Salt-tolerant plants for the beach
Whether you are fortunate enough to have a place on the coast or just want to create a beach vibe in your inland backyard, salt-tolerant plants will help you create a lovely landscape. Palm trees are the iconic choice, but other plants can also create a coastal effect. Since we do get some freezing weather in North Florida and the Panhandle, be sure to take cold tolerance into account. Include a beach chair, an umbrella, and a small table to hold your favorite “beach read” and a cool beverage, and you’re all set.
1. Sea oats (Uniola paniculata) This Florida native once blanketed the beaches along the southeastern United States because they are great dune stabilizers. Coastal development has wreaked havoc on sea oats, but they are still a great choice. They grow 5 to 8 feet tall.
2. Beach sunflower (Helianthus debilis) is a spreading perennial that also reseeds, so a cold winter won’t necessarily kill it. It has 2-inch daisy-like flowers that follow the sun all day, and it’s attractive to butterflies.
3. Spanish bayonet (Yucca aloifolia) is a tropical-looking tree that can reach 12 to 15 feet tall and often grows into multi-trunk clumps. Its sharp needles can pierce clothing, so plant it away from walkways. It’s a good security screen in front of a vulnerable window; just be sure to plant something softer in front of it.
4. Oleander (Nerium oleander) is a great choice for a beachy landscape. Just be sure to plant it where small children and curious pets can’t get to it, as all parts are toxic. One way to do that is to prune it into a tree form with multiple trunks. The flowers come in many colors, adding a tropical feel.
Critter: Tomato pinworms
Tomato pinworms (Keiferia lycopersicella) are tiny worms that feed on tomatoes and other members of the nightshade family, such as potatoes and eggplant. Small gray-brown moths lay eggs on the underside of plant leaves. They’re often so tiny they’re hard to notice. Once the eggs hatch and the larva start tunneling through the leaves, the damage is easier to spot. The worms also burrow into the fruit, leaving tiny holes near the top of the fruit and creating rotten spots. And these little critters reproduce like crazy, up to eight generations a year. Pests such as tomato pinworms are one of the primary reasons you should remove plant debris from your garden, because pinworm pupae overwinter at the soil’s surface in dead plant material. Another way to avoid an environment hospitable to pests: Rotate your crops — that is, don’t plant the same thing in the same space year after year. Remove leaves with “mines,” or evidence of tunneling, and handpick any worms you see. If the worms are still on the leaves and haven’t started on your tomatoes yet, you can spray with Bt, an organic pesticide that targets caterpillars. Greenhouses are a favorite place for tomato pinworms, so make sure you buy tomato plants from local growers or start your own plants from seed.
Your Monthly Garden Chores
- Prune spring-flowering shrubs such as azaleas if you haven’t already. Waiting too late in the year to prune risks removing next year’s flower buds.
- Fertilize citrus trees.
- Plant heat-loving vegetables, including okra, peppers, sweet potatoes and eggplant. Cherry and grape tomatoes do better than larger varieties in mid-summer heat.
- Hurricane season is upon us. Check trees in your yard and remove or prune any that pose a threat. Consult a certified arborist if you’re not sure what to look for.
- Plant heat-loving herbs such as basil, Mexican tarragon, oregano and rosemary.
- Water your lawn and garden if rainfall is scarce. Be sure to water deeply, at least 1 inch of water, once a week instead of turning on sprinklers for 15 or 20 minutes daily. Frequent light watering merely encourages shallow root growth, which makes plants more susceptible to drought damage.