Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

209 New Plants Drooping? Do This.

July 08, 2022 Fred Hoffman Season 3 Episode 209
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
209 New Plants Drooping? Do This.
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Welcome to summer, where we all look a little ragged in the hot afternoon. And your new plants may look a little droopy, too. But before you add water, listen to what our favorite retired college horticultural professor, Debbie Flower, has to say.

One listener asked, why don’t I have any oranges on my citrus trees? There are many possible reasons.

On a hot day, who doesn’t like to stand under a mister? It makes us feel better….but what about your houseplants? It’ll probably do you more good than your houseplants.

We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory. It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes. Let’s go!

Previous episodes, links, product information, and transcripts at the new home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred, Transcripts and episode chapters also available at Buzzsprout

Droopy Cucumber Plant

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GB 209 TRANSCRIPT New Plants Drooping? Do This.

Keywords: roots , pots , container , drought tolerant plants , citrus tree , soil , water , nursery , garden , redwood tree , fruit , humidity , watering ,  houseplants, misting,  grow , shade.

Farmer Fred  0:00  

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 slash Fred for more information and a special discount, that's

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

Farmer Fred  0:31  

Welcome to summer, where we all look a little ragged in the hot afternoon. And your plants, especially those that are newly planted, may look a little droopy, too. But before you add water, listen to what our favorite retired college horticultural professor, Debbie Flower, has to say. She has some other tips to help any newly installed plants beat the heat.

One listener asked, why don’t I have any oranges on my citrus trees? There are many possible reasons. We have some advice for getting to the root of that matter.

On a hot day, who doesn’t like to stand under a mister? It makes us feel better….but what about your houseplants? Indoor garden expert Raffaele DiLallo says, it’ll probably do you more good than your houseplants.

We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory. It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes. Let’s go!

Liz in Sacramento  1:36  

Hi, Fred. This is Liz. I live in Sacramento zone 9B. I just purchased from the local nursery, a lavender plant  and also a sage. I'm sorry, I don't know the exact name. But they're common. The plants were in pots. Each plant is about one foot tall. I already planted them in the yard early yesterday morning. They were fine all day yesterday. Everything was moist, the soil was prepped. Today. 100 degree weather. They are not looking like they're happy campers. So I'm wondering. These are drought tolerant plants. I don't want to overwater. Is this wilty natural, or should I be doing something else? Thank you very much.

Farmer Fred  2:29  

Ah yes, the hot weather and newly planted items can lead to a great deal of worry. Debbie Flower is here, America's favorite retired college horticultural professor. And let's just talk about droopy plants to begin with on a hot summer day. Some with big leaves just drooped naturally, I always like to, if you will ,hold my weapons, which would be water, in this case. And check in the morning,  and see if they're still droopy. Because sometimes big leaves just naturally droop to conserve water.

Debbie Flower  3:03  

It can be a protective response. The primary place that plants lose water is on the back of their leaves. That's a field blanket statement. It doesn't apply to every plant but many of them, the majority of them. And so if humidity is low, wind is high, heat is strong, sun is strong, or a combination of those things, then the plant can just sometimes wilt in a way to cover the places where the water is coming out. My cucumber did it recently. Last few days. It's summertime, it's 100 degrees in summertime here. Big leaves, lots and lots of heat. The answer is, especially for a new newly planted plant, is shade.  And I actually pulled out my rickety wooden, falling apart garden umbrella and stuck it in the vegetable garden and opened it only in the afternoon when the sun was super strong on that plant and it had had enough light for the day. Wilting can, if it's prolonged, it can lead to reduced flowering. And so, if you're trying to get production out of the plant like a cucumber, you might have a few less cucumbers if you allow it to wilt on a regular basis. But the other thing Liz is facing is the newly planted plant. And so it came out of a container. It had roots on it, the roots, if if it was legal to sell them, the roots had touched the inside of the container so they were right there, in front of her. And it causes some damage to those roots when you transplant. You can't get around it. It's not your fault. And so the part that is most damaged during transplanting is the root hairs. And 95 plus percent of the water absorbed by a plant is absorbed through the root hairs.

Farmer Fred  4:43  

One thing I've learned from you over the years goes back to how to put in a plant. A lot of people will buy a plant, dig a hole, put in the plant and then water it in. You would strongly suggest, while wagging your finger, to water that hole first.

Debbie Flower  5:00  

You want to put it in moist soil, it's difficult for the field soil to get wet. Once you've put the plant into it, you want to plant proud, we've talked about that before. “Proud” meaning that some of the container soil is sticking out at the top of the soil bed, because that container soil will decompose over time and the plant will sink. And then you have the opposite problem with too much water when we get rain, and you want to cut the roots. There are people who go so far as to say wash all the soil off the roots. So especially on woody plants, which the sage may or may not be, the lavender is not, but there are many different kinds of sage and woody roots that are circling around the plant will not change direction once you put them in the ground, and they can end up choking the plant and killing the plant. So somehow you're going to modify the roots to prevent those circling, girdling roots on a woody plant. And then you plant it into the moist hole and you plant it so it stands up a little high and you fill it in and water it and walk away. But before you walk away, or walk away and go find something to make shade on that plant. Because those root hairs need a few days to regrow. I've been known to make little caps, yes, I still get the Sunday New York Times to make little caps out of newspaper. And I just sort of fold it in to a cup shape and tape it and stick it on the plant. I try to anchor it with a stone or something. Yes, it decomposes over a few days. But that's all I need it, is for a few days. I learned that shade trick from a very wonderful plantswoman  when I lived in Nevada. Nevada has some pretty yucky conditions for plants. And she was very knowledgeable about native plants and would plant in summer and have success. Her name was Margaret Williams, I just could not understand and she said you have to shade the plant. She said sometimes just use a roof shingle, I think she was thinking of like a slate one, a piece of slate standing up next to the plant on the sunny side. Or a piece of shade cloth, the garden umbrella, you can think of things to put to shade them just for a few days, just until they get those new roots. Mulch can't hurt either, right. You're going to mulch up against  that root ball that's standing proud above the field soil for sure. So that it doesn't dry out real quickly. And you can put a little bit of mulch on top of the soil as well. And then the other thing is establishment irrigation. And I learned a lot about this when I did my master's thesis in horticulture, establishment irrigation, even for drought tolerant plants, even for native drought tolerant plants. It has to be practiced for at least the first six weeks of the plant's life. And that is to check the plant every day, and water the container soil that came with it as needed. So you're gonna stick your finger into that soil, up to at least the first knuckle, if it's moist, the plant is okay, if it's dry, then you water and you water just the container soil. And then once a week or so you water the field soil around it, along with whatever watering is needed in the container soil. And I did an experiment and we established or somebody else working with me, we established an entire acre of woody shrubs in the summertime in Davis, California using this process of watering the plants every day or so because they dried out really quickly in the field container soil . And then irrigate once a week in the field soil around it. That's establishment irrigation. All plants need establishment irrigation.

Farmer Fred  8:25  

Proven Winners recently came out with an excellent little newsletter about three tips for drought tolerant gardening. And of course, the first one was choose the best low maintenance drought tolerant plants, which are usually native plants.

Debbie Flower  8:39  

Sounds like Liz chose some good ones too.

Farmer Fred  8:42  

Salvia and lavender are fine. But one of the main points they make in this little newsletter, and it's very important, is plan to water the first year. How many people, you think, when they bought,drought tolerant plants, planted them,  and then walk away and don't water it. they’re  thinking, “Well, it's drought tolerant.” 

Debbie Flower

Well, if they do, then they don't have that plant for  long, not for long, not in the summer. 

Farmer Fred

Yes. So it needs that water, and that water should be applied thoroughly, maybe infrequently, but at least enough to keep that root ball moist for the course of whatever the weather is.

Debbie Flower  9:19  

Yeah. And the experiment that I did. toward my master's degree, we calculated in a lab the amount of water needed to rehydrate a one gallon plant .All the plants planted into the field were in number ones commonly called one gallon and it was one liter of water. And so when we did irrigate the container media only,  we actually built berms and things to prove so that we could isolate where the water went. We measured one liter of water and put that in the media. A liter is a little bit more than a quart. So it's a little more than four cups, which might seem like a lot.

Farmer Fred  9:55  

But to a plant and its expanding root zone, not really. Yeah. And if it's a really sandy soil, you might have to apply more right into that field soil. And of course. watering in the morning I would think would be more beneficial than going out when it's 102. Applying water gives that plant a chance to absorb that water before it starts to evaporate, watering deeply again, very important. The other thing too, is let's say you go to the nursery and you buy drought tolerant plants, and you put the plants outside someplace in their nursery containers . And you think, “Yeah, I’ll get to that eventually”. and then it becomes 100 degrees or more and they're still in those black plastic nursery containers. You could lose a plant in one day.

Debbie Flower  10:42  

Yes, you could, for a couple of reasons. One,  it'll use up all the water, totally run out. Sucked dry. Over it goes. The other is black plastic exposed to full sun heats the soil up to 140 degrees in 30 minutes. 140 degrees kills the roots.

Farmer Fred  11:00  

I have come up with an alternative plan for those small plants that I still have in four inch or one gallon containers that I'm still trying to find a home for, the leftovers from my summer vegetable garden, when it gets 100 degrees or so. Yes, I will water them in the morning. But in the afternoon, I will place them in a large flat bin that has maybe an inch of water in the bottom. A kitty litter pan  would be perfect for that. And it raised  the humidity a little bit and keeps the soil moisture. 

Debbie Flower  11:34  

Yes, it does. And you've put them you've grouped them together. This is really a container discussion. But yes, you've grouped the plants as well and they can share the water from each other. And that's something to consider when you bring a plant home from the nursery. When you picked it out at the nursery, I'll bet it was surrounded by a lot of other plants and I'll bet it was under a little bit of shade it may not have seemed like much. But those containers were shading the other containers, those plants were shading the other plants and they were sharing the water. they do push water out of their leaves, and the next plant gets to take advantage of that. It slows down the loss of water through that plant next to it. So being in a group like that is less stressful than taking that plant now all by itself, putting it out in the wild and letting the wind get to it on all sides as well as the sun on all sides. It's a pretty brutal thing being a plant.

Farmer Fred  12:28  

Especially when you don't have some $12 an hour employee coming by and watering you twice a day. Yes. So yeah, definitely be more cognizant of your container plants when the weather gets hot. But Liz, the droopy plants and the droopy leaves again, it can't hurt to check the soil moisture before you apply the water. Yes, check the soil moisture, get yourself a moisture meter or dig down and see what that moisture level is down in the root zone. Which, if it's newly planted, may only be a few inches deep.

Debbie Flower  12:57  

Yeah, you can see what is exposed when you take it out of the pot and see those roots.

Farmer Fred  13:03  

All right. Yes, we will get through this summer one way or the other. Good luck, Liz.  All right. Thank you, Debbie. 

Debbie Flower

You're welcome Fred. 

Farmer Fred  13:14  

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Farmer Fred  15:07  

Is misting  any substitute for watering your houseplants? Does it ,in fact, even raise the humidity around your house plants? We get a quick tip from Raffaele DiLallo. He's author of the book “house plant warrior”. He's a house plant expert with a wonderful website, And here's what he said about misting house plants.

Raffaele DiLallo  15:27  

It is not. That's a myth that is rampant everywhere. I used to do it, a long time ago. And it's not to say that there's no place at all for misting, but it will not increase your humidity unless you're just willing to stand there all day and pull on that trigger on that sprayer trigger, all day, in which case you I would just recommend getting a a humidifier. I mean, if you think about a misting as humidity is a measure of water vapor in the air. So with misting, all you're doing is you're wetting your plants leaves, so it's really not going to increase the humidity in your room at all unless you stand there all day with it. It does have its place. A lot of our indoor plants that we grow are epiphytes. And so they've evolved to absorb water through their leaves. And so, if you misted your epiphytes, you're essentially watering them by misting their leaves. Another way that you can use a mister is if you have dry, indoor air especially in the wintertime. iI will help to prevent spider mites to some extent because spider mites like it dry and warm. So if you can, if you're misting your plants, if you have any plants that are prone to getting spider mites, misting can help deter that. But misting will not increase humidity. 

Farmer Fred  16:45  

That again is Raffaele DiLallo, author of the book, Houseplant Warrior.  Or visit his website, Ohio

Farmer Fred  17:01  

You want to start the backyard fruit and nut orchard of your dreams? But you don’t know where to begin? Or, maybe you’re currently growing fruit and nut trees, and you have a million questions… such as what are the tastiest fruits to grow, where can I go to buy some of these delectable fruits and nuts you’ve been reading about…and, how do I care for all these fruit and nut trees, including planting, pruning and harvesting?

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Farmer Fred  18:09  

We like to answer your garden questions here on the Garden Basics podcast. We get a note from Darryl who writes in and says, “I have a small orange tree, unknown variety, in my backyard. It doesn't get as much sun as it should because of a large nearby redwood tree. When we first moved to this house in 2015, this tree was loaded with fruit. However, in each year since there's only been one or two oranges on the tree, we have applied citrus fertilizer and water as normal, but still only ended up with one or two pieces of fruit. We get tons of blossoms. And then we see the beginnings of tiny oranges. But most of them fall off soon after appearing. Do you have any ideas that might help?”   Debbie Flower is here, our favorite retired college horticultural professor…actually, America's favorite retired college horticulture Professor, we should point out. First of all, a lot of people this time of year may be experiencing if they can grow citrus in their yard, the phenomenon known as June drop, which is where those small oranges or whatever citrus varieties may fall off the tree. It's the tree’s way to avoid too much competition.

Debbie Flower  19:20  

right. And that's a good thing. Because if it doesn't lose some of the fruit, you end up with a lot of really small fruit.

Farmer Fred  19:28  

Really, there are questions here that don't have answers that we don't know, Darrell, like, are you pruning this tree? Because maybe you're pruning it at the wrong time of the year or you're pruning it back too much. And it's a small citrus tree, he says, and the fact that it had fruit when they move there in 2015 and then each year since it's only one or two oranges. That's interesting because I could see a citrus tree taking off a year after a bountiful harvest and then coming back In the second year after the bountiful harvest,

Debbie Flower  20:02  

it's very common in all fruit trees. It’s called alternate bearing.

Farmer Fred  20:05  

Yeah. And so for citrus, that's not unusual, but the redwood tree, there is an issue and we should point out that citrus like sun.

Debbie Flower  20:15  

Citrus like sun and have to have that sun to make the food in their leaves, That then travels to the fruit and is trapped as sugar and helps the fruit expand and become luscious.

Farmer Fred  20:27  

And considering that citrus fruit does most of its growing and ripening in the cooler seasons, that Redwood is an evergreen, and the sun is lower in the horizon from fall through spring, that tree may be getting less sun than you see in the summertime. And citrus, I would think would need regular six hours plus of sunshine per day, year round. 

Debbie Flower  20:52  

Yes. blocking the sun is definitely something to consider. The other is the competition in the root zone from the redwood tree. Redwoods are, in my mind, notorious for being greedy, in that department. The one I had, nothing would grow under it, because of the shade. Number one, because of the the mulch that landed there. So seeds didn't have a chance to grow that dropped needles, but also because those roots just go wherever there's good stuff like citrus fertilizer and water.

Farmer Fred  21:25  

Yeah, exactly.  You think that solution might be  just water my citrus tree more. Well, guess who gets that water first.

Debbie Flower  21:32  

And the redwoods keep their roots very close to the surface that mulch helps them do that, that they create, they create their own mulch, and they put the roots right in it and then they collect all the water and nutrients before it can get down to the citrus trees. Citrus do not have deep roots. And they do not like to be deeply mulched that can slow down their growth and their feeding. So that could be a problem. Redwood needles mulching the citrus too much. But I think it's more likely to competition from the roots and the lack of sun.

Farmer Fred  22:06  

And Darryl, I see you there in the garage. You're putting oil and gas in your chainsaw. You're thinking I'm gonna get rid of some roots. Oh, that's dangerous. Don't do that, Darrell, because Redwood roots are important. That's how that tree stands upright is  via all that surface rooting, keeps that tree stable. You don't want to remove any of that spiderweb of roots beneath that redwood tree because it might topple. If you think you want to clear the area around that citrus tree of redwood roots, bring in an arborist let them make that decision. A consulting arborist won't do the actual cutting. If you have that chainsaw, you can do the cutting on the say so of a consulting arborist. You can find a consulting arborist near you, if you go to the website,

Debbie Flower  22:55  

trees are

Farmer Fred  22:58  

And that's the International Society of Arboriculture.

Debbie Flower  23:02  

They have a table that lists the names of the individual who are licensed, and then they have some other table who they work for what their company name is. And whether they're consulting arborists or not.

Farmer Fred  23:15  

Right. you just go to the tab at the top of the page that says, “find an arborist near me”. put in your zip code. And you can find a regular arborist and a consulting arborist and they can help advise you on that redwood tree. But yeah, citrus trees like sun, you may want to buy another citrus tree and plant it in an area out of the competition zone of that redwood.

Debbie Flower  23:36  

And citrus makes great container plants, if you use a big enough container like a half barrel, so that's an option too.

Farmer Fred  23:42  

Darryl, Hope that helps. Thank you and Debbie Flower. 

Debbie Flower  23:45  

Thank you. You're welcome, Fred. 

Farmer Fred  23:48  

Perhaps, after purchasing a plant for your garden, you may have seen the instructions on the plant tag, “add a rooting hormone when planting.” That isn’t necessary. Nor is fertilizing a newly dug in plant. In fact, that might do more harm than good. In the next “Beyond the Garden Basics” newsletter, we present the case against using fertilizers and rooting hormones at planting time. America’s favorite retired college horticulture professor, Debbie Flower, will explain what rooting hormones are and what they should be intended for. And she’ll tell you why you don’t want to put any fertilizer in that planting hole when putting in new plants.

It’s in the next Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter. It’s out Friday, July 8th. Find a link to it in today’s show notes, or visit our website, Garden Basics dot net, where you can sign up to have the free Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter delivered to your inbox each Friday. Also at Garden Basics dot net, you can listen to any of our previous editions of the podcast, as well as read a transcript of the podcast episode you are listening to now. That’s at Garden Basics dot net. For subscribers, look for the Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter ion Friday, July 8th. Take a deeper dive into gardening, with the Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter. And it’s free. Find the link at garden basics dot net. 

Farmer Fred  25:13  

Garden Basics With Farmer Fred comes out every Tuesday and Friday and is brought to you by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Garden Basics is available wherever podcasts are handed out. For more information about the podcast, visit our website, GardenBasics dot net. That’s where you can find out about the free, Garden Basics newsletter, Beyond the Basics. And thank you so much for listening.

Droopy Plants? Do This Before You Water
(Cont.) Droopy Plants? Do This Before You Water
Smart Pots!
Misting Houseplants?
Dave Wilson Nursery
Q&A Lack of Oranges
Beyond the Garden Basics Newsletter