2012 May Q&As

Question:   I am attempting to cover our backyard fence. It is a wooden privacy fence about 6 feet tall in which we have two stretches that we want to minimize the total fence exposure. The backyard is under a large amount of shade with some filtered sun. Any suggestions or different options to select from would be appreciated?

Answer:  Depending on the importance you put upon this project, you may want to employ the efforts of a landscape design person who can make recommendations for your approval/disapproval.   Some plants you could use are shrubs like Sandankwa Viburnum (V. suspensum), Burford Holly (Ilex cornuta ‘Burfordii’), Bridal Wreath (Spirea X Vanhouttei); perennials such as Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus ‘Drummondii’), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Blue Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata), Firespike (Odontonema strictum), Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii). Good luck with your project.

Question:  Do deer eat Burford Holly?

Answer:  Burford Holly is normally not eaten by deer but in some neighborhoods with heavy deer pressure there may be some browsing of the plants.

Question:  What is a good species of perennial fountain grass for the San Antonio area? Also, I am looking for something that grows 3-4 feet high.

Answer:  There are many ornamental grasses that would be good.  However, the Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum) is subject to being killed by a hard freeze but has survived many of the milder winters, coming back in the spring from its roots.  You might consider Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’), Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), or Lindheirmer’s Muhly (Muhlenbergia Lindheimeri).

Question:  I like to plant edible trees rather than ornamental blooming types.  Can you recommend a fruit tree easy to grow, and could work well in a xeriscape environment?

Answer:  Probably the most productive, low maintenance fruit tree is the Fig.  The three most adapted selections would include: the sugar fig (Celeste), Brown Turkey or the Alma.

Question:  I moved into a home last fall which has several spots where oaks had been cut down.  That area now has lots of sprouts (40 or 50) about 3 feet tall.  Is it possible to take a sprout, cut the others down, and then grow that one out as a tree or should I just get rid of all the sprouts?  

Answer:  You can do that.  Just eliminate all that you do not wish to keep and leave the others.  It will be a very long process but they will grow into nice trees.

Question:  Something is eating the leaves on my potted basil plant.  What can I do?

Answer:  First you should determine the culprit.  If you cannot find them in the daylight go out with a good flashlight just before you go to bed and look then.  Once you have identified the culprit, then you can get a proper pesticide from your favorite nursery/garden center.  Remember that it must be labeled for use on edible material and applied in accordance with label instructions.

Question:  Please tell me the best type of daffodil for the Stone Oak area?  Also, when should I order and plant them?

Answer:  You should look for varieties such as Golden Scepter, Campernelle, or Trevithian.  They should be planted in November.  You may order them earlier and keep them in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator in a paper bag until planting time.

Question:  I have been growing the white coral vine for several years and a few weeks ago I decided to re-pot the plants and I noticed that the root system have all different sizes of “nut” like looking nodules.  What are they and can they be germinated to grow new plants?

Answer:  Coral Vine (Antigonon leptopus) is a perennial vine that forms tubers which are purported to be edible.  However, these tubers cannot be used to propagate the plant.  This is done with cuttings or seed.

Question:  I am hearing a lot about this new Empire Live Oak?  What is so special about it?

Answer:  Tree Town USA has selected a new generation of Live Oak from a group of genetically superior trees located on their farms.  They exhibit uniform growth habits that include good branching angles, uniform growth rates, similar form, and a more appealing look to the tree.  The branching habits lend themselves to create stronger trees better able to withstand strong winds and other severe weather situations as well as an aesthetically pleasing look and shape.  The Empire Live Oaks have shown a significantly faster growth rate at a young age than some named varieties on the market today to provide shade more quickly to the home owner or business that uses them in their landscape.  The uniform habit and growth rates will provide a more consistent look to multiple plantings over time.  Whether it is 2 trees in the front lawn or a mile long stately row of oaks in a commercial setting, they will tend to be better matched than a group of seedling oaks from unknown sources.  These controlled genetics provide an improvement for this long lived, tough, staple variety for the southern landscape.

Question:  A friend asked me why it is recommended to plant/seed bluebonnets in the fall when “Mother Nature” seeds them in the spring.

Answer:  Regardless of who sows the seed or when they are sown, they will not germinate and form rosettes until the fall. I guess the main reason for recommending that bluebonnet seed be sown in the fall is that it will give birds that feed on them less time to find and eat them.  Most commercial seed that you can purchase have also been scarified so that there will be a better germination rate than those sown ‘naturally’.  Non-scarified seed can lay dormant for many years.  This is Mother Nature’s way of ensuring that there will be seed following years of sparse, or no, seed crop.

Question:  I bought 6 dwarf citrus trees about 3 years ago now. I kept them in planters indoors until they got too big to move in and out of the house. I planted them in the ground a year ago. That winter we had a cold snap and 3 died and the three others died back to almost the root of the tree. This year they are producing green leaves and limbs like gang busters. However, there are no blooms on the trees. What can I do or is it too late now to do anything for this year? How can I protect them better in the ground for next winter? Or should I dig them up and get citrus trees suitable for in ground and more cold tolerable?

Answer:   If these trees were grafted onto a dwarfing root stock, you probably lost the original citrus varieties and the resulting growth is coming from the root stock and cannot be expected to fruit with edible fruit.  You would be better served to take them out and start over.  See the articles linked to http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/PATIOCITRUS/  for information on growing citrus.  

Question:  Is it too late to transplant a Senna tree in our area?

Answer:  I am going to assume, that the plant you are talking about is one also known as Flowering Senna (Cassia corymbosa).  If you can get a rootball (intact) about 10 inches around and can move it without breaking it up, you should be successful.  However, you will need to reduce the foliage by cutting it back at least by half.

Question:  Do bees like the ‘Gold Star’ Esperanza flower?  Also is this plant deer tolerant?

Answer:  Like almost all flowering plants, some bees will be attracted to it, especially the large Black bumble bee.  In most neighborhoods the deer do not seem to bother it other than the bucks rubbing their antlers on it.

Question:  My question concerns the Sotol plant and their bloom stalks.  I did not see them bloom last year, and the flowering stalks are about 12′ long and very dead.  Should I remove those or leave them where they are?  Should I expect them to bloom every year?

Answer:  The choice is yours.  They aren’t going to get any prettier.  For your information, they are very light weight but sturdy and are used by many for walking sticks.  They will bloom each year that the conditions are right.

Question:  Is it too late to spread compost.  We have a new home two years old.  The yard took a beating last summer.  The front yard is Tiff Bermuda and needs help.  I do not think the builders put four inches of top soil prior to laying the grass, maybe two inches, if I’m lucky.  In our area everything is rock.  You cannot dig six inches without hitting rock.  Will compost help?

Answer:  No, it is not too late.  However, with summer around the corner, spread no more than a 1/2 inch of compost and water it in well.  It would be most effective if you aerate your lawn with a plug pulling aerator, available at tool rental stores, before you spread the compost on your lawn.   

Question:  My wonderful pomegranate typically bears fruit every year and that is great!  However, last year, all of the fruits are brown inside rather than red.  This year the tree has yielded a lot of flowers promising a lot of fruits.  I wonder what I should do to prevent last year’s issue from happening again.

Answer:  It may be that you are waiting too long to harvest.  As the fruit becomes over mature some of the arils will get as you describe.  You may also have a touch of heart rot on the fruit.  A copper spray at bloom tends to reduce this disease.

Question:  What is a good combination of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium to buy and mix fertilizer for pot blooming flowers and in the ground lantana?

Answer:  For container plants I recommend one of the Osmocote slow release fertilizers such as Osmocote® Outdoor & Indoor Smart-Release® Plant Food which is 19-6-12.  This can also be used around the lantana but any granular lawn fertilizer would be fine.

Question:  I have a couple of cilantro plants that we just transplanted and the leaves on the top are rather lacy looking.  Does that mean they may be bolting and if it is can I stop it?

Answer:  Yes that is what is happening and there is nothing that you can do to prevent it.  Cilantro is a cool season plant and a few warm/hot days can cause it to bolt (flower & make seed).

Question:  I have a blueberry bush in soil composed of 2/3 peat moss and 1/3 sand.  I have a raised bed designated for acid loving plants only.  I have several bags of peat and of peat moss.  Is this do-able and if so, would I need to combine anything else with the peat?  Would watering them with water that contained a minute amount of vinegar to acidify the water work with our extreme heat in the summer?

Answer:  That should be doable.  If the raised bed is deep enough that the roots will not grow out into alkaline soil the plants should prosper.  You will either need to use a catchment system for rain water to use for irrigation or, as you suggest, acidify the water by using vinegar.  One tablespoon per gallon of water should do the trick.  If properly irrigated, the heat should not be a problem.

Question:  We moved to this house four years ago.  There was no grass in the back yard under an oak tree.  Last spring, we tilled up the ground put down about 2-3 inches of turf starter and planted blocks of carpet grass.  We kept the carpet grass watered and we also have sprinkler system but the grass died.  Now, we see where the grass died is filled with solid acorns.  Is this the reason the grass won’t grow?  Any suggestions will be appreciated as this area is right next to the patio and back porch.

Answer:  More than likely the grass died because of the shade under the oak tree, which along with the stress of the long, hot, dry summer, was more than it could take.  The acorns had nothing to do with it.  You need to consider using shade tolerant ground covers, annuals, perennials, and hardscape such as mulch or flagstone.

David Rodriguez is the County Extension Agent-Horticulture for Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Bexar County.  To get questions like these answered, call the Bexar County Master Gardeners Hotline at (210) 467-6575, e-mail questions to info@bexarcountymastergardeners.org, or visit our County Extension website at:  http://bexar-tx.tamu.edu.



Comments are closed.