Garden Docs: Can I grow Sumo Citrus in Sonoma County?

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JANICE WRITES: Last month I purchased, on a whim, a few different- appearing citrus that were labeled Sumo citrus. Much to my surprise they were absolutely delicious! Can they be grown successfully in our area? What other information can you share about this flavorful fruit?

Sumo citrus is a seedless mandarin originally grown in Japan. It is a cross between a Japanese mandarin and the big juicy and very sweet navel orange we grow in California.

They are a hybrid between Kiyomi and pon Kan. Their brand name is Dekopan — a generalized name. Their scientific name is citrus reticulata Shiranu.

It is somewhat more difficult to grow and more difficult to harvest than other mandarins. The delicate fruit is harvested in small bins, making them more expensive to buy at $3 to $4 a pound. Can they be grown in our area? I would say it depends on the warmth of your microclimate, south-facing exposure with protection from nearby structures, good soil and good drainage. They are ready to harvest in January through April. I have not seen them in the produce sections for some time.

For readers not familiar with Sumo citrus and what to look for in the market, their size is larger than our smaller mandarins and have very lumpy orange/red skins with a protruding bulge (knob) located where the fruit attaches to the branch stem. Their appearance plus their price may be a deterrent, but once you have tried the fruit, undoubtedly you will want to purchase more!

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Theresa Lombardi asks: Is there an environmentally friendly weedkiller that you can recommend?

Try spot spraying with vinegar with a high acidity of at least 5%. No need to dilute. Spray at the first sign of new growth. This will probably not work on large areas covered with weeds unless you decide to use a more efficient sprayer over a small hand held type. Wait for a day with no wind and don’t water until the vinegar has a chance to dry and permeate the weeds.

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Justin S. asks: Are gardenias deer proof? I would like to plant a few along my front walkway. We do have a deer problem.

Some sources suggest Gardenia jasminoides ‘Frostproof’ is deer resistant. I cannot guarantee the deer won’t try and eat the new leaves even though fragrant plants are often avoided. Deer will continue to try different plants when their favorites are not available. They will also gravitate to new plants from those that have been fertilized on a regular schedule. Deer enjoy the salts in the plant from the fertilizers. As soon as you plant the gardenias spray with a repellent such as Liquid Fence. The deer will then associate the undesirable smell with the plant. Many times it helps to purchase one shrub and observe its deer attraction before purchasing and planting multiples.

In my own garden, they are now eating Loropetalum cultivars, Arbutus ‘Marina’, Abelia ‘Confetti’, grape Muscari foliage and Osmanthus fragrans, just to name a few!

The final comment: Deer will eat just about any plant if hungry enough, including oleander.

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Toni R. writes: I have read your column for many years and have the enjoyed the garden experiences offered by other readers.

Now I would like to share my “garden regrets” or perhaps the “regrets” should be called “boo-boos” by a young, inexperienced gardener.

Lamium, (dead nettle), a perfect shade plant, has taken over my shade garden. Aw, if only I had planted it in a hanging basket or other container to keep the stems from rooting as they spread.

The lamium you are referring to is Lamiastrum galeobdolon or L.g. montanum ‘Florentinum’, commonly named Yellow Archangel. Yes, it can be invasive, as you have learned, but if it is curbed, then it can be a fantastic addition to a shade garden under the right conditions. The yellow flowers arrive in late spring and the leaves have white spots and streaks that will continue to brighten up the shady areas.

Other more manageable lamiums are: Lamium maculatum, spotted dead nettle. It too spreads by rhizomes and stolons to 3 feet wide but is more easily controlled.

‘Beacon Silver’ has pink flowers covering its silver foliage, ‘Pink Pewter’ has pink blooms throughout the summer contrasting with its silver leaves with greenish gray highlights. Don’t discard the choices listed previously as they are lovely when planted in a contained area, in container pots or in hanging baskets.

Best of all, deer do not like lamium, (dead nettle).

Dana Lozano and Gwen Kilchherr are garden consultants. Send your gardening questions to The Garden Doctors, at pdgardendoctor@gmail.com. The Garden Doctors can answer questions only through their column, which appears twice a month in the newspaper and online at pressdemocrat.com.

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