Replacing a hedge is possible — it just takes patience
Published: Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 12:20 p.m.
Q: I would like your recommendations for evergreen shrubs or small trees that are 10 to 20 feet tall. These will be used as a screening hedge between my home and a paved county road. I would prefer low-maintenance, drought-tolerant recommendations. There are Leyland Cypress trees currently planted. However, these are approximately 25 years old and are dying of needle blight.
A: Many of the Leyland Cypress trees that were planted for privacy hedges have succumbed to a disease called needle blight. It seems that the Leyland Cypress densely planted in a row were most prone to getting the disease.
Replacing a nice, thick hedge is not impossible, it just will take a little time to get your green privacy fence back. Luckily, we do have quite a few evergreen shrubs that will easily fit the bill. Many of the holly shrubs would work for your site.
Yaupon holly is a tough native that will fill in quickly if planted on 5-foot centers. Burford holly shrub also would be a great privacy hedge; it has dark green leaves, and red or orange berries in the fall. This plant is best kept at about 15 feet tall. The hybrid holly called "Mary Nell" has a pyramidal shape similar to the cypress trees that you lost. These evergreen beauties will grow to 20 feet within four to five years with regular watering. Once they get established, all of the hollies are drought-tolerant.
The Ocala Anise (Illicium parviflorum) is another good native shrub that can grow up to 15 feet and remain thick with foliage all the way to the ground. Plant these shrubs on 6-foot centers, and you will have a thick hedge in two to three years. You will need to prune these to get the desired shrub look, but it will be worth the effort.
Also consider the Southern Red Cedar (Juniperus silicicola). This is an evergreen conifer that is very similar to the Leyland cypress. These trees are very tough and drought-tolerant, but need plenty of space in between the trees to look their best. Plant them on 15- to 20-foot centers to allow for these trees that will be at least 30 feet tall. For more information about evergreen shrubs, visit the UF/IFAS information website www.solutionsforyourlife.com
Q: What should I do to prepare for next year's crop of oranges to make them taste sweeter? I had a good crop this year, but they were juicy but not as sweet as in the past.
A: Sometimes it happens that the fruit isn't as sweet from one crop to the next. There are a couple of reasons why this happens. Just a touch of cold temperatures can make the fruit sweeter. Your crop might have missed the dip into the 30s we had early this year.
Also, if you had a bumper crop of fruit, the carbohydrates or sugars that the trees produce from the leaves had to be distributed through many fruit, so the sweetness can get diluted from a heavy fruit load. This is usually true of very young trees, so if you see a big crop coming on, thin the fruit so you will have larger and tastier fruit.
But the most important thing you can do to keep the fruit tasting good is to make sure that you are supporting a healthy tree. Regular fertilizing and watering will keep plenty of green leaves on the tree. The more leaves you have, the more photosynthesis the tree is able to complete; from this you get the sugars that go into the fruit. Fertilize a mature citrus up to four times a year between the months of March and September with a balance fertilizer or a citrus fertilizer. Also, make sure the tree doesn't get drought-stressed, by watering with 1 inch of water a week. For more information about growing citrus,contact your local Master Gardener in Alachua County at 955-2402.
Wendy Wilber is an extension agent with UF/IFAS. Email her at email@example.com.