Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

054 Indoor Citrus Basics. Leaf Mulching Made Easy.

October 13, 2020 Fred Hoffman Season 1 Episode 54
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
054 Indoor Citrus Basics. Leaf Mulching Made Easy.
Chapters
1:32
Indoor Citrus Basics
16:08
Smart Pots!
17:06
Leaf Vacuum/Shredder/Baggers
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
054 Indoor Citrus Basics. Leaf Mulching Made Easy.
Oct 13, 2020 Season 1 Episode 54
Fred Hoffman

Why should we, here in the warm, sunny areas of the United States, have all the fun growing citrus? If you're in snow blower tune-up mode now, you could also be growing citrus trees such as lemons, limes and more…indoors! We talk with the man who literally wrote the book on citrus, Lance Walheim, about how to successfully grow citrus inside your house during the winter.
You’ve heard me yammer on about the benefits of using leaves as a mulch in your garden. But have you heard about garden tools that can pick up, mulch and bag all those leaves at one time? All you have to do is empty it on your garden bed. We’ll find out about how easy it is to use a combination leaf blower/vacuum, mulcher and bagger, freeing up a lot of your time. Brad Gay of JB's Power Equipment in Davis, CA explains how convenient they are to operate.

It’s Episode 54 of the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you by Smart Pots. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes.…

Links:
Four Winds Growers: advice for indoor growing of citrus
UC Mulch Materials Research Report
Meyer lemon picture courtesy Tomorrow’s Harvest

More info including live links, product information, transcripts, and chapters available at the home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred.

Got a garden question? E-mail: [email protected] or, leave a question at the Facebook, Twitter or Instagram locations below. 

All About Farmer Fred:
Farmer Fred website: http://farmerfred.com
Daily Garden tips and snark on Twitter
The Farmer Fred Rant! Blog
Facebook:  "Get Growing with Farmer Fred"
Instagram: farmerfredhoffman
Farmer Fred Garden Videos on YouTube
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases from possible links mentioned here.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Why should we, here in the warm, sunny areas of the United States, have all the fun growing citrus? If you're in snow blower tune-up mode now, you could also be growing citrus trees such as lemons, limes and more…indoors! We talk with the man who literally wrote the book on citrus, Lance Walheim, about how to successfully grow citrus inside your house during the winter.
You’ve heard me yammer on about the benefits of using leaves as a mulch in your garden. But have you heard about garden tools that can pick up, mulch and bag all those leaves at one time? All you have to do is empty it on your garden bed. We’ll find out about how easy it is to use a combination leaf blower/vacuum, mulcher and bagger, freeing up a lot of your time. Brad Gay of JB's Power Equipment in Davis, CA explains how convenient they are to operate.

It’s Episode 54 of the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you by Smart Pots. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes.…

Links:
Four Winds Growers: advice for indoor growing of citrus
UC Mulch Materials Research Report
Meyer lemon picture courtesy Tomorrow’s Harvest

More info including live links, product information, transcripts, and chapters available at the home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred.

Got a garden question? E-mail: [email protected] or, leave a question at the Facebook, Twitter or Instagram locations below. 

All About Farmer Fred:
Farmer Fred website: http://farmerfred.com
Daily Garden tips and snark on Twitter
The Farmer Fred Rant! Blog
Facebook:  "Get Growing with Farmer Fred"
Instagram: farmerfredhoffman
Farmer Fred Garden Videos on YouTube
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases from possible links mentioned here.

Farmer Fred:

Garden Basics with Farmer Fred is brought to you by Smart Pots, the original lightweight, long lasting fabric plant container. it's made in the USA. Visit SmartPots.com slash Fred for more information and a special discount, that's SmartPots.com/Fred.

Farmer Fred 2:

Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information, well you've come to the right spot.

Farmer Fred:

Why should we here in the warm sunny areas of the United States have all the fun growing citrus if you have a snowblower? You can also be growing citrus trees such as lemons, limes, and a lot more indoors. We talk with the man who literally wrote the book on citrus, Lance Walheim, and he'll tell you how to successfully grow citrus inside your house during the winter. I know you've heard me Yammer on about the benefits of using leaves as a mulch in your garden. But have you heard about garden tools that can pick up leaves, mulch them and bag them all at one time? And all you have to do is empty it onto your garden bed. We'll find out about how easy it is to use a combination leaf blower vacuum mulcher and bagger and that's gonna free up a lot of your time. It's Episode 54 of the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you by Smart Pots and we'll do it all in under 30 minutes. Let's go.

Farmer Fred 2:

Now I know a lot of you are jealous because here in California, or if you live in Arizona or Texas or Florida, you get to grow citrus in your backyard. For the rest of the nation, though, that would be a challenge. a challenge to the point where maybe you bring it indoors for the winter. Maybe you just have a really nice greenhouse to grow citrus, you can grow citrus indoors. we're talking with Lance Walheim. Lance has written several books about citrus, one from Ironwood Press called "Citrus The Complete Guide to Selecting and Growing More Than 100 Varieties," and a book published by HP called "Citrus - How to Select, Grow and Enjoy." He's also one of the contributing editors to the Sunset Western garden book that has a very good citrus section as well. And Lance, let's talk about some growing citrus indoors basics. I imagine it would start with choosing the right varieties.

Lance Walheim:

That's very true and to be honest with you, citrus can be a challenge to grow in cold climates. On the other hand, I have met many people who have been growing things like Meyer lemons and kumquats back East in very cold climates for 30-40 years so people can be successful about it. But you're right. first step, make sure you choose the right variety. And then there's a number of things you're really going to have a hard time to sweeten up any sweet varieties like a navel orange, although people try it but in those conditions is going to be difficult. So first off, I think you need to try with acid fruit. One of the best ones is the Meyer lemon. It's a very precocious tree that loves to bloom, doesn't need a lot of heat to ripen. And it's a small tree so it can grows perfectly well in a container. All the kumquat hybrids and the kumquats are perfect. Also, they have smaller fruit that ripens quicker. And again, they have a propensity to rebloom often. Also limes, Bearss lime is good one, Calimondin, which is a kumquat hybrid. I, you know, people want to really take a look at what they their possibility. So I really recommend they go to the Four Winds website, because Four Winds Growers, which is a citrus grower, and they offer they shipped citrus all over the United States, and specifically for indoor growers. So they have a lot of choice there. There's some other oddballs that that people might want to try.

Farmer Fred:

FourWindsGrowers dot com is that website. And what about the option of letting your citrus trees enjoy the warmer months outdoors and bringing them indoors for the winter? Is that viable?

Lance Walheim:

It certainly is. And the key thing is that you provide a transition zone, the best place to have a citrus indoors, just like you said is a cool greenhouse where you can provide all the sunlight and high humidity that a tree needs. But think about it. And when you're moving a citrus tree from indoors to outside in the spring or even harsher from the outside to the indoor conditions, you're really changing things for that tree, the humidity levels outside could be over 50-60%. You take it inside where the house is heated, you're dropping maybe down to 10% humidity. So those are dramatic changes, and they're going to affect the tree and the same is true of the light conditions. So what I really recommend, whether you're going inside or outside as you provide a transition period, and that means you take your trees if you're taking them outside and you put them outside in a shady condition after the frost or when the weather warms up a little bit, and and give them a shady condition several hours a day, and then move them back, move them to more light gradually, it may take several weeks. And also when you go back inside, do it over a slow period, move your trees under some bigger trees so that they get less light. And then when you do move them inside, make sure that you do anything to give them the right conditions, you certainly don't want them next to a heater vent, you want to do whatever you can to control humidity, which means they can be placed on a tray with some rocks over it where you can add water to the base and increase humidity around the tree. they're not going to like a lot of heat, give them as much light as you possibly can. But what's going to happen probably anyway, especially with a Meyer lemon or something like that, you're going to bring them indoors, and they're going to drop their leaves. After that, the next thing that might happen is that they're going to bloom. the stress of all that it's going to make them bloom, so you're going to get some flowers, they probably won't set fruit indoors, but you will start getting some new growth, making sure that you are doing a good job to maintain the water in the pot, not over watering, not underwatering. And then they'll start to grow again. And then you'll be faced to move outside again. And then hopefully in the spring, they'll bloom. And you'll be able to ripen that fruit as best as you can until the weather gets cold again, but to get actually sable fruit, it's not easy. And it's going to take some hits and misses where you place the trees. But people do it, peopl get results. And a lot of peopl are just are happy with the fragrant flowers on the citrus ree. And it's a conversation p int. I mean, it's a fun tree to row. But it's not easy. And agai , probably, if you're just st rting off in the world of growi g citrus indoors, maybe start wi h something that can take the i doors a little bit better lik the Meyer lemon, or the Bearss ime, right, or Calomondin or kumquat. Those are all good cho ces. And it's the size of the ree, too. those are small, co pact trees. I have seen peop e try to grow lemons, regular emons, which are probably the most vigorous citrus a d even grapefruits indoors, and have had pretty good luc . But I doubt they're they're etting much edible fruit.

Farmer Fred:

And of course, citrus can be maintained at whatever height you want, which I think one great alternative solution, as we talked about is a greenhouse. But you mentioned a cool greenhouse, what is the temperature range, the ideal temperature range in a greenhouse to grow citrus?

Lance Walheim:

Well, you obviously wouldn't want it to go below freezing. But I think if you could keep it around 40 degrees, 40 to 50 degrees, you'd probably be in pretty good shape and cooler just increases the humidity. And that's the natural cycle that we go through. And with citrus trees, they really like that cool winter, that improves the quality of the fruit and it helps the fruit of growth slow down. You get it warm, you get it dry, and you're going to have issues and you also have to watch out for insect pests because you want to make sure that you use something like an insecticidal soap, or something like that before you bring the trees in to make sure that you've brought anything that's on them under control. And then keep a close eye on them once you get them inside because things like mites can develop in the in the hot, dry, weather. So keep an eye on that and make sure you control it as soon as you possibly can.

Farmer Fred:

I would think that in order to maintain a good humidity level in a greenhouse situation for citrus, perhaps having a swamp cooler installed could help.

Lance Walheim:

Yeah, that certainly could and in most cases your greenhouses tend to be on the more humid side. I've seen a lot of people have success in sunrooms where they have as long as they can keep the temperature down and keep that light bright. But you usually will still go through a cycle of some leaf drop when the trees are brought inside. You want to fertilize but you want to do it lightly and you definitely do not want to overwater.

Farmer Fred:

That's interesting is that if you have citrus indoors, it's okay to fertilize it when it's indoors. I thought maybe you just fertilize it when it's outdoors.

Lance Walheim:

Well, I would continue to fertilize it lightly. maybe it has strength because it's going to be going through some growth cycles and you want to make sure that the nutrition is there. I would make sure I used a good citrus fruit that or a fertilizer that had the micronutrients in it of zinc, iron and manganese. But you are hoping that that tree is going to grow when it's inside unless you're totally shutting it down in a cold greenhouse. but I would fertilize lightly.

Farmer Fred:

And what about a soil mix for citrus in containers? I know that citrus lean to being an acid loving plants. I would think that using some sort of Rhododendron, Camellia, Azalea soil mix as part of that soil mix would be a good idea.

Lance Walheim:

That's true. They do prefer to be on the slightly acid side but they are widely adapted to soil types, I think that most potting soils, quality potting soils are probably going to be okay. It's more important that we make sure we get those fertilizer nutrients. So those micronutrients in it, but the only thing I'd be worried is maybe if azalea, camellia food would be a little too acid, but you could do a 50-50 mix, and that that would be perfect.

Farmer Fred:

Alright. And watering. Watering is critical to a long life for a plant and not just keeping the soil medium moist, it needs to be a well drained mixture as well, which means that you have to be very careful to note that there is drainage going on and to do something with that excess water.

Lance Walheim:

That's exactly right. That's another problem. That's a good point, you're bringing in a large plant possibly, or even a larger house plant. And you're going to have to have trays or something underneath it to catch the excess water that drains out when you do water, you want to want to make sure that you water thoroughly, so the whole root ball gets wet. But you don't want that water sitting around in the basin. So whatever you can do to drain it out or put something in there to keep the soil out of the water constantly, that's the quickest way to kill a citrus tree is have bottom of that container soaking wet, you're just not going to get the drainage, they need air for the roots,

Farmer Fred:

I would imagine that citrus will grow faster and probably have more leaves when there's higher light levels. So, is supplemental lighting effective in a situation in a room that maybe only gets sun through a window five or six hours a day?

Lance Walheim:

Absolutely any type of supplemental light that you can use. I know a lot of people that use supplemental lighting and get very good results. So yeah, check around for the type of lights that you can get. And especially if you're going to be growing your citrus trees in an area where you're not getting enough light and they're a little out of the way. you have a lot of options of things that you can you can set up around the tree. lights are going to be a good thing.

Farmer Fred:

All right. And there's all sorts of great light options these days with the newer, less expensive LED fixtures. Right. Let's talk a little bit about pollination. Most people I know don't let bees fly around their house indoors. So how do you keep a flower happy on a citrus tree if it's indoors?

Lance Walheim:

Yeah, we've learned a lot about citrus pollination over the last few years and most citrus is self fruitful. We used to think that you had to have the bees to do the pollination but in truth a lot most citrus is wind pollinated if it needs it. The perfect example is how if you've ever been to California citrus country, in the spring when the trees are in bloom, they cover the Clementine mandarins with netting to keep the bees away. These do spread pollen but it's not often necessary to set fruit, it's more necessary. What I mean the downside is if you get pollen from a different variety, you get seedy fruit. That's why the clementines recovered, but most citrus is just self pollinated or wind pollinated. A lot of times you can just shake the tree. That may help if it's necessary. But if you're having a problem getting fruit set, a lot of people like to try the pollination with a just a little hand brush and move the pollen around, see if that affects things. But my guess is that if you're dropping a lot of flowers, it has more to do with the environment of trees growing with it than a lack of pollination.

Farmer Fred:

Yeah, and I would think to that you mentioned wind movement because they are self pollinating. So people may think, okay, I'll just put a fan next to it and run that for a while. But that would lower the humidity level.

Lance Walheim:

Yeah. And you probably will blow the pollen into the next room. So yeah, I'm not sure of that. just give the tree a little shake, I mean, obviously there's no wind in it in most houses. And so that should help and if you really want to play with it, it's kind of fun to go out there with a light brush and move pollen around just to see what happens but in most cases, it's not necessary.

Farmer Fred:

is leaf burn an issue?

Lance Walheim:

Leaf burn can be an issue, especially if you go into, and we are going, into a dramatically drier area. And if you are not, if you've allowed salts to build up in the tree, you bring it inside the lack of humidity that's going to cause leaf burn and eventually leaf drop. I recommend before you bring the trees in inside, you know, do a preventative insect control spray of some kind, whether it's insecticidal soap or neem oil, whatever you're going to do, but also make sure you water the tree really well before you bring it inside. Let it sit out there and drain for a couple days and leach any salts that are in the soil out. That's a good practice with any house plant that you bring outside and then eventually bring indoors and watch the weather because it could get a cold spell on there. Don't get caught with your tree outside before it gets too cold or if you let the late spring frost watch out for that. get them inside if you have to.

Farmer Fred:

I would think, too, that a clean citrus tree is a happy citrus tree. so, washing off the leaves both the top side and the bottom side of the leaves before you bring it in the house might be a good idea.

Lance Walheim:

That's a perfect idea. Plus, you could use a foliar fertilizer but also when you bring it outside in the spring, imagine there's going to be a lot of dust accumulated on the leaves. So when you bring it out, hose it down really good. That's a great idea. All right.

Farmer Fred:

Lance Walheim, citrus grower in Central California, and garden author, author of several great books about citrus, you may have to buy them used, they're out of print, but they're available. One is called "Citrus The Complete Guide to selecting and growing more than 100 varieties" published by Ironwood Press. And then there's "Citrus how to select grow and enjoy", published by HP books. And of course, a good citrus section and instructions also are in the sunset Western garden book, and I believe that one is still available, Lance.

Lance Walheim:

It sure is.

Farmer Fred:

It Better be. Lance Walheim, garden expert, garden author, citrus grower, good talking with you.

Lance Walheim:

Thanks, Fred. Good talking to you.

Farmer Fred:

We're glad to have Smart Pots on board supporting the Garden Basics podcast. Smart Pots are the original award winning fabric planter. They're sold worldwide. Smart Pots are proudly made 100% in the USA. I'm pretty picky about who I allowed to advertise on this program. My criteria, though, is pretty simple. It has to be a product I like; a product I use; a product I would buy again. And Smart Pots clicks all those boxes. They're durable. They're reusable. Smart Pots are available at independent garden centers and select Ace and True Value stores nationwide. To find a store near you visit SmartPots.com slash Fred. It's Smart Pots, the original award winning fabric planter. go to SmartPots dot com slash Fred for more info and that special Farmer Fred discount on your next Smart Pot purchase, go to SmartPots.com slash Fred.

Farmer Fred 2:

We're talking with Brad Gay from JB's Power Equipment in Davis. And if you're a gardener, every fall, if you have leaves or if your neighbors have trees with leaves, those leaves make an excellent mulch, they can improve your garden soil, and it's pretty easy to improve your soil. If you don't have a winter garden. When those leaves fall in October, November, December. you grind them up, you put them on your garden bed, stack it up as tall as you want, four inches, eight inches, 12 inches. and then the following spring, you've got improved soil, no question about it. The problem is, all right, how do you gather up those leaves? How do you grind them up? Now in the past what I've done is, my neighbor loves me with a 60 foot Pin Oak tree, but I want those leaves. So I'll go over there, rake her leaves, put them in a metal 30 Gallon Trash Can, stick my string trimmer down into that metal trashcan and sort of whip it around and grind up those leaves. It does an okay job but not really a great job of making all those leaves smaller. There's something on the market that if you want to do that, too, it makes it a heck of a lot easier. We're talking with Brad Gay from JB's Power Equipment in Davis. And Brad, I like the idea of having a tool that sucks up the leaves and grinds them and then I can just dump it onto the garden bed. That sounds pretty darn easy. What are those instruments of destruction?

Brad Gay:

Well, it's a great tool, it's a conversion of your handheld blower is what it amounts to. And they've gone in and adapted the front of the front of the blower that brings in the air for the blower to blow out the pipe to blow your leaves. Well they put a tube on that so now it becomes a vacuum. And the blower exit would you would be blowing has a curved tube to it. that attaches a bag before you put that tool on, look on the inside of that blower there are little metal shredders, something you wouldn't want to touch.

Farmer Fred:

Thank you.

Brad Gay:

that way if you can't, you can't run it with that tube

Farmer Fred:

Yeah, that's, that's great. off. So that's a very strong safety feature. But it's a metal, like a mower blade, but a real small version of it. That's a shredder. So now you can go in and suck up all the leaves in these areas. And it goes. It hits that shredder device and puts it in your bag and it's a 12 to one ratio reduction. So in areas like under shrubs that you've got the you can't get to as easily or let's say your around a pool and you're in corners where leaves are collected. In my case I have Sycamore leaves my Sycamore leaves a good portion of the cross and more. So now you got to reduce that To be able to use it. So by using this by sucking that debris up and going through that shredder, it reduces that down. And most of the pieces are about less than the size of a dime, which is pretty good considering how big that leaf was when you got it there.

Brad Gay:

I've been very satisfied with it, you save a few steps, you just take it out, dump it. you can use it right then as long as you don't have to go shred it up. I live in a house that has two huge sycamore trees. And before I had a chipper shredder, or had a vac and sack or a shredder vac, I had tarps that I would hold in my backyard and put them on my garden. And it would be I'd have piles back there. Well, it reduced really well but say corn leaves which are a pretty good sized leaf. So in the spring, I'd get out there, get ready to do it. And I'd still be part of the pile there. And there's the bottom of the pile there's still some of those leaves and in their original configuration. Wow, since I've started doing the chipping in the shredding and reducing that and then putting it on a yard. No, it's done it's mulch it's ready to use right then I was gonna rototill right in and there's no big piles anymore. So but that vac and sack, That's a that's a great tool to have.

Farmer Fred:

Yeah, I noticed on your website, JBSpower.com, that the Echo people have one called a shredding vac. And actually, it's three units in one because it's a blower, like a typical leaf blower, it's a vacuum. And it's a shredder mulcher.

Brad Gay:

Yeah, it is that's the whole thing. And it's but it's got a nice bag on it so that when the bag has a strap goes over your shoulder, so it's like you're carrying your it has a rear handle to it. So you can, you know, usually you have an upper handle on a blower or a handheld blower, well, this actually has a rear handle, so you can hold it and the upper handle, so you got two hands on there. And then you have a strap that's on the bag that you put over, like a backpack kind of as a, you sling it over your back. So then you power the leaves in that bag. Well, when that starts getting heavy, it's usually that's about time for you to go dump it. So and it's a, I'm gonna say this about a 30 gallon, you know, like plastic bag container. Not quite that but it's the it's a, it's a good amount that you can pick up and get rid of all that debris in a timely fashion. So you can go do other things in your garden.

Farmer Fred:

Now we're talking here about the Echo shredding vac. But I imagine there's other manufacturers with very similar items.

Brad Gay:

yeah, there is. Stihl has one, there's the same idea. We also sell that is competitively priced. The same thing, there's no difference. everybody's producing stuff like that. But this both of these companies are top of the line. And and they're, they're run by people that if you do have a problem with this piece of equipment, you've got someplace to go to where which is a good thing to fall back on. That's what I meant. Buy the best and cry only once, a little bit. But you generally just don't have the problem.

Farmer Fred:

The Echo unit we're talking about and I imagine the Stihl unit as well. They're both two stroke gas engines, correct?

Brad Gay:

That's correct. Wear a dust mask when you're doing this.

Farmer Fred:

Yeah, we got plenty of masks these days.

Brad Gay:

Well, yeah, everybody has access to those for some reason. Yes.

Farmer Fred:

All right. garden mulch. I've preached it for years. It's the one of the best things to add to your garden and you don't have to till it and you can just lay it on top. You can plant around it. garden mulch has numerous benefits. It blocks weed seeds from sunlight so they don't germinate. It promotes better water retention. It provides needed nutrients as it decomposes. It moderates soil temperatures as well. Mulch is wonderful. Why not make it yourself from the things that are around you, that are falling, tree branches or leaves. I think a shredding vac is the way to go for just about every gardener.

Brad Gay:

I've been using it for about three years now. But you know when I'm so glad that I got that I've got a number of friends that have similar landscapes and they have it and they use them quite a bit themselves too. It's really a nice handy tool. There you go. If you need a blower you've got a blower too. So if you want to just blow things around, get it into a pile and then put the bag on there and the other hose and now you can shred everything up out of your pile. So it's a two in one, three and one device.

Farmer Fred:

Well, I thank you and my next door neighbor with the 60 foot tall Pin Oak Tree thanks you as well with this information about the shred and vacuum it like I say if you're going to have one garden tool that might set you back a couple hundred bucks. This would be the one to have to make your own mulch and improve your soil. We've been talking with Brad Gay from JBS Power Equipment in Davis, California. Brad, thanks so much.

Brad Gay:

Fred, it's always a pleasure talking to you.

Farmer Fred:

The Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast has a lot of information posted at each episode: transcripts links to any products or books mentioned during the show, and other helpful links for even more information. Plus, you can listen to just the portions of the show that interest you. It's been divided into easily accessible chapters and you'll find more information about how to get in touch with us. We have links to all our social media outlets, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Also a link to the farmerfred.com website. That's where you can find out more information about the radio shows. You remember radio, right? Now, if the place where you access the podcast doesn't have all that information, you can find it all at our home podcaster, Buzzsprout. Buzzsprout.com. Just look for the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. You'll find a link to it in the show notes.

Farmer Fred 2:

Garden Basics comes out every Tuesday and Friday and it's available just about anywhere podcasts are handed out. And that includes Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, I Heart Radio, overcast, Spotify, stitcher, tune in, and hey, Alexa, play the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, would you please? Thank you for listening, subscribing and leaving comments. We appreciate it.

Indoor Citrus Basics
Smart Pots!
Leaf Vacuum/Shredder/Baggers