Thursday, June 21, 2018
Home and Garden

Dr. Hort: Growing plants on a sandy lot, citrus trees dropping fruit, more

Water key to growing in sand

Q: I have sand in my back lot. I have used peat moss, manure and Miracle-Gro Garden Soil on this lot. I have tried to grow vegetables, plants like azaleas, and sod. They did not survive.

Josie Teel, Tampa

A: The key to growing anything in our sandy soil is plenty of water, delivered correctly to get plants established. Unfortunately, amending the soil with the many products that you've tried is of little or no help. Grow veggies in containers or raised beds with peat-based potting mixes and a low-flow irrigation system. Hooking up to reclaimed water is a great resource for growing a lawn, shrubs and trees. Or skip the lawn and use other ground covers. Organic, composted mulches work great to help hold moisture in the soil during and after the establishment periods. Follow the Florida-Friendly Principles at for a less stressful gardening experience.

Gardenias thrive with acidity

Q: I have had very good luck with my gardenias over the years. I add pickle juice every time the jar is empty and in between I add a little apple cider vinegar to the water. My gardenias are thriving on this.

Beegie Arnes, Clearwater

A: The reason your pickle juice and vinegar may be of some help to your gardenias is because they acidify the soil, allowing micronutrients, such as iron, manganese, zinc and others to become more available to the plant if they are applied or in the soil.

Mystery flower endures in multiple conditions

Q: I searched the Internet and my flower books, but I do not know what type of lily this is. Please help me identify it.

Caroline S. A. Zoes, Brooksville

A: Your flower picture is African iris, Dietes iridioides, formerly Moraea. It is clump-forming and enjoys everything from full sun to light, dappled shade and is quite drought-tolerant for belonging to the iris family, Iridaceae. For more information, go to

Give citrus trees time to grow

Q: We planted new orange and grapefruit trees about six months ago. We live in the Sun City Center area. We water about once a week and fertilize once a month. Both trees had many blossoms and began to produce small fruit behind the blooms. But after that, the fruit turned black and dropped off. Now there's a couple of small fruit on the trees but they, too, will probably drop off. Is there anything we can do to help the trees hold the small fruit so they will grow?

Reba and Bill Goewey

A: It is actually best to pick the fruit off the first couple of years on your newly planted citrus trees to allow more energy to go to growth and establishment than producing fruit. The fruit drop occurred because the soil moisture was inadequate. Be sure the trees get enough water for establishment by creating a soil saucer 6 inches high around the drip line of the tree and fill with water every other day for two months if there's no significant rain.