TX Organic Research Center



Compost Tumblers, Wasps, Leyland Cypress, Mistletoe, Railroad Ties, Caladiums
March 29, 2002
By Howard Garrett

Q. I like the compost tumblers. They look like they are right down the organic alley. Please let me know what you think. – T.D., Dallas

A. They aren’t necessary unless you have limited space. Just make a pile on the ground. Containers limit the volume of the raw materials and the resulting finished compost. Remember that raw organic material shrinks by about 70% as it decomposes into humus-rich compost. That’s why some compost companies sell it before it has completely broken down. More volume – more profit.

Q. I know that you generally are a “live and let live” advocate but we have a problem. We have a small farm in East Texas that has an infestation of red paper wasps that are very aggressive and will go out of their way to sting any one that comes near! Our grandchildren can’t even go outside because of these pests. Can you give me any ideas on how to get them to move on? – B.H., East Texas

A. The orange oil or d-limonene products can be sprayed to repel or kill the wasps if absolutely necessary. Spray near the wasps to repel them or directly on the wasps to kill them. All wasps are beneficial because they eat worms like webworms, tent caterpillars, loopers, green worms, and other pest larvae of moths. Spray to kill only as a last resort.

Q. I planted three 4 foot tall leyland cypress three years ago. They have done very well up until now. I lost the top half of one and they each are getting brown rust limbs throughout mostly the top half of the tree. – J.L.R., Dallas

A. I like Leyland cypress but it has a fatal flaw. It’s an introduced plant that is not that comfortable with our climate and soil. Too much water and inadequate drainage will cause severe problems. Synthetic fertilizers and toxic pesticides make the situation worse. The solution is the Sick Tree Treatment followed by a total organic program, improved drainage and carefully managed irrigation.

Q. We recently moved and have four very tall old trees in our yard and two are full of mistletoe. It would be too expensive to have it cut out. Any other ideas? –S.N., Dallas
A. Trim as much of the mistletoe out as you can and apply The Sick Tree Treatment to the soil. You don’t have to do it all at one time, just as the budget allows. If the trees are too far gone they will slowly die, probably not all at once. Then they can be removed as necessary.

Q. I am interested in building a raised vegetable garden from used crossties. I am concerned about the potential of some of the chemical treatments in the crosstie affecting the soil and the vegetables. Is there a way to solve this or should I use another border? –R.F., Dallas

A. Railroad ties should never be used, especially around food crops. For safer, better looking and much longer lasting wall material, use natural stone, poured concrete, or concrete blocks. Hadite blocks can be used with the holes running vertically which allows them to be filled with lava sand. The lava holds the blocks in place better, keeps the wall moist and cooler, and provides paramagnetic energy.

Q. When can you plant caladiums in an organic garden? I was told not to plant them until May because of freeze danger. Is this correct? I have bought about 200 bulbs and will not be here to plant them in May. The directions indicate they should be planted two or three inches deep and I am soaking them overnight in liquid seaweed and will plant about one inch deeper than recommended – S.J., Colleyville
A. Planting them too early before the soil starts to warm and deeper than recommended will probably cause them to rot in the ground. Caladiums should be planted just under the surface of the soil. I usually plant some in April and a second round of them in May or early June. You may need to get someone to help.

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