Thursday, March 31, 2011

Problems with Citrus Trees; Suspicion of Citrus Greening

SITUATION:  Having problems with 30 to 40 years old citrus trees.  Have lived in the area for 12 years and the tree has done very well.  However, this year something is wrong.   The citrus trees are full with hundreds of very small fruit. Normally, the fruit is sweet and eaten by the birds and squirrels.  The fruit is usually picked much earlier than this.  This year, the fruit is small and sour. The birds and squirrels have not touched it and the leaves are yellowing and beginning to curl.   Is this the citrus greening disease we have heard about?  I did not see other diseases like this when I tried to look it up.
RESPONSE:  Wow, citrus can be tough to work with sometimes.  In this case, the trees are very old and it may not take too much to cause them to decline.  You should have continued watering on a regular basis during the winter by providing at least 1" of water per week.  You should be applying a "citrus fertilizer" four times a year.  If you notice any unusual cracking of the bark on the trunk near the soil line suspect foot rot an contact a Certified Arborist for assistance.  If you control weeds and grass growing under your citrus trees with Round-Up make no overspray is landing on the trunk of the citrus trees.  Because all the citrus trees are  having the same problems at the same time, my first suspicion is that they were not being watered with a sufficient amount of water over the past 4-6 months.  Secondly, water and fertilizer are closely tied together.  Incorrect watering practices can lead to nutrient deficiencies although you are providing fertilizer often enough and in sufficient quantities.
If you suspect Citrus Greening, please call the Department of Plant Industry (1-800-282-5153) for an inspection of your trees.  Please do not bring possible greening samples to the Extension Office as you will be transporting potentially infectuous material into areas of the County where Citrus Greening may not be found.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Starting a Raised Bed Garden in the Backyard

QUESTION(S):  I’m starting a raised garden bed in my backyard. I live in Orlando Florida. It’s my 1st garden experience. I’m building it out of cement blocks. It is 10 blocks in length and 4-5 blocks in width. Could you please help me with the following issues?
1.  What would be the best way to kill the grass under the bed?
2.  Should I put down a layer of weed block? 
3. On top of the weed block should I put a layer of gravel down for water drainage? 
4.  What kind of soil mixture should I use?
And finally, what would be the best vegetables and herbs to plant for this time of year? I’m going to transplant them with starter plants raised at a nursery. Thank you so much for your time and help. Any sites or tips you may have would be greatly appreciated!
Congratulations to taking the plunge into growing the best tasting vegetables you will ever enjoy --- your own.

Why don't you stop by our office at 6021 S. Conway Rd. sometime and talk with a Master Gardener Volunteer.  Additionally, there is some information or our website at:, look toward the bottom of the page for some UF Publication specific to vegetable gardens.

In the meantime,

1.  Your raised bed is about 12' x 4' on the inside.  An ideal location in the yard is an area where you get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.  More would be better.  The best way to ensure the weeds are gone is to open one end of your raised bed and dig them out with a shovel.  You only need to remove about 2" of soil with the grass and weeds.  You will only have to do this once.   We have a 4' x 16' concrete raised bed garden in our Demonstration Vegetable Garden at the County Extension Education Center.

2.   A weed block will slow the weeds up a little but corrugated cardboard (recycled cardboard boxes) may be better.  A combination of both weed block and corrugated cardboard is a little overkill but gives one some comfort.  Just a single layer and over lap the joints between pieces of cardboard will work for quite a while.  Weeds will show up in your garden eventually but most of them will be from wind blown sources close by.

3.  There is no need to add gravel for drainage.  Our typically sandy soils usually drain better than we like for our vegetable gardens.  If you have no standing water in the area of your raised bed garden after a rain storm, you are ready to put your growing media in the raised bed.

4.  Ideally a quality potting mix would be fine for growing your vegetables in the raised bed garden but can be expensive in that volume.  You do not want to use soil from the surrounding area because of the potential for harmful organisms.  If you wish to make your own growing media, a good recipe is 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 compost.  The peat moss can be purchased at the big box stores in "compressed bales".  Coarse horticulture grade vermiculite can be purchased in 4 cubic foot bags from a company just north of Apopka called BWI (3700 W Orange Blossom Trl., Apopka, FL 32712-5843 (407) 884-0242).   The compost can be a commercial product such as Black Kow composted cow manure.  You may also get quality compost from the Orange County landfill.  It is available at three locations in the county (Porter Transfer Station in Ocoee, LB McLeod Rd, and the main landfill on Young Pine Road --- call our office for more details if needed (407) 254-9200).  You did not indicate if your raised bed is one block high or two so I will try to give you what you will need for both situations (and I will try to keep it in one bag units): if it is only one block high you will need 32 cubic feet of material:  8 cubic feet of Peat Moss (one "compressed bale"), 12 cubic feet of vermiculite (two 4-cubic foot bags) and 12 cubic feet of compost, and if it is two blocks double the recipe.  (For future gardening seasons you will only need to add compost --- no more peat or vermiculite)

The vegetable gardening season for the warm season crops started about three weeks ago.  Quality transplants will be helpful to get an excellent harvest by June.  Start small, grow what you like to eat, and use varieties known to do well in Florida.  See the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide (see link on the right side of this blog page) with a planting chart for use in Orange County.  Pay particular attention to pages 10-12 that list varieties that grow well in Florida to help you choose what you will grow.  Additionally, look at the WARM SEASON planting chart to grow the right vegetables for this time of year.  (example:  Spinach and Onions are not listed because they grow better in the cool season)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Master Gardener Volunteer Program --- New Class August 2011

Thank you for your interest in the Orange County Master Gardener Volunteer Program. This is a program for training volunteers to answer homeowner garden and landscape questions and provide other volunteer services to the Orange County Extension Education Center.

The next Master Gardener Volunteer Program will start in August 2011. This program is taught on Tuesdays from 8:30am - 4:30pm with two breaks that requires all agents to be out of their offices. The program will finish up the week before Thanksgiving. You must attend 12 of the 13 weekly class days to complete the training program. Class days will alternate between the Orange County Extension Education Center in Southeast Orange County and the Osceola County Extension Service Center in Kissimmee. One day of training may be at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center.

You will be expected to make one 10-minute presentation to your classmates during the program about a topic we will agree upon. You will be required to complete a 10-hours internship in the Clinic at the Orange County Extension Education Center on Conway Rd. during the training period on days other than class days. This is usually a two-hour shift with five different MGs as mentors. Upon completion of the training program, you will be required to return 75 hours of volunteer service and earn 10 hours of continuing education during the next calendar year.

Registration fee for this class is approximately $175 and must be paid with your application. You will be interviewed and if unsuccessful, your registration fee will be returned. This fee is not refundable once you are accepted to the training program.  Please return your local address and email address and you will placed on our waiting list. You will be contacted by e-mail in June and the syllabus should be completed and ready for distribution in July.