Sunday, October 29, 2017

Bloggin for the Noggin

     Back on January 16th, 2010 I wrote my very first blog. My reasoning at the time was simple, I was tired of reading articles in magazines, online, and elsewhere that I REALLY wanted to learn more about in the horticulture world, only to end up with just as many questions (if not more) than when I started. I was nowhere near as prolific in the garden scene as I may be now, so I really was trying to learn. Yes, I sat and read textbooks that I could find. My Friday nights were filled with searching out Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), which is a document that contains information on the potential hazards (health, fire, reactivity and environmental) and how to work safely with the chemical product. Yeah, I was a REAL party animal!!

Here is a typical sheet I would read, this is for Carbaryl (Sevin Dust)
     As I was saying, other than the textbooks and MSD Sheets, I was having issues learning by reading Magazine and online articles, they just never really completed the whole story. Hence, one of the main reasons for The Citrus Guy blog, to teach as MUCH information on a specific topic as I possibly could. Does it fall short occasionally? Probably.
Is it from lack of trying? No.
But I would bet that you will know A LOT more about something after reading one of my articles. I only say that because I have received many wonderful e-mails thanking me for the information that I provide. I completely believe in the quote, which is commonly attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, "Knowledge Is Power".

     Michelangelo once stated that "He is Still Learning".
 I like that one too!
So, as I continue to learn, I will continue to teach. However, teaching and knowledge are great, but you need to put that knowledge to use.

So in actuality, the equation is Knowledge+Action=Power.
     How does this relate to the subject at hand?
Other than the obvious, people need to go outside and dig in the ground, plant something, or simply work in the garden more, I wanted my blog to be more than just information.
My action?
     I have been vetting different gardening, horticulture, and yard paraphernalia sites over the past several months to make this blog a one-stop shop as it where. Here is the gist. I discuss something here, maybe a new plant cultivar that has come out, or a new pesticide, you get all excited about it and you want to get some. Where do you go? You have to go hunting around the web, possibly getting frustrated, then you give up. You have the knowledge, but without the action, or tools to create the action, you do not have the full power. If I have numerous links either in the article itself or at the top of the page, I can direct you there.
     Pretty simple, huh? There is a caveat that I am attempting to fix. Occasionally, you will see a link in one of my articles that does NOT make any sense. For instance, I talked about Sweet Potatoes before. One of the programs I am using to install links on here is a little too literal, it will probably take you to a dog food site that is made with Sweet Potatoes. I will also discuss Neem oil as a horticultural organic pesticide at times, the link may take you to an essential oils health and beauty website. I assure you I am working on getting that changed, so please, if you get sent to a weird site and have NO IDEA why it sent you there, it is being worked on. In some cases, it might just happen to be something that you needed anyway, so if that is the case, BONUS!!
     Another secondary reason for the blog was to help and try to fix as much of the "bad" information that was out there.
Let me give you a couple of examples:
Example #1- I was at a function onetime and was asked, how do you tell the difference between a male and female fig? I was waiting for the punchline and wanted to know what they meant. They proceeded to tell me that a "fairly" reliable source had stated that you need a male and female fig to produce fruit. I quickly told them that was absolutely incorrect and that one fig tree will produce fruit.
Example #2- A well-known market type website had a product for sale that a very nice lady asked me if I thought it was a good idea to purchase. When she told me what it was, I almost spit out my coffee that I was drinking. The item? She wanted to know if she should buy some seedless grape seeds.
I will let that sink in for a minute.

     The sad part is, I stumble across things like that on a weekly basis. If it is on the Internet, it must be true right? Huh? What? Wait a minute, my blog is on the Internet, so if it isn't right, it's, but....never mind!
      I try to research everything I post as much as I possibly can. I take my teachings very seriously. The world is losing all of the growers, horticulturists, and gardeners at an alarming rate. I wrote an article last year entitled "We're Losing Them Folks" discussing how the younger generation is turning away from gardening. I want people to see that we need education. We need truth. We need to get rid of false news and information. We need the younger generation to get OFF of their computer-laden butts and get out into the yard or garden.
     Please pass this around to as many people as you can. Information is the key and if people are getting bad info, they will have problems and probably fail, thus discouraging them from trying again.
Failing numerous times is not bad, failing once and never trying again is!
End of rant.
If you have any questions about this or any of my other articles, drop me an e-mail to and don't forget to follow me on FACEBOOK!
Happy Growing!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Me Mammey!

     With fall, more or less being here, the calendar says one thing, the weather says something else, it is still really warm. Don’t get me wrong, I am by NO MEANS complaining! But, it is time to start decorating for the season. While mums are the usually chosen plant of choice, I have a second, even more brightly colored autumnesque plant, the Mammey Croton.
Just as a side note, it can also be spelled mammy and mamey, personally, I like two M’s and an E.

Picture courtesy of palm tree landscaping/pine island/cape coral

     This plant just screams fall. Considered one of the smaller crotons, easily kept at 3 feet or shorter, it is known as a red variety with bright red, yellow and green leaves, also with the occasional black variegation. They are easy to grow and easily obtainable.
     Botanically, it is Codiaeum variegatum and is a member of the Euphorbia family. Native to Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Pacific Islands, it is a standard plant in many Florida and California landscapes.

Picture courtesy of

     Crotons, in general, can be planted in almost any light - full sun to partial shade - with some types of this plant, like the classic Petra, preferring a bit more shade. Mammeys attain their brightest coloring in full sun; though keep in mind that crotons should be shaded during the hottest part of the day since too much sun can bleach the color of their leaves. Mammy is an awesome looking plant with its twisted, multi-colored leaves that look like long party streamers flying out of its container.
Grown indoors, its leaves are subtler in their coloration, tending more towards the greens and purples with bits of red, but if grown in bright light environments it rapidly transforms into an explosion of brilliant color.

Picture courtesy of

     The general consensus states that Mammey crotons will not survive below 50 degrees and should be grown as potted plants to be brought inside when the temperatures get that low. Here in my zone 8, I have seen them freeze back at temperatures below 30 but come back the next year. A heavy mulch will help tremendously. They like at least 40% relative humidity but will tolerate lower, possibly with some defoliation. Mammey will grow in most any soil type, just make sure the area is well-drained...none of the crotons will put up with "wet feet."
     This plant is moderately salt-tolerant and drought-tolerant, once established, though it does best with regular irrigation. Give it time to dry out slightly between waterings. Pruning is only needed occasionally to keep the plant's size in check. As with all foliage shrubs, you should always trim stems - don't cut across the leaves.

     Fertilize 3 times a year if planted outside, early spring (March), summer (June) and autumn (September) with your favorite acidic fertilizer, such as Espoma Holly-Tone. If you bring it indoors, a little shot of liquid fertilizer would be useful in January.
     Spider Mites, Scale and the occasional Mealy Bug are the only pests; use a miticide for the mites, insecticidal soap for the mealies and neem oil for the scale.

Photo Courtesy of

     Propagation is relatively easy and is a great way to use the clippings when you are pruning. Cut a 5-6 inch long stem with at least 3 sets of leaves at the top. Cutting the stem just below a leaf joint. Remove all the leaves except the very top, and dip the end of the cutting into a rooting hormone such as Dyna-Gro Water Soluble Root Gel. Place it in moist soil (or your favorite rooting medium) and cover the container with a plastic bag to provide greenhouse type conditions. Open the bag occasionally to check whether the plant needs to be watered. You can propagate crotons by cuttings at any time of year and you should get a rooted plant within 4 weeks. When the cutting has developed its own root system, remove the plastic cover and place the plant in a shaded place for another 8-10 weeks. Remove it into a permanent container or plant it outside.
     Although the croton is a common houseplant, you should be very careful when handling it. The plant’s sap is highly toxic. It is even suspected that the oil is co-carcinogen. All parts of the plant, leaves, stems, flowers, and roots are poisonous if ingested. But, thankfully ingesting it is usually not deadly. Some of the usual poisoning symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The contact with the plant’s sap, as with many of the euphorbia species, can cause skin irritation and allergic reaction. Handling the plant can cause skin eczema in some people. So if you have the possibility of having this issue, be sure to wear gloves while handling it. The plant is also considered dangerous for pets such as dogs or cats. If your pet has eaten the croton, call a veterinarian or a poison control center immediately.
     Well, there you have it, a fall-themed plant for the outdoors and a really nice houseplant at the same time. Just don’t try to serve it at any of your holiday meals.
If you have any questions about this or ANY of my other articles, please feel free to e-mail me at
You can also follow me on FACEBOOK.
Happy Growing!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Ornamental Dinner

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

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

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

Golden Tortoise Beetle- Photograph by Lynette Schimming,

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

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

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

Monday, October 2, 2017

Guest Post-Prevent Garden Disease By Looking Ahead

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

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

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


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


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

What can I do?

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

How’s your soil?

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

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

Happy Growing!