Q: I have attached a picture of what appears to be galls on my live oak tree. Can you determine if they are actually galls and whether they will impact the structural integrity of the limbs? M.S., Dallas
A: These are galls but they won’t injure the tree unless they become so heavy in the tree that sunlight is blocked and photosynthesis is negatively affected. Heavy infestations are a clear sign of stress, which needs to be addressed. I would consider your tree’s gall level heavy. What’s needed is the Sick Tree Treatment, which is explained under “Organic Guides” on my website.
Q: Is it OK to spray the vinegar, orange oil and soap mix on top of my Bermuda lawn? I can’t even see any grass for the weeds. D.H., Arlington
A: Spraying the entire lawn right now to control the winter weeds is perfect timing. The summer grasses won’t be hurt and the small cool-season weeds will be killed easily. Although you may see some green still in Bermuda and St. Augustine lawns, the plants are dormant; the spray will turn the grass brown and dry, just as a sustained hard freeze will. Use full-strength 10 percent white vinegar and add 1 ounce of orange oil and 1 tablespoon of liquid soap.
Q: I have read that apple cider vinegar is a good hair rinse. Is this true? M.M., New Braunfels
A: Vinegar is very good for the skin as well as the hair. It also gets rid of soap residue and eliminates head lice problems for children. I rinse with straight, organic, apple cider vinegar at the end of my shower.
Q: The price of black-oil sunflower seed is expensive for 50 pounds. We have been feeding the birds for 10 years. My husband wants to quit. Can we add chicken scratch to the black-oil sunflower seed? P.Z., Fort Worth
A: Cutting the more expensive bird feeds with chicken scratch would save money and would not hurt the birds, but the colorful songbirds won’t be that interested. I guess it might be worth a try, but the main problem is that there are lots of seeds in nature right now to choose over the ingredients of hen scratch. My best advice would be to spend some of your budget adding plants that attract birds; that’s just a one-time expense.
Here are some of the best trees, shrubs, vines, annuals and perennials for attracting birds and other interesting and helpful animals to the garden:
TREES: Ashes, oaks, hackberry, service berry, hawthorn, persimmon, deciduous yaupon, crabapple, elderberry, Eastern red cedar, madrone, scarlet buckeye, flowering dogwood, magnolia, mulberry, rusty blackhaw viburnum, wax myrtle and all fruit trees
SHRUBS: Agarita, American beautyberry, rough-leaf dogwood, abelia, winter honeysuckle, roses, winged euonymus, Carolina buckthorn, hollies, leather-leaf mahonia, sumacs and Chinese photinia
VINES: Cypress vine, coral vine, cross vine, coral honeysuckle, Virginia creeper, grapes and Carolina snailseed
PERENNIALS: Turk’s cap, elderberry, currant, salvia, lantana, monarda, purple coneflower, mullein and chili pequin
ANNUALS: Asters, cosmos, sunflowers, scarlet sage, nasturtium and hibiscus