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Dallas Morning News - September 8, 2016

Q.  I believe this is a milkweed species but not sure which.

These are plants I dug up and transplanted from a cedar hill country environment, Wimberly specifically. Butterflies and bees love the flowers. Spotted first monarch two days ago. Any idea of the species? My friend Virginia from Archie's Gardenland has likely correctly identified this plant as Euphorbia marginata. Snow on the mountain: J. M. Eagle Mountain Lake
A.  That looks right. Very nice photos.

Q.  I am confused about the fertilizing schedule for my citrus trees. On the guides the schedule says soil fertilizing for first year. What is the requirements for my trees that passed their first year? Also Howard talks about per 1000 sq. ft. but that does not help when I need it for individual trees. The last part is I cannot find the Sul-Po-Mag and do not have access to wood charcoal so what can I use in place of it.  W. H. Corpus Christi, TX
A.  Even if you are feeding individual trees, the applications should be based on the area to be treated - in other words, the root zone. The root zone of each tree will be basically from about halfway between the trunk and drip line to a distance out at least twice as wide as the canopy diameter. Depending on how close the trees are planted, this may mean that the entire site needs to be fertilized. Long term fertilizing should be at least twice a year but it's OK to continue the 3 times a year if the budget allows. Any garden center or farm store should be able to easily get sul-po-mag for you.

Q. We have a little gem magnolia that has suddenly declined due to what I think is verticillium wilt. Sad but I must remove it. I have nearby pecans that I'm worried about. Is there any soil amendment I can use before planting the new tree replacement? About 3 years ago we had a large maple taken out probably because of the same disease. Before that our neighbors lost a tree in the same area. We want to prevent any spread of the wilt if possible. K.H. NRH
A. I doubt that your other trees are in danger unless the environmental conditions of your site are bad. Verticillium wilt is a fungal disease that attacks plants that are in stress.  Herbicide damage, adverse environmental conditions like poor drainage and mechanical damage may cause the same or similar symptoms as the wilt or lead to the fungus attacking plants. So - the solution to this situation is to first solve any drainage problems or wet soil due to overwatering. Next apply the Sick Tree Treatment procedure to the entire site. In this case, I'd add the fine textured charcoal or humate for the detox properties in case chemical contamination is involved.

Q.  I would like to plant a pear tree this fall. I have read that you should plant two but I only want one. Do you think this is possible? I live in Garland. Thanks for your help.  M. S. Garland, TX
A.  Multiple trees are not needed for pollination but I recommend planting more than one species for the odds. Try Orient, Moonglow and maybe one or two of the Asian pears. The Asians are a little harder to grow but the taste of the fruit is worth the effort. If you plant only one, go with Orient.

Q.  Love your column and emails! I've learned so much. I have a pot of pink miniature calla lilies that I've had for years. When I was pulling off dead leaves, I noticed something new and odd. The attached photo shows what are in one of the spent flowers. They are very small. What are they and what should I do with them? Thank you! M. N. 
A.  Those are the seeds. Growing calla lilies from seeds requires a little work and some patience. It can take up to three years for a calla lily planted from seed to bloom. For best results, spread the seeds out on a damp paper towel, cover them and put in a cool location. Check in a few days for growth. Discard any that do not show any signs of life. Put the sprouting seeds in a high-quality potting soil in a well-draining pot or flat. It is best to plant at least two seeds per pot just under the soil surfacer. Keep the soil moist and watch for growth. After a week remove any seeds that have not grown. After a few weeks remove the weakest plants. Once the plants have grown a while, they can be transplanted into larger pots or transplanted outside. Water the newly transplanted plants regularly until they become established.

Q.  First, let me say I enjoyed taking the organic certification course. Second, a few new homes are being completed near my house; all of them are being landscaped by the same company. They are planting live oak trees  that are balled in a material that seems like a plastic burlap, for lack of a better term. They are digging a round hole, and dropping the still-wrapped trees straight from the truck into the hole, then mounding up mulch around the trunk. I speak Spanish, and I asked the Spanish speakers doing the work why they did not remove the "burlap," and they said, "that's how the boss says to do it." I asked the one English speaker who seemed to be in charge, and he said in an irritated way, that the roots penetrate the "burlap" and that there was no need to do anything else. Besides passing the TORC course, I am a level 3 native plant landscaper (per NPSOT), and was wondering if you think these trees have any chance of actually surviving.  B. W. Dallas
A.  Thanks for the report and I'm glad you are enjoying the course. As you probably have seen by now, I recommend strongly removing the natural burlap, strings and wires from B&B trees because they often hide excess soil on top of the balls and definitely restrict roots growing out into the soil. The synthetic "burlap" is even worse. Natural burlap won't break down below about 10" in the soil because of the lack of oxygen. The plastic "burlap” won't break down anywhere ever. It's disappointing to hear that kind of attitude from landscape professionals. For anyone that will listen to you, recommend that that the mulch be pulled back from the trunks, then remove the soil and burlap down to the top of the actual roots balls. Tell them to leave it all exposed even if it leaves a depression. They should also rough up the edge of the small holes they dug so that the aerated soil will easily accept the new roots into it. 

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