QUESTION: I have some pine trees that I brought
home with me from South Carolina. They have been in pots
for 3 months now. They have not really grown too much due
to the soil not being acidic like their natural environment.
I was using Greenlight soil acidifier and I purchased some
Jobes fertilizer spikes for evergreens. Will these options
help my pine trees grow. I would like these trees to get
a good start so I can somewhat try to grow this kind of
tree in San Antonio.
ANSWER: You are trying to do the impossible as many
before you have tried, but as you said the soil is NOT very
acidic. If you desire to grow these trees then you will
have to grow them in a container forever!! It is virtually
impossible to lower the soil pH to a sufficient level in
our area due to all the calcium in the soil, unless you
excavate an area and bring in acid soil. However, unless
you use rain water, then the water you apply will eventually
cause the pH of this new soil to go up.
QUESTION: I read an article in the Dallas Morning
News (May, '97) about galls with information from Dr. Mike
Merchant, urban entomologist for the Texas Agricultural
Extension Service in Dallas. The article stated that galls
can be ignored with the exception of a pocket vein gall.
A pocket vein gall was described as "a warty growth
on the midrib of oak leaves caused by a specific type of
fly. An overabundance of these galls can kill the leaves
and interfere with photosynthesis in the tree."
I now believe that I was describing a pocket vein gall
which is affecting my red oak. I can live with all the other
galls on the tree, but I am concerned about this type since
it curls the leaves. What signs should be noticeable if
an "overabundance" is achieved on the tree? Defoliation?
Can leaf vein galls be pro-actively treated with a broad
spectrum pesticide? And what type? Dormant oils? Should
I remove the affected leaves from the branches? And how
should they be disposed of?
ANSWER: Pocket vein gall on red oak
Vein pocket gall is a deformity of red oak leaves caused
by a tiny fly of the genus Macrodiplosis. It is a fairly
common gall on red oaks in the north Dallas area, though
relatively little is known about its biology and life cycle.
It appears to have one generation per year, with adults
active in early spring during the time that oak leaves are
unfolding. The adults lay their eggs either on oak buds
or on new, expanding leaves. The larvae begin feeding on
these leaves as the leaves grow, causing the deformity to
occur. Once leaves are fully developed they have the warty,
misshapen veins characteristic of Macrodiplosis infestation.
Once vein pocket gall deformities are evident, there is
little that anyone can do to control the fly. Developing
larvae are well protected from both foliar and systemically
applied insecticides. The only treatment that can be recommended
for this insect is application of an insecticide during
new leaf emergence. Orthene, as a systemic insecticide that
can be applied to the foliage, is probably the best choice.
We have no data as to the effectiveness of such treatment,
but it is our best suggestion at present. Oil sprays at
time of leaf emergence may or may not be effective; but
because of the potential for phytotoxicity to the tender,
expanding leaves, I do not recommend it at this time.
QUESTION: Where does chocolate and cocoa come from?
ANSWER: Chocolate and cocoa are manufactured from
the fruit of the Cacao Tree, or Theobroma cacao. This tree
grows in the moist areas of a tropical belt 20 degrees above
and below the equator. Bahia, in eastern Brazil, and the
Ivory Coast of Africa produce almost half of the world*s
cacao beans.The cacao pods are produced along the trunk
and branches of its tree. These pods are picked at maturity
and split open with machetes to extract the 20 to 40 beans
inside. These beans are heaped in piles or special crates
and fermented for 3 to 14 days. This fermenting is where
the characteristic chocolate aroma and flavor develops.
They are then dried and bagged for shipment to chocolate
factories in other countries.
At the factories, the beans are cleaned, roasted, and shelled.
The pulp is separated from the shell fragments by winnowing
leaving the larger pieces of pulp called nibs. These are
crushed and ground where heat from the process creates a
liquid product called chocolate liquor. This is where the
manufacturing process begins to vary according to the products.
The chocolate liquor can be cooled at this point to become
baking chocolate. Otherwise, the liquor is processed in
a high pressure press to extract the fat content known as
cocoa butter. The dry cake that remains in the press is
ground into cocoa powder.
To make chocolate, the chocolate liquor is blended with
more cocoa butter and sweeteners. White chocolate has none
of the chocolate liquor added.
QUESTION: What can I do to control grasshoppers?!
They are eating me out of house and home!!
ANSWER: The extra dry spring we've been experiencing
in Texas has contributed to a mushrooming grasshopper outbreak.
In addition to being a pest of numerous agricultural crops,
grasshoppers can be devastating to home landscapes and gardens.
This is most evident as pastures and fields go dormant for
the heat of summer and grasshoppers begin to search in earnest
for other sources of green plant material.
Grasshopper control in backyards can be a lesson in frustration.
During heavy outbreaks, insecticides may kill many grasshoppers
but not fully protect plants. Recommended insecticides for
protecting valuable plants include Orthene, liquid Sevin
sprays (or dusts, but sprays should provide longer control),
and permethrin. Of these, permethrin may provide the fastest
and most effective control. Permethrin is available under
the trade name Spectracide Bug Stop (a liquid insecticide),
We have had inquiries about area-wide treatments for grasshoppers.
Treatment over cropland, of course, must be guided by insecticide
labeling for that particular crop. Sevin, Orthene, and ULV
Malathion are all available for aerial application. Of these,
Malathion is the most economical, according to Dr. Cliff
Hoelscher. Sevin XLR (for extra long residual) is probably
the best carbaryl formulation. Aerial applications should
be reserved for emergency situations only.
Nolo, Semaspore, and Grasshopper Attack baits are commercial
formulations of a protozoan parasite, Nosema locustae. They
are sometimes listed as safe, "organic" treatments
for grasshoppers. Nolo baits are usually applied aerially,
particularly in large, area-wide grasshopper management
programs. Unfortunately, on a small scale, such as in urban
and rural backyards, such treatments are ineffective. Nosema
locustae is mainly effective as a treatment for nymphal
grasshoppers, and is inappropriate for use on grasshopper
Few bait formulations provide effective grasshopper control.
If baits are used, they should be applied to areas of bare
ground, where alternate food sources are unavailable. When
applied to grassy or weedy site, grasshoppers will not locate
and feed on baits.
A fact sheet on agricultural grasshopper control named
"Grasshoppers and Their Control," (L5201), by
Dr. Carl Patrick can be downloaded off of the web at http://entowww.tamu.edu/extension/series.html#l
QUESTION: I have a question about zoysia grass.
I received a flyer in the mail from a place called Zoysia
Farm Nurseries in Taneytown, MD. They are advertizing "Amazoy
Zoysia Grass Plugs". It has may very admirable advantages
over other grass types. My question is this: We are building
a house in Minnesota and it will be done in August; I'd
like to have zoysia grass but it looks like you can only
get it in "plugs" to plant about six inches from
each other - will the grass spread out to a nice full lawn
quickly since there will be no existing grass? Will planting
these plugs during August in Minnesota cause any problem
to the grass? Is there no zoysia seed that you can plant?
ANSWER: The Amazoy plugs are a variety of zoysia
named Meyer Z-52. While Meyer is one of the more cold hardy
zoysias, it is not hardy in Minnesota. See this PLANTanswers
web site on zoysia:
This is what it says about the areas of the United States
where zoysia is adapted. "In the U.S., zoysiagrasses
are adapted along the Atlantic coast from Florida to Connecticut
and along the Gulf Coast to Texas. They are also adapted
throughout the transition zone of the U.S. and in California."
In the same article you will find: "Zoysia japonica,
often called Korean or Japanese lawn grass, was introduced
into the U.S. in 1895. Zoysia japonica is more cold tolerant
than the other species, but is also the most coarse textured
of the three species. Zoysia japonica is the only zoysiagrass
species that can be established from seed. Meyer zoysiagrass
is an improved strain of Zoysia japonica.
QUESTION: We started our zucchini in the greenhouse
and then transplanted them several weeks ago. They have
bloomed and began producing zucchini. They get about 3 inches
long, and begin turning yellow on the end of the zucchini,
then rot. Why is this happening?
ANSWER: Your problem is incomplete pollination.
In fact there was probably no pollination. The squash plant
will have both male and female blossoms and you need both
at the same time to have pollination and have the fruit
develop. The female blossom has the fruit (ovary) attached
to the blossom. If you see that you have both, then you
have a problem of no pollinators (bees). If this is the
case, then you can do the deed yourself by transferring
pollen from the male bloom to the female. The easiest way
to do this is to break off the male flower (the one on a
long stem) and peel off the flower petals exposing the pollen
covered male part. Then rub this on the female part of the
female blossom. In a couple of days you will have an eating
QUESTION: The Victoria Advocate: I write a question/answer
column for the newspaper. An elderly reader is looking for
a source in Texas for huckleberry plant seeds or root stock.
Do you know a source in Texas? I know this plant/bush grows
wild in the College Station area, but I need a source.
ANSWER: I know of no sources in Texas, however,
the following California nursery should be able to help
Clyde Rotin Seed Co.
PO Box 2366
Castro Valley, CA 994546
QUESTION: Is a purple leaf plum tree an edible fruit
ANSWER: Yes it is. It produces a rather small, sour
plum which makes excellent jelly or jam.
QUESTION: I have a Bradford Pear that was here when
we moved in about 4 or 5 years ago here in Plano, TX.. It
never needed any special attention so it has just gotten
water and fertilizer that the yard gets. Within the last
week the tree leaves have all turned brown looking like
it is dying. Normally the heat, humidity, lack of rain,
etc., doesn't effect it, and there are no bugs to speak
of. There are a few leaves that are still green but they
are on their way out. No other trees of this variety are
looking like this.
ANSWER: You have a root problem of some sort; it
sounds a lot like cotton root rot. If the dead leaves hang
on the tree, then it is cotton root rot; if the leaves drop
then it is something else. It is kind of early to see the
affects of cotton root rot showing up. Fireblight can also
kill them, but it has been a minor problem this year due
to the dry weather.
The problem may just be dry weather although it is hard
to believe dry weather can kill an established tree. However,
many times certain trees are planted are very thin shallow
soils and you only find out when conditions are at there
worst. Since there doesn't appear to be any hope of saving
this tree, you need to dig it up and let a plant pathologist
examine the roots to see if the cotton root rot fungus is
present. If present, then you need to avoid this area with
future plants or plant a cotton root rot tolerant tree like
Mexican plum or pomegranate.
QUESTION: I have some hot-banana peppers that are
growing well, but when the blossom opens the buds fall off
the plants. The stems of the buds turn yellow when they
fall off the plant. I have not feed them anything in the
last two weeks, just watered them about every three days.
There are two plants in a six-gallon container and a completely
soil-less mix. What seems to be the problem?
ANSWER: The problem seems to be that the blossoms
are falling off. Now, what is causing the problem? Specifically
I do not know. However, I do not think that you are watering
them enough and probably not fertilizing them enough. You
have two plants in a container that is just about big enough
for one. Peppers, like tomatoes, need lots of water to do
their thing. And plants growing in containers should be
fertilized each time they are watered with a dilute solution
of a water-soluble fertilizer.
For the exact instructions about growing plants in containers,
QUESTION: Our home is in Williamson County north
of Austin. We have a 609 buffalograss lawn that is being
invaded by wild bermuda. Is there any way to get rid of
the bermuda that will not also get rid of the buffalograss?
ANSWER: To my knowledge there is nothing that will
eradicate bermudagrass without also killing the buffalograss.
However, there are several things that encourage the infiltration
of bermuda. Water, fertilizer and mowing will all eventually
cause a buffalo lawn to turn into a bermuda lawn. Also since
bermuda seed can be introduced into the area, the application
of pre-emergent herbicide is indicated.
Bermuda needs much more fertilizer than does buffalo, so
I recommend no application of fertilizer to a buffalograss
lawn. Nor do I recommend watering any more than just enough
to keep it barely green in periods of no rainfall.
The bermuda that is there can be let grow in long runners
which then can be treated with one of the glyphosate products
such a Roundup applied with a sponge, wick applicator or
similar means without getting the herbicide on the buffalo.
Or you can spot kill the bermuda with the same glyphosate,
realizing that you will kill the buffalo in that same spot.
See this PLANTanswers article on buffalograss:
QUESTION: I am located in Denton, 35 miles north
of Dallas. I was wondering if it is possible to start a
cherry tree from pits/seed? If it is possible to do this,
can I use the pits/seeds from cherries I buy from the produce
department at a local grocery store? Should I crack the
cherry pit to allow the seed inside to grow? If it isn't
possible to start a cherry tree from cherries from a grocery
store produce department cherry, where could I get seeds
for this purpose?
ANSWER: Yes, you can start a tree from the pits of
cherries purchased at the grocery store. The only problem
is that such cherries are marginality adapted at best in
your area. Sour cherries will do better than sweet cherries
The pits require stratification or cold, moist chilling
in order to germinate. Place the pits in a moist paper towel
and then put this towel with the seeds in a zip lock bag
and place it in the crisper of the refrigerator. Leave them
in there for 6 to 8 weeks. Check them in 6 weeks and if
some of the seeds have sprouted, then it is time to plant
them. If none have sprouted leave them another 2 to 3 weeks.
After this time plant the seeds in a containers with a well
drained potting soil. The seeds should sprout in 2 to 3
QUESTION: I have persimmon which would have some
fruits in the early stage the size of a golf balls (these
are non- astringent --khaki) than later they all drop and
I have none left on for harvest. Chestnuts have lots of
flowers then these Japanese beetles come and again I will
have very few chestnuts to harvest. What kind of fertilizer
do I use for both of them (these trees are 10 years old
) and what do use to keep the Japanese beetles off. Spraying
is not possible as they are huge trees?
ANSWER: Stress is causing the persimmons to drop.
You need to mulch around the tree with 6 to 8 inches of
mulch spread to the dripline and keep the tree well watered.
Seedless persimmon fruit are very prone to dropping from
any kind of stress.
Without spraying the entire chestnut tree it is going to
be very hard to keep the beetles off. You can try spraying
the trunk of the tree with 80% WP Sevin as many times the
beetles crawl up the trunk rather than fly into the tree.
But again the chestnuts may just be dropping because of
stress. Watering is critical in July, August and September
on such trees.
QUESTION: I have planted cucumbers the last couple
of years and they seem to do fine until I harvest the first
ones. Then the vines begin dying at the root continue to
grow until the disease moves up the runners to kill the
ANSWER: It could be the squash vine borer (See PLANTanswers
for more detail -- SEARCH for squash vine borer) killing
your plant or, if a disease, two diseases come to mind based
on your description of symptoms:
1) Gummy stem blight, caused by the fungus Didymella bryoniae.
Stem cankers develop in the cortical tissue, and a brown,
gummy exudate is commonly produced on the surface. Small
fruiting bodies may appear as black specks on the cankers.
Stems may be girdled and seedlings killed. If infection
occurs in older plants, lesions develop more slowly on stems
near the center of a hill. Cankered vines usually wilt after
mid-season. Fungal strains tolerant of benomyl (Benlate)
and thiophanate methyl have prevailed in recent years, so
choose alternative fungicides.
For control: use fungicide-treated seed; rotate so that
cucumbers are planted no more often than every 2 years on
the same plot; plant on a raised bed; use drip or furrow
irrigation so that stem and foliage wetness is minimal;
apply a fungicide on a regular schedule (decrease intervals
during rainy weather) such as mancozeb or chlorothalonil
(Daconil 2787) in home gardens (Quadris labeled for commercial
large scale producers).
2) Charcoal rot, caused by the fungus Macrophomina phaseolina.
Yellowing and death of crown leaves and a water-soaked lesion
that girdles the vine at the crown and upwards for 2-6 inches.
Symptoms usually appear just prior to harvest. There may
be amber colored exudates that dry to a dark brown. The
water soaked lesion develops a dry, tan appearance with
stem cracks with numerous small black microsclerotia embedded
in the diseased tissue.
There are no control efforts that are consistently effective.
Avoid planting after green bean or other cucurbits.
QUESTION: My husband applied Fertilome Weed and
Feed to our grass about 5-6 weeks ago. Our grass looks great!
However, he also got it in our flower beds. After I planted
petunias there, and they begin to die after 4 days, we realized
what had probably happened. I waited two weeks and tried
again. Same thing happened. How long will the Weed and Feed
be active. They are dying from the bottom up, turning yellow
and drooping. Is there any thing I can do or will I have
to wait until next year to plant anything here.
ANSWER: You have experienced first hand the very
reason why we never recommend the application of combination
fertilizer/herbicide products. The herbicides in these products
do not know the difference between your petunia, your shrub,
your tree and the broad-leaf weeds in your lawn. Misapplication,
and/or the translocation of the herbicide through the soil
has resulted in many such accidents.
I do not know what herbicide is in the 'weed and feed'
product that you used. My recommendation would be to call
the manufacturer and ask them. They should be able to tell
you how long you need to wait before setting out more transplants.
QUESTION: I'm trying to use garlic spray as a means
to control pests in my vegetable garden. Do you have a recipe?
I made a small batch using one tablespoon of garlic powder
to a cup of water. I applied this to my tomatoes, pumpkin
& peppers. The tomatoes didn't seem to like it; they
seems to wilt some the next day (I then sprayed them down
with water -- hopefully they'll bounce back to their previous
vigor). Now I've taken the same 1 tablespoon of powder,
boiled it in a cup of water and strained it through a coffee
filter, hoping this makes it a little weaker and easier
on the sprayer. But I'm nervous about using this solution.
Is this an appropriate mix, or do you know of a recipe that
you can recommend? Oh -- the main pests that I'm concerned
about are whiteflies and aphids.
ANSWER: Here is a recipe for garlic spray that I found
on the Internet:
"GARLIC SPRAY - Even though I don't like pesticides
at all, there is a very mild one you can make at home. It's
made from edible products that you can find in the garden
or already in the kitchen. It's called garlic/pepper tea
and I'll give you the formula for this insect and fungus
control right after this. Garlic pepper tea is a great tool
to help control troublesome insect and disease pests on
ornamentals and food crops. Mix the juice from 2 large garlic
bulbs. Use the whole bulb, not just a clove, together with
the juice of 2 hot peppers - jalapeno, cayenne or habanero.
I use a blender then strain the solids out and toss them
in the compost pile. Add enough water to the juice to make
1 gallon - that's your concentrate - the juice of 2 garlic
bulbs, 2 hot peppers and 1 gallon of water. Pure filtered
water is best. Store in plastic container with a loose fitting
lid. When you need to spray, use ¼ cup of the garlic/pepper
tea concentrate in a gallon of water and spray foliage during
the early morning or around dusk. For an even milder spray,
omit the pepper. If you don't want to mix your own, 2 EPA
registered garlic and pepper products are on the shelves
in the nurseries."