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Webworm war must wait until spring

By Neil Sperry | Published Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dear Neil: Is there anything I can put on my pecan trees now to kill the over-wintering webworms?

No. They are the larval form of moths, and the adult moths are very mobile in the spring. They will mate, lay eggs and set about forming their webs and devouring your trees’ leaves. Your next step in controlling them comes with trimming out the very early stages of the webs, before they totally engulf the branches. Have your long-handled pole pruner ready next May for the task.

Dear Neil: I am very concerned about a wall of fig ivy that was apparently frozen in the recent cold. It looks like it is entirely lost. It had been doing very well for several years, partially due to the somewhat protected location in a courtyard. What is likely to happen?

It probably did freeze back, but it will most likely come back from its roots if it has been that dependable in recent winters. Leave it alone for a few more weeks. If you can tell that stems are brittle and dead, you can strip them off the wall. Use a wire brush to remove all the stubble. If the problem recurs too often you may have to switch to either Boston ivy (sun) or English ivy (shade), depending on the lighting. Each is far more winter-hardy than fig ivy, and each comes in a dwarf form as well.

Dear Neil: I have what I thought was a Christmas cactus, but I’ve heard people refer to them as Thanksgiving cactus plants. It has finished blooming. Do I need to trim it at all now?

No. It will continue to grow slightly larger each year. In doing so, it just increases in grace and beauty. If it has done well for you the past couple of summers, keep it right where it has been. For anyone new to these plants, they need bright light, but no direct mid-day or afternoon sunlight during the summer. They require more moisture than most other true cacti, but that’s because they also need a very lightweight, porous planting soil.

Dear Neil: How exactly is someone supposed to trim Asian jasmine and mondograss?

For the record, neither plant requires annual trimming. However, when Asian jasmine gets uneven or when it browns from winter cold, you can trim it back to 3 to 5 inches. That can mean that you use your mower and set it as high as it will go, or it can mean that you use a gasoline-powered hedge trimmer to cut it back. You’ll probably want to use a line trimmer for the mondograss. In both cases, start in a concealed area to be sure you like the results before you commit to the entire job. Finish your trimming by mid-February so you will be in advance of the new season of growth.

Dear Neil: Is there a way to strengthen a live oak’s trunk so it won’t split? I saw many broken trees in news reports the past few days. I have a 20-year-old tree with two major trunks that are each about 5 inches in diameter. They join about 3 feet from the ground, but it appears they are beginning to separate. What should I do?

You should consult with a professional arborist. A tree of that size and age would merit the cost of any work they might do. However, to mention a couple of possibilities, they might choose to drill completely through the trunk at right angles to any crack that might be developing, then install either a long bolt or a piece of all-thread rod. They would use large washers and two nuts on each end to keep it all drawn together. They will cut off any excess of threaded rod once both nuts have been put in place. If there appears to be substantial risk of breakage, they might even use more than one of the bolts. For extreme cases, they may opt to cable the two limbs together so they would counter-balance one another. They would lean their ladders out on each branch 8 or 10 feet (or farther) from the union, then drill holes straight through each branch. The holes would be aimed at one another. They would then install all-thread eyebolts though each hole, keeping the eye ends on the insides of the branches. They would put large washers and two nuts on each bolt. The next step would be to install heavy cable tightly between the two branches and secure it with cable clamps (not turnbuckles). They would use a come-along winch to draw the canopy together gently. They would secure the cables, then release the tension on the winch.

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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