About four years ago, we hired an arborist to construct a stone tree-surround around a mature maple tree. In order to place the stones while building it, he did extensive chopping on the tree's roots. He assured us that this would not damage the tree. Before construction, the tree always leafed out well in the spring. For the past four years, however, it has been puny and is thinly leafed. Other maples in the area are thick with foliage, but ours is a shadow of its former self. What do you think? A.D., Dallas
ANSWER: You need a different arborist. Cutting the roots hurt the tree. I can give you more advice if you send photos, but you definitely need to follow my Sick Tree Treatment. It is explained on my Web site. (See Resources.) If soil was added during this project, it should be removed because it would be as damaging to the tree as cutting the roots.
QUESTION: I'd like your opinion of this method for getting rid of mole crickets: Pour a mixture of dishwashing liquid and water over the lawn.Within seconds, the crickets will come out of the ground. M.B., Dallas
ANSWER: That's not a bad idea for a one-time treatment, but applying soap or detergent on a regular basis will hurt beneficial microbes in the soil. When the crickets are on the surface, they can be killed with a spray of orange oil.
QUESTION: When I find a product with the Organic Materials Review Institute symbol on it, is that assurance of a good product for my garden? R.B., Tyler
ANSWER: Products with the OMRI seal usually are good products and are acceptable for an organic program. I also have a list of good organic products on my Web site under the Research Center section.
QUESTION: We recently lost one Scottish terrier to bladder cancer, and our other Scottie has just been diagnosed with cancer. I did research online and discovered that Scotties genetically are at high risk for bladder cancer, and they are seven times more likely to develop it if they are exposed to pesticides. We are about to buy a new house, and we look forward to getting another dog. We also have a 19-month-old child. How can I remove chemicals from the yard and soil? K.W., Dallas
ANSWER: There are basically two ways to go. One way is to go cold turkey. Quit using chemicals and begin an organic program. Apply zeolite at a rate of 50 pounds per 1,000 square feet, then add dry molasses at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet and then make the year's first organic fertilizer application, unless you have already done that. The second major annual feeding will be in early June; the third and last is in the fall. Beneficial microbes from the organic amendments will slowly neutralize toxic chemicals in the soil. The other approach is to apply an activated carbon product called Gro-Safe, which is made by Norit. This fine-textured material is mixed with water and sprayed. It immediately ties up toxins. Then the organic amendments described above should be applied. Gro-Safe can be difficult for consumers to buy, but some organic lawn contractors apply the product, which is a good idea because it is messy.