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Cure for Dinged-Up Lawn 9-22-06

QUESTION: I'm trying to convert to organic gardening. My lawn is in fairly good shape, given the drought, but it has some bald spots and soil cracks. Is it a good idea to put compost and shale in the cracks and compost and organic fertilizer on the bald spots? L.H., Wylie

ANSWER: Yes, that would be a good start, and this is an excellent time to do it. I would spread all three products over the entire property. Apply expanded shale at a rate of 100 pounds per 1,000 square feet, spread compost 2 inches deep, and apply organic fertilizer at a rate of 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. But don't try to fill all the cracks.

QUESTION: My broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage have fat roots. I don't have a lot of space, so I rotate crops every second year. The plants often die before they mature because of the root problem. Is there anything I can put into the soil to prevent this? This has been going on for years. S.S., Aledo

ANSWER: I assume the problem you are talking about is root knot nematodes.One of the best remedies is to work ground-up orange peelings into the soil before planting. An overall organic program will help long-term. Drenching the soil with Garrett Juice also will help. (See Resources to obtain instructions.) Keep the current plants as healthy as possible by drenching the roots weekly with compost tea.

QUESTION: I have a friend who killed his St. Augustine grass by using the wrong fertilizer. What steps should he take to repair this, or should he just start over? S.V., Fort Worth

ANSWER: The best approach is to apply GroSafe, which is produced by Norit.This activated-carbon product will immediately lock up the toxins. Short of that, apply zeolite at a rate of about 40 pounds per 1,000 square feet. I would take these steps even if replanting is done. Next, follow an organic program.

QUESTION: We have a problem with roaches. Bugs have never bothered me before, but these things are everywhere and we can't figure out how to get rid of them without using poison. We have lots of trees, and the roaches seem to love the bed of fallen leaves and the moisture around the bases of the trees. We had an exterminator come out, and he said we should get rid of the leaves and begin a vigorous attack on the bugs. Is there a natural way to get rid of roaches? R.D., Flower Mound

ANSWER: Getting rid of the leaves is not a good plan. Baits made of 50 percent sugar and 50 percent Arm & Hammer laundry detergent work well. Abamectin is good, too. It is the active ingredient in a variety of pesticides. Using orange oil sprays and dusting natural diatomaceous earth around the bases of doors and windows also will help.

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