QUESTION: My tomato plants look great. They are
dark green, vigorous and healthy. However, flowers are not
forming much fruit. The flowers and the stem on which they
are attached turn yellow then drop off leaving a stub which
looks as if something has cut or eaten the bloom off. What
is the problem?
ANSWER: Several conditions can cause tomatoes to
not set fruit. Planting indeterminate (large growing varieties)
and/or non-recommended varieties, nighttime temperatures
over 70 degrees F., low temperatures below 50 degrees F.,
irregular watering, insects such as thrips or planting the
wrong variety may result in poor fruit set. Any of these
conditions can cause poor fruit set, but combinations can
cause failures. If Extension recommended varieties are used,
the main reason tomato plants do not set fruit is because
they are not planted where they can receive 8-10 hours of
direct (SUNBATHING) sunlight daily. Any less direct sunlight
will result in a spindly growing, nonproductive plant with
healthy foliage. When the bloom aborts, it leaves a stub
on which it was attached.
QUESTION: It seems every website I visit for gardening
identifies the flower information with its Latin name, but
does not have the corresponding common name. Is there somewhere
on your website or other websites) that has an online dictionary
for translating a flower's common name to their Latin name?
ANSWER: There are so many plants that share common
names that the use of their botanical names is much better
in the long run. However, I understand your frustration
if you do not recognize these names. It is better when both
QUESTION: I believe that I have St. Augustine grass
in my yard. 1) Is this carpet grass? 2) The grass itself
is green but seems to be kind of thin and you can see a
lot of dead grass underneath. This is thatch, correct? What
do I need to do to get rid of it? Oxbow subdivision. Babcock
and DeZavala Rd..
ANSWER: St Augustine is commonly referred to as
'carpet grass'. Thatch is only a problem in those lawns
that have been over-fertilized and over-watered. Your description
does not indicate this. Probably what you see is just the
dead remains of last year's growth. The heat of the coming
summer will take care of it. If you haven't already fertilized
your lawn, it is now time to do so. The spring application
isn't applied until you have cut green, growing grass twice.
The recommended fertilizer is one that has slow-release
nitrogen and a ratio of 4-1-2 or 3-1-2 such as 19-5-9. Your
lawn will need supplemental irrigation of about 1 inch per
week in the absence of rain. See this PLANTanswers web site
for more information on St Augustine:
QUESTION: Could you give me the recipe for bread-and-butter
pickles you mentioned?
(Just about the best on earth!)
6-10 medium cucumbers
One onion, sliced thin (I cut the onion in quarters before
1/4 cup of pickling salt
2 cups cider vinegar
2 and one-half cup of sugar
3/4 teaspoons of mustard seeds
3/4 teaspoon of celery seeds
one-half teaspoon of tumeric
Wash cucumber and drain. Slice thin, as for table use. Mix
all other ingredients and pour over slices. Mix together
lightly. Place in glass jars in refrigerator. Can be eaten
after 24 hours. Nice and crispy. Good with hamburger.
You can use whatever glass jars you have. They don't necessarily
have to be canning jars.
QUESTION: How can we control ticks?
ANSWER: Control efforts for ticks should include
pet protection and treatment of backyard areas and high
traffic sites on the farm. The best time to treat is mid
morning (8:00-11:00 am) when ticks emerge from protection
to seek a host. Sunny mornings bring out the largest numbers
of ticks, hence are the best days to treat. Treatments include
permethrin formulations applied to 10-20 bands along pathways,
or as a broadcast treatment to yards and play areas.
Tick life stages present right now include both overwintering
nymphs and adults. Seed (larval) stage ticks normally occur
in May and June.
Probably the best on-animal treatment right now is Frontline
(fipronyl). This product reportedly gives excellent control
for up to one month. Frontline is available through veterinarians
only. A pyrethroid insecticide, lambda cyhalothrin, is available
as a spot-on treatment through pet stores, and should also
provide good control.
QUESTION: I am trying to kill what I believe is
Bermuda grass in St. Augustine without resorting to ChemLawn
tactics. I have tried Atrazine, but at label rates it only
stunts the Bermuda --- the St. Augustine does not grow in
fast enough before the Bermuda recovers. If I do go the
Chemlawn route, what will they use? It seems that they have
access to something that will do the job since my neighbor
does not have this problem.
ANSWER: I know of nothing that will kill bermuda
grass without also killing the St Augustine. You can help
the St Augustine to predominate but I doubt that you can
ever rid your lawn of it completely without total kill of
Bermuda needs a lot of sun. If you cut your St Augustine
high (3 to 3 ½ inches) the shade it produces will
help control the bermuda. Also, bermuda needs more fertilization
that does the St Augustine. So by reducing your fertilizing
to once per year and doing it in the fall will help to suppress
QUESTION: I am considering Meyer Zoysia grass for
my lawn in Austin, TX.. The yard is approximately 1 acre.
Three questions: 1) If my neighbors have Buffalo and St.
Augustine respectively, will their turf infiltrate the Zoysia?
2) Is there a way to quantify the water usage of Zoysia
versus St. Augustine? 3) I prefer Zoysia but do not know
if the price premium over St. Augustine in worth it.
ANSWER: Are you familiar with the characteristics
of Meyer Zoysia? It has been likened to steel wool and can
not be properly mowed with a normal rotary mower. I do not
recommend it as turf. Emerald Zoysia is another fine bladed
turf that has much better color, but the same problem with
mowing. When mowed with a rotary mower, these grasses will
form tufts and will never look properly manicured. Another
Zoysia that lends itself better to the typical maintenance
of the urban/suburban yard is El Toro or Jammer. These grasses
have wider blades, is softer and can be successfully mowed
with a rotary mower.
To answer your questions: (1) Buffalo will probably never
successfully invade a Zoysia lawn. St. Augustine could invade
but is quite easy to prevent or remove. Periodic edging
with MSMA herbicide will prevent any invasion of St. Augustine.
(2) The basic difference between the water requirements
of St Augustine and Zoysia is that in the lack of rainfall
or irrigation Zoysia will go dormant, turn brown and will
recover when moisture is received. St Augustine if allowed
to go for an extended period without water will die. How
long is extended? It depends on many factors such as soil
depth and quality. To look good, both require approximately
the same amount of water. (3) My opinion would hinge on
the conditions of your yard. If it is predominately sunny,
I do not recommend St Augustine. The Zoysias are able to
tolerate much more sun that St Augustine and will grow in
about the same amount of shade. Floratam St. Augustine is
the most drought-tolerant of any St. Augustine -- more drought
tolerant than Prairie Buffalo Grass or El Toro zoysia.
QUESTION: I have a weed in my yard that I hope that
you can identify and help me eradicate it. It is a vine,
has thorns similar to a rose and has heart shaped leaves.
My daughter says its a dicot. I have tried Finale and have
tried digging it up but it is very intertwined below the
ANSWER: Your daughter is to be commended for learning
her botany. Have her explain to you the difference between
a dicot and a monocot.
I'm sure that the vine you describe is one of the species
of Smilax which are commonly called Greenbriar. It is extremely
difficult to eradicate since it reproduces itself from an
underground tuber. The best means of attack, if you cannot
dig out the tuber, is to cut it back to the ground and continually
cut off the new growth. It will eventually run out of stored
up energy and succumb.
Greenbriar, Smilax spp. is also called bull briar and cat
briar. The green woody stems are armed with long sharp spines
which readily tear clothes and flesh. It moves as a vine
and will completely cover the edge of a woods or a blueberry
field. As it weaves itself together it becomes impenetrable.
As a member of the lily family it has a bulb situated deep
in the ground. Control is virtually impossible except by
continued cutting. Attempts to dig up the bulb have been
QUESTION: We live in Boerne and had to cut down
a lot of dead trees. Can you suggest any fast growing trees
to replace the old ones?
ANSWER: The accompanying list of trees are those
recommended for South Central Texas and are found at the
PLANTanswers web site shown. As you are aware, I'm sure,
Boerne is in the middle of oak wilt infestation and this
may be what killed your trees. When planting new trees it
would be prudent to include varieties other than those which
are susceptible to oak wilt. I'm not saying that you shouldn't
plant some trees that might be susceptible as when you take
care to insure that they are not wounded, and if they are,
to immediately paint the wound with some kind of paint they
should do fine. It is the old live oaks with their interconnected
root systems that are in most danger.
Also you should be aware that the faster a tree grows,
generally speaking, the more problems it is going to have.
Some good ones to consider are Cedar Elm, Chinkapin Oak,
Montezuma Cypress, Monterrey Oak, Large Crape Myrtles such
as 'Basham's Party Pink', and Texas Redbud.
If you want to use an oak, use any member of the white
oak subfamily (Leucobalanus?) as listed in order from the
Paul Cox and Patti Leslie book Texas Trees:
Gambel Oak (Quercus gambelii)
Harvard Shin Oak (Quercus harvardii)
White Shin Oak (Quercus sinuata var. breviloba)
Durand Oak (Quercus durandii)
Lacey's Oak (Quercus laceyi)
Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muhlenbergii)
Post Oak (Quercus stellata)
Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
White Oak (Quercus alba)
Overcup Oak (Quercus lyrata)
Monterrey Oak (Quercus polymorpha) This is not true Leucobalanus,
but close enough)
REMEMBER: No oak is immune!!!!!!