For The Answer
WILSON COUNTY NEWS
Calvin R. Finch, Ph.D., Conservation Director, San Antonio Water System,
Week of May 21, 2001
Q. What can I do to combat starlings and English sparrows in a martin house?
A. Some martin lovers pull their houses down every week to remove the sparrow and starling nests. They say it does not bother the martins. I quit cleaning out the sparrow and starling nests when the martins arrive. The starlings now own one house and sparrows and martins share the other two. The martins seem to be successful with such a regime.
Q. Are there any vegetables that we can plant now for the hot summer?
A. Okra, peppers and southern peas seem to do well when planted in May.
Q. My pentas have been stripped. Is there a rodent that will eat blooms and foliage?
A. I would suspect hornworms. The family of large caterpillars of night-flying moths (sphinx, hummingbird) love pentas almost as much as tomatoes. Spray Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) on the foliage when it grows back.
Q. What do you think of bur oaks? Are they suitable for sandy soil?
A I love bur oaks. Their growth pattern is dominated by coarse, horizontal branches that have great character and strength. The leaves and acorns are huge. The large leaves are prone to mildew but seem to grow out of it. The growth rate is not as consistent as Texas red oak. On good soils with good drainage bur oaks grow as fast as red oaks, but on other soils they grow very slowly. Sand is not their favorite growing medium. If you incorporate generous amounts of organic material, mulch, and have plenty of water, they will survive in a sandy soil.
Q. Do pecan shells work okay as a mulch? My friend has a pile from his grove that is going to waste.
A. Pecan shells make excellent mulch. Fresh shells attract fire ants and rodents that collect the leftover nuts but that is a short-lived situation. The shells also do not lend themselves to barefoot wandering in the garden so, if that is your inclination, pick leaves or another soft material. The pecan shells are attractive, easy to spread, and long lasting.