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Hand-pollinate to help squash along
November 13, 2014
By by Howard Garrett

Question: We planted butternut squash in late August. The plants are very healthy, with large leaves and vines extending 8 to 9 feet. We had a lot of squash bugs in our garden in early summer, and they destroyed the squash crops, but there is no evidence of squash bugs anywhere now. Unfortunately, the first three squash fruits on the plants turned brown and shriveled up when they got about 3 inches long. Prior to that, they looked normal. We still have smaller squashes on the plant. What might we try to allow these fruits to mature? D.G., Dallas

Answer: It may be a pollination problem. Here's how to hand-pollinate any of the squash plants. Take the male flower, peel the petals back and daub the center parts on the female flowers that are still attached to the plant. Female flowers are the ones that have the swollen structures behind the flowers. If the problem is fungal, add hydrogen peroxide to your Garrett Juice spray. Replace 16 ounces of the 1 gallon of water in the recipe with drugstore hydrogen peroxide.

Question: When we built our house nine years ago, we paid extra to get St. Augustine grass. In our backyard, with the drought-induced watering restrictions, Bermuda grass has started taking over. Is there something I can apply to get my St. Augustine grass back, or do I need to dig up the Bermuda and sod with St. Augustine in the spring? S.T., Garland

Answer: St. Augustine does require more water so the Bermuda might be a better choice. Anything you apply to help the St. Augustine will also benefit the Bermuda. That means removing it and sodding is the only way to get back to the solid turf you want. But ask yourself how long the drought or watering restrictions might last and whether the Bermuda might make incursions again.

Question: I have a Bermuda lawn that I have kept at 21/2 inches with a mulching mower all season long. Why do you recommend lowering the mowing setting for the fall and winter season? What setting should I set the mower to?  B.B., Grand Prairie

Answer: I don't recommend lowering the cutting height in the fall. Keeping the same cutting height year-round is the simplest and most practical approach.

Question: I just planted two flowering sennas. I soaked them in liquid seaweed for two days because they were really dry. After I got them in the ground, about a week later the leaves on the lower part of the plant are yellowing. The soil in my yard is mostly limestone. D.S., Lake Whitney

Answer: It sounds like the soaking may have been too long. Hopefully the plants will come back. Next time, just soak the roots for a few minutes or until they are saturated.

Question: A friend has given me two paulownia trees for planting. She lives in Minnesota. The trees are about 8 to 12 inches tall and have already dropped their leaves. They are supposed to be fast-growing trees. I am wondering if this is a tree that you recommend and if you have any special instructions that would be helpful .B.L., Streetman

Answer: It's a pretty cool tree for an introduced and fairly invasive plant. Following the basic planting instructions is the right approach. The tree is easy to grow. Look for more information about it on my website by searching for royal paulownia.

Question: I have a weed that is taking over my yard. It seems to be everywhere in the community as well. They have tiny pinwheel flowers and are low to the ground.R.D., Plano

Answer: What you have is a native aster, or what some call roadside aster. Enjoy the flowers now and control it long term by improving the soil with the organic program. It is a classic indicator weed that can be killed with kindness.

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