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Dallas Morning News - September 1, 2016

Q.  I have zucchini plants and they have some kind of spots on the plants. They look like little eggs. I don't know if they are a good thing or a bad thing. Thanks.  S. W. 

A.  Looks like some aphids and some beneficials of some kind trying to help. If damage is being, done spray with garlic pepper tea. If it gets worse use Garrett juice with 2 oz. of orange oil per gallon of water. 

Q.  I have 5 acres of pasture that I recently purchased, I am almost covered up with sand burrs (stickers) and wondering if there is anything I can do other than digging them up by hand. Thank you.  J. L. Weatherford, TX
A.  Control of sand burrs or grassburs doesn't come from herbicides - neither the toxic chemicals nor the organic choices. Control results from changing the health of the soil. Corn gluten meal will have a degree of specific herbicidal power if applied about September the 15th or so but the real long term control comes from building the biological component of the soil. That is done by applying all the organic amendments and fertilizers I recommend. The aim is to increase the carbon in the soil. Where grassburs and other noxious weeds grow, the soil is usually sandy and lacking nutrients. What helps to hold the nutrients is humus (organic matter).  It can be added by applying organic fertilizers, compost and humate products, but what works even better is to use products and techniques that stimulate the life in the soil, i.e., sugars, rock minerals and microbe products. The waste and dead bodies of beneficial fungi, bacteria, protozoa and other microbes are the most significant sources of building humus and carbon in the soil. When this life and the related organic fraction of the soil exist, humic acids are present and available. That creates a situation where the weed seeds like grassburs are still present - but they don't germinate. Why? Nature doesn't think it's needed. So apply as much organic carbon, lava sand and microbe stimulators as the budget allows. The simplest way to accomplish this is to ask the local tree care companies to dump their ground up limbs and trimmings on your property. Spread these native tree trimmings out on the land and let them work to build the needed life and available nutrient. It not only works extremely well, it's the cheapest way to go.

Q.  Aside from planting this tree too close to the house. Do you see anything else that needs to be corrected! I'm currently leaving the needles around the tree, not sure that's a good idea! Also, what's the name of this pine?  J. R. Arlington.
A.  The needles left on the root zone of your pine is fine. That's the natural way. Just to make sure the flare is exposed well, rake the needles back and remove soil if needed and then put the natural mulch back in place. Pines have root flares just as other trees do, just not as dramatic. The tree being close to the house should not be a problem. Your tree looks like slash pine that is one of the typical east Texas pines. That probably means you have sandy soil.



Q. We have black clay soil and would like to plant some pine trees. I know that some pines have trouble with this kind of high pH soil. Is there any soil improvement that we can do so that we can be successful with pines? W.B. Dallas
A. It depends on what pine species you plant. The common pines that grow naturally in sandy acid soils will not grow well at all in alkaline soils. What tricks people is that they see these straight-trunk pines growing in the DWF area and think they can do it also. What they are missing is that where these trees are growing is in pockets of sandy soil. These areas exist in in Oak Lawn , downtown, Arlington and other spots around the Metroplex. They were caused in most cases as rivers and creeks changed courses. If you have one of these sandy soils, any of the pine trees will do well. If your soil is black, alkaline and high pH, the choices are very limited. Japanese pine is a fair choice but has problems long-term. Austrian pine will do fairly well for a longer time. Eldarica pine (also called Afghan and Mondell) can grow in the alkaline soils but is a desert tree and is dying out in many places where heavy irrigation and less than perfect drainage exist. The most foolproof pine for the problem soils is Italian stone pine. Here’s a little more information on this great tree.

Italian Stone Pine (Pinus pinea) is a species native to southern Europe. As one of its common names implies, Umbrella pine has a broad, somewhat flattened but rounded canopy. This pine will ultimately reach 80 feet in height though it is more often seen at 35 to 45 feet tall and wide. The bright green, stiff, six-inch-long needles are arranged in slightly twisted bundles, following short gray-green needles when the tree is young. The trunk develops showy distinctive fissures. It is most commonly sold as a living Christmas tree but is becoming more available in nurseries as a landscape tree.

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