Q. We have a wonderful Ruby Red grapefruit that is loaded with fruit again this year but 95 percent of the fruit has been pecked by the birds. They don’t penetrate to the pulp, but it makes the fruit unattractive. Is it, in fact, birds and is there anything we can do?

A. Yes, the pecking is done by young grackles. We aren’t exactly sure why, it looks like they rub the acidic pieces of peel on their feathers as a grooming exercise? They usually only peck a few fruits on any given citrus tree. You can try placing bird-netting on the tree in early spring and remove it is early summer, when they usually stop the pecking. Let me know if the pecking continues at the high rate on your tree. Good Luck. 

Q. The Fertilome Weed-Free Zone works for controlling bedstraw and chickweed, but does it work for the grassy weeds like rescue grass too?

A. One of the listeners to the Gardening South Texas radio show reports that it worked to control rescue grass in his lawn, but it required that he apply the product twice. Check the label and run your own experiment to verify its effectiveness for rescue grass. Its major advantage over the other contact herbicides is that it works in cooler temperatures. 

Q. I thought you would want to know that the paperwhites that we received as a gift as a forced bulb bloomed this winter just as you predicted. It is great to have the lush foliage and blooms when everything else is frozen brown!

A. Yes, they are a good addition to the winter landscape. As an added dividend paperwhites have a fragrance, are not eaten by the deer, and are drought tolerant. 

Q. We have kale and chard in our garden. I know the kale is especially good for you, but I can’t get the kids to eat it, they say it is bitter. Does it work to mix the two greens? Everyone likes the flavor of chard. 

A. I agree with your children that kale is not as pleasant to eat as chard. I like the taste when the two greens are mixed in even quantities. Also look around for other recipes for kale, restaurants do a good job of making kale salads and other dishes that taste good. 

Q. Do you think neem oil would work as a spray for scale on peach trees instead of dormant oil? It seems to be less toxic to our flower plantings near the peaches.

A. I know some gardeners use neem oil. I wouldn’t expect it to work as well as dormant oil in suffocating the scale and aphids hiding in the bark, but it is worthy of an experiment. Spray two scale infections with the two products and note their respective effect on the insects. Both products are considered organic if that is an issue?     


Calvin Finch is a retired horticulture agent in Bexar County. He writes for and works with a number of area media outlets.

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