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Dallas Morning News - December 15, 2016


Q.  Is it time to mow buffalograss now? Or when?  D. P. Dallas, TX
A.  I would probably do it now but anytime during the winter is OK.

Q.  How does the Dirt Doctor feel about attaching swings to trees? I considered getting one for the grandkids for Christmas but was afraid it might damage the tree.  V. M. Mexia, TX
A.  I have no problem with swings in trees if done correctly. Wrapping anything around limbs is bad and will definitely damage those limbs. On the other hand, connecting the swing lines, ropes or chains to bolts or large screws connected to single points does no more damage than pruning cuts. The penetrations will callus over and be compartmentalized as the tree grows. The safest thing for people is using stainless steel bolts that go all the way trough the limb, but large eye screws or hooks can be good if installed properly. Note: the points of attachment need to be at exactly the same height for the swing to swing straight. If the limb is growing at an angle, a longer bolt can be used at the higher part of the limb.

Q.  Could burlap be used for floating row cover?  J. Gunter, TX
A.  Burlap would be a poor substitute for floating row cover for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it is too heavy and might damage plants unless held up above the plants with sticks, bamboo or rebar. It also wouldn't let light through and would have to be removed right away after the cold weather warms. If the cold weather lasts several days, the constant darkness would hurt the plants. Nope - bite the bullet and buy some floating row cover. It's not very expensive.

Q.  Howard, when we visited this fall I think you told us we can mulch the leaves into the St Augustine grass - right?  D. P. Dallas, TX
A.  Yes - best thing to do. When the mulched leaves start to be so heavy that the turf would be covered, still mulch the leaves with the mower but move the excess into bare beds or the compost pile.

Q.  What are the little black bugs on my hibiscus and how do I get rid of them?  E. K. Saginaw, TX
A.  Those are aphids and common on tropical plantts that are moved inside for the winter. From your photo, that appears what you have done. You can kill the pests with a spray of Lemon Joy soap at 1 tablespoon per gallon of water. To keep them from coming back, give your plant as much light as possible, cut the watering way back and stop the fertilizing completely until spring when the plant can be moved back outside.

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