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Thursday, Sep 18, 2014
South Shore News

Brandies: Don’t give up on your citrus due to greening


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Was it only last year I was so glad to have the Hillsborough County Extension Service experts decide that samples of my citrus did not show citrus greening? Well, the greening has found me.

Some of my friends in the Rare Fruit Council have lost all or almost all of their wonderful citrus. I’m fortunate to still have some healthy trees and some that show greening symptoms but are still producing decent fruit.

Some council members have noticed that while some of our citrus trees or groves out in the open are suffering decline from greening, the citrus growing under large oak trees still seem healthy and are producing normal fruits.

I also notice that some varieties, like my favorite Poncan, seem very susceptible to greening. Mine, my son’s and my friend Nancy’s trees all have been taken away. But as the Poncan stood dying the past two years, right beside it a Miowa kumquat tree that still thrives and has for about 25 years now.

My Page orange has had wonderful crops the past two years in spite of a few sick-looking fruits and a good bit of dead wood. Trees do often produce heavily when they’re dying in an attempt to reproduce themselves, so this productivity could be good or bad. But so far most of the fruit is still delicious and the trees are blooming abundantly as I write this.

My blood orange tree has looked very bad for the past two years but its fruit is also still good. And the Valencia keeps producing and looking good, although it drops more fruit than it used to do. Some of the fruit is green but it still tastes good.

I definitely wouldn’t spend a great deal of money on citrus at this time, especially since I hear that a greening-resistant orange is soon to come to market. But I did buy four small trees in the spring of 2012 at $9 each from Harris Citrus Nursery, and they are thriving and blooming this year. I’ll still take off most of the fruit for another year as suggested by those experts so that the tree will grow larger with most of the strength going to vegetative growth.

My grapefruit tree looks very healthy, is loaded with fruit and blooming well again. It had hardly any fruit last year. This year I’ll drink from that tree for a good 12 months. And the Wekiwa tangelo that took forever to bear any fruit at all has at last decided to produce.

We’re still getting enough for orange juice for six months of the year and it’s better than any we have tasted elsewhere. If you see me buying orange juice during the citrus season, it’s for my daughter Teresa. She seems to like store-bought juice better, and we don’t push the good stuff on anyone.

I’m way too addicted to living with citrus to give up, especially when the fragrance of orange blossoms fills the garden. I’ll keep looking for solutions and let you know how this challenge unfolds.

Plant of the day

Today’s pick is the purple firespike or purple flame. It’s been blooming for weeks now. I also have the red firespike that bloomed in the fall. The purple seems to be a winter-into-spring evergreen shrub. Both the leaves and the flowers are different. The leaves are larger and the entire plant grows so quickly I have to prune it back at least once a year.

Mine is in partial shade but it will do well in full sun to full shade. It starts easily from cuttings, and butterflies and hummingbirds love it. I cherish it especially since it’s one of the last plants I bought at the jail plant sale before they ended that wonderful program. But I think it would show up better against a white fence.

Now’s the time ...

* Tell you that I’ve found grapefruit juice doesn’t taste nearly as tart if it’s at room temperature instead of right out of the frig. I put it in the microwave for 15 seconds. Even orange juice tastes better to me that way.

Upcoming events

* The Town ‘N Country Garden Circle’s annual Spring Expo and Plant Sale will take place Saturdayfrom 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Wesley Memorial Methodist Church, 6100 Memorial Highway, Tampa. Plants grown by club members will be sold at bargain prices. There will also be garden vendors, plant societies, food trucks and craft tables indoors and outside. Tool sharpening is available at a reasonable cost. For information, call Sharon Cooper at (813) 727-2947 or (813) 886-2015.

* Also this Saturday there will be a plant sale from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or until they’re sold out on the bus ramp of Lavoy Exceptional Center, 4410 W. Main St., Tampa. Plants are grown by the students so the costs are low and benefits high for both buyers and sellers. For more information, contact allen.boatman@sdhc.k12.fl.us.

Monica Brandies is an experienced gardener, freelance writer and author of 11 gardening books who can be reached at monicabrandies@yahoo.com. Her website is www.gardensflorida.com.

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