Gardeners face interesting and often frustrating challenges every day. Many of those challenges are unique to the region they live in. Visiting and talking with gardeners in other regions of the United States have helped to put my own garden challenges in perspective.
The Florida Keys’ tropical, balmy weather supports lush, rapid growth much of the year. Rapid growth has its own problem – maintenance. When the snowbirds flock back to Florida for the winter, one of their first chores is to cut down the jungle that grew up over the spring and summer months. Large piles of flora lay street side just waiting for a trash pickup. And like all gardeners, keeping plants in check and cutting away dead debris is ongoing – only in the Florida Keys it is on a much larger scale.
During my recent visit to Key West, I was shocked to see yellow palm trees - everywhere. Like many regions of the country wrestling with a particular scourge, some Florida Key palms are victim to “lethal yellowing,” a disease people believe is spread by planthoppers. Based on my observations, many palms will need to be replaced and fortunately there are varieties that are not susceptible to lethal yellowing. I sympathize with the owners because I know of the frustration and costs that come with replacing established, loved trees that have been damaged.
A local landscaper I chatted with recommended selecting salt-tolerant plants and creating raised garden beds in the Keys. I did not notice many raised garden beds during my travels. However, if I was gardening in the Keys, I would take both of these recommendations seriously. During hurricane season it is not uncommon for a storm-surge of sea water to reclaim the land for a time. Raised beds make it easier to effectively flush salt from the garden soil.
On Big Pine Key, the protected cute Key Deer feed on garden plants all over the island. While I’m no stranger to the struggles of keeping deer at bay, I was a little surprised to learn that Iguanas are eating their way through expensive landscapes. These non-native garden predators not only eat what is within reach on the ground – they are great climber too - and will chomp on expensive shrubs and trees.
Storm surges, lethal yellowing, Iguanas…I’m sure I haven’t begun to identify all the unique challenges of gardening in the Florida Keys. My own garden concerns, such as voles, slugs, powdery mildew and lily beetles, seem small and meek by comparison. What garden challenges do you face that are unique to your region?