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Pull pecan seedlings in May

By Neil Sperry | Published Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Dear Neil: You recently recommended that we use a “glyphosate-only” herbicide to kill bermudagrass in a bed. Is there a brand name you would recommend?

I typically prefer not to refer directly to brands because that introduces the fear of “plugola.” Your local independent retail garden center manager can show you several brands. He or she can also show you the fine print, to be sure you don’t get a product that also contains other weedkillers you might not want to be applying.

However, since you asked, the brand that is by far the most common form of glyphosate-only weedkiller spray is Roundup. But you must be sure that you get the original Roundup, not one of the blended mixes that are now sold under the umbrella Roundup family name. Again, ask the nursery professional for help.

Dear Neil: My dad has a beautiful magnolia tree, and I have noticed a small tree at its base. The sapling is about 2 feet tall. Is it possible to cut it away from the base of the mother tree and replant it, or will it do more harm than good?

The critical factor will be if it is a sprout from the bigger tree, or if it’s a seedling on its own set of roots. If it is tethered to mama, there is no way to move it as a new tree. Magnolias do not root from cuttings, which is essentially what you would have.

However, if it is a free-growing seedling that just happened to germinate close to the mother tree, dig it carefully during the winter, while it’s dormant. Hold a ball of soil about the size of a volleyball around its roots. If very much of the soil falls away, you’ll probably need to trim the top back by half or more to compensate and to speed its reestablishment.

Dear Neil: Our daughter has several large wax myrtles in Weatherford. They were hurt badly by the ice a couple of weeks ago. Several large trunks snapped almost to the ground. Will they come back?

They will probably send up new shoots from the ground if she’ll cut them completely back to remove all of the jagged tissues. However, in all candor, this might be a good time and reason to replace them with a type of plant that would be much more satisfactory.

Wax myrtles just don’t do very well for very long when they’re grown in arid, alkaline soils. We originally were sold wax myrtles as replacements for tree-form yaupon hollies. That was at a time 30 years ago when it was difficult to find nursery-grown yaupons. But the wax myrtles have proven to be far less dependable in much of Texas, especially after six or 10 years.

Dear Neil: Squirrels have been really active beneath our pecan trees the past several weeks. I’m sure they’ve been planting pecans. Will pre-emergent weedkillers stop pecans from coming up in the spring?

They might help, but I really don’t think it’s the best plan. Most pre-emergent products are intended to be used to prevent grassy weeds, plus pecan seeds (the nuts) are so large and vigorous that they might grow right through the layer of protection you thought you had put down. I live in a pecan forest along a creek bed, and I know what you’re experiencing.

I’ve always had very good luck pulling the young seedlings up with a hefty pair of pliers. I do so in May. I wait for a good rain or heavy watering so the soil will be soft, then I grasp the seedlings with the pliers just above the ground line, and I pull straight up. It’s about like harvesting carrots, but only if you get there before they start to form side roots that anchor them tightly to the soil. Wear a glove if you have very many to pull.

Dear Neil: What is the least often I can water my lawn and landscape in the winter? I want my plants to stay healthy, but I also want to conserve all the water I can.

Great question. There are so many variables in figuring that answer that it’s almost impossible to know that I’m giving you useful suggestions. They would include soil type, temperature, wind, sun or shade, types and sizes of plants, rainfall and other precipitation and, if you’re using a sprinkler system, how much it delivers in a given period of time.

So, from that chaos, let me try to make something simple from it. I am especially careful to be sure that my plants are watered thoroughly if I hear a severe cold spell is rolling toward us. Dry plants suffer much more damage than properly watered plants. Otherwise, if I haven’t had rain for two or three weeks, and especially if it’s been a bit warm and windy, I’ll run my sprinklers some evening when the wind has died down.

However, I typically operate them at half or two-thirds the normal run time. In between, if I see a bed of pansies that is dry, or a newly planted tree with dry soil, I’ll use the hose to spot-water. (Then I’ll disconnect it from the faucet to prevent freeze damage when the next cold front blows in.)

Have a question you’d like Neil to consider? Mail it to him in care of the Wise County Messenger, P.O. Box 149, Decatur, TX 76234 or email him at mailbag@sperrygardens.com. Neil regrets that he cannot reply to questions individually.

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