Q. Dear Neil: My peach tree is 2 years old. I’m seeing globs of sap on its trunk. What should I do?
A. It appears that it’s being attacked by peach tree borers. They are a major threat to homeowner peach trees, and they’re not easily prevented with products available at the consumer level. Most university websites recommend treating with sevin or permethrin sprays (applied specifically to the trunks to minimize risk to bees) in mid-August, repeated in early September. I encourage you to read up on the pest using key search words “university peach tree borers.”
Q. Dear Neil: My Esperanza has brown spots. Any idea why?
A. It looks like some type of foliar burn, either from water on the leaves when the sun was quite bright or from a reaction to an accumulation of fertilizer or insecticide on the leaves. The thing I note that’s most important is that there is a lot of new growth that is unaffected. If this were a current problem that is still threatening the plant you’d see it on the new leaves as well, but that’s not the case. I see no reason to try to treat it.
Q. Dear Neil: I keep having hundreds of mushrooms come up where I had two trees removed and ground out. Is there anything I can do other than wait them out?
A. You could apply a fungicide since they’re fungi. Even dusting sulfur will work, but try a small amount first to be sure it doesn’t burn the turf or other nearby plants. Or, let them run their course. As the old tree roots eventually rot the mushrooms will fade away. They are surviving on the decaying organic matter. You could also just break them off as they appear using a rake or hoe dragged across them.
Q. Dear Neil: Last year our lawn was thick and healthy, and now it looks like this. How can I get my thick grass back?
A. I wish I had a dime for every time I’m asked some variant of this question. You didn’t give me any details of what might have happened, but in most cases when grass thins like this it’s due to increasing amounts of shade. This certainly has all the earmarks. I experienced the very same thing in my own St. Augustine lawn. Eventually I had no recourse except to replace the turf with shrubs and groundcovers that could tolerate shade much better than any type of turf. (St. Augustine, for the record, is our most shade-tolerant lawngrass.) As it turned out, I wish I’d made that decision several years earlier. It worked out beautifully.
Q. Dear Neil: I am having repeated infestations of spider mites on my angel trumpet plants. I’ve used the insecticide our local independent nursery has recommended. I’ve cut the plant back to eliminate the worst of the outbreak. I’ve checked adjacent plants of other types and they’re all clean. I’m at wit’s end. Can you suggest anything? I’ve had the plant for years and have never had this problem.
A. I’m going to back up with my answer. To help everyone else, start by confirming that you have spider mites. Thump one of the damaged leaves over a sheet of white paper. Look for almost microscopic, rusty-red specks to start moving briskly on the paper. If you see them, those are the mites. They’ll be on the backs of the leaves. Many general-purpose insecticides do list spider mites on their labels and will do a reasonable job of controlling them, but you have to remember that we no longer have any specific miticides at consumer level. For that reason, control will be less than perfect. One other way to eliminate them, if your plant’s leaves are large enough, would be to take a bucket of warm soapy water and two soft sponges. Squeeze each sponge until it drips moderately. Hold one sponge in each hand and pull each leaf between the sponges. Dip and wring the sponges again before you move on to the next leaf.
Q. Dear Neil: My parents planted a red oak tree when they moved into their home 30 years ago. Now water sometimes comes out of a knot in the lower part of the trunk, right in the middle of the dark area in my photo. What should we do?
A. The ooze you’re seeing is probably coming from decaying tissue within the trunk. I do see a knot where a small branch might have broken off and not healed properly, but it also looks like there is a crotch in the trunk just above all of this. It’s possible the decay originated up there. They really need to have a certified arborist look at their tree. This is not good. It could point to a very weak trunk that could split in a windstorm. Good luck with it!
Q. Dear Neil: We have a 9-year-old fig tree that bears lots of little green figs, but none ever reaches maturity. We keep it moist, but never a single ripe fig. What can we do to change that?
A. Figs are unusual fruit, in that they’re configured differently from most other fruit. This question comes up very often, and it can be due to a variety of causes: too hot and dry, too much shade, root knot nematodes sucking life out of their roots and freeze damage, to name just a few.
The variety Celeste is best suited to large parts of Texas. At all costs you want to avoid West Coast varieties with “open eyes” at the ends of their fruit. Texas A&M has really good information online in this fact sheet https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/fruit-nut/files/2015/04/figs_2015.pdf.