okay jax, since you brought up soil preparation....

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

here i am being a broken record again (my references to my former keys home) but the only gardening i know is digging with a pick ax into coral rock. here, of course, there is sand. when i dig down i do run into something that looks like soil, but what WOULD you do if you were starting fresh? also, if i put weed mat down im not going to get nana babies am i? the weeds are so fierce here, what to do??? thanks jeremy for all of your input! and for everyone elses too!!! heres a close up picture of the only improvement ive made so far. there were stepping stones (5) going up to the steps right under the overhang! if you stepped to the left to get out of the rain you were in dead phitzers and sand! LOL debi

Thumbnail by trackinsand
(Zone 9a)

Debi, your walkway is inviting. I know what you mean about the weeds being fierce. I've used weed fabric, but to no avail. Are weed mats the same as fabric? (inexperienced gardener) Now I just pull weeds rather than spend money on the fabric. I read about a lasagna bed in another thread, but I don't know if it would help against weeds here. I also read on your other thread that you are looking for a shade tree. I have a scrub oak, not a live oak, in my backyard, but it grows very slowly and won't reach the magestic size of a live oak, so I have no shade either. I've considered a Mimosa, which I also like in spite of it's problems, but I am afraid to plant a big tree on my small property if future storms could drop it on my house.

I've lived at this house for nine years, but the property is still largely a blank slate. I am not sure how to start, but I am setting a few small goals.

(I am located on the southwest end of Lake County.)

Nancy

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

hi nancy, maybe we can share info. i have a huge plant library plus we have access to the web. we ought to be able to come up with some plants and ideas. i have a small list of trees that i am thinking about-like you i dont want one falling on the house-by the time that happens tho i will probubly be dead anyway!!! LOL i think the weed stuff is the same. maybe i will mulch really deep and just spot kill. we have to build the soil up farther on the foundation. its kind of sunk in over the years and i have to do that first. cant be planting and then adding tons of new soil. im assuming i need to round-up all the grass/weeds in that area first, but i dont know if im supposed to till or just pile new on old. anyway, somebody will know something. i dont think you are too far from me-at least we are both in lake county-we can gripe about the weather! debi

Taylor Creek, FL(Zone 10a)

Well, I have just tried tilling and planting a 18 x 90 foot section across the front of my yard here in Jax. I am steady pulling mimosas and various grasses. I also have a small area that I Lasagna-ed. You don't Round-up or even mow. Just put down wet cardboard, or a dozen sheets of wet newspaper, then pile on new soil, compost, etc. I purchased all the top 6" of dirt and then planted. The only thing living there are the Hostas I planted there. They were liners and they are maturing fine.
If you do large areas and top with mulch, that controls weeds great for me. I am considering laying wet newspapers beween the newly planted areas of my new plot, then covering with cypress mulch to keep it weed free for future planting.
Hope this helps.
sidney

Brisbane, Australia(Zone 10a)

I would recommend getting something organic into your soil. The sand around here actually repells water. No kidding when I watered originally, the water would just pool up and run off as if it were mercury from a broken thermometer. I put compost, coffee ground and mulched with shredded leaves or chipped pine bark mulch. After awhile, water started to sink in where I wanted it to. BTW, you might want to get your sand tested at the University of Florida before you start so you know exactly what your dealing with before you start. The extension offices have the test kits.

For weeds, I mulch heavily and use corn gluten meal in the spring and fall. Corn gluten meal is a natural pre-emergent herbicide that also gives out some nitrogen. Overall control is OK. And, some of the weeds have become my friends. I quite like pusley, portulaca and dichondra. My worst weed problem is by far sabal palm babies. A friend of mine uses the lasagna technique in her yard very sucessfully for weed control and fertilizing (she throws vegetable scraps under the newspaper).

For large trees I recommend florida elm, sugarberry, live oak. Small trees I like are sparkleberry, crape myrtle, red bud. I like mimosa too but they reseed like crazy and are on the invasive lists. They grow fast though so you can always plant a temporary one while your long term shade tree is growing in the background. Just be prepared for the million mimosa babies.

Tallahassee, FL(Zone 8b)

First, a word about soil testing. I have this corner in which nothing will grow. I have pretty much come to the conclusion that it is the Dark Corner O' Death because it's so shaded and very little light gets all the way back there. I have plans to have some trees trimmed back and possibly remove one, in the fall. Here at DG, though, someone recommended that I get the soil tested in the Dark Corner O' Death, "just to see what you're dealing with." So, I dutifully went over to the extension office, picked up a kit, dug up some holes and sent my samples off, carefully labeled and packaged.

I got the results a couple weeks later, it only cost a few dollars and I STILL have no idea what any of it means. I even posted the results here and you know what advice I got? Crickets chirping. My advice: don't waste your time unless you'll know how much is too much phosphorous and you know what to do if you have too much potassium. (or whatever) The results they send back assume that you have that level of knowledge: what the chemical balance is supposed to be for the plants that you want to grow in that spot. I will have to take the results back to the extension office for interpretation and advice. In the meantime, I've tilled (by hand) a 6 x 6 area and added some organic material to sort of compost in there until I get the trees trimmed back.

I had another area in my front yard that was mostly grass and weeds. In very small sections at a time (say 4 x 4'), I literally dug up each individual weed and composted it, later adding the compost back in each time I planted something new there. The lasagne method would probably be more efficient.

For trees, I recommend bottlebrush trees -- will remind you of the Keys. They're smallish and make gorgeous red blooms sort of vaguely similar to mimosa, but are not invasive and don't make tons of pups. Also, I like the fringe trees (Grancy Greybeard). There's a native variety that goes to 20-30' and a non-native that's smaller. Both put out pretty white blooms in spring, about dogwood time. They don't create tons of babies and are low maintenance once established.

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

so much to digest! i am heartened to learn that i dont have to use the weedmat. how much corn meal do you use and does it kill emerging good plants? as far as testing, i think i will be able to skip that because i am going to improve the soil and will be feeding regardless of what i plant. also, as far as mulch, i think i will be using the pine bark-i dont use cypress because ive read over the years that cypress is not a renewable resource and they are cutting down all of the cypress and they just cant grow fast enough to replace them. now i have to convince john that we dont need weedmat. he is [email protected]@@-bent on killing everything in sight. i am going to do some research on rhus copallina for that front lawn by the road. i know it suckers crazy, but that is such a big expanse and i love that stuff. thanks and keep the suggestions coming! debi

(Zone 9a)

Debi, I didn't know cypress was not renewable. I want to use lava rock, but it's so expensive. The pine sounds like a good idea. I am glad to hear of Dogzilla's experiences with soil samples. The process and results do seem more complicated than useful. I've seen pretty bottlebrush on a property I pass on my drive to work. The gardener there keeps them trimmed and neat. In January, they bloom beautifully and the blooms last quite a long time. Some years they are more spectacular than others. What other trees are you considering? Do you think Hostas would grow here?

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

fireant, ive never "done" hostas, and altho ive heard they grow here, im sure you would have to investigate which kind would be best. i suspect they are hard to keep nice here, but maybe not. as far as trees, im not even thinking any big trees. after all of the thunderstorms/lightning this summer (my first summer here) i think i will stick with smallish stuff. koelreuteria gets about 40' and is a fast grower (i hear moans in the backround LOL). ive heard it seeds as bad as mimosa. you have to remember i have a big flat frontyard that john mows like his life depends on it! he can mow em down! i also like cordia boissieri. its cousin the geiger tree is for the tropical south and i had one in my front yard there. the orange flowers were alittle hard to work with colorwise and it bloomed all year. the boissieri blooms white and probubly 3 seasons here. i think 20' is about average. callistemon citrinus (lemon bottlebrush) is definately on my list. i have a tiny acca sellowiana (pineapple guava) that should top out at about 14' and has a really lovely spring red/white flower and great fruit (altho im not expecting any) even tho mine is supposed to be self-fertile. and then theres caesalpinia gilliesii at about 10' with red and yellow flowers for probubly 3 seasons. i want a crepe myrtle but havent decided on a variety yet. i dont care for the ones with the giant blooms and i want reddish/rust color. i have also decided to do what jeremy suggested and plant bananas as well as big cannas, hamelia patens (firebush) not frost hardy but should come back, ricinus communis carmencita, galphimia glauca and pennistemon glacum purple majesty (an incredibly beautiful annual millet that gets very tall). well, hows that for a wish list? im laughing just reading over this, but its all doable. the rhus i mentioned earlier is a native shining sumac that has a beautiful flower, leaf, fall color and tops out at (i think) about 20' max. its a fast grower-only drawback, suckers like mad and you end up with a grove of them. we had them back in missouri when i was growing up (the staghorn sumac) ive loved it ever since. i dont care if it pops up in the yard. im going to keep it way up front by the road. well, i guess thats it for now! i will start saving all my newspaper as of today instead of throwing it in the recycle bin. i will have it all over the yard! debi

Lake City, FL(Zone 8b)

WOW - so much great information - I've also tried many different "weed blocking" products and have just come to the conclusion that newspaper is the cheapest and works just as well as everything else I have bought. I've also come to the conclusion that my yard is never going to be weed free unless I quit my job and do nothing but patrol my yard everyday from sunup to sundown and buy gallons and gallons of roundup :-)

I've bought a couple of different varieties of hostas and planted in deep deep shade and they lasted for maybe two years - never growing tall or multiplying much and gave up on them. Instead I have switched to different varieities of peacock gingers and other gingers which I find more suitable to Florida weather.
Judy


(Zone 9a)

debi--thanks for the list of trees. The heights are just right. I would have thought the Keys would get worse thunder and lightening storms than we do here. I've become used to them, but I do know two people who lost their homes to lightening strikes, one a new home. Fortunately, the people were safe. I'll have to do a lot of searching on the forum so that I can "see" them. I also want to grow a brug. Since I can't plant much right now, I think I'm going to use the lasagna bed to prepare ground and to help control weeds. With your experience, the planting is probably more doable for you.

I do have three of those unnamed pink blooming crepe myrtles, but I like them. They take care of themselves. I can see them looking over my sofa (a pale rust color) through the front window, and the colors complement each other. I didn't try to match my shrubs with my furniture, but it's nice that it happened that way. I do have a named (though I don't know it's name) dwarfed one that I also like, but it has black, soot stuff all over it. I poured soapy water over it, and it seems better. It blooms later than the others and has lots of pretty blooms on it now. The flowers are a deeper pink than the others.

juja--it's good to know that newspaper does help. I know what you mean by the weeding from sun up to sun down. I would add fireants in the equation. I feel as if all I do is chase the mounds all over the yard. If I don't, I get monstrous mounds. If Hostas are hard to grow as far north as Lake City, they would probably be even more difficult to grow here. It's good to know you've had success with the gingers you mentioned.

Archer/Bronson, FL(Zone 8b)

Fireant,

Just glancing down I see the comments on the hostas, climate, investigate etc. Brings to mind some info that I saved to share with others like me that like to push the zones.

Here's some info on warm climate hostas. Have heart, it never gets cold down here and I am growing hostas.

http://www.plantdelights.com/Tony/warmhosta.html

Molly
:^)))

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

fireant, people always assume that the keys are so "tropical rain foresty" when in truth its more like desert-tropical. we never got much rain except may and september if we were lucky. we would usually have a downpour sometime in january as well. i would look up towards miami all summer (they would get storms every afternoon) and think o they are so lucky. well, now i guess im in that lucky zone too! the storm yesterday was pretty terrifying and im a storm lover! i just kept praying it wouldnt hit the cedars or the house. i also looked into small elms (ulmus parvifolia) and a few others, but i cant have everything. you have to allow for spread over the years and truthfully i wanted more interesting trees, not just shade for shades sake. as you've probubly noticed, i havent included any palms on my list. dont get me wrong, i love them and had about 20 or more kinds in the keys, but you are way more limited in cold hardy types here. if i do get any it will probubly be a pindo. and possibly a couple of queens later on. the black stuff you mentioned is sooty mold and soapy water works pretty well. you have to control the insects too with it. sprinkly some fire ant killer around the base even if you dont see them. you can also use neem if its really bad. if every leaf gets black they can't photosynthesize (sp.?) properly and can really weaken or even die. juja, im with you as far as weeds-they will always be here-forever! one more thing, i havent looked into in depth all of the native small trees and there is a wealth of them out there! so many plants-so little time. debi

(Zone 9a)

trackinsand--I know what you mean by interesting trees. I think that's why I've never planted anything other the oak and the myrtles. Deciding is the hard part, especially in a smaller space. The storms are stunning. In spite of how fierce and how many storms, there are surprisingly few catastrophes.

MollyMc--what a great website! They say if you like the catalog, send 10 stamps or a box of chocolates (they prefer the chocolates)--sounds like a people place.

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

and more stunning storms this afternoon-i feel like im in hawaii, upland. debi

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

fireant-almost forgot a plant that i am itching to have and finally ordered this morning. phormium tenax. i got a couple different varieties in various sizes. i think they will be stunning! check them out. debi

Taylor Creek, FL(Zone 10a)

Those are neat plants debi. Which ones did you order?
sidney

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

i really wanted sundowner, but the only one carrying it right now is just too expensive in the shipping. i went with atropurpureum, dusky chief, and rainbow maiden. the 2 dark tall ones will look really good against the brick and the little one will probubly be in container, also in front. now i have to really start doing some planning. these plants are all coming and i cant have the musella lasiocarpa sitting next to a phormium (watering needs). why cant we ever buy plants normal? its like, whoa gottahavethat-then-whoa whereamigonnaputit? LOL debi

(Zone 9a)

trackinsand--I looked up those plants. They are beautiful. Atropurpureum is a good substitute for sundowner, but I can see why you would prefer sundowner. I also liked the dwarf banana, really striking. I'm still looking up the plants you listed.

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

fireant, i didnt even mention all the different hollies, most of which dont get to big! ilex debi

Lake City, FL(Zone 8b)

MollyMc - I luv Plant Delights and had the opportunity to tour his facility a few years ago ! It is great and Tony is a wonderful host. I've ordered from them for years and find them to be a bit pricey, but their plants are healthy and well packed.

What varieties of hostas are you growing and do they get as big as they do up north? Have you had them for a couple of years as the ones I had weren't named varieties or at least I could never find anyone that knew their names - they stayed small, didn't really multiply and just sort of existed. I had them in deep shade, but they finally bit the dust when the armadillos just wouldn't leave that flower bed alone and kept digging them up. If you have had success in Ft. Lauderdale, maybe I will give them another shot.

Judy

Archer/Bronson, FL(Zone 8b)

Judy,

My Guacamole and Carnival are the largest. I just got them last fall. The plants are about 14" to 18" in diameter now. They were small when I bought them, just little leaves and healthy rootballs. I also have September Sun, Paul's Glory, Black Hills, Gold Standard, Sun Power, Minuteman and a could no names. These are the smaller ones. Some have gone dormant and I though they were dead. I would be digging to put a new plant in and would run into the hostas. So they seem to be holding their own now. There was a short period of time in the middle of June that the sun managed to get into their bed. I water them around 4 every afternoon to cool them down and sit pots of hibiscus in between them for added summer shade. In the short time I have had them here, there are some increases in the eyes. They are definitley more work than tropicals but I like a little challenge now and again. When I move to north central Florida, they will all come with me.

Now the Heuchera are a different story. I bought them all at the same time as companion plants to the hostas. I only have one left that appears to be alive but barely. They could very well be dormant, but I haven't been in the mood to dig around and find out.

Although I don't have any armadillos, I have possums and cats that wander my garden at night, so I put a Scaredy Cat Plant in my hosta bed and it looks like it has been working. The hostas have gone undisturbed all summer.

I would think you could do well with the hostas if you could keep the critters from ripping them out.

Molly
:^)))

BTW, At my old house I put hostas in 3 years ago. After the first year I decided they were suffering so I traded or gave them away to people up north. When I thought they were all gone, I started seeing eyes pop up out of the ground where I had dug hostas and sent them away. I call them my Ghost Hostas. Sooooo I decided to try them again. I still have 2 of those Ghosts. They don't get real big, but one has bloomed 2 years in a row and they keep coming back.

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