Question: I bought a passionflower vine, and it did great for a few days. Then, one morning I went out and the leaves were almost stripped. I picked off a dozen or so of these creatures (shown at right); then that evening there were several more. Now I check it several times a day and there are only one or two periodically. What are they? R.R., Dallas
Answer: They are the Gulf fritillary butterfly larvae and should be protected for when they transform into butterflies.
Question: How do I get rid of Johnson grass without killing my Bermuda? Also, any suggestions on controlling chiggers? J.J., Fort Worth
Answer: Just mow it; Johnson grass will die if kept mowed or grazed low. It wants to grow to be at least 5 inches tall. If what you have is dallisgrass, thatís a different story. Itís a tough perennial that needs to be dug out and the holes filled with compost. It can be spot sprayed and killed with the organic herbicides, but several sprayings are usually needed. Hereís a link to the options: dirtdoctor.com/Organic-Herbicide-Options_vq5339.htm.
Chiggers can be controlled with a light dusting of powdered sulfur if the rate is not over 200 pounds per acre (about 3 to 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet). The herb horsemint is also effective against chiggers.
Question: Our community garden consisting of six raised beds measuring 5x18 feet was inundated with floodwaters from a nearby creek. Debris and gray scum remain and cover the entire area. Would you advise soil sampling to ensure that there is nothing toxic before we start cleanup efforts? K.C., Plano
Answer: Itís a very expensive test if you donít know what chemicals you are looking for. There arenít very many companies that offer the service. The better plan would be to apply the soil detox procedure.
Soil detox for contaminated soil
Digging the soil out and hauling it off is not the answer. That just moves the problem from point A to point B. If your soil has been contaminated from pesticides or petroleum spills, is contaminated with heavy metals like arsenic and chromium in treated lumber or creosote in railroad ties, or with lead and arsenic from iron supplements, the solution is basically the same.
First, stop the contamination.
Second, apply activated charcoal. Itís very fine-textured and must be mixed with water to apply. Fine-textured humates are the next best choice. Zeolite can be applied in granular form if the budget allows.
The next step is to spray and-or drench the problem area with the Garrett Juice solution plus orange oil or D-Limonene at 2 ounces per gallon of mix. Activated charcoal will tie up the contaminants; Garrett Juice and D-Limonene stimulate the microbes to feed on and break down the toxins. Liquid molasses is in the Garrett Juice mix, but adding additional molasses to the Garrett Juice mixture will greatly help the decontamination process. Adding the microbe product called Bio S.I. will speed up the process.
Activated charcoal is widely used to decontaminate soils from a host of toxic compounds.
The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service reports that ďactivated charcoal is the universal absorbing material for most pesticides.Ē Many golf courses use activated charcoal just for those unforeseen emergencies when fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, miticides and other disease-control products are overused. Many agricultural growers use activated charcoal to decontaminate soils after heavy spraying of pesticides and fungicides, prior to reseeding, and many gardeners and homeowners use charcoal for localized soil contamination.
Question: Last summer my raised bed garden was a success. I started in January with a variety of sweet peppers; all plants did very well with their transplants outdoors.
This year I bought squash, eggplant and tomatoes from a local nursery. Within three weeks they were thriving, even in our wet weather. Suddenly the plants looked anemic, with mottled leaves, and then they died. It was spider mites. I began spraying Garrett Juice, and then noticed fine webs encasing leaves and stems. I applied more Garrett Juice, rosemary and an organic copper fungicide. Nothing helped. I threw out a couple of plants. Desperately, I dusted with diatomaceous earth, and only patio sugar ants went away. Then I used Sevin Dust. Not one thing is stopping them. Is it an absolute lost cause? B.W., Dallas
Answer: Spider mites attack when plants arenít able to properly take up water. The heavy rains and saturated soil have caused the problem. Assuming the beds are prepared well, drenching the soil with hydrogen peroxide will help, but replanting might be needed. Try to avoid the copper products as well as Sevin. Itís one of the most toxic products still on the market. The spinosad product called Captain Jackís Deadbug Brew is excellent and worth a try.