A burning question on lawns

Question: When I was a little kid in the late 1960s, it was a common practice for people to burn all or parts of their lawn. A couple of weeks later, the grass would be so green that it hurt to look at it.

What caused this reaction?

C.S., Dallas

Answer: Burning is a good tool only if the land has been mismanaged and has a buildup of oxidized organic matter - thatch. The impressive green color comes from the fact that emerging grass can be seen more easily. Burning on a regular basis will do more damage than good by oxidizing the carbon and other nutrients and allowing them to drift away in the air.

Question: We planted red cedar trees on our property two years ago. I have noticed a red goo and red pigment on some branches. Is this some type of fungus? What, if anything, can be done to get rid of it? C.W., Dallas

Answer: That's cedar apple rust, a common fungal disease of native cedars. Apple and crabapple trees and other plants in the apple family serve as alternate hosts. Use my Sick Tree Treatment now. Next spring, when swelling buds on flowering trees are about to open, spray the cedars with Garrett Juice and potassium bicarbonate.

Question: I am organic, but my neighbors on each side are not. We have zero-lot-line homes. Both neighbors had termites and have treated them chemically. I was afraid that this would force the termites to my house. I had my house inspected and do not have termites. I have always used lava sand, hot pepper flakes, diatomaceous earth, etc., around the outside of my house.

Do I need to do a preventive treatment for termites through a professional company or just keep doing what I've been doing?

D.B., Dallas

Answer: It sounds to me as if you have it figured out. Homes with no drainage problems, no wet wood and healthy biological activity in the soil rarely have termite or carpenter ant problems. Apply beneficial nematodes to the site annually as a precaution.

Question: My husband recently spread approximately 1 to 1 1/2 inches of hardwood mulch in a flower bed where I was planning to plant creeping red sedum. I know that mulch is used to nourish the soil and to help suppress weed growth. Therefore, I am concerned that the mulch will stifle the spread of the ground cover. Should I remove the mulch after the plants take hold so they can effectively cover the ground?

D.A., Dallas

Answer: Mulch doesn't suppress the spread of perennials, just the seed germination and establishment of annuals. The best way to establish ground covers and perennials is to maintain a thin layer of shredded mulch over bare soil.

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