Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tagging Plants, on the Cheap!!

This is a rerun of a post I did back about 2 years ago. It had kind of gotten lost in the archives. I bring it up because of a couple of reasons. It is always timely to save money and somebody asked me about it a couple of days ago. I sent them the link, then got to thinking that it might be time to have it rear its head again! So, from February of 2010, let me introduce: 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!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's About Time!!

Time. Nobody ever has enough of it. It passes by quickly, we waste it, and it waits on no one. I joke all the time that if I only had 36 hour days and 10 day weeks, I could get more done, but alas, I would just fill that in too.
Mother Nature gives us different plants that, although we named them, shows us different aspects of time.
Let's start off right at the beginning of the day with, The Morning Glory.

Botanically it is Ipomoea purpurea. They are considered an annual, which means you have to re-plant them every year because they die. Even as I sit in my quiet living room I can hear all my Master Gardener friends screaming....DON'T PLANT THEM! They are considered invasive. Even though they are an annual and die back, they will reseed themselves prolifically.
It simply can not be easier to grow these though, and I am sure everybody that has had a grandmother remembers her growing them. Requirements are full sun, well draining soil, moist, not wet soil, and something for them to grow up, on and over. They will easily reach 10-15 feet in a single season. They come in White as well as hues of Red, Pink, Purple, and of course Blue. There are stripped ones available also.
Here are a couple of tips so that you can enjoy these beauties and not have them take over your neighborhood.
Grow them in a container:

This can be done with a very large pot and a large Tomato cage or any kind of trellis like structure. You will have to keep the vines trimmed back so it does not grab any small children.
While on the subject of cutting, you will also want to cut off the seed pods after the flower has expired, this will save you from pulling the volunteers out of everything.
Ripe and unripe seeds will look like this:

Okay, you have your morning off to a pretty good start. Now Mother Nature has something waiting for you when you get home in the afternoon, namely the Four O'clock. Hey, it's four o'clock somewhere.

Mirabilis jalapa if you want to be scientific. As you can see these also come in an amazing array of colors, White, Red, Yellow, Pink, Splotched, Stripped, and on and on. Here again those voices in my head are screaming at me as these too can be considered invasive if not kept in check. Their habit of opening in the late afternoon and staying open all night is what has given them their name. Grown as an annual, though, with the way they can reseed themselves it is almost considered a perennial. Full sun, moist soil and just about any type of soil, clay, sandy, etc. They are fast growers, reaching 2-4 feet in a single season. They hybridize very easily and you may never know what color you will get if you save the seeds. They are large and black and usually hidden down in the throat of where the flower use to be.

Many times you will have both ripe seed and flowers on the same plant.
Okay, you might be home all day, weekend, off from work, whatever. You enjoyed the Morning Glory but didn't want to wait until late afternoon to enjoy the 4 O'clock. Not to worry, Mother Nature has you covered with....The Day Lily.

This is a perennial (comes back every year) and botanically known as Hemerocallis spp. The spp. stands for species, there are SO many of these things that it is easier to list like that. There are literally thousands of registered cultivars, which means there are thousands of colors and sizes to choose from. The colors range from Yellow, Orange, Pale Pink, to vibrant Reds, Purples, Lavenders, Greenish tones, near-Black, near-White, and more.
This plant received it's name because, typically, the flower only lasts 24 hours. When planted in mass you would hardly notice that you are seeing a different flower everyday. Depending on exactly what kind you have, they can grow from Zone 1 all the way to Zone 11. Some reaching a height of up to 4 feet, they will grow in practically any soil type. Full sun, or light shade it can tolerate moist soils and drought conditions. They will, of course, produce more flowers given optimum growing conditions. Division of clumps in the late Winter or early Spring is the best way to propagate them.
Lastly, on the topic of time for Mother Nature, there is a plant that is really for the LONG term thinking....namely, The Century Plant.

Agave americana, mostly found in the Southwestern United States and Mexico, it does well in Zones 8-11. This plant is actually kind of named incorrectly, it doesn't really take a century to bloom, but it does take 10 years or so in warm regions and as much as 60 years in colder climates. Once the plant flowers it dies, but there are usually many baby plants, called pups, around the base to continue the heritage.
They grow in sandy, well draining soil, full sun. These things are desert plants, once established they are extremely drought tolerant.
Century Plants are almost evil. The leaves get up to 6' long and 10" wide, and have sharp spines on the edge and tips. The side spines are recurved like fishhooks and the tip spines can be more than an inch long. When it does come time to flower, there is nothing more spectacular when it comes to shear size. The flower stalk can be anywhere from 20-40 feet in the air, with 3-4 inch yellow green flowers in clumps. Imagine the talk of your neighbors if you had this in your yard:

Well, I hope you have enjoyed your time with me on this very timely subject. Like sand through the hour glass, the seconds are slipping away and I must run, like I said at the beginning, Time waits for no one!
Happy Growing!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What The......?!

As I go through my Master Gardener career, one old saying keeps popping out at me, "The more I learn, the more I realize I DON'T know".
This came to light again just the other day. I received an e-mail from the one of the many horticulture and gardening websites that I subscribe to and it was about a fungus and a beetle causing havoc with the Avocado crops in California. I know what you are asking, If you live in South Carolina, WHY are you worried about an Avocado problem in California? There are a couple of reasons:
1) I am a geek and I like to know what could possibly end up here due to somebody inevitably bringing it here by mistake or stupidity. I am attempting to grow Avocados.
2) I buy Avocados in the store on occasion, and I want to know why the price could/is going up.
Anyway, while I was reading this article there was a picture that sent off all kinds of "familiar" images in my head, I KNOW I have seen this before. That picture was this:

What you are looking at is strings of compacted sawdust being pushed out of the trunk of the tree. I was right I had seen it before. This damage was being caused by an Ambrosia Beetle and I had them in a Royal poinciana (Delonix regia) tree that I was growing. The tree died and had these strings of sawdust coming out. I disposed of the tree, which in hindsight was a good idea, because at the time I had NO IDEA what the heck it was. I do now.
There about 3,000 known beetle species employing the ambrosia strategy. Ambrosia beetle is a generic term used to refer to a number of beetles. This "strategy" is a relationship between the beetles and the Ambrosia fungus.
This is how it works. The beetles dig holes, usually in dieing or stressed trees but some species use live, healthy ones. These tunnels are called galleries. The beetle carries spores of the Ambrosia fungus with it and then deposits them in these galleries. The fungus penetrates the plant's tissue, digests it, and grows near the surface of the beetle's gallery. The beetles then feed upon the fungus. The tree ends up dieing, in the case of a live tree infestation, because the fungus in essence "clogs" up the trees arteries.
The beetle that is causing the problem in California is known as the Tea Shot Hole Borer. It is an exotic ambrosia beetle smaller than a sesame seed. The information is still coming in as to how expansive the damage is.
Down in Florida they too are having a problem with Avocados, but because of a different beetle. There, it is the Redbay Ambrosia Beetle. This one was first detected in Port Wentworth, Georgia in 2002. Back in that year, this beetle, Xyleborus glabratus, was the twelfth species of non-native ambrosia beetle known to have become established in the US. All are suspected to have been introduced in solid wood packing materials, such as crates and pallets.
One other beetle I am trying to keep an eye on is the Granulate Ambrosia Beetle (Xylosandrus crassiusculus). This one was introduced to South Carolina from Asia in the early 1970’s. It has since spread throughout the southeast, gulf coast and as far north as Maryland. This tiny beetle is a pest of woody ornamental, fruit, and nut trees and can cause significant damage in nursery, landscape, and orchard settings.
Here in the southeast, Georgia and South Carolina, the ambrosia beetle’s first flight occurs with mild weather typically in February but possibly as early as January. Young trees in nurseries and trees that have been in landscapes for less than three years old are vulnerable to attack even if they are not obviously stressed.
Ambrosia Beetles come in many shapes, sizes and colors, as seen by this picture:

They are all usually very small. How to tell if you have an infestation? I mentioned the strings of sawdust protruding from the tree. This may not always be visible however because rain and wind can knock this very fragile powder off. Other signs to look for are, piles of fine, whitish dust found around entrance holes or at the base of the tree. Wilting of the new leaves, which can also be associated with other problems, is a secondary confirmation sign. You should also monitor the bark very closely for holes as small as 1/16 of an inch.
Keeping your trees healthy is one of the most important defenses against attack. Preventative applications of pyrethroid insecticides can protect trees, if sprayed when the beetles are active at the first signs of warmer weather, late Winter, early Spring. Read the label of anything that you use. When looking for an insecticide to work on Ambrosia Beetles, look for some type of borer listed on the label. Specific beetles will not appear on the label. Organic products such as Pyrenone or PyGanic may be used, but are expensive and may not be available in small amounts. Their effectiveness has not been well studied. Once beetles are inside trees they cannot be killed with insecticides and fungicides are ineffective against the ambrosia fungus. You are better off doing everything that you can to reduce the stress of the tree or shrub in hopes that the plant will outgrow the attacks.
Other management procedures to think about are, avoid spreading the beetle and pathogen to new areas, wood or wood chips from infested trees should not be transported out of the local areas where infected trees have been found. Many of the species target very weakened, dying trees, green logs, and unseasoned lumber. The beetles will only attack trees and logs with high moisture content. The moisture is needed to allow the Ambrosia fungus to grow.
This has been a very brief article on Ambrosia Beetles. There is much, much more online about these destructive insects. There are many species of these beetles and they attack many species of trees and shrubs.
Hopefully you can get two major points from my little rant:
1) Keep your plants healthy. Plant the right plant in the right place. Give it space, water and all of the other things it needs to remain happy.
2) Be VERY careful of what you bring into your yard, neighborhood or country. There very well could be an unwanted hitchhiker in that plant, soil or pallet.
Happy Growing!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Citrus With Some Mussel

I already know what you are thinking, this guy really goofed up this time.....that is not how it is spelled. Just hang with me for a minute, all will be explained.
I am tickled to death that my name has gotten around the internet as much as it has. Now mind you, I live in North Charleston, South Carolina. I got an e-mail from a very nice guy out in San Diego, California. He came across my name and blog trying to diagnose what he thought was a very serious problem. He was afraid that he had Citrus Scab.
Just so you know, Citrus scab, which is caused by the fungus Elsinoe fawcetti, affects the fruit, leaves, and twigs of susceptible varieties of citrus. It can be particularly severe on lemons, Temples, and Murcotts and on Minneola tangelos. It is often a problem on grapefruit, but rarely occurs on round oranges. Sweet orange is generally only infected if trees are located very close to infected trees of other varieties. His problem was on a Valencia Sweet orange. Never underestimate the information that somebody is trying to get when diagnosing a problem, it being a Valencia was VERY important here.
Anyway, this is the picture that he sent me:

I want to be honest here. I knew it was not Citrus Scab, but I did contact a couple of my Citrus buddies to make sure we had a positive ID.
It turned out to be Lepidosaphes beckii, Citrus Mussel Scale. This type of scale also goes by the names, Purple Scale, Orange Scale, Comma Scale and Mussel Purple Scale. This scale is highly specific to Citrus, rarely to never being found on any other plant.
This is one of the most destructive insect pests of Citrus throughout the world. The small insects attach themselves to leaves, fruit, and small branches causing injury by sucking the tree's sap. It is of Oriental origin, which makes sense because Citrus is of Oriental origin. It poses major problems for Citrus in Central and South America, South Africa, Australia, Hawaii, Florida, Texas and California.
If you put a magnifying glass to this pest, it would look like this:

Photo courtesy of University of Georgia

The 1/8 inch adult female lays eggs under its mussel-shaped scale and up to four generations may occur annually. Damage to fruit occurs in heavy infestations, where spotting and often deformity of fruits affects market value. Areas surrounding scales remain green long after the rest of the fruit ripens. Another good way to tell if you have a problem is, if there are ants having a big old parade up and down your tree, start watching for scale. Ants feed on the sugar secretion that scale puts out. They also often defend scale insects from predators and parasites.
Control is difficult. That coat of armor that they wear protects them from most insecticides. Scale insects are most vulnerable at juvenile or ‘crawler’ stage; however they are also very difficult to see. The use of a horticultural oil is your best bet. Ideally, good spray coverage during plant dormancy or when crawlers are active is the key to successful control of scale. Bark as well as foliage should be treated.
Trees that do not have a dormancy period i.e. citrus are best treated when crawlers are active in Spring and again at the end of Summer. Spot treatments may also be required until infestation is under control. It may take 2 to 3 years before the infestation is properly managed and the affected tree shows signs of recovery.
There are some natural enemies of scale, they include parasitical wasps, lady beetles, spiders, lacewigs and predatory mites. Small birds also feast on scale. Beneficial insects can be bought and released to control scale. You might want to remember that beneficials will die if released onto leaves that have been treated with insecticide.
For my e-mail friend in San Diego he was relieved it was not Scab, However it sounded like he had a pretty bad infestation.......His work has just begun.
Happy Growing!