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Dallas Morning News - August 25, 2016

Q.  Howard! How do you get rid of these toadstools in the yard and flowerbeds? Please advise.  B. A. 

A.   Knock them over if you don't like them. Dragging a garden hose over the area is one way. They're just the fruiting bodies of a harmless fungus growing on and rotting some buried organic material in the soil - lumber from construction or dead tree roots. They could also be killed with baking soda or potassium bicarbonate spray at 2 rounded tablespoons per gallon of water, but it’s probably not worth the time.

Q.  Could you tell me the type of caterpillars these are?  Are they damaging?  Should I get rid of them?  They are on my blueberry bushes.  C. C. 
A.  Looks like yellownecked caterpillar. The adult is a brown moth. Definitely a plant eater. Spinosad would do the trick but they probably won't severely injure the plants. They are actually kinda pretty.

Q.  I believe a red oak on my urban property has developed bacterial leaf scorch. It is bearing acorns but a lot of the leaves have the scorch look and the bark has a lot of rough dark growths on it along the upper branches. It gets a great deal of rain run off from my shop and I intend on placing a gutter to carry away the runoff. It is growing in sandy loam and after exposing the flare, found it has encircling roots that I intend on cutting off. What do you recommend to help it? It is kind of special as it was given to my wife and me as a memorial tree to plant after we lost our youngest son. Not knowing how important it was to check the root encirclement at the time of planting or the proper height to plant, the strangulation is on me. I continue to enjoy your work and follow your philosophy of organic living. You have changed my life and my plants and lawn proves it. Now just worried about the red oak. Also will take your organic certification program in the near future.  N. B. Cameron, TX
A.  You've done the important first steps by fixing the drainage and exposing the fare. You are also correct in removing any of the circling and girdling roots that have been exposed. Next apply the rest of the Sick Tree Treatment - compost, rock minerals and sugars. The best rock minerals are lava sand and either green sand or the new Magic Sand by Ladybug. The most helpful sugars are dry molasses and whole ground cornmeal. Cornmeal is in the sugar category because it converts to sugar quickly and efficiently stimulates beneficial microbes.

Q.  I have been watching a show that originates in England - Gardeners World with Monty Don. He has boxwood as borders around his veggie garden. He says he is having to take them out because of boxwood blight.  I search your library. I wonder if he used horticultural corn meal it would save them. I use it on my Indian hawthorn and saved them.  C. C. Dallas
A.  I think the cornmeal would help and the entire Sick Tree Treatment would be even better. Send them the info from our site and my column and see if they respond. It is satisfying to see how well the organic techniques work to solve issues like plant diseases. Thanks for the info.

Q.  I finally got to ask the neighbor about the mothballs he has been putting n the yard for some time.. He is trying to repel snakes because his kids are afraid of them. However, all four of them never go outside except to go to the car or bus so how would they ever see a snake?  K. S. Hurst, TX
A.  Mothballs are toxic and will not help with the snakes at all. Try to get them to look at the web site Hopefully the information provided there by Daryl Sprout will help them understand that snakes are generally not dangerous but instead extremely helpful for the most part. 

Q.  Is now a good time to plant the fall blooming flowers like mums and asters. S.B. Dallas, TX
A.  Yes, but you'll have even more impressive color if you try marigolds, zinnias and copper canyon daisies. It is also time to start planting the cool season vegetable in the garden.

Q.  My neighbor backed into my bur oak in the parkway. There's a section of bark about 12" square knocked off the trunk of our 24" diameter tree. What should we do and should we worry? S.D. Fort Worth
A.  Apply the Tree Trunk Goop to the wound and repeat it if rain or irrigation washes it off and your tree will be fine. Here's the formula: 

1/3 of each of the following mixed in water:  
Fine rock phosphate
Natural diatomaceous earth
Manure compost
Slop it on the trunk.
Note: fireplace ashes can be substituted for the rock phosphate.

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