The Q&A Archives: Florida Gardening

Question: I recently moved from Baltimore to Florida and find it is entirely different gardening down here. Obviously the weather is much warmer for a longer period of time and also more humid. However, the biggest hurdle is the soil--very sandy and doesn't hold a lot of water. Can you suggest some good drought and heat tolerant plants I can plant in my beds? (Also would help if they are dog proof--we have three who don't discriminate between the garden and the lawn.) Thanks for your help. FloridaGardener

Answer: There are many plants adapted to your new growing conditions, and here's a sampling. Annuals: moss rose (portulaca), cosmos, black eyed susan, cleome. Perennials: yarrow (achillea), yellow star grass (Hypoxis hirsuta), lupine. I know of no "dog-proof" plants (I assume you mean immune to the effects of dog urine), so it's best to train your pooches to stay out of the beds, fence the area, or use a repellent, such as Ro-Pel or Twist-on Buds (both available from Gardener's Supply Co., (; ph# 800-863-1700). Your plants will fare better if the beds are recessed in the ground and mulched, both of which will aid in water retention. Find as much organic matter (leaves, lawn clippings, shredded newspaper, food scraps, etc) and start making compost to enrich your sandy soil. Gardener's Supply Co. (see above) has a free bulletin on composting that should help. Here's a publication that you will find most helpful, created by a non-native Floridian who gardens very successfullyin your state: Sundew Gardens Reports, P.O. Box 214, Oviedo, FL 32765. A sample copy costs $1; $15/year subscription. Your local garden club should be able to help as well. Another useful book, written by Maryland native Tom MacCubbin, is "Florida Home Grown" (Sentinel Communications Co., ISBN #0-941263-00-2). Hope this helps!

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