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Dallas Morning News - June 2, 2016

Q.  We made compost tea for the first time this weekend. We used our own worm castings compost, homemade cane syrup (in lieu of molasses) and an "Alaska Fish Fertilizer". Question #1 - Is the Alaska Fish Fertilizer acceptable "fish oil"? We made Garrett Juice with our compost tea. We used the recipe from your site: orange oil, cane syrup, compost tea and water. We sprayed our green beans, okra, squash, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, herbs and strawberries. We poured the leftover tea around our blackberry plants.

Questions: 1. How often to spray? 2. How long to wait to water? 3. How long to wait to harvest? 4. If our grandchildren pick off of sprayed bushes (ie. blueberries, blackberries or strawberries) and eat w/o washing, will it be ok? Also, we grew cucumbers and carrots last year and they produced wonderfully, but tasted AWFUL!! Is it our soil? Suggestions? Thank you so much! C. T. Byron, GA
A.  You can spray and drench as often as weekly, there's nothing toxic for the kids in anything I recommend and the food can be eaten right after spraying. It would always be better to wash and food first. Instead of the product you mentioned use fish products that are hydrolyzed instead of chemically emulsified. They wont smell as bad either. Don’t add orange oil to your mix unless there are insect pest to kill and always add apple cider vinegar and liquid seaweed.

Q.  While doing research on my pecan trees, I discovered that they have a disease called pecan phylloxera. The research recommended that I treat my trees with an insecticide but it doesn't specify what ingredients. Can you please recommend something more specific? Thank you.  S. C. Carrollton, TX
A.  Phylloxera gall is caused by tiny insects and is common to pecans and not that big a problem. Use the Organic Fruit and Pecan Tree Program that's on our web site and your trees and their production will be fine. Adding garlic-pepper tea to the early season spraying will help.

Q.  Quackgrass has seriously invaded my St. Augustine lawn. I applied Roundup to the lawn to kill it and then had the dead grass and weeds removed. Now my backyard is nothing but a huge mud pit. Unfortunately I didn't discover the benefits of using organic gardening methods until after I had killed off my lawn and had it removed. However, I am worried that the quackgrass rhizomes that are still in the soil of my backyard are not completely dead and may start growing again after I resod. L. E. Katy, TX
A.  Quackgrass is much less problematic than Roundup. It doesn't lead to diseases like cancer and autism. Glad that you have come over from the dark side. Use the basic organic program, mow regularly, leave the clippings on the turf and things will be much better. The turfgrasses will overtake the "weeds".

Q. We have a large empress tree and love it. The purple flowers in the spring are beautiful and we've had neighbors admire it as well. Only thing is cannot find any info on whether one can cut off the brown pods once the flowers have finished and the leaves are out.  They don't add to the beauty of the tree.  D. B. Dallas, TX
A.  Cut them off if you wish - wont' hurt the tree at all.

Q.  I have recently given away all chemicals and adopted your philosophy of organics. To date I am very pleased with the results on pot plants, bed plants, roses and my bonsais. I have experimented with several organic fertilizers on my dawn redwood bonsai and have the best results with Garrett Juice Plus. I started with1/2 strength and now used full strength 2 times a month and have seen amazing new growth on some of the plants. Do you think weekly feeding would be a bit much? How much microbe products should I mix in with the GJ+ or should I not use it on the bonsai? If I add it to my GJ+ on the other plants what should be the proportion to the gallon. G. B. Cameron, TX
A.  Every two weeks is probably plenty. Mycorrhizal fungus and bacteria products are helpful for all plants. They can be purchased separately and added or use the Garrett Juice Pro. They are already in that product.

Q.  Every summer we have a problem with mosquitoes inside our house. We don't have pets or kids going in and out and we're careful to keep doors and windows closed. They often keep us awake at night with their buzzing and biting. Is there a way to attract them to a trap (I don't suppose "No Pest Strips" are around anymore) or kill them with a spray? The orange oil spray we use for ants doesn't seem to affect them immediately. C. C. Dallas, TX
A.  Try this. Leave some containers of water around close to the house and toss in some bits of Bti in every few days.  It will attract and kill the mosquitoes as they try to emerge from the larvae in the water.

Q. Any idea what this grassy weed with small blue flowers could be; and how to get rid of it?  Over the past few years we have dug it out, sprayed it with vinegar/orange oil mix, but it just keeps coming back, and spreading.  HELP! M. R. Farmers Branch, TX
A.  Tropical spiderwort (Commelina benghalensis) or benghal dayflower is your weed. It is perennial, similar in look but not related to Tradescantia spp., the ornamental spiderwort. The plant also spreads by root nodes on any broken pieces left in the soil. It can be controlled by spot spraying vinegar or fatty acid products or with the commercial product Agralawn Crabgrass Killer. By the way, it is resistant to glyphosate (one of the dangerous ingredients in Roundup) that shouldn’t be being used anyway. Tropical spiderwort is easily confused with Virginia buttonweed but both are controlled the same way.

Q.  Is there anything organic to repel and keep black flies and buffalo gnats away?  E. B. Millington, TN
A.  Yes, Bti works beautifully. It can be added to standing water and sprayed over the entire site. There are liquid and dry forms of the product. You can find at garden centers, hardware stores, Home Depot, Traction Supply or mail order from like places like Amazon. The liquid products are a little hard to find, but can be made soaking some of the dry product in water. There are instructions on the products but just use as needed. When the pests are under control, repeated applications aren't needed.

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