Monday, December 11, 2017
Home and Garden

Dr. Hort: Avocado tree still green but won't grow

Tree stays green but just won't grow

Q: When we bought our South Tampa home two decades ago, there was an avocado tree in the back yard that continued to grow and bear fruit. Unfortunately, it was killed in a freeze.

Two years ago, we planted a new, 5-foot-tall tree in a different but sunny spot, following the planting directions. We water it regularly, especially during dry times, and fertilize it three times a year. It gets full sun and is in a spot away from other trees, although we do have oaks in our yard. It has grown only about 4 inches and has few new leaves and has never bloomed.

I see smaller trees in nurseries that are already blooming and producing fruit. Ours looks healthy, I think, and I don't see anything on the underside of the leaves. Can you tell me why our tree doesn't grow or bloom?

Pat Naegle

A: Your avocado, or alligator pear as it is sometimes called, Persea americana, looks great in the photo. A common cause for plants not to grow but stay green is the root ball being set too low in the hole at planting. Dig around the base of the tree next to the stem with your hand in search for the first lateral (horizontal) root coming off of the stem: It should be at or near the soil surface.

If it is down an inch or more, re-dig the plant and set it where the first lateral root is at the existing soil surface (at grade) or an inch higher than grade.

Water it into the hole, then backfill with no amendments (peat, Black Cow, fertilizer). Create a soil saucer 6 inches high around the outside of the hole with no mulch in the well and fill with water every other day for six weeks. Fertilize, then cut back watering to two days per week for six weeks. Then one day per week for six weeks. Then it is on its own.

It should gain 2 to 3 feet this coming growing season.

Getting rid of caterpillars

Q: I've got green caterpillars on my carrots and tiny brown ones on my tomato plants. Will neem oil help get rid of those pesky caterpillars? If not, what would you recommend I use on my veggies?

Jean Pelak

A: When caterpillars are small, Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a bacterium sold as Dipel or Thuricide, works wonders. It is organic and kills only caterpillars, but it must be on the plant continually to kill them as they begin to feed as babies.

Another bacterial product contains spinosad, is sold as Naturalyte Conserve and kills caterpillars and other damaging insects on contact. Both are labeled for use on veggies. Be sure to read and follow the label directions!

Comments
Review: Amazon wants a key to your house. I did it. I regretted it.

Review: Amazon wants a key to your house. I did it. I regretted it.

I gave Amazon.com a key to go into my house and drop off packages when I’m not around. After two weeks, it turns out letting strangers in has been the least-troubling part of the experience.Once Amazon owned my door, I was the one locked into an all-...
Published: 12/08/17
Five offbeat movie choices to get you away from the multiplex this week

Five offbeat movie choices to get you away from the multiplex this week

Hollywood is backloading December, waiting for Star Wars: The Last Jedi to bring moviegoers back to multiplexes. After no major releases last week, only James Franco’s The Disaster Artist is making any new impression at box offices this weekend. (Cli...
Published: 12/06/17
Want the perfect Christmas tree? We asked an expert for help

Want the perfect Christmas tree? We asked an expert for help

Lights, ribbons, tinsel, flowers — how do you get that perfect look? We asked designer Ken Neddo of Classic Florals in St. Petersburg to help with this yearly decorating event.   * What do you see as the general trends in Christmas tree deco...
Published: 12/05/17
Timely Tendings: As holidays approach, find the right plants; keep an eye on edibles in the garden

Timely Tendings: As holidays approach, find the right plants; keep an eye on edibles in the garden

Get holiday plants: trees, poinsettias and cactiLiving Christmas trees are a fun, lasting way to celebrate the holiday season that can then be planted to provide a lifetime of enjoyment. Unfortunately a commonly sold plant for this is the Norfolk Isl...
Published: 12/01/17
Updated: 12/05/17
5 first-time homebuyer mistakes to avoid

5 first-time homebuyer mistakes to avoid

Thinking about buying your first home? Before you can unlock the door to homeownership, you have to take some important first steps. From finding the perfect location to financing your purchase, shopping for your first home has challenges that go bey...
Published: 11/30/17
Updated: 12/05/17
Hometown Hernando for Dec. 8

Hometown Hernando for Dec. 8

We want your news!Hometown Hernando is devoted to everyday life in our county, whether it’s snapshots from your family reunion, recreational sporting event, news from your last club meeting or just a few lines thanking someone for a job well done. Y...
Published: 11/29/17
Updated: 12/07/17
That time Shia LaBeouf tried to join a Tampa Bay Undeground Film Festival ...

That time Shia LaBeouf tried to join a Tampa Bay Undeground Film Festival ...

For a few bewildering days, R. Presley Stephens thought his Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival would welcome a notorious celebrity.The fourth annual shoestring cinema showcase runs Thursday through Sunday at Britton 8 Theater, 3938 S Dale Mabry High...
Published: 11/29/17
Plan and budget for a good return on your garden investment

Plan and budget for a good return on your garden investment

The first of the 2018 seed catalogs will be arriving soon in the mail, signaling the start of another growing season. Savvy vegetable gardeners pore over the pages while choosing plants and drafting budgets. Planning ahead provides healthier returns ...
Published: 11/28/17
Updated: 12/05/17
Diggin’ Florida Dirt: Gardeners share suggestions for holiday gifts

Diggin’ Florida Dirt: Gardeners share suggestions for holiday gifts

If I had to choose just one garden tool to be shipwrecked with on an uninhabited island, it would be my Felco 2 pruners. They clip anything up to about a half-inch diameter — even thicker when I push it, which I do.Even my daughter marveled when I qu...
Published: 11/27/17
Updated: 11/29/17
Homes that make a good first impression have 5 things in common

Homes that make a good first impression have 5 things in common

It takes just 26 seconds for a guest to form an opinion of your home when they walk through the front door. What does your space say about you? While we try to resist the urge to judge, there’s no doubt that first impressions count.Whether you’re exp...
Published: 11/27/17
Updated: 11/28/17