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Feed that Christmas Cactus

QUESTION: My Christmas cactus is more than 15 years old. For the past two years, the buds have dropped before the blooms open. I keep the plant outside during the warm seasons and bring it in before the first frost. It gets very little fertilizer and needs very little water.It's a beautiful plant, but I would love to have it start blooming again. P.H., Dallas

ANSWER: The plant may be a little hungry. Drench the soil with my Garrett Juice formula and don't keep it too warm. (See Resources to obtain recipes.) Christmas cactus likes cool nights and needs to be in complete darkness at night to bloom.

QUESTION: The wild birds disappeared from my yard more than three weeks ago.I cleaned the feeders and replaced the birdseed, but the birds have not returned. I don't have cats, so I'm not sure what the problem is. I usually have about 30 to 40 sparrows, 15 to 20 house finches, a lot of doves and a few goldfinches. The pair of cardinals that have been around for about five years have disappeared, too. Why do you think this happened? G.W., Harker Heights

ANSWER: One reason could be the abundance of natural food in the wild. Seed production on shrubs and trees has been heavy this year. Berries also are heavy on some plants. The birds probably are enjoying a varied diet and will return when wild food becomes scarce.

QUESTION: My brother-in-law is managing a new horse ranch in the Aubrey area of Denton County. Apparently, the property previously was a winery. I don't know what species or variety of grapes were grown, but my relative says that thick stalks or trunks are sticking out of the ground. He describes them as "thicker than a broom handle." Do grapevines transplant well? I live in the same general area and have two types of soil: thick black gumbo and a light-colored, somewhat sandier clay.B.E., Aubrey

ANSWER: Grapevines transplant easily. Try to dig earth balls to take with the roots, but even bare-root grapevines transplant well during winter. Use my Garrett Juice formula as a root stimulator when replanting. (See Resources to obtain recipes.)


: Can I make an organic herbicide that will kill prickly pear cactus? T.K., Gonzales

ANSWER: Yes. Compost or my Garrett Juice formula, used with an organic landscape program, should kill cactuses because they don't like healthy soil. When the biological activity in the soil and on the plant increases and the related moisture rises, cactuses become stressed. The first symptom is an infestation of cochineal insects. Next, the crown of the plant starts to rot and then the plant dies. You can speed up the decomposition process by raking the dead cactuses into large piles. Add dry molasses and water to the piles to help create compost.If you improve the soil on your property with organic amendments, the cactus won't return.

QUESTION: We raise grass-fed livestock and chickens using portable pens on pasture. We have more than 20 dairy goats and 500 laying hens. During my one-year deployment with the National Guard, my wife took over our farm and did an excellent job. However, when I returned, I noticed that the vetch and clover were gone from our pasture even though the grass was healthy. I need a suggestion for replanting with a legume that will grow until July. Also, I remember growing 'Beefsteak' tomatoes when I was young. Is this variety suitable to grow in an organic operation? B.C., Sanger

ANSWER: One possible reason the legumes died is that increased soil health encouraged the growth of grasses more than legumes. The type of legumes to plant would depend on your soil, but a mixture of species usually is best.You can get soil tests and plant recommendations from Texas Plant & Soil Lab( in Edinburg.'Beefsteak' tomatoes will do well in an organic program, but you may achieve longer production from 'Super Fantastic' or other varieties with smaller fruit.

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