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Pest Control, Cats in Flower Beds, Swing Set Lumber, Hydrangeas, SuperThrive

Q. I have seen people hang clear plastic bags near windows, outside patios, etc. to repel flies. How does this work? ’– M.S., Dallas

Q2. I was told during a tour of old homes in Jefferson, TX that the outside porches had one thing in common. The ceilings of these porches were painted a sky blue color, not white like most homes. They said the color resisted dirt daubers and they would not build nests under the porches. Can color really repel certain insects? ’– M.S., Dallas

A. There are no scientific tests proving either of those insect repelling techniques but I have gotten several reports that they both work. The clear plastic bags seem to work better at first and diminish in effectiveness with time. That probably has to do with dust accumulating on the plastic and reducing the reflection that repels the flies. Change the bags from time to time to keep them shiny. If you don’t mind the light blue color on the ceilings, give it a try. Orange oil products used as sprays or cleaners will also help but try to not spray directly on the mud dobbers. They are highly beneficial because they eat and feed their young black widows and brown recluse spiders.

Q. What can be used to keep cats from using my flower beds as litter areas? ’– G.B., Dallas

A. Mulch with lava gravel. It looks good, helps plants grow but is a texture that kitties don’t like to walk on.

Q. I am going to build a swing set and do not want to use treated lumber. What kind of wood is a good replacement? ’– S.K., Dallas

A. I like cedar best because it looks good and has natural disease resistance.

Q. I have a question about my hydrangea bushes. They were planted 3 years ago. The first season they were small and didn’t flower. Last summer they produced quite a few beautiful blooms. This year they produced 4 blooms on 4 bushes and now have brown spots all over them. They are shaded most of the morning and early afternoon and get sun for most of the rest of the afternoon. Any suggestions as to what I might do to revive them? They are looking pretty sad. Is Texas too hot? I didn’t think so since I had quite a presentation last year. My husband cut them back late winter/early spring. ’– M.L., Fort Worth

A. Hide your husband’s pruning shears. He’s cutting away the buds that produce the flowers. They need to be in the shade and they have high water requirement. They are the first plants to wilt from being thirsty.

Q. What is your assessment of the SuperThrive product produced by Vitamin Institute in California? If you approve of this product, how would you recommend using it for planting 3’”-4’” diameter nursery grown live oak trees? I’ll admit I am not 100% organic, but am getting there. ’– K.J., Dallas

A. It’s basically a vitamin product that is used at very small doses (1/4 teaspoon per gallon of water). I think it is fine to use in your semi-organic program. Treat your entire property since the tree roots are wide spreading. It will also be OK to use in a totally organic program ’– so let’s get with it.

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