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Tuesday, Oct 21, 2014
South Shore News

What to do with all that water


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Saving water becomes a habit for most gardeners in Florida, but this summer we’ve had some opposite problems – too much rain and too many mosquitoes.

So what do you do with the extra water? For those with sprinkler systems, I trust you turned them off at the beginning of the rainy season. You can always turn them back on manually for a watering if the rain doesn’t come for several days but for the most part you won’t need it to be automated until September.

People with different zones already know which plants are heavy drinkers and have them in the same area of their yards and gardens.

I water by hose in desperate times, but mostly by emptying buckets and dipping into my rain barrels. The rain water in the barrels is kept clean by goldfish and tadpoles, but the five-gallon buckets can collect mosquito larvae and have to poured somewhere before those blood suckers take wing. I decided I wouldn’t put my five-gallon buckets out for the rest of the summer, and then it didn’t rain for five days and I was sorry. I will be more sorry if this column brings us a drought. But as I write this we have had 6 inches in one week.

There are many plants that can be harmed by too much water. I raked all the mulch away from under the citrus trees when the rainy season began because they can get root rot from too much moisture. It’s best to let the ground dry out between waterings around citrus and many other plants.

But some plants are, thank goodness, heavy drinkers and knowing which ones in your yard can take extra water will help during times of excessive rain.

Most plants will thrive with an inch of water a week, but roses like more. So do trees like the American holly, Ilex opaca, southern magnolia, sycamore and live oak. Tree roots spread at least as far as their branches and go deep into the ground, so they can take up a good bit of that overflow.

It’s always a wonder to me that some of the plants that will stand in water can also survive drought. Cypress trees are an example.

You can put extra water on azaleas, copperleaf bushes, night-blooming jasmine, coral bean, firebush, shrimp plants, firespikes and birds of paradise. The only problem here is that they may overgrow and need extra pruning.

Most ferns like partial shade and a constantly moist soil rich in decaying organic matter. The leather fern, lady fern, swamp fern and royal fern like wet sites.

Among the ground covers, the horsetail, Carolina jessamine, English and Algerian ivy, lirope, mondo grass, artillery plants and Swedish ivy enjoy soggy soil.

Thirsty perennials include lily-of-the-Nile, crinum lilies, cannas, rose mallow, pentas, calla lilies and rain lilies. All these years my jaboticaba has never had as much to drink as it would like, so I put much of the extra water on it now. Most container gardens, especially large ones, don’t absorb so much of the rain because of the leaf canopy. So as long as there is good drainage, give these some extra water. Water your compost pile but don’t overwater the worm beds or the worms will have to leave or drown.

Even if you have to dump the water on bare ground, it will sink back into the aquifer. Don’t dump it where it will go into the sewer. And don’t let it become a mosquito nursery. There are too many of those already.

Now’s the time to...consider that most of plants near the run-off of the roof during hard rains had better be able to take a good deal of extra water. I have a bougainvillea in a large pot and it’s always ready for more water. Hibiscus, gardenias, ti plants and azaleas are also heavy drinkers.

Upcoming event

The Tampa African Violet Society will meet at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Common Ground Christian Church, 4207 North Blvd., Tampa. Lynne Wilson will discuss growing trailing African violets and offer growing tips. Visitors are always welcome; admission and parking are free.

For more information, email Sherold1@gmail.com or call (813) 681-1910.

Monica Brandies is an experienced gardener, freelance writer and author of 12 gardening books who can be reached at monicabrandies@yahoo.com. Her website is www.gardensflorida.com.

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