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Compost is best bet against take-all patch.


QUESTION: I lost part of my St. Augustine lawn to take-all patch. That area was resodded, but I’m seeing the problem again.  Many cures have been suggested: 2 inches of peat moss, cornmeal, molasses, spraying with bleach and water. You name it. Everything except singing to the grass. Please help.  M.T., Arlington

ANSWER: Those are worthless suggestions except for using cornmeal and molasses. The best solution is to apply a 1/2-inch layer of compost to the lawn this fall.

QUESTION: I have a 2 1/2-year-old red oak that has a wound and what I have been told are basidiocarps. I’ve also been told that the tree is dying and should be removed. We staked the tree after a storm slightly bent it this summer.   A nursery employee told me to put molasses at the base of the tree. I thought he was wrong until I read your Web site. Do you think the tree can be saved?  A.S., Spring

ANSWER: Basidiocarps are the fruiting bodies of fungi. In your case, they may be related to rot inside the tree trunk. Applying molasses to the soil throughout the tree’s root zone will help, but you should use my entire Sick Tree Treatment. The cause of the decay could be an old injury to the trunk, lightning damage or circling and girdling roots. Removing excess soil on the tree’s root flare and pruning problem roots is part of the Sick Tree Treatment.

QUESTION: We have puss caterpillars on our hollies, bur oaks and live oaks. I was stung by one that brushed against my finger, which was extremely painful. I sprinkled Sevin dust on the hollies to kill the caterpillars, but I would rather use something organic. K.W., Krum

ANSWER: Puss caterpillars (a.k.a. asps or flannel moth caterpillars) are controlled with the same techniques used for other caterpillars. For the current infestation, spray a Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) product such as Thuricide, Dipel or Bio-Worm. The caterpillars also can be controlled with orange oil products, but these will kill beneficial insects, too. The best long-term solution is to release trichogramma wasps in the spring.

QUESTION: I noticed sticky white spots on several branches of my white crape myrtle. The limbs later turned blackish and were sticky.  D.K., Flower Mound

ANSWER: You have Florida wax scale and sooty mold caused by the waste of scale insects. Spray the tree with Garrett Juice with an ounce of Soil Mender Plant Wash and an ounce of orange oil added to each gallon of spray. Inspect the tree closely before spraying. If there are black ladybugs with red or orange spots, don’t spray. These beneficial insects will help you eliminate the scale insects. Also, to improve the tree’s health, remove excess soil from the root flare.

QUESTION: I planted two Shumard red oaks this year. Our soil is sandy, and we had a short drought. The tree lost its leaves, but we watered it and new leaves emerged. Then the tree appeared to die. Sprouts now are coming up from the tree’s roots. S.P., Brownsboro

ANSWER: It sounds as if the top of the tree died. Select the largest of the basal sprouts to be the start of a new tree, and cut the other sprouts away. This shoot should put on a lot of growth next year.

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