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Garden Gossip

February, 2024

Native Hollies – Sue Webb

Petals from the Past has an amazing collection of native hollies this year! Leading the pack of the evergreen hollies is of course our well known and loved American Holly (Ilex opaca). It can get up to 40 feet tall plus after many years and grows in sun or shade. The beautiful red berries the birds love are perfectly displayed just in time for Christmas decorations. As with all of the native hollies, one needs both a male and a female plant to get those berries so we have to be sure & buy several.

American Holly hybridizes naturally with another native holly Dahoon (Ilex cassine). These crosses have made their way into the nursery industry and tend to make beautiful smaller evergreen holly trees with red berries that are more appropriate for some of our gardens. Petals has three distinct varieties of these now: Savannah, Miss Pryss and East Palatka. These are all around 30’ and pyramidal in shape, again with red berries in the fall and winter. The ones we have are all females, so be sure to have American Holly not far away.

Another very useful evergreen holly in the nursery right now is Inkberry Holly ‘Shamrock.’ This is a short version of Ilex glabra which works well in foundation plantings and places where one might use boxwood. Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) is the last of the evergreen hollies. It has small leaves, red berries and grows as a thicket forming multi-trunked small tree up to 25’. Like the above mentioned American x Dahoon crosses, Yaupon can be used as a hedge or a screen.

The native deciduous hollies show off in fall as well with beautiful red or yellow or gold berries after the leaves have fallen. These are especially gorgeous in woodland gardens where they add great winter interest. . One species of deciduous hollies is called Winterberry (Ilex verticillata). ‘Sunset’ and ‘Winter red’ are two excellent selections with red berries and ‘Winter Gold’ is a new orange-gold selection. All three of these reach 6-8’ at maturity and are pollinated by a male holly called ‘Southern Gentleman.’ The other species of deciduous hollies (Ilex decidua) are taller (up to 12-15’) than the winterberry. We have ‘ Warren’s Red’ which is a gorgeous red-berried selection and ‘Finch’s Gold’ which has bright yellow berries. Both of these hollies are pollinated by a male selection called ‘Midas.’

Pollination Requirements for Fruit Plants

It is a good time to review some of the pollination requirements for small fruits. We will soon be planting these and it will be good to know what varieties we need for productive plants.

All the blackberry varieties that we carry are self-fruitful. That means you only need one plant to produce a crop of berries.

All varieties of blueberries that we carry require cross pollination. You will have to have another variety to produce fruit. It is wise to plant three different varieties just in case you were to lose one plant you will still have fruit crop.

All the bunch grape varieties we carry are self-fruitful.

Muscadines need for cross pollination varies among varieties. Some are female plants while others are perfect flowered which are capable of pollinating themselves and female plants.

The following are perfect flowered muscadines varieties that pollinate themselves and female plants:

  • Dixie Red, Granny Val, Ison, Lane, Noble and Paulk.

The following varieties are all female plants that require cross pollination by any of the varieties listed above.

  • Black Beauty, Black Fry, Darlene, Fry, Pam and Supreme.
  • All strawberry plants we carry are self-fruitful.
  • All apple and pear trees require a different variety for cross pollination.
  • All persimmon, pomegranate and fig trees are self-fruitful.
  • Peaches, apricots, nectarines and sour cherries are self-fruitful
  • Plums and sweet cherries require a different variety for cross pollination
  • All the raspberries we carry are self-fruitful.

I hope this was a helpful guide in planning your fruit garden.

Knowing what to spray and when to spray can be very confusing. We have put together spray kits for Apples and Pears and one for Stone Fruit which includes everything you need to keep your trees healthy. If you are using the organic approach we have one for you too.

If you are having a problem with white fly or other insects you can spray Malathion oil at anytime. Imidacloprid is especially effective on white fly. The plant can be drenched with it and it is absorbed into the root system. It is fine for citrus at this time of year. If there is fruit on the trees you have to wait 30 days before eating the fruit.

Copper sprays can be important for early disease control and are generally applied in February and March near early bud break through petal fall. It is applied every two weeks at the rate of 2 tablespoons per gallon of water at budbreak, 1 tablespoon per gallon of water two weeks later and then 1/2 tablespoon to 1 gallon of water through petal fall. Trees should not be sprayed after there is dime size fruit on the tree.

When dormant oil or copper sprays are being applied, always separate the different sprays by 2 to 3 weeks. During winter there are certain precautions gardeners should follow to minimize potential problems with fruit plants.  For example, don’t apply pesticides (especially oil sprays), do any pruning (especially severe) or do any planting within 48 hours of a hard freeze (temperatures below 32 degrees F).  Not following these rules can result in loss of fruit buds, branch damage or complete plant loss.

Fertilizing

Mid-February we can begin to fertilize blueberries and pecans. For the pecans and nut trees use a fertilizer with zinc and also one that has all the micro-nutrients for a good crop of nuts. Many garden centers and farm supply stores carry this fertilizer in 40 or 50 pound bags. For adult trees, the application of the 10-10-10 fertilizer should be 4 lbs. for each inch of pecan trunk diameter.

The fertilizer should be broadcast applied, beginning 3 feet from the trunk and extending just past the canopy. At Petals we use Fertilome Citrus, Pecan and Fruit Tree fertilizer.


Blueberries should be fertilized about the middle of February also. We use Growers Special which is a 12-6-6 fertilizer that was formulated for blueberries. Always use ammonium forms of nitrogen such as urea, ammonium sulfate or ammonium phosphate and avoid fertilizers that contain more than 10% of nitrogen in nitrate form. Three applications are ideal during the first two years. Use 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons per plant and double these amounts the second year. Beginning the third year apply 5 or 6 oz. per plant. Fertilization should increase annually by 2 ounces per plant (1/4 cup) until an annual rate of 14 to 16 ounces per plant is reached. PH of the soil should be maintained at 4.5 to 5.5.

Wait to fertilize your blackberries until March. Muscadines can be fertilized with 13-13-13 usually about 1/2 to 1 cup per vine in late February and again in April for new plantings. Older gardens can use 3 to 4 pounds per vine of 19-5-10 in late February.

Pansies should also be fertilized this month too. A liquid fertilizer is best. I like Southern Ag Start Bloom & Root 10-0-20.

Pruning

Roses should be pruned in February. Repeat flowering roses may be pruned by 1/3 into a vase shape. Roses that only flower in the spring should not be pruned now but after they finish flowering. Spring flowering climbing roses should only have the stray canes cut back. Save the major pruning until they finish flowering. When you are finished, fertilize all roses with rose food. Bio Advanced for roses and flowers is an all in one product. It has a fertilizer, insect control as well was as disease control for black spot and powdery mildew.

Prune crepe myrtles, Lilac Chaste trees and pomegranates as well as other summer flowering shrubs such as summer flowering spireas, Annabelle, Peegee and Limelight hydrangeas and abelias.

All ornamental grasses should be cut back now. That includes Pampas Grass, Miscanthus, Mulhy Grass and Zebra Grass. They should be cut back all the way to the ground. This cleans up the area and gets rid of the old grass and blooms.


Pampas Grass is very hard to cut back because the blades of grass are very sharp. Often this grass is just burned down to the ground. While not totally necessary, you can give your grasses a little fertilizer now to promote some new growth

Muscadines should also be pruned this month. Begin pruning about mid February. Cut back all shoot growth of the previous summer to spurs with 3-4 buds. It is a good idea to remove old fruit stems since they are a source of disease. Remove the tendrils that wrap about the arms or spurs since they girdle the plant and reduce production.

You may find many helpful pruning videos in the Education and Resource tab on our website under Educational Videos

Remember no planting, pruning or spraying within 48 hours of a hard freeze.

Potatoes and Onions

Have your every tried to grow potatoes? I have found that they are fun and easy to grow. There are many different varieties and I try to grow some that I can’t easily find in the grocery store. In our area they should be planted by Valentine’s day. There are several different ways you can plant. Raised beds, wire cylinders, grow bags, made especially for growing potatoes, garbage bags and many others. I chose the traditional method of just planting them in my garden. Since potatoes are a member of the nightshade family choose an area to plant them where peppers, tomatoes or eggplant have not been plant for the last two years.

Use seed potatoes and cut them leaving at least two eyes for each piece. I cut mine up a few days ahead of planting time so the cut edges would dry. I felt this kept them from rotting.

Dig shallow rows about two or three feet apart 6 or 7 inches deep. Place the potato pieces in cut side down with the eyes facing up. Cover with soil and then I mulched with wheat straw. The wheat straw helped keep the weeds down.

Once they started growing I had to make sure all the new potatoes were covered with soil or straw to prevent them from having green areas that are bitter tasting.

You may harvest ‘new potatoes’ about 2 to 3 weeks after the plants stop flowering. You can do this without really disturbing the whole plant. Just feel around with your fingers and get the small potatoes. Leave the others to mature for about 3 additional weeks.

Harvest when the plants start dying down which in our area is late April or May.

You may also plant short day onions now. Plant in full sun (6 to 8 hours) Space 2 to 4 inches apart.. You may plant January through March and September through October. It is a good idea to lime the area before you plant since many of our soils a very acid. Amend with organic matter to create a well drained soil. Onions are heavy feeders apply an all purpose fertilizer at planting. Reapply beside plants 4 to 6 inches from the stem when tops are 6 inches tall.

Start planting your tomato seed this month. Our selection of tomato seed is excellent. We have many heirloom selections as well as the newer varieties.

Sow the seeds in flats indoors or in a greenhouse in a sterile soil mix, such as Pro-mix or any good potting mix such as Happy Frog. Make furrows with a pencil about 1/8″ deep in the damp soil mix and drop seeds in. Cover with the soil, making sure that the seeds make direct contact with the soil. Place the container in a warm place about 75 to 80 degrees. Germination should take place in 5 to 10 days. As soon as the seeds emerge it is important to provide very strong light such as a very sunny window or florescent bulb. Once the true leaves have emerged it is time to transplant the tomatoes to a larger container. When the weather has warmed up and the night temperatures are above 55 degrees it is time to set out your plants.

Harden off your seedlings by moving them out in the sun for a couple of hours at first and gradually increasing the time over a week so they are in full sun.

If starting your plants from seed isn’t your thing, we are offering several varieties of tomato plants this year. Our plants will be ready for sale about the middle of March.

Spring Annuals

February is a little too late to plant seed for spring annuals such as larkspur, California poppy, Iceland poppy, corn poppy and many others. We have plants available for all of these and many more. Using plants at this time of year will give them time to to mature and bloom before the weather gets too hot. Many of these plants will reseed if you leave the spring blooms on the plant so they can drop their seed.

When at the nursery stop by our beehives. We have 11 hives and they will be here pollinating all our flowers and fruit plants this spring.


Weeds

If you have a weed problem now would be a good time to spray with a pre-emergent herbicide. This type of herbicide prevents the weed seeds from getting all the way through the germination stage . However it has to be sprayed before the seeds germinate. If there are little weeds present already, you will have to use something to kill the weeds then spray the pre-emergent.