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Agriculture Today

Growing cyclamens locally

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November 2, 2011 | 2,748 views | Post a comment

Q. Cyclamen are so expensive. Is there any way to keep them alive over more than one winter?

A. It is easy to keep a few plants alive and blooming for several years if you move them inside an air-conditioned house for the summer. Place them in an east-facing window.

Outside, some will live if they are left in well-drained containers or a bed. It is hard, however, to get them to re-bloom. The ones you obtain at the nursery bloom from day one until April, when it gets warm.

Q.What is the two-step fire ant program I keep hearing about?

A. Apply a bait, such as Amdro, over a large area. It can be spread very thin as per the instructions. It works best over a whole neighborhood. For a quick kill of ants in mounds close to human or pet activities, the second step is to apply a contact insecticide, such as acephate.

Q.How do you know if you actually have a Mexican sycamore, rather than an American sycamore? Which is better?

A. The Mexican sycamore is a better tree for our climate. The American sycamore is susceptible to a fungal disease that kills it. The Mexican sycamore has small, but noticeable, hairs on the underside of the leaf. The American sycamore has a smooth underside.

Q.What are the red round balls on my live oak leaves? Is it a problem?

A. The galls that you describe are caused by a wasp that injects a chemical and its egg into the leaf cell. The chemical changes how the cells develop. The leaf cells form a nursery for the baby wasps. It feeds on the inside of the gall and emerges when it is ready to fly off as an adult.

Q.Is anyone else harvesting tomatoes? My Cherry Surprise tomatoes have been producing fruit for nearly a month. I expect Surefire to be ready in two weeks!

A. I believe there are probably some gardeners harvesting tomatoes now, but most will be at peak production about Thanksgiving.

Q.I have slow-release 19-5-9 lawn fertilizer left over from the spring. Can I just use it for the winterizer application instead of buying a new bag?

A. Yes, it will work for that purpose. It is also good for fertilizing winter vegetables and flowers.

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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