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Topics - TNAndy

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Tropical Fruit Discussion / Pickering's Charge
« on: November 17, 2020, 12:37:51 PM »
Well, after struggling for the last two years, my Pickering mango finally bit the dust.  It never was very healthy, yet early on it apparently spent what little strength it had on huge flowers instead of leaves.  The first year I foolishly left the flower stalk alone.  Last year I cut it off shortly after I identified that was what it was.  That didn't help.  The decline continued.

Despite a very well drained potting mix, it showed all the symptoms of root rot.  There were numerous sprouts of small leaves but the leaves all too soon dried up and fell off.  The inside container dimensions are 22 inch diameter by 14 inch soil depth.  It started with 17 inches, but it settled more than I expected.  Or maybe the pH was wrong...or not enough fertilizer....  I'm grasping at straws.

My cheap pH meter reads 7 on everything, even my azaleas, and I've added copious amounts of soil acidifier.

I don't think it's sheer incompetence on my part--my Kona coffee tree is producing cherries nicely.  I harvested a over a dozen very tasty satsuma oranges in October.  I've got green fruit hanging on my papaya.

I'd like to try for mangoes again, but I must solicit advice on the ideal potting mix and a variety of mango that is well suited for containers and cool temperatures.  My sunroom has unavoidably dipped below 50 degrees F on rare occasion.  I take my tropical fruit plants outside for the summer and bring them in over the winter.  Can you tell me the ideal pH for mango?

Pickett's...Pickering's...get it?  Maybe I'm channeling too much Dennis Miller.

I have a plant that was sold to me as Black Pepper (Piper nigrum).  There are lots and lots of flowers, but none of the flower spikes has ever grown a peppercorn.  They start off green, turn yellow and shed lots of pollen, then turn brown and fall off.  I've had it for about 3 years.  It's growing in an 18 inch square, 12 inch high planter.  I keep it in my heated sunroom over the winter.  I'm giving it partial shade.

If you are familiar with Piper nigrum, can you verify that is what this is?  I'm pretty sure this is something in the Piper genus, but I'm beginning to doubt it's nigrum.

If you grow Piper nigrum, can you suggest what I might need to do to get peppercorns?


Tropical Fruit Discussion / How big does Jackfruit need to be...?
« on: November 12, 2019, 01:38:27 PM »
How big does a Jackfruit tree need to be in order to bear fruit?  I've read these trees reach 40 feet tall at maturity, but at best, I've got only about 12 feet in my sunroom.  I know many plants naturally dwarf if they are grown in a container, but if I can't grow fruit in a "patio" size tree, there's not much point.  It sure wouldn't live through the winter outdoors here in Zone 7.

My wife and I took the Taste of Jamaica Tour out of Ocho Rios a couple of weeks ago.  The tour guide provided over a dozen different fruits and vegetables for us to taste.  Jackfruit was by far the sweetest and most delicious.  From what I've read, what we tasted must have been fully matured fruit and not the "young" Jackfruit.

If you get a chance, I heartily recommend this tour.  As we drove up and down the mountains, the driver/tour guide would stop the bus, point out a plant or tree, and then let us taste a sample of that fruit.  There were at least half a dozen fruits I had never even seen before, much less tasted.  Jackfruit was among the fruits that were entirely new to me.  Yummy!

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Small-Lot Seed Importation to USA
« on: November 12, 2019, 02:44:35 AM »
I just accomplished my first legal importation of coffee seeds for planting from Jamaica and I'd like to share my experience.  Moderators, if you think this might be helpful to other members going forward, please consider making this thread a sticky.

As you might imagine, there are several steps required to import seeds for planting legally.

  • Obtain Level 1 Access with the USDA.  You will fill out a short application that includes your name and email address among other things.  Once submitted, they will send you an email.  When you reply to the email, this verifies that you are the owner of that email address.
  • Obtain Level 2 Access.  Same website as above.  This is a much longer form to fill out.  Again, they will email a response.  You must take a printout of that response email to a physical USDA location with a government issued ID to prove you are the person associated with the account and email address.  In my case, I had a lot of trouble receiving the response email.  For some reason, my ISP was not transmitting it to my inbox.  Fortunately, the eAuth help desk was, in fact, quite helpful.  I don't remember now whether it was Level 1 or Level 2 that requires you to create a password, but it is a time-killing ordeal trying to come up with a password that they will accept.  Even if you follow the instructions to the letter, it's likely to require multiple attempts.  Once you are successful, be sure to write it down and perhaps save it to your browser.  You will need to log in every so often or your password will expire.
  • You will need to know at least the genus of the plant seeds you want to import.  You need to consult the list of plants that are allowed/disallowed for importation.  Plants that are invasive (kudzu), parasitic (dodder, sandalwood), and other undesirable species are definitely on the prohibited list.  You may be allowed to import certain seeds from some countries and not others.  You may be allowed to import certain seeds to some states and not others.  In my case, Coffea species are prohibited from import when destined for Hawaii or Puerto Rico.  Since I'm growing my plants in Tennessee, they're OK.
  • Login to the ePermits system.
  • Click "Create/Renew/Amend Application".  Follow the bouncing ball and fill out the online application form.  You can apply to import several species from different countries on the same permit.  In my case, I applied for Coffea arabica from Jamaica, Bursera species from Jamaica, Commiphora species from Israel, and Protium species from Mexico.  A permit is good for three years and can be renewed.  You can import multiple small lots under the same permit.  For instance, I could import some coffee seeds from Jamaica this year and another batch of coffee seeds from Jamaica next year.
  • If you met all of the conditions set forth in the Plants for Planting Manual, you should receive an approval within a few days.  Print and read the permit.  It will have several pages of rules and conditions for a small-lot seed importation.  For instance, small lots are limited to 50 or fewer seeds or 10 grams of seeds per species, whichever is less.  You are limited to 50 or fewer species.
  • You will need green and yellow shipping labels.  This is a separate request from your permit.  You will need to designate the Plant Inspection Station (PIS) where you want your seeds inspected.  You will receive the shipping labels attached to an email.  Since I knew I would be flying back through Atlanta, I chose the Georgia Plant Inspection Station.  The shipping labels are pre-addressed to the PIS you chose.  Again, I had some trouble receiving the shipping labels.  I had to contact my ISP in order to resolve the email problem.
  • You will need a shipping container (box) and resealable plastic bags for your seeds, one bag per species.  The box must have the shipping label attached.  You will need to include a copy of your permit and a seed list.  The seed list must include information as set forth in the permit.  The resealable bags are labeled with the name of the shipper, country of origin, and at least the genus--preferably genus and species.  You will need to include postage inside the box for the shipment from the Plant Inspection Station to your home.  I know for a fact the Georgia PIS can ship using FedEx.  I'm pretty sure they can ship UPS, and I strongly suspect they can ship USPS Priority mail.
  • I collected my coffee seeds personally.  You (or the shipper) must clean your seeds of all pulp, seed husks, other plant parts, and soil--in other words, nothing but seeds go in the bag.  Be absolutely sure to cull any seeds with any signs of insect damage or disease.  If the Plant Inspection Station doesn't like what they see, they can destroy the entire batch of seeds.  As I said above, for small lots, you are limited to 50 or fewer seeds or 10 grams per species, whichever is less.  You may import no more than 50 species at a time--in other words, no more than 50 bags of seeds.  Seeds imported via a Small-Lot Permit do not require a Phytosanitary Certificate.
  • Seal the bags.  Make sure you have included all the properly labeled seed bags, seed list, permit, and postage inside your box.  Tape the box closed.
  • I hand carried my seed box in my carry-on luggage for the flight home.  When you arrive at immigration, you must declare that you are importing seeds.  I did this at the kiosk.  When I met the CBP agent in the booth, he called over an escort.  The escort took me to the "items to declare" station.  The Customs and Border Protection agents will X-ray your luggage.  Hand them the box containing your seeds.  In Atlanta, they will hand-deliver your seeds to the PIS.
  • Hopefully your seeds will pass inspection and you will receive them within a few days.  In my case, I arrived in Atlanta Sunday evening and FedEx delivered my seeds the following Wednesday.

I have not yet tried to import seeds from a country I did not visit.  The inbound shipment goes directly to the PIS.  My understanding is the PIS has a deal with the shipping companies so that the inbound shipping fees cover both the trip into the USA and the trip from the PIS to your home.  Having not tried it myself, I cannot confirm this.  If I succeed in having someone else ship seeds to me, I will post that experience to this thread and add a link to that post here.

This is key:  If you have any questions, ask the Plant Inspection Station people, not the Customs and Border Protection people.  CBP, especially the woman I spoke with in Washington DC, may not know what they are talking about.  In my case, I received incorrect information from CBP whereas the lady at the PIS was both knowledgeable and very helpful.

I can hardly wait for late next May when the weather here becomes ideal for planting coffee seeds.  If they sprout, I will be growing both Hawaiian and Jamaican varieties of coffee trees.  By the way, it is much easier, but yet not trivial, to bring seeds from Hawaii to the mainland.  I'll cover that in a separate post, too.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Dried Chunk Mango recommendations?
« on: November 13, 2018, 12:57:58 AM »
I've been a big fan of dehydrated pineapple for years.  Not long ago I discovered dried mango chunks at a relative's house and tasted them for the first time.  Delicious!  Both dried pineapple and dried mango can be eaten like candy.

As with most products, I suspect there may be truly excellent brands, some that are average, and perhaps some that are not so great.  If you eat dried mango chunks, which brands do you think are better than average to excellent?  Do you buy them in your local grocery store or online?

Are there other candy-like dried fruits I need to try?  I have a sweet tooth, so I'm not as interested in sour stuff as I am in sugary fruits.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Pickering Mango container size?
« on: October 24, 2018, 11:36:54 AM »
After years of wanting one, I finally bought a grafted Pickering mango.  I understand this variety is what is known as a "condo mango", thus suitable for growing in a pot.  Right now I have it potted up to an intermediate container:  10-1/2 inches inner diameter (ID) by 11inches deep.  The tree is now close to 20 inches tall with about a 20 inch spread.  One of the two main branches has just sprouted a new flush of leaves.

What size of container will I need if I want to harvest fruit and not to see the tree moisture stressed when it is mature?  I have some 23 inch ID by 14 inch deep containers and one that's 22" ID by 17" deep, but if necessary, I will buy an even larger one.  I have a range of smaller sized pots.  My plan is to repot the mango into the recommended size of larger container which will be its permanent home.  I don't think I'm in any hurry to repot again, but I thought I'd start asking now.

I mount my large plant containers on heavy duty casters for ease of movement, so that won't be any issue.  I live in Tennessee, so I grow my tropical plants in my sunroom from mid fall through late spring.  I move them outdoors for the summer.  I think our summer weather and rainwater help keep them healthy.

I have decided that commercial potting mixes contain too much peat moss.  My current potting mix is one-half Sta-Green potting mix and one-half ground coconut coir with a generous helping of Espoma Plant-tone organic fertilizer, mixed well.  This mix drains very quickly yet retains plenty of moisture.  Coconut coir is supposed to be highly rot resistant.  If you have a soil mix that has met with great mango success, please let me know what it is.


Tropical Fruit Discussion / Starting over after a housefire
« on: July 09, 2017, 03:25:03 PM »
In fact, it was a double-whammy. 

My house caught fire February 5, 2016.  After the fire department put out the fire, I was able to rescue a few dozen plants from the freezing weather; mostly coffee tree sprouts.  My wife and I moved into my Mom's Gatlinburg, TN...

...Where we got burned out again in the wildfires on November 28, 2016.  This time I lost every plant except a tiny cutting of vanilla orchid which I happened to take with me when we left for Thanksgiving.

(As an aside, if you don't KNOW you have "Replacement of Contents" coverage, call your insurance agent ASAP and get it.  We had it, and they even paid on my tropical plants!)

I'm trying to remain positive, which is why I'm looking at this as an opportunity to grow some different things in addition to replacing the plants that did well in the old sunroom.  The good news is my new house has a larger sunroom with a higher ceiling than the old house did.  While we were able to salvage and reuse much of the old plate glass, it is now being used in a more efficient way.  In the old house, a foot and a half of the glass was overhang and was thus wasted for light transmission.  Now almost the whole pane is open to the sky.

Barring further delays (delays are likely because of the massive amount of reconstruction in the county--contractors are swamped) we should be able to move back in within a month.

I'm not asking for pity, but I certainly would appreciate suggestions for sources of replacement plants as well as recommendations for new plant varieties to try.  Everything must be suitable for containers because without the shades, the south-facing sunroom turns into an oven in the summer.  With the shades, the sunroom is too dark for plants.  Plus, I like to roll everything outside so it can enjoy the humidity, natural sun and rain.  (I mount my huge and large pots on casters.)

1) Coffee.  My Hawaiian seed vendor has moved to Georgia and was unable to suggest an alternative.  I would like to buy a hundred or so Kona Typica seeds from a very recent harvest, still in parchment and not too dry.  Right now there's still time to get them to sprout, but past experience has shown that August is too late.  I'd love to find some Jamaica Blue Mountain seeds or plants, but I'm not holding my breath.  By the way, my previous coffee trees were surprisingly productive, and I was able to process, roast, grind, and brew some of the best coffee I ever tasted from my own plants.  It will be 4-5 years before I'll be able to do that again, but I'm REALLY looking forward to that day.

2) Banana.  Due to the old ceiling height, the only variety I was able to grow to flower and fruit was Super Dwarf Cavendish.  I'm pretty sure I want another SDC because of previous success, but I could now also grow something a bit taller.  Can you suggest a particularly tasty banana that is under, say, 10 feet/3 meters tall?  Does anyone endorse Dwarf Jamaican Red?

3) Allspice.  I had to top my allspice tree each year to get it to fit through the old door.  That could be why it only flowered once.  The new doors are 8 feet high.  It would be so cool to get some allspice berries.  Allspice is native to Jamaica.

4) Jamaica Cherry.  I think I'd like to try this one for the first time.  Are there any opinions to the contrary?

5) June Plum.  This one was recommended in a previous thread as good for container gardening.  June Plum was introduced into Jamaica in 1782.  (Anyone sensing a theme here?)  Are there any particularly sweet varieties?

6) Mango.  I never had room for a mango before, but I had been considering a Pickering if some space ever opened up.  Space has opened up.

7) Papaya.  I had grown a TR Hovey, but it didn't fruit nearly as much as I had hoped--and the plant looked nothing like the pictures!  Try that one again or something else?  Maybe I didn't fertilize it enough.

8 ) Citrus.  I had a Meyer lemon, a Key lime, and a Satsuma orange.  All three produced well when fertilized properly, but tended to get scale over the winter.

9) Acerola.  I seem to recall having varieties named Florida Sweet and Manoa Sweet.  I have a sweet tooth, so the more sugar and less acid, the better.

10) Olive.  I think I had an Arbequina.  I've read olives must be cured, or pickled, or something before they are edible, but my wife and I love olives in marinara sauce on spaghetti.  If not Arbequina, what do you recommend?

11) Surinam cherry.  Are there any particularly sweet varieties?

12) Other spices:  I'd love to try cloves and nutmeg again.  Unfortunately, they are both incredibly tender and even moderate temperatures will kill them.  Hopefully I will have better climate control in the new sunroom.  I'll monitor the temperatures over the winter and decide next year.

Please feel free to suggest any other tasty tropical or sub-tropical fruit.


Does anyone offer Grafted Pickering Mango trees for sale in a size less than 3 gallons?

1.  I'd like to save money on shipping--if not on the plant itself.  What's the total price, including shipping?

2.  A smaller plant is easier to transplant.

3.  I think it's cool to watch them grow up from a tiny sprout.  If Pickering came true from seed, I'd plant the seed instead.

Its permanent home will be a 24 inch diameter X 14 inch deep half-whisky-barrel liner.  Is this big enough for a mango taproot?  I've got bigger pots.

Everything I know about Mangoes is only what's written on the internet, so if this is a bad idea, please let me know.  Thanks.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Northernmost.... (by zone)
« on: April 07, 2014, 04:13:54 PM »
I'm interested in growing tropical spices and fruit in my sunroom.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to keep it warm enough out there for some of my plants.  I've lost clove, nutmeg, chocolate, coconut, all due to cold.

As we collect tropical plants, we are introducing them into environments they are not used to.  If there is any chance to breed cold tolerance into plants, it sure isn't going to happen in the tropics.

If you have non-native tropicals planted outdoors:
1)  What plants do you have outside braving the cold?
2) How far north do you live?  If you live in Hawaii, how far up the mountain do your plants grow?
3) What zone?
4) What is the coldest temperature they have survived?
5) What is the average night-time temperature in winter OUTDOORS?
6) Do they make viable seeds?

If you have tropicals in containers:
1) What plants do you have?
2) What is the coldest temperature they have survived?
3) What is the average night-time temperature in winter INDOORS?
4) Do they make viable seeds?

I'll start.

I've got a Super Dwarf Cavendish Banana, Kona Coffee Trees, Dwarf Pomegranate, and various Citrus.  All are in containers.  They survived upper 30's--40 degrees F briefly, and 45 degrees on a regular basis.  All have flowered and made fruit.

I've got a an Allspice (Pimento) tree, Barbados Cherry (Acerola), and a Surinam Cherry (Eugenia) that have flowered but not fruited.  My Jelly palms are much too young to flower.

If you think you have a more-cold-hardy clove, nutmeg, or chocolate tree, please let me know.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / When should I harvest these satsuma oranges?
« on: October 15, 2012, 07:00:37 AM »
I got my first big crop of Citrus unshiu oranges (or satsumas, or tangerines) this year.  Most have changed color, but are still somewhat green.  One has turned fully orange, but after a gentle tug, the stem feels like it remains tightly connected.  Is there any advantage to leaving it on the plant any longer?  Should I eat it now, wait until the stem loosens, or the fruit is ready to fall off?  I certainly don't want to wait past its prime.

I suspect commercial oranges are picked somewhat green and chemically ripened during transport to the grocery store.  I know this is how they treat bananas.  I also suspect this results in less sugar in the fruit than its maximum potential.  I want the sweetest fruit I can grow at home.  When is the ideal time to harvest?

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Grafting Advice?
« on: September 04, 2012, 06:43:31 AM »
I've got a Meyer Lemon, a Key Lime, and a Citrus rootstock.  When I bought the rootstock, it had a navel orange twig grafted onto the top, but the twig didn't make it and the rootstock sprouted new branches below the graft.  I'm going to prune both the lemon and lime before I bring them inside for the winter, so I'll have some new twigs I could graft onto the rootstock.  The branches on the rootstock are a little under half an inch in diameter.

I've read some articles on citrus grafting, but I've never actually done it before.  Do any of you have any advice?  A technique that reliably works for you?  A grafting product (wax, tape, etc.) you can recommend?  How about any gotchas I need to avoid?

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Fruiting Potted Plant Recommendations
« on: August 29, 2012, 01:16:22 PM »
I live in Tennessee, so all of my tropical plants must come indoors to survive the winter.  I think the largest, practical pot size is about 24 inches/60 cm diameter--and that's mounted on casters.  The plant, container, and casters underneath must fit under a 7 foot/2 meter ceiling.  I have seen the following plants make fruit--here--in pots that size or smaller:

Satsuma Orange (Citrus unshiu) the first fruit wasn't as sweet as I would want, but this year I've got 29 oranges growing on a 3 foot/1 meter tall tree.
Meyer Lemon (Citrus x meyeri) my lemons were quite sour but had a very full flavor.  I've seen more than a dozen lemons growing at the same time.
Mexican or Key Lime (Citrus aurantifolia) small, ping-pong ball sized fruits.  I haven't tasted them, though.  I'm hoping to harvest enough for a Key Lime pie.
T.R. Hovey Papaya (Carica papaya var. 'T.R. Hovey'), Delicious and not very stringy.  It reminded me of cantaloupe.
Dwarf Pomegranate (Punica granatum var. 'nana') this plant just made its first fruit.  It's not ripe, so I haven't picked it--much less tasted it.
Kona Coffee (Coffea arabica var. 'Kona typica') I had one set seeds a few years ago. The heater in my sunroom failed; plant froze. Ugh.  Trying again now.
Sweet Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) OK, it's not a fruit, but I can harvest a few leaves whenever I want to cook my own spaghetti sauce.
True Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) I could harvest some bark, but I won't.  It doesn't grow very fast here.
Small Leaf Tea (Camellia sinensis var. sinensis) Another slow grower, but I'll harvest leaves when I bring it inside this year.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Glacially slow grower, but it does produce some new rhizome each year.

I hope the rest of my tropical fruit plants are simply too young to produce--so far.

If you have raised tasty tropical fruit in a container, please post your experience here.  Thanks.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / I tasted my first homegrown papaya today
« on: August 07, 2012, 09:21:35 AM »
I bought a "T.R. Hovey" Papaya seedling on June 23, 2011 from Wellspring Gardens on eBay.  By the end of the year, it had flowered and three fruits were starting to develop.  I waited for the oldest fruit to fully ripen on the tree before I picked it yesterday.  It was larger than a softball; smaller than a football--a little over half the size of store-bought papaya.  The rind was a deep lemon yellow and nearly all of the green specks had faded.  I almost waited too long to pick it.  It still had significant green spots last week, but by Monday the flower end was starting to go bad.

When I cut it open, I expected red flesh, but this fruit was golden yellow through and through.  Store-bought papaya seems to be packed with seeds, but the seeds were more sparse in mine.  All the seeds appear to be fully mature.

It was delicious.  It was less stringy and much firmer than most papaya I have tasted before--easily as firm as a cantaloupe.  It was sweet, but less sweet than tropic-grown papaya, again comparable to cantaloupe.  I have no idea if this variety normally has less sugar than the red varieties I tasted before or whether this is a result of not growing it in the tropics.  I live in Tennessee, zone 6b.

Wellspring shipped this in a 1-1/2 inch pot.  I potted it up into a six inch container before transplanting it to a 24 inch diameter half-whisky-barrel liner.  I brought it inside to my sunroom last October.  By December it was blooming, but all but three flowers fell off (and they continue to drop off now).  Unfortunately, my sunroom has only a small heater, so most of my tropicals go dormant during the coldest months. The only effect I can see is the distance between leaves became shorter.  Now that the plant is warm again, this distance is lengthening again.  I use Miracle-Gro potting mix exclusively, but do not recommend the moisture control stuff.  Once the built-in fertilizer runs out, I tend to use organic fertilizers, but sometimes use osmocote to save time.

I recommend this dwarf variety and this vendor for greenhouse/sunroom growers.

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