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Agriculture Today

Easy way to control fire ants

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May 31, 2011 | 3,228 views | Post a comment

Q.Is there an easy way to control fire ants? After this last rain, they are everywhere in our yard.

A.Use the two-step method. Spread a bait, such as Amdro, over the whole yard and treat hills close to your activities with acephate (Ortho Fire Ant Killer). The control is even more effective if you can convince everyone in the neighborhood to apply the bait.

Q.What is a good plant for a tall hedge in full sun?

A. Consider yaupon holly, viburnum, elaeagnus, Texas mountain laurel, pomegranate, or even mutabilis rose.

Q. Why would one live oak be nice and green and thick with foliage while another only 30 or 40 feet away look terrible?

A. Each live oak is an individual specimen with different genetics. Each has different growth patterns and capabilities. Oak trees that are close as you describe are also competing with each other and other trees in the area. The more water is limited and the poorer the soil, the more likely it is that one of the trees will dominate the other. In the end, there may only be nutrients, water, and sunlight for one of the trees.

Q. Do birds attack tomatoes? As soon as mine show any color, they are damaged by what looks like a bird-beak penetration?

A. Yes, grackles, mockingbirds, and other species will feed on tomatoes, just like they do on peaches. You can cover the fruit with bird netting. To reduce the damage level, harvest the fruit as soon as it changes colors from dark green to light green.

Q.What is a good plant for color in the shade, now that my cyclamen are gone?

A. Try pentas, coleus, begonias, or caladium.

Q.Why are my tomatoes showing a hard black scar on the bottom of the fruit?

A. It is called blossom end rot. At some time in the growth phase, the water stream from the roots to the developing fruit was broken. Calcium is carried in the water stream to the fruit. The black tissue reflects a calcium deficiency. The problem is especially common when the weather changes from cool to hot. You can eat the fruit. Usually only the first few tomatoes are affected.

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 reader@wcn-online.com .

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