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Dallas Morning News - May 12, 2016


Q.  I planted tomato plants and bought the Jobe tomato fertilizer. Now I am noticing bites out of the leaves. What organic pesticide approach should I take?  L. S. Arlington, TX
A.  Without knowing what the pest is, the best recommendation I can give you is to use the garlic-pepper tea spray. To make liquefy 2 bulbs of garlic and 2 hot peppers (hotter the better) in a blender 1/2 to 2/3 full of water. Strain the solids and add enough additional water to the garlic/pepper juice to make 1 gallon of concentrate. Use ¼ - 1/2  cup of the concentrate per gallon of spray. This mix doesn't kill insects, just repels them and that is a good thing because it doesn't hurt the beneficial insects. Rather than using a synthetic fertilizer, use one of the organic choices next time.

Q.  We recently had a problem with fleas. We live near Grapevine Lake and have tons of squirrels which are probably the main reason along with the mild winter.  One of our little dogs is highly allergic and is scratching himself till about raw. We put out nematodes when it was cool & damp, but that’s the first time we’ve done it in a couple of years and we know the effect on fleas is not immediate. I have scheduled EcoSafe to come out next week to treat the yard for the first time because the situation is rather drastic with our little pup. I just wanted to ask is there any reason we should not have EcoSafe treat? They told me the treatment really only affects fleas and not other beneficials but that seems hard to believe. Also we have treated our dogs with Frontline. I know you don’t like that but we just didn’t feel we had a choice. V. G. Grapevine, TX
A.  No problem for the beneficials. I'm putting some nematodes out myself today. That should solve the problem but also think about changing from Frontline to Revolution. There is also a product called Comfortis that's taken internally that would be worth considering.

Q.  My pine trees are dying - needles falling very quickly and turning brown. There is white, hard substance on bark. I also see many black beetles in the pool near the trees. Please help - they were our family Christmas trees over the years and some are over 15 years old!  S. S. Palmer, TX
A.  Unfortunately, your trees are Eldarica pines. Many of these trees are dying. Eldarica, also known as Mondell and Afghan pine, is a desert tree. It has little chance of living long term in a heavily irrigated landscape. It also has serious problems with the normal amount of rainfall and soil conditions we see in most of the state. After the root system gets in trouble from too much moisture insects attack the tree trunks. It does okay in West Texas, but everywhere else it's getting root fungal disease and borers in the trunk. Nothing can be done short of applying the Sick Tree Treatment and cutting the irrigation off to postpone the inevitable results. As part of the STT, it is important to include the disease fighting organic tools. The choices to be applied to the trees and to the soil include cornmeal, garlic, hydrogen peroxide and compost.

Q.  Is vinegar ok for sidewalk weeds? What should I use on ground ivy & dandelions in lawn? H.T., Chicago, IL
A.  Strong vinegar is excellent to knock out any weeds in sidewalk cracks and gravel. It can also be used to spot spray weeds in the turf. The best weed control in turf is organic fertilizer, regular mowing and leaving the clippings on the turf.

Q.  Is there a way to make orange oil if I can't find it at a store?  E. B. Millington, TN
A.  You could soak orange rinds in water and even steep them or cook for a while on the stove to make the liquid stronger and this extract would work well to use on the soil to help stimulate biological activity, but it would difficult to make it strong enough to kill insects as commercial orange oil can do.

Q.  I have a holly tree near the southwest corner in the front of my house. It is about 20' tall. My neighbor recently said it might damage my foundation. The tree is about 4.5 feet away from the foundation. So I called 3 tree services. #1said cut it off. #2 said put a 4" metal foundation barrier. #3 said don't do anything, won't damage the foundation and a foundation barrier might kill the tree. Though it damaged the flowerbed brick edging as you can see in the picture, I love this tree, it feeds a lot of bees and butterflies, and very healthy looking. Picture attached. Please advise. Thank you in advance.  R. C. Plano, TX
A.  Beautiful East Palatka Holly! If it were my tree, I'd leave it right where it is. It seems happy and probably wont damage the foundation. The grade beam of the house almost always serves as an effectively root barrier. The bed edging is cracked because it probably wasn't built very well. I'd replace it or remove it and keep maintaining the tree as you have apparently been doing. BTW – #3 sounds like a smart guy – like to get his name.

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