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Dallas Morning News - December 29, 2016

Q.  I was told to stop feeding my koi and gold fish after the weather got cold because the fish go dormant after the water turns cold. We did that but now that the temperatures are up, do we start feeding them again? L.P. Dallas

A. Probably not. The water is still cold and the cold weather will return. Plus, if your koi pond is anything like mine, there is plenty of moss and algae for them to eat if they get hungry. By the way, some algae and other growth are healthy, especially if the water is clear.

Q.  How do we get rid of leaf cutter ants?  C. H. Cherokee, TX
A.  The Texas leaf cutter ants are among the toughest to control. Keeping  thick mulch around all plants helps. Cedar much is the best choice. These ants get really frustrated if you cover their trails with mulch. Beneficial nematodes also help. Treat the mounds with plant oil products such as EcoSafe or BioSafe. Wettable sulfur works well if mixed with water to flood the colonies. Use the label directions on the mixing. We have received good reports from people spraying the leaves of the plants under attack with spinosad. Flooding the colonies after building a dam around the surface openings also usually works. It is also reported that the ants can be kept out of the foliage of trees by wrapping the trunks with aluminum foil. Maybe - maybe not.
Here's some information from

Q.  What would be the best products to add to Garrett Juice Pro to increase the amount of nitrogen?  L. D. Ogden, UT
A.  First of all, it's not critical to add a lot of nitrogen if amendments are being used that stimulate biological activity in the soil. The Garrett Juice Pro contains beneficial microbes so you may already be covered. To make sure, add one of the organic fertilizers such as Lady Bug, Espoma, GreenSense, Medina, Good Natured, MaestroGro or Nature's Guide. Generic products that will work include alfalfa meal, fish meal, soy meal and good quality compost.

Q.  You mentioned chopped up mistletoe and fire ant control in an article but didn’t explain. We live just south of Abilene with lots of mesquite trees and a lot of mistletoe and a LOT of fire ants. How does this work? What do we need to do?  D. S. Everman, TX
A. Mistletoe can be chopped up and put on the fire ant mounds. The ants don't like it at all. The chopped up leaves, stems and berries can also be soaked in water to make a tea to be poured on the mounds. This is a worthwhile thing to do since you have a lot of mistletoe but there are other parts of my recommended fire ant control program. One of the most effective practices is to broadcast dry molasses to the entire infested area at 20 lbs per 1000 sq. ft. Other possibilities include pouring the Mound Drench mixture on stubborn mounds and applying beneficial nematodes to the site. They are a good choice in some conditions because they help with other insect pests as such as grubs, termites, fleas, ticks and grasshoppers. The Mound Drench formula is 2 oz of orange and 2 oz of liquid molasses oil per gallon of water. You can also just add 2 oz. of orange oil to a gallon of ready-to-use Garrett Juice.

Q.  I was given a moringa tree and told that it is an important medicinal plant. It seems easy to grow but how do you use it? D.S. Desoto, TX
A. You use the leaves. Make a tea that can be used as a liquid fertilizer for other plants, dry the leaves and grind it then keep it for smoothies, mix it fresh in salads and smoothies and use it like spinach in recipes of all kinds. The nutrient value of it is said to be high. I assume you know that it has to be protected in cold weather.

Q.  Some of my trees that normally have pretty fall color, such as our cedar elms, just turned an ugly brown and are starting to fall off now. Are the trees damaged from the hard freeze? N.P. Dallas, TX
A. The trees are not permanently damaged. It's just a cosmetic issue. The temperature got very low but what was hardest on the plants was the huge drop in temperature over a short period of time following warm weather. Keep up your organic program and the trees will be fine.

Q. I got a new Japanese maple for Christmas. It’s in a 15 gallon container. Should I plant it now (using your natural planting techniques of course) or hold it and wait till spring? C.T. Waco, Tx.
A. The best time to plant your maple is as soon as possible. Permanent plants are almost always happier in the ground than in pots above ground.


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