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Dallas Morning News - September 29, 2016

Q.  Should I do anything about the brown spots on my red oak leaves?   S. C. Benbrook, TX

A.  Nope - just cosmetic - especially at this time of the year. It’s very common right now.

Q.  I bought this house 15 years ago and it had 3 pecan trees. Two of them I had to have cut down because they got all dried up like a bone in the desert. The trunks on both of these trees were cut just about flush with the ground. Now on one of these stumps there are 3 offshoots growing. These baby trees are about ¾ inch in diameter and about 3 feet tall. I would like to leave one of these but would like to ask you which one should I leave? Maybe the one in the middle or maybe the tallest? When is the best time to remove them? And what else if anything should I do?  R.R. Dallas, TX
A.  Your idea will work well. Just remove all the shoots except the largest and strongest one. It will develop into a good size tree before you know it. Applying a fall application of organic fertilizer is all I would do. 

Q.  I am trying to treat shrubs for spider mites. I bought a bag of dry corn meal. Am I treating the soil, foliage or actual spider mites? Where do I put this stuff?  J. P. The Colony, TX
A. The corn will help the soil and controlling disease pathogens but not sure how it would help with spider mites other than indirectly. If spider mites are active the best control is a spray that contains liquid seaweed.

Q.  I have a raised-bed vegetable garden in my back yard. The summer crops of peppers and tomatoes don't do well because I have towering trees and too much shade. I've already pulled up the spring plants and am looking to do a fall planting for veggies that are shade tolerant. What’s the best fall vegetables for this area that tolerate about 50-60% shade? I usually plant seedlings from the garden store but I haven't really done the fall crops before. What is the strategy and timing? It's usually hot here until October.  Seedlings or seeds? Seems if I plant seedlings to early they might die from the heat. I want to get the most out of my garden before it gets too cold.  P. B. Fort Worth, TX
A.  Transplants would be best and the choices for your partly shaded area include the leafy vegetables (kale, Swiss chard and various greens) and peppers. Peppers, both bell and hot varieties will do very well in the shade. Cabbage and broccoli will also have a fair chance. This is also the perfect time to plant some garlic. Both onion and garlic chives can be planted anytime and will do well. 

Q.  My cedar elm and several of my neighbors cedar elms leaves have turned brownish in color. I read where this is likely a mold and maybe even caused by air pollution. Is there anything that can be done to reverse this? Is this harmful to the tree? Will it come back next spring? I follow the organic program and I am a huge advocate of exposing the root flare.  This just occurred this summer.
A.  The yellowing or browning on cedar elm foliage late in the season is common these days. Years ago we didn't see this discoloration much at all, so changing environmental conditions may be at least partially responsible. There doesn't seem to be any long term damage to the trees, but the cosmetic discoloration can be prevented if sprayed with one of the organic disease control measures prior to the fungus showing up - next year in other words. The spray now would have no effect to change the color this year because there will be no more new growth this season. The choices would include cornmeal juice, 1-2% hydrogen peroxide, 1.5% baking soda or potassium bicarbonate or one of the commercial products like BioSafe or Serenade. This condition won’t show up in the spring usually.

Q.  I am starting a new garden (for Spring 2017) for the first time in 10 years, and have begun tilling the area. It is clay soil. What should I add to the soil and when? Also, when should I plant the inland sea oats that you just sent me (I am a new Organic Club of America member)?  D. G. Garland, TX
A.  Now is a great time to do the work and get some cool season veggies and herbs started and you'll be all set for additional planting in the spring. Work plenty of compost, lava sand, greensand (or Magic Sand), dry molasses, whole ground cornmeal and organic fertilizer into the native soil and plant away. There's greater details of all this for you under Guides on the Home Page of The seaoats can be planted now or in the spring.

Q. I'm considering planting a new tree in the front yard. Is this a good time or should I wait till spring? Also what what trees would you recommend for a typical size development lot?  I'd like something relatively fast growing. S.A. Dallas
A. The best time is today. Second best time is anytime during the winter. The worst time is spring and that's when a large percentage of trees are planted. Fall is the best best because the newly planted trees will get a burst of root growth right at first, have some consistent root growth during the winter and then really take off in the spring. The key is correct planting. Here's an updated drawing showing my recommended procedure. The list of best shade trees for you to consider include the following: bigtooth maple, Mexican white oak, Lacey oak, Texas ash, Montezuma cypress and dawn redwood. Red oak, live oak and cedar elm are also good but they have been pretty severely overused in Dallas. The best "fast growing" tree is the Mexican sycamore. It's strange but this tree is actually better than our native sycamore.

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