TX Organic Research Center



Azalea beds may be incorrectly done
May 31, 2008
By Howard Garrett

QUESTION: I have more than 50 Encore azaleas that are about 3 or 4 feet tall. Six of them have yellowing new leaves, and one has new leaves that are white. Is the problem a lack of iron? What should I do? E.B., Coppell

ANSWER: I hope the beds were prepared correctly when the azaleas were planted. Azaleas should be planted in 100 percent (or close to it) organic material ó such as a mixture of compost, cedar flakes and other amendments ó with little to no garden soil. If your azaleas were not planted this way, they should be lifted and replanted correctly. Azaleas also need excellent drainage. If the soil and drainage are good, add greensand, dry molasses and products that contain mycorrhizal fungi. All of these products will have application information on the packages.

During hard rains, earthworms slither into my swimming pool and commit suicide. I have to use a skimmer to scoop them out of the pool. Iíve tried poking holes in the soil so the rain will soak in better, and Iíve called a pest-control company. The hole poking didnít work, and the pest-control company says it has no pesticide to kill earthworms. How can I get rid of these nasty creatures? F.S., Dallas

ANSWER: First, earthworms arenít ďnasty creatures.Ē They are one of the most beneficial organisms on Earth. Plants grow better in the presence of earthworms because the worms loosen and aerate the soil with their movements and fertilize it with their waste, or castings.
And these are just a few of the benefits.

People have wondered for years why earthworms appear to commit suicide by crawling onto pavement or into swimming pools. I think the best theory is that vibrations disturb the worms. The mass suicides related to rain probably are caused by the vibrations of thunder and lightning, and there probably is no way to stop this behavior.

What is causing large circular patches of dead-looking grass in our lawn, and what should we do? The lawn is mostly St. Augustine with some Bermuda grass. R.K., Dallas

ANSWER: Itís probably brown patch, a fungal disease that attacks grass that has been fertilized too heavily or with the wrong type of product, that drains poorly or that is overwatered. Correct the problems that apply and then spread horticultural cornmeal at a rate of 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Spray the turf with Soil Mender Plant Wash following the label directions.

QUESTION: We have large post oaks that have been dying of hypoxylon canker. We were told that there is no treatment for this disease. Do you agree? J.R., Double Oak

ANSWER: The fungal disease hypoxylon canker kills trees, but it is not the primary culprit. It simply finishes off sick trees. Trees weaken due to old age, bad soil, soil grade changes, physical injuries, exposure to herbicides and other chemicals, etc. After trees are in stress, Mother Nature sends in the cleanup crew: insects and diseases. Then, the Grim Reaper enters in the form of hypoxylon canker. If a treeís root system hasnít been damaged too much, you can use my Sick Tree Treatment to restore its health.

QUESTION: I read about a Tabasco pepper sauce-and-water mixture for repelling rabbits. I have tried commercially prepared products, but each year rabbits chew up my garden. I have several specific questions:

* Can I spray this mixture on tomato plants?

* Is there any vegetable that it cannot be sprayed on?

* Does it hinder plant growth?

* Does it change the taste of vegetables?

T.Y., Lewisville

ANSWER: It can safely be sprayed on any plants and doesnít stunt their growth. If any taste is added, it would be for the better. Tabasco sauce is made of peppers, vinegar and salt (www.tabasco.com).

Gardeners have reported mixed results when using a spray made with 1 ounce of Tabasco sauce per gallon of water.

You also may want to try a commercial product called Rabbit Scram (www.rabbitscram.com).



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