Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi


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Q: I am just not successful growing butterfly bush along the coast here. What am I doing wrong?

Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Bush

A:   You are doing nothing wrong it just butterfly bush (Buddleia spp) prefers a more inland climate, especially in our sandy soil. They do not like high humidity and watering them twice weekly should be avoided.  They can develop mildew problems on their leaves if they are not getting good air circulation. Well-drained organic soil is the best.  Of course, we do not want you to use any type of pesticides around the shrub as it can kill the butterfly population which should be one of the reasons for growing the butterfly bush. We planted Buddleia Lo and Behold ‘Blue Chip’, which is a trade-marked plant. We have had incredible success with it. This butterfly bush dies back in the winter but returns each year.  It is a dwarf variety and so pretty. 


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Q: My gardenia is not doing well and I am thinking the soil pH might be the problem. How can I get it tested?

Gardenia Flower

Gardenia Flower

A:  Go about 6-8 inches deep and take several samples from around the root area placing the samples in a bucket.  Mix the soil and bring us one sample – about a cup is fine.  Master Gardeners man the Yulee satellite office on Fridays 10am – 2pm and can run a pH for you at no cost.  Call us at 904 530-6351 for directions to the Yulee satellite office.  You can also drop the sample through the letter box on the door and we can run it anytime during the week.

Now, just a few things other things to consider regarding your gardenia shrub:
1.  Gardenias should not be planted by the foundation of a home or near the sidewalk, driveway, or walkways as these concrete structures leach and have a tendency to raise the pH to uncomfortable levels for these acid loving plants.
2.  Planting them under the eaves of the house encourages leaching too and often the plant will get too much water off the roof if there are not gutters.  Too much water can create the prefect environment for disease such as fungal leaf spots and root decays.
3.  Some cultivars of gardenia do better with morning sun exposure and afternoon shade.
4.  Keep lawn grass as far away from any tree or shrub as the things we do to lawn grass we should not do to trees or shrubs.  Be careful about applying lawn grass weed killers around the roots of trees or shrubs.
5.  Keep mulch off the trunk or any tree or shrub.  Allow for an area around the base of the trunk which contains only soil and air.  Mulch should be only 2-3 inches deep.  Never use rock as it can compact the soil and retains heat – neither is good for trees or shrubs.  Pine products are preferred.
6.  It is critical to ensure the shrub is not planted too deeply.  You should be able to find the large roots coming off the trunk in just an inch or so of soil.  More than a few inches of soil on the roots is too deep.
7.  Watering the shrub twice a week like the lawns can be excessive and they hate it.


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Q: I am interested in growing pummelos. What can you tell me about them?

Pummelo

Pummelo

A:   Pummelo, Citrus maxima, looks similar to a grapefruit but quite different.  It is a very large, round to pear-shaped, yellowish orange fruit with very thick rind. The fruit is so large there have been records of fruit weighing up to 20 pounds; however each fruit is more typically around 5 pounds. Still, it is a large single fruit to hang from a tree by anyone’s standards. Although it looks similar to a grapefruit the flesh is sweeter and less bitter. Because of the size of the fruit and the thick rind it is generally not a consumer favorite. Thus, you many have some difficulty finding it in local grocery markets or plant nurseries. Once the thick rind is removed the flesh divides easily into separate sections. Although it is important to also note the sections may differ in size and form on some of the pummelo cultivars.  The tree can grow to heights of 30 feet with an equally wide spread so consider its mature size when planting it in the landscape. Pummelo is typically grown in cold hardiness zone 9-11. When planting in the landscape provide as much sun exposure as possible but avoid areas where wind could be an issue. Some of the more common varieties of pummelo include: Chandler, Ichang, Red Shaddock, Reinking, and Webber. There are three new cultivars of pummelo which have been released to Florida citrus growers which means we should see them at the market.  One other important thing to know about pummelo – UF is working on producing a hybrid with grapefruit which will give you the peppery tang of the grapefruit but avoid the serious drug interaction problems typically caused by grapefruit. The professor’s findings have been reported in the October 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science.


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Q: What can you tell me about the bamboo plant Moso?

Moso bamboo

Moso bamboo

 A:   Moso bamboo is a close relative of golden bamboo.  Moso is the largest temperate bamboo, reaching heights of over 75 feet and with 5 inch diameter shoots. Two scientific names ‐ Phyllostachys pubescens and Phyllostachys edulis ‐ are currently used as scientific names for moso bamboo. Bamboo shoots emerge from horizontal underground stems called rhizomes.  These rhizomes generally grow within the first 12 inches of soil. The real problem with this type of rhizome is it can spread or run outward 20 to 30 feet before sprouting. In addition, the rhizomes can run in all directions from the original shoot.  This can become a weedy problem by growing in areas far from the original site – namely neighbor’s yards.  We always recommend using clumping bamboo rather than running bamboo for that very reason.


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Q: Can we grow mulberries here in Northeast Florida?

Mulberry

Mulberry

A:  Indeed, we can grow mulberries here.  Mulberry (Moras spp.) is a fruit producing tree that can provide gardeners tasty fruits. Native red mulberry trees have been enjoyed by people in North America for centuries. On expedition in the mid-1500s De Soto observed Muskogee Indians eating dried mulberry fruits. Over winter the Iroquois mashed, dried, and stored the fruit to later add to water, making warm sauces that were occasionally mixed into cornbread. Cherokees made sweet dumplings by mixing cornbread and sugar with mulberries. The Timucua people of northeast Florida used the fruit, along with the tree’s leaves and twigs, to make dyes, and the Seminoles used the branches to make bows.
When choosing a location, keep in mind fallen fruits stain the hard surfaces, so it’s best to avoid planting over driveways, sidewalks and patios. Selecting a light-fruited cultivar can also cut down on the mess factor; look for ‘Tehama’ or ‘King White Pakistan’.
Mulberry trees require very little maintenance; they rarely require irrigation after establishment and generally do not require fertilization. As far as pruning goes, you can perform light pruning when trees are young to help create a strong framework of branches. With a mature tree, you should only prune to remove dead or damaged wood or crossing limbs, since the wounds caused when removing a major branches are slow to callous. Be careful when pruning your tree, mulberry trees have milky sap which can causes skin rashes in some people.


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Q: I have this strange growth on the flower stem of my orchid. What is it?

Keiki

Keiki

A:   Lucky you. This type of growth is a bit unusual but it is a good thing.  The growth is actually a new plantlet or offshoot which is called a keiki which is pronounced “kay-kee.”  Keiki comes from the Hawaiian word for “baby.”  Ultimately it can grow into a new flower spike. At first, it is small, like yours but it should soon develop roots and leaves. Once the keiki has several leaves and about the same number of roots then it will be time to repot it. The leaves should be at least 2-3 inches long before you should consider removing it. Taking it off too early will cause the keiki to die as it will not have enough food energy to be successful.  Not all orchids have the ability to produce these adventitious growths on vegetative parts of the plant. Phalaenopsis, Vanda, Dendrobium and Catasetum are a few of the better-known orchids producing easy to propagate keiki.  To remove the keiki take a sharp sterile knife and cut the plantlet just below the root tissue.  Be careful not to remove any of the roots.  It is critical to use a sterile utensil to minimize the potential for introducing disease. Consider painting the wounds on the mother plant and the keiki with a gentle fungicide to kill any potential disease pathogens. You can either repot the keiki in its own 4″ container or repot it with the mother plant.  Keep the newly potted plant away from direct sunlight while it is getting established. A newly planted Keiki will take up to three years before it produces flowers so be patient.  One other important note:  the presence of keiki can indicate the mother plant is under stress.  However, if the mother plant appears healthy to you, then do not worry just keep a watchful eye on it.  For more complete information on growing orchids check out the UF/IFAS website:  http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/orchids.html


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Q:  Can I use 2,4-D to control weeds in my bahiagrass lawn?  

A:   The best method of weed control is to maintain a healthy, vigorous turf. Following UF/IFAS recommendations for proper fertilization, irrigation, and mowing will help to maintain a healthy lawn that is able to outcompete most weeds. However, if weed problems persist, the following chemical treatments may be used on bahiagrass for weed control when needed. Post-emergence herbicides are applied to weeds presently growing, it does not control seeds. Post-emergence herbicides (e.g., 2,4-D, dicamba, and/or MCPP) should be applied in May as needed for control of annual and perennial broadleaf weeds, such as knotweed, spurge, and lespedeza. Selective control of emerged grass weeds, such as goosegrass, crabgrass, or alexandergrass, can only be achieved by hand pulling. Sedges can be controlled with applications of halosulfuron. Drop off samples of your weeds for positive identification before applying herbicides. This is important to avoid improper application which wastes money and time – it does not help the environment either.  Apply herbicides only when adequate soil moisture is present, air temperatures are between 60°F and 85°F, and the turf is not suffering from water or mowing stress. Failure to follow these precautions will result in damaged turf. For information on controlling weeds in the lawn, please refer to ENH884, Weed Management in Home Lawns, (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep141). Many popular “weed-n-feed” fertilizers for home lawns contain the herbicide atrazine or metsulfuron. Both of these herbicides will damage bahiagrass; therefore, we do not recommend using weed and feed products on bahiagrass.  For these reasons it is critical to read the herbicide label.  Remember – “the label is the law.”