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Dallas Morning News - December 22, 2016

Q.  I've seen those Asian ladybugs in my garden this week as you and Bob were talking about today on the air. I have spider webs on the bark of my live oak tree all over. Should I be concerned?  C. N. New Braunfels, TX
A.  Nope. Spiders are beneficial. The Harmonia lady beetles are just as beneficial as our natives but they will tend to come in the house during cold weather. Just toss them back outside.

Q.  I just read the article about planting trees. We will be planting a fruit tree soon. The soil in our yard is orange clay. Should we replace some of the clay with healthy soil? Rose soil is what we purchased. We moved into this house this spring and in 1 week we are having the yard aerated and layered with fine compost because we want to get this yard healthy. It is a mess with lots of weeds and some kind of fungal disease.  L. W. Magnolia, TX
A.  No, the only thing that should go down in the hole when planting any tree is the native soil that came out of the hole. The compost and other amendments should just be applied to the surface after planting. Garrett Juice Pro could be mixed with the water to provide some trace minerals and mycorrhizal fungus. Compost will help with the disease issues, as will whole ground cornmeal at 20 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft.

Q.  What is your opinion on how far to cut back a Tangerine Beauty crossvine that is in the way of a fence painting project? It has grown 60+ feet in 6 years. My choices seem to be don’t paint that area of the fence or cut the vine down to 3 or 4'. Would it most likely take another 6 years to grow back?  J. J. Azle, TX
A.  If you like the look of the large coverage of the vine, just leave it alone. Horticulturally it needs no pruning or cutting back to remain healthy. Send us some photos. It sounds pretty. Can you avoid painting the fence? If it has to be cut back, it’ll probably be back looking good in a couple of seasons.

Q.  Could you please tell me the name of this plant? The picture was taken on December 11 in Pasco County, Florida near a stream.  M. H. Sarasota, FL
A.  Here’s word from my Florida colleague. “I believe that the photo is of Ardisia crenata (Myrsinaceae).” Invasive from East Asia!

Q.  We have 8 Little Gem magnolia trees along northeast fence. About 15+ years old. Each has Grown to different heights, up to 15-20 feet. Have considered "topping" 3-4 of the group to just " even the tops" by 3 feet. Relevant research information regarding if topping is appropriate on this variety has been inconsistent. What is your opinion? D. G. El Dorado Hills, CA
A.   Carefully "pick pruning" the top of the tallest plants to even out the heights would be fine. Just cut the longest shoots where they break from the trunk or other shoots. That will limit the stubs and the plants will retain their soft natural form and be fine.

Q.  What is your position on using copper-based products in the organic program. M.E. Dallas, TX.
A.  Some "organic" advisors recommend copper for disease control but copper fungicides are toxic and I never use them - especially copper sulfate.

Q.  In your newsletter on organic compost, it states you can use animal manure. Can dog manure be used? I have heard dog manure is not good. Also can I put grass clippings in that was sprayed with 2,4-D from my lawn service. W. B. Clinton, Dallas, TX.
A.  Dog manure certainly should go into the compost pile but 2,4-D is very toxic and shouldn't be used on the site in any way. Composting properly will break down it and other toxic chemicals but you shouldn't have to deal with it at all. Order the lawn service to cease or find another company.

Q.  I was browsing the Dirt Doctor website and saw a picture of a Chinkapin oak with orange-red fall color. I was wondering if you knew where that picture was taken? I’ve never seen one with fall color before and would like to see that one up close.  R. Dallas, TX
A.  I took that photo at Sunshine nursery in Clinton, Oklahoma.

Q.  Which heater did Howard purchase from Target, for his greenhouse?  My greenhouse is 96 sq ft would this heater be sufficient for my mine?  Thanks for your help.  M. B. Dallas, TX
A.  It's the Eco-Smart by Holmes. Only 30 bucks and very efficient. Give it a try.


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