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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
RECIPES ARE AVAILABLE FOR THIS "POSSUM-ON-THE-HALF-SHELL"!!