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Citrus Peelings, Compost Pile, Railroad Ties, Horticultural Cornmeal

Q. You recommend using citrus pulp to control nematodes in Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening. How much do you recommend per 1,000 square feet? How often should I treat my soil? Will citrus pulp kill my earthworms? ’– R.R.C., Coahoma, TX

A. You probably have been saving all the citrus peelings (orange, grapefruit, lemons and limes). Frozen in plastic bags is my technique. Just before planting the crops subject to root knot nematodes, grind the frozen peelings into a pulp and mix into the soil at the rate of about 50 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. If you don’t have enough pulp for this rate, less pulp will work to some extent to keep the roots clean and productive.

Q1. Our compost pile very rarely (if ever) gets turned. It’s only 2 years old, but we’ve not really been able to use any of it. We do keep adding, though. Turning it really is important, isn’t it?

A1. Turning just speeds the process and exposes all the ingredients to the microbes that convert organic material to humus. Your pile will turn into usable compost if you never turn it. The material in the bottom of a two year old pile should be ready to use.

Q2. What uses, if any, are there for sawdust from milled lumber? I know a free supply if it’s any good for anything.

A2. Sawdust from milling is an excellent carbon source for the compost pile. It should be mixed with nitrogen materials like green plants, manure and organic fertilizers. Just make sure the wood isn’t chemically treated.

Q3. I heard you talk about the dangers of veggie gardening around railroad ties. I can’t believe I never thought about the stuff on them. Mine are now 2 years old. I’ve had 2 veggie gardens there. So far we are still alive but I’ll switch to something else if they are still soaking into the ground. Please let me know.

A3. Get rid of the treated wood ASAP and treat the soil with zeolite at about 50 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. and drench the soil with Garrett Juice plus molasses and orange oil, each at 2 ounces per gallon of drench. Then just use the Basic Organic Program.

Q4. Is it too late to put some kind of cover crop, layer of leaves or something on my garden spot? It’s 8’ X 16’. ’– K.C., Graham, TX
A4. Mulch can be applied to cover bare soil anytime. Cool season cover crops like clover, vetch, oats and elbon rye are best planted in the fall. Summer cover crops like buckwheat and black-eyed peas can be planted in April when the soil warms up.

Q. I’ve heard you mention horticultural cornmeal. We cannot find it here so can you use the cornmeal that you buy in the grocery stores? Also, what can you use in place of the dry molasses? ’– F.N.H., Piney Woods of East Texas

A. Most feed stores have cornmeal available in larger bags than grocery stores have. They also should have the dry molasses because it is primarily an animal feed product. If that fails, buy Aunt Jemima cornmeal and the darkest liquid molasses from the grocery store. Aunt Jemima is the cornmeal that worked the best for Joe McFarland and his staff at the Stephenville A&M Research Center. They are the research team that discovered the fungal fighting properties of cornmeal. In their field trials and lab work, cornmeal controlled a problem fungus that had long plagued peanut crops. Apply the cornmeal to the soil for fungal diseases control at 10-20 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. or 400-800 lbs. per acre. Spray the liquid molasses at about an ounce per 1,000 sq. ft. or about 1 gallon per acre.

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