Combating Chlorosis

Chlorosis abnormal reduction or loss of the normal green coloration of leaves of plants, typically caused by iron deficiency in lime-rich soils, or by disease or lack of light

I love black eyed peas.  Each year I dedicate more space in my garden to black eyed peas than any other vegetable.  This year is no exception.  I currently have two 33 foot long rows of pink eyed purple hulls growing.  Of those 66 feet of peas about 55 feet of them are doing fine.  The vines are big, dark green and producing lots of purple hulled peas.  However, a group of plants right in the middle of one of the rows is not doing very well.  They are bright chartreuse in color and they are not producing peas.


Notice the chartreuse pea plants mixed in with the healthy plants. This coloration is good indicator of chlorosis

My chartreuse peas are suffering from a condition called chlorosis.   Chlorosis is a condition where plants do not produce enough chlorophyll to properly support their growth. Because of this lack of chlorophyll, chloratic plants produce foliage that is yellow to yellow green (or even white in extreme cases).   Chlorosis happens when something in the soil prevents the plant from taking up enough iron (or magnesium).  Both iron and magnesium are necessary for proper chlorophyll production


The deep green veins and the light green foliage of chloratic purple hull peas

I have grown peas for years and I have had absolutely no problems.  However, I grew them in raised beds that I had amended with lots of river sand and compost.  These peas are growing in ground in a “new” garden that I started last fall.  The fall garden did fine– no problems with chlorosis.  Because of the early success in the new garden, the unmistakable signs of chlorosis on my peas really surprised me.


These leaves are so chloratic they are beginning to die.

Cause – Even though I knew what was wrong with my peas, I did not know what to do for them.  So, I did the only thing I knew to do; I contacted my friends in extension horticulture.  I am very lucky to be friends with some truly talented horticulturists.  Whenever I have a problem I send them pictures and a description of the problem.  You can do the same thing.  Most extension offices have people that can answer your plant questions.  Do not be afraid to contact them.  It is their job to answer your questions and they love to hear from.

My first response came from Cynthia Mueller.   Cynthia is a volunteer with extension and one of the most knowledgeable plant people I have ever known.  Like me, she was interested in the fact that the problem was isolated to a certain part of the garden.  Our discussion reminded me that I once had a burn pile in the exact same place that was now experiencing the problem.  Next, I heard from Greg Grant.  Greg is definitely one of the top horticulturists in Texas and also the most successful plant breeder around.  When I told him what Cynthia and I were discussing he became convinced the burn pile was exactly what had caused the problem.  I grow in the alkaline black clay that is common in the central part of Texas.  Greg reminded me that since black eyed peas prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5 my alkaline black clay (high pH binds up iron) was not the best environment for this variety.  In addition, the burn pile added a lot of phosphorous and lime (both of these also bind up iron) to a soil that type that is already known to tie up iron. So, I am trying to grow these acid loving peas in an environment that is just not suited to them.


Note the deep green foliage. this what healthy purple hulls look like

Treatment – There are two ways for me to correct the chlorosis in my peas.  One is a quick fix and the other involves making changes to the soil.  My buddy Tim Hartman (who is an extension agent) sent me some very detailed instruction on how to do both.  Here is Tim’s response:

“Different cultivars can vary some in their efficiency at extracting iron from the soil. Iron availability can also vary a lot from one part of the row to the other depending on factors like watering (water with high calcium would raise the pH) or whether you’ve applied a lot of phosphorous fertilizer (organic or inorganic) to that soil (ties up the iron). You could apply chelated iron as a foliar or drench if you have some, or try to lower the pH with some sulfur. Of these, the foliar iron chelate would give you the quickest response and the sulfur the slowest. “


A lovely, and healthy, pink eyed purple hull pea flower.

So there you have it.  I have chloratic peas because I am attempting to grow them in an area that is just not suited for them.  I will be taking advantage of both of Tim’s suggestions.  I am going to use a watering can to do an iron chelate drench.  This should get the chloratic plants producing.  However, that will not solve my problem long term.  When I re-till for the fall garden, I will begin to add sulphur.  I realize this is critical.  Since most vegetables prefer a pH that is in the range of 6.0 to 7.0, I will always have problems with chlorosis if I don’t fix my alkaline, lime enriched soil.

P.S. This post has been shared on the Homestead Barn Hop.  Barn Hops are a great place to go to get more information like this from a great group of bloggers.  Be sure to check it out!

Nacogdoches Named the Garden Capital of Texas – By Greg Grant

The following post was written by Greg Grant and is used with his permission.  It has been previously published in “Shelby County Today”.

It’s official.  The oldest town in Texas, is now the garden capital of Texas.  

A bill authored by District 11 State Representative Travis Clardy was signed by Texas Governor Rick Perry on May 2, 2013 designating Nacogdoches as the Garden Capital of Texas.

This is why Nacogdoches was given this honor.  This a picture in the Ruby M. Mize azelia garden on the grounds of Stephen F. Austin Universtiy,

This is why Nacogdoches was given this honor. This a picture in the Ruby M. Mize azelia garden on the grounds of Stephen F. Austin Universtiy.

At a ribbon cutting and dedication held at the Stephen F. Austin State University Pineywoods Native Plant Center, author, historian, and father of the LaNana Creek trail, Professor Ab Abernathy made the following speech.

Nacogdoches is a garden city.  It was named after its first gardeners, the Nacogdoches tribe of the Caddo Indians.  Thirteen hundred years ago the Nacogdoches Indians lived on the high ground between the two full- flowing, spring-fed creeks.  Their name, Nacogdoches, meant “from the place of the high ground” (some sources say “persimmon eaters”).  The Spanish came to the place on the high ground between the two creeks in 1716.  They named the creek on the east La Nana, meaning “the Nurse,” and the one on the west La Banita, “The Little Bath.”  The first gardeners–the first agrarian culture in Texas–were these Caddos, who brought gardening with them from their eastern homes.  They raised corn, squash, and pumpkins.  They cultivated a variety of beans, sunflowers, and tobacco; and they created the strongest and most advanced Indian culture in Texas.

The Nacogdoches Caddos gardened on the high ground between the two creeks for well over a thousand years.  The Spanish learned the Caddo’s gardening ways, and added a dimension of herbs and spices to the garden plots.

A lovely perrenial border on the grounds of Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches

A lovely perrenial border on the grounds of Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches

Anglo settlers began coming to and through the Gateway to Texas in the early 1800s.  In 1832 at the Battle of Nacogdoches they ended Spanish military control in all of East Texas.  In 1836, after the Battle of San Jacinto, Nacogdoches became a settlement in the Republic of Texas, and after 1846 Nacogdoches became a city in the Lone Star State in the United States.

In the 1830s, during the troublesome, birthing times of Texas, Nacogdoches gardened.  C.A. Sterne describes Adolphus Sterne’s home:

“My father took great pride and interest in his gardens and orchard.  There were three gardens on the place.  The one on the north was devoted to flowers, with a great variety of roses and rare shrubs and plants, which he had brought from Louisiana, and which had been imported from France.”

“In the center of the garden was a summer house, which was covered with morning glories and multiflora roses.  The fence was covered with woodbine and yellow jasmine.  The south garden had vegetables of every variety.  The west garden was the orchard with a variety of fruit trees and a butter bean arbor running the entire width of the garden.  My father often resorted to the butter bean arbor to read and study.”

When Frederick Law Olmsted (designer of Central Park, the Biltmore estate landscape, etc.) came to Nacogdoches in 1853, he said of the town:  “The houses along the road…stand in gardens, and are neatly painted–the first exterior sign of cultivation of mind since the Red River.”

Nacogdoches became a modern town in the 20th century with parks and landscaping.  It became a city of prosperous houses and ornamental gardens along the Camino Real.  Its grandest show of flowers and foliage, however, developed around the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University (founded in 1923 as Stephen F. Austin State Teacher’s College).  The SFA campus was from its beginning a flourishing garden of blooming plants and flowering trees and shrubs.  SFA now is the center of the most prosperous and prominent set of flowering gardens in the State of Texas.  SFA hosts the largest azalea garden in the state and Nacogdoches was named the first Azalea City in America.

Hydrangeas thrive in the acidic soil of Nacadoches,

Hydrangeas thrive in the acidic soil of Nacadoches,

The university is home to the Pineywoods Native Plant Center, the Mast Arboretum, the Gayla Mize Garden, the Kingham Children’s Garden, and the SFA Recreational Trails and Gardens.  Collectively these gardens contain the state’s largest botanical collections of azaleas, baldcypress, boxwood, camellias, gardenias, hollies, hydrangeas, magnolias, and maples.  For more information on these gardens visit

In addition to a number of public parks and walking trails, Nacogdoches is also home to the Durst-Taylor Historic House and Gardens, the Adolphus Sterne Museum and Gardens, and the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden.

In concluding his speech Dr. Abernathy went on to say:

The development of the beauty of gardens, parks, and trails is not for the purpose of luring tourists or improving business, although both areas will profit from such ventures.  Natural beauty is encouraged for its own sake and for the fact that life among gardens, trees, flowers, and flowing water is richer and kinder than life among strip malls and parking lots.  The Garden Capital of our beautiful and beloved Nacogdoches deserves no less than to be a setting for such a life.


A beautiful hydrangea in the Mize Garden at Stepen F. AUstin State University in Nacogdoches

A beautiful hydrangea in the Mize Garden at Stepen F. AUstin State University in Nacogdoches

As far as I am concerned, the only thing better than gardening is learning about gardening.  For those of you in East Texas (or those that would like to visit), your friends at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches have put together another amazing line up of horticulturists to inform you on the latest and greatest in the horticulture world.  If you have never visited Stephen F. Austin State University, use these lectures as a chance to gather some useful information and see some truly beautiful gardens.  SFA hosts an arboretum, an azelia garden and the Gayla Mize Garden.  The gardens are incredibly beautiful, accessible and incredibly well maintained.  These gardens are always lovely, but spring is an extra treat.  If you can catch the February lecture, you will still see some blooms on their amazing camelia collection.  The March lecture is around the time the azelias kick in and they are spectacular.  Hope to see you there!

My wife enjoys a hug from noted horticulturist Greg Grant in front of one of the many camelias in the SFA arboretum's collection

My wife enjoys a hug from noted horticulturist Greg Grant in front of one of the many camelias in the SFA arboretum’s collection



The SFA Gardens and Theresa and Les Reeves Lecture Series is generally held the third Thursday of each month from 7:00 to 8:30 pm in room 110 of the Stephen F. Austin State University Agriculture Building at 1924 Wilson Drive (between the Art Building and the Intramural Fields) in Nacogdoches.

Refreshments are served by the SFA Gardens Volunteers before the lecture with a rare plant raffle being held afterward.  The lectures are free and open to the public.  For more information, contact Greg Grant at 936.468.1863 or

Feb 14  MengMeng Gu, TAMU, College Station, TX – Urban Landscape Philosophy and strategies in China.

Mar 21 Ed Bush, LSU, Baton Rouge, LA – Grow your garden and enjoy a sip of tea!

April 18 Leo Lombardini, TAMU, College Station, TX –Everything you wanted to know about pecans but we’re afraid to ask.

May 16  Todd Lasseigne, Director, Oklahoma Centennial Botanical Garden, Tulsa, OK – The OCBG, proving that there’s plant life here.

Jun 20 Darren Duling, Mercer Arboretum, Houston, TX –Making Mercer Magnificent – Opportunities and Challenges.

Jul 18  Julie Shackleford, Texas Programs Director, the Conservation Fund, Nacogdoches, TX – Backyard Gardening for Dummies and wildlife

Aug 15  Paul Cox, retired Director, San Antonio Botanical Gardens, San Antonio, TX – Lessons in Nature: Reflections on the meaning of life from a plantsman’s point of view –

Sept 19 Wayne Pianta, Ball Horticultural Company, Fort Worth, TX – Plant Breeding, Garden Performance and New Product Development: What Makes the Cut and Why? A Survey of Recent Introductions

Oct 17  Matthew Kwiatkowski, Biology, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches TX – The Critters that Slither and Hop in Your Garden: The Reptiles and Amphibians of East Texas –            

Nov 21 Jackie Carlisii, The Grass and Rock Shoppe, Lafayette, LA – Making Organic Gardening Easy

Dec 19  Dave Creech, SFA Gardens, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, TX – Why raising a garden and raising kiddos is about the same thing; it’s all about breaking rules

A native fern grows on one of the structure in the Mast Arboretum

A native fern grows on one of the structure in the Mast Arboretum

Red & Green – The Colors of Fall

This weekend was undoubtedly one of my top weekends of the year.  The weather was unbelievable.  My wife and I took advantage of this weather to go and help my buddy Greg Grant harvest sugar cane. Then, on the way home we stopped at the Sale Barn in Crockett and shared steaks with old friends and watched the end of the best game of the year.  Yes, I am talking about the Aggies and their totally awesome victory over the Number 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.  Whoop!!!!

Sally and Greg cutting sugar cane

After church on Sunday, Sally made us a fabulous pot of peas that we had frozen back in the summer.  She also made a pot of pinto beans straight off the vine.  To me, there is nothing better than fresh beans and peas from the garden.

Fresh picked pinto beans

After lunch we headed out to the garden to harvest.  Since it is supposed to be in the thirties this week I wanted to get as much in as I could just in case.  I picked pinto beans, acorn squash, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, cayenne peppers, pimento peppers and tons of tomatoes.  I am so glad that I nursed those tomato plants through the summer.  They have been so productive in the past couple of weeks.  As I put all of these peppers, tomatoes and squash in an old bread bowl, I was taken by how beautiful all of the reds and greens were.  I know that to tree watchers, the colors of fall are reds, yellows and oranges.  However, to us that garden, I am convinced that red and green are the real colors of fall.

The colors of the fall garden

After our harvest we planted three short rows of Louisiana Blue Ribbon sugar cane that I got from Greg.  While planting the sugar cane my wife discovered the biggest horn worm I have ever seen.   This thing was as wide as my hand and as thick as my thumb.  He was happily stripping what was left of the foliage on one of my vitex.  After a few pictures, he became part of my garden forever.  We also planted a ton of spider lily bulbs that he gave us as well.  I put them all in a single small bed by my backdoor.  I now cannot wait for next fall.  This bed is going to be spectacular.  Thanks Greg!

The biggest horn worm I have ever seen. Since it is deer season and the taxidermists are working overtime, I thought about getting this guy mounted!

Yes this weekend had everything that makes life worth living and celebrating; great friends, great food and great weather that allowed for great gardening.

The corn crib at Greg’s parents house

Remembering our Veterans with Poppies

Happy Election Day!  As you watch the results of tonight’s election unfold, take a minute or two to remember all of those amongst us who have worn our nation’s uniforms.  These men and women serve (or served) honorably regardless of who was in the whitehouse.  Take time to say “Thanks” to those whose sacrifice gave you the opportunity and ability to live and vote in the land of the free.  May God bless these men and women and may he continue to bless the the United States of America!

Air Intelligence Agency Logo

***This is a slighly modified re-post of an article I did in May.

I am very proud to be a veteran of the United States Air Force (Air Intelligence Agency).  The Air Force paid for my education and taught me the skills that I still use to make a living today.  It also taught me that duty, honor and country are a whole lot more than just three words.  In short, the military is largely responsible for turning me into the man I am today.

In addition to shaping my character, the Air Force let me see the world.  I literally went around the world in my ten years of service.  I saw wonderful and amazing things and I met incredible people.  But of all the things I saw, the thing I most remember and treasure is the November I spent in London.

What we call Veteran’s Day, the British call Remembrance Day.  When it comes to appreciating and celebrating their veterans, the British beat us hands down.  Veteran’s Day is huge to them because war is so personal for them.  Not only did they sacrifice their loved ones to the cause, the world wars literally destroyed their country.  Because of this, each November, the British host a series of events that elegantly and appropriately recognize the service of those that were willing to give the last full measure to the defense of freedom.

Crosses with poppies on “graves” in front of Westminster Abbey. Their is a grave on the lawn for every unit that served in the defense of Britian in the two world wars. Photo from

One thing that stuck with me while attending the various Remembrance Day celebrations were the poppies.  They were everywhere.  On lapels, in wreaths and on tiny crosses that were placed on “graves” outside Westminster Abbey that represented the dead from every military unit (including foreign) that served in the defense of Britain.  The poppy was adopted as a symbol of Remembrance Day for several reasons.  However, most agree that the poppy was selected primarily because of a poem written by Lt Col John McCrae.  Colonel McCrae was a Canadian doctor that wrote “In Flanders Fields” after losing his close friend and student during the Battle of the Ypres Salient in Belgian Flanders.  His poem is a poignant reminder of the pain and sacrifice that man brings on himself each and every time he takes up arms against his brother.  In case you have never seen it before, here is his beautiful work:

Growing Poppies


This poppy is very similar to those that grow in Flander’s Fields. I took this picture in front of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers big blu barn

Even though I love growing all of my plants, none of them fill me with so much emotion as do my poppies.  Each Spring they remind me of the millions of soldiers, seaman and airmen that have died in defense of their countries.  They also take me back to a magical few weeks spent in London with my British cousins.   The poppies I grow are deep red singles with black throats and bright yellow centers.  However, if red or single is not your style, I promise there is a color and style out there for you.  Poppies are like roses; they come in every color but blue.

Here is a shot of the bright red variety I grow. Thanks to Carol Ann Sayles of Boggy Creek Farms for sharing them with me

Poppies are so easy to grow.  If you don’t have any, simply order or buy seeds from your favorite source.  They are so adaptable that even if you order from a reseller on the East coast, there is very good chance they will do well for you in Texas.  However, in my opinion, the best way to get your poppies is from a local gardener.  I got the poppies featured here from Carol Ann Sayles at Boggy Creek Farms in Austin.   I also have some red doubles from my buddy Greg Grant.  Since poppies are such great reseeders, everyone that grows them always has plenty of seeds to share. 

A lovely double pink variety grown by my friend and MOH contributor Patty Leander

Since poppies reseed so freely, once you get them established you will always have them.  For best results, plant your poppy seeds in Septmeber, October or early November.  Since poppy seeds are tiny, I put them out in a broadcast manner.  Instead of trying to plant in rows I simply scatter them in the area that I want them in.  Before I scatter them, I run a rake over the area I am going to place them.  Then, once the seeds are down, I run the rake the other way.  Then I water in and wait.  If you want poppies next spring, you need to get them in the ground soon.

My poppies start to bloom in early March and they continue blooming well into April.  By mid-April the flowers have gone and the “heads” that are filled with all of those tiny little seeds are beginning to dry.  The heads that are left after the flower fades are actually what’s left of the plant’s pistil.  As the pistil dries, little holes open up around the top where the stamen were once attached.  These little holes turn each head into a little “salt shaker” that dispenses the seeds whenever the wind blows or the plant falls over.

A great shot of dry poppy head. Notice the little holes in the top that allow the plant to “shake” its seeds all over your garden

If you want to gather and save seeds, simply cut these heads as soon as the holes open.  Shake the seeds into a bag and store for later use.  I have been doing this for several years and I have now been able to spread poppies all over my property.

 While many flowers are used as symbols for something, poppies represent the things I value most; sacrifice and service.  Poppies are easy, reliable, carefree and oh so beautiful.  Plant some now and you will be rewarded with a spring time show of beautiful flowers for years to come!

All of these seeds came from this head