Fall, winter the best time to set yucca "pups' free

Question: I have 11 acres, and there are several yucca plants on the property. Is there anything I can do to promote growth, flowers and multiplication?

K.B., Florence

Answer: The "pups" or small plants growing from the bases of the yuccas can be removed easily and transplanted. Be careful of the sharp leaves. Fall through winter is the best time to do the work. Organic fertilizer will stimulate growth and flowering.

Question: I have a bush that has thorns on the stem like a rosebush and soft, light-green leaves that resemble a holly. It has a citrus smell similar to an orange when you squeeze the leaves. I tasted the leaf with the tip of my tongue, and my tongue was numb for a couple of hours.

S.B., Carlton, Texas

Answer: You have prickly ash, also called tickle tongue tree and Hercules club. It's a native plant that was used by American Indians to deaden toothaches. It's also called toothache tree.

This plant is a host for the giant swallowtail butterfly. Its larvae look like bird droppings.

Your plant may look like a bush now, but it will grow into a pretty little tree.

Question: I recently purchased a house with large pecan trees in the yard. I am concerned about one tree that has a mushroom growing out of the trunk. Is this reason to worry?

P.P., Austin

Answer: Mushrooms growing from the trunk of a tree indicate rot inside the trunk. Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungal decay.

Uncover the tree's root flare, remove circling and girdling roots and use my Sick Tree Treatment. (See Resources.) For some reason, your tree is not healthy.


Question: Can bald cypress be grown from its cones, or must it be propagated with cuttings?

B.T., Maybank

Answer: Bald cypress can be grown from seed, which is found in the cones.

Crush the cones, soak them in 10 percent vinegar and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 days before planting the seeds in organic potting soil. It's easy.


Question: I planted climbing Lady Banksia* rosebushes in 2003. They did not bloom or climb much in the spring, and I was told to cut them back. I cut them back, and still nothing.

How do I promote climbing and blooming? And if I need to cut them back, how much?

C.W., Rowlett

Answer: Stop cutting them back. The only time to prune these large-variety rosebushes is just after spring flowering. Pruning at any other time removes buds and prevents flowering.

Question: We sodded St. Augustine grass in a new yard in July. In September, we applied corn gluten meal at a rate of 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet of garden area. It greened up short-term, but we have lots of brown places where the blades shriveled like straw.

It's had plenty of moisture and doesn't stand in water. What now?

M.R., Midlothian

Answer: It's probably brown patch caused by all the rain. Many St. Augustine lawns in the Dallas area have the same problem.

Apply horticultural cornmeal at a rate of 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet of garden area. Later, spray the problem areas with compost tea, vinegar and garlic tea. Or, since the turf is dormant during winter, wait until early spring to do this work.

Question: When is the best time to shut off an irrigation (sprinkler) system for the winter? And how long do we leave it off?

C.J., Frisco

Answer: The best time to stop irrigation in the Dallas area this year was about Aug. 1. We have had huge and frequent rains.

>From fall through winter, the only irrigation needed is during rare

>times of

drought and high winds. Most organic gardeners with healthy soil have not irrigated in months.

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