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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 purchased and transplanted a Diefenbachia house plant a month ago. I recently noticed the bodies of many dead millipedes in the top of the soil. As the soil had become quite dry, I proceeded to water the plant thoroughly. Shortly after, I noticed many live millipedes squirming and crawling through the top soil. They are between 3/8- 3/4 inches long, whitish, with one brownish end. Any suggestion for treatment and prevention? Otherwise, the plant appears healthy-- just had a new leaf unfurl.

ANSWER: I would treat millipedes as I would treat any planting medium contamination. Reduce watering and let the soil dry out between watering. Use a soil drench of diazinon, Malathion, pyrethrin or DDVP. Be sure to check the label carefully to be certain these products are label-cleared for use on each house plant variety.

QUESTION: I moved to San Antonio from Colorado 9 months ago, bringing a tree with me. I had it inside up there. It has grown to be about 5 feet high. So now I keep it outside. I do not know what kind it is. I bought it from a local grocery store, but it is my baby. I thought it was just a plant, however it is getting bark on it. It has small teardrop looking leaves (about the size of a quarter). If you took your arms together with closed fists and slowly opened your fists and spreading your arms apart, that's how the limbs open up. It has started to get yellow-colored leaves and kind of dry. Is that from possible over watering, or under watering? Maybe the sunlight? I just don't know. Could you help me please? I have tried to find a picture of it but have failed. I don't want it to die. It was fine inside but has grown too large for indoors. It is in an appropriate sized pot too. Please...if you have any advice or opinions write me!

ANSWER: Since you are in San Antonio, take it by the San Antonio Botanical Garden on Funston (at North New Braunfels) and let Paul Cox take a look at it. But you should know now that if it is an aspen, birch or spruce, you can kiss it goodbye -- it won't like Texas at all!!! Trees want to be trees and want to have lots of sun and soil in which to grow. I imagine your houseplant-turning-tree is pot-bound and light deficient. All I can say is TAKE PICTURES of your "baby" so you will have something to remember.

QUESTION: I was wondering if the Oleander is poisonous. I have searched several places and I have not been able to find any information. I wanted to get one because they are very beautiful but I have small children who love putting things in there mouth and you can never be too careful! I would appreciate any information you could give me regarding this plant.

ANSWER: If you check this PLANTanswers site on poisonous plants:

you will find oleander listed second. Every piece of an oleander is poisonous but the REST OF THE STORY is that no one could eat enough of the raw plant to do damage unless your cooking is SERIOUSLY bad. If you only used non-poisonous plant material, your landscape is going to look like a desert!!! Practically every houseplant is poisonous. But now you have a list of poisonous plants, thanks to the PLANTanswer experts.

QUESTION: Is there any type of control for a virus that causes mutated growth? This viral attack seems to be spreading between a crape myrtle, red oak and photinia. The crape myrtle seems to be hardest hit, producing no foliage at all--only mutated buds. The other plant species are producing a ball of mutated growth. What is this virus called?

ANSWER: I think you are confusing virus with wrinkling effects of powdery mildew on crape myrtle, thrips and mite damage on oak foliage, and the Red Tip Photinia disease (Entomosporium leaf spot) problem for which there is no cure.

QUESTION: Recently I was vacationing at South Padre Island and saw several 15-20 foot tall "trees". They have large round green leaves with red "veins". They also bear clumps of green grapes. The confusing thing is that the plant seems to be self supportive, with heavy stems like a Crape Myrtle. I would like to know if they would be suitable for the Houston area climate in summer and winter.

ANSWER: You most likely saw a Sea Grape, Coccoloba uvifera. This is a fairly common coastal plant in frost-free areas. I don't think it would survive in the Houston area without winter protection.
---Paul Cox, San Antonio Botanical Garden

QUESTION: I have large trees around my house, which has a cracked foundation. According to the foundation experts, the foundation will never remain level until I install a root barrier around the trees to stop the roots from absorbing moisture from under the house. How far from the trunk of the tree, how deep and what material should I use for the barrier? I was thinking a few feet from the branch drip line, 36-inches deep, and using fiberglass panels. The trees are large oaks, ash and one HUGE cottonwood (in my neighbor's yard).

ANSWER: I think your idea about the branch drip line, 36-inches deep, and using fiberglass panels should work. I assume you will Ditch-witch the holes and that should cut the roots. You may want to thin limbs from the affected trees to balance the top growth with the root system lost. The trees will recover from this procedure regardless even though some top growth die back may occur.

QUESTION: We purchased a new home last year and put in 7 pallets of bermuda grass (Tiff 419) in the back. Last year, we had some problem with grease spots that then turned brown. We treated for fungus and the problem cleared up. This appeared to start again this year with the hot weather. With the water restrictions, I was watering a lot at night. The grass turned greasy looking, then gray, then brown. The grass has come back in patches but not very well. We treated it with Green Light Fung-Away and we used 3 bags of dry powder per instructions. It didn't seem to help and it has continued to spread. A neighbor found out they had chinch bugs so my husband treated our lawn with Green Light Diazinon 5% granules and it treated up to 4,000 sq. ft. I do not see any bugs in the grass or in the soil.

ANSWER: First, there are very few disease problems that will attack Bermuda grass in the heat of the summer. One of the main problems we see in Bermuda grass at this time of year is Helminthosporium (leaf spot). While this disease is mainly a leaf disease in the spring, once the weather becomes hot, it can attack the crown area of the Bermuda grass runners and cause the plants to die.

At this time, I can't think of anything that will cause grease spot appearances in the Bermuda grass. There is a disease called slime mold that can cause circular gray to black patches in the turf. However, this is usually associated with excess moisture and I find it hard to believe that this could be a problem this year unless your are applying too much water.

What is your mowing height? The hybrid Bermuda grasses need to be mowed at .75 - 1.0 inch for best results. If mowed to high, the hybrid Bermuda grasses can produce brown spots similar to what you described for your lawn. If you are mowing over 1.5 inches, lower the mowing height to 1.0 inch when cooler weather arrives. Also, when mowing at this lower height, you will need to mow at least twice per week.

QUESTION: Where should I plant a yellow allamanda plant--full sun or partial-- and how should I care for it?

ANSWER: The Allamanda cathartica is a tropical vine so you are going to have to grow it in a container so that you can bring it in during the winter (or risk losing it to a freeze). I have seen them growing in large containers, sitting on pedestals where they can cascade over. It should be in a full-sun location or at least morning sun and afternoon partial shade. The information below comes from the Botanica CD Rom:

Allamanda cathartica, Family name: Apocynaceae; Common name(s): Golden trumpet vine; This vigorous climber, fast-growing to 15 ft (4.5 m), bears large, yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers to 6 in (15 cm) across in summer. It has whorls of lance-shaped leaves and makes a luxuriant cover for walls and strong fences in frost-free areas. The flowers of 'Hendersonii' are yellow with white spotted throats. Hardiness zone from 11 To 12; Plant Height approx. 500 cm; Flowering colors: Yellow; Flowering season: Summer; Garden type: Hedge/Screen, Indoor Plant, Tropical; Position: Sunny; Propagation season: Spring, Summer; Soil: Potting Mix; Cultivation: In warm climates grow outdoors in a sunny, sheltered position in rich soil, watering freely in summer. In cool climates they require a large container in a hothouse or conservatory. Prune heavily in spring to maintain shape and encourage flowering. Propagate from cuttings and watch for mites which disfigure the leaves.

QUESTION: I have 4 tomato plants planted right next to an oleander bush. I now know that oleanders are poisonous, but is it safe to eat the tomatoes?

ANSWER: No problem at all!!!

QUESTION: I am currently building a concept home with a "no- grass" lawn. Instead, the yard has been planted with 4-inch Asian Jasmine plants at about 1-1 ½ foot spacing. The yard is sandy clay, sunny, and well drained. It is watered with a drip irrigation system. I wonder what is the best way to stimulate growth to quickly fill in the open areas, and if some safe weed kill can be used to control weeds until I get full coverage?

ANSWER: Asiatic Jasmine planted from 4-inc pots at the spacing you have is probably going to take at least 2 growing seasons to cover. In the meantime the best thing you can do for it is to put a layer of mulch, 3-4 inches deep, over the area where it is planted. This can be anything from shredded leaves, bark nuggets, compost, etc. It would have been much easier to put this down before the jasmine was planted but you can still do it. The mulch will help tremendously to keep the weeds down, will conserve water and will keep the root zone at a temperature that will facilitate root growth. The jasmine will respond to light applications of a good quality, high nitrogen lawn fertilizer applied about every 30 days. There are 'over-the-top' herbicides which can be used to kill grassy weeds in ornamental beds. They contain the active ingredient 'fluazifop' and one is commonly sold as Fusilade. I know of no broad-leaf herbicide that is labeled for use on Asiatic jasmine. The glyphosate products, such as Roundup, can be used if you are careful not to apply it to the jasmine.

QUESTION: I would like to know how to start Bradford pears? From seed? How long does it take? Do you get the seed after the bloom fall?

ANSWER: All of the information that I have found says that it is difficult to root the Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana 'Bradford') from cuttings, and that most propagation is done by bud grafting 'Bradford' onto Pyrus calleryana seedlings. The Bradford may produce seed which you could collect and try propagating. There is no guarantee what you will get. The seed will be contained in the small inconspicuous fruit that will follow the flowers. This seed will require cold stratification at 32-36 degrees F. for a period of 60-90 days. I think that I would just go to the nursery and buy small trees!

QUESTION: I'm not sure if you can help or not, but, I have a Bermuda grass lawn that is slowly becoming over run by St. Augustine. Is there anything I can do to kill the St. Augustine without affecting the Bermuda (like a fungus??). I have heard that St. Augustine needs a lot of water, so I dried out the lawn. St. Augustine is still there and the Bermuda is nearly dead, compounding the problem! I've tried cutting it as low as 1 ½ inches. Any suggestions?? I live in Austin, TX.

ANSWER: There is a solution. Fortunately, you want the bermuda to be the dominant grass. For most people, it is the other way around. They want the St Augustine and that is difficult if not impossible. There are herbicides that will eradicate just about everything in a bermuda lawn except the bermuda. These are DSMA (disodium methanearsonate) and MSMA (monosodium acid methanearsonate). You must expect some discoloration of the grass, but if applied in accordance with the label instructions, the herbicide will not kill the bermuda. Your favorite nursery, or any other place that sells lawn supplies, should have them. Your bermuda did not die when you withheld the water, it merely went dormant before the St. Augustine. However, for the herbicide to be effective, you need to bring the lawn back to a green and growing condition. Read, and apply in accordance with, the instructions on the label of the herbicide.