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Cornmeal, corn gluten meal have their place

QUESTION: How often should I use cornmeal, corn gluten meal and molasses on my yard?  D.T., Lancaster

ANSWER: It depends on what you are trying to do. Cornmeal is a natural disease control and should be applied as needed at a rate of 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Corn gluten meal is a strong organic fertilizer and a natural pre-emergent weed control. It can be used as an organic fertilizer at any time of year. It functions as a herbicide only when applied at a rate of 15 to 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet before weed seeds germinate. For winter weeds, the timing usually is Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. To control summer weeds such as crab grass and grass burs, the time to apply usually is Feb. 15 through March 15.

Molasses can be applied in liquid form at a rate of 1 to 2 ounces per gallon of water when foliar feeding is done. Liquid molasses also can be added to organic pest-control sprays to improve their efficacy. Dry molasses can be used during bed preparation or spread on the surface of planting areas to stimulate beneficial microbes and function as a fertilizer. In most cases, molasses also will deter fire ants.

QUESTION: I have been deployed to Iraq with the military, but I hope to return home on leave in February. My wife would like to plant blueberries. Which variety would be best in our area?  C.C., Cedar Hill

ANSWER: Blueberries will be hard to grow in Cedar Hill. Most of the soil there is alkaline, and blueberries don’t like alkaline soil. They need sandy, acidic soil to be productive. Creating raised beds that have acidic soil is easy, but water quality is another issue.

Prepare raised beds or potting soil for large containers by mixing the following ingredients. First, forget the peat moss that many people recommend. Instead, start with a base of at least 60 percent high-quality compost. An additional 30 percent of the soil mix should be a blend of rock minerals that contains equal amounts of lava sand, greensand, expanded shale, decomposed granite and zeolite. The final 10 percent of the mixture should contain coffee grounds, alfalfa meal and a gentle organic fertilizer.  Adding a mycorrhizal fungi product also will help.  The potting mixture or bed should be about 14 inches deep.

To improve your water, filter it and add apple cider vinegar at a rate of 1 to 2 tablespoons per gallon of water. Catching rainwater and using it is even better. Add 1 tablespoon of Garrett Juice per gallon of water every other time you water.

For additional acidity, 1 ounce of apple cider vinegar can be added to each gallon of water as needed.

Black highbush blueberry (Vaccinium fuscatum ’‘Aiton’) and highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) are native to Texas. The USDA’s Plants Profile shows that blueberries grow naturally in a few counties in East Texas where the soil is sandy and acidic. Other varieties worth trying are rabbiteye blueberries such as ’‘Climax’, ’‘Brightwell’ and ’‘Triblue’.

If blueberries sound like too much trouble, try blackberries, pomegranates, figs or jujubes instead. They do well with normal organic bed preparation and tap water.

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