Q: What should a person do to feed and winterize caladiums and elephant ears? Also, is this a good time to put nematodes out for pest control? R.H., Aledo
A: Elephant ears are tough perennials and need little care. Mine have been coming back in the spring for years, and we've been digging around them and remodeling over and over. On the other hand, caladiums have no chance of coming back and should be pulled up and removed to the compost pile.
This is an excellent time to apply beneficial nematodes to control any pests that are active now.
Q: Have you heard of spraying insect growth regulators on the lawn for fleas? We have tried everything, including many applications of nematodes, without help for our two dogs. C.S., Fort Worth
A: It is strange that the nematodes didn't work. The IGRs could be the next step, but what you might try first is the product Comfortis, a monthly flavored tablet for flea protection. It must be purchased from your vet to get the correct dosage. It's a spinosad product that I consider acceptable in an organic program.
Q: My husband and I bought 26 acres about 10 miles east of Pittsburg. I want to plant trees as a screen between our large front yard and the farm-to-market road. My husband likes bald cypress. I do, too, but I would prefer an evergreen screen. Would bald cypress work well in Pittsburg? Do you have any evergreen suggestions? We will retire there in about five years, and I want to get them started now.
A: The choice that will make you both happy is Montezuma cypress. It grows faster than bald cypress, doesn't have the knees that can be a maintenance problem, and it is almost evergreen.
Q: We have been following your organic program for about three years. We use no synthetic fertilizers. Still, our grass turns brown and pulls up easily. Our front yard has had this disease almost every year in the 10 years since we built the house. Since being on the program, the grass looks much better. We have used horticultural corn meal and it does help, but it doesn't ever knock the disease out completely.
S.M., Fort Worth
A: It sounds like you are describing brown patch. Fall is an excellent time to apply about a half-inch layer of compost, and that will help control the disease. It sounds like you are doing everything else right. Make sure the watering has been drastically reduced to correspond with the cooler weather.