TX Organic Research Center



Caladiums don't do encores
October 17, 2003
By Howard Garrett

Caladiums don't do encores

Question: Can I leave caladium bulbs in the ground, cover them with lots of mulch and have them grow successfully next spring?

J.M., Richardson

Answer: I wouldn't recommend it. Caladium bulbs left in the ground will rot or freeze. Digging them and storing is also not recommended. Better to plant new bulbs each summer.

Question: Do you have any information on natural herbicides?

D.E., Dallas

Answer: Strong vinegars used full strength work well as nonselective contact killers for unwanted vegetation. Use 10 percent (100 grain), which is usually sold as pickling vinegar, with an ounce of orange oil and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap per gallon of mixture. Corn gluten meal is a powerful natural weed-and-feed that must be applied before weed seeds germinate. Balancing the chemistry in the soil controls many noxious weeds. There's more information about this topic on my Web site, www.dirtdoctor.com.

Question: I used to live in Dallas but now live in Colorado. On a recent business trip to Omaha, Neb., I saw horse apples, or Osage oranges, being sold for $1.50 apiece as insect repellents. The claim is that you can cut one in half and stick it anywhere roaches or spiders congregate and, voilà! no more bugs.

Is there any truth to this? Is this a new addition to natural techniques? Do I need to start gathering horse apples by the bushel on every trip to Texas?

R.F., Colorado

Answer: I also have received several reports that bois d'arc fruit (horse

apples) repels roaches and other pests. We are trying some at home now as a test. Most people use the entire fruit without cutting it in half. I'm not sure what about it does the repelling.

It's interesting that squirrels aren't repelled by them. They apparently love the taste.

It sounds like a business opportunity for those with lots of bois d'arc trees. In addition, most homeowners with bois d'arcs probably wouldn't mind entrepreneurs cleaning their yards.

Question: I would like to know whether all ginger roots are edible.

M.S., Dallas

Answer: Yes, especially if they have been grown organically. However, some ornamental ginger may not taste very good or have medicinal value.

Most ginger that is specifically grown to produce edible tubers is tropical and freezes easily, so plan to dig up the roots carefully before freezing weather starts.

Ginger not only adds flavor to food but also improves the immune system and can relieve motion sickness.

Question: I have a row of cedars at the front of my property for privacy and as a barrier from a dusty country road. A couple of trees died after I transplanted them.

I am going to move more cedars from other places on my property and was wondering when would be the best time to do this. I remember doing it in early winter last time, but I've been thinking that because they are evergreens, it may not matter. M.T., Dallas

Answer: You were right; planting after the first freeze is the ideal time.

Even though native cedars are tough and well adapted, they have a minor flaw at transplanting time: They need more water than you would guess. Don't overwater, but make sure the trees are thoroughly soaked after planting.

Use natural planting techniques and add a light covering of horticultural cornmeal to the surface of the backfill soil before applying the top-dressing mulch.


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