TX Organic Research Center



Climbing Roses in Trees, Newspaper Compost, Nematodes, Gnats, Sweetgum Tip, Planting Acorns
January 24, 2003
By Howard Garrett

Q. I read your article about ivy endangering trees. Does this apply to climbing roses as well? I was just reading about a rose that loves to climb trees and I thought it would look pretty. – N.S., Dallas

A. Best thing for your tree is to eliminate any and all vines from the tops and trunks of trees. Vines on trees have no positive points. Vines shade and hold moisture against the bark, they collect debris and they build up soil levels in crotches and on the root flare. They hide physical damage that could be treated and large vines can cut into trunks and limbs. Plus, trees just look better if not cluttered with vines.


Q. Is there a better way to break newspaper down for the composter? – D.B., Dallas

A. Yes. The paper can be rolled up tightly, bound securely with masking tape and run through the chipper part of a power grinder. It grinds into a texture that breaks down quickly.


Q. When is the best time to put nematodes in the yard for greatest effectiveness? – V.N., Dallas

A. Depends on what you are trying to control. These living organisms should be applied almost as you would pesticides – after the pests are active. They kill grubs, termites, thrips, fire ants, fleas, termites and other insect pests very quickly. I hardly ever recommend their use as preventative, except for thrips on roses.


Q. What can be done organically to get rid of gnats in a funeral home which is home to about 30 large plants throughout our offices for aesthetical purposes The company which tends to the plants says that there is nothing they can do about the problem? – R.L., Dallas

A. If the plant maintenance company would water less and add a sprinkling of horticultural cornmeal to the soil, the problem would go away. It may be time to hire another company.


Tip from Harry Morris – Palestine, TX

I have come up with a really great method of cutting way back on the spiny ball production of a sweetgum tree. Just prune it back a little.


Because the fruit forms near the tips of the limbs. Good thinking and a good tip for those who hate sweetgum fruit. I actually kind of like the spiny fruit – and so do the trees.



Q. Would you give me information about planting acorns to grow oak trees? I saved many, including the big ones and some little ones from 2 different trees. I’d appreciate any help you could give me. – L.D., Dallas

A. Just countersink them half deep in potting soil or native soil. In other words, the acorn should be laid sideways and halfway buried in the soil. Keep the pot or flat in a warm, sunny place for quick germination and move outside in the spring. They can be left outside if you aren’t in a hurry. Watch for the squirrels. They can really spoil your program.


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