, almost-ruby-colored pigmentation. Q: We were dismayed this fall to find that much of the area surrounding our new home was covered by yellow and red poison oak. We didn't notice it there all summer, but now it is obvious. What can we do about it? --P.F., Woodland Hills A: Leaf coloration is often a big help in recognizing poison oak. Since contact can result in misery for sensitive persons, I would recommend that you view poison oak as a pest that you should eradicate from areas where people work or relax. Remember that both the roots and plant tops are toxic. If you are fortunate enough to have to deal with only a few plants, manual or mechanical removal is possible. Wear washable cotton gloves over plastic gloves when handling poison oak plants. Remove all top growth and roots to a depth of 10 inches below the base. Where larger areas are involved, use Amitrole or glyphosate.
Chemical treatment is most effective while the plant is growing actively. Complete control usually requires more than one treatment.