Dear Neil: I want to plant up to eight 30-gallon live oak trees to line my driveway. I have a pond that is several hundred feet away from the drive and we usually get enough rain to keep it filled. Should I have an irrigation system installed? If so, what kind?
I find that most people do not water their new tree plantings adequately. They either don’t make any provision at all for supplemental irrigation, relying strictly on landscape irrigation for turf and existing shrubs and beds, or they use drip irrigation and don’t leave it running nearly long enough to soak the root balls of the new trees. All it takes is one time of letting the tree get too dry to lose or severely disfigure a lovely new plant. As much as I hate to sound like a grouchy old guy, I’m still old school on this one. I plant my new trees and leave a 4- or 5-inch berm of soil as a retaining basin to hold irrigation water. I then fill each basin a couple of times each week during the growing season. My rule of thumb from April through October is to give the tree as much water with each irrigation as the container held at the time of planting (30 gallons in your case). After two or three years you can cut back on frequency. By the way: be sure to set the live oaks a good ways back from your drive. Their low-hanging branches and tendency to have surface roots dictate that they should be at least 20 or 30 feet back on either side.
Dear Neil: I’m new to Texas. Where can I find the average date of the last killing freeze for my county?
Your county Extension office (listed under “Texas AgriLife Extension Service of Texas A&M) would have it, or I have always had good luck simply by asking this of my search engine: “What is the average date of the last killing freeze for __( your) County, Texas?” It should work.
Dear Neil: I remember reading about something we could apply in spring to prevent stickerburs. What is it, and when do we apply it?
You are talking about “pre-emergent” weedkillers, so named because you apply them before the weed seeds actually germinate, or “emerge.” They are granules that can be used on any established lawn, even around trees and near shrubs. The three most common products are Dimension, Balan and Halts, and they are available at independent nurseries, hardware stores and feed stores. They should be applied two weeks prior to the average date of the last killing freeze for your area, and a second application (call it a “booster shot” to be timely) should be made 90 days later for long-term effectiveness. Do not, however, confuse these with “weed-and-feed” products.
Dear Neil: Armadillos are tearing up our lawn in the summer. How can I kill the white grubs that are enticing the armadillos to do all their digging?
I also garden in a rural area where there are many armadillos. While they may be foraging for grubs, I don’t believe that killing the grubs will do much to help reduce the population of armadillos. I’ve had far better success setting humane traps to capture the armadillos near their tunnels. I use chicken wire fencing to create a sort of simple V-shaped “funnel” to guide them into the traps. We release them in a wildlife area 10 miles from our house. Over the past 40 years we have captured almost 100 armadillos and one unhappy o’possum.
Dear Neil: Our neighbor tried to encourage me to leave bur clover in my lawn, saying that it will add nitrogen to the soil. Is that correct?
Technically, yes. But on practical terms it will compete with your permanent lawngrass in a way that won’t be good for the turf. Bur clover forms dense rosettes of foliage that will crowd out the grass as it tries to green up in the spring. It’s also challenging if you have a long-haired dog. There are other, less harmful ways to improve the soil’s fertility.
Dear Neil: What is the best time of year to transplant monkeygrass? A neighbor is willing to share some of his with me.
I use a lot of mondograss (monkeygrass) in shaded parts of our rural landscape, and I can honestly say that there isn’t a bad time to dig and divide it (unless the soil is boggy wet at that time). I’ve even planted it in mid-summer, although my chosen times are spring and fall. Dig it and break it into clumps the size of tennis balls and space them 8 inches apart checkerboard-style through the bed. If you keep them watered properly they’ll be almost completely covered by the end of one year. It’s a great groundcover for shade or part shade, and it holds the soil quite well in areas that are prone to erosion. Note, however, that I’m talking about regular mondograss and not the dwarf form. It is too expensive, grows too slowly, and, in my experience, is prone to a fatal crown rot in poorly draining soils.
Dear Neil: Is pruning paint needed on all types of trees, or just oaks specifically?
Just oaks, and only to prevent entry of the oak wilt fungus into the open wounds. It’s also important that we prune oaks (except in emergencies) only between mid-July and Valentine’s Day. Pruning mid-February through mid-August, when the oak wilt fungus is active, invites far bigger chances of chances.
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