Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Tree Stowaways

 Photo courtesy Okeechobee County Extension.

Remember the scene in “Christmas Vacation” where the squirrel jumps out of the Griswold family Christmas tree? Well, Christmas tree stowaways are not always that obvious (or dramatic- thankfully). There is a much smaller pest that may sometimes be found on a cut tree brought home for decorating.

Cinara spp.  Photo courtesy Okeechobee County Extension.
Cinara spp. aphids are sometimes found on Christmas trees. They are large and brown to black and have been mistaken for engorged ticks. This naturally gives some people cause for concern. But these aphids are feeding only on the host plant and pose no threats to humans or their pets. (Not even a sneaky little squirrel…) If these are found on a Christmas tree it is not necessary to take any action.

Click here for more information on Cinara aphids.

Click here for more information on fresh Christmas trees, including fresh Florida Christmas trees.

This year we bought a Florida tree from a Christmas tree farm nearby and it is beautiful. We had the opportunity to select and cut our very own tree. It made for a day filled with great memories and a wonderful, healthy, fragrant tree. There are several kinds of Florida Christmas trees to choose from- we selected a sand pine, Pinus clausa, for it’s soft needles and more “traditional” Christmas tree look.

Support your local Christmas tree farmer-click here for info. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Shipping Home Grown Citrus

If you grow citrus in your yard you might like the idea of shipping your fruit to relatives far and wide for holiday gifts. Although this is a wonderful idea, you should know the rules for doing so. Due to the presence of citrus canker in Florida, all fruit shipped out of state must be packed by a licensed commercial packinghouse operating under a USDA compliance agreement, whether the fruit was produced in a commercial grove or in a residential yard. 

The packinghouse will remove plant debris, wash, disinfect and then pack your fruit in shipping containers marked with the appropriate certification. This is done because studies have shown that fruit processed in this manner poses a minimal risk to spreading citrus canker. This helps to protect other citrus-producing areas from the unwanted “gift” of citrus canker.

Your fresh fruit gift will provide Florida “sunshine” to your gift list and help protect citrus producers!

Click here for a list of packing houses that accept home grown citrus for processing.

Click here for more information about growing citrus in your yard.

Friday, December 3, 2010

"Baby, it's cold outside..."

Brrr! The cold weather is finally here and you’re not the only one in need of protection from the cold. Just like people, plants have temperature ranges they prefer. Here are some tips to help you protect your landscape this winter:

Plant the right plant in the right place! A Floridian wouldn’t do well in North Dakota this time of year, and likewise a tropical plant won’t thrive here when the mercury drops. We are in hardiness zone 9b, so be sure to plant things that are suited to our location. For plants that may not quite be suited to this location you may be able to help them by planting them in protected locations such as a south-facing area protected by walls, fences, hedges (evergreen of course), etc.

Keep your plants healthy! When you are stressed you are more likely to succumb to some malady and your plants are no different. Proper fertilization, watering, and pruning will go a long way in keeping plants healthy. Click here for information about the fertilizer ordinance in Pinellas County to ensure year-round compliance.

If you are going to cover your cold sensitive plants to protect them from frost, remember that the cover should be raised above the plant.  Also remember to remove any plastic covers on sunny days to avoid burning the plant.

For more detailed information on cold protection for plants click here.

Bundle up and don’t forget to take care of your plants!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

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