Saturday, October 7, 2017

Ornamental Dinner

     I was changing out the flower boxes today at work, trying to make them look a little more Fall-ish.
The plants that were in there were looking a little tired anyway, so I yanked them out. There was some Salvia spp. and Penta spp. and some Potato Vine (Ipomoea batatas).
Well, when I pulled the potato vine out, look what came out with it.

     Yup, those are really sweet potatoes!
     Southerners know these tasty tubers because when they come into season, you see people selling on just about every other street corner. The garden varieties of the edible sweet potato have been selected due to their flavor while the ornamental varieties were selected for their colorful foliage and trailing nature. The most common of the decorative cultivars include ‘Blackie,’ and ‘Marguerite’. While the first has very dark purple foliage, the second is a bright chartreuse most commonly seen spilling over the sides of spring planters. These came from 'Marguerite'.

     These plants can grow quickly and will take over. Even when planted small, they can grow easily 5 to 10 feet in a single season, so give them plenty of room or prune them to stop them from eating your small children and Chihuahuas. Their trailing vines are much better at hanging down over the sides of containers, hanging baskets, or creeping along the ground than they are at climbing up a pole or trellis.
      Sweet potatoes, both the one grown for food and the ornamental one, prefer moist, well-drained soil in full sun with a moderate amount of water. They can tolerate light shade if necessary, but the ornamental one will be less dramatic. They are cold hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant zones 9 through 11, but you can also dig them up in fall and store them over winter for spring planting. Here in my zone 8, I have seen them overwinter in the ground and come back with a vengeance the following Spring.
     Propagation is very easy. If you overwinter the tubers, treat them just like a potato. In the spring cut them up into chunks with each section containing one “eye” (the little nub) and plant separately. Before they get hit by the first frost, you can start new plants from 4 to 6-inch cuttings. Remove the lowest leaf and stick the cut end in a container filled with vermiculite or your favorite potting mix that is moist and well-draining. A little root hormone will definitely not hurt. Keep the rooting medium moist, but not wet. You may also find that the plant has rooted itself along the trailing vines. If it has, carefully dig it up at the point it has rooted, cut it free from the mother plant and place it in a pot with some fresh soil.  You can grow them as houseplants through the winter in a sunny window.
     Although relatively carefree, there are a few problems to watch out for. Pests include the golden tortoise beetle, potato flea beetle and the sweet potato looper which is a caterpillar. Mainly these pests chew holes in the leaves, such as seen above. Natural enemies of these pests will help control them as long as pesticides specific for the pest are used and avoiding the use of broad-spectrum insecticides, if at all possible.

Golden Tortoise Beetle- Photograph by Lynette Schimming,

     Verticillium and Fusarium wilts are two of the most common fungal diseases of sweet potato plants. If either one of these fungal diseases crops up you will know it is present by the yellowing of the leaves that begin at the bottom of the plant and work its way up. If you discover a fungal infection, apply a quality fungicide that is designed for use on vegetable crops, such as Daconil Fungicide Ready-to-Use.

The question has been raised, are the tubers from the ornamental sweet potato vine edible?
     They are safe to eat, but reportedly not really tasty. Personally, I haven't tried them, nor have I tried the leafy green tops which are edible too. From what I have heard, if you’ve never tried eating potato vine leaves, you’re missing out on a tasty, highly nutritious veggie.

     It's not a great picture, but this is 'Bright Ideas Black' sweet potato. Everything you read above goes for it too.
     There has been a push for incorporating edibles into the landscape, so if you are growing the ornamental sweet potato, you are already killing two birds with one stone! It may not be super tasty, but in a pinch, it is a very healthy food.
So, Bon Apetite!
If you have any questions concerning this article or any of my others, please feel free to comment, or send me an e-mail to
You can also follow me on Facebook.
Happy Growing!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Guest Post-Prevent Garden Disease By Looking Ahead

There are times in life that a little help is always appreciated. As you all may know, I stay very busy with lectures, workshops, as well as maintaining my yard. So, when a chance to have somebody do a guest blog came about, I thought, why not?

Wendy Dessler
Wendy is a super-connector with My Seed Needs who helps businesses with building their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking. Wendy frequently writes about the latest in the gardening trends world and tries to help novice and experienced planters grow.

Prevent Garden Disease By Looking Ahead
Home gardeners have to be on guard for insects and disease which will destroy their plants.
While it is easy to see the signs of insects feasting on your crop, a disease is much harder to
spot. UGA Extension pathology specialist Elizabeth Little tells us, it is much easier to prevent
disease than it is to combat it.
Bacteria and fungus thrive in moisture. This is why you should always water your garden in the
morning. This allows the heat of the day to dry the soil. If you water in the evening, the ground
will stay too moist and that breeds bacteria. If you live in an area that is hot and humid, you are
wise to stay ahead of the game.


Prevention is the key. The following tips will help you prevent disease and will help you stay a
step ahead of any issues.
Of course, you must do your research. Be aware of where you plant. Know which plants need
direct sunlight and which do not. Look up the signs of insect damage and diseases of the
particular plant you are dealing with. Make sure you use the correct soil, mulch, and nutrients.
● If you are cutting or clipping a diseased plant make sure you clean your tools well
before moving to the next plant.
● Plant in a sunny area, if the plant needs a lot of sun, and with good air circulation
● Make sure the rain can drain well so the plants do not get too much water
● Choose disease-resistant varieties or ones adapted to your growing zone, if
● Start with healthy flower or vegetable seeds, and non-GMO-herb seeds.
● If you are transplanting, check every plant for signs of disease before you plant


● Plant all your summer crops as early as possible
● Do not plant the same plants in the same area year after year. You must rotate the plants to keep the      soil healthy
● Give plants plenty of space for good air movement.
● Trellis tomatoes
● Limit the frequency of overhead irrigation to keep foliage dry.
● Use drip irrigation if possible.
● Use organic matter to keep the plants healthy
● Test the soil’s PH balance regularly
● Make sure all of the old plants are removed from last year

What can I do?

Once you see disease in your garden, remove as much of it as possible. Cut back to below the
disease line. Cut off any unhealthy leaves or plants that will pull the nutrients away from your
Mother Earth News states that adding some completely cured compost to the garden may save
the healthy plants. The fact that you used organic matter and good quality seed and transplants
will help the healthy plants stay healthy.

How’s your soil?

It does not take a lot of knowledge to see if your soil is healthy. At the end of your season, after
you have harvested your plant. Grab one of the stems and pull it up from the ground. Is the soil
moist? Are the roots spread out? Those are good signs. Perhaps the best sign is earthworms.
How many earthworms do you see? (You do not have to count them?) If there are worms living
in your soil, that is a great sign that your living soil is good for planting.
Earthworms feed off of the compost that you added. The worms are a sign of a healthy natural
ecosystem. If the soil broke and crumbled when you pulled it up, and the roots are small and close together, this is a sign that your garden was not healthy.

And there it is, the first ever Guest Blog for The Citrus Guy!
Thank You, Wendy! You gave us some great tips.

Happy Growing!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Going Bananas!!

     We have had a LOT of rain here in Charleston, nothing like Texas thankfully, and please keep them in your thoughts and prayers after Hurricane Harvey. This August was probably one of the wettest that I can remember, or at least seemed that way. While most people don't necessarily like it, I do and the plants certainly do. My citrus are doing well, the camellias look great and the flower bud set is amazing. You know what else is loving all the moisture? The Bananas.

      This picture does not do them justice as to their size, they are easily 13-14 feet tall.
Bananas, (Musa spp.) are an edible fruit – botanically a berry and are often mistaken for trees or palms - they are actually herbs. The banana is a perennial plant that replaces itself. Bananas do not grow from a seed but from a bulb or corm, and it takes 9 to 12 months from sowing a banana bulb, or corm, to harvesting the fruit. The trunk is actually a "false stem" or pseudostem. 
     Banana plants grow best with 12 hours of direct, bright sunlight each day. They can still grow with less (more slowly), but they will stretch to find more, kind of like this one.

This was actually from, what I thought, was a useless piece of a root and stem. I had tossed it into a pseudo compost pile in between my greenhouse and shed. It rooted and is stretching well above the roof line under a Bradford pear and Pecan tree. The leaves are extremely longer than usual, because of the stretching. 
     Banana plants require a huge amount of water, but still need to be in soil that is well draining because they are susceptible to root rot. They prefer slightly acidic pH and are not very salt tolerant, even though they are associated with a tropical growing condition. As with any other plant, any balanced fertilizer, where the NPK numbers are close to even, will work, but banana plants need to be supplemented with additional potassium and magnesium for best growth and fruiting. Some of the best banana fertilizer I have found is Banana Fuel  Keep in mind that when temperatures are warm and bananas are in their active growth stages, they are heavy feeders, so feed lightly, but often, maybe every 4-5 weeks. 
     Bananas flourish under uniformly warm to hot conditions. Shoot growth is best between 78 to 82 degrees and fruit growth at 84 to 86 degrees. Plant growth slows below 60 degrees and stops at 50. So you can imagine that these plants do better in zones 9 and higher. However, some will work in a zone 8 and there even a few dwarfs that will produce fruit in a container. If you attempt to grow some in a cooler climate, chill damage and freeze damage may occur at or below 32 degrees. Symptoms of freeze damage include a water-soaked appearance to all of the above ground parts of the plant as well as browning and death of leaves, and fruit. Temperatures below 28 degrees may kill plants to the ground. However, new growth usually sprouts from the underground rhizome with the return of warm weather. If you do suffer damage to your plant, do not cut the dead leaves off, especially if some of the trunk is still green, they will act as an insulation against the next cold spell. Wait until Spring, then cut off all of the dead leaves and the trunk as far down as it seems mushy. This gives the plant a little head start to coming back. 

     Banana fruit must be transported over long distances from the tropics to world markets. To obtain maximum shelf life, harvest comes before the fruit is mature. The fruit requires careful handling, rapid transport to ports, cooling, and refrigerated shipping. The goal is to prevent the bananas from producing their natural ripening agent, ethylene. So, if you think about it, the fruit you get at the store, is not really ripe, per se. On arrival, bananas are held at about 63 degrees and treated with a low concentration of ethylene to get them ripe enough to sell. Thinking about trying to grow some yourself yet?
     While in no danger of outright extinction, the most common edible banana cultivar the Cavendish could become nonviable for large-scale cultivation in the next 10–20 years. Its predecessor 'Gros Michel', discovered in the 1820s, suffered this fate. Like almost all bananas, Cavendish lacks genetic diversity, which makes it vulnerable to diseases, threatening both commercial cultivation and small-scale farming. With that being said, for the hobby grower, the diseases are not extremely common, but it is good to at least know about them.
    Panama disease (Fusarium wilt). Panama disease is of worldwide importance and is caused by the soil borne fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense. On mature plants symptoms include progressive yellowing and eventual death from older to younger leaves, so that only the youngest emerging leaf may remain; this is not to be confused with the natural decline of older leaves. The disease will also cause brown and black discoloration and slimy appearance of the stem (it may give off a bad odor as well); and death of the plant. 
     Pests, again, are not extremely common for the dooryard grower, but it could eventually happen. The Banana borer or weevil (Cosmopolites sordidus) and the Sugar cane weevil (Metamasius hemipterus) act very similar.  They lay eggs at the base of the plant and the larvae bore into the pseudostems and rhizome causing extensive damage. Young plants may be killed by extensive tunneling and mature plants may weaken and topple with a subsequent reduction in yield. 
     Humans can damage the plant too. You will want to maintain a grass-free area 2 to 5 ft or more away from the plant. Never hit it with lawn mowing equipment and never use a weed eater near the banana. Mechanical damage of the plant will result in the weakening of it, and if severe enough can cause the banana to decline or die.
     The fruit bunches are generally harvested when the fingers, as they are called, are plump but before they begin to turn yellow. However, bananas may be picked at different times for different purposes. In general, bananas for fresh consumption in the home landscape may be picked when they have reached or have nearly reached the normal size for your particular variety. Usually, this is when the edges of the fruit have smoothed out and the sides of the fruit have swelled. Homeowners may want to harvest fruit 7 to 14 days prior to ripening on the plant. Hang the fruit in a shady, cool place to ripen, this allows development of better flavor than if allowed to ripen on the plant. Bananas may also be cooked and consumed when still green or when very ripe as is done with plantains.
     I mentioned the different growing zones that they do well in. I am in Zone 8 and if we have a normal winter, (defining normal as, only a few cold nights) I can get fruit on my Ice Cream Banana.
Don't believe it, check it out

Grown In North Charleston, SC 2012

There are many, many cultivars and varieties out on the market, I encourage you to at least try one or more. If nothing else they will make a very tropical looking annual. If you want to try growing them in a container to protect them during the winter, look for Dwarf Cavendish, Dwarf Chinese, or Lady's Fingers. 
     As a closing shot, bananas are healthy for you and I strongly encourage you to eat some, but, did you know bananas are radioactive? 
Yes, bananas are radioactive, but so are you. This comes from the fact that they contain relatively high amounts of potassium.  Specifically, they contain Potassium-40, which is a radioactive isotope of potassium. And, Yes, you will certainly die from radiation poisoning if you are able to eat 10,000,000 bananas at once. You may also witness chronic radiation poisoning symptoms if you eat 274 bananas a day for seven years.
     That is a LOT of bananas!
     As you may know, Spiderman got his superpowers because he was bitten by a radioactive spider. If I give my friend here (I call her Japonica) a huge amount of bananas, she is a banana spider after all, then have her bite me, do you suppose.....?

     I hope you enjoyed going bananas with me, there is so much more to teach on this subject, I just couldn't fit it all in with this one article. If you have any questions about this, or any of my other articles, please feel free to comment below or send me an e-mail:
Also, don't forget to follow me as The Citrus Guy on Facebook.
Happy Growing!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Please Help My Citrus Tree!!

     We live in some amazing times!
As many of you know, I have a love/hate relationship with electronics, when they work they are fantastic. When they don't they are the biggest pain since aphids were discovered. Updates all the time, new models come out before the last ones even got broken in, the list goes on.
     However, they have made communication much easier! As The Citrus Guy, I literally get questions and comments from around the world. People send me pictures of their trees, sometimes because of a problem, sometimes just to show me what they are doing. I love them all. I truly enjoy helping folks with their issues and seeing what and how others grow their citrus.
     Today, I thought I would spend a little time, showing some of the interesting things that I deal with on a regular basis. I will not mention any names, nor places, but I will show you, and tell you, what you are looking at. So if you see something that looks familiar, it might be yours, or, if you have this problem and didn't know it, now you do. Sometimes things I get are very interesting and I really need to put my thinking cap on. The first one fits that category.
It is an ongoing situation, hopefully it will come out okay.
This person thought they may have had gummosis on their Meyer Lemon. Gummosis is the exuding of an amber colored sap oozing from small cracks in the infected bark. They read on the internet to cut it out and cut off the bark.

This is what they had done to the tree before they contacted me.
I wish they had contacted me first. After I got all of the details of what was going on, it looks like it was only a Copper Deficiency. With a copper deficiency twigs can develop blister-like pockets of clear gum at the nodes. As the twigs mature, a reddish brown or amber colored ooze may occur in the outer portion of the wood. Severely affected twigs commonly die back from the tip with new growth appearing as multiple buds. The jury is still out as to whether this tree will survive.
     Which brings me to another point of this article, spread the word! If you know somebody that has, or if you have some citrus trees yourself, and have some kind of problem, drop me a line. Pass my e-mail address around,, send them to my BLOG, my WEBSITE, or my FACEBOOK PAGE, I am happy to help and it might save a tree.
     The next one is a situation I had only dealt with one other time prior. Half the grapefruit tree was dying, apparently for no reason. It was fairly well established, being fed and watered properly, but still continued to decline. After I recommended cutting the dead branches off and look for some kind of borer or insect issues, they sent this picture.

     Now I knew what was wrong. Sooty Canker. It is also called branch wilt or limb wilt. It causes cankers, wilting and dieback in tree branches. Leaves on the affected branches are often small, wilt and die during the summer. Brownish, moist areas appear on the limbs during the first stages of the disease, then the bark in these areas crack or peels away revealing black masses of fungal spores. Massive pruning, fungicides and lots of finger crossing is about all you can do at this stage. Again, the jury is still out on this case.
     This next one had me stumped for a while. It was a Pomelo that the bark was literally being eaten off of the tree. I thought maybe deer at first, but this was in a very small courtyard and there was absolutely no way a deer could get in. Then insects were my next prime suspect, but it was very extensive, and there were teeth marks.

     Yes, rats ended up being the culprit. If there is not much food or water around for them they will revert to eating the bark off of trees. I have seen them do it to hibiscus trees.
     Some of the issues I deal with are quite common, which makes it easy for me. As you may or may not know, the majority of citrus trees are grafted. The scion (top yummy part) and the rootstock (root section, not usually yummy) are the players in this game. The tree is bought, taken home and grows. Sometimes, due to neglect, wicked bad weather, or disease issues, the scion dies. The rootstock on the other hand continues on. So, I will get the question of, "My (insert citrus name here) at one time produced wonderful delicious fruit." A couple of years ago I (insert scion killing entity here), but it came back and now the fruit is nasty, bitter, and full of seeds. What is wrong?

Enter exhibit A- Poncirus trifoliata. The first clue is usually the leaves. Common citrus trees are one piece, maybe with a large petiole (the lower portion of the leaf). The Poncirus is trifoliate, three "leaves". This is a better example.

     So if the leaves from your tree that have come back look different, you may have a rootstock growing. When this happens, you have three choices:
1) Allow the rootstock to grow-it will produce fruit, but it may taste like you are being poisoned. I promise you are not.
2) Learn to graft- find a friend that has a really tasty tree and get a small piece from them.
3) Dig it up, toss it and start over. Actually, if you are close to North Charleston, SC, call me, I can use it.
     As the final issue for today, if this becomes popular I may do a sequel, I present the misidentified disease.
     Citrus Greening is a VERY nasty disease that effects citrus. It is literally killing thousands of trees all around the world and there is no cure for it. So, understandably, when folks see something going on that does not look right, human nature fears the worst. I can not even begin to tell you how many times I get an e-mail, phone call, or even at a lecture, a frantic client that thinks they have that greening disease, my tree is going to die, what can I do?!
     Luckily, I have yet to come across anybody that has had, thought a couple of times I had, but the tests came back negative. Greening disease mimics some nutritional deficiencies, so it is hard to tell sometimes. If the leaves are a mirror image of itself by folding it down the midrib, its nutritional.
But, like I said, human nature fears the worst, and more times than not, this is what I am looking at.

     See the gnarly looking leaves that have a tunnel like line running through it? This is citrus leafminor. Citrus leafminors are the larvae of small, silvery-white moth that flies around at night. Adult females lay single eggs on the undersides of the new flush of growth. The eggs hatch in just 4 or 5 days. The larvae then burrow their way through the epidermis layers of the leaves creating tunnels that appear as white trails running throughout the leaves. This feeding activity causes the leaves to curl and become misshapen. Older citrus trees typically tolerate the feeding damage without reduced crop yield or plant growth. Young trees sometimes suffer stunted growth but rarely die from their injuries. Luckily it is just a cosmetic damage. Other than netting, the best way to at least slow down this pest is with Neem oil. If you can't find any locally, you can get it online here Neem Oil. You spray it on the undersides of the new flush of growth, she doesn't like mature leaves, and the moth will not lay her eggs on the oily surface. Do not spray any horticultural oil if the temperature is above 75 degrees, it will cook the leaves.
     So there it is, some of the more interesting issues that pertain to growing citrus from around the world. I was really glad to have been able to help all these people, and the many others that I did not mention here.
Keep the pictures, issues, and problems coming folks!
I will be glad to help, if you are having an issue, surely somebody else is too!
     If there is enough interest, I will do a sequel. There are many more interesting, and maybe not so interesting things that I have seen that I can share.
Don't forget to follow me on Facebook or go to my growing Instagram page and check out some of the pictures from my yard.
I look forward to answering any questions pertaining to this, or any of my other articles.
Happy Growing!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

MORE Bad Weeds!!

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Here We Go Again!
     As if Chamberbitter was not bad enough, there is ANOTHER bad weed popping up all over the place. It is probably right under your nose, or over your head, depending on how far along it has gotten. 
                                                  Have you seen this plant/leaf?
                                       If spotted, remove immediately!!
Photo by Darren Sheriff

It is not armed, but can be dangerous to your yard.

This plant is Sapium sebiferum, also know as the Chinese Tallow Tree, or Popcorn Tree. Why do they have to ruin the reputation of a good food by associating it with a bad plant!?!?
You can also find it still listed as Triadica sebifera, but the Sapium sebiferum is the proper name.
     The Popcorn tree is native to China and Japan where it has been cultivated for its useful seeds and as an ornamental for more than a thousand years. It is said that Benjamin Franklin introduced it into the United States in 1776 for use of its waxy tallow in soaps and candles.
It is a deciduous tree (loses its leaves) that may reach 60 feet in height. The bark is a light gray. It has heart-shaped leaves with a pointed tip. 

Photo by Darren Sheriff
Slender, drooping spikes up to 8 inches long appear from April to June. 

Photo Courtesy of Mississippi State University

In Fall the leaves turn brilliant shades of scarlet, orange, yellow and maroon.

     Popcorn Trees can invade a variety of habitats ranging from swampy to saline waters, and from full sun to shade situations. It is often found growing along roadsides, coastal areas, and streams. Larger specimens can produce up to 100,000 seeds that may be eaten and dispersed by birds, facilitating the spread. Native species are crowded out once the Chinese Tallow becomes established. The leaves and fruit are toxic to cattle and cause nausea and vomiting in humans.

     It tolerates almost any soil and can grow 5 feet tall in its first year. They are considered moderately drought tolerant. However, It was planted as a street tree in California where it apparently has not yet become invasive, perhaps because of insufficient rainfall.

      Why have they become so invasive, first off, being that they are a native of Eastern Asia, which is the same latitudes as the Southeastern U.S. they love the growing conditions here, but primarily because of the seeds that are readily eaten and dispersed by birds. The seeds also float and can be carried easily by rivers, streams, and storm water runoff to new destinations and virtually all of them will germinate somewhere. 
The seeds are in a fruit that are 3 lobed, brown capsules, 1/2 inch in diameter, when mature the outer part splits revealing 3 white waxy seeds that resemble popcorn, hence its common name. 

Photo Courtesy of

They mature in late Summer to early Fall.

     If all of this is not bad enough, The leaves produce allelopathic chemicals that will change soil content and therefore making the area uninhabitable to native species.
It has gotten so bad that, the State of Florida lists the Popcorn Tree or Chinese Tallow as a noxious weed and prohibits its introduction, movement or release.
     To kill these things, cut the tree down and immediately paint the stump with a triclopyr herbicide such as Brush-B-Gon, Garlon, Pathfinder, Chopper or something like Roundup Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer. Make sure you follow the label directions or get a certified professional to apply these. Results also can be obtained by spraying the bark in a 6 inch wide band all around the base of the trunk with one of the triclopyr herbicides. I don't usually suggest such harsh treatment because of the danger it can pose to the homeowner and the landscape, BUT, tests of simply cutting down the trees resulted in extensive root and stump sprouting. Before applying any herbicide, read the label!! I can not emphasize this enough. 
This is nasty tree. Yes, it has pretty Fall foliage and can be used for some good shade. Tree species recommended that are similar in size to Chinese Tallow include Maples (Acer spp.) and Crape Myrtles (Lagerstroemia spp.). Might I also suggest to use an Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis), or a Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) instead. Even though it is considered a messy tree, at least the Red Mulberry will give you something good to eat!
If you have any questions regarding this or any of my other articles, please don't hesitate to drop me a line to
Happy Growing!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bad Weed

NO, not THAT one!!
What is a weed?
     A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Well, I really wish that somebody would find the virtue of the plant I want to discuss today!
I have actually been asked a half dozen times in the past couple of weeks, what IS this thing!?
It seems to really be bad this year.
The plant?
Phyllanthus urinaria a.k.a Chamberbitter

     This weed is a real pain to get rid of, everyone gripes about it, there is even another common name for it....Gripeweed. They resemble Mimosa trees, which is also an invasive weed in some places.
Chamberbitter is a warm-season, annual, broadleaf weed that emerges from warm soils beginning in early summer. I am assuming that, because of the fairly warm winter last year, we are experiencing a bumper crop this year.
     It has an upright growth habit and a very well defined taproot. Being more of a tropical plant that loves hot weather and can tolerate drought conditions, it is very at home in the southern landscape. It is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family and has the sticky, milky sap like many of the different Spurge weeds that we deal with here in the south.
What makes this thing hard to deal with?
     First it is a very tough plant that grows fast, is drought tolerant, produces seed in just a few weeks and it produces an abundant amount of them. The seeds, which are found in the green, warty-like fruit attached to the underside of the branch explode, they throw seed in many directions away from the plant thus allowing it to spread over a larger area.

     Look at those little bombs, just waiting to spread themselves.
The control of Chamberbitter is through a combination of mechanical, cultural, and chemical methods.
     Mechanical is usually the easiest. Pull them by hand and do not allow them to go to seed. As soon as you see them emerging, pull them up. They will pull out easily if the soil is wet but tend to break off if the soil is too dry. Do not put these in your compost bin, it will probably not get hot enough to destroy the seeds. Burn them or throw them in the trash.
     Some of the cultural methods of eradication involve putting down two to three inches of mulch in the spring to cover seeds from the previous season. Chamberbitter seeds require light to germinate, so this is fairly effective. In your lawn, if you keep it healthy, mow regularly at the proper height, and feed it correctly, there should not be much problem there.
      Chemical control involves the use of herbicides. Both pre-emergent and post-emergent may needed if you are over run with this weed.
     In the case of a pre-emergent, timing is the most important thing. It is too late now, early August, but next spring when the soil temperatures start to rise, remember these seeds need very warm soil to germinate, you can order Bayer Advanced 704050 from Amazon if you can not find it locally.
Glyphosate (Roundup Weed and Grass Killer) will kill it but you have to be careful to keep the chemical off nearby foliage. You can paint it on with a paintbrush, wear gloves and brush it on the leaves. In a lawn, broadleaf weedkiller (Ortho Weed B Gon Weed Killer) applied twice, seven days apart, is also effective. Just be absolutely sure that you read and follow the directions on any chemical, it is the law!
     Hopefully, you do not have much, or any, for that matter, of this nasty weed in your landscape. Prevention is the best action, just keep an eye out for it, and try not to introduce it if at all possible.
     If you are not sure if a plant you are looking at is a weed or a wanted plant, just remember this quote by that famous Author, Unknown.....When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.
     As always, if you have any questions concerning this, or any of my other articles, please feel free to ask. Also, don't forget to follow me on FACEBOOK
Happy Growing!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Water you talking about!?

     I have discussed this issue in the past, yet, there is still a LOT of bad information floating around the internet. I peruse the web frequently looking for people that maybe having issues that I can be of assistance with, and I find lots of misinformation, or just plain old ignorance. I am NOT saying I know ALL of the answers, show me somebody that says they do, and I will show you a liar. Most of gardening is common sense, and yes there is no such thing as a stupid question, but sometimes the things I read????.......WOW!
     Today, I would like to discuss a common problem, every living being requires this substance and there are lots of variables to how much one needs.

     Many of the websites and articles that I read have a sentence in there that drives me crazy! I usually bring it up in every lecture that I do. It goes something like this, “This plant needs one inch of water per week” or something similar to that.
WHY, does that sentence bother me so much?
Let me run a couple of scenarios by you.
     You have your favorite plant, it doesn't matter what it is for this example, it has a growing hints tag or you have read that it requires one inch of water per week. Okay, that is fine. What if this plant is in a very sandy soil? Water drains exceptionally well in sand, because it has little to no water holding capabilities. That one inch of water will be gone in hours, the plant is now not going to have access to any water 3-4 days later.
     Let's reverse the scene. The plant is in a very heavy peat based or clay soil. Peat and clay hold water very well. That one inch of water may still be around in a week. Then you water again. It continues to build up until the plant literally drowns. More on that in a minute.
So you need to be aware of the type of soil it is in.
What if you are growing things in pots? That opens a whole new set of questions and problems.

       A terracotta or clay pot is very pretty. They are nice and heavy and help to stabilize the plant, especially if you are in a windy area. That clay or terracotta will actually work against you as it wicks the water away from the soil. So here again, one inch of water will be gone in a shorter period of time than one week. Plastic pots tend to retain the water better. You guessed it, one inch of water per week might be too much.
     Everybody knows that drainage is important when you are container growing. Pots should have holes in it, well how many holes?

 Do you think that both of these would drain the same? Both are plastic, one just looks like terracotta. Let me throw one more monkey wrench into it. If either of these were sitting on concrete and the hole(s) were to become clogged, what kind of drainage would they have? The following would work better sitting on a hard surface.

Notice the holes along the sides? There are some in the bottom also.
     There are numerous other things that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to how much water a plant needs. The type of plant is a big one. A Cactus will need MUCH less water than a Philodendron. I know, the Cactus label probably does not read one inch of water per week. I have actually met somebody that watered theirs every other day, their thinking's a plant and they need water. It eventually succumbed to root rot.  Then, there was the case of a woman that literally...I can't make this stuff up...watered her large Cactus one tablespoon of water every 6 months and wondered why it was looking poorly. Two true story extremes, but you see the point here.
      Size of the pot is another good example. Which do you think would need to be watered more often, a plant in a four inch pot or something the size of a trash can?
     How about the weather? Do you think a week of cloudy, overcast, cool weather will need to be watered more or less than one in 95 degrees, with a cloudless sky, and windy?
     So, as you can see, there are many more variables associated with watering than the typical, easy sentence of 1 inch per week.
     Hopefully this has given you some idea of why you need to know your plants needs and the situation it is trying to be grown in.
     What is that you say?
How do you know if you are over-water or under-watering?
EXCELLENT question!
The plant will tell you, if you know what to look for.
     Sometimes when plants start to show symptoms of stress, i.e. wilting, the first reaction is to water, but sometimes over-watering can be just as detrimental to a plant's health as under-watering and will show the same response. Symptoms of both over and under-watering can look very similar. Leaves turn brown and wilt. Often times, when this happens to under-watered plants, those dead leaves will be dry and crispy. While with over-watering, those leaves may still be soft and limp.
Here is a little test: Does this wilted plant need water, or has it been over-watered?

Tough to tell huh?
     When the soil stays wet for too long the roots die off and when the roots die off the plant can’t take up water and if the plant can’t take up water IT WILTS!
     With under-watering the plant tries to conserve what little water it has by keeping the stalk green and the roots moist, but the leaves will wilt and eventually dry up.
Both over and under-watering can lead to other things, such as stunted growth, and lack of fruit or flowers.
Many people like to use a water meter on their plants. If you are not familiar with these, it is usually a probe that you stick in the soil and it will tell you whether you need to water or not.
I am not a big fan of them because the ones I have had were not very reliable. I tried a test once with one, I stuck it into a pot of extremely dry soil, I know it was very dry because it fell out in one piece, was very light and had been sitting in a back corner of my greenhouse for several months without being watered. The meter said it was fine, do not water.
     You actually have a reliable water meter with you right now. Scientifically it is called “the index finger”. Stick that scientific device into the soil, about 1-2 inches....if it feels dry, water...if it is damp, don't and check again tomorrow. Pretty cool huh?!
     For potted plants there is another method. Water the plant very well, make sure there is water coming out of the drainage holes. Side note, make sure the water is going through the soil and not just running down in between the soil and the side of the pot. Then, lift the pot up. Get that weight in your head. After a couple of days, lift the pot again. If it feels much lighter than the other day, water, if it still feels heavy, check again in a couple of days.
I have been known to use both methods. I will stick my finger in a pot, then lift it. I very seldom have a water issue problem.
Hopefully, this has shed some light on the subject of watering. If you MUST err one way or the other, do so on the under-watering side. Many plants are much more drought tolerant than we think and will recover from too little water. There are not many that will come back from a dip into the deep end of a pool, unable to swim, with no life preserver!
Happy Growing!