Sunday, December 30, 2018

My First Children's Book on Plants

The New Year is almost upon us, have you made any resolutions yet?
I have.
I plan on writing more books this year than I did last year.

Of course, then I go and sneak one more in for this year, oh well, I am EXTREMELY excited about this one!!
It is a Children's Picture Book called, "Plants Are Our Friends".

As many of you know, I am huge on education. Especially horticulture, but all areas need to be revamped. I am mostly concerned in the horticultural area because of a number of things.
First, many children do not know where their food comes from, other than the grocery store.
Second, many garden clubs and other societies are starting to fade out because the youth of America is not interested in a little work, sweat, or dirt.

I wrote an article back in 2016 about the last problem, you can go and read that HERE.
This book looks to start introducing young children to what plants are, what they do for us, and how they relate to the entire planet.

Here is the description of it on the Amazon Website:
Plants are called our friends because friends share things. We give and share things with plants, such as carbon dioxide, the air that we exhale. Plants give us oxygen to inhale and food to eat which allows us and other things to survive. Children need to be exposed to the connection that all life on earth has with plants. This picture book asks your child if they are friends with plants. It tells them what plants do for them like how they share food, create places to play, and make pretty things to look at and smell. This book also tells them how plants are important for other animals by providing homes and food for them.

As you read "Plants Are Our Friends" to your children, or if they are reading it themselves, it offers ways to interact with them by asking questions that will cause them to think and showing ways that plants are beneficial. The intentions of this book are numerous.1) To get kids interested in the world around them and how it impacts them.2) It motivates them to seek out a different perspective on why there are plants and what they do.3) Hopefully, it will get them to lay the electronics down for a little while and see what nature has to offer.

Our future depends on plants, not just for beauty and fun, but for survival. Farmer's rely on plants to grow to make all kinds of things. Children need to be exposed to nature so that they will understand that apples, for instance, do not just come from the grocery store. This book will also help teach that friendship is not a one-way street. There should be a give and take, that is what makes a good friendship.

When I had the majority of this crazy idea written, I put out a request on Facebook, looking for some of my friends, especially the ones with children in the 3-7 age group to look at it and give me some feedback. I got some REALLY good information, included those changes, and created what it is today.

Here are just a few of the things that were said:

I believe it is EXCELLENT for the age group you are planning!  Good luck and I feel it will be well received.
Louie A.

Ok...I just read this to my three boys.  Ages 5,6,& 10
 I will start with...they loved it!
Julie H.

I love your book!!!  It is so sweet and I think that a lot of kids would like it.  I like how you related the plants to activities that kids like to do & related it to the animals (who are also friends!).  I like that you ask the reader questions.  And I enjoyed the beautiful, colorful photos.
Kathy M.

My Daughter just read the book to her daughter.
They both liked it and J. immediately ran to her Dad and showed him pages and asked him if he wanted to be friends with plants, etc., etc, 😊 They both really liked the pics.
By my granddaughter's reaction, you have a winner.
I liked the pics myself and the relationships you showed.
Mark M.

This book is so good, I love it, can't wait to see the finished product.
Deidre D.

This was just a sampling of the responses I got.
THANK YOU to everybody that gave me feedback!

I also want to send a special Thank You to my cover model, Sarah and her father for letting me use her picture.

I would be very honored if you were to pass this article, or the link to my book, on to anybody that you know that has children in the 3-7 age range.

Plants are vital to the survival of the human race, we owe it to future generations to introduce our children to them, so they can pass on the knowledge.

If you have any questions about gardening, this, or any of my writings, articles, etc drop me an e-mail to
You can follow me on Facebook
Or go to my Website 

Happy Growing!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Holiday Gift Guide and Monthly Seeding-5 Gift Items for that Gardener

     Can you believe the holidays are here already?
     I am positive somebody hit the fast-forward button and still has their finger on it!

     The holidays are a time to get with family and friends, exchanging gifts and eating too much. While I might not be able to help with the eating too much unless we are at the same party and I beat you to the buffet, I can help with the gift exchange.
     I have heard that gardeners can be tricky to get gifts for. I can't believe that. There are so many different ways to approach this issue.
Here is a list of five fantastic items that any gardener would love to have under the tree. All of them are $75 or less.

     1) Everybody Gardens Seed of the Month Club- What would be better than receiving a Christmas gift every month all year long? Gardeners love to see things grow but tend to stick with the same thing every year. This seed of the month club is sent out each month and you never know what you will get. It is a surprise! The man behind this entity is Doug Oster. He is the editor of  "Everybody Gardens", and an Emmy Award-winning producer, television host, and writer. He is also the co-host of The Organic Gardeners Radio show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh.
The November seed packet was Cactus Seeds.

     2) Ambient Weather WS-5305 Wireless Home Weather Station- Every gardener I have ever known keeps an eye on the weather. Cold fronts, wind direction/speed, and of course rain. This weather station covers all of that and more. The Ambient Weather WS-5305 is a compact, easy to install complete weather station with impressive reliability at a very low cost. There are alarms that you can program to let you know about, Temperature highs and lows, wind chill, dew points, rainfall, and wind speed. It will give you the temperature and humidity inside as well. Why not help keep that gardener in your life up to speed with the weather.

     3) 10-piece Gardening Tool Set with Zippered Detachable Tote and Folding Stool Seat with Backrest- None of us are getting younger, yet, we still love to garden. Here is a multiple gift that not only has tools and gloves, but a seat with a backrest to relax for a minute between pulling weeds. Garden tools are conveniently stowed in the outside pockets to be near at hand while other garden items can be stored in the attached zippered tote. All told it comes with five (5) metal garden tools (large trowel, small trowel, garden fork, rake, and weeder),  1 pair of cotton gloves, 1 spray bottle and a roll of twist ties. Makes a perfect gift for those YOU love and who LOVE spending time in their garden.

     4) Original Little Burro, USA made lawn/garden tray- Have you heard your favorite gardener complaining when they are outside using their wheelbarrow they could use a second set of hands? Well, here they are. The Original Little Burro fits most 4, 5, 6, and 7 cubic-foot popular wheelbarrows. It will stay securely attached on the wheelbarrow even if angled up to 90 degrees. Easily stores and carries 2 short-handle tools, 2 long-handle tools, 2 water bottles, personal items, and a tray of plants all attached to your classic wheelbarrow. Carry your shovel, rake, and other gardening equipment with the garden tray to reduce trips across their yard! The little cubby can keep your cell phone, keys, and wallet safe in a water-resistant storage compartment.

     5) The Citrus Guy's Christmas Bundle Book Pack- (Shameless Self-Promotion Alert)
Get all three of The Citrus Guy's Original books,
'How to Grow Citrus Practically Anywhere'
'Plant Propagation Made Easy' and
'A Beginner's Guide to Lowcountry Gardening & Landscaping'
All three of these combined will help any gardener achieve more success in fruit production, creating more plants and trying to figure out what plant to use in the yard for what reason.

There you have it, five phenomenal gifts that will thrill and delight any gardener on Christmas morning.
As always, if you have any questions about this or any of my other articles, please feel free to comment below or drop me a line to
Don't forget to follow me on FACEBOOK or check out my WEBSITE.

I wish each and every one of my United States followers a Happy and Joyous Thanksgiving!
Happy Growing!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Citrus Not Quite Reincarnated

 Here we are, November already!

     November is when your fruit will really start to take off and turn ripe.
That is why the Southeastern Cold Hardy Citrus Expo is usually held this month. (More on that in a minute)

     I stressed this somewhat in the earlier part of this year, but, it might not have reached all of the proper folks and it is coming to light now. I have had an increasingly alarming rate of phone calls and e-mails talking about how their citrus tree died back this past January, but it has come back stronger than ever, it just didn't flower, what is wrong? In almost every case, except a couple, it is because the tree that was once there is no more, the rootstock has taken over.

Rootstock Suckers

     Rootstock, in case you didn't know, is what a "good fruit" is grafted onto. The rootstock of choice is used depending on what the grafter is trying to overcome. Some of them are used to dwarf the tree, others are used for nematode resistance, some are to deter different diseases and many other things. Not all citrus is grafted, but many are.

     I also heard from a couple of folks that their tree came back, it was a grapefruit, but this year the fruit is so much smaller, what happened? Again, the rootstock has prevailed.

Poncirus trifoliata

     Typical rootstocks that are used are mainly trifoliate hybrids and have the "tri" number of leaves. There are other rootstocks out there, Cleopatra, Bitter Orange (a.k.a. Seville) and many others that do not have the "tri" leaf. Those can be a little harder to discern from the original tree.

Swingle Citrumelo- Hybrid cross- Citrus paradisi x Poncirus trifoliata

     If you are uncertain as to what your tree might be now, feel free to e-mail me some pictures of the leaves, I can usually tell from those.
     Of course, if you have never seen how many different leaves there are on different citrus trees, take a look at this.

     You can click on the picture to make it bigger.
     Here is the key to what each of the 37 different leaves is:
a 'Nasnaran' mandarin (C. amblycarpa), b 'Galego Inerme Key' lime (C. aurantiifolia), c 'Narrow Leaf' sour orange (C. aurantium), d 'Bergamot' orange (C. bergamia), e 'Taiwan' mandarin (C. depressa), f 'Mauritius papeda' (C. hystrix), g C. hystrix hybrid, h 'Variegated' true lemon (C. limon), i 'Talamisan' orange (C. longispina), j 'Etrog' citron (C. medica), k 'Variegated' calamondin (C. madurensis), l 'Chinotto' orange (C. myrtifolia), m 'Star Ruby' grapefruit (C. paradisi), n 'Cleopatra' mandarin (C. reshni), o 'Fairchild' tangerine-tangelo [C. clementina 9 (C. paradisi 9 C. tangerina)], p 'Szincom' mandarin (C. reticulata), q 'Valencia Trepadeira' sweet orange (C. sinensis)\, r 'Variegated' sweet orange (C. sinensis), s 'Jaboti' tangor (C. sinensis 9 C. unshiu), t common ‘Sunki’ mandarin
(C. sunki), u ‘Tachibana’ orange (C. tachibana), v ‘Mency’ tangor (C. tangerina 9 C. sinensis),
w ‘Papeda Kalpi’ (C.webberi var. montana), x ‘Jindou’ kumquat (Fortunella hindsii),
y Fortunella sp., z ‘Changshou’ kumquat (F. x obovata), aa ‘Jindan’ kumquat (F. x crassifolia),
ab ‘Wart Java’ lime (Citrus sp.), ac Microcitrus papuana, ad ‘Benecke’ trifoliate orange
(Poncirus trifoliata), ae ‘Coleman’ citrange (C. sinensis 9 P. trifoliata), af ‘Flying Dragon’ trifoliate orange (P. trifoliata), ag ‘Chinese box-orange’ (Severinia buxifolia), ah ‘Limeberry’ (Triphasia trifolia), ai ‘Cravo’ mandarin (C. reticulata), aj ‘Citros Processo’ (Citrus sp.), ak ‘Jeroˆnimo’ lime (Citrus sp.).

     I mentioned the Citrus Expo, it is in different places each year, The 2018 Southeastern Citrus Expo is being held in Valdosta, Georgia, on November 16 & 17, 2018

     If you are interested in growing citrus and want to learn more from other growers in the southeast, join them for this informative, once a year meeting of citrus growers north of Florida.

The Agenda is:

Friday, November 16th.Citraholics Banquet and optional tours

Banquet 6:30 PM
Mama June’s 3286 Inner Perimeter Rd., Valdosta. 229-245-6062

Saturday, Nov. 17. Conference Sessions will be held at Raisin Cane, 3350 Newsome Rd. Valdosta. 229-559-2000

Registration 8 - 9:30 AM Registration $15.00 Includes lunch

Fruit competition entry 8 - 9:30,

Plant Sales

9:30 – 12 Noon Speakers
With raffles in between each speaker

Confirmed speakers
Cally Walker, University of Florida Citrus Budwood and nursery production in Florida.

Anna Jameson, Brite Leaf Citrus Nursery, Lake Panasoffkee, FL Citrus tree production at a commercial certified nursery.

Pete Anderson, University of Florida, Quincy Experiment Station. Citrus in North Florida

Dr. Jose Chaparro, University of Florida, Citrus breeding and new varieties.

11:15 Questions about growing citrus

11:30 Results of Fruit Contest.

12:00 – 1:00 Lunch Available at Raisin Cane included with registration

1:00 – 4:00 Tours
Lowndes County Extension Citrus Rootstock trial. Jake Price , Lowndes County Extension
Commercial Satsuma Orchard and Variety Trial. Brent Biles
Non-commercial orchard and Nursery. Mark Crawford, Loch Laurel Nursery

Tour sites are all within a few miles of Raisin Cane.
Mark your calendars and watch for updates on the Southeastern Citrus Expo Facebook page.
If you want to be a vendor please contact Mark Crawford or call 229-460-5922

Preconference Private Gardens open to visitors on Friday, November 16th

Adel, Georgia 25 miles north of Valdosta directly off I-75

Garden of Kent Thomas. Acres of palms, Japanese maples, and citrus around a beautiful lake.
305 Kent Dr.  Adel GA 229-560-1544
Traveling south on I-75 exit at the Sparks exit 41. Go east into Sparks and turn right onto US 41 south. When you cross over the railroad bridge just before Adel turn left at the BASE of the bridge onto South Ave. Kent Dr. is the first right off this road. Garden is on the left. Driveway has an entrance sign.
Traveling from Valdosta, take I-75 north to the second Adel exit. Go east and turn left onto US 41 north. Just outside town US 41 has a bend in the road just before going over a railroad bridge, bare to the right onto South Ave. and turn right at the first road - Kent Dr. Turn left into the second driveway where it says Enter.

Valdosta, Georgia

Garden of JD Thomerson. An outstanding garden of camellias, citrus, gingers and a variety of other interesting plants.
111 East Alden Ave. Valdosta 229-244-1050

Nashville, Georgia approximately 30 miles northeast of Valdosta

Triple Bee Nursery. A new citrus nursery operated by Hershell and Ricky Boyd.
1128 Seaborn Boyd Rd., Nashville, GA 229-356-0074, 229-686-7287
Use GPS to locate this location

Should be a GREAT Expo!

     If you have any questions about this or any of my other articles, please feel free to send me an e-mail to
Follow me on FACEBOOK
Or check out my bookstore on my WEBSITE

Happy Growing!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Croton Growin

     Officially, fall has arrived, the weather may not seem like it, but according to the calendar, it has.
Pumpkin spice everything, fairs, leaves changing color, and fall decorations abound.
When it comes to flowers, Chrysanthemums, or better known as mums, tend to top the list. They come in white, yellow, orange, maroon, and brown. You know, all of those 'Fallish" colors.

     What if I told you there is a plant that will not only make itself at home in your home but will retain those fall colors throughout the entire fall and actually all year long!? No more spent blooms. No more plant death because you looked at it wrong. Not to mention it is a houseplant and they have been proven to be beneficial for you and your health.

      Meet the Codiaeum variegatum, or better known as the Croton.

Croton 'Petra'

     This plant has a reputation for being fussy, but, if you know about caring for one properly, it can make for a resilient and hard-to-kill plant. The biggest thing to remember is they tend to make a bad first impression. Sometimes, a person will bring home a new croton from the store and within a few days, the plant will lose some if not all of its foliage. Don't Despair!  It does not happen all of the time and with just a tad of TLC, you will not have this problem. 

     Indoors crotons need lots of light to keep their color. For the very best show of color, your plants need six or eight hours a day of direct sunlight and should sit in an east facing or west-facing window to get good sunlight all day long. If you don’t have a good east or west-facing window, use a grow light to supplement whatever sun you have. Without ample light, your plant will display green leaves and the leaf markings will fade.

Croton 'Zanzibar'

      During growth, which tends to happen when the conditions are warm, you want the soil to be evenly moist for the majority of the time, think wrung out dish sponge. They are somewhat drought-tolerant, due to the waxy coating on their leaves, and it is easy to overwater them. You can wait until the top 2 inches of soil is dry, then water thoroughly. Another sign that it’s time to water your croton plant is that new growth at the ends of the plant stems will wilt slightly. Never allow plants to sit in standing water. 

Croton 'Gold Dust'

     Grown as a houseplant, a container garden plant or used in the landscape in temperate climates. In cooler climates, many gardeners plant it as an annual. They grow anywhere from between 2 – 10 feet tall, depending on climate, soil conditions, and care. They typically stay in a mid-range of 2 – 4 feet. Zones 10 and 11 are the only places that they will get any real height to them.

Croton 'Eleanor Roosevelt'

     As houseplants, croton appreciates high humidity and occasional misting. If the humidity level is low in your house, set your plant on a bed of gravel in a drip tray, just make sure the plant is not sitting IN the water. Use a good commercial potting soil for potted and container plants. When it comes to feeding them,  fertilize with a high nitrogen and potassium mix such as Espoma Palm-Tone Plant Food (4-1-5) about every 6-8 weeks. Water soluble or slow release is fine.

Croton 'Mammey'     

     When keeping your plant as a houseplant in winter, be sure to protect it from cold drafts, which may put stress on the plant. They are tropical and do not like cold temperatures. Don't let them touch cold glass either, they might get a little burned.

You can grow new plants from cuttings. To do this, cut a segment from a healthy stem with a minimum of three sets of leaves. Remove the bottom leaves. Dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone and plant it in a mixture of coco coir or peat moss, sand and vermiculite. Cover your planted cutting with a humidity trapping cover, such as a plastic bag or a plastic soda bottle. Roots should develop within a couple of weeks.

Croton 'Freckles'

     The croton is native to areas of Malaysia, Indonesia, northern Australia, and the Caribbean. They are part of the poinsettia family. All of the plants in this family have a sticky, white sap that drips from any pruning cuts or spots where leaves or petals have fallen off. The sap is mildly toxic for pets and people, but only if it's digested. However, the plant tastes terrible, and accidental poisonings are rare. If any part of the croton is ingested, it would cause vomiting and/or diarrhea, and in large doses could be fatal.

     To be really festive, bunching a few different cultivars together can create quite the effect!

     As always, if you have any questions concerning this or any of my other articles, please feel free to send them to
     You can follow me on Facebook or go to my Webpage and learn more about me, my teachings and my bookstore.
Happy Growing!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Monthly Seeding

     This is the first installment of a new monthly series. It will become obvious as to what this series will entail as you read this and my forthcoming articles.
     Are you a gardener that just LOVES seed catalog season?
     That time of year when you really can't do much in the garden and those pages of beautiful fruits, vegetables, and other things are just driving you crazy. You want to get out there and do something, you keep looking at the catalogs and wonder if you could try growing that, would it work, or why have I not tried that. The decisions are mind-boggling.
     What if somebody was to send you some kind of seeds, you didn't know what was coming, but it might just introduce you to something that you would never have tried on your own?

     Let me introduce you to a new seed of the month club. Everybody Gardens Seed of the Month
It is being introduced by Doug Oster, the editor of  "Everybody Gardens". He's an Emmy Award-winning producer, television host, and writer. Oster is also the co-host of The Organic Gardeners Radio show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh.
     They have asked me if I would be willing to spread the word each month and I agreed. This coming month they will be sending out seeds of 'Giulio Radicchio'. It is also known as Italian chicory and has a distinct and appealing bitter-sweet flavor. The compact heads are a stunning deep red color with white veins. Giulio is the first radicchio developed for a slow to bolt, spring production.

In warmer areas, zone 7 and my area, zone 8, you can leave them in the ground all winter. Since it is considered a perennial, they will regrow the following spring. However, your quality may not be as good as those grown as annuals.
     Plant Radicchio in the cooler seasons of spring and fall, it is considered a cool season vegetable. Plant the seeds directly into the ground 4-5 weeks before the last frost for a spring crop and/or late summer for a fall crop. Plant in rows, 3-4 inches apart. Once they have germinated, thin the rows to about 10″ in between each plant.
     Radicchio has shallow roots so it will require more water than many other plants. Do not give this plant too much nitrogen, it can cause leaf burn, bitterness, and even lead it to bolt quicker. Amend the soil prior to planting and you should not need to fertilize throughout the rest of the season unless the plant shows signs of deficiency.
     Radicchio leaves can be cut and eaten at any time and is a popular microgreen for its colorful and flavorful sprouts. The heads will firm up in 60-100 days from planting depending on your horticultural practices.
     To see if heads are ready to harvest start by squeezing them lightly. If they feel firm and full of moisture they are ready to harvest. Cut the head as high above the soil line as possible while keeping all the leaves connected to the base. If you cut the head too high, the head will fall apart, which depending on your usage, may not be a bad thing. Cut the head too low and the plant may die, if you were growing it as an annual, again that may not be a bad thing.
     So, you grew some Giulio Radicchio, there are several things you can do with it, besides put it in a salad. It can be roasted or grilled with Olive Oil and Sea Salt as in this RECIPE.

     You could use it raw in salads or slaws. You can pickle it like Kimchi or substitute radicchio in any other recipes calling for chicory or endive. Finally, it can be used as edible cups to hold tuna, chicken or egg salad.

Image courtesy of

Your imagination is the only thing holding you back.
     I look forward to the next edition of the "Everybody Gardens Seed of the Month" and I encourage you to check them out, then stay tuned here for the heads up on what is coming next, some of my growing tips and things that can be done with what you grow.
     Until then, if you have any questions about this or any of my other posts, please feel free to comment or send me an e-mail to You can also follow me on FACEBOOK or check out MY WEBSITE

Happy Growing!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Don't Rock the Pot!

     I was talking to a customer today about a plant that was in a container that just up and died. Being that it was a Sky Pencil Holly (Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil'), I thought it was strange. These things are fairly resilient. So, I dug a little deeper, thinking maybe they were not watering it enough. Every other day, except when it rains was the response. So, I went the other way, does the pot have adequate drainage holes? Oh, no, there are no holes what so ever, so I put a layer of rocks on the bottom.
     I proceeded to tell her that was a bad idea and more than likely is what killed the plant. She was going home to fix it. I can hear some of you now, I have been doing it for years and never had a problem. Well, either there is something else going on, you actually have some drainage holes, or have been extremely lucky! Let me explain why this is a bad idea.

     To promote good drainage, the old advice has been to line the bottom of your pots with a coarse layer, such as gravel, stones or old broken pots. This is a practice known as crocking. Crocking was supposed to encourage water to pass down from the potting mix into the gaps in the coarse layer below and out through the drainage hole.

     Sounds good so far, right? That is probably why so many folks still do it to this day. Yet soil scientists have known for years that crocking doesn't help drainage. In fact, it can hinder it.

     I am not going to get ultra-physics on you, but suffice it to say that in the 1800's a man named Henry Darcy explained how water moves in the soil. He proved that before water will move from a fine-textured soil to a coarse-textured soil, the fine-textured stuff must first become saturated.

     So, to give this a little more of a mental image, if you slowly pour water onto a fine-textured potting soil that sits atop a layer of gravel, the potting soil must be saturated before the water begins to drip. Granted, once the water hits the rock, it will quickly drain to the bottom of the pot, but the potting mixture above will still be saturated. Here lies the problem. Unless you keep putting water into the potting soil, that saturated soil will just sit there. Instead of extra water draining immediately into the gravel, the water ‘perches’ or gathers in the soil just above the gravel.

     Here is a test to try, with a sponge and gravel. Take a big old sponge (this is your soil) and place it on some gravel.  Then pour water into the sponge. The water won’t run out into the gravel, or out of the pot, or anywhere until the sponge (soil) is saturated. Does the gravel make the sponge drain faster? No, the sponge fills up, and it won’t drip until it cannot hold another drop of water.

     Now, you have this saturated soil sitting there, not going anyplace. If water pools around plant roots too long, they will starve for oxygen and then it will develop root rot which will damage and eventually kill the plant.

     What is root rot?
     Early symptoms include soft stems, usually near the base of the plant and moving upward. As the rot progresses, the plant may develop the smell of rotting plant material. If you remove the plant from the pot, the roots will feel soft and appear brown. Plants suffering from root rot wilt, with both new and old foliage drooping and dying. Usually the bottom leaves wilt first, followed by the rest of the foliage. Once most of the plant wilts, the problem has likely already killed the roots, and it's difficult to save the plant.

     The cause of root rot is a fungus. Species of the Pythium, Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia, or Fusarium fungi are the usual culprits. These fungi thrive in wet soil, and the spores of these fungi remain dormant in the soil until the conditions become right for them to grow and spread to the plants.

     Hopefully, I have convinced you by now, not to put rocks, gravels, or pot shards in the bottom of your pot. On top of everything else mentioned above, it makes your pot extra heavy.
     What is that, you say? What about things like styrofoam peanuts or something similar?  Well, consider what you are actually doing by growing a plant in a pot, then adding something that it can not really grow in. The space is already so limited as you’re cramming that plant into a container and then you add a few inches of gravel, peanuts, etc. for drainage, what it does is reduces the volume of soil available to the plant roots. Basically, it means you make a pot even smaller in size and as a result get an unhappy crowded plant.
     All of this should defeat the myth that refuses to die. Even though there is solid scientific evidence to the contrary, it seems that every book or website on container gardening recommends placing coarse material at the bottom of containers for drainage. Don't believe everything you read, unless it is from The Citrus Guy!
     If you have any questions about this or any of my other articles, do not hesitate to send me an e-mail to Don't forget you can follow me on FACEBOOK or check out my WEBSITE for even more articles, pictures, and other things going on.
Happy Growing!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Confusing Crossed Creations

     Crossing different things with each other is as old as time itself. Mother nature has been doing it forever, sometimes with the end product being rather humorous. Look at the Duck-Billed Platypus and I will rest my case. It looks like a duck/beaver cross.

     Then, you have some of the more common, human combinations, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Chocolate and Peanut Butter (two great tastes that taste great together, let's see who remembers THAT commercial) and salt and pepper. These are examples of two things being mixed together but still retain their individuality.
     Mankind has been doing some mixing of things in the plant kingdom to make an individual entity, such as in the world of Citrus, a Lemonquat (Lemon and Kumquat cross) or a Tangelo (Tangerine and Grapefruit cross). I won't even get into the Plum/Apricot blends of Aprium, Plueot, and Plumcot. My wife always wants to know if we can't just leave things alone?!
     Well, today, we are going into the world of flowers. The ever lovely, Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) has been married to the Cone Flower (Echinacea) to create the Echibeckia!

Let's start with the Rudbeckia.

     The most commonly thought of Rudbeckia is the traditional Black-eyed Susan, a daisy-like flower with gold petals and a dark center seed head. It also has the well-known scratchy, hairy leaves, which are not one of its best features. They start blooming in mid-summer and can repeat bloom into fall. Full sun is preferred but can handle some shade. Deadheading (removing the spent flowers), water until they are well established, and some very infrequent fertilizer is all they really need. Deer don't even like them once they get the hairy leaves, wait a minute, maybe those leaves are a good feature. Many are annuals, some are perennials.  Usually grown in Zones 4-8 (This is an important fact to remember)

Then, there is the Echinacea.

Photo Courtesy of

     Echinacea, commonly called “coneflowers” for their cone-shaped flowers that are capped by a prickly dome of seedheads, will grow well in the home garden when provided with the right conditions. Echinaceas are important sources of nectar for butterflies and many birds (particularly goldfinches), who flock to the plants to devour the seed. Echinacea is, in this way, “two for one” plants. You get to enjoy the gorgeous flowers, as well as the colorful wildlife they attract. As with the rudbeckia, they are drought tolerant once established and are not heavy feeders, unless your soil is really lacking in nutrients. For many years, Echinacea has been used medicinally to treat a variety of ailments, including infections and wounds. Flowering is at its best in full sun, although plants will tolerate light shade. These are considered perennials that can handle very cold winters. Usually grown in Zones 3-9 (Again, an important fact to remember)

     Now, the question needs to be asked, if these two flowering plants are so great, why would you cross them to create an Eckibeckia?

     Eckibeckia is considered an intergeneric cross between these two popular perennial/annuals offering the appearance of Rudbeckia with the hardiness of Echinacea. The advantages are longer lasting flowers, a long bloom season from summer through fall and extra large flowers. The Echibeckia plants seem to be sturdier plants that may not need support, like many of the Echinaceas and Rudbeckias. Another interesting fact is the fuzzy leaves and stems on the Echibeckia. Slugs are not interested in this plant and deer don't seem to like it either. There are many of the same characteristics from both of the parents here, they are drought tolerant, take full sun or partial shade, and are a real butterfly magnet.
     The first two have a multitude of colors, the Echibeckia is no exception. The trade name for these flowers are Summerina, and have some exotic names like 'Butterscotch Biscuit', 'Pecan Pie', Pumpernickel, and 'Electra Shock'. There are more subdued names too, like 'Yellow', 'Orange', and 'Brown'.
     Hopefully, these things will stand the test of time like it's parents have. You just mention either Rudbeckia or Echinacea, and people know what they are. Mention Echibeckia and people wonder if you might be confused, kind of like tell somebody about a Chiweenie Dog and they give you a strange look. 
     If you have any questions about this or any of my other articles, please feel free to contact me at You can follow me on Facebook as The Citrus Guy or check out my new Website 
Oh, never heard of a Chiweenie Dog? It is a cross between a Dachshund and a Chihuahua.
Happy Growing!

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Never Ending Saga of a Japanese Invasion

     One of the recent common questions that have been asked in the garden center of late has been, "WHAT, are those metallic looking bugs and are they actually eating my plants?"
If you haven't seen them yourself, maybe you have seen some damage like this?

     Those metallic insects and this kind of damage is none other than, The Japanese Beetle!
Popillia japonica as it 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.

Photo Courtesy of

     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.

Japanese Beetle Grub-Photo Courtesy of

     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, plus the weather has been so crazy here, who really knows what time it is!?

     So, they are here. What to do about them?
I will cover a few ways, from least toxic to the 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.

Photo Courtesy of Johnson County Extension - Kansas State University

    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 Insect Killer and Permethrin products such as Spectracide Triazicide Insect Killer for Lawns & Landscapes 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!!

     I foresee myself getting ready to pull the nuclear option. This is what my grape vines look like:

     I can't seem to get home in time from work to catch them and use the neem, so I will probably put down some Sevin dust in hopes that will work.

     As always, if you have any questions concerning this or any of my other articles, feel free to e-mail:
You can find me on Facebook as The Citrus Guy or my new Website
Happy Growing!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Story Behind the New Book

     I have been absent from my blog for a couple of months now, but I am back!
The reason behind my absence is, I was writing a new book that was most definitely needed here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.
     Let me start with a little background. I have been the manager of Terra Bella Garden Center in North Charleston since October of 2016. I have been in the nursery/garden center business here since 2003, and I have been playing with plants/gardening since I was about 5 (1971). So I actually do know a thing or two about plants.

     I honestly believe that not a day goes by that we get somebody at Terra Bella that is not from around here, wants to do some work in their yard or garden and have no idea of what the plants are that they are looking at. With the constant influx of new folks coming into the area due to the incredible growth we are experiencing, I am sure it will just get worse. Many are from the north, some from the upper midwest, and some from the west coast, they all have one thing in common, "Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore!" The diversity of what we can grow coupled with the realization that some of their favorites won't grow here causes all kinds of confusion.

     Enter my new book, "A Beginner's Guide to Lowcountry Gardening and Landscaping."  The book is 370+ pages, 16 chapters, with over 8 dozen pictures. I discuss over 100 plants, shrubs, trees, vegetables, and fruiting plants. I also discuss, when to plant your gardens, some of the diseases you may see, insects, what kind of soils you will encounter, plus typical weather patterns and much more! It definitely is not a stand-alone, all-inclusive book, but it gives you a really good basis to start with.

     Here is just a small sample:
Landscape Plants, What Can I Put Where!?
When it comes to plants for your landscape, there are hundreds, if not thousands to choose from. You will need to figure out a laundry list of variables for where you want to plant something, such as:

Is it mostly shade, morning sun, or afternoon sun?
Does it stay damp all of the time?
Do you want it to stay green all year, or do the leaves falling every autumn not bother you?
Do you want it to flower, fruit, or just sit there?
Are the plants going to be used as a privacy fence?
How big do you want them to be at maturity, does it matter?
Many plants are poisonous to pets and/or children, do you have any?
Are there HOA restrictions?
Do you mind pruning or do you want something that is almost maintenance free?
Are you looking for a tropical feel, Mediterranean feel, or something else?

I am sure there are many more possible variables, but you get the gist. If you have not lived
through a Lowcountry summer, it is much different than other places.
A plant that is listed as a "Full Sun" may do fine in 10 hours of sunlight in the northeast. July in
the Lowcountry will turn that same plant into a crispy critter. That is why knowing morning sun or
afternoon sun is so important. There are many plants that you may have been accustomed to that just
won't work very well, or even at all because of the sun reason, humidity, or just the plain old heat of the late summer. A couple of quick examples would be Peonies, Lavender, and Hostas.
Though the last one will survive, but not necessarily thrive like they do up north. One of the good
garden centers listed in Chapter 15 will be able to definitively tell you if a certain plant will or will not work here. Do not trust the selections in the big box stores, the plants are probably fine, as long as you know what you are getting. They receive plants from a central buyer that may not be aware of the different growing conditions associated with their different locations. Just because they carry it does NOT mean it will thrive here! This is where the expertise of a locally owned garden center comes in handy if they are worth their salt they will only carry things that will grow here, or at least tell you if they should be grown as an annual (something that needs to be replaced every year).

     Yes, in Chapter 15, I list many of the good local garden centers around the Lowcountry. Yes, I work at one of them, but I list others too! It has always amazed me about this industry, we may all be competitors theoretically, BUT, we all know each other and if something bad happens to any one of us, the "competitors" are the first ones on the phone, "We heard what happened, what can we do to help?" It truly is a wonderful industry to be involved with.

     During this whole, new book release, I have also launched another website: The Citrus Guy Hortbooks Bookstore. There, you will find my other book, "How to Grow Citrus Practically Anywhere" and eventually there will be other titles, I can only write just so fast! The prices on my website are the lowest you will be able to find them, I even have the MSRP from Amazon listed, where the books are also available.

The website is HERE

     I truly appreciate you taking the time to read this, I know it was not really garden related in the direct sense, but I wanted to let as many people know about my book and maybe if you have somebody that could use a little help in figuring out what to do with their yard you can point them to this. 

     If you have any comments, questions, or problems, please do not hesitate to contact me:

Happy Growing!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

It has fooled many

     I come to you today with a slightly unusual article.
Back in late January, I received an e-mail, complimenting me on my blog and a question.
The subject was about reviewing a product that was very similar to what I blog about.
I was intrigued so I answered.
It was from
     This company is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and they have come up with a range of artificial plants and trees which look incredibly realistic. I was very skeptical but went along with it, if nothing else to see what these things looked like. They offered me the chance to choose something, so I decided on something that I not only was familiar with but would look kind of cool on my desk at Terra Bella Garden Center where I work. I figured what better place to see how realistic they look than at a garden center.
     My desk is one of the first things that customers see when they come in, plus, I am right by the register, so the plant, a small pomegranate tree, will be obviously seen. I chose the pomegranate because I am not only known for citrus, but for growing many other kinds of fruit. It was the perfect test.
     So, after a little over a month, and many customers eyeballs upon it, I have YET to have somebody say anything about it being made of silk and plastic until after I show them. It even fooled a few of my fellow employees briefly. We are around plants all day, so we are a little tougher to trick when it comes to artificial plants.

This is the one on my desk.

This is a second one they sent me for at home.

They both stand a foot tall, including the pot. The pot is about 4" wide and reasonably heavy. It doesn't fall down at all, even if the door is open and a gust of wind comes through.
I remember silk and artificial flowers from my childhood, they always seemed "fake" looking to me. The colors were never really right, and they just looked cheap and not very realistic.
The advances that technology has made with the manufacturing of products is pretty amazing.
     So, if you have a brown thumb and even my advice has not helped, or you have a really tough spot in your home or landscape and just need something there, why not give my friends at Museum Trees a visit. They might just be able to help you fill that empty space.
Happy (Artificial Plant) Growing!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Maybe They Should Be Contained

     Well, at least it is a sunny, reasonably warm day today. A FAR cry from what many in the country have experienced already this year. I bring this up, not to brag, but to preference that, here in Charleston, we have had a very nasty cold winter so far. Personally, I have had 7 inches of snow and days upon days of sub-freezing temperatures. This is South Carolina, NOT South Dakota, so that kind of weather is rare, not unheard of, but very rare.
     Needless to say, many plants have been hurt badly by this kind of weather, especially tropical and sub-tropical like Citrus. This is, unfortunately, an all too common picture here around the Lowcountry.

These are Calamondins, a kumquat hybrid. Yes, they are in containers, and yes, they stayed outside in the snow. They looked like this with the white stuff on them.

Yes, same tree. It is still alive, there is green under the bark.
There are many, many trees that look like this either in the ground or in containers that were left outside.
     The purpose of this article is not to depress you more or cry over the tree's appearance. I am still an advocate for growing citrus in the ground in Charleston! Mamma said there would be days like this! Or years!
     No, the purpose of this article is to give you an option of how to grow your citrus. In Containers!
Everybody that has been following me or knows me, knows that I grow my plants in containers for among other reasons, emergencies like this.
     Of course, the logical thing to do would be to put them in a greenhouse or garage when this kind of weather is approaching. That is fine and dandy if you have one or two trees. I have dozens. Some of my "special" trees got to go into the greenhouse. Just for the record, even with an electric heater in there, it dropped to 27 degrees a couple of times. The damage?
This is what I saw when I opened the door.

     Now, I did have them pretty packed in there and when I did water everything, there were a few missed and those ones look sad, but only because they did not get enough water. They will be fine.
     I know what you are saying, "I don't have a greenhouse or even a garage to use, so what then?"
Glad you asked!
     I posted this picture before the storm hit, wished them luck, and hoped for the best. It looked like hell, but, hey, I was almost in desperation mode because nothing else would fit in the greenhouse.

     What is in that trash pile of, a frost cloth, a tarp, and a crocheted blanket? A dozen citrus trees, ranging in size from 7 gallons to 30 gallons, all laid down on the ground. I watered them really well, laid them down, and stacked a few on top of each other. No other protection. This was on January 2nd that I created this disaster. The snow, ice, and wicked cold temperatures came and went. I was afraid to even peek under there.
     Well, today is January 21st, just 2 days shy of three weeks, I decided I needed to clean this up and face the destruction. I took all of the coverings off and stood everything back up.What I found is absolutely amazing!

     If you look closely at the second picture, on the right-hand side is a bunch of dead looking leaves. That is a Lemon tree that was under there. I have always said that lemons and limes are more cold sensitive.

     This is a Key Lime that was also under there, probably THE most cold sensitive of all of the citrus trees. It is still alive, I saw green under the bark, it is just not happy right now.

     But, as you can see, aside from those two, the trees pretty much came out unscathed. What else was under there? A kumquat, a few tangerines, a lemonquat, a flame grapefruit, and a few other assorted hybrids. I gave each one an attaboy and a good drink of water while they were enjoying the sun again.
     I am not trying to brag here! To be honest, I tell people to use blankets and such on top of the trees that are laid down on the ground all the time, but after the severity of all of the bitterly cold temps and snow/ice, even I had my doubts about how these would look.
     I said above, I will always be an advocate for planting citrus in the ground if you can. This kind of weather is not an every year event. But maybe, just maybe, you might want to consider growing them in big pots and laying them down for a nap when the wicked winter weather does come for a visit!
     If you have any questions about this or any of my other articles, please feel free to send them to
     There is still time to get signed up for my monthly newsletter of Citrus Growing Tips, slated to come out February 1st, 2018. You can sign up for it HERE
Happy Growing!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Citrus Freeze Damage and What you Should or Should Not do

     The start of 2018 has been anything but happy here in the Southeast. January 3rd we started with freezing rain, ending with snow. In some places of the Lowcountry, up to 7 inches of the white stuff fell. As of today, January 7th, there are still roads covered in ice, inches of snow on the ground, and business' closed. The good news is, tomorrow, Monday, we are in for a real warm spell and by the end of the week be at 70 degrees.
     I have received many e-mails, phone calls, and messages on Facebook asking if the citrus trees are going to be okay here in Charleston? The best answer I can give them, maybe. Some of it depends on whether the cold weather we had prior to this long cold/snow spell was enough to get them to go into their semi-dormancy. Another factor will be if the tree was healthy going into all of this.
     Here is a list of what to possibly expect, what is happening, and what you should and shouldn't do.

     Freeze damage on citrus trees occurs when the water inside the fruit, leaves, twigs, and wood
of a tree freezes rupturing the cell membranes. Unlike deciduous trees which protect
themselves from the cold by shedding their leaves in the fall and entering a dormant state,
citrus trees continue growing year-round. Extended periods of cool weather prior to a
freeze may allow a citrus tree to prepare, by going into a semi-dormancy. This is why sharp freezes following warm weather are more damaging than gradual temperature changes. Virtually all
freezes will cause damage of some kind. Regardless of what steps you take, there are
times when nothing you have done helps and your citrus is damaged by any freezes. However,
as long as the damage is not too severe, your tree can recover!
     One of the keys to dealing with freeze damage is not to do something right away but to
wait awhile until the extent of the damage becomes apparent. In some instances, twig and
branch death from a severe freeze can continue for as long as several months after an event. Act too soon and you run the risk of either pruning away parts of your tree that can recover on their own or missing parts that look healthy enough at first glance but are really fatally damaged.
     The appearance of citrus leaves damaged by freezing can be a little deceptive in that
they can appear firm and green at the outset. It is only later, as they thaw, that they
soften and droop, very much like the picture above. In instances where the damage is not severe, freeze-damaged leaves can recover. However, if the damage is fatal, the leaves will lose their structure completely, dry out and fall.While alarming, leaf fall alone does not indicate tree
death. If the wood remains healthy, the tree will recover and put out new growth in the
spring. As for twigs, the damage will almost invariably result in leaf death. In
the case of serious damage, the leaves will dry out but may stay attached for a time,
several weeks in some cases. If the twig is not badly damaged, the leaves will
fall more rapidly.
     Signs of freezing damage in branches and trunks include the loosening and splitting of
bark. Patches of damage may appear oozing canker-like areas, occasionally mistaken for
the disease gummosis. Keep an eye out for this, especially being that it looks like it will be a quick warm up.
     The first step in the pruning process is to wait until late spring or the summer following the winter the damage occurred. This will give you time to assess the damage. Many times the dead wood on a twig or branch will become a grayish color, that is an easy way to tell where to prune. 
     In addition, freeze-damaged trees occasionally put out a false start of new growth in the
early spring which soon dies back. What is happening here is, the damage is farther down the branch than expected. It warms up and the leaves want to start flushing out. The stored energy between the damaged branch and the growth tip is quickly used up and it can't receive any deliveries from the root system, so it dies.  Delaying pruning until after this could occur will save you time and energy.

     In very severe cases, a citrus tree may be damaged all the way to the ground. In such
cases, the root area may still put out new growth and the tree may, in time, recover. The above picture shows that, what I thought was a completely gone tree, sent a new shoot up from the roots. I knew this tree was on its own roots, so I allowed it to grow and be prosperous again. It took about 3 years before I saw fruit.
      However, if the original tree was grafted and the tree is killed off below the graft, any
resulting new growth will be of the variety of the rootstock and not of the graft or
scion. It will be up to you to decide whether to re-graft, allow the rootstock to
continue growing or start over again. Be very observant of the leaves that come up, if they look like this:

It is either Poncirus trifoliata or some hybrid of Poncirus. The fruit will be edible, just not really tasty.
     If you have any doubt as to whether your citrus will come back or not, time is the only thing that will tell. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment on this article or any of my others.
If you want to ask me anything in an e-mail or send me pictures, you can do that via this address
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Or touch base with me on my new Website
Happy Growing!