Boric acid should be used sparingly!

QUESTION: What amount of boric acid is needed to get rid of ants?  J.H., Irving

ANSWER: All ant baits should have a small percentage of boric acid, 10 percent or less. Too much boric acid will make a bait distasteful to ants, and they will avoid it.  Sugar ants and other household ants can be controlled indoors with baking soda, cinnamon dust, tansy leaves, citrus oil sprays or black pepper.  If you have ants and other troublesome insects in the attic, dust with a mixture of cinnamon and natural diatomaceous earth. Hot-pepper dusts or liquid sprays also work.

QUESTION: We are trying to build up the soil in a park. I have ordered 1 ton of dried molasses. Will this help? Too much camping activity is killing the grass.  N.E., Thornton

ANSWER: Molasses may be the best product for your first organic application. It will stimulate life in the soil and help get rid of fire ants.

QUESTION: We are thinking about growing organic vegetables to sell. What is the best way to get started? Is there someone whose operation we could visit?  D.D., Keller

ANSWER: Malcolm Beck and I wrote a book called Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening that should be helpful. My Web site, especially the Library and Forums sections, also may be helpful
recommend that you visit Coppell Community Gardens and join the Texas Organic Farmers and Growers Association to learn more.

QUESTION: I have never transplanted a tree, but I have a crape myrtle that was planted too close to my house last year. I want to transplant it to a flower bed farther from the house. The tree is about 10 to 12 feet tall and has a single trunk.  M.W., Hurst

ANSWER: November is the perfect time to transplant. The earth ball around the roots should be about 10 inches in diameter for every 1 inch of trunk diameter. The depth of the ball need not be more than 12 inches.  My book Texas Gardening the Natural Way describes the tree planting process. In spite of what many people may tell you, do not prune the tree, add amendments to the planting hole, build a watering ring, stake the tree or wrap the trunk. If you transplant correctly, your crape myrtle should take off next season and be beautiful.

I bought my home seven years ago and pulled weeds to control them. This worked well, and I had few problems with weeds.  About three years ago, I thought I would try your fall recommendations and applied corn gluten meal. The following spring, I had a magnificent crop of crab grass. It took three applications of MSMA to kill it. I hesitate to use weed-and-feed products because my yard is a mixture of Bermuda and St. Augustine grasses.  A.C., Dallas

ANSWER: You probably had Dallis grass, not crab grass, and the corn gluten meal fed this deep-rooted perennial weed and made it spread. Corn gluten meal works very well as a pre-emergent herbicide on the seeds of annual weeds, but it fertilizes perennials.  As for chemical weed-and-feed products, they can kill trees in addition to contaminating the soil.

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