Q: I have about six or seven blackjack oaks with bark falling off. I can't see any bugs. Should I worry about it? J.G., Fort Worth
A: Bark falling off is common and isn't necessarily a sign of trouble. On the other hand, the trees you sent photos of are at least 12 inches too deep in the ground and need to have the trunk flares exposed. This work can be done by homeowners with a power washer or hand tools if you are careful not to injure the bark. The best approach is to hire an arborist to do the work with an air spade or air knife.
Q: I see lots of articles about the benefits of using old coffee and coffee grounds on plants, but is there a similar benefit from using old tea? During the worst of the drought, we were pouring all the old tea into a big pitcher and using it to water some plants.
A: Most tea or coffee will feed the microbes and function as mild organic fertilizer.
Q: What months should I put down organic fertilizer and what kind should I use? H.T., North Richland Hills
A: One of the nice things about the organic program is that it's OK to fertilize any month of the year. The basic schedule is to fertilize as follows: 1. late winter or early spring (January-March); 2. early summer (June); and 3. late summer-early fall (September-October). I use dry molasses, but any natural organic-blend product would be fine.
Q: I would like to plant herbs or flowers underneath my raspberry, blueberry and blackberry vines. I have them in raised beds. Would you recommend any plants that would do well? J.B., Schulenburg
A: You could try peppermint, oregano, comfrey, salad burnet, lemon balm, chili pequin and other peppers. I would recommend trying others also just as an experiment.
Q: What kind of hay is shown in the picture on your website for the walls of the compost pile, and where can I get it? B.G., Fort Worth
A: It is alfalfa, the best choice. Bermuda hay can be contaminated with toxic herbicides. Any feed store should be able to get it for you, although it will probably be expensive. My favorite composter is the Shepherd composter, which is available at the Green Living store and probably some other retailers.