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Dallas Morning News - August 4, 2016

Q.  I have a yellow jacket nest in my azalea bush and would like to know what I could use to get them out without using a toxic chemical. I would appreciate any input you could give on this.  K. L. Fort Worth, TX

A.  Soapy water will do the job. Use about an oz. of liquid soap per gallon of water. They are beneficial, so kill them only if you have to.

Q.  What are good things to plant?  I don't have a large area unfortunately.  K. A. Dallas
A.  Squash, peppers, cucumbers, okra, green beans, zucchini, etc. In other words - most of the stuff we plant in the spring. The cool season plants can go in pretty soon as well - cauliflower, broccoli, kale, cabbage, carrots, etc.

Q.  I want to seed rye grass for the winter. First, is there type of rye you recommend? Second, if I seed Rye, when do you spread corn gluten meal? I am afraid it could prevent the Rye from growing. Any suggestions on the timing of both are welcome sir.  A. B. Dallas
A.  Best choice is perennial ryegrass planted around September 15th. Corn gluten meal can only be used after the ryegrass is up and growing. It will damage germination if used before planting.

Q.  I know that generally early morning is considered the best time to water outdoor plants and turf; however, I seem to remember hearing you say once that during the heat of summer watering in the evening was OK because temperatures remained high enough to discourage fungus growth.  Is that essentially correct?  B. R. Dallas
A.  It rains at night and I have no problem watering at night if that's the most convenient time. However, if the timing works for your schedule, watering at dawn is ideal. Diseases are rarely an issue when using the organic program.

Q.  I have an approximately 7-8 year old shummard red oak. It was growing well and tall and was just starting to spread out. Last year I noticed that the back half of the tree was not looking as healthy as the front half of the tree (weird). The back half of the tree has leaves that did not fully grow and those same leaves have brown spots and look like they're being bitten. I don't see any visible insects. The front of the tree is perfectly healthy with large green leafs. This spring, the back half of the tree was about 2 weeks behind the front half in blooming. It doesn't seem like a common tree issue, I've googled the symptoms and cannot find any info with this type of tree problem. I'm wondering whether this tree still has a chance to recuperate and survive, if not do I can take it down and plant a new tree.  D. Z. Eagle Pass, TX
A.  Damage to one area of a tree's canopy usually relates to trouble in the root system beneath that area. Check the base of the trunk to see the flare is present. If the trunk has no flare and is coming straight out of the ground, that can indicate the presence of circling and girdling root or roots. Cutting the problem roots away may solve the problem. Other causes could include too much or too little water on that side, too much fertilizer, herbicide damage, etc. The solution in most of these cases the Sick Tree Treatment. For herbicide or other chemical contamination, use the Soil Detox program. Both of these procedures are explained in detail under GUIDES on the home page of I'd give it a try. You can always replant later and fall would be a much better time.

Q.   Is there a listing of local Texas growers of insect predators like green lacewings and spider mite predators?  A. S. Denton, TX
A.  They only Texas insectary that you might contact is Kunafin.
P.O Box 190, Quemado, TX 78877, 800-832-1113, 
Quemado is near Eagle Pass on the Texas/Mexico border.
But here are some other beneficial insect sources around the country that do mail order:

Q.  We have just planted a new Texas red oak and it  has  been recommended that the trunk be wrapped to protect the tree from borers. Is that a good practice? S.L. Dallas, TX
A.  No, it's a very bad practice and a waste of money. If anything, wrapping causes problems by keeping the bark in the dark and providing a better environment for disease pathogens and insects like borers. What keeps borers away is having a healthy tree by planting it high with the flare dramatically exposed. The trunks of trees need to be left exposed to air and light to be healthy. If sunburn is a worry, as it can be with the thin bark maples, etc., the best technique is to paint the trunks with white wash. Make it with latex paint diluted 50/50 with water and simply paint it on. The trunks will be protected from freezing, insects, rodents and diseases. The paint will slowly go away as the trunk expands. The research on this technique was done by Rutgers University, University of Missouri, University of Vermont and Cornell. Here's a link to just some of that information. White paint was used in the trials but I have found that using paint that matches the color of the bark looks better and works as well.

Q.  What the non-toxic and effective head lice treatment? H.J. Fort Worth, TX
A.  Simple. Rinse the hair and the entire body with full strength apple cider vinegar after showering or bathing. White vinegar will also work but apple cider vinegar is much better for the skin. I do it on a regular basis and don't even have lice. Maybe that's why.

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