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Dallas Morning News - October 27, 2016

Q. How long does it take for the Mexican sycamore to reach full growth, or maturity.  J. A. Dallas, TX

A.  That depends on several things - soil, weather, management program, etc. All I can tell you is that it is a quality fast growing tree. It will probably put on an average of 18" of new growth a year but under an organic program in decent soil with ample water, it will far outdo that.

Q.  May I straighten my leaning holly tree and also transplant a few small shrubs now, or must I wait until after the first hard freeze? Will planting now give  sufficient time for "hardening off"? J. J. Dallas, TX
A.  It's a great time to install new plants. They will get a nice spurt of root grow before the cold weather gets here. On the holly, I would either dig and replant it or leave it alone. With a little corrective pruning and the basic organic program the tree will fill out, the top will straighten out and the crooked trunk will be interesting. My most interesting tree at home is a large live oak that grows at a 45% angle. When we bought the house, the small tree was growing at an angle trying to get light from under a big black willow. Like this tree, some of my favorites have trunks that are far from growing straight up.

Q.  Do you have any clue what this weed is? Our dog has been eating it like crazy and wondering if it is what is making her vomit from time to time. Not sure if area matters, but we are in Valley Ranch. I can't imagine it being healthy, but just to be sure it's not dangerous.  P. B. Dallas, TX
A.  Looks like spurge and shouldn't be dangerous to your dogs. Dogs will tend to throw up from eating plants around the garden, including grass which is far from toxic. My dogs do it on a fairly regular basis.

Q.  I have some drift roses that have the rose rosette disease. I have tried treating them with your suggested treatments, but I think I waited too long and they are too far gone so I plan to replace them. Can I replace them in the same planting location with drift roses again or given the nature of rosette is this a good idea? Would the rosette be likely occur again? If not drift roses do you have any recommendations for a good smaller plant that provides year round color?  J. H. Richardson, TX
A.  Roses can be planted again but I would double the amount of whole ground cornmeal used in the bed preparation - 4 lbs. per 100 sq. ft. in other words. Compost, lava sand, greensand and dry molasses should also be used even if these amendments were used when the first planting was done. If you want to try something new, look at using rosemary, germander or Gregg salvia.

Q.  Can you identify these two plant from my yard?  J.J. Dallas, TX
A.  The grasslike plant is bulbine and the plant with the hibiscus-like flower is althea also known as rose of Sharon. They both do best in full sun and do well under the basic organic maintenance program.

Q.  I live in Pecan Plantation is a community in the middle of a Pecan Orchard southeast of Granbury. Moving from Fort Worth and black & white gumbo to sandy soil still has me learning new things. Much of the areas along the river, in dog park, walking trail etc. are infertile sandy soil that is abundant with sand burrs/stickers. One thing that might be useful is the pecan shells and "trash' created by the orchard's shell cracking machine.  It produces a significant amount of this.  I would suspect there must be a market for it, but don't know where/what it might be. I know some of it is used on walking trails. But what if some of it were used on the baseball field, dog park, etc to help enrich the soil?  Would that be worth the effort?  Top dressed, disc, harrowed.  What would be the best way to apply it. Much of the shells have mold and scab, will that be an issue? Thank you for your time. I'll try and spread the word of my email via Nextdoor Neighbor, so hopefully a number of local residents will be listening this Sunday.  T. K. Granbuy, TX
A.  I think any of those uses would be fine and the risk of spreading disease would not be a concern. The only possible negatives about pecan shells are that they are light and tend to move around quite a bit from water and wind. When used as mulch right after the shelling, they will also tend to attract fire ants because of the bits of nuts left in the shells. The best way to use pecan shells is as one of the ingredients in the compost pile and then use the compost for soil improvement.

Q.  What about the London plane tree? Does it have the same problems as the American sycamore?  R. B. Dallas, TX
A.  Basically yes. Mexican sycamore is much better. It’s faster growing and immune to insect and disease problems.

Q.  I grew Kennebek, LaSorda, and Yukon Gold potatoes this season. Very nice size, but there are large holes chewed in them. Local extension horticulturist identified the damage as done by wireworms. Is there an organic control for wire worms?  E. B. Dallas, TX
A.  Wireworms are the larvae of click beetles. You can control this pest next year by applying beneficial nematodes when the seed potatoes are planted. The nematodes will also help control many other pests that spend part of their lifecycle time in the soil.

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