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Shred pecan leaves before adding to compost

By Neil Sperry | Published Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Dear Neil: Is there any reason I shouldn’t use pecan leaves in my compost? I’ve heard that the tannic acid will keep my other plants from growing well.

Not at all. You’ll hear that same comment about oak leaves, and the fact is that some of our most fertile soils are found on the floors of hardwood forests. The secret is in shredding the leaves before you put them into the compost. Let them compost actively for six to 18 months. They’ll be a wonderful asset to your soil-building program.

Dear Neil: Can I keep a bougainvillea in my garage over the winter? It’s dropping so many leaves that I’m concerned it may not survive.

It’s usually too dark and too cold in garages for plants like tropical hibiscus, citrus and bougainvilleas to survive with any vigor. If you have any access to a greenhouse or sunroom, that would be far better. Trim the plant as needed to fit the space you have for it. If it has to stay in the garage, keep it at 60 degrees if at all possible. Give it only enough water to keep it alive and kicking. Wait until spring to apply any fertilizer.

Dear Neil: I have had a weed growing in my St. Augustine. It has little orchid flowers and a fine, spreading root system that grows 6 inches long. Is there are way to eliminate it without having to pull it by hand?

Absolutely. I don’t know what the weed is from your description, but it’s obviously not a grass, so a broadleafed weedkiller spray applied during a warm spell will eliminate it. Ask your nurseryman for a product containing 2,4-D, and apply it when daytime temperatures will be at or above 70 degrees. It will take a couple of weeks to take effect. If the weed is still active, you need to make that application immediately, before it turns any colder.

Dear Neil: I have a peach tree and a plum tree. They are both oozing sap. I’ve been told it is a fungus and that I would need to medicate the trees. What should I use?

That sounds like it’s probably peach tree borer damage. They attack all stone fruits, including peaches, plums, cherries and apricots. They attack near the ground line. Unfortunately, they are difficult to eliminate once they are within the trees’ tissues.

Since several dependable preventive insecticides have left the market, we are back to using paradicholobenzene (PDB) crystals. Timing for applying them is mid-October until mid-November. Soil should be dry, and air temperature above 55. Weeds and grass should be removed a foot around the tree.

Place the crystals in a narrow groove in the soil about 2 inches from the trunk. Do not allow the crystals to make contact with the trunk. Use clean soil to form a cone-shaped pile 6 to 8 inches high around the trunk. You will remove the soil back to the original grade in late March or early April.

Use 1/2-ounce of the crystals for 2- and 3-year-old trees, 3/4-ounce for 4- and 5-year-old trees and 1 ounce for older trees. Use PDB crystals specifically formulated for borer control (not mothballs).

Dear Neil: We have just put in a new lawn with zoysia. After the lawn was mowed this fall, light and dried patches appeared. What caused that, and what do we need to do now since it’s getting colder?

Zoysia has a longer dormant (brown) season than most of our other grasses. Other than watering on and off during the winter, there is little more that you need to do until spring. My bet on the lighter, dried patches of grass after mowing is that the grass was either being cut lower than recommended, or that it was being allowed to grow too many days between mowings. It sounds like it’s being scalped by the mower. Best mowing heights will vary with the type of zoysia. Ask the people who sold it to you.

Dear Neil: How can I get rid of stickers in my lawn?

You’re probably referring to grassburs, and what you’re seeing now are the seeds for next year. To prevent their germinating in the spring, you need to apply a pre-emergent weedkiller such as Halts or Dimension two weeks prior to the average date of your last killing freeze for your part of Texas. That would mean late February in the southern third of the state, early March in the central third and mid-March in the northern third. Repeat the application 90 days later for a full season of control.

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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