Make us your home page

Ask Dr. Hort: Protecting garden beds from chemicals that may leach from wood

Lizards aren't interested in veggies

Q: We are from Michigan and have had a hard time growing vegetables in Florida. Last year we finally got some tomatoes to grow inside of our lanai in some large plastic tubs, then, just when the tomatoes started to ripen, they were partly eaten by the small lizards that are all over our lanai and orchids. What can be done to keep them off of the tomatoes, and do they eat cucumbers and peppers, too?

David Kramer, Wesley Chapel

A: Fear not! The brown lizards you see all over the place are Cuban anoles (pictured). They are meat eaters, mostly insects, not plant eaters. What probably was munching on your tomatoes were caterpillars. This year, have on hand some Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki), a bacterium that kills only caterpillars, available at your local garden center. At the first sign of chewing, spray your plants. As the caterpillars ingest the bacterium, they get sick and die. The product is totally safe for humans. You could spray this morning and harvest tonight.

Protect garden beds from chemicals

Q: I enjoyed your article "Raised beds are best choice for gardening" (April 17) and had one question. I'm concerned about using pressure-treated lumber for the raised beds as the substances used to make wood rot- and bug-resistant may leach into the garden soil. Should this be a concern and, if so, could you recommend a different type of wood?

Richard Downing, Hudson

A: Even though the chemicals in CCA (cromated copper arsenate) wood are toxic, the amount leached into the soil is a thousand times less than lethal dose. However, to remove all doubt, put a barrier between the wood and the soil. An oil-based wood sealant painted on, or 6 mil plastic stapled on, will give you two to three years of protection. For a more permanent barrier, nail on aluminum or galvanized roof flashing. Yellawood is safer, using a micropore copper process to ward off rot and termites. And then there is cypress, which has the best rot- and termite-resistant qualities of any wood in Florida naturally. An oil-based wood sealant painted on the cypress extends the life of the structure.

Choosing plants to discourage deer

Q: For the past 2 years, we have been "invaded" by deer. They seem to eat just about everything. I would like to replant in my yard, but not to feed the deer! Are there any plants/bushes that these animals do not eat?

Kay Bergamini, Palm Harbor

A: There are three approaches to the deer vs. landscape problem. The first is exclusion, whereby you put up fences and, in some instances, fences with hot wires. Next are repellents, which can be anything from wild animal urine to mothballs. Agents that contain or mimic blood, like Plantskydd, seem to do the best. Deer associate the smell of blood with a fresh kill, which they want no part of. And last, but not least, is the selection of plant materials for the landscape. Remember, if deer get hungry enough, they will eat just about anything you plant. Your goal is to make your landscape just a little less inviting than your neighbor's. For a list of plants that are deer resistant try the following link:

Feeding time?

Fertilizer is not plant food! Plants manufacture food through a process called photosynthesis, whereby carbon dioxide and water, with light, give off sugar and oxygen. This process occurs in the green parts, mainly leaves, of plants. Fertilizers work more like the vitamin pill you take for breakfast.

Need help?

Enter Greg "Dr. Hort" Charles, who for more than 30 years educated gardeners through the Pinellas Technical Education Centers. He answers questions about landscape and garden pests. E-mail your questions to [email protected] or to [email protected] (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: Protecting garden beds from chemicals that may leach from wood 04/23/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 22, 2010 5:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours