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Eastern red cedar is best screen option

Question: We have just moved here from West Texas and are very excited about having trees. We bought a wooded lot (mostly with pecan, hackberry and

cedar) to build on and managed to save most of the big trees.

We have deep soil that is heavy and black with excellent drainage, and there is a stream going through the property. The back section is a bare hill with shallow dirt over what looks like chalk or limestone.

I want to plant some evergreens for a screen, more pecans and some flowering trees. We are going for a natural look rather than a formal landscape.

M.K., Ellis County

Answer: Let me suggest some plants that will grow in either soil condition. The best native evergreen for screening is Eastern red cedar, which can grow 40 feet tall. A shorter option would be native yaupon holly. A mix of the two trees would be my recommendation. Female yaupons have red berries in the winter.

You could also mix in a few wax myrtles for a lighter green color contrast with blue berries.

The pecans I would plant are small-nutted varieties such as 'Caddo', 'Kanza', 'Sioux' and native seedlings.

Flowering trees that should do well on your property include rusty blackhaw viburnum, redbud, Mexican buckeye and Mexican plum.

Question: The last two years, our potato crop has been at least 50 per cent riddled with white grub worms that devour chunks of the tubers.

What can I apply to rid us of the problem this year?

L.M., Dallas

Answer: Mix dry molasses into the soil at a rate of 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet and use beneficial nematodes according to label directions. After the soil is healthy, grub worms should rarely be a problem.

Question: I would like to know the best way to germinate chile pequin seeds.

F.P., Dallas#

Answer: Start them in pots with potting soil or in well-prepared beds. April is a good month to plant because the weather and soil are warmer.

Question: What is your opinion of spinosad as a control for grasshoppers?

C.L., Dallas

Answer: I think that spinosad is acceptable in an organic program. It was developed from a living organism, has little to no toxicity and seems to work well. It is better than diazinon, Dursban, Orthene, synthetic pyrethroids, pyrethrum, piperonyl butoxide (PBO) and other toxic products.

Question: Does your vinegar recipe kill grass? I am interested because I have stone surfacing in my yard, and I want to get rid of weeds and grass. I was using Triox, but I feel it is dangerous for animals.

J.M., Dallas

Answer: Vinegar is a non-selective herbicide that will kill grass, although it often has to be sprayed more than once to get total kill.

Triox is a mixture of glyphosate and imazapyr. It is a soil sterilant and is destructive to tree and shrub roots, the water table and the environment in general. Vinegar products, on the other hand, are beneficial to the soil.

Question: I have a St. Augustine yard with wild violets in one section. I have tried several sprays to get rid of the violets. I also have had some fungus in that area. Any ideas? J.Q., Dallas

Answer: Chemical users would recommend spraying with 2,4-D, but spot-spraying with vinegar-based herbicides also will work. Rather than killing violets, I encourage them because they are pretty and edible. Use the flowers and young leaves in salads and herbal teas.

Question: I applied winter fertilizer in October 2003, and it ruined my lawn. What organic fertilizer can I use to correct this problem?

G.T., Dallas

Answer: Use my entire "Sick Tree Treatment" on the lawn. If the fertilizer you used in the fall was a "weed and feed" type, start the repair process by applying an activated carbon product called GroSafe by Norit. If your budget allows only one product at this time, apply dry molasses at a rate of 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. This is a higher rate than for normal application, but it is OK for this situation.

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