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Neil Sperry: English ivy growing on trees is usually nothing to worry about

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Unless the growth is very extensive, you don't have to worry about English ivy growing on the tree.

These spots on oak leaves are nothing more than old damage from oak leaf blisters since last spring.

Do I need to worry about English ivy growing on the trunk of our very beautiful, ancient Heritage oak tree? Someone told us that it might choke the tree to death, which would increase the weight of the tree’s branches. Should I delete it?

The only two times I really worry about the English ivy climbing up the trunk of my tree are when it starts to grow horizontally to the limbs (because it does increase the weight of the branches during wind and ice storms) and when it starts to grow on the tree The top of the tree forms a canopy (because the shadow will kill the supporting tree).

It is not a parasite and will not cause any damage to the bark. If it is pruned so that it is only trimmed on the trunk, it should be fine.

We have a boxwood hedge that was planted in the mid to late 1950s. In addition to pruning and watering as needed, what other nutrients can we add and what else should we do to keep it running?

You have named the two most important items. In early spring, early summer and early autumn, high-nitrogen fertilizers were applied again. Prune it several times during each growing season to keep it full and compact.

I hope you don’t have to make a big trim to reduce its size. If you need to do this, be very careful and do it later in the winter until new growth starts in the spring.

I plan to convert about half of my backyard from Bermuda grass to mulch. What is the best plan to kill Bermuda? This area includes recently planted oak trees, which I will keep. I have cleared Bermuda from the tree until it was about 18 inches. Is this enough to protect the trees?

You may wish to use glyphosate spray to kill existing Bermuda grass without polluting the soil. The most urgent thing is to obtain a herbicide that contains only glyphosate and no other active ingredients.

If you want to spray near an oak tree, wrap the trunk with aluminum foil about 15 inches. You can remove the foil the next day. You must spray it before you can put Bermuda grass into a dormant state after the first lethal freeze.

I planted new violets, and after about two weeks they started to die. When I pulled them, there was no root at all. The leaves began to turn yellow. Some people think this is a fungus, but I have not found any evidence on plants. help!

This sounds like a water mold. After severely damaging the roots, they will attack the pansy stems near the ground. It may be Pythium or Rhizobium, or both.

This can help if you plan to make the bed 8 to 10 inches deep and stack it 4 or 5 inches above the surrounding slope. Process a few inches of organic matter and 1 inch of swelling shale. All these together will ensure good drainage.

We and our neighbors have live oak trees with these spots on their leaves (see photo). The trees look healthy and show no signs of death. What is this and how should we treat it?

I believe this is only the old damage of oak leaf blisters since last spring. Very rampant after the rain. In any case, these leaves will fall off in a few months, so I won't be particularly worried at this point. The long-term health and vitality of the trees will not be affected.

I need to do some pruning on the red oak. Is autumn a good time to do this? When is the best time?

This is an outstanding period because the medium that spreads oak wilt fungus is not active in winter. Spring is taboo, because the infested trees are active in the fungal cushion of the oak withered, so this is the most active transmission season. The pathologist tells us that midsummer is the hottest weather and is another suitable time for pruning.

Hire a certified arborist with experience in oak blight. This is especially important if the disease is active in your area.

Can grass grow on old concrete slabs? We have six dogs. I have no ability to break specific regulations, nor can I afford to hire a gardener to do this job. How much soil must I add?

That may not be a good plan. You'd better give the dog space directly close to the slab, and then concentrate on letting the grass grow there.

You will need a foot of topsoil before planting grass, and even so, the solid concrete below can cause drainage problems. Dogs will trample on your grass, and every time it rains, you will be trapped by one foot or more of the mud.

Dogs will be great on concrete, and keeping it (and them) clean will be much easier. If you absolutely must put grass there, ask a scout or church group to help break down the concrete. Adults can destroy it, and teenagers can take it away.

Mail questions to San Antonio Express-News, P.O. Box 2171, Post Office Functions, Neil Sperry, ZIP 78297-2171, San Antonio Express-News, Texas, or via SAENgardenQA@sperrygardens.com Send him an email.

Please mail your questions to Neil Sperry at San Antonio Express-News, P.O. Box 2171, 78297-2171, San Antonio, Texas, or send him an e-mail at SAENgardenQA@sperrygardens.com mail.

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