Articles written by Darryl McCullough (unless otherwise noted)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Moving On

Today marks the end of an era, as MRFC members gather at Palma Sola Park, at 2:00 this afternoon of March 19, in remembrance of Ray Jones. More than three decades have passed since he founded this organization, and all of us who have enjoyed its benefits--- and all of those who ever will--- owe him our gratitude. I’m very glad that I’ve had five years here to learn from Ray and so many other masters.

Today marks the end of another, far less significant era: my four years as weekly blogger at the MRFC websites. At the behest of Pete Ray, and with Ray Jones’ encouragement, I took on the task as a learning experience. I resolved that every Sunday, I would post whatever I could come up with that might be of interest to someone, somewhere. And I’ve enjoyed the experience, even though at times it seemed like Sunday came around every three or four days. But the world is ever-changing, and it’s time for me to devote more of my writing energy elsewhere.

I’ll continue to post articles, when inspiration strikes, and for the time being I’ll serve as blog editor. Any submission of writing about fruit trees and related topics, from anyone, anywhere, will be duly considered. If it’s appropriate for the MRFC Articles section of our site, I’ll help with whatever editing may be needed, and post the article and any accompanying photos. Of course each article will carry its writer’s name (unless they prefer to remain anonymous, in which case credit will go to “an author who prefers to remain anonymous”). It doesn’t matter whether you use fancy-dancy, stuck-up elitist words like “behest”, or you don’t know what a dangling participle is. Just write from the heart, and leave it at the “Contact” section of the MRFC website, or email it directly to me, and we’ll see what we can do.

Our writers can share their hard-won knowledge of the unique horticultural conditions of our region. Or they can be the eyes and ears for news from the fruit tree world, or the recorders of the history of our club and of the larger fruit-tree community. They can recount the sights, sounds, and tastes from their travels. Or they can simply brighten our day with their observations, tales, or creative musings. There is much to say, if that is one’s calling.

Supporting the home growing of rare fruit in our region helps to address more different ecological, economic, health, and social challenges than, well, anything else I can think of, and its value is something that all of us, whatever our world view, ought to be able to agree on. Maybe your part in this enterprise is writing articles, or maybe it’s selling fruit and trees, or maybe just growing your own for family and friends, or maybe it’s something else. But however you choose to share this great blessing, I wish you, in one of Ray Jones’ favorite phrases, good growing!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Windy Day In March

I hadn't been to East Bradenton Park since December, and it's time for the first spring fertilization. So one afternoon this past week I headed up to the Park with a 50-pound bag of processed poultry litter, plus some Fertrell and elemental sulfur. Fortunately, as it turned out, I also brought along some bamboo poles and staking ribbon.

As spoiled rotten lucky as I am, it's not surprising that my property is surrounded by heavily treed land, including the conservation woods along the southern border, and the good neighbors to the north. So I'm not used to the wind problems that can plague an unprotected grove like East Bradenton Park. I got a quick lesson.

At least there was only one total loss, this formerly beautiful canistel. It was well-staked when planted, like most of the trees in the grove, but the stake was nowhere to be found. I don't believe anyone unstaked it; most likely the mowing crew picked it up.

A couple of other trees looked like they just barely withstood the high winds of the past few weeks. First was the one and only guava tree in the grove, a Billy Hopkins selection called Pink Barbie.

Sporting three new stakes, it's now somewhat straighter.

The fast-growing Tice mulberry was leaning heavily. I didn't try to restore it to verticality, just to sustain it without further damage.

There were a few other signs of high wind. The carambolas had lost all of last season's leaves, but were leafing out nicely.

The trees aren't as pretty as most of what we see at home, but overall the grove is in good shape. Of course the community is eager to see some fruit. This year we will need to strip the mangos, longans, and most of the other fruit from these young trees, but there should be papayas, carambola, and maybe bananas. And maybe this little bunch of loquats will ripen up.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

From The (E)mail Bag

Special Notice: The MRFC plans a remembrance event for Ray Jones, at Palma Sola Park. It is tentatively scheduled for 2:00 p. m. on Sunday, March 19. Details will be announced at this month's club meeting and also in an email to members.

From time to time, we receive plant questions at the fruit tree club email accounts. There isn't time to answer all of them, but once in a while I pitch in and help out. This is a recent one.

New Grower: I am a beginning gardener. I obtained a starfruit tree from an online nursery. The leaves looked slightly wilted so I may have overwatered it. The next day some of the leaves started to turn yellow and are slowly getting worse and falling off. I am now putting it out in the morning sun until noon. Is there anything else I should do? Thanks.

A: You should have bought your tree at one of the club sales, or else at a local nursery. Sorry to hear that you starfruit tree is having some trouble. Trees in containers need to be moist but not wet, and overwatering is a more common mistake than underwatering. Usually I use the very scientific approach of sticking my finger into the pot. If it feels moist, no water is needed.

What's tricky is that if the tree has been damaged by overwatering, then it's more vulnerable to underwatering than before. That's because it has root damage, and consequently is less able to draw enough water. So it's important not to overreact by underwatering. If there is any fruit on the tree, take it off. It's an extra demand that the tree can't handle until it regains its health.

The water needs depend of a container plant depend on the amount of foliage relative to the size of the pot, and the temperature. The more foliage and the warmer the temperature, the more water is needed. That's because the tree's main use for water is for evaporation to keep the leaves from overheating. You might consider some pruning--- a low branch or two that the tree doesn't need, or part of an overly long branch--- again to decrease the water needs.

Sometimes root-damaged trees will shed some or all of their leaves to protect themselves from evaporation, and leaf out after they have strengthened their root systems. I don't know whether this can happen with carambolas, but I've seen it in several species. So if your tree does lose all its leaves, don't give up until the wood is actually dead. However, your starfruit is almost surely a grafted tree (unless the seller robbed you). If the part above the graft dies and the tree starts growing back from below the graft, you'll need to send it to the compost and get another one. The rootstock will not make a desirable tree.

I would say that the half day of morning sun is a good idea if the tree is having problems. That will decrease the water needs. You might even give it sun only until mid-morning until the wilting diminishes.

Good luck with your tree, and don't get discouraged if things to go badly. All experienced growers have killed their fair share of plants!

NG: My star fruit tree is doing much better now. The leaves have stopped falling off and it seems to have stabilized. There are only about half the number of leaves as it started with, but they look healthy. I took your advice and am careful not to underwater it either. Thanks for your help.