Southwest Florida soils are generally sandy. Sandy soil is ideal for plant success in south Florida. because of the amount of rain that we receive during the summer months. Most of our plants like “dry feet” and many will not prosper or will even die if drainage is poor. You generally do not need to amend the soil if it is primarily sand.
Compacted soil with rocks and shells drain poorly. If you have these soil conditions you may benefit from a good soil amendment. We have had excellent results at the nursery and in our landscape projects using Fafard’s Organic Soil Growers Conditioner. This dark, rich composted pine bark holds moisture, breaks up hard, dense soil, and stimulates root growth. Mix it half and with the existing soil.
Growers of citrus and other edible plants usually use containers containing rich, fertile soil. These plants may benefit from using a soil amendment when they are installed, and may experience less transplant stress as the roots become established into the existing soil. Other soil amendment products can be used such as worm castings, and manure. Remember, it is important to mix these amendment products with the existing soil. Too rich of soil can create significant stress on newly installed plants.
Acid Soil – Soil pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. Homeowners and gardeners alike should be interested in soil pH because it affects the growth and quality of landscape plants.
Florida soils can vary widely in pH levels. Soils in pine woods can be quite acidic. Soils that were formed from calcium-rich materials, such as limestone or sea shells, tend to be alkaline. This is particularly true of soils in coastal areas. Building materials in the home landscape including concrete and stucco, may create very alkaline conditions.
Some familiar plants that need more acidity include: Ixora, Rose, Gardenia, Magnolia, Azalea and many more. These plants will often not be able to absorb nutrients around them unless the soil is acidified. We recommend using Nurseryman’s Sure-Gro 8-2-12 or 12-4-12 Palm Fertilizer. These products will allow acid-loving plants to “unlock” and to absorb the needed nutrients provided. These palm fertilizers can be applied effectively on ALL plants, making gardening a little simpler!
Mulch – In addition to the advantages of using mulch around plants to retain moisture, cool the soil temperature, and retard weed growth, mulch will break down over time to provide needed nutrients to the soil in planting areas. A layer of two to four inches is most effective. Remember, do NOT pack mulch onto the plant stems or trunks to avoid rot.
Salinity – Soil close to beach areas can have elevated salinity levels from being carried by the wind. High salinity levels can present very challenging conditions to successfully grow most plants. In addition, water from some of our wells particularly during drier times, can experience unacceptably high salinity levels. In some instances the levels are beyond the ability to grow almost any plant.
We recommend that homeowners and community associations check their water during the rainy season and again during a drier period to determine the current range of their water composition. Samples can usually be taken to pool stores for a quick salinity read or to Florida Extension Services for a more detailed analysis.