Dear Neil: Attached is a photograph of my lawn. I’ve had the same problem with my St. Augustine every year for the past five years. I have applied a fungicide and Canadian peat moss with no apparent effect. I have planted new sod squares only to watch them die within a couple of seasons. My backyard is completely healthy. What can I do to fix this?
Answer: Since it is happening in the spring and because of the appearance, I’m going to assume that this is take-all root rot. Because it is so extensive and because you’ve had it for five years, I would suggest that you send a sample of the declining grass (not dead grass) to the Texas A&M Plant Disease Clinic (https://plantclinic.tamu.edu ). Have them culture it to confirm the diagnosis and perhaps to offer any additional suggestions. Proper feeding (all-nitrogen food with upwards of one-third of that nitrogen in slow-release form), regular mowing and the application of the fungicide Azoxystrobin are your best means of dealing with TARR. But if the lab suggests anything else, their recommendation trumps mine.
Dear Neil: I planted a Meyer lemon in a large pot. It bloomed, but all the little lemons are falling. Is there any way to help the tree keep the lemons developing?
Answer: They may be aborting because they were not pollinated. Was there bee activity around them while the tree was blooming? The other possibility would be if the tree got too dry one or more times after the fruit set. Plants will drop their fruit in an effort to survive during dry periods.
Dear Neil: How do I deal with grassburs?
Answer: You start by keeping your lawn healthy and vigorous with regular feeding, mowing and watering. The only product that will help with them would be one of the pre-emergent weed killers. These are granules that you apply early in the spring and again in early summer. They prevent germination of the grassburs in the first place. Once the weeds have sprouted and are growing there is nothing you can do about them the remainder of the growing season. I’m sorry for that bad news. I try my best to publicize the application of the pre-emergent herbicide at the appropriate time. That would be two weeks before the average date of the last killing freeze in your area and then again 90 days later. The products are Halts, Balan or Dimension.
Dear Neil: All of my elephant ears have died. When I scratch the surface they look like mashed potatoes. They have been in the ground for about five years. Could it be that I have watered them too much?
Answer: I normally would have expected freeze damage if you had told me this one year ago. However, if they survived the winter 16 months ago, that would not be the case. Overwatering might be a possibility, although they are well adapted to very moist soil. I don’t have any better idea for you, however. I would suggest re-working the soil and starting with new tubers.
Dear Neil: We had a 15-gallon yaupon holly planted last fall. I noticed a couple of weeks ago that it has dead leaves more than halfway down from the top. The bottom leaves are still green. Do you have any idea what might have happened? Can it still be saved?
Answer: I have a perfect idea of what happened because I have lived the same bad dream. Your plant got too dry. Had you waited one more day to water it, you probably would have lost it entirely. If the top has not been offered to put out new growth by now, trim it and reshape it and let it fill back in if it can. If that appears to be too big a challenge, you may decide simply to replace it. Sadly, I have walked that same path before you. Hollies do not wilt so that we can easily see when they are getting exceedingly dry. It’s always better to water if we have any doubt. All new hollies should be watered every two or three days from now through October. I use a water bubbler and I put 5 to 10 gallons of water on each plant each time.
Dear Neil: We have purchased acreage on a lake. We have some very strong weeds and we want to control them without applying anything that could run into the lake and cause harm. What can we use?
Answer: You need to take samples of the weeds to your local office of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service of Texas A&M or to a local feed store for identification. They both work with pasture weeds and with water runoff situations. That’s a very specialized science that begins with accurate identification of the weeds.
Dear Neil: My wife and I saw a Maui Ixora at a local big box store this week. We’d like to plant it across the front of our house. What conditions does it need?
Answer: Its name is a good hint. Cool, tropical breezes would be perfect. It needs the same conditions you’d have for tropical hibiscus, plumerias or bougainvilleas. Plus no freezing weather. It is not a permanent shrub. Morning sun, afternoon shade. I would try one this summer and see how you like it for annual color.
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