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Dallas Morning News - May 5, 2016

Q.  Can whole ground cornmeal be used in lieu of corn gluten meal as a fertilizer and fungus cure? WGCM seems to be about 1/2 the price of CGM. If so, do wholesale distributors typically offer it? Thanks, B. G. Fort Worth, TX

A.  Whole ground cornmeal works well as a fungus control and a very mild fertilizer. Because of the high concentration of protein in corn gluten meal, it is a strong organic fertilizer and has the pre-emergent qualities when put out before the weed seeds germinate. Both are good products but quite different.

Q.  What could I replace seaweed with in the Garrett Juice formula? J. N. Prescott, AZ
A.  Nothing will do exactly the same thing as seaweed. You might want to buy a small supply of it on line if none of the local stores have any in stock. Seaweed contains growth regulators known as cytokinins that are quite helpful for plant growth and health. That's why liquid seaweed is one of the main ingredients in Garrett Juice. On the other hand, there is a product that makes a pretty good substitute - alfalfa. Soaking a cup of alfalfa meal in 5 gallons of water for an hour or so makes a tea that works well to stimulate and feed plants. Alfalfa contains a powerful growth regulator called tricontanol. It would be best to use both seaweed and alfalfa in the Garrett Juice Formula. It can't be used in the commercial mixes because it sets up a terrific odor after being mixed and sitting for a while.

Q.  I have a lot of manzanitas that are turning brown. Our landscaper says it is an aphid not a watering issue. Anything I can do? J. N. Prescott, AZ
A.  Aphids are easy to control with any of the mild organic pest controls such as insecticidal soap, garlic-pepper tea and just strong blasts of water.

Q.  Was informed recently by the Colorado State Poultry expert, that ALL soy is now GMO. You may want to reconsider having Soy products as Acceptable Organic Products items. Soy is also been shown to be a testosterone disruptor according to Dr. Mercola and some few other natural/organic proponents, I've read.  D. B. Colorado
A.  You're right. Most soy is genetically altered, So are corn, beets, alfalfa and many other food crops. We are not talking about eating these products but instead using them to stimulate and feed microbes in the soil and neutralize the toxic effect of these contaminated materials. I wish non-GMO horticultural plant meals were available, but they aren't.

Q.  I'm concerned about hole and weeping in trunk of my red oak. If so, what can I do in addition to sick tree treatment? Thank you.  S. C. Benbrook, TX
A.  You are right to apply the Sick Tree Treatment procedure. It would also be good to apply hydrogen peroxide to the wound, followed by an application of the Tree Trunk Goop. My best advice is for you to hire an arborist to make a site visit and give you some additional advice.

Q.  My daughter lives in Austin and she has huge oak trees that are covered with ball moss. Does she need to have it removed for the health of the trees and if so how often? They are on a very low budget and would have to hire a tree company to do it. A. I. Forney, TX
A.  Have her send us a photo to make sure but here are my basic recommendations on ball moss. It is an epiphyte, not a parasite like mistletoe and gets its water and nutrients from the air rather than from the trees. That's why you can see it growing on power lines. Also it primarily grows on lower trees limbs that are shaded out and have less foliage. Therefore no treatment is really needed in most cases. On the other hand, it does connect to trees with pseudo roots that can kill small twigs by strangling them. A little ball moss in a tree is absolutely no problem and these small bromeliad-like plants are interesting. Heavy populations of the plant indicate weakness probably caused by stress. Get her to expose the trunk flares of the trees and apply the rest of the Sick Tree Treatment procedure. The soil removal can be done by your daughter and friends and the steps of the Sick Tree Treatment can be done one step at a time as the budget allows. Details are on the web site under the Guides button.

Q.  Just recently bought two ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maple trees. Can they tolerate full sunlight? E. B. Millington, TN
A.  They can take full sun in the morning but the hotter afternoon sun is likely to burn the leaf edges. Under the organic program the trees will adapt somewhat to the direct sun better and might get a little tougher every year.
Vegetable gardening tip:  My friend Bob Webster and his partner Roberta Churchin own a wonderful 100% organic nursery (Shades of Green) in San Antonio. Bob does an organic gardening talk show there on KTSA. One of the most common questions we both get every year is how control squash vine borers. Here's his tip that seems to work very well. “This is what I'm doing for squash borer prevention this spring - actually injecting Bt into the stems which are hollow, especially the yellow squash varieties, so it's easy to put about 5cc into each plant."

Q.  Should I mix all of the amendments you recommend (compost, lava sand, greensand, cornmeal, dry molasses, etc.) into the backfill when planting new trees. I'm planting three new Texas ash. H.R. Dallas, TX
A.  No. Nothing but the native soil that comes out of the hole should go back in the backfill. This is even more important on native trees like you are planting. Make sure to get all the ropes, wire, burlap and soil off the top of the ball and set the trees with the trunk flare well above the ground grade. Light amounts of the amendment can be applied to the surface after the native backfill has been settled in with water. Mulch should be applied to the disturbed area. Use  a thin layer of shredded native tree trimmings, but make sure that none of the mulch is touching the flare. And of course don't build the unnecessary "watering" rings. By the way – good choice. Texas ash is an excellent tree.

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