GARDENER'S MAILBAG

Learn about bamboo before planting

By Neil Sperry | Published Wednesday, June 20, 2018

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Dear Neil: My daughter’s backyard is halfway filled with bamboo and it’s spreading. How can we get rid of it?

I really don’t want to sound like I’m exaggerating, but no invader that we have in our landscapes is more difficult to eliminate. That means that you’re in for a battle. Glyphosate herbicides containing no other active ingredients applied at the top recommended strength on their labels will often kill or severely wound bamboo. They also kill other grass in the area, so you’ll have to be precise in your application. I’m sure you’ll need more than one application over a period of months. When commercial landscapers need to eliminate it from major projects, they bring in front-end loaders and dig it out. That’s not going to work in most backyards. Perhaps someone could help your daughter with a smaller version that could dig down 18 or 24 inches and get all the roots out. I know this sounds extreme. I wish people who are considering planting it would learn the facts before they inflict it on others.

Dear Neil: My daughter bought a house that was built in 2006. It has three Arizona ash trees. Two are 20 feet from the house, and the third is 50 feet away. Is the house in trouble in any way? Any feedback would be appreciated.

I wouldn’t think so. Arizona ash trees aren’t very large even at maturity, so I don’t think the 20-foot setback will cause any problems. My bigger worry is with their life expectancy. Borers are the cause of loss of almost every ash tree we plant. The average life expectancy of Arizona ash in Texas landscapes has been 10 to 20 years. Some live much longer. Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done to prevent or cure them.

Dear Neil: My backyard is covered with winter grasses (rye, rescuegrass, etc.) each winter. It also has horseherb, which I’d like to keep. Is it possible to get rid of the grasses without hurting the horseherb?

Apply Dimension or Halts pre-emergent granules in very late August or the first week of September to stop the germination of the winter grasses. For what it’s worth, my experience with horseherb in most of Texas is that it dies to the ground after the first hard freeze. It’s a warm-season plant, so its seeds germinate in the spring. By then the pre-emergent will be gone from the soil.

Dear Neil: Two years ago, as you have recommended, we replaced a row of dying redtip photinias with 21 Nellie R. Stevens hollies. The first year it was a struggle to keep them watered by hand. We experienced a lot of leaf drop. Last year, we had individual bubblers run to each tree, and we ran them 20 minutes per time three times per week. They did much better this spring until it turned really hot. We increased to four times a week, but more leaves are yellowing and browning. The worst seem to be the ones backed by the neighbor’s oak and crape myrtle. Should we go back to watering by hand?

Nellie R. Stevens hollies are fabulous plants, if we can just get them established. It takes two to three years, so you’re getting close. Run the bubblers longer at a time. I have no way of knowing how much water they’re putting out, but what you’re describing is all water shortage. You could water by hand every three to four days as well.

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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