Issue: July 10, 2004

When to transplant Chitalpa


I have a 3-year-old Chitalpa tree I need to transplant. How is the best way to do this without hurting the tree?


You should be able to transplant this tree successfully in the fall after the leaves drop or in late winter before new leaves are formed. Because this is related to the desert willow tree, I think I would give preference to spring transplanting.

To maximize success, prepare the planting site before digging the tree. Planting site preparation means to loosen the soil as if making a flowerbed. Loosen the soil over a large area (at least 3 times the root ball size) and add organic matter (if needed) over the whole area. It is necessary to prepare only to the depth that a shovel or rototiller can loosen the soil. Dig a planting hole to receive the transplanted tree in the center of this prepared site.

When you transplant the tree, dig it with as large a root ball (diameter) as possible. Quickly place the tree into the prepared planting hole to avoid drying of the roots. Backfill around the root ball with the soil in the planting site, but don't add additional organic matter at this time. Water the tree at the time of planting and once a month during the winter (if transplanted in the fall) and twice a month during the growing season.

Your local Cooperative Extension Service office can provide additional information specifically developed for your area.

Almonds ripening


We have new almond trees with almonds almost ready for harvest. Do you have information on how to process the nuts?


Thank you for your letter about processing almonds after they ripen on your trees. I will share with you what I know, but you may also want to contact your local County Extension Home Economist for additional information. I know little about the post-harvest aspects of almonds.

Is this a sweet almond or bitter almond? This is important because the bitter almond contains some toxic compounds that form hydrocyanic acid in the stomach. Young children, and perhaps elderly people, may be at risk of fatal poisoning from eating a few kernels of bitter almond. According to some information that I have read, some sweet almond trees can produce a few bitter almonds (with the distinctive bitter taste). If your tree is a sweet almond tree, this should not be a cause for concern. The sweet almond does not produce the bitter compounds that produce the poison compound.

As far as harvesting and processing, the main thing is to wait for the fruits to split open naturally and release the nuts. The nuts may be kept in a cool, dry location until you are ready to eat them.

If you wish to use the nuts for cooking pastries or candy, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service office for recipes.

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Also, please join us on Southwest Yard & Garden, a weekly program made for gardeners in the Southwest. It airs on KRWG in Las Cruces Saturdays at 11:30 a.m., repeating Thursdays at 1:00 p.m.; on KENW in Portales on Saturdays at 10:00 a.m.; and on KNME in Albuquerque on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m.

Send your gardening questions to

Yard and Garden, ATTN: Dr. Curtis Smith

NMSU Cooperative Extension Service

9301 Indian School Road, NE, Suite 112

Albuquerque, NM 87112

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.

Please join us on Southwest Yard & Garden, a weekly garden program made for gardeners in the Southwest on:

KNME-TV Albuquerque at 9:30 p.m. Saturdays,

KENW-TV Portales at 10 a.m. Saturdays,

and KRWG-TV Las Cruces at 11:30 a.m. Saturdays (repeated at 1 p.m. Thursdays.)