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Agriculture Today

Cocoa shell mulch usage

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August 24, 2011 | 3,186 views | Post a comment

Q. I see cocoa shell mulch at the nursery in bags. Is it any good?

A. Cocoa shell mulch is an attractive, fine mulch that works well as a shallow mulch in containers. The persistent chocolate smell is not pleasant to me, but is to others. Cocoa shell mulch is a source of nitrogen, which is released as it ages. Sometimes the cocoa shell mulch mats and a fungus grows on it.

Q. Do birds eat the seeds from purslane and moss roses? I swear I see them doing it.

A. You are correct. I have seen house finches, English sparrows, and even cardinals harvest both the flower and the seeds. Squirrels also seem to eat the foliage at times, if moisture is in short supply.

Q. I saw you planting pumpkins with Steve Browne on KSAT TV last week. Is there still time to plant pumpkins for a fall harvest?

A. If everything works and the weather cooperates, there is a chance you can harvest pumpkins by Thanksgiving, probably not by Halloween. For the best chance, select a seed variety that requires 100 days or less to mature. Pumpkins are hard to grow in this area. It is either too hot or too cold. They are also susceptible to squash vine borers, squash bugs, and mildew.

Q. When do we fertilize the lawn for the fall? We have Tif Bermuda grass.

A. Fertilize the lawn with a “winterizer” formula fertilizer on or about Oct. 1.

Q. The grandchildren grew two red oaks from acorns two years ago and we planted them this year. They are 6 feet tall. I forgot to water them for a week and the leaves wilted. Some even turned brown. Did I kill it or will it recover? The grandchildren will visit again at Thanksgiving and if the trees are dead I will need some quick replacements!

A. The trees should recover. Don’t overdo the watering and do not add fertilizer. A deep watering twice a week should keep them healthy and growing.

Q. Is Heatwave a hybrid or heirloom tomato? My nurseryman says it is now an heirloom. How can that be?

A. Heatwave, Surefire, and Merced, three of our favorite tomato varieties, were developed as hybrids but the plants on the market now are grown from seeds collected from parent Heatwave (or Surefire or Merced) plants. They were not bred from two different parents to make a Heatwave. By some definitions that is, in fact, a heirloom

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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