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Dr. Hort: Turfgrass alternatives, citrus greening, vegetable-growing problems

This orange shows signs of citrus greening.

Associated Press

This orange shows signs of citrus greening.

Landlord's plan to use grass plugs under tree likely to fail

Q: The landlord wants to plant grass under a large cypress tree in the front yard on the northeast corner of the lot. The area does not get direct sun. He asked me about zoysia plugs, but I am not fond of grass, and have little knowledge about grass. What would you recommend? Robert Croft

A: I'm not a fan of turfgrass for that application, either. If the cypress tree has shaded out the existing grass, a new installation of turf will thin out and die as well. Planting plugs is not the answer, whether it is St. Augustine or zoysia, because they won't run and will fizzle out because of the insufficient light. If sod is planted, it will last a year or two and then decline.

A superior plan would be to plant some ground covers that accept the shady conditions. Here are just a few alternatives to the turf idea: English ivy, Hedera helix; cast iron plant, Aspidistra elatior; bromeliads, many species and varieties (cultivars); holly fern, Cyrtomium falcatum, lily turf, Liriope muscari; mondograss, Ophiopogon japonicus; and a favorite of mine, spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum. If all else fails, 2 to 3 inches of mulch will dress up the area.

Citrus greening disease is fatal to trees

Q: I have two trees — one grapefruit and one honeybell orange — with the same blight. Some of the branches are almost leafless and dead. The fruit was almost nonexistent this year. Whatever grapefruits I could harvest were not sweet like they used to be. Is there any hope for these trees? If so, who could I get to treat them? Lynette Lewis, St. Petersburg

A: The demise of your citrus sounds a lot like "citrus greening," the latest bacterial disease to hit citrus, and it is lethal. The early symptoms show up in the leaves whereby they look mottled, different colors of greens and yellows followed by twig and branch die back. The tree begins to produce less and less fruit and of poor quality. The disease moves from tree to tree by a small insect called the Asian citrus psyllid. The only recourse is to cut the trees down.

Check the following link for pictures and more details about the disease:

Need help? Dr. Hort (Greg Charles) answers questions about garden problems. Email him at or mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe problem in full, and include your name, city of residence and contact information. If possible, include a good-quality photo. Fuzzy ones won't do. Photos cannot be returned. Please do not send plant samples.

Dr. Hort: Turfgrass alternatives, citrus greening, vegetable-growing problems 04/13/13 [Last modified: Thursday, April 18, 2013 6:09pm]
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