After all the rain this year, we have scores of small mushrooms growing in our yard. What soil conditions cause the outbreak of mushrooms, and are they harmful to the lawn? Does the soil need an additive to correct an imbalance of some mineral? S.D., Dallas
ANSWER: Mushrooms grow because there is decaying organic matter in the soil. Extra moisture amplifies the growth. These fruiting bodies of fungi are harmless and beneficial.
If you feel you must kill them, you can use an organic disease-control spray such as a solution of 1 rounded tablespoon of baking soda and a gallon of water.
QUESTION: We have a shaded flower bed where we planted English ivy two years ago. It is not doing well. If we add Persian ivy, what will the results be? L.T., Granbury
ANSWER: I have planted Persian ivy in the same beds as English ivy, and it is thriving and taking over. That's a good plan.
QUESTION: My red-tip photinias are dying. I've been told by a nursery that excessive rain is the culprit. But why are only a few of the shrubs turning brown? I took foliage samples to the nursery and was told that it is not a fungus. M.R., Springtown
ANSWER: You need another nursery. The fungus is in the soil working on the roots. Later, symptoms move to the leaves. This is a widespread problem with photinias. The solution is to use my Sick Tree Treatment, which can save red-tip photinias. Too much water and poor drainage encourage the fungus, so these conditions need to be corrected, too.
QUESTION: I have a live oak that is dropping about a hundred or more leaves each day. The leaves have turned brown and have dark spots on them. Quite a few lower branches have no leaves and look as if they are dead. What do you recommend? M.W., Dallas
ANSWER: Hot weather after a long wet spring is causing defoliation. This is very common, and the solution for most live oaks is to relax and do nothing. My Sick Tree Treatment helps all trees if you have the time and budget to use it.
QUESTION: Our pecan trees are loaded with huge pecans, and the limbs are breaking. The leaves on the broken limbs are still green, so will the pecans survive and ripen?C.B., Lampasas
ANSWER: This spring's rains caused heavy nut production. Overloaded limbs can be propped up, but that's a lot of trouble. Pecans on broken limbs probably won't mature.
Most folks do some pruning to relieve weight on important limbs, or they wait and do corrective pruning after breakage occurs.
QUESTION: Last year, during the drought, a family of small lizards moved into our yard. We have glue boards in our garage to catch mice. Last summer, we started catching lizards on the boards, and then we started catching small snakes that were trying to eat the lizards. Some of the snakes are garden snakes, but some look ominous. What can we do to discourage the lizards so that the snakes go away? J.A., McKinney
ANSWER: The lizards and the snakes are beneficial and help control pests. Lizards should be protected, and only poisonous snakes such as coral snakes, rattlesnakes and water moccasins should be killed. You'll find good information about snakes on the Internet and in books by Texas authors.
QUESTION: Besides the Eldarica pine, which pines do you suggest for West Texas?
ANSWER: Eldarica pines do well in West Texas. The trees need low rainfall and little irrigation. Another good choice is the Italian stone pine.