Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hello Kitty, Please Don't Eat The Guacamole!

I was reading a post the other day concerning a woman's cat and a plant she needed identified. The cat started having problems with balance, breathing and a few other things. As of this post and two vet visits later, there is no definite answer as to whether the plant had anything to do with the cats sudden change in health.
It got me to thinking about plants that are poisonous to our pets, so I started doing some research. I knew the common ones, Poinsettia (though this is considered a low toxicity plant) Hemlock (duh), Caster Bean and Oleander. The information I found was mind blowing. One site I saw had 224 plants listed on it. Here is a list:
There was some things listed I never had thought could be poisonous to Cats.
Avocado for one. Keep kitty away from the Guacamole Dip. Many of the Philodendrons. This is the plant that the woman's cat I started out talking about had gotten into.
There was some plants on these lists that actually surprised me, Mother-in-Laws Tongue, English Ivy, and Peace Lily. These are very common household plants.
Dog lovers, you are not immune to this either. The Guacamole dip should not be on their party menu either. The plant list for dog's is very similar to the one for cats.
Okay, what to do? You love your kitties and puppies, you really want houseplants because of all the good they do for you and your home health (Hmmmm, good blog post topic). How about grow some plants that are okay for them?
Here is a partial list of safe plants for those furry little creatures:

+ African violet (Saintpaulia)
+ Aluminum plant
+ Any of the true ferns (Boston fern, maidenhair, etc.)
+ Cacti (but make sure they are real cacti, not just a succulent)
+ Catnip
+ Coleus
+ Gloxinia (Sinningia)
+ Goldfish plant (Hypoestes)
+ Grape ivy (Cissus)
+ Hanging African Violet (Episcia)
+ Lipstick vine (Aeschynanthus)
+ Miniature roses
+ Pepperomia
+ Prayer plant (Maranta)
+ Shrimp plant (Beleperone guttata)
+ Spider plant (Chlorophytum)
+ Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus)
+ Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea)
+ Wandering jew (Zebrina)
+ Wax begonias (Begonia semperflorens)
A much more extensive list can be found at:
Now I am not saying let them go to town on these, but at least it shouldn't kill them.
Another option is, if you can provide a small container of grass (oat grass or regular grass), your cat might leave your potted plants alone.
Those lists also have many outdoor plants listed on them. So if you bring Miss Kitty or Fido out to garden with you, keep an eye on them. Hopefully they will just help with the digging!
Happy Growing!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Congratulations! It's a Bouncing Baby Citrus Tree!

On one of the many websites that I peruse on any given day, I was asked a Citrus Propagation question. I figured today would be as good as any to post about that. I will tell you up front, the BEST way to propagate citrus is actually by grafting. There are all kinds of grafting techniques and websites. My grafting skills have a LOT to be desired. Okay fine, they suck! I have had two successful grafts out of approximately 30 tries. I just tried a new technique about 3 weeks ago on some Camellias. Citrus and Camellias can all be grafted pretty much the same way. Cleft Grafting, Inverted T and others are out there. If you can do one, you should be able to do the other. I will keep you posted on my attempt.
No, this post will be about the other two ways to propagate Citrus, Seeds and Rooting Cuttings.
Seeds are by far the easiest and cheapest method. If you can plant a Tomato and get fruit, you can plant a Citrus seed and get fruit. There are some major differences however.
Depending on the type of Citrus you are growing from seed, it can take anywhere from 2-10 years to actually get fruit. Key Limes and Calamondins are the quickest, 2-3 years..... Grapefruit is usually the longest, 8-10 years. Everything else falls in between. These time frames are relative! They depend on how well you take care of them, bottom heat, moisture level, light level, etc.
As for being cheap, go to your grocery store. The Citrus fruit that is sold there will produce fruit from seed. There is some controversy over whether it will come true to type. The chances are YES! Even if not, you may get something as good, not quite as good or something better! You will however get fruit.
Rooting Cuttings is a little more difficult, but still not as bad as grafting. All you need is a friend or neighbor with a Citrus tree that you like the fruit from. Ask them for a cutting anywhere from Early Summer to Late Autumn. The middle of this time frame is actually the best. You want to get cuttings from the current years growth that has partially hardened or ripened. Remove all but two of the leaves and cut the remaining leaves on the cutting in half to reduce moisture loss. You may also want to strip the bark about one half inch up each side from the cut end, this will help induce rooting.
Use a soilless mixture such as Peat or Bark with a little Perlite thrown in. Dip the root end in a rooting hormone. There are many available out there, use the one you are most familiar with.
Using a pencil make a hole in the medium approximately 3-4 inches deep. Insert cutting deep enough for it to be able to stand upright. Firm the soil around the stem and water gently to settle the cutting. Make Sure You Label It!! I promise, you WILL forget what the cutting is.
Keep the cutting humid. Give it some bottom heat of 64-70 degrees if you can, this will speed up the rooting process. Mist occasionally. Keep the medium moist, not wet, like a damp sponge.
Another good tip that I picked up some time ago, use clear plastic cups or Soda bottles (see "messin with mother nature" on older posts here). You will be able to see the roots instead of pulling on the cutting occasionally to see if they have taken. You can run the risk of ripping the roots out before they even have a chance to get a good hold.
It will probably take a few months up to a year before the cuttings are able to go outside. Make sure you harden them off gradually before exposing them to the harsh realities of outdoors.
If you follow these directions carefully, you will have an inexpensive bouncing baby Citrus tree before you know it!
Happy Growing!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Not a "Hi" Society

I have mentioned before, I am an active member of the Coastal Carolina Camellia Society. I really dig this group (half a pun intended). I have learned SO much about Camellias just chatting with and listening to some of these folks. I really feel if you can get involved with any plant society it will be worth your time. There is an Orchid Society here in Charleston also, I plan on joining them sometime in the future. They only meet on even months and the past two meetings I have had something else come up.
Unfortunately, that is about all she wrote.
There is the Charleston Horticultural Society, that is a little different in my book. They are more of a broader range society. They tend to cover all kinds of plants. Don't get me wrong, you can learn a lot from these folks too. When I say join a plant society, I mean an individual plant, i.e. The Camellia Society.
I decided to do some searching around to see what else was out there. Boy, did I come across some neat groups. The American Conifer Society, The Hosta Society, The American Hibiscus Society, just to name a few. I am wanting to learn as much as I possibly can about as many plants as I can without losing my mind. So, my thinking was, I will pick a couple of other societies, join them and LEARN!
Apparently, South Carolina has cooties or something like that when it comes to plant societies. There does not seem to be any chapters here in South Carolina.
Let me give you some examples.
The American Hosta Society. I have just recently learned there are hundreds of Hostas out there. Hostas are a pretty common plant here in SC and you would think there would be a society. Nope! There are none listed. There are two in North Carolina, one in Georgia, one in Virginia and four in Tennessee. All around us, none here.
How about The American Daffodil Society. Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina...South Carolina, you are outta luck.
The Gesneriad Society. (This is the group that has African Violets, Gloxinias and about 2000 other species and hybrids that make up some unusual houseplants). They are all over the place, Florida, Georgia, California, Colorado, even have one of these in Canada and Sweden! I guess I shouldn't feel too left out, North Carolina got the boot on this one too.
It is a shame that all this great information is not available in my home state of South Carolina. If I had the time and the money I would SO love to start a few of these. Holly, Ivy, Hydrangea and so many more plants all have their own societies. Did we forget to bathe? Is there no interest in SC for societies? Please, if somebody is reading this that would like to start a certain society...Contact me! I will help if at all possible.
Like I stated before, there is so much to learn by joining a society. My biggest fear is that so much knowledge will go to waste because it is not passed on to the next generation. Yes, I know there are books, the internet so forth and so on. It is just not the same. I can look at pictures all day of certain Camellia flowers, I still can't identify them in the real world.....Unless someone has taken the time to show me an actual flower and tell me this is what so and so looks like. Pictures do not do a flower justice.
I want to go see a yard that somebody is growing a "Lost" Hosta or Iris. I want to see the flower of a Daffodil that can't be bought in the store anymore because a "Better, Brighter, Shinier one" has been bred. Breeders are always trying to improve different flowers. That is fine and dandy, just don't throw the old ones out and forget about them.
One little story relating to this. At one of my plant swaps, my mother received some brown Iris bulbs. I did not even know there was such a thing. Apparently these are some old heirloom Iris'. Anyway, had that person not brought them, I would not have probably ever gotten to see them. This is the type of information and knowledge that is being lost. Please, join a society, create one if you have a passion for a specific species of plant. Pass the information on to the next generation!
I wonder if a Citrus Society in South Carolina would work? Hmmm.
Happy Growing!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Not a One Hit Wonder

I have been afraid for sometime now that people would think I was a "One Hit Wonder". I know that may sound weird or funny, I am both of those! But, I tend to share my Citrus knowledge around more than anything. My friends know I can grow Tomatoes and Peppers and Cucumbers. I will post more about those in the future, once it gets closer to planting time for them. But still, I am known as "The Citrus Guy" and would like to be known for Citrus certainly, but other things as well.
Many people tend to lean towards flowers. I am not one of them, but I can do them.
Something I have wanted my blog to do and I have mentioned this in the past is Inspire! Hopefully, my flowers will inspire somebody out there.
I have named them and you can do more research on them if you wish. Contact me if you wish to possibly swap for some seeds or cuttings of some of these.





Another CEREUS spp.







I hope this has been an inspirational trip through my flower world. There are others, but you get the gist.
You don't have to limit yourself to knowing just one thing. Broaden your horizon and grow whatever appeals to you. I am not a One Hit Wonder and neither should you! Now go out there and grow something outside of your comfort zone.
Happy Growing!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

You Planted it in a What??!

I was chatting today with one of my Master Gardener friends and we got on the subject of unusual things to plant in. I was telling him of my Asparagus that I planted in my old bathtub. We had it replaced a few years ago and instead of throwing it into the dump, I turned it into a huge planter. We both agreed it was a great idea. It is big enough to put an array of different things in. Has drainage. And is most definitely a conversation starter.
He was telling me about his Rosemary. It is planted in the drum from an old dryer. Same principles apply here. Won't be in the dump, drainage, large, perfect! It will also keep his Rosemary from escaping and taking over the yard.
I have been thinking about many different things that could be used for planters. Picture this for "Unusual". The bathtub I mentioned above, with all kinds of pretty flowers growing in it. Right next to it, an old Toilet. Plants coming out of both the tank and the bowl. If you happen to have an old pedestal sink, that could be next to it also with some kind of trailing plant coming out of it. If you do this by the house or a wall or something, hang a mirror over the sink. With a little imagination you could really have some fun with this. I was trying to think of a way to have a magazine rack there too.....with Garden Magazines in it of course!
How about tires? I have seen people use old tires to grow Potatoes. You plant the eyes in the first tire. Once the shoots rise out of the soil, place another tire on top and fill in with soil. Repeat this step to about 4 or 5 high. You might want to place a rebar pole along the side of the tires to keep them from toppling over.
There once was a Garden Center here in Charleston that had an old beat up 1950's pickup truck in front. They had the pickup bed all planted with flowers. It was actually tastefully done. This would have been a good place to have the tires next to it planted also.
I have seen things such as old work boots, old wheelbarrows, and buckets used. Old kiddie pools can be used to grow Water Garden type plants. I have even seen pools used to grow Rice. The only limits to what can be used as a planter is:
1) It must have good drainage. If the water just sits in it, the plant will develop root rot and die.
2) Positioned in a place where it will get good sun and close enough where it can be watered if the rains do not come.
3) Be the right size plant for the container. I don't think a Live Oak will work in the toilet, I'm just saying.
4) Your imagination! This is probably the biggest limiting factor.
Just remember, if it can hold soil, it can hold a plant.
If you happen to use any of these ideas or have a couple of ones I didn't mention, please e-mail me. Send me pictures if you can, I will include them in a post in the future with full credit to you.
Happy Growing!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Travel Time and the Greening Monster

I did a lecture this past weekend out at Magnolia Gardens on growing Citrus in the Lowcountry. I love going out there, it is always so pretty and quiet. Just wandering around enjoying the beauty of nature. As I was wandering around, I noticed LOTS of foreign license plates. Any plate that is not South Carolina, is foreign in case you were wondering. Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and Florida just to name a few.
The one from Florida raised a little alarm in my head. I am sure this one was probably safe, but it really started me thinking. I get questions all the time, how bad is this Greening Disease really and how did it end up in Charleston, South Carolina?
Thankfully, I have not heard of any more of the disease being found here. Let's keep it that way!
The way it got here was because somebody probably brought an infected plant here and decided to grow it. There is one other possibility, an infected Pysllid could have been hitching a ride on a vehicle. I do not know how long they can live at 70 miles per hour or if they travel well without getting car sick, but anything is possible.
The disease was first discovered in Florida in 2005 and has been wrecking havoc on the Citrus industry down there ever since.
Here are some of the main things to remember about Citrus Greening:
Citrus greening is one of the most serious citrus plant diseases in the world.
It is a bacterial plant disease that destroys citrus trees.
It is spread by infected Asian citrus psyllids, tiny insects no bigger than gnats that feed on citrus leaves and stems.

This is what the little guy looks like.

There is no cure for this deadly plant disease.
Some of the symptoms that you can look for are:
Blotchy mottling of leaves and leaf yellowing that may appear on a single shoot or branch.

Photo courtesy of University of Florida

Small, lopsided, and bitter fruit that remains green even when ripe.

This is a "ripe" Orange, notice the peel still green and the aborted seeds.

Twig dieback.
Stunted, sparsely foliated trees that may bloom off season.
Unfortunately, Citrus plants infected by the citrus greening bacteria may not show symptoms for years and these symptoms can resemble those of other diseases and nutritional deficiencies.
Until a treatment or cure is found, stopping the spread of this deadly disease by halting the movement of plants is our only hope.
It is amazing how many people DO NOT KNOW that it is illegal to bring Citrus trees out of the state of Florida or Georgia. It is also illegal to move Citrus trees out of Charleston or Beaufort Counties in South Carolina. Seeing the license plate from Florida is why I had the little alarm go off in my head, I had images of a well meaning person bringing a Citrus tree up as a gift. That could very easily start it all over again!
I don't know of any other way to stop this other than to keep pounding away at this information. Pass it around, tell everybody and anybody you know about it.
Happy Growing!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Name Game

In order to get the plant that you are looking for at any Garden Center, you ask for it, right? What if you asked for a specific plant and they game back with something not even close to what you were asking for? This is the problem with common names of plants.
Here's an example:
You walk into a nursery in the South and ask for a "Confederate Rose", you are probably looking for a Hibiscus, right? Looks something like this.

What if they came back with something that looked like this?

Either one would be theoretically correct. You used the common name, 'Confederate Rose" The first one, the one you were probably looking for is Hibiscus mutabilis. The other one is Agave parrasana. Two completely different names for two completely different plants. This is the problem with common names. They are usually easy to remember but two different people might be talking about two different plants, especially if they were raised in different parts of the Country or World!
When I was working on becoming a Certified Professional Nurseryman, I had to learn hundreds of botanical names. It has served me well, I don't usually have the problem like I mentioned above.
I know what you are saying all those Latin terms, it is way too hard. Believe it or not, you probably use the botanical name for many of the plants you now grow. How many of you grow, Magnolia? That is the botanical name. Don't believe me, Look up any of these:
Magnolia delavayi
Magnolia denudata
Magnolia fraseri
Magnolia globosa
Magnolia grandiflora
That's just a small list of the Magnolias.
How about Camellia? Nandina, Begonia, Bougainvillea, Phlox? Even when we are discussing my beloved Citrus. Citrus is the botanical name:
Citrus sinensis (Sweet Orange)
Citrus paradisi (Grapefruit)
The list goes on and on. Now, I admit, MOST of the plant names we do not use on an everyday basis.
Learning them can be fun though. Sometimes they will give you an idea of where they come from. Camellia japonica for example. Kind of sounds like Japan, right? That is where the originated from. How about Pinus canariensis? This is the Canary Island Pine.
Botanical names do not have to be hard, if you don't want them to be.
Some will even be funny and tell you something about who discovered them. Discocactus horstii.... It was named after the Brazilian collector Leopoldo Horst. I don't know if he enjoyed Disco music or not, but it is a "Far Out Cactus"

I am not going to try and get Scientific on you, if you want to learn more about WHY plants have two names, check out this website:

He has done a very good job explaining it.
For now, I encourage to look up some of your favorite plants and learn their botanical name. Then, maybe next time you are chatting with somebody and they want to know "How is your Fig doing?" You can say, "Oh, my Ficus carica is doing well, Thank You!" Unless they meant your houseplant the Rubber Tree, then it is your Ficus elastica! See the fun you can have!?
Happy Growing!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Spring, Even if only Temporary

As I write this at 3:30 in the afternoon I am looking at a thermometer that is reading 65 degrees outside. I'll take it!! It was the same yesterday.
I got to spend a good three hours or so outside, I had to be in by 2pm....Nascar race, Go Dale Jr.!! Sorry, I digress.
I might be pushing Spring, but I am SOOO ready! I went ahead and planted my Red and Yellow Onions, in containers of course.
I planted Asparagus for the first time in my life. I used something that most would think is an unusual thing for them to be planted in, My old bathtub. Yes, you read that right, My old bathtub.
I only planted 8 crowns, so room should not be a problem. I think it is deep enough. Only time will tell. I have read as much as I could on the subject and the consensus is pretty much split 50/50. Half says you can not grow Asparagus in any kind of container, the other half says, sure, no problem. I will let you know how my experiment turns out.
I am also playing with fire, in a raffia sun suit that has been soaked in gasoline. I have now pulled ALL my Citrus out of the greenhouse. I pruned off a bunch of dead wood and any broken twigs. Then.....wait for it......I fed them! Heavy on the Nitrogen and a few other things. I see a low of 31 one night in the next 10 days, but I am going to believe it will be a short shot of cold. The highs look good. Besides, I just am not in the mood to put them back, I don't think they are either. The trees seem to be enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.
I fed my figs that are in containers also. I put some slow release on them. This way there will be some food for them when they wake up.
We are scheduled for rain tomorrow, if it doesn't I think I will do the bug rodeo. I saw some mealy bugs and those I don't like. The trees are not happy about them either.
There is so much to do outside after such a hard Winter. I wish Spring would spring already so I can get this yard back up to par. Here's hoping everybody had a good weekend and if you had some nice weather, you went out and enjoyed it....I did! My sore muscles tell me I did!!
Happy Growing!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tag You're It

When it comes to buying plants or anything else I am poor....also read cheap! I love deals, plant swaps, trades, the barter system and making things for myself. Today's post deals with the last thing, making things for myself.
As you know, I have a great many varieties of Citrus. Many of them look very much alike in growth habit, leaf shape and size, etc. I am also amassing a decent size Camellia collection, through trades, grafting, cuttings, friends etc. The different cultivars there also have a great many similarities. I am very anal when it comes to keeping my plants tagged. I like to know who is doing what, if they need a little different care, etc. I have been using plastic tags stuck in the pots for years now. Occasionally they get lost, stolen (squirrels take them believe it or not) or just fade over time.
I have noticed many of my friends at the Camellia Society use aluminum tags hung from the plants. They are permanent, are always with the tree, and easy to spot.
I looked them up online. I found that I could get 100 of them for $15.95 +shipping. So basically, right around $20. Remember at the beginning I said I was poor, read cheap? Just like a lot of other families in the country, I don't have an extra $20. So, then a brain storm hit me. I drink soda and they come in cans....HMMMMM?!
I will make my own!

Start with an empty aluminum soda can. I find empty is easier to work with. Ha Ha.

I use Pepsi, it is the only one that will work. You can try Beer or Coke or some other kind, but I am pretty sure Pepsi cans are the only ones that work. The last two sentences were a joke, ANY aluminum can will work.

Cut the top and bottom off. Then slice it down the side. You will need to uncurl it a bit. Remember the sides will be rather sharp. You can file them down or wear gloves if this concerns you.

Cut the aluminum into approx 1 inch strips. They don't have to be exact, this isn't brain surgery. I get 7 from one can.

Punch a hole in it at one side with a nail.

Then with a ball point pen, write the name on it. If you write on it on a towel or several layers of newspaper it will indent better.
If you know the botanical and the common name put both. It could very easily be useful in the future if you have both.

You then slip a piece of wire through the hole and hang it from the plant. Make sure you tie it loosely to the plant so you don't girdle it. If you don't want to hang it, make a little hanger from an old coat hanger and stick that into the pot.
There, nice and cheap....especially if you already buy beverages in cans.
Happy Growing!

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Mixed Bag

As I write this today, I am torn. Yes, the weather is looking good (finally) for the next few days. I see upper 30's to mid 40's for lows at least the next five nights. Our highs will be in the 60's almost 70 by Sunday. SO, with all that good news, I decided to pull a good many of the Citrus out of the greenhouse to get some sunshine and fresh air. I am pretty sure I heard a couple sigh and at least one yell YIPEE!
They have been cooped up in my tiny little greenhouse for months suffering.
Now, the torn part. I can finally get INTO my greenhouse and the news is not good on the western front. I have sustained some pretty heavy losses this Winter. There are things that have made it in the past, but now are looking pretty deceased. I am not real sure about my Papayas. They have always done well. My two Cashew trees have no green on the trunk, I fear they are gone. There are a few other misc. things. I will wait until it warms up completely before I discard anything. Plants can be pretty resilient, they may surprise me. My wife and I stuck a whole bunch of Mexican Petunia last fall to sell this Spring. I think I have lost half of it. We stuck something like 400 cuttings, I think we will be okay.
The things that look good though, LOOK GOOD! The Citrus that were in there are a little worn and bug infested, But beautifully green! I will fix some of the bug issues this weekend. I have a Strawberry Guava that has some flowers on it. The regular Guava looks as good as the day it went in. I have some weeding to do in there, but they look good, okay that's not a good thing.
The Macadamia tree looks a little tired, I think he is probably just a little hungry. Overall, I think I lost maybe about 25% of the plants I had in the greenhouse this Winter. As cold as this Winter was, that may be a really good average. Some of you are saying, My gosh 25% is a lot! When you figure I had something like 600 plants in there or more, it's not as bad. I hope Winter is pretty much over, I fear it's not, but we will see.
As Spring approaches and I am keeping an eye on all my seedlings emerging. My Camellias and Quince hopefully taking root and my Camellia graft (first attempt) take hold. I keep thinking that it will be okay. It will warm up, the yard will dry out (eventually) and the sun will continue to shine. I soon will be harvesting Cucumbers by the truck load, watching the bees buzz around the Citrus blossoms and wondering if I should mow this weekend or not.
Spring is a renewal and all will become green again. Except my Cashew trees, I am pretty sure they are toast.
If you are having nice weather this weekend, go out and enjoy it.....we deserve it!
Happy Growing!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I Don't Want To See A "Leafminers Daughter"

One of the biggest pests I encounter growing Citrus is the Citrus Leaf Miner (CLM). This little rascal is really more of a nuisance cosmetic pest on larger trees.
As you can see by these pictures, they can interrupt the photosynthesis.

On a large tree this usually isn't a problem because there are plenty of leaves on the tree. On a small tree the leaf count is much smaller. Even when infestations of Citrus Leaf Miner are heavy on young trees however, trees are unlikely to die. CLM can cause damage in new plantings because the growth of young trees is retarded by leaf miner infestations. Citrus Leaf Miner damage weakens the leaves, making them more susceptible to wind damage and other pests. Studies are underway to determine if yield can also be affected.
The bug that is doing the mining is very small and worm like.

That's the little guy, at the end of the tunnel. This one is getting ready to pupate and turn into the adult. It will emerge as a moth, like this one.

Control is the hardest part. A systemic (insecticide the plant takes up from its roots) is not a good idea, because you do want to eat the fruit right? The larvae are protected by the leaves epidermis as it tunnels through, so contact insecticide is temporary at best. It is effective for only 2 to 3 weeks because Citrus Leaf Miner adults lay eggs on the new flush of growth that was not present at the time of treatment. Horticultural oils have shown to work as a deterrent, the adult female will not lay her eggs on the oily surface, but should be used with care to avoid phytotoxicity (becoming toxic to the plant). There is also a chemical called spinosadtm, which is an all natural control, it is very expensive, if you can find it.
Citrus Leaf Miner moths are attracted to the new flush of growth. Citrus tend to have multiple flushes of growth through out the year. Once the leaves harden however, the pest will not be able to mine the leaves.
There are traps baited with a pheromone (insect sex attractant) that are available for Citrus Leaf Miner and are a useful tool for determining when moths are flying and depositing eggs. For the homeowner who only owns one or two trees, this is probably not economically feasible.
Like I said at the top, they are mostly a cosmetic damage pest. One thing to remember, do not prune off leaves damaged by CLM because undamaged areas of the leaves continue to produce food for the tree.
I hope you never have to see a "Leafminers Daughter", it really does make for an ugly tree sometimes.
Happy Growing!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Carolina Yard Experience

Save the Date! March 13th, 2010
The Carolina Yard Experience is coming to Charleston!!
Want to know what it's all about?
Check out:
Make sure you down load the PDF file for the Flyer.
It's like way cool man! You will understand.
I have been on the ground floor in building this thing and we are all excited!
I am also doing an Integrated Pest Management Lecture.
I hope everybody that reads this will come and check out,
The Carolina Yard Experience!
Happy Growing!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Will Spring ever get here?

From the beginning, I've wanted my Blog to be Educational, Inspirational, and Fun. I hope I am obtaining this goal!
There are times as of late however, I don't think Spring will EVER get here!! The first two weeks of January were wicked cold, 12 nights of below freezing, WAY below sometimes.
Then this past weekend we had SNOW in Charleston!! I received about 2 inches or so, I have heard reports of 4 or more in places. If it is not the cold it is the rain, we have had literally 12 inches of rain since January 15th! My yard literally looks like a bog. I have water standing 4 inches deep in places.I am sick and tired of Winter now, Thank You very much!
Well, I decided to make myself feel a little better about it. This past Friday, the day it started snowing by coincidence and I didn't plan it that way, I planted some of my veggie and herb seeds inside. The average rule of thumb is to start them inside 6 weeks prior to planting outdoors. The dates vary according to which website you look at, some say the beginning of March some say the end of March and all points in between. Either way, the window is open.
This is my setup:

I planted 20 types of Tomatoes, 19 types of Peppers and two plantings each of 5 different Herbs. The last picture isn't real clear, but that is the Basil, Thyme and Oregano popping up already. I was surprised they germinated in only 2.5 days. I first noticed them Monday morning, and I planted them late Friday afternoon. Boy am I going to have a lot of Basil! I am more resolved to save, freeze and can up as much food as possible this year.
Now is the time to be planting your seeds indoors. You don't need an elaborate setup like I have. Just a small pot, some potting soil and a little room in a window.
Keep the seeds moist, warm and humid. The best website I have seen for starting seeds indoors is:

Spring and Summer will be here soon I HOPE, I am ready for my yard to look like this again:

Happy Growing!

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Lecturing I will Go

For all of those that are within a reasonable distance from Charleston. I will be lecturing out at Magnolia Gardens this coming Saturday, February 20th at 1pm.
This will be open to the public and I would love all that can to attend.
The topic will be Growing Citrus in the Southeast.
What would be better than going out your back door or front door as the case may be and picking a fresh Grapefruit for breakfast or a Lemon for that Tea you are about to have?
I will be discussing, Citrus Identification, Citrus Selections, Growing Citrus in Containers and in the Ground. Water, Fertilizer, Cold Hardiness and other things vital to growing Citrus in the Southeast will be on the agenda also. My Powerpoint demonstration will be wealth of information for you if you are at all interested in growing these worthwhile plants.
Bring your Citrus questions and problems, I will answer any and all of them.
I look forward to seeing you on February 20th at 1pm, Magnolia Gardens. After the lecture stroll around the gardens and look at all the beautiful Camellia japonicas which are in bloom right now.
Happy Growing!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Get Them Here

I promised yesterday that I would give you some places to get Citrus trees. So I will.
Some of these places I have received trees from, others I have heard good things about.
The list is not by any means all inclusive, nor is it in any particular order.
With all the quarantines cropping up, it is getting harder to find Citrus trees that can be shipped. Florida is absolutely off limits, USDA Federal Law will not allow trees, cuttings or any other part of the tree to be shipped or transported out of that state. There are other pockets in the country you can not get trees from.
This link will tell you were the quarantines are:

After you have seen the quarantine areas, lets start thinking about ordering some.
The first link IS a good friend of mine from Scranton, South Carolina. His name is Stan McKenzie and he has some very nice trees. His website is:

Next is kind of a strange place to receive Citrus trees from. They are in Connecticut. Their trees are a little on the small side, but they do grow very nice.
This link will take you directly to the Citrus page. I encourage you to look at their entire site, they have some very nice and very strange selections. I have ordered from them a couple of times:

I have not actually bought anything from the next one,yet. I have seen their plants and they are very nice. They have a very extensive catalog, Citrus just being a small part of it:

The next is another that I haven't bought from yet, but I drool just looking at their selection. This link will take you directly to their Citrus page.
I have heard good things about them and their trees are suppose to be very nice:

The last site I will recommend is okay. I have ordered from them many times, but I have had a little problem with germination of their Citrus seeds. That's right, this one sells seeds. I have had no problem with most of their other seeds, just the Citrus. It could be me, or the fact that they let them dry out too much, which is a bad thing. Even if you only get one or two to germinate, you are still way ahead of the game compared to already established plants. Of course, you will also have to wait longer for fruit, but that is the price for being cheap.....Like me! At last check, they only had a few listed, keep coming back, they change occasionally.
They are at:

Finally, you can always check your local Big Blue or Big Orange box stores. They occasionally have some. Check with your local favorite Garden Center, they may be able to get some for you. And, along the same lines as Tradewinds above, you can get some fruit at the grocery store and plant those seeds. With seeds, you may get some as good as, not quite as good as, or better than the fruit it came from. Just remember, you also have to be patient. Seeds take a long time to fruit, depending on the type, anywhere from 3 years to 10 plus.
Of course, there is always Google. I bet there are nurseries out there I have never heard of. Send me the link if you find a good one! I am always on the lookout for a new source. Also, if you find one and want to know if I know anything about them, ask. I did not list a few here that you really should stay away from, that is for more of a private conversation.
Happy Growing!
p.s. I could not get the links to become hot, you will have to cut and paste. Sorry!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Mighty Grapefruit

I had the pleasure this year of eating my very first Ruby Red Grapefruit that I grew. It was fantastic. They say its first year or two the fruit won't be that good, if that is the case, next year will be even better. I also got to try a friends Flame Grapefruit. Also fantastic. I got some seeds from the Flame and have two very nice healthy looking trees coming along. It will be some years before I get fruit from them, (probably 7-10), I am a patient man. After reading the health benefits of Grapefruit, I may have to get a few more trees. Maybe get a Marsh Seedless or a Blush Pink. There are a bunch of different varieties out there.
While researching for this article I found some very interesting information.

Grapefruit: Citrus paradisi
Red grapefruits are suppose to be sweeter then white grapefruits. I like mine with some sugar so it really doesn't matter to me that much. I also enjoy sour gummy worms if that tells you anything.
Grapefruit are hand-picked, no mechanical harvesting is used.
Grapefruit trees can produce for 30-40 years.
The grapefruit we know today was developed in the West Indies in the early 1700s and first introduced to Florida in the 1820s.
Some mature grapefruit trees can yield up to 1500 pounds of fruit in a season. The average yield is 350 pounds.

Now, I am not a dietician and I am not suggesting any of this is fact, but this is some other stuff I found online. Take it for what it's worth.
Grapefruit are loaded with vitamin C. In fact, half of one grapefruit or an 8-ounce glass of grapefruit juice provides at least 100% of the Daily Value for vitamin C.
Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen, a protein that gives structure to bones, cartilage, muscle and blood vessels, and can help support tissue repair, wound and bone healing, and healthy skin.
Vitamin C can help increase iron absorption. Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies worldwide.
Another one of the many health benefits of grapefruit is that it aids in weight loss. Grapefruit is low in sodium, high in fat burning enzymes and has a high water content. All these things combined speed up the metabolism.
Grapefruit also has the benefit of lowering cholesterol. A study done in Israel and published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that the antioxidants in grapefruit, especially red grapefruit, may help lower cholesterol.
In folk medicine grapefruit is believed to have the health benefits of improving one’s complexion, treating colds, fever and pneumonia, boosting the liver, breaking up gallstones and promoting a better digestion and immunity.
There are some negatives associated with Grapefruit however. Grapefruit can have negative side effects on certain medications. I am not a science researcher but I found this about the interactions on
Chemical compounds in Grapefruit Juice are known to inhibit an enzyme system found in the small intestine that metabolizes some drugs prior to absorption into the bloodstream. Drugs that are affected by this interaction are metabolized less than usual when they are taken with Grapefruit Juice, allowing a higher amount to reach the bloodstream, and this will cause higher drug levels.
I had always heard that certain drugs interact with Grapefruit, but never really knew why. If I am understanding this, apparently it causes the drug to be more potent, possibly causing an overdose situation. Definitely could be a bad thing.
So,if you are not taking medications that interact with Grapefruit, and you enjoy the taste, why not grow some of your own? Grapefruit can be grown just like all the other Citrus, look through some of my older posts as to how you would like to grow your own.
Tomorrows post will be the best places online (I think) to order Citrus trees.
See you then!
Happy Growing!

Friday, February 12, 2010

To Quince or not to Quince!

I have been know to really try and push the envelope with plants from different zones. I live in a Zone 8, but love to fiddle with plants from Zone 9 and 10. Well, now I am going the other way!
Quince (Cydonia oblonga). I received some hardwood cuttings the other day, Cultivars 'Van Deman' and 'Cooke's Jumbo'. So I headed to my propagation chambers, (See Messin with Mother Nature post) and stuck the 4 cuttings. I have never really tried rooting hardwood cuttings before, so this is kind of new to me. I will keep everybody posted as to how they are doing.
I know what you are thinking, Quinces are generally grown in the same zones as Apples and Charleston is not exactly known for its Apple production.
Quince have a much lower chilling requirement (much less than most apples). Usually between 100 to 450 hours. Charleston is 400-600 hours.
I think I have the solution however.
CONTAINERS! Hmmmm, that sounds like a familiar theme.
This is my thinking, I will put them where they will get morning sun and early afternoon sun. Protected from the late afternoon killer heat. Then when Winter comes, I will put them in the coldest spot I can find. I will not have to worry about it freezing, bacause that's what it wants! Quinces are generally hardy to zone 4!
Here is some other info about Quinces in case you want to try your hand at this often overlooked fruit.
The quince is a deciduous thornless shrub or small tree, growing 13-20 ft high and 10-15 ft wide, with crowded gnarled branches and a low crooked habit. Young branchlets are covered with a pale greyish wool.
Fruits are light golden-yellow, green or orange, usually pear shaped, but sometimes round and apple-shaped and very fragrant. The fruits can weight up to 1 lb or more.
Trees are self-fertile, with a good fruit set in both cool and hot climates; pollination is via bees.
As for it's uses, If it can be done with an Apple, it can be done with a Quince. Pies, Butter, Wine, Jelly, Stewed, Etc.
I am excited about trying this fruit. I have really gotten into canning and storing food for the future recently and there is so much that can be done with Quince.
I have read it is fairly easy to actually get them to root, I hope they are right. Here's to keeping the fingers crossed and the propagation chambers humming.
Stayed tuned for updates.
Happy Growing!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Pursuit of Trivia

I have always been interested in Trivia, even though I am not that good at Trivial Pursuit. My mother can kick my butt on any given day.
I still enjoy the random, sometimes useless facts. I have come across a few in the world of Citrus over the years and thought you might enjoy some of them.

Citrus is produced in 100 countries on six continents.

In 1995 the actual world production of all citrus was 78,173 thousand tons.

Some citrus trees have been known to produce hundreds of pounds of fruit for more than 100 years

The earliest written reference to any Citrus fruit is found in the book Yu Kung, or Tribute of Yu (the Emperor Ta Yu, who reigned from 2205 to 2197 B.C.)

Columbus is responsible for bringing citrus to the Americas on his second voyage in 1493.

Oranges are actually a sub-tropical tree. When grown in the tropics they never turn Orange, but stay green even when mature.

The Mongolians are believed to be the first to use Lemonade around 1299.

1575 Oranges were planted on Parris Island, South Carolina.

Lemons are considered the most useful type of citrus.

Now, If nothing else, if you ever find yourself on Jeopardy, you can confidently say "Citrus, for 500 Alex"

Happy Growing!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Put 'Em In The Ground

I have had a few people tell me they love that you can grow Citrus in Containers, But then they ask, will they grow in the ground in South Carolina? YES!
This is the information sheet that I give to everybody that attends my lectures.
This is good information for anybody that lives in a Zone 8 or warmer.


Citrus are subtropical or warm temperature plants adapted to growing in sandy soils along floodplains. To a degree, many parts of the Southeast greatly resemble the native habitats of citrus. Rainfall patterns are similar to Southeast Asia, the native habitat of citrus.
Like many plants, citrus prefer well drained, loamy soil. Citrus can succeed in heavier clays as long as they are well drained. No citrus can stand wet feet and will rapidly decline under persistently wet conditions. That being said, citrus need to be well watered at all times. They can be somewhat drought tolerant depending upon variety, but all will do better if given sufficient moisture. Remember, Winter is the drier season and special attention will need to be given to citrus during this time.
When planting citrus it is always a good idea to have your soil tested. Citrus appear to be more sensitive to deficiencies and when they enter a new flush of growth, the new growth will immediately show the deficiencies. Correcting them is a challenge after that! Slow release fertilizers with a ratio of 8-8-8 are excellent, especially if it also contains micronutrients such as iron, magnesium and manganese. A foliar feed (spraying the plants so the leaves absorb the food) with fish emulsion is also a good idea.
When it comes to where in your yard you should plant a citrus, there are a few factors that can come into play. South Carolina does occasionally have some really cold snaps, below 28 degrees. A southern or western exposure is the best. If you can plant it close to the house or a brick wall, this will give you some extra protection. The building or wall will absorb heat during the day and give it back to the tree at night. A mature citrus tree will handle down to 28 degrees or lower for a brief period of time. All of this is subject to how long the freeze is and how much time the tree had to go dormant prior to the freeze event. Younger trees should have some additional protection. One of the most festive ways is to get some C-7 or C-9 Christmas lights, the old ones, the new ones don't put off any heat. Wrap them around your tree and then place a plastic sheet over it. This will give you a few extra degrees of protection, which is sometimes all you need. Just remember to remove it at sunrise or you risk the chance of burning your citrus or having it break dormancy. A southern or western exposure will also give you the 8-10 hours of sunlight that citrus enjoy most of the year.
There are many varieties that will do well in a zone 8, given the help and protection listed above. Kumquats will do very well because they go completely dormant in the winter. Satsumas are actually a “class” of mandarin oranges. There are several cultivars that do well in South Carolina. Some examples are Kimbrough, Owari and Early St. Anne. There are many other early sweet oranges, sour oranges, limes, lemons and grapefruit that will do well. It is just a matter of finding the right cultivar that ripens early. It is also important to find trees grafted on Poncirus trifoliata or Flying Dragon as this will give you more cold hardiness.

Want some proof?

This is the fruit and tree from my friend Kathy. (Thanks Kathy!) As you can see she got quite the harvest of Oranges and Satsumas and has to use a ladder to pick the fruit.
So if you don't like the looks of containers or are afraid they will be a little too much work, Put 'em in the ground!
Happy Growing!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Club the Fire Ants?

Apparently, there has been an e-mail floating around that using Club Soda will control Fire Ants. I personally have not seen or received it, I heard it from my Clemson Extension Agent. After I heard about this I went and did a little research on it, after all it SOUNDS good. Guess what? That is exactly all it does, SOUNDS GOOD.
This information has been around on the internet since 2007 and for some reason regained a foothold last December.
Researchers have done extensive tests and it has been found to be ineffective. This will probably tick off the ants and they may move. They don't like to be disturbed. It will also produce a neat bubbling action in the ground and you may drown an ant or two, but that is really about the extent of it.
The theory sounds good because it is environmentally sound and uses a readily available product. Carbon dioxide in high enough doses will kill many organisms, however, the amount needed to get some 12 feet into the ground would be astronomical. The ants nest can be that far below ground.
Fire ant baits are still your most effective method of fire ant control.
There is a two step method:
* Step 1. Broadcast a fire ant bait once or twice a year to reduce fire ant colonies by 80 to 90 percent.
* Step 2. Treat nuisance mounds or colonies that move into the bait-treated areas. Step 2 may not be needed.
Baits contain active ingredients dissolved in a substance ants eat or drink. To be effective, baits must be fresh and applied when ants are actively foraging. There are many baits available to the general public. ALWAYS make sure you read and follow the package directions, This is FEDERAL LAW!
There have been some, shall we say, "Unusual" methods to control Fire Ants. They include, Ant Stompers, and Queen Smashers. There have been home remedies tried like, Exhaust fumes from engines and Microwaves used. Some have even tried Electric Shocks and Grits. For a full list of these and many other "Home Remedies" go to:
Some of these will give you a chuckle, they did me.
I will end today by saying, I luckily do not have a problem with Fire Ants in my yard. Knock on wood. The way my soil drains and with all the rain we have had, they would need rubber booties and snorkels!
Happy Growing!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Man, That's Cold

I received an e-mail from a new friend of mine named Claudia. She also writes a good Blog, Gardening Naturally with Claudia. You can check her blog out at:
She asked me a question that I never really gave much thought to, So I figured it would be a good subject for today's posting. She lives in Zone 5b (-10 to -15 Fahrenheit) Man, That's Cold!! She wanted to know what Citrus would be hardy in her climate. There is not much, BUT, there are some!
With that being said, let me give a few insights. Factors affecting hardiness are of course, minimum temperatures, how long it is, weather before the freeze, soil moisture and wind protection.
I have touched on some of this in other postings, but will revisit them here. Minimum temperature goes without saying, -10 to -15 is pretty cold.

As you can see from the above map, that kind of temperature and colder covers about one fourth of the country. So most of the ones I will list can be grown even further South.
How long the freeze is: One night of freeze may not hurt a plant too much, a week (or longer) could be another story.
The weather before the event: If you have had very cool temperatures and it has been rather consistent, that is a lot better than warm for a few days then a wicked cold spell.
Soil Moisture: Make sure plants are well watered before the event, the wind also falls under here. Cold and wind dry plants out. A dry plant is much more apt to be hurt by a freeze than a well watered one.

Now, as for Citrus that can handle that kind of cold. There is really only one for a Zone 5b. Poncirus trifoliata. It is hardy to about -15F There are two cultivars, a straight one with straight thorns and branches and ones with curved branches and thorns called 'Flying Dragon'.
This is one of the few actual deciduous (loses it leaves) Citrus. The best way to describe the fruit from this tree? I got this from the book 'Hardy Citrus for the Southeast' By Tom McClendon. He writes, "The fruit are edible, meaning that you won't die from eating them". That pretty much is the best description I can come up with other than, if you don't mind the taste of kerosene, this fruit is great! Tom also has uses listed for the Trifoliates: Hybridization, Ornamental and TARGET PRACTICE.
If you are willing to provide a little protection, maybe plant on the South side of your house and very close to a building or wall, you could grow some of these: Hardy to about 5F.
Citrandin (Poncirus X Citrus reticulata)
Citrange (Poncirus X Citrus sinensis)
Citrumelo ( Poncirus X Citrus paradisi)
Nansho Daidai Sour Orange (Citrus taiwanica)
Some of these may be palatable to you. I have actually had a decent Nansho Daidai. I also enjoy Sour Gummy Worms, so take that into consideration.

If you can protect down to about 10 degrees the list gets much better:
Bloomsweet Grapefruit
Yuzu (as seen on Martha Stewart)
Yuzu Hybrids
Nippon Orangequat
Changsha Mandarin
Juanita Tangerine
And actually there are many others.

Down to about 15 degrees and you are getting into the:
Kumquats and their Hybrids (Sunquat, Procimequat, etc.)
Sour Oranges

Your Satsumas are in the upper teens, I don't recommend pushing these there though. I try to keep them no lower than mid to upper 20's along with:
Sweet Oranges
Meyer Lemon

Like I said in the beginning, there are a LOT of factors that will effect cold hardiness. There are other steps that you can take to protect them.
Build a mini greenhouse over them. Grow them in Containers. I actually could go on for hours talking about this subject alone. Hopefully this gives you some ideas to try. Finding many of these varieties may prove to be difficult. There are some websites that you might be able to find some of them. Pick a couple and do a Google search. Later, I will do a post on finding some Citrus online, I have some great friends and will give you their websites. That my friends will be for later, for now you have to wait and come back often! LOL
Happy Growing!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What's In The Name?

When I start discussing Citrus with people most of them think, Oranges, Lemons, Limes, Grapefruit. Sometimes they may even think Tangerines and Kumquats. Which is fine and dandy. What a lot of people don't realize is, Citrus can hybridize very easily. It could be a natural cross or a man made cross. Sometimes it creates some very interesting and at times very funny names. You may even know a few of these and didn't know why they are called what they are.
I will start out with a more common one:

Tangelo: Usually found in the grocery store as Minneola Tangelo. You may know this one with the funny looking neck. This is a cross between a Tangerine (Tang) and a Pummelo (elo). The Pummelo is the grandfather of the Grapefruit. Pummelos can also be found in the stores today.
Now you know how they come up with the names, sometimes. There are times that how they come up with the name completely escapes me, like the Razzlequat (Kumquat and an Australian Citrus)
With the Tangelo there is also the:
Citrumelo (Pummelo and Poncirus trifoliata)

Anything with quat in it I find funny. Kumquat, etc. Some funny and interesting ones that come from Kumquat hybrids are:
Eustis Limequat (Lime and Kumquat)
Procimequat (Kumquat and Eustis Limequat)
Lemonquat (Lemon and Kumquat)
Orangequat (Kumquat and Satsuma Orange)

Then there are the crosses with Mandarins:
Citrandin (Mandarin and Poncirus trifoliata)
Calamandarin (Calamondin and Mandarin)

The Poncirus trifoliata makes some of the most unusual names:
Citraldin (Poncirus trifoliata and Calamondin)
Citremon (Poncirus trifoliata and Meyer Lemon)
Tai-Tri (Poncirus trifoliata and Citrus taiwanica)

I know what you are thinking, I am making these names up! Actually,there are many,many more crosses out there. Much too many to list here. Sometimes truth is funnier than fiction, I am not sure I could even come up with many of these on my own.
Then of course, there is the favorite cross of many folks out there, many of whom don't even know it's a cross. The Meyer Lemon. This is a cross between a Lemon and a Sweet Orange. So sad to say, it's not a true Lemon.
Do you grow more than one or two different varieties of Citrus? Why not try hybridizing your own? There is all kinds of tutorials on the web about crossing varieties and hybridizing. Just make sure you write down the two parents so maybe someday you can claim that you created something like the Yuzuquat (Yuzu and Kumquat) or the Yuzvange (Yuzu and Savage Citrange)!
Happy Growing!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cactus' or Cacti?

One of the very first plants that I got started with was a Cactus. It was some type of Euphorbia. I could make a good guess at which one exactly, but it would be just that "A Guess". That was some 35+ years ago!
Many people grow Cactus in containers, so it's not that unusual. I grow my in containers and except for the two in the last two pictures, The Stapelia gigantea and the Cereus spp. they stay outside ALL year long. I live in a Zone 8. The key here is to have a great micro-climate.

The picture below, My Ferocactus peninsulae stays in place out by my street where I park. I figure the asphalt must give enough heat off at night to sustain it. We dropped to 18 degrees a couple of times last year and had 12 nights of below freezing (well below some nights) this year. Just as a side note, I grew this baby from seed. It was in a mixed seed packet and is about 15 years old.

These steps are outside my backdoor. We never used this door and it is actually always locked. Again, they stay out there all Winter long. These steps are on the West side of the house. So again, I figure the concrete absorbs the heat and gives it back off at night. You also can't see it very well, but just to the right of the steps, behind the Silk Floss Tree (Ceiba speciosa) is my heater/ac unit. I imagine it puts off a little bit of heat when it is running also.

My Night Blooming Cereus and the Starfish Cactus (Stapelia gigantea) actually go into the greenhouse during the Winter.

The gist of this post I wanted to get across is:
Know and Use your Micro-Climates!
There are a lot of plants that will do very well for you, IF you find the right place. You can also take advantage of NOT having to move them in and around all the time once you find that "Sweet" spot for them. I never would have thought that Cactus'?...Cacti?..would thrive and flourish in Charleston SC left out all Winter.
I know this much, I plan on taking lots more pictures this year when they start to flower. Mother Nature has hit the reset button and I expect to have LOTS and LOTS of blooms this Spring. Stay Tuned for the blast of color in upcoming posts!
Happy Growing!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Messin with Mother Nature

A couple of days ago I stuck a whole bunch of Camellia cuttings. February 3rd to be exact. I got them from some good friends of mine, Christine and Tony (Thanks Guys!)
I have been told, split about 60-40 positive, that I should not try to root them now. The 60 percent that says YES,TRY IT, have done it very successfully this time of year. The other 40 percent think I should have waited until May or June. I am the type that loves to mess with Mother Nature. However,I do keep remembering that old Parkay commercial, "It isn't nice to fool Mother Nature" Be it as it may, I have cut the Camellias and I have stuck them in my interesting, yet I think, EFFECTIVE propagation chambers. See for yourself:

Basically, what you are looking at are 2 liter soda bottles. I took the labels off, punched holes in the bottom and cut them around the middle almost all the way around. Then I filled them with a mixture of Sand, Peat Moss and Perlite. Watered well. I cut the stems at as much of an angle as I could, and stripped the bark off another inch or so. Dipped them in rooting hormone. Used a pencil to make the hole. Inserted the cutting, packed the soil in around the end. I closed the bottle, with Duct Tape and wrote the variety on the tape. Then I placed the bottle in very bright light, with bottom heat, in a very warm room (74 degrees average).
I will be happy if I get 75% rooting success.
I read about this type of rooting chamber online somewhere, I wish I could remember where so I could give them credit. I will keep you posted as to the status of the cutting and the progress they make.
Happy Growing!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons

I recently have had a few questions concerning Lemons. They can be grown just like any other Citrus, except they are a little more susceptible to frost. Lemons and Limes are the least cold hardy and exhibit variable hardiness.
There is one Lemon that keeps cropping up in just about every conversation about Citrus...the Meyer Lemon.
The Meyer Lemon was introduced to the U.S. from China by the plant explorer Frank Meyer. There are many things that point to the Lemon parentage, lemon scented foliage, serrated leaves and purple tinged flower buds. The truth however is, it is not a true Lemon. It is a cross between a Lemon (probably Eureka) and a sweet orange. This is why it is considered a sweet lemon. I personally am not impressed with the Meyer Lemon's flavor, but to each his own. The fruit will initially turn yellow when ripe, but then go through deep yellow to almost orange. This lemon makes a good substitute for areas that can't grow the true Lemon.
This is a picture of some immature Meyers that I had, in containers of course.

If you want to try a good Lemon, yet have a little extra "flair" Then try the Variegated Eureka. (A.K.A. The Pink Lemonade Tree) Not only are the leaves variegated, but so is the least until it ripens to a normal yellow.

These guys taste like a true Lemon and the pulp and juice are pink. The true Pink Lemonade Experience.
Another fun Lemon to grow is the Ponderosa Lemon. Fruit have been known to weigh up to 5 pounds. these things are huge. I am waiting for mine to fruit.
Want one? Go to:

These folks have other Citrus available and I have used them a number of times. The plants are slightly on the small side, but they most definitely grow well.
There are other unusual Lemons out there, Ichang and Ujukitsu just to name a couple. Do a Google search to try and find some of these.
Just as a side note, if for some reason you can not find a Lemon tree and don't want to pay for the shipping, I have a solution. Go Grocery Shopping!
Buy a Lemon or two and plant the seeds. You will have a nice tree and in about 5-6 years...fruit!
Happy Growing!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Using Protection

With the temperature fluctuating up and down like it has, I have noticed a few things. Buds, both flower and leaf, starting to plump up.
This could be a good thing, Spring is coming early.
Or, it could also be a bad thing, the plants THINK it's Spring and a freeze will damage this flush of growth.
As long as a plant is dormant, very cold temperatures should not effect it. That is of course the plant is in a zone or so of it's normal range. Trying to grow Florida Anise in Canada may not be a good idea. I have mentioned before on this blog that Citrus can handle done to 28 degrees for a short period of time. As long as they have had a chance to go semi-dormant. Citrus really don't go fully dormant like a Maple for instance. They more or less acclimate themselves and brace for colder weather.
If the soil warms up and they flush new growth, that new growth is very susceptible to the cold.
These pictures are from some of my trees. I was pushing them along kind of hard with fertilizer and keeping them warm. We hit a low of 18 degrees and the heater in my hoop house couldn't keep up. The temperature only dropped to 30 degrees and this was the result:

The trees ended up being fine. I only lost about 3 inches on the tips of this one plant. It is a Cocktail Grapefruit. The overall effect was basically a little premature pruning.
Had I not been pushing it with fertilizer through the Winter, this would not have happened. I usually tend to push everything! This is why the general rule is, DON'T fertilize in Winter.
Well, back to my main point of this article. Flushes of new growth now.
If you are seeing new growth and also seeing Mr. Weatherperson predicting sub freezing temperatures, there are a couple of steps you can take. This will apply to any plant, not just Citrus.
Go up into Aunt Martha's attic and find a couple of sets of the old timey Christmas lights. You know, those great big ones that would melt your Christmas presents if they touched them. The new ones don't put off any heat, so they won't work.
Wrap a couple of strands around your plant and toss a sheet or plastic over it. Make sure you help prop it up with some wire cages or stakes so you don't break any branches off. You can also use a spotlight if you don't have the Christmas lights. You have just bought yourself a good 8-10 degrees. Just remember to remove the plastic in the morning so you don't have fried plant when the sun hits it.
Another idea, and this would take a little forethought. Get a couple of 55 gallon drums, metal or plastic, paint them black. Place a couple around your plant and fill with water. The barrel will absorb the sunlight and heat, and give it back throughout the night. The area will be a few degrees warmer and might be all you need to save your plant.
With a little effort, almost any plant can be grown anywhere. I still like container growing, but for those of you that want it all in the ground, I hope this gives you some ideas on how to....Use some protection!
Happy Growing!