TX Organic Research Center



Bamboo, the imperialist threat
November 22, 2006
By Howard Garrett

QUESTION: I want to plant a bamboo grove along my fence, but I don't want it to creep into the neighbors' yards. Do you have any suggestions?  I see that you recommend growing horseradish in bottomless buckets to prevent the plants from spreading. Would this work for bamboo? If so, at what density should they be planted per bucket? R.M., Bryan

ANSWER: That's probably not a good plan. Bamboo will spread even when barriers are provided. Hollies, native cedars and yaupons would be less invasive and more appropriate if you want to use plants as a screen.

I want to do away with cattails in a pond without contaminating the water or a well that is 10 yards away. My cattle drink from the pond, and there are fish in it.  F.T., Brady

ANSWER: The way to get rid of cattails is to deepen the edge of the tank.These plants grow in very shallow water.

QUESTION: I moved my houseplants outside for the summer. What do I do to be sure the plants are free of bugs before I move them back inside? B.H., Dallas

ANSWER: The soil can be drenched with a solution of 1 ounce of orange oil per gallon of water. Compost tea, molasses fire-ant drench or a neem spray are other alternatives.

I applied corn gluten meal to my lawn about two weeks ago. When will it be safe to overseed with rye grass?  M.H., Dallas

ANSWER: You need to wait at least six weeks because corn gluten meal interferes with seed germination. Next year, allow the rye grass to sprout and grow until it is ready for the first mowing before applying corn gluten meal.

QUESTION: I recently bought a house with a yard already landscaped. But I have a problem with the loropetalums, which are dying.  As the shrubs begin to deteriorate, the leaves turn lighter green, then yellow in the middle, then the fringes of the leaves become necrotic and turn a rusty color, then they curl up and fall off. The shrubs were planted in a 4-inch-deep bed of landscape mix on top of the native black clay soil. I'm guessing that the clay is causing drainage issues, but I don't know how to mix the dirt without putting more stress on the plants. I also have a Japanese maple near the loropetalums that has similar leaf symptoms. I have been fighting weeds since I moved here by spraying Ortho weed control products at close range on less windy days. High winds and undeveloped land nearby seem to be major contributors to the weed problem. I sprayed the weeds about three times during the summer. I really hate to see this beautiful landscape die. B.B., Forney

ANSWER: Your black thumb will quickly become green if you stop using chemicals. The product you mentioned contains three toxic herbicides: 2,4-D, MCPP and dicamba. Organic amendments, fertilizers and mulches create healthy soil, help to control weeds and help plants grow properly. The burn on the maple leaf edges may be a result of drought, but the other issues are because of the wrong gardening approach.  Another issue, even more basic, is that the beds should be prepared differently next time. Organic amendments should be forked or tilled into the native clay soil. The planting you described created a pot in the ground. Water standing at the bottom of the new soil and on top of the clay may be keeping the roots wet and encouraging diseases.


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