Friday, December 15, 2017
Home and Garden

Looking for shade? Take cover under these trees

Several tree choices would provide shade

Q: We live in Hernando County. Our yard grass is starting to burn for lack of water (once-a-week rules). Decided to put a tree in for shade to save the lawn in the burned-out area about 10 feet away from house.

We do not know what to put in, maybe a navel orange tree. We want it to grow about 10 feet, but we don't like the oaks. I guess it should be fast growing, maybe with flowers. Carl and Helen Amato, Spring Hill

A: If you would like a fruit tree, citrus would work. However, in Spring Hill, you may catch a freeze, which may damage your young tree.

You might try loquat, Eriobotrya japonica, which produces a tasty fruit, yellow-orange in color in February-March, is evergreen with a mushroom top and grows 20 to 30 feet.

A small flowering tree for your area would be red bud, Cercis canadensis, a deciduous that has pink flowers in early spring, heart-shaped leaves and grows to 15 to 20 feet. Other options are dogwood, Cornus florida (shown), another deciduous choice and, of course, crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, which is either grown as a multistem or single standard stem with varieties ranging in size from shrubs to 35-foot trees.

Crape myrtles are summer bloomers in shades of pink, lavender, red and white, and some have beautiful fall foliage color before the leaves fall. I would plant all trees at least 15 feet from the house.

Tampa Bay Times Newspaper in Education is holding a crape myrtle sale Saturday. See calendar below for details.

Using softened water from the shower is a no-no for potted plants

Q: My question concerns the safety of using water from the shower, which has water softener added, to water my plants.

It takes a minute or two for the water in my shower to warm up. I have been collecting the cool water. Will it hurt my garden and container plants? Virginia Melidosian, Palm Harbor

A: Using softened water is a no-no for your potted plants. Collecting water while waiting for it to get warm is an admirable idea, but sodium in softened water replaces calcium and magnesium, both plant nutrients, making it toxic to plants.

The sodium from the softener binds with chlorine, forming sodium chloride (table salt), which will dehydrate or "burn" your potted plants. However, broadcasting it out in the landscape would be a grand conservation idea because it keeps the water out of the sewer system.

I do not have softened water, but collect the water as you suggest and water my potted plants, new transplants and garden.

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