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Gardening: ‘Big freeze’ may have impact on fruit trees

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March 1, 2011 | 1,539 views | Post a comment

Q. I just planted peaches and plums before the “big” freezes. Will they be damaged?

A. They would only be damaged if they had begun to grow before the freezes. Had the buds swelled yet? If they are hardened off and still dormant, they should do fine. You will just have to wait and see now.

Q.We discovered during the freeze that we still had a rufous hummingbird visiting our sugar-water feeders. We made a special effort to always have some thawed sugar-water available. It was amazing to see him out there in below-freezing temperatures, lapping it up.

Did we do wrong by leaving our feeders in place through the fall? Would the hummingbird have gone south if our sugar-water was not available?

A. All experts I have seen say that hummingbirds’ migration plans are not changed by the availability of hummingbird feeders. You probably saved his life, because he would have been in the area looking for nectar even if your feeder was not available. The sugar-water was probably one of the few nutrition sources available.

Q. I live in extremely rocky soil; in fact, I tell people that there is probably more dirt in a Wal-Mart parking lot than there is on my land. I am wondering if I can grow either pecan or walnut trees. My biggest concern is can the tap roots work their way through the rocks?

A. Pecans and walnuts do best in deep soils. You may be able to get one to survive if you start with a very small plant and nurse it along. If you want to try one, try Pawnee. It makes a good early-bearing (September) lawn tree. Trees are amazing in their ability to find a way to survive.

Q. I have three acres of property fenced in chain link. The lawn around the house itself is Bermuda grass, but the majority of the property in pasture-type land, meaning whatever wants to grow there does -- in large part Johnson grass and Dallis grass.

It takes a long time -- and a lot of trimming string -- to trim the fenceline around three acres with a hand-held power trimmer. I would like, before everything starts growing again, to go around the fence line with total vegetation killer. Would that even be effective while the vegetation is in hibernation mode?

Also, I have a bunch of MSMA to put on the Johnson and Dallis grasses, but have been told it’s not effective before July and August. Is that the case?

I am planning to put out pre-emergent next month. I am hoping to get the property to the point that it is all grassland, though not Johnson and Dallis grassland.

A . Unfortunately, both Dallis grass and Johnson grass are perennials. Pre-emergent won’t impact the plants that are in place. Carefully read the label of the vegetation killer. It may work on dormant plants and prevent any new growth. I have had good luck with using Round-up and/or Remedy on fence lines. Both are contact herbicides that need to be applied after growth starts in late spring. Remedy kills woody plants on a fence line. Dallis grass and Johnson grass are hot-weather weeds. Both should be growing strong and be vulnerable to your contact herbicide MSMA by then.

Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s project director of regional initiatives and special projects. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, e-mail him at

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