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Don't fret over tree--but nurse it anyway


QUESTION: I have noticed brown needles at the base of each branch on my Japanese black pine. Is this normal? Will cornmeal or compost tea alleviate this browning? D.H., Cedar Hill

ANSWER: It sounds as if the oldest needles are dying, which is normal. Japanese black pines don't seem to be as healthy here as they once were. It may help to use my Sick Tree Treatment. In this case, greensand may be the most important ingredient.  If you ever need another pine, try an Italian stone pine. It is far superior and is available seasonally as a living Christmas tree.

QUESTION: I had three large Bradford pear trees removed, and the stumps were ground to about 4 inches beneath the soil surface. I want to plant Savannah hollies in the same place as a patio privacy screen, but I'm concerned about the stumps. Should I even try to plant in the same area where the Bradford pears were? What about soil enhancements? R.W., Flower Mound

ANSWER: Removing the stumps by grinding them further is OK, but you could plant the new hollies between the stumps. Either way, Savannah hollies should do fine. Amendments (compost, lava sand and greensand) should be applied on the soil surface after planting but before mulching. The best mulch is partially composted shredded tree trimmings from plants on your property.

QUESTION: We had extra corn gluten meal left over from the last time we applied it to the lawn as a pre-emergent. It was stored in its bag in a large plastic garbage can outside our back door.
Over the past couple of months, some type of small black bug has been making its way into my kitchen. When we opened the can of corn gluten meal a week ago, my husband said there were thousands of these bugs in the meal. Now, we have a dilemma. Were the bugs coming inside from this bag of corn gluten meal? He used it on the yard anyway. Have we just compounded the problem? I'm guessing the bugs are a flour beetle. Do we treat them as if they are weevils? K.S., Bedford

ANSWER: If the corn gluten meal has been applied, the bugs soon will go away. If this happens again, toss a handful of natural diatomaceous earth into the bag to control insects. Use a plant oil spray to kill the remaining bugs in your kitchen.

QUESTION: I have two desert willows. My brother heard on your radio program that the seed pods can be stored over the winter and the seeds planted in the spring. What is the best way to store the pods, and when should the seeds be planted? Can trees also be started by rooting branches? K.S., Mineral Wells

ANSWER: Gather the seeds through fall when the pods have dried and turned brown but before they split open to release the feathery seeds. The seeds lose viability quickly in storage but can be kept over the winter in a refrigerator. It is best to plant the seeds immediately after collecting them. Soaking them in a mild solution of apple cider vinegar before planting will increase germination. Cuttings can be rooted from semi-hardwood twigs on the current year's growth. Make the cuttings in late summer or during winter. It is best to keep the cuttings under intermittent mist or encased in plastic to maintain humidity.

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