Tag Archives: ornamentals

What should you be doing for fruit tree care in February (Growing Zone 8+ and Patio Citrus Trees)

Our family likes to travel and I remember one time while we were vacationing at an RV park in Florida, our RV neighbor came over and shared a sack of satsumas he had purchased from a local grower. Y’all! These were THE BEST oranges we had ever tasted… sweet, easy to peel, and perfect snack size. I was hooked.

Upon returning home, I quickly learned that the shelf life of a Satsuma is not conducive to the grocery store system where food must be able to handle transportation time and sit on the shelf until sold. I did find it at an asian market much to my delight. But, alas, I wanted a Satsuma tree I could call my own…. so I bought four Satsumas. (I justified my purchase telling myself that even though these trees were self-pollinated, if I got a few others, it would produce more fruit.)

satsuma orange citrus

Satsumas can grow in large pots if they are on a dwarf rootstock and pruned to limit their height and overall size, but they are best in the ground as the limbs will get heavy laden with fruit anywhere from October through December (typically, but will vary by cultivar.) Fresh Satsumas for Thanksgiving and Christmas? Count me in!

As I was caring for my young citrus trees and other fruit trees, I thought it might be a good time to talk about how to care for these wonderful trees that provide us with the healing nutrient vitamin C (among other beneficial antioxidants!)

Not a pic of me, but these are an example of the kind of pruners you want to have sharp and clean (with rubbing alcohol.)

When should I prune my fruit trees?

The time to prune and treat your fruit trees is late January and into February, so now is the perfect time to be looking at your citrus and other fruit trees if you live in growing zone 8+ or if you grow indoor trees of this nature. I also have peach trees, olive trees as well as roses in pots that I plan to use the following treatment on in preparation for spring and summer growing season.

And when we prune, we need to protect. Make sure you always use sharp pruners appropriate for the size of the limb your are trimming. Always clean your pruners with 80% or higher alcohol in between each tree or bush you prune. Follow up by sealing cuts with an organic sealer to protect the plant from bacteria and pests. As we look at pruning and protecting our investment, I personally like when I find a product that has multiple benefits with one application. Here’s a quick rundown of one that makes logical sense to me to be a good solution and I am currently testing it out on my trees and ornamental bushes.

One Step Protects Tree Three Ways

As I study and learn from other growers on this beautiful citrus option, I’ve learned from Charles Malki, Director of Horticulture and Education at IV Organics that even though citrus are heat-loving, the intensity of the sun can actually burn the trunk’s outer bark layer inviting disease and pests to attack the tree in the sun-damaged region. I encourage you when you have an hour or so to check out his video series on fruit trees as it is very informative.

Malki has developed a product called IV Organics, a 3-in-1 Plant Guard, that is organic and can reapplied annually while doing spot checks on your tree(s) called IV Organics. This product is purported to tackle three things: sunburn on trunk (and leaves), protects from pests and open cuts (caused by pruning or breakage) that promote bacteria to enter the tree. and protects from rodents who may want to chew on the bark towards the base of the tree.

He also notes that using latex paint or tar-based products to protect tree trunks may last longer without reapplication, but you’re exposing your tree to toxic chemicals which can affect the health of the tree.

Painting on 3-in-1 IV Organics onto trunk and lower limbs of citrus satsuma tree during month of February to provide protection from pests, sun, and rodent pressure.

What is IV Organics 3-in-1?

This IV Organics 3-in-1 Plant Guard reminds me of a milk paint, but it contains beneficial compounds that not only coat a “sunscreen” to the tree trunk’s exterior, but it also contains essential oils that are known to naturally repel most insects and rodents. The mix of essential oils included are: castor, cinnamon, clove, garlic, peppermint, rosemary and spearmint.

Castor oil, spearmint, peppermint and rosemary are known to repel rodents. Garlic, Clove, Peppermint, Rosemary are known to repel various insects including but not limited to: aphids, ants, beetles, borers, caterpillars, slugs, termites, and whiteflies. Some of these oils also have anti-fungal properties.

IV Organics 3 in 1 label

You can also choose from five color options to fit your aesthetic preferences: Greige, Grey, Brown, White, Green. I personally chose “Greige” as I wanted it to look natural, but keep in mind that certain colors absorb light (and heat) and other colors reflect light (limit heat). (White would have shown up better for example pictures and easier to see to apply while wearing my sunglasses.) I am really happy at the results of my color choice as from a distance, you can’t even tell anything has been applied to the tree in my opinion.

How much will you need?

If you have an orchard of several mature trees, you’ll want the gallon size, otherwise, the pint-size is ideal from one or two trees or several tree starts. Keep in mind, that the product, once mixed, will last for 2 weeks in the refridgerator.

The product comes in a paint can with a package of clay-type powder and a vial of essential oils. You mix the two and add water until it becomes combined and then paint onto the trunk of your tree. You can also add some of the product to a spray bottle and dilute it down further to spray as a foliar application to leaves during the hotter months. They also have a ready-to-go option if that suits your preferences better. (Note: be sure to apply this foliar spray at dusk after bees have gone and the heat of the day has ended.)

I recommend getting two when you purchase… one to use now as you prune and spot-check your tree(s) and another later for reapplication if needed and to apply a foliar leaf application as you enter the more intense sun in the Southeast as we approach the summer months. Keep in mind that rain will eventually affect the leaves, so reapplication may be necessary if you begin to see sun damage on your leaves. Remember, you can also use IV Organics on roses, fruit & nut trees, as well as ornamental trees & shrubs. You can get a combo pack which includes the product to paint your tree trunk and limbs, a foliar spray, and nutrition your tree needs throughout the growing season which makes it easy to treat your trees and bushes all season long.

IV Organics Product Line for fruit trees and ornamental bushes

Malki also reminds us to not neglect feeding our citrus, avocado, and olive trees during the winter with a light foliar application once a month. In spring, you will want to amp up the soil fertilization with the heaviest feeding of nutrition during the peak growing season of summer. Kelp and or a worm casting biological tea makes for a great foliar nutritional feeding. Malki also has a a super blend of your main nutritional needs of your fruit trees (ie: Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium), but also essential micronutrients.

Let me know in the comments below if you try this method and how it works for you. Or, if you have any questions or want an update to see how it’s going with this product before you try it, just leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to get back to you. In the meantime, happy garden planning and don’t forget to buy some fruit trees if you have space to put one!

Grow without chemicals and eat what you grow!


5 Hydrangea Care Tips to Maximize Your Blooms this coming Growing Season

Erin Castillo | GYHG and Certified Hydroponic Grower, Gardening Writer
Wednesday, February 16, 2022

For those wondering when to prune hydrangeas in Georgia or in Zone 7, now is a fantastic time to think about these beautiful ornamentals and learn any basic care considerations to act on now for big blooms later in your growing season. Here we will deep dive into how to grow hydrangeas in the South and five care tips to consider.

Location depends on cultivar — Be sure to check your variety’s sun or shade needs before planting. If you messed up, you may want to move it while dormant in cold months

The Hydrangea is a perennial typically in Zones 5-9 (with a few rare varieties that are exceptions and can live in Zones 3-4 with winter protection), but this can greatly differ depending on your cultivar, so be sure to check the growing tag that comes with your plant from your local nursery or Monrovia has put together a good resource page you might want to check out as well.

The location you place your hydrangea also matters in the Southeast. You’ll want to protect your hydrangea plant from the extreme summer intensity of the sun (we don’t call it “Hotlanta” for no reason!) Note: be sure to check your cultivar as some hydrangeas do prefer full sun, part sun, or shade.

Conversely, if your Hydrangea is too exposed to extreme cold winter winds and extreme cold weather temperatures, your plant may not form adequate bud formation. Planting your hydrangea near a structure that retains heat while also offering a wind break (like a brick building or foundation) will help your plant produce the stunning of blooms for display you seek. If your temps reach down towards zero degrees or lower, you will want to carefully wrap your Hydrangea plant with a layer of thick burlap to protect forming buds from cold injury. Take wire fencing the height slightly taller than your hydrangea bush and make a circle around your plant then wrap burlap or a cover designed for protecting plants from frost around your plant. This will protect those forming buds and dramatically affect your plants ability to bloom for the following growing season.

What to Add to Your Soil and When You Should Make Adjustments

Before adjusting anything with your soil, be sure to do a soil test at the same time every year (preferably in the fall (October-November). A soil test can be submitted to your local County Extension Office and costs between $7-$12 depending on your particular extension. Be sure to note when submitting your soil test, that you want to get recommendations for hydrangeas. The County Extension will send your soil sample off for a test and you will get detailed instructions on what exactly needs to be added to your soil to feed your hydrangea plants and to keep them healthy.

While waiting for your soil test results to come back, you can do a quick test with 2 tablespoons (30 mil) soil + 1 tablespoon (15 ml) distilled water) and add vinegar. If your soil fizzes, your soil is alkaline! If there is no fizz, get a new sample. Test 2 tablespoons (30 mil) of soil + 1 tablespoon (15 mil) of distilled water + add baking soda. If your sample fizzes your soil is acidic. If it doesn’t fizz, soil is in the neutral 7.0 range most likely.

In the late fall or early winter months (when no snow is present), a top-dressing of compost will feed the soil micro-biology surrounding your plant and make nutrients available to your Hydrangea plant feeding it through the winter. You can also mix in some used coffee grounds and crushed egg shells into the soil and even a fine dusting of wood ash left over from your Green Egg (if you have one) or fire pit (just make sure any coals/ash scooped are cold). You can also add Bone Meal at this time which is slow to break down and only utilized by the plant with soil pH is below 7.0. These additions add acidity and alkalinity to the soil. But remember, these adjustments take three months or more to take effect, so act now if you haven’t prepped your soil beneath your beautiful hydrangea.

How to Get New Hydrangea Plant Starts with Little Effort

And while we are discussing fall / winter soil amendment strategies… if you take a low-lying branch from your Hydrangea and allow it to touch the soil and place a stick with a hook on the end (where you have broken off a branch from the main stem) or a metal u-pin if you have one on hand (even a light rock may do the trick) and essentially have the stem touch the soil and the “mother” plant will put down roots and create a baby plant come spring with adequate moisture. Check it again in 3-4 months and then prune that branch from the mother plant early spring (typically here in Georgia, you can see roots forming on propagated stems by late February.)

When to Prune your Hydrangea in Georgia

Hydrangeas (Bigleaf H. macrophylla, French, and Oakleaf H. quercifolia) flower buds from on old wood. Big Leaf cultivars include Mophead, Lacecap, Mountain hydrangeas. You want to prune these after flowering and shape your bush at that time.

If your Hydrangea is (Panicle H. paniculata, Smooth Hydrangea arborescens also called wild hydrangeas), flower buds will form on new wood, so prune when the hydrangea plant is dormant and remove spent blossoms after flowering (aka: deadhead). This will include your Snow Ball variety.

As a general rule, plants that flower before May ideally should be pruned following their bloom. Plant that flower after May can be pruned just prior to spring growth during dormancy (Jan/Feb). There are of course plants that are exceptions — those being late-flowering azaleas that bloom during May, June, or even July as well as the hydrangeas that bloom on old wood (mentioned above.)

You will want to prune away any disease, dead, stray or broken branches at anytime.

How to Change Your Hydrangea Bloom Color

Not all hydrangea species change color. White cultivars are an example of this, however, varieties such as Hydrangea macrophylla and H. serrata can range in color from pink to blue, fuchsia, plum and even periwinkle. High levels of aluminum in the sol plus having acidic soil pH will generate the coveted bright blue to purple flower shades.

For blue hues, you will want to use soil amendments like elemental sulfur and gypsum. You can also use an organic fertilizer containing cottonseed meal when feeding the plants. Adding aluminum sulfate to the soil isn’t necessary and could be harmful. Aluminum is plentiful and not an essential plant nutrient and too much of it can actually be toxic.

Recipe for blue flowering hydrangeas:
1/2 cup (120 ml) sulfur per 10 square feet (1 square meter) to alter the soil’s pH.

Recipe for pink flowering hydrangeas:
1 cup (235 ml) garden lime per 10 square feed (1 square meter) to alter the soil’s pH.

Remember, changing the pH of your soil is a gradual process that can take up to a year for the color change to take effect. You may also want to use pine straw as a mulch on top of the soil which will naturally break down over time, but will feed the micro-organism in your soil. Pine Straw, though minimal, may make your soil slightly more acidic over time and multiple applications. These hydrangea plants require plenty of moisture to get to the flowering stage, so put some sort of mulch (Pine Straw, wood chips, leaf mold, straw, or a living mulch that is a low spreading ground cover) down to help suppress weeds and maintain moisture. (Remember, you don’t want to ever have bare soil!)

How to Preserve Hydrangea Blooms to use in Home Decor

When your Hydrangea begins to bloom, pick a full new bloom in the morning and dry it slowly and hang upside down with a clothespin to a hanger in a room with good circulation (preferably indoors where humidity levels are lower due to Air Conditioning.) Allow the bloom to completely dry and then use in whatever decorating application. They are especially pretty as a wreath. Just spray with a clear craft finishing spray to preserve color. The also look pretty as a dried floral bouquet arrangement.

If you haven’t explored growing a hydrangea bush, I encourage you to give it a try! It’s a wonderful showy flowering bush that will bring enjoyment whether fresh or dried! Do you have a tip that has worked well in caring for your hydrangeas? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Happy Growing!


PS: If you are married, the Hydrangea is traditionally the fourth anniversary flower to give your love. I personally think any day and any year is a wonderful time to give a flower to someone you love. 😉

Erin Castillo is a wife and mother to five in Atlanta, Georgia. She grows food using organic methods for her family and also produces seed to sell, some of which is grown hydroponically and adapted to those growing conditions making it ideal for Tower Garden, FarmStand and Aerogarden home growers. If you want to check it out, you can find it at GYHG Seed Co. She is also certified in hydroponics and volunteers as a guest writer for her local gardening community.


  • Dorn Ph. D., Sheri and Sawyer, Sarah. Georgia Master Gardner Handbook, 8th Edition. University of Georgia Extension. Copyright 2021 University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences ISBN 978-0-528-94356-8
  • Monrovia “10 Things Hydrangea Lovers Should Know
  • Hudson, Jr., Charles. Hudson’s Southern Gardening Published by Topper and Love, Atlanta Georgia. Copyright 1953, 1958
  • My mother (God rest her soul) who shared with me what worked for her gorgeous blooms and how she would dry them and save them for me to enjoy in my own home decor.
  • For further reading: Success With Success With Hydrangeas: A Gardener’s Guides: A Gardener’s Guide Lovers