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8 Responses to Questions and Answers

  1. dbvucinovich says:

    What are the best fruit trees to grow in San Jacinto County ?

    Here is some information about what will grow in our area.

    First and most important is site selection and ground prep. Because of the clay soil we have, if not as surface soil, as a substrate, you cannot put a tree into the ground without elevating the soil into a mound. Trees have literally drowned this past year because the soil has become so supersaturated that the roots can’t get oxygen and the tree smothers.

    So first, for apples, pears, plums, peaches, figs, and pomegranates, find a place with a reasonably close water source that gets at least 6 or better, 8 hours of sunshine. As to varieties, there are three apple trees that will grow here, Ein Scheimer, Golden Delicious, and Anna. These trees were developed in Israel and require fewer chill hours (under 45 degrees) to set fruit. Other varieties of apple do not perform well in Southeast Texas.

    Most pears, plums and peaches will grow here. Figs do well. Look for a closed-eye variety such as Celeste.

    Citrus is very iffy here because of a cold winters. Meyer lemons and satsumas do well, if they are planted at the southern exposure of a large building such as a house or barn. They cannot take severe winters and will need to be covered with a blanket or other frost cloth and in exceptional situations, provided with heat. Old fashioned Christmas lights are great for keeping citrus warm.

    One last caution! There is a disease in certain counties in Texas called citrus greening. In this area, Montgomery, Harris and Galveston counties are under a quarantine and you may not legally cross the county line with citrus purchased from these locations. Citrus greening is caused by a small insect that spreads the disease. It is deadly and highly contagious.

    I hope this helps. Good luck!
    Shirley Baker, SJC Master Gardener

  2. dbvucinovich says:

    I live in Galveston County. My schedule says I should cut back my milkweed Nov 1 in Zone 9. Is it different for Zone 8b?
    I have planted milkweed at our lakehouse in Forest Hills in Livingston.

    Our gardening world up here in Polk and San Jacinto Counties is very different from yours at your primary home in Galveston.

    In answer to your question, it depends on what milkweed you are growing. If you have tropical milkweed, it should be cut back to the ground around the time of first frost. For us, that will come sometime before December 15. You will soon notice new little green leaves growing from the base. (Around the middle of Feb.) These will be large enough to feed any early arrivals in the spring.

    If you have native milkweed, the answer is very different. You can wait until the plant has been completely killed back by frost, which should be by December 15th. You have time with natives. Sterilize your pruners before and after use (good practice with any pruning) and cut the plant back. If you don’t want the plant to reseed, cut off seed pods as they form, but leave any living leaves because they feed the monarchs.

    I lean on the side of late is better than early. You want to provide every chance for that last monarch to emerge and fly before you throw your cuttings away.

    I hope this helps. Contact us any time.

    Shirley Baker, SJC Master Gardeners

  3. dbvucinovich says:

    What do I do about the love bug invasion this year? I am particularly concerned about the finish on my car. The lovebugs are so thick I am afraid the paint has been damaged.

    This is one solution for your problem. This suggestion came from our state conference last April. The question came from a participant from Arkansas who had never encountered lovebugs before. I tried it out today and it worked!
    Wet down your car with cold water. Mix a soapy solution with a little Clorox bleach and using a soft brush, apply the solution to your wet car. Rinse thoroughly. This should get rid of the loose bug debris.
    Next, wet a Bounce dryer sheet and rub the damp bug residue left on the car. Work in small areas. Keep the surface wet. The bugs will “melt away”. You will be left with a hazy residue from the dryer sheet. Go back over the surface with the soap/bleach mixture and then thoroughly rinse.
    If not satisfied, take a clean, wet Bounce dryer sheet and repeat the process on what is left of the bugs. Again, use the soapy/bleach solution and then rinse thoroughly.
    I was very pleasantly surprised at what a wonderful job this did on the finish of my car.
    Author: Shirley Baker

  4. dbvucinovich says:

    What is wrong with my red-tips? They appear to be dying. Is there anything I can do to save them?

    This is not a simple problem. It is an issue that more homeowners are encountering. Much of the problem dates to landscape standards from several decades ago.
    It was common to plant hedges of red-tipped photinia, wax-leaf ligustrum, crape myrtles, etc. Often these hedges were 40 or 50 feet long. They all had one thing in common; they were composed of the same plant material.
    Pretend you are a predator flying over the landscape. You look down and see a 50-foot banquet table with your favorite food.
    Your landscape may very well be toast!
    Back to our red-tipped photinia problem and some possible solutions. First, remove any dead wood and dispose of it.
    Second, rake up all leaves that have fallen to the ground. The problem is a mold spore and it winters over in the ground on these leaves. Again, bag and dispose of the leaves. Put fresh mulch under the plants. This will help with water drops that hit the hard ground and then splash up on the lower leaves on the plant. The mold spreads from leaf to leaf.
    Go to the web and type in red-tipped photinia diseases and you will find articles listing a few sprays that can be used to stop the mold spore. You must be very diligent about the spraying program in order for it to work.
    Next, diversify your planting. You need space between each shrub that you plant so that air can circulate. Don’t crowd them. Plant, as a suggestion, hollies, yaupons, camellias, azaleas, or crape myrtles. These are all woody plants and can “work and play well together.” Mix them up. If the same color azalea is used at 10-foot intervals, you will get a very pleasant overall effect.
    Turn your problem into a benefit. Have some fun in the process!
    Author: Shirley Baker

  5. dbvucinovich says:

    What is wrong with my orange tree? This year I only have this one shriveled looking orange?

    Growing oranges in San Jacinto County, or indeed, anywhere in Texas outside the Valley is chancy. There are precautions that homeowners can take.

    But first, let’s talk about that shriveled orange. What you have is the offspring of a sour orange. It isn’t edible and is basically undesirable to us as consumers. So, why a sour orange?

    Citrus growers use two types of root stock to graft citrus. Farther north, they use tri-foliate orange stock. We would have a hard time even realizing that we are looking at an orange tree because the foliage and blooms are very different to what we normally identify with glossy, evergreen citrus.

    In the Valley, breeders use sour orange as the root stock. From sour orange stock, you get, well, sour oranges. This tree is only good for root stock.

    You have little idea what stock has been used if you buy randomly, so be forewarned.

    So if we have a hard freeze and the graft and scaffolding branches above the graft freeze, goodbye lemon, or orange, or satsuma tree.

    The plant will die back to the root stock and you wind up with, in the case of sour orange, a glossy green citrus-like tree with no purpose other than to provide a landscape plant.

    There are ways to protect young trees if you put out the effort. It will take labor and planning.

    First, always plant your citrus on the south side of a structure, 6 to 8 feet from the house (and twice that far from each other) so there is a natural wind break and possible heat source. Brick will absorb heat all day and release that heat after dark. This can help to create a micro-climate for your trees.

    Citrus requires full sunlight and will not tolerate shade. Shade will lead to powdery mildew and black spot, which will weaken the trees.

    If water stands in your soil, elevate the planting area by several inches. Citrus will drown if it stands in soggy soil.

    When you plant, wash off an inch of the planting medium all around and under the root ball. This will expose roots and let them come in contact with the soil in which they will grow.

    Finally, for the first two to four years a citrus tree is planted, for the winter it is recommended that you create a soil bank around the young tree. First, treat the trunk with a suitable insecticide and a copper-based fungicide. Then, mound soil around the trunk and lower branches forming a tee-pee like structure around the tree. This should be high enough to cover the trunk and lower branches. This goes up around Thanksgiving and is removed about the first of March. Then take the extra soil away, back to the garden. The top of the tree may freeze but it will regenerate.

    For much more information, see Aggie-Horticulture or Texas A & M Horticulture, the best source for science-based information on growing plants.

    Author: Shirley Baker

  6. dbvucinovich says:

    Ladybugs are invading my home. What do I do?

    What we are seeing are not the familiar lady bugs of our childhood. This is an environmental experiment gone haywire.

    Ladybugs are our friends. They help to eat aphids and keep our plants safe.

    What we are seeing everywhere are Harmonia lady beetles, originally imported from Asia because they love aphids and are eating machines. They have done such a good job in the field that pecan growers in the Southeast no longer need to spray for aphids, saving millions of dollars. They also eat aphids on fruit trees, crape myrtles, roses, and peaches.

    The lab version was under control, however some that were released crossbred with “bad actor” lady beetles that hitched a ride on a ship to the port of New Orleans. They crossbred with the original imports and now have run amok.

    They love to swarm and overwinter, guess where??? Yes, in our homes. They will take advantage of any opening, chimneys, cracks, etc.

    What do you do? DON’T SPRAY INSECTICIDES!!! Their dead bodies invite even more unpleasant predators that will eat the dead bodies, and in the process, take up residence with YOU! Get out your vacuum and suck them up. Immediately get the vacuum bag out of the house, seal the waste in a ziptop bag, and dispose of it in the garbage.

    Our little friends, the ladybugs will show up in the spring. They come in peace!

    Author: Shirley Baker

  7. dbvucinovich says:

    What type of blueberries will grow in San Jacinto County?
    The answer is Rabbiteye. Two especially good varieties are Powder Blue and Climax. Planted together, they will provide blueberries from May until late June, early July, depending on how cold the winter is and how soon the heat climbs into the 90s.
    Blueberry plants will need consistent water and full sun to grow and they need good air circulation. Our acidic soil is a plus.
    Check out Texas A & M Horticulture, Fruits and Nuts, Blueberries. This site gives all the information needed to grow blueberries successfully.

    Author: Shirley Baker

  8. dbvucinovich says:

    Hello Terra,

    Thank you for reaching out to us. We try to always provide research based information from Texas A&M. The link below is to a document about Texas leaf cutter ants. It is available on the Texas A&M horticulture website for Texas Master Gardeners. The short answer to your question is this:
    Amdro® Ant Block, containing the active ingredient hydramethylnon, is currently the only product available for treating colonies in non-agricultural sites.

    As an additional source of information: Anyone can search on the Texas Master Gardener website for information about any topic related to horticulture and gardening. Look in the top left corner of the Page for the Search box. This site has an extensive and reliable source of information for all Texas gardeners. Here is the link:

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