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Dallas Morning News - April 28, 2016

Q.  You’ll be happy to know that the Minneapolis City Council just banned the use of Roundup by its parks department. J. R. Dallas, TX

A.  Great news! Maybe DFW next.

Q.  Would you help me identify these plants that grow prolifically on my organic farm? Thank you in advance.  D. S. Hillsboro, TX
A.  The ferny looking plant is some sort of yarrow, probably the white wildflower. The weedy plant is probably field madder. See WEEDS in the Library of There you will find a master list of all the most common weeds. The mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of some kind of fungus. It might be mycorrhizal fungus that is very beneficial but it's hard to tell from the photo. Whatever kind of fungus it is, don't worry. No damage being done. On the other hand, don't eat it!

Q. Thanks to you I've dumped the synthetic herbicides, etc. I got a grapevine that has produced an amazing amount of grapes before. This year I noticed some type of bugs on the very top of it, see attached. Hopefully you'll be able to tell me what it is and how I can protect the grapevine if the bugs are bad for it.  A. T. Arlington, TX
A.  Depends on what the "bugs" are. Aphids often hit the new growth of plants in the spring as the weather change creates a mild stress in the plants. If that's the case, nothing needs to be done because the native ladybugs and lacewings will probably clean up things for you. Plus, you don't want to spray any killing pesticides if the beneficials are present. Even things as mild as soaps will damage the good guys. If you aren't sure, spraying Garrett Juice with garlic added will serve as a repellent and won't hurt the beneficials. 

Q.  Found an infestation of yellow jackets and wasps in the backyard. Is there an organic way to kill them and keep them away?  E. B. Millington, TN
A.  While wasps are foraging in plants, they are rarely ever aggressive even if you bump into them. On the other hand, if you threaten their nests or lives they will be aggressive and certain wasps like the Texas yellowjacket, can be very dangerous. The best way to prevent them from building nests on structures is to paint the underside of eaves and porches haint blue. It's not a kind of paint, just the color. Pretty much any blue shade works but the two paint chips that we show in the Library of seem to work the best. It's amazing how clean the edges of structures stay when this technique is used. If it's a serious issue, avoid wearing bright colored clothing and don't ever wear perfumes or any sweet smelling skin treatments. Wasps can be killed with any of the essential oil products but I don’t recommend it.

Q.  Would using some additional fertilizer be a solution for holly bushes that have thinned out because they are growing in a more shaded area? And if so, would this also work for lawns that are in a shady environment? My 30 year old Shumard red oak has thrived over the years, but now it really is blocking a lot of sun from reaching my lawn and dwarf burford holly bushes. Thanks for your advice. J. J. Irving, TX
A.  It might help a little bit with the hollies but not with the turf. Grass needs sunlight. In the shade under trees, the approach has to be groundcovers, ferns and other shade loving perennials and shrubs. Mulches and other hard surface materials such as decomposed granite can be used in concert with the plants for walkways, sitting areas and just contrasting textures and colors.

Q.  I have a total of 266q ft. of raised beds. I feel I might be using too much Garret Juice Pro. Can you help me use the correct amount for this amount of square footage? The bottle says 2 oz will cover 1200 sq ft. I have a 2 gallon hand pump sprayer. Also it says to use 4 oz for soil drench. Can you help me with how to apply it correctly and at the right dosage?  A. S. Denton, TX
A.  Applying the Garrett Juice at about 2-4 ounces in a gallon of water per 1000 sq. ft. is about right. Sprayers can be used but I often use a big watering can and walk around fast sloshing it out. One of the many advantages of the organic approach is that a little too much or too little is usually no problem at all. In your case, I would use 2 oz. of Garrett Juice and sprinkle out the entire gallon of mix. This won't be too strong and the plants will love it.

Q.  What can I do this year about the lower leaves of my tomatoes turning yellow down low, moving up the plants and eventually ruining the fruit  production? C.R. Dallas, TX
A.  This is the most common question about tomatoes because everyone's tomatoes develop this fungal disease. It's just a matter of when it hits and how fast and severe it gets worse and spreads. It's commonly called "early blight". A major part of prevention is to select tough varieties to start. Some of my favorites include SuperFantastic, Juliet, the cherry tomatoes and the wild current tomatoes. All of my recommendations are covered in the Organic Vegetable Gardening book that Malcolm Beck and I wrote. Next, the beds must be prepared well. Not only are tomatoes susceptible to this and other diseases, they are also heavy feeders. Apply at least 3" of compost to the native soil and the following amendments per 100 sq. ft. - 5 lbs. of lava sand, 4 lbs. of greensand, 2 lbs. of dry molasses and 2 lbs. of whole ground cornmeal. Apply dry granulated garlic also. Use about 2 lbs per 100 sq. ft. There now is a commercial product under the Good Natured name that contains the mix of cornmeal and garlic. The garlic is important. It is systemic and moves through the plants after being picked up by the roots. This mixture also stimulates the growth of several beneficial soil microbes such as trichoderma that help control the pathogens. A dry granulated fertilizer should be used about once a month. Alfalfa meal by itself or in commercial blends can be used. Garrett Juice should be sprayed regularly, every two weeks at least, and it should be drenched into the soil with mycorrhizal fungus. The Garrett Juice Pro product has the microbes in the product if you don't want to make your own mix. If you do want to make your own, here the formula:

1 gallon of water, 1cup of compost tea or liquid humate, 1 oz. each of liquid molasses, liquid seaweed and apple cider vinegar. The vinegar is probably the most important ingredient because of its available trace minerals and because of its ability to help other nutrients get into the plants. 
The curatives that can be used once the disease is active on the plants includes these: cornmeal tea made by soaking a cup of whole ground cornmeal in 5 gallons of water, hydrogen peroxide and fancy soap products such as BioSafe and BioWash.

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