Damaged hibiscus may be salvageable


QUESTION: A friend in Houston had snow over the winter and unusually cold temperatures. Her hibiscus plants, most of which are a year old, are not leafing out, and an oleander is leafing only near the bottom of the shrub.  Have the hibiscus plants died after getting too cold? Is there anything she can do to save them?  V.J., Irving

ANSWER:  Prune dead branches and then use my Sick Tree Treatment and Bio-Wash by 1st Enviro Safety Inc. (www.1stenvirosafetyinc.com). If the hibiscus plants are perennial, new growth should sprout from the roots.

QUESTION: I mixed 2 gallons of Garrett Juice using instructions in your organic recipes. I used half of the mixture and stored the rest in a container with a lid. When I came back to use it a few days later, mold appeared to be floating on top of the liquid. Is that common, or did I do something wrong? Is the remaining Garrett Juice OK to use?  E.P., McKinney

ANSWER:  It should be fine. The moldy-looking mass is microbial colonies growing in the mixture. Skim the clumpy matter off or filter it through old pantyhose, and the Garrett Juice will be ready to use.

QUESTION: We planted a wisteria vine four years ago to provide shade on our pergola. The plant has done well, but it does not bloom. What's wrong?  P.R., Dallas

ANSWER:  That's a common problem. Your plant probably was bred from a plant that grew in different conditions than we have in Texas. It may never bloom. You can try drenching the plant's root zone with Garrett Juice, but this usually won't cure ill-adapted plants. Drench the root zone weekly until the wisteria improves or until you give up on producing blooms.

QUESTION: I have followed your organic program for 10 years. Last fall, we had an infestation of huge mosquitoes that attacked people and pets. It was so bad that I had to bring my dogs indoors. I want to avoid a recurrence this year. Is Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis) safe to use in standing water?  B.B., Mansfield

ANSWER:  Yes, Bti is very safe. This naturally occurring bacteria kills mosquito larvae in water. Garlic sprays and Eco Exempt, both of which are plant-oil products, also could help. Follow label instructions.

QUESTION: About 10 years ago, when we started an organic program, you gave us a recipe for lawn revival that I cannot seem to find. It included lava sand, Texas greensand and dry molasses. The mixture was intended to recharge the yard, which had been struggling for a few years, and it worked. Does this sound familiar? I would like to use it again since we recently planted trees and plan to aerate the lawn.  K.W., Grand Prairie

ANSWER:  It sounds like my Sick Tree Treatment. The exact formula is not as important as using materials that stimulate biological activity and avoiding products that do not. You probably know what the bad ones are: synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides.


QUESTION: We bought a house last summer, and the lawn has weeds and sparse Bermuda grass. We would like to replace that with buffalo grass. What is the best method? Should we dig up the old grass and start over?  R.T., Corinth

ANSWER:  The best method is to remove existing sod to a depth of 2 inches and then plant buffalo grass sod. Buffalo grass needs little soil preparation. Just smooth the area, water the soil side of the sod, fit the sod pieces tightly together over the site and roll the sod.   Sod is rolled with a specially designed, weighted metal or plastic drum called a sod roller to eliminate air pockets between the bottom of the sod and the soil surface. Putting the roots of the grass into contact with the soil helps them take hold faster.  Sod rollers can be purchased or leased, but hiring a professional to roll the sod may be the best option. Nurseries and grass companies typically provide rolling services. After rolling, dust a ¼ -inch layer of compost over the sod and use it to fill joints between pieces of sod.



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