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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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Weekly Gardening Column


QUESTION: I have been trying to find out if the flower "sweet pea" is related to the vegetable English or snow pea? The flowering sweet pea is so lovely to gaze upon that I have the most uncontrollable desire to dine on them! However, I'm sure the taste could be improved dramatically if they could be cross-bred.

ANSWER: Sweet pea is the common name for Lathyrus odoratus, a popular, hardy annual climbing plant that reaches heights of 6 feet or more but requiring trellis, wire or other kind of support. The edible peas, such as the English or snowpea, are in the genus Pisum. They are herbaceous annuals with a tendril-climbing vine. Both the sweet pea and the edible peas are in the Leguminosae Family and are legumes.

Fear not, if you find "the flowering sweet pea so lovely to gaze upon that you have the most uncontrollable desire to dine on them", they won't poison you.

QUESTION: We have several Texas Sage plants--the grayish-green kind. I have seen that are more "green-leaved" than ours. It has bloomed once in 6 years. Is there a way to encourage more blooming? I heard about it blooming more when it rains, but not these!

ANSWER: Texas Sage blooms sparsely at best, and none at all if it is not in full, blazing sun, requiring a minimum of 8-10 hours of direct sunlight daily. The green-leafed variety that you see is the variety "Green Cloud". It is a semi-tropical selection from the Rio Grande Valley. Most selections are grayish-green. Water infrequently, or NEVER WATER, and don't fertilize it. You might want to cut it to the ground every several years. If it dies, then congratulations. This is one of my favorite plants, as well as nurserymen. Because it dies so often, and looks so ugly, they get to sell lots of replacements!

QUESTION: During a recent thunderstorm, my potted plumeria plant tipped over and the stalk snapped. I used a razor to make a clean cut at both broken ends. The bottom part has been resettled into the pot since the root ball was intact. When will it put out new leaves? (My other plumeria was not hurt, so I water both plants at the same time.)

ANSWER: Be careful not to over water the leafless plant. Remember, if the plant has no leaves, it cannot transpire (use water). Transpiration is the only way water is lost is through drainage out of the pot and evaporation from the surface of the medium in which the plant is growing. If the surface is mulched (covered with a bark covering), the plant will not need to be watered as much as the actively growing plant. New leaves should appear in several weeks.

QUESTION: Do plants benefit from coffee grinds or aspirin? I've been told both are good fertilizers.

ANSWER: Coffee grinds acidify the soil and can have some of the same benefits as a mulch. The aspirin helps the gardener who is having a hard time growing the plants and may avert a headache that could cause the gardener to destroy the plants in a rage.

QUESTION: Is there a contact herbicide that is legal and available for effective eradication of unwanted hackberry seedlings and offshoots sprouting from my neighbor's trumpet creeper?

ANSWER: Spray individual shoots with a double strength (the highest recommended rate on the label) glyphosate herbicide such as Roundup, Kleanup or Finale as soon as they emerge. It is a constant battle. This treatment will also not damage the Mother vine or damage any tree or shrub vegetation in your yard.

QUESTION: We were spraying our yard (up in Rowlett) with a diazinon solution (2 teaspoons to the gallon) and later realized that we sprayed some herbs and okra plants which were not listed on the product label (Ortho diazinon plus). Did we ruin these plants or is there a time frame after which they would be safe to harvest from?

ANSWER: I cannot legally recommend what is or is not on a label -- the label is the law. You can however look at other containers of diazinon and see what a suitable waiting period for the products you sprayed might be. You can cut all of the foliage off of the herb and let it resprout (you didn't mention what sort of herb you were talking about but I assume it is one that you consume or use the foliage of). Since you sprayed the foliage and did not use the diazinon as a drench, any newly planted foliage should be all right. The okra is a different matter. Since the residual of diazinon is not over 2 weeks, and since you sprayed the foliage and existing fruit -- and since you don't eat the foliage -- you might consider that disposing of the fruit for 2 weeks should make other fruit which is formed safe to eat. Of course, the label is the law and the decision is yours. I hope I have been helpful without sounding too much like a bureaucratic psycho who doesn't want to commit himself in writing.

QUESTION: The past couple years, my garden seems to be getting worse, the vegetables are just not growing, seem to turn brown quickly and just fade very quickly. Production has been off, but what is produced, is very good. For the last few years, almost all the organic material I have added has been Live Oak leaves, often just a month or 2 after raking them up. I am south of San Antonio, and my soil is very sandy and hardly clumps at all unless wet. A friend told me that oak leaves have a mild toxin, and may be the cause of my problems. My only composting is a pile that usually doesn't. I plan to start a 4 X 4 X 4 bin soon. Are the oak leaves hurting me, and do you have any web sources for composting???? I'm not planting this fall to give it a rest, with the exception of Elbon rye later on. Is there anything else I can do? The only fertilizer I have been using is Miracle Grow.

ANSWER: Leaves of pecan and live oak trees are acceptable to use in gardens as a mulch. I have been hearing misinformed people give reasons not to use pecan leaves. Most indicate these leaves put too much acid into the soil. This reason is WRONG.

First, all organic material produced from an alkaline growing condition is mainly alkaline. Since pecan trees are growing in the area's alkaline soil types, the decomposition product, unfortunately, will be alkaline. Even if this were not true, pure sulfuric acid can be applied to the soils in this area, and the soil will neutralize the pure acid without significant alteration. This occurs because area soils are very basic (alkaline) and extremely buffered (resists change). Our soils need all the acid they can get. If pecan leaves produce more acid, then that is one major advantage to using them -- BUT THEY DON'T.

However, non-decomposed organic material does rob nitrogen from the soil so DOUBLE the rate of nitrogen you use for growing the garden if you are using huge quantities of organic matter. Use 4-6 pounds of 19-5-9 per 100 square feet before planting to offset the decomposition process. Miracle Grow WON'T DO IT -- use Miracle Grow ONLY as a side-dress or supplemental fertilizer AFTER the plants are growing. Your garden DOES NOT NEED A REST --it needs feeding or fertilizer to be productive once again.

QUESTION: I have about 200 gladiolas in the ground right now and they have completed their blooming. When do I take them up for drying so that I can replant them next February?

ANSWER: It is best to let the glads die down to the ground and put as much energy back into the roots as possible. You should be able to dig in September. To spread the bloom period, just use a 2-week interval between plantings of the glad roots.

QUESTION: We are trying to control a grass in our flower beds which we believe is Bermuda grass. It does have rhizomes. We have been told to use a Fusilade-containing product. Please advise if it can be used adjacent to the following plants: lirope, wax leaf ligustrum, holly, red tip photinia, dwarf yaupon, Indian Hawthorne, cleyera, gardenia, roses, and Berkmans Golden Arborvitae.

ANSWER: Whoever told you to use a Fusilade-containing product such as Ortho Grass-B-Gon or Poast gave you some wonderful advice. Remember, it kills ONLY grasses so it is safe on ANY broadleaf flower or plant. It may require several weeks to kill during this part of the year so be patient.

QUESTION: I have a Jade tree in my home and it is not doing well at all. Can you advise me?

ANSWER: Jade trees are damaged by 2 things - over watering and a lack of enough sunlight. Put it outdoors in a sunny location (afternoon shade if possible) and reduce watering. Never let it freeze.

QUESTION: Due to long period of neglect, Johnson grass has over-run a bed that contains lantana plants. I live in Austin and the bed receives full sun. What is the best, least painful method for removing the unsightly Johnson grass without hurting the lantana? How can I keep the Johnson grass from returning? So far, the lantana do not seem to be suffering, however, they are being overrun!!! Help!!!

ANSWER: This is EASY!!! Simply spray the bed with a fusilade-containing product such as Ortho Grass-B-Gon or Poast. This product only kills grass such as bermuda or Johnson grass and will not even scorch a leaf on the lantana. Add a side-dress application of fertilizer and then water for a beautiful bloom display in the fall.

QUESTION: I've planted some Lantana Montevidensis "Imperial Purple." They were blooming when I bought them, but haven't flowered since I put them in a well-prepared bed in March. They seem healthy otherwise. What's going on? I understand they don't need a lot of water, and they're in the sun.

ANSWER: If you have the plants in full sun and they are well established (they do need a bit of water every now and then to prosper), they should begin a flush of bloom in fall. These plants bloom longer into the fall than any other lantana, as temperatures cool and the days get shorter.

QUESTION: My St. Augustine lawn is being damaged by a creature (or creatures) digging many shallow holes under my oak trees. The holes are small, 2 - 2 ½ inches across. The turf is pulled back and the dirt appears to be scooped out to a depth of 1 - 1 ½
inches. There are so many of these holes that the lawn is becoming unsightly. Could squirrels be the culprit? Other possibilities?

ANSWER: You are to be congratulated and we here at PLANTanswers have NOTHING on the site about your pest -- the National Animal of Texas -- the armadillo. But fear not, just for you, here is more than you ever wanted to know about armadillos:


What's bugging your garden? Most people consider bugs the main garden problem, but until you have had varmints of some other type, you really haven't had a garden problem. Varmints are any critters that are not in the insect family, are warm blooded (even though they may seem cold-blooded sometimes!) and damage or destroy produce.

Varmints are sneaky devils! Sometimes they disguise themselves as "cute" or precious. Some even get themselves designated as state mascots. Some folks even spend hard-earned money to buy feed to attract varmints--the varmints eat the free food then finish the garden off for dessert.

My first varmint encounter was with an armadillo, or should I say, a family of those armor-plated bulldozers. I always thought armadillos were cute little rascals on the beer ads and who scampered across the highways and byways of Texas. Then, the drought came. A local armadillo family decided that my newly watered lawn would be easier to dig in than the hard, dry soil of the wilds. They were right, and soon my landscape began to resemble Swiss cheese. Those devils are either mighty hungry or love to dig! If landscape beauty was to be preserved something had to be done. Of course, I am the sort of fellow who likes to discover the silver lining of any situation, so I got out all of my possum recipes from Tennessee. After all, if armadillo can't be considered "possum-on-the-half-shell", I don't know why! Tennessee possum stew is a delicacy for the truly blessed, and is thought to be responsible for the superior intelligence and warm personality of those folks who originate in Tennessee and other possum-loving states. I guess armadillo chili is good enough for Texans.

Anyway, I thought that I had solved the "problem" until my neighbors and family lodged formal protests. My neighbors didn't want to install bullet-proof glass to protect themselves during my armadillo safaris. The armadillo is active primarily from the twilight hours through the early morning hours in the summer. I discovered 2 a.m. to be the prime time. For some reason, neighbors quickly lose their sense of humor when gun shots pierce the morning silence. The neighbors changed their minds the instant the "cute" armadillos began to lust after their lawn instead of mine. A few hundred holes in one's lawn can quickly transfer a flaming liberal conservationist into a blood-lust killer.

My family, on the other hand, did not want to partake of the gourmet delight that I had planned, and for which I had risked life and limb going into the wilds of the backyard to procure. There is nothing more dangerous than a wounded armadillo! They told me that armadillos can be infected by an organism that is thought to be the human leprosy bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae. I was not discouraged, since poke salad greens are considered poisonous before cooking, and I've eaten those for years! Yet, even I lost a bit of appetite after field dressing my first armadillo prey. Have you ever skinned a Volkswagon?

The armadillo has the ability to climb and burrow. However, a fence slanted outward at a 40-degree angle, with a portion buried, is a deterrent to their entrance. Unfortunately, there are no repellents known to be effective. Trapping may be the best solution.

Armadillos can be captured in Havahart or Tomahawk traps. The best locations to set traps are along pathways to their burrows and along fences or other barriers where the animals may travel. If bait is to be used, use over-ripe or spoiled fruit. Other suggested baits are fetid meats or meal-worms. Leftovers can be used, but the danger exists of killing the "trapee". However, some people report that if you feed them leftovers long enough, they may leave on their own accord! I can identify with that!

A word of warning to those who think that an armadillo is easy to shoot or catch. The armadillo does have poor eyesight, but a keen sense of smell. When those armored devils detect danger, they can shift their bodies from park to race before you can bat an eye or draw a bead! For this reason always cock your gun BEFORE closely approaching a docilely rooting prey. If he (or she) raises it's head and sniffs the air, you had better do what you're going to do or you will be glimpsing armadillo tail headed towards the brush before you can draw a breath! Also, remember that when frightened, an armadillo always runs straight for the hole. If you position yourself between the armadillo's present position and the home hole, it will quickly dash towards you when frightened, allowing a better chance for a close encounter.

You will have to decide the appropriate technique for this varmint's demise. Don't think that it will be easy. Even after you get rid of one, there will be more on the way, since female armadillos produce a litter of quadruplets each year. The litter is all of the same sex and appear identical since they are derived from a single ovum (egg). So if you have an armadillo invasion, prepare yourself for a prolonged assault. You must choose the best technique for defense. Let your conscience be your guide.