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Dallas Morning News - July 28, 2016


Q.  I read your article about mesquite trees and in some ways they seem beneficial but I live on a ranch and they have overtaken our property, making it impossible to cultivate fields that we would like to cultivate so as to have hay for our cattle. I live in Dublin, Texas and I would love to hear from you on how to control these trees. I know that I have succeeded in killing some of them by cutting them down, exposing the roots and burning them they die, but on 300 hundred acres this will take me the rest of my life. N. M. Dublin, TX

A.  Best management for mesquite is to leave the big trees alone. Not only are they not a problem, they are beneficial to the soil. On acreage, livestock like the trees. The light shade is comfortable and the animals like the quality of the grass under mesquite trees. On the other hand, mesquites that have been sprayed, chained, or otherwise assaulted will grow back as multi-stemmed bushes and NOW you have a problem. The only solution at this point is aggressive grubbing and ripping to remove the pants. 

Q. Can saltpeter be used to kill stumps? B.W. Dallas
A. Yes. Drill holes in the stump as deeply as possible and fill the holes with saltpeter (potassium nitrate) and wet the stump. After soaking 30 days for softwood trees and 3to 4 months for hardwood trees, put burning charcoal briquettes on top of the stump. The burning coals will smolder the stump away and leave a hole in the ground. 


Q.  We planted a fig tree this spring. It had a bunch of new green figs on it about 6 weeks ago. Recently the leaves began to turn brown and fold up. The little figs are just the same as they were. No change. What might be wrong? The tree was planted on the south side of the house where it gets morning sun and would be protected in winter. C. Y. Kemp, TX

A.  May have been the intense heat after a very wet and cool spring. That has caused several plant problems. Hopefully your plant will survive but you may need to replant.

Q.  I have a plum tree that is sapping on the trunk and a large branch has died. What should I do to save my tree?  M. O. Denton

A.  Apply the Sick Tree Treatment with the most important step being the dramatic exposure of the root flare.

Q. I've followed your methods for years and am currently taking your TORC course. We have a young oak tree on our property that's not producing leaves well. It doesn't seem to have any other signs of stress, except that it was probably too deep, in heavy clay soil. I tried to remove some soil months ago but it just wasn't enough, I'm sure. Today my husband and I removed soil from the base of the tree. After that, I sprayed hydrogen peroxide on the soil, put down some lava sand and dry molasses and covered with a thin layer of mulch. Any recommendations?  L. S. Irving, TX

A.  That all sounds good. Water heavily and deeply about once a week during the hot weather, then cut way back.


Q.  Is it ok to use Mole Scram in a vegetable garden where root crops such as onions or potatoes are grown? Will Mole Scram work on voles as well?  S. M. Tyler, TX

A.  Yes to both. It is a very safe and effective product.

Q.   The (3) photo(s) are of a plant at a state facility for people with intellectual disabilities. After reading about coralbean, I inspected it to ensure the safety of our individuals. It does not have thorns, and the spikes of red blooms are not quite the same, and they appear to have a small berry. So, I'm thinking this is not Coralbean. But are the enclosed pics good enough for you to determine the species and if it could be poisonous? 

A.  Definitely not coralbean. Looks like it might be Mexican firebush but the flowers of your plant are redder and prettier than most I've seen. Here's the entry from our site that I will improve. It's a good plant and yours looks terrific. https://www.dirtdoctor.com/garden/Firebush-Mexican-Firebush_vq3628.htm B. H. San Antonio, TX






Q.  A woodpecker can be heard in the top of my beautiful 60 ft Red Oak. Although the tree looks fine to me and has a relatively big root flare (as you frequently talk about). We have made a few changes in the yard. 1. New French drains with a small root barrier (I did not want this barrier, but my husband went behind my back and ordered it!) 2. New patio and walking paths where we used limestone screening made of crushed limestone and screening powder. Is it possible that one of these two changes hurt the tree, thus attracting the woodpecker? I love this tree and will be crushed if I were to lose it. Please help!  S. K. Denton, TX

A.  Usually when you can hear them drumming it's not the sapsucker that indicates stress in the tree. Sapsuckers also usually bore rows or columns of holes to accumulate sap lower on the tree. The drumming can be a male woodpecker establishing territory or a bird building an "L" shaped hole large enough for a nest. Here's a site that shows how to build woodpecker houses so they will go there and stop drilling holes in trees and buildings. Make sure the flare hasn’t been cover by the new work and your tree should be fine.

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