Sunday, June 28, 2015

Never Give Up!

As I write this on the 28th of June, it is almost 90 degrees outside. We haven't been below 70, even at night, for well over 6 weeks, and yet, I am dealing with cold damage on one of my citrus trees.
How is this possible?
Good question!
This article is actually going to dove tail from another one I just wrote last month. If you would like to catch up on that first, here is the link: Citrus Pruning
It covers when and how to prune citrus. It also covers what would happen if a branch is damaged from the cold closer to the trunk.
A quick recap: Cold damage on citrus trees can be very deceiving. If the damage is low on the branch, there might be enough energy in it to initiate growth, but, if the damage is not allowing nutrients from the roots, it will be a short lived flush
SO, with that being said, what am I dealing with now? An entire tree!!

This was a Republic of Texas Orange. It had started out with a real nice flush of growth and I though it was going to be fine. It survived the winter of 2013/14, so I had no reason to doubt it survived the 2014/15 winter when I saw all the leaves coming out.
About a week ago it all started to wilt. With as hot as its been, I figured it just wasn't getting enough water. So I gave it a good soaking. It never even started to perk up. 
I had waited until the new growth looked good before I cut all the dead material off, as you can see in the picture below, it was quite a bit.

I really thought I was in the clear, until the wilting started. So, I went on a search to see what was wrong. I guess I wasn't really paying attention, or I just overlooked it. 

You can probably see the problem better in this picture. Did you notice all the cracks in the trunk, just above where the large branch was cut off? 
That is cold damage. 
Apparently, there was enough stored energy in the tree above that damage to initiate some new spring growth. However, when that energy was used up, it could not receive anymore from the roots. Hence the wilting and death of the leaves.
I pretty much had given up on this tree and was going to toss it, but I have been really busy as of late and hadn't had a chance.
Then, the tree itself showed me that I should never completely give up, at least not right away.
There are a few roots that are growing just above the soil line and lo and behold, this showed up:

If this was a grafted tree, I would not be as excited. That would just be the rootstock coming back and depending on what it was, might not be worth keeping. This tree is growing on it's own roots, so this is the Republic of Texas coming back!!
It will be a few years before I see fruit again, but as Dr. Frankenstein once said, "IT IS ALIVE!!"
Everything eventually will die for one reason or another, that is a fact of life. If you get nothing else from this article, remember this, when one of your plants look dead, look at all of the factors of what may have killed it, it might be reversible, or it might be salvageable. The truth is, Never Give Up, until it is an absolute surety of its demise!!
If you have any questions about this, any of my other articles or something else pertaining to gardening, please feel free to e-mail me. I can also be found on Facebook as The Citrus Guy.
Happy Growing!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A New Japanese Monster Movie?

I have mentioned in previous articles about my guilty pleasure of occasionally watching Japanese monster movies. You know, Godzilla, Mothra, etc. I have no idea what attracts me to these creatures invading Tokyo and destroying everything in sight. I spent some time in Japan, I loved it there and the people were wonderful!
However, I don't like the idea of a new Japanese movie being made in my back yard, with monsters destroying many of my plants, yet it is happening! It might very well be going on in your yard too.
Do you have plants that the leaves look like this?

This is my Seedless Concord Grape, or what is left of it. The skeletonized leaves are the result of the monster known as......dum....dum...dummmmm

This beetle, Popillia japonica is commonly known throughout the eastern half of the country, and probably many other parts of the world. It is just over one half inch long and just under one half inch wide. They are an iridescent copper and green color. It is not very destructive in Japan, where it is controlled by natural predators, but in North America it is a serious pest of over 200 species of plants, including Rose Bushes, Grapes, Peaches, Crape Myrtles, Apples, and others.
If you have ever complained about quarantines being in place, here is an example of why they exist. As the name suggests, the Japanese beetle is native to Japan. The insect was first found in the United States in 1916 in a nursery near Riverton, New Jersey. It is thought the beetle larvae entered in a shipment of iris bulbs prior to 1912, when inspections of commodities entering the country began. "The first Japanese beetle found in Canada was in a tourist's car at Yarmouth, arriving in Nova Scotia by ferry from Maine in 1939. The destructive rest, as they say, is history.
 The eastern U.S. provided a favorable climate, large areas of turf and pasture grass for developing grubs, hundreds of species of plants on which adults could feed, and no effective natural enemies. The beetle thrived under these conditions and has steadily expanded its geographic range.
The life cycle of the Japanese beetle is typically one year in most parts of the United States. Eggs are laid in the soil one to four inches deep in mid to late summer and hatch after about two weeks. The young grubs feed primarily on the roots of lawn grasses until the onset of cold temperatures where they go deeper into the soil for the winter. As the soil warms again in the spring, the grubs move upward to resume feeding on roots until pupating near the soil surface in early summer. Adults usually emerge in early to mid summer, but apparently this year they were not paying attention to the calendar.

Japanese Beetle Grub

So, they are here. What to do about them? I will cover a few ways, from least toxic to a nuclear option.
If you have a small yard, or a light infestation, you can just pluck the critters off and drop them in a bucket of soapy water. Leave this bucket out where the other beetles can see it, there is some evidence that the carcasses of other dead beetles may repel new invaders.
Traps are sold widely for Japanese beetle monitoring and control. Traps are highly attractive and draw beetles to them over large distances, so putting a trap in your yard will draw beetles from the surrounding landscape. Many of the attracted female beetles do not get trapped and end up landing on foliage nearby and feeding or mating then laying eggs in the soil near the trap, this creates a hot-spot for next season. So this may not be a good idea.
Milky spore, Paenibacillus popilliae, is a bacterium that, when present in the soil, can help in the control of the grubs. You would need to get your neighbors to apply this also, because such a large area needs to be treated for a significant impact on the beetle population, it is usually not an effective treatment for individual homeowners.
Neem oil can be useful. It is labeled for organic use, it will suffocate some, has some repellent activity by deterring feeding and it can disrupt the reproductive cycle. It is actually interesting how this oil works. Neem enters the system and blocks the hormones from working properly. Insects "forget" to eat, to mate, or they stop laying eggs. Some forget that they can fly. If eggs are produced they don't hatch, or the larvae don't molt. Hence, the cycle is broken. If you use it every year, you eventually will dwindle their numbers. Make sure you read the label, and don't apply if the temperature is over 75 degrees. Apply either early in the morning or early evening. Spraying as many of the insects as possible.
Getting into the nuclear options and these should be a last resort. Pyrethroid products such as Bayer Advanced Lawn & Garden Multi-Insect Killer and Permethrin products such as Spectracide Bug Stop Multi-Purpose Insect Control Concentrate generally provide 2-3 weeks of protection.
Carbaryl or better known as Sevin dust and others, provides immediate control of beetles present during the application and affords 1-2 weeks of protection . This is a stomach poison, so if beetles eat treated foliage they will also receive a higher dose. This can be a good control of Japanese beetles since they eat so much that a strong dose of insecticide is taken up. However, you, your family and the environment are also exposed to this poison. There is a threshold of the amount of damage that can be tolerated to your plants. I only recommend the nuclear option if that threshold has been surpassed. Make sure you read and follow the directions on the label, it is the law!!
With just about every monster movie, there is a lot of worry about the approaching invader and the damage that will be done. There is also the answer to all of the problems associated with the invading monster. Hopefully this article has given you some ideas on what to do, what not to do, and how to avoid a remake of your yards version of a Japanese monster movie!!
As always, if you have any questions concerning this or any of my other articles, feel free to e-mail:
You can also find me on Facebook as The Citrus Guy.
Happy Growing!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Salted

Being in the nursery business, I get to talk to a lot of people about all kinds of plants and their problems. It can range from, needing something for a shady, wet spot to a hardy plant that can handle extreme temperatures and sun. Deer resistance and a natural fence to block obtrusive neighbors are also on the list. One of the toughest questions to answer is salt tolerance.
As humans, we all know that too much salt is bad for us. High blood pressure being the first thing that comes to mind. Plants can have health issues too, if given or receiving too much salt.
The most commonly used salt, whether found in the closet  or in de-icing during the winter, is sodium chloride. Salt occurs in a variety of forms, including the mineral halite, which is mined and used in rock salt. Sodium chloride is sold in several different particle sizes depending on its intended use. Rock salt is very coarse and consists of crystals that have the consistency of loose gravel. On the opposite end of the scale, common table salt and popcorn salt have very fine granules. In between is kosher salt, which is made up of coarse flakes, and compressed pellets that are used in water softeners.

Most of us think of only these kinds of salt, but salts in irrigation and soil water that we use for our plants are in fact formed from many minerals. These minerals come mostly from the weathering of rocks and soils, dissolved over millions of years. Salts can also come from fertilizers and soil amendments such as gypsum and lime. They can also come from water tables and sea water intrusion. The last two are the problem most people come into contact with when it comes to living on the coast.
Sea water intrusion occurs in coastal freshwater aquifers when the different densities of both the saltwater and freshwater allow the ocean water to intrude into the freshwater aquifer. So you may think that your well water is fine, however, in drought years this difference in densities becomes more lopsided towards the salt water. Too much salt in the soil is a problem for several reasons, including toxicity, inadequate amounts of moisture and oxygen, and a high pH that makes necessary nutrients unavailable to plants. 
Contact your local extension office and get your soil tested if you suspect your soil is too salty.
What kind of symptoms should I look for?
Good Question!

This picture shows a very clear example of what might have happened after a cold, icy, winter, where you threw salt down on your sidewalk to melt ice. Dead, brown plants are an obvious indicator.
What about something a little less obvious?

Leaf tip burn.
Other things to keep an eye out for are:
Noticeable Delay in Spring “budbreak”/flowering
Stunted Foliage and Noticeably Small Buds
Reduced New Shoot Growth
Crown Thinning or Crown Tufting
Premature Fall coloration and defoliation (losing leaves early)

There is a list of plants that can tolerate salty soils (and salt spray if you live on the immediate coast).
Your local extension agent should have a copy for your area. Some of the more common ones, and this is just a small sampling, not all of these will necessarily grow where you live include:

Eastern Red Cedar-Juniperus virginiana
Common persimmon- Diospyros virginiana
Southern magnolia- Magnolia grandiflora
Live oak- Quercus virginiana
Beautyberry- Callicarpa americana
Japanese holly- Ilex crenata
Wax myrtle- Myrica cerifera
Pyracantha- Pyracantha coccinea
Oleander- Nerium oleander

Again, I encourage you to contact your local extension agent, get your soil tested and get a copy of the plants that will grow in your area that are salt tolerant.
As you can imagine, salt in the landscape would be much more difficult to deal with than it would be if you are growing things in containers. It can happen there too!

This is an extreme case.
If you over fertilize your plants, the salts can build up. If the container starts to develop a white crust, or it is seen around the drainage holes, you should look into a possible salt accumulation issue. The nice thing is, you can remedy it rather quickly.
First, stop feeding the plant as often, make sure you are following the manufacturers directions and application rates.
Second, you can try to flush the salts out with plenty of good, clean water. The best thing to do is start over by removing all of the soil and starting with fresh, new soil. In the case above, make sure you scrub the pot, you might even consider soaking the pot in clean water for a few days to try and leach some of the salt out.
As you can see, too much salt is bad for both humans and plants. Hopefully, you won't ever need to worry about this, but if you do, at least you have a little insight as to how to deal with your plants in the case they are ever a salted!!
As always, if you have any questions, comments or concerns about this or any of my other articles, please feel free to contact me at
Happy Growing!