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Ask Dr. Hort: Fertilizer didn't harm crape myrtle

Fertilizer did no harm

Q: I have a 15-gallon crape myrtle tree planted in June. Its flowers were dark red. I left the tree alone for six weeks before adding oak leaf mulch around the tree's base. I also added 5 ounces of palm tree fertilizer. Since then, the flowers have been a lighter red color, almost a milky red. Did I affect the flower color by adding the mulch and the fertilizer? Does the tree need a fertilizer application or mulch around its base? If yes to either question, what would be the recommended product?

Victor Huff, Safety Harbor

A: Not to worry, the blooms are just aging. As the entire bloom fades, cut the branch off, just behind the bloom, and that will eliminate the ugly seed capsules as the leaves fall this winter. The fertilizer was fine; just make sure to keep the mulch a few inches away from the tree trunk.

All about Bahia grass

Q: I've tried to have a lawn that looks good, but without a lawn watering system my St. Augustine has failed. I've read articles on the advantages of Bahia grass. Are there different types of Bahia? If so, what is best for a house lawn, and can Bahia sod be laid on top of the current grass or does the lawn need to be scraped off?

George Walters

A: The rainy season is the best time to install sod, especially without an irrigation system. Bahia grass (Paspalum notatum) came to Florida 70 years ago primarily as a pasture grass — don't be surprised if you find a cow pie or two in your pallet of sod. Argentine is the preferred variety for home lawns. Bahia needs a soil pH below 6.5 (soil pH governs the availability of nutrients) to survive and supplemental additions of iron are required. You can kill off what is existing with Roundup or a similar glyphosate-containing herbicide, then rake off dead debris before laying sod for best establishment. It is still best to set up temporary sprinklers to wet ground before sod is laid and after to assure good rooting. Water daily if it doesn't rain — for 30 days, if possible — then it is on its own. Tall, 1-foot seed heads will emerge all summer, which will continually help to reseed your new lawn. Always mow with a sharp blade.

Soggy soil and root rot

Q: I've enclosed a photo (left) of what I think is a hawthorn. It appears to be "burnt" in one section. Could you please advise me? Thanks.

Sally Anderson, St. Petersburg

A: Indian hawthorn (Raphiolepis indica) is usually a very tough plant, but can succumb to root rot if the soil becomes soggy. Check to see if you have a broken sprinkler head or irrigation pipe, and while searching, see if the soil is overly wet compared with adjacent soil where other plants look healthy. If this is the problem, pull up plants and inspect the roots. They'll look brown and feel mushy if diseased. If so, treat soil with Subdue or Heritage fungicide. If this is not the case, check at the base of the plant to see if encircling roots, over time, have choked the plant. You'll need to replace the plants.

Bermuda grass versatile

Q: Will Bermuda grass survive in Hernando County?

Fred Wilson

A: Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) will do just dandy in Hernando County. In fact, it will grow north to the Carolinas and west to California. It will turn brown after a freeze but will grow back and green up in the spring. It is very versatile. There are varieties from golf course greens to pasture grasses. Make sure to match the particular variety with your specific use. None, however, like shade.

Need help? Greg "Dr. Hort" Charles answers questions about landscape and garden pests in this space. E-mail questions to drhort@tampabay.rr.com or to features@sptimes.com (put Dr. Hort in the subject line). Mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe your problem in full. Important: Include your full name, city and contact information, and photo, if possible.

NEED HELP: Greg "Dr. Hort" Charles answers questions about landscape and garden pests. E-mail your questions to drhort@tampabay.rr.com or to features@sptimes.com (put Dr. Hort in the subject line). Mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe your problem in full, and include your name, city and contact information. If possible, include a photo. We will print his advice on Saturdays in HomeLink.

Ask Dr. Hort: Fertilizer didn't harm crape myrtle 10/08/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 8, 2010 5:30am]
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