TX Organic Research Center



An unwelcome bug is eating ornamental plants
May 05, 2012
By Howard Garrett

Q:  My oregano has been growing here since we bought this house seven years ago. This is the first time I have seen these leaf spots. I looked on your site for black spot and could not determine if it was the same disease. I assume the treatment would be the same as for roses? S.S., Fort Worth

A:  Your unwelcome guest is the four-lined plant bug. An interesting thing about the four-lined plant bug is that the leaf damage looks more like a disease than insects. Adding garlic oil to the foliar feeding program works well as a repellent, or use one of the essential oil products such as Earth Harvest Essential 1, Avenger Bug/Insect Killer or Nature-Cide. Two ounces of orange oil mixed in the Garrett Juice formula also will work.


Q:  Do you know of any solution to eliminate Johnson grass from a Bermuda lawn? Also, I have daylilies planted around two trees that looked great last year, but are slumped over now and produce no flowers. They are still green, but wonít stand up. Any thoughts on what could be wrong?  J.T., Waco

A:  Johnson grass is easily killed by mowing it. If that isnít working, you probably have dallisgrass. The best way to kill it is to dig it out and toss compost into the hole, pulling out the roots left. The daylilies probably are suffering from lack of sunlight.


Q:  Our neighbors have a live oak in the backyard that overhangs our yard. I canít stand the trees for the mess they make two times a year. We trim as much as we can to curb the debris, but to little avail. The worst part is the shoots from the roots that have come up on our side. We have dug and dug to kill the roots, but every year they come back to choke out our flower bed. What can we do? I.D., Dallas

A:  All you can about the root sprouts is keep cutting them off. There is nothing that can be done about the flowers, acorns and leaves except sweep them up and put them in the compost pile.


Q:  This weekend I found lots of little flies in a compost canister, which I think are fruit flies. Are they beneficial to breaking down the compost or should they not be in there? I also found ants. I am putting mulched oak leaves in with the compost, but am I not putting in enough? I put in some dry molasses to drive away the ants.In another bucket I found what look like maggots, because we have been putting dog excrement in there. I am not fond of that either since they all flew out when I opened it. Is there a way to prevent that? M.J., Dallas

A:  The segmented maggots are the larvae of the black soldier fly, which is a very beneficial insect that looks like a blackish-blue wasp. The fruit flies or gnats are after the rotting fruit. Adding dry material (leaves, sawdust, cardboard, etc.) is the solution to both, because they like wet material.


Q:  I would like to plant herbs or flowers underneath my raspberry, blueberry and blackberry bushes in raised beds. Would you recommend any plants that would do well? R.L., Schulenburg

A:  You could try peppermint, oregano, comfrey, salad burnet, lemon balm, chili pequin and other peppers. I would recommend trying others just as an experiment. Herb transplants are very inexpensive and will be fun to try to grow.


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