Blog

  1. Protecting In-ground Citrus & Avocados - Zones 7, 8 and 9b

    With the onset of winter comes the cold. Depending on where you live you may have begun watching the weather reports to get ahead of a cold snap that could damage your Citrus or Avocado plants.

    Depending on the variety, a rule of thumb is Citrus and hardier Mexican varieties of Avocados will tolerate to 30 degrees Fahrenheit for about 3 hours without damage. Some noted exceptions would be the Mexican Lime and any citrus or Avocado tree that has been recently planted.

    Selecting the best location to plant is your best advantage against the cold. Choose locations that have good air movement but not exposed to high winds and avoid low locations where cold collects during the fall and Winter. In marginal citrus locations (zone 7) selecting a wall of the house or a south facing wall that radiates heat to add protect to your plants. Avocados are not recommended for planting in the ground in Zone 7.

    Protection for you citrus should begin in the late summer. A good feeding with and organic fertilizer in September will help add to the protection against winter frost. The current rule is a well fed and well-watered citrus will improve the plants tolerance to cold. Also with Zone 7 Citrus, colder weather may call for wrapping the trunk into the lower canopy with burlap or old blankets and then mulching the base of the tree to 4 inches out past the canopy adds to the overall protection

    In all zones prone to freezes a frost blanket to cover the tree is essential. Adding 100 watt conventional bulb or a string or 2 of C9 Christmas lights hung through the trees under the Cover will add to the degrees of captured heat. I have found that during the cold periods leaving the covers on for a few weeks will not bother the tree. Be sure to turn the lights on early in the evening to allow the heat to collect under the cover. There is some evidence that pulling back the mulch during the warm part if the day allows the ground to heat up to be released into the canopy later that evening.

    The real trick to successful Citrus and Avocado Protection is keeping the trees below 10 feet during the growing season. I recommend below 8 feet to make covering and adding protection like lights a breeze. When size control is a part of your Citrus and Avocado growing adding a simple structure around your tree is easy and makes applying a frost blanket simple.                                                                      

    Applications of any of the Anti-transparent products are not recommended. Any damage that might occur on the trees as a result of winter cold should be left until the temperatures begin to stabilize in the spring to be pruned off.

    Finally, selection of varieties can mean the difference between success and failure. Very few avocados that are not of the Mexican type will survive in a winter cold climate such as Zone 8 or 9b or lower.  

    Varieties like the Mexicola, Fuerte, Stewart, Jim Bacon, and Zutano are good to try. The all popular commercial Hass should be reserved for Zone 9a and greater.

    For the hardest of the citrus, the varieties that are able to tolerate to 28 degrees for short periods are the Meyer Lemon the hardiest of the lemons, Kumquats with Nagami being the most well-known and the Fukushu a newer very sweet large fruited tree gaining in popularity. Calamondins are a very cold hardy kumquat like fruit used mostly in cooking. Owari Satsurma mandarin is a noted cold hardy variety and are very dependable. The jury is still out on newer varieties like Gold Nugget and Pixie. The Yuzu a fruit used primarily for Asian cooking is thought to be the hardiest of all the citrus. Sweet Oranges must be protected along with most Lemons, Limes and Grapefruit. Some varieties to try in these zones are the Trovita Orange, Lisbon Lemon, Bears or Persian Lime and the Oro Blanco Grapefruit.  

    For all other varieties grown in Zone 9a, 10 or higher, simple recommendations for covering your plants and feeding and keeping them watered in the event of a hard freeze are the order.

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  2. Advice For Overwintering Your Roses

    Most people cover their roses for the winter too early.  Wait until your rose plants have been exposed to several killing frosts and some good colder weather to help them go dormant BEFORE covering if winter protection is needed in your area.

    All across the midsection of the states, typically the right time is about Thanksgiving time to protect your roses.  In the more northern states still time if you have not, and as you move into the more southern areas if winter protection is needed it may be a bit early still.

    Hybrid tea, grandiflora, floribunda, and of course all the new shrub rose types can all benefit from some additional mulch added right on the plants about a foot deep.

    Wait to prune your roses until late winter or early spring so any winter damage is removed when being pruned.  And for roses that bloom on last year’s wood - they don’t get pruned until after the June bloom is done.

    Any kind of shredded mulch (bags may still be available near you), or compost works great too.  Dump the mulch right where the canes come out of the ground piling it up about a foot thick.  It will protect the canes from dying back.  The exposed parts will discolor and may die back but those parts get cut off in spring anyway, and the covered portions will remain green and viable.

    Many used to use the styrofoam rose cones and many times those plants would rot underneath the cones so if you are using them, be sure to cut the tops off the cones to allow moisture in and out during the winter months.

    A pile of mulch is such a simple way to insure winter success in areas that do get cold, and now is the time!

     

    Photo (right) shows a foot of mulch piled on the canes covering the crown of the plant for the winter for simple success.

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  3. How to Keep Your Christmas Tree Fresh

    Here are a few tips for keeping your tree fresh while it is in your home for the holiday season.

    - You just brought your tree home. While it is still outside, spray all needles with an anti-transpirant like Wilt Stop or Wilt Pruf, or even hairspray works great, to prevent the needles from drying out the day before you bring your tree inside. Spraying the needles prevent them from giving off moisture - instead they will hold the moisture in the tree. Hairspray does work well but remember it is very flammable (like your tree) so keep the spray and the sprayed needles away from flame like you would anyway.
    - Make a fresh cut on the bottom of the trunk (even if only removing an inch or two) JUST before bringing the tree into your home.
    - Put hot tap water in the reservoir, and add some soda pop or an energy drink. Trees take up lots of water at the start so don’t let the reservoir dry up - very important! It may empty the reservoir daily at the start so get as much water as you can into the tree right from the start.
    - Cool rooms are best, and keep your tree away from heat.
    - Using LED lights not only saves energy, but they stay cool, better for keeping your tree fresh longer. 
    - It doesn’t hurt to mist the trunk of the tree with fresh water whenever you can without getting any electrical cords or decorations wet.

    Enjoy and remember to check the water level daily at the start – you will be amazed at how much water some trees can take up.

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  4. Brighten Winter With Bloom Pads

    Bloom Pads from Nature Hills will make spring arrive early inside your home.  Brighten the bleak winter days with bursts of colorful flowers and super fragrance!

    Bloom Pads are spring flowering bulbs that are placed between two pieces of biodegradable paper.

    Here is how to best handle them:

    Your Bloom Pads were just delivered!  Simply put the bulbs in the vegetable drawer of your fridge.  Keep them in the pads they came in, and don’t store them with apples or fruit.  Chill them in the fridge for 12-16 weeks.  Bring them out of the fridge, planting the entire pad just under the soil surface.  Be sure to use a good potting mix, and water well.  Keep the soil moist and place the pots in a cool and sunny location until they begin to grow. Watch them burst into color.

    You can extend the indoor bloom by bringing in newly planted pots each week over several weeks for a succession of bloom.

    Hurry, time is running out.  Great gift idea for yourself or anyone on your list.

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  5. Indoor Winter Citrus Care

    This is the time of the year when all citrus grown in cold climates is brought indoors for winter protection. There are a few critical considerations that will allow your citrus plant to adapt to being indoors and stay healthy until it is put back outside in the spring.

    The optimal place to over winter a citrus is in a greenhouse that is climate controlled. This is rarely available to the average homeowner. The process of bringing plants indoors should begin about 3 weeks before expected night-time temperatures reach 35 degrees or less. Citrus plants should be brought to a protected location that is well lit but not necessarily full sun. A location up against the house is ideal. A covered patio works well or just a wall that has good radiant heat coming from the house. The idea is to get the plant used to less light while offering some protection from the fluctuating fall temperatures.

    A permanent location inside the house should be selected with some important considerations. First and most important is sunlight. The location should be one with the greatest amount of sun available. A southern or southwest facing window is most often your best choice. Plants should be exposed to as much sunlight as possible. This means that when placing more than one plant, it is recommended that they not be placed behind one another. For maximum light exposure, place plants above one another on the floor and table.

    Sometimes optimal sunlight exposure is not available indoors and artificial light is required. There is still much research being done to determine what the best artificial light source for the hobbyist is. Keep in mind that citrus typically is ripening fruit during the fall and into the winter. In nature this is happening when the sunlight is at its lowest exposure. Because of the research at this point, the recommendations are more directed at what not to do. When artificial light is needed, full spectrum florescent lights are not recommended. Though great for light, to the plant they suggest spring or summer. This is confusing to a plant that has just come in from being exposed to the shorter day light of the fall. Currently recommended is a bulb designed for plant growing: a grow light. Even better, if an indoor gardening company is available, contact them concerning the latest light sources or bulbs recommended for fall/ winter growing and fruit ripening.

    Also important is not placing the plant close to any heat source. The dry air inside the house is another factor that can cause problems with citrus plants. The biggest contributor to dry air will be around any heat sources. If possible, avoid placing citrus close to heater vents, radiators, fireplaces and wood stoves. Avoid placing citrus close to kitchen stoves and ovens as well.

    Last and most important is the watering of your citrus. Fall and winter alone mean that the plant is using less water because it is not in a growing mode but rather a dormant or fruit ripening mode. The improper watering of citrus when indoors is the number 1 reason for defoliation while indoors. While indoors, citrus requires ¼ the amount of water they require during the spring and summer months. Become familiar with the moisture in the soil by pushing your finger in up to the knuckle and feeling the wetness. Citrus should be grown on the dry side during the winter time. A wet finger means wet soil.

    The fact is that citrus does best when grown on the dry side anytime. The difference is that the spring and summer months are active growing and flowering periods. The longer days, the heat and the growth all require more frequent application of water - unlike what is need during the winter months.

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  6. Bare Root Plants: SOAK ROOTS – PLANT – SOAK SOIL = SUCCESS

    Bare root still good to ship until mid-June.

    Bare root plants are dormant and are shipped without any soil on the roots and no leaves on the stems. The roots are wrapped in a medium to keep them moist during shipping however. The plants will start to grow once they are planted into warm soil and catch up to the plants in your landscape before you know it. 

    Bare root plants are kept dormant in our coolers so the plants still think it is winter until they are taken out and planted. Look at a cherry tree recently planted and notice the new growth coming.  

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  7. The Cottonless Cottonwood

    What are all those fussy things floating around in the air?  They are plugging up the screens in our house.  They are plugging up your air filters. 

    The Dandelion plants are kind of done showing their fussy seed heads so it can’t be those.

    In most cases, you are seeing the seeds from Cottonwood trees.  They are those large, stately trees that you most commonly seen in the western states.

    Nature Hills sells two different kinds of Cottonwood trees that are seedless and do not produce any of the messy, fuzzy seeds that you see at this time of the year: the Siouxland Cottonwood and the Hybrid Poplar.

    Why plant a Cottonless Cottonwood tree?  They are wildly fast growing, have great form, tolerate most any kind of soils, are hardy and tougher than nails. 

    Check out Cottonless Cottonwood trees from Nature Hills.  Our tip of the day is to plant one of these seedless beauties with no mess, no volunteer seedlings, just a fast growing, tough and long lasting options for your property.

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  8. Deer Damage

    Deer browsing on only the green foliage of the Arborvitae is very common in areas where there is a lot of deer pressure.  Many times, customers are confused about the damage being a disease or other problem other than deer eating the foliage off the bottoms where they can reach it. 

    Get to know what plants are magnets for the deer in your area.  Ask your local ag extension office if they have a list of plants that deer prefer in your area.

    Keep in mind that deer may prefer different plants in different areas.  The other factor to keep in mind is that if deer do get hungry, they may eat most any plants

    The other thing to know is that any time you do introduce new plants into an area, the very first day deer may sample that new plants that you just put in place (whether the deer like it or not, they may try it to see how it tastes).

    Do your homework and see what others in your area are saying about which plants deer prefer.   Don’t take a chance on letting deer damage your new plants.  Buy some inexpensive deer repellent and spray your new plants the day you install them just to be sure. 

    Remember too that in the fall of the year the male deer (bucks) may rub their antlers on the trunks of trees so it is always a promising idea to protect the trunks of young trees so they do not harm the bark.  White or lighter colored trunk protection is best to reflect the heat in winter. 

    Trees that you may want to try on your property might need to be fenced until they get large enough that the deer can’t reach the bottom branches. 

    Remember that deer repellents do work, but the rain and weather will wash off the effectiveness and must be re-applied occasionally.  A little persistence with the repellents is worth the preservation of the plants in your landscape.

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  9. Check Your Roses Please

    You overwintered your roses.  You cut back your roses this spring before they started to grow.  The new growth is pushing out, and the foliage looks great. 

    Bam…. that is just the time that bugs start to eat that clean, beautiful foliage.  Get out and check your rose bushes to see if there are any holes in the leaves, any bugs chewing or crawling on the tops or the undersides of the leaves.  If you are in an area that has Japanese Beetles, it is probably too early yet, but be on the lookout for them too.  Aphids, chafers, beetles and anything else… be on the lookout.     

    How to treat the bugs on your roses?  Choose the weapon that works for you.  Maybe you can physically just remove the bugs with your fingers?  Insecticidal soap can work and needs to be re-applied as rain washes it off.  Other insecticides that are labeled for roses can also be used.  Another option is to use a systemic insecticide that is taken up by the rose plants and protects the plants from all chewing bugs from the inside of the plant.  It does not wash off.

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  10. Mockorange Overhaul Due?

    Classic Mockorange plants of the past had kind of dull and not so attractive foliage and little fall color.  The plants were large and leggy and not so very attractive in the landscape as they got just too large. 

    Why Mockorange?  The flowers are wildly intoxicating and smell like sweet orange blossoms.  The other reason people planted Mockorange is because the elegant white flowers come at a time when there are not a lot of other shrubs blooming.  They typically start blooming in June after all the spring lilacs, Quince or Forsythia have finished. 

    Maybe you still have one of the old fashioned Mockorange shrubs in your yard now.  As soon as the flowers are done blooming, you can severely prune them as soon as the flowers are done blooming.   You can even cut all the stems down to the ground and new growth comes from the base and still get up several feet before the season ends.

    Even the newer, smaller growing selections should be renewal pruned AFTER the flowers are done.  You can simply cut out the fattest stems out to the ground, or if it needs a complete update, cut off all the stems down to the ground and let all of the new stems come from the roots. 

    Mockorange selections are far improved over the old versions of the plants…and the flowers are welcome at a time when little other shrubs are in flower.  The size is much more manageable, the foliage is improved, and the flowers profuse with the incredible fragrance you won’t forget.

    Mockorange, they’re not just for old landscapes anymore.  Prune now for great flowers next year too.

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