TX Organic Research Center



Butterfly Garden, Zoysia, Woodpecker Damage, Corn Gluten Meal, Oak Trees
April 04, 2003
By Howard Garrett

Q.  I have a butterfly garden and have been doing compost of grass, leaves and vegetable matter.  Last summer there were so many small dark maggots I could hear them when I would go to turn the compost.  I looked on my garden sheet of good bugs/bad bugs and it said it was a bad bug that eats plant tissue.  I have all this black good compost but afraid to use it because it contains a kind of hard black maggot.  I would even put dishes of them out for the birds and they didn't touch them.  I have called numerous garden centers and they have no answers. 

A. You need to get a better sheet of good bugs/bad bugs. Look in the Texas Bug Book. You'll see that what you have are the highly beneficial larvae of the black soldier fly. They will almost always be present in moist compost. If you have a large population, your compost is too wet.


Q. Saw an ad for zoysia that made it wound hard to believe. Is zoysia a grass you would recommend for North Texas? – A.A, Dallas

A. Zoysia should only be purchased from local growers and retail suppliers. It shouldn't be planted any way but solid sod. Any other method (sprigs or spot sod) will give you a weedy mess. Zoysia is a beautiful, lush grass that needs little mowing or edging compared to other summer grasses, but it’s a grass to look at rather than use. Because of its slow growth, it does not rebound well from wear and tear. And by the way – you shouldn’t believe those mail order ads.


Q. I have a 12 year old live oak that has been attacked by a woodpecker. We put a rubber snake in the tree to scare the birds. Should I do something to the tree since the birds have put a "zillion" holes in the bark? – D.C., Dallas

A. You definitely need to deter this pretty bird's work on your tree. He's actually a sapsucker instead of a woodpecker and is attracted to your tree because it is some degree of stress. Make sure the tree is not planted too deep in the soil, apply Tree Trunk Goop to the holes in the bark and apply the Sick Tree Treatment.


Q. Can you use corn gluten meal in the vegetable garden to control weeds and when should you use it? – D.B., Dallas

A. Yes, but if you plan to plant any crops from seeds it's best to wait to apply the CGM after the seedlings have emerged. Applying before germination will hurt your seedling production.


Q. The leaves on our live oak trees are falling off - dead.  Is this a problem or is this natural? – E.L., Edinburg.

A. Natural. This is the time of year that the live oaks' swelling buds push off their leaves and start the spring growth. All trees drop their leaves, live oaks just do it at a different time. Mulch them into the turf and put the excess in the compost pile.


Q. Could you please recommend the highest yeilding varieties of full size tomatoes for the Fort Worth Area.  My soil is of the black variety. – C.B.H., Dallas

A. My favorites are Salsa, American, Jackpot, President, Brandywine and my favorite - SuperFantastic. Those who like the small tomatoes should try Porter, Viva Italia, Riesentraube and Wild Cherry.


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