TX Organic Research Center



Crape Myrtles, Sick Tree Treatment, Bermuda, Crawfish/Drainage Problems
April 26, 2002
By Howard Garrett

Q. We recently had some Crape myrtles planted. The nursery told us to sprinkle Epsom salts on the ground around the base of the tree. What do you think? – D.D., Dallas

A. That’s an ok technique as part of your overall organic program. Epsom salts is magnesium sulfate and our soils here in North Texas are general deficient in magnesium and sulfur. The product sul-po-mag (sulfur, potassium and magnesium) is the natural alternative to the soluble Epsom salts.

Q. Is the black powdery stuff on crape myrtles “powdery mildew”? My trees have gotten it for the past 2 years and although the leaves fall off in the fall, and they grow nice new ones, the branches still look affected. How can I keep it from happening again and get the rest of the tree looking healthy? – M.M., Dallas

A. Disease control on problematic crape myrtles starts now. Applying cornmeal to the soil at 2-3 lbs. per 100 square feet and spraying the young foliage with seaweed and potassium bicarbonate is the simple answer. An even more powerful approach is to use the entire Sick Tree Treatment program. Potassium bicarbonate is an important ingredient in the spray program. It can be bought generically or as the commercial product Remedy. Be careful through – there is also a toxic chemical herbicide on the market under the name Remedy.

The Sick Tree Treatment is on my web site at www.dirtdoctor.com. It is also in the free handouts which you can get by calling the toll free number 1-866-444-DIRT (3478) but here’s the shorthand form:
1. Aerate the soil or apply one of the living organism products.

2. Broadcast cornmeal, Texas greensand, lava sand, zeolite and compost.

3. Add cedar – cedar flakes in turf areas and shredded cedar in beds or bare areas.

4. Spray the foliage, limbs, trunk and ground with Garrett Juice plus garlic tea and in this case potassium bicarbonate.

Q. I am a recent convert to the natural way. In your literature, you talk about getting the weeds out before you add compost, green sand, etc. If I just scrape off the weeds, is that enough? Will they still reproduce from the roots? Or will that individual plant come back if I don’t get all the roots? – F.L., Allen, TX

A. Bermuda is the main weed that will continue to return if not removed but even its roots remain. Grasses can only regrow from the stems. Bermuda’s stems are above ground (stolons) and below ground (rhizomes). Annual weeds can be tilled right into the soil with the other amendments.

Q. Any suggestions for crawfish (freshwater lobsters) control in my yard? Shallow water table. Population is increasing based on the number of chimneys. Live in the country. The only thing I’ve found is the chemical Orthene WP and would rather have another solution is available. – B.C.,

A. Of course I don’t recommend any toxic chemical pesticides but Orthene is particularly bad because it is so soluble and zips right through the soil into the water stream. The only solution to your problem is to improve the drainage of the area so the beasts move on.


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