QUESTION: An elderly friend is having trouble with his tomato plants, which are dying from the bottom. They are brown and dry up to about 3 feet, but they seem to be OK from there up. Also, the top part that looks alive is not producing fruit, but the brown area is. I suspect he did not prepare the soil properly, but he is very proud of the manure he treated the beds with. Could the hot, dry weather have anything to do with it? J.S., Dallas
ANSWER: He may have planted a less-than-adapted variety, but, even with good choices, gardeners fight blight diseases that attack tomato plants' lower leaves. Bed preparation with compost and volcanic sand is critical, and I have found that adding horticultural cornmeal is helpful. Spraying the foliage with cornmeal juice also is beneficial. Adding cornmeal juice to compost tea or my Garrett Juice mix provides foliar feeding and disease control.
QUESTION: The leaves on my okra plants look as if something is eating them. Would garlic-pepper spray help, or soap suds? Something also is eating a hole in my cherry tomatoes, but the leaves appear to be fine. J.P., Little Elm
ANSWER: Garlic-pepper tea is a good insect repellent, but you may have caterpillars. They are active at night, so go out then with a flashlight to look for them. If that is your pest, a Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) product should take care of the problem on both plants. Next year, release trichogramma wasps shortly after planting to control caterpillars.
QUESTION: I've read your articles about boric acid for control of termites, carpenter ants, etc. We will be adding a room to our house soon, and I want to use boric acid in the walls and under the flooring. But I don't know how much to use. N.P., Goldthwaite
ANSWER: Boric acid mixed with natural diatomaceous earth should be dusted lightly into wall cavities and behind appliances. I use a mixture of about 90 percent diatomaceous earth and 10 percent boric acid. Another method is to have a pest-control company spray a borate product on the bare wood before it is covered by construction. This procedure also can be used on the undersides of floors in pier-and-beam houses.
QUESTION: Last fall, I applied too much manure to my garden, and you recommended that I add zeolite as a corrective measure. I followed your suggestion and now have wonderful tomatoes, squash, onions and greens. However, my pole beans are a problem. Many died at the two-leaf stage. Those that survived have small, cupped, leathery and corrugated leaves; the runners have almost no leaves. My okra was suffering but seems to have overcome the problem. I plan to plant black-eyed peas where the beans are. P.H., Ponder
ANSWER: You might try drenching the root zones of the problem plants with Garrett Juice with one extra ingredient. Soak some zeolite in water and pour the milky liquid onto the soil around the plants. This will make the zeolite even more effective.
I frequently see ads for Canada Green grass seed on television. Is it a viable product for shady yards in North Texas? S.A., Dallas
ANSWER: Buy grass and seed from local garden centers and grass companies. Many advertising claims are exaggerated.