Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Book About My Other Passion

Yes, I know, where the heck have I been?!
BUSY is not even a good word to use!

I have been writing for a new website, which I invite you to check out all of their cool stuff.
You can find it and my articles at You Had Me at Gardening.
I have been testing some products for them and they are working on a giveaway for some that were being tested, so check them out for that!

Well, today, I come to you with another of the reasons I have been absent, my newest book!
It is live and currently available on Amazon by clicking this link:

"Growing Camellias for Contemplation and Competition"



You all know me as The Citrus Guy, and Citrus will always be number one on my hit parade. Camellias come in a REAL close second. I only have 55 varieties of Citrus, but I have over 200 cultivars of Camellias.

I discuss in the book how I got into growing Camellias, pretty much by accident. It all started with the couple that the book is dedicated to. Let's just say it's their fault! LOL

But, honestly, it was a good fit for me. I am a competitive person by nature and this gives me a chance to burn some of that off, even if it is only friendly competition. I enjoy it completely!

Here is an excerpt from the Welcome Chapter:

Please know that this book WILL NOT be strictly about flower shows and competitions. I will cover as many aspects of actually growing them as I can. Even though I got into the whole camellia culture by mistake, it is really a good fit. I enjoy growing things and I have a very competitive nature, so the show circuit, which I will cover in Chapter 8, is something I look forward to. It is not at all cut-throat, the matter of fact it is really a friendly competition, but you will learn more of that later.

This book is going to be very straightforward, like all my other books, I tend to write as if we are talking one on one. Things come across much easier and with a little dose of humor thrown in. It will be very much like you are attending one of my lectures.
Let’s get started!

Chapter 1-Camellia History
There are tons of books on the market that cover this topic, so I will not try to rewrite history. There is really nothing new that I can add. I will cover a brief synopsis of the long history, just to kind of get your feet wet or give you a tiny taste so you will go and search out the Camellia History Buffet.

Chapter 2- Species
There are many different species of camellias, I am going to focus on the main four (with a little dabbling of a few other minor ones). Camellia sasanqua, Camellia japonica, Camellia reticulata, and Camellia sinensis will be my main fixations in this book. Here is a little tease about chapter 2, did you know you may be holding and drinking a product of one of these species in your hand while you are reading this book?

 Chapter 3- Flower Forms
When people think of a certain flower, let’s say a rose for example, they pretty much have one shape, form, and size in mind. I am not saying there are not different ones in the rose world, what I am saying is, the range of sizes, forms and colors in camellias are quite extensive and easily out number roses.

Chapter 4- The Basics
Luckily, most of the things that the different species I will discuss have the same requirements, fertilizer, water, and soil pH. The lighting will be the only minor difference, but I don’t want to let that shine through yet.

Chapter 5- Propagation and Pruning
If I have done my job well, after reading this book, you will be itching to go out and get a bunch of these beautiful plants. The rub is, they might be a tad harder to find than your average azalea. If you have patience, some camellia friends, and some time, you can end up with dozens, if not hundreds of camellias. If you are really lucky, you might even be able to name your very own camellia!

Chapter 6- Pests and Diseases
No matter how good a gardener you are, no matter where you live, you will end up with some kind of a pest or disease. The good news is, except for one of the diseases, all of the subjects in this chapter are easily thwarted. One of them might actually be your friend.

Chapter 7- Show Use Mostly
This is where I start talking more about competition and showing. The things in this chapter are mainly for folks who are going to start showing blooms in flower shows. They are easy to do, to some degree. They may seem odd. They can all be done even if you are not going to show blooms. One of them could almost be considered legal cheating, don’t worry, it really is legal. No, seriously, I promise, it is perfectly legal!

Chapter 8- Flower Showing
If you live anywhere in the lower third of the United States, up the east coast to Maryland, and up the west coast into Oregon, there is at least one flower show near you every year. This chapter will delve into some of the rules of the show, how to prep flowers, what kind of things you can win, and how much fun it really is to be doing this with dozens of your friends, which they will all become.

Chapter 9- Nurseries
Yes, I covered how you can generate your own plants in Chapter 5, but there will be times that you see the most beautiful bloom at a show, and you MUST have it now! These are some of the best nurseries around, though you may have to actually visit them, some do not ship.

Chapter 10- In Conclusion
A tidy little sum of what this whole camellia craze is all about, some interesting stories that really happened, and ways that you too can get hooked into this world.

All of that in 169 pages and dozens of photographs. If you think you might enjoy growing Camellias or know somebody that might like to learn, this book is for them.

It was a year in the making and a blast the whole time!
As always, if you have any questions about this article, my books, or anything garden related, please feel free to drop me a line to TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com

You can follow me on FACEBOOK
Or get onboard my WEBSITE

Happy Growing!
Darren


Monday, April 15, 2019

Speaking of Education

Anybody that knows me knows I am big on education.
Learning is power.

Every Monday morning I get an e-mail from a friend of mine. She runs Mirelli Entrepreneur Training for Woman. They are a growing community of powerful, like-minded women who want to Learn, Connect, Grow and Prosper together.
Why do I get the e-mail?
I believe in what she is doing and we have become friends over a couple of years we have known each other. We have helped each other in business endeavors.

What has any of this got to do with plants and horticulture?
Well sit a spell and let me explain.
If you are reading this, more than likely you have listened to a speaker, either myself or someone else, talk about gardening, plants, or something horticultural.



Have you ever stopped to think what went into that talk?
The following is mainly the e-mail I got this morning, with editorial comments added by me in Italics.

What Do Public Speakers Actually Do?
Many people think they would like to speak more in public, but sometimes they don't realize everything that goes on before a speaker goes on stage. Here's a quick look at what a Job Description for a public speaker might look like:

Seeking a Public Speaker to deliver speeches and seminars to live audiences in an engaging way. Must be prepared to travel a significant amount of time, especially on weekends. Individuals with charisma, strong emotional intelligence, and excellent communication skills can do particularly well.

Duties and Responsibilities:

Perform Pre-Speech Research

The successful candidate will spend significant time completing in-depth research before making a presentation. They will research their topic to make sure they are well informed. The Public speaker shall also learn about their audience in order to present in a personalized and relevant way. They may also have handouts or giveaways.

Write and Outline Speeches

The Public Speaker shall spend time creating a speech that educates and motivates a crowd. They make sure that all talking points are sharp and concise. The most successful Public Speakers outline speeches that are engaging, informative, and persuasive. Or, in some cases prepare a powerpoint.

Rehearse Speeches

The Public Speaker does not speak off-the-cuff. Public Speakers rehearse. Practicing speeches prior to delivering them live is critical for Public Speakers. They prepare and rehearse to make their presentations more effective. Public speakers use rehearsals to simplify their message and find new ways to engage their audience through stories, analogies, and other interplay activities.

Give Public Presentations

The Public Speaker shall be expected to stand on stage and deliver live presentations and seminars. Their talks shall hold audience attention and encourage participation to be successful. A public speaker may talk to small groups of 10 or large groups of 10,000. Some presentations have a training and development component while others are more inspirational.

Promote Their Activities

Prior to any public event, the Public Speaker will assist event organizers in promoting the presentations, workshops, and seminars they will be delivering. The Public Speaker will provide the event organizers with requested materials for marketing, such as headshots, biographies, speech headlines and presentation descriptions. The Public Speaker will let their circle of influence know about ticket availability and event agendas.

Interacting with Audience Members

The Public Speaker, especially those who work in a training capacity, are expected to interact with audience members after their speeches. Through these conversations, they gain speech feedback, which they incorporate into future presentations. They also answer individual questions from audience members.

 Public Speaker Skills and Qualifications

The successful candidate will possess the following essential skills:

Clear articulation The Public Speaker must be able to speak loudly, clearly, concisely without distracting verbal fillers and rambling sentences

Good body language  The Public Speaker shall use vocal tone, facial expression, body language, and timing to communicate their points. Persuasive use of body language accents words and transforms presentations from boring to interesting and engaging

Sales skills  Depending on the situation, the Public Speaker may need to generate sales and add allure and interest to products and services

Teaching skills The Public Speaker shall use adult learning principles to create educational presentations that are easy to understand

Memorization The Public Speaker will not rely on reading from notes or a screen but will memorize the majority of their presentations

Audience assessment skills  The successful Public Speaker will evaluate their audience regularly and adapt their presentation content to crowd receptiveness and characteristics. Sometimes a crowd is very responsive and the speaker will feed off of that. If the crowd is quiet and the speaker is at least somewhat engaging, it can make for a long session.

Interpersonal skills  The Public Speaker will interact with people continually and needs a positive demeanor and relationship skills to be effective at this job. Please don't be afraid to answer questions when the speaker asks, or, if the speaker has said that it is okay to ask questions during the talk, go ahead, there is bound to be somebody else with that same one.

Are you ready to apply?

So why did I bring all of this up?
I want folks to realize that there is a LOT that goes into presentations. Some speakers charge a lot of money and get fussed at for charging so much. The person booking the talk may have no idea what is really involved. A garden lecturer has to know about many different plants, diseases, pests, and other issues that are encountered in any particular garden. They never know what is going to be brought up.

I also wanted to mention something about the cost of plants. Just like everything else, the cost of plants is going up. There is a LOT that goes into that too! In the industry, we still get folks that say something like, "it's just a plant, WHY does it cost so much?" Well, I wrote an article about that too!
You can read it here: Behind The Bushes

The short summary of this entire article is this, Please be considerate of other people's time, efforts. and energy. Yes, they may thoroughly enjoy what they are doing, but there is still a lot of effort put into a good product, it should be rewarded. If you enjoyed or learned something from somebody you heard, pass the name along to others so they too can learn.

If you have any questions about this or any of my other articles, Please feel free to comment or send me an e-mail- TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com.
Or you can find me lurking around my website TheCitrusGuy.com

Happy Growing!
Darren

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:

Sir,
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 TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com
You can follow me on Facebook
Or go to my Website 

Happy Growing!
Darren

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 TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com
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!
Darren

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.).
COURTESY of https://www.researchgate.net

     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 craw142@bellsouth.net 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 TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com
Follow me on FACEBOOK
Or check out my bookstore on my WEBSITE

Happy Growing!
Darren

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 TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com.
     You can follow me on Facebook or go to my Webpage and learn more about me, my teachings and my bookstore.
Happy Growing!
Darren

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 https://www.couponclippingcook.com/curry-tuna-salad-with-radicchio/

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 TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com. You can also follow me on FACEBOOK or check out MY WEBSITE

Happy Growing!
Darren